Relying on Our Own Strength…

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Matthew 11:25-30 (KJV)

25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

We have all experienced physical burnout—those times when we are tired from our many activities or difficulties that assail us.

Even more painful is spiritual burnout—the weariness believers can feel from the pressure of trying to obey God, attend church faithfully, and spend time in daily prayer and Scripture reading. Just contemplating everything we think we must do for success in the Christian life can be overwhelming!

The trouble is that we become spiritually burned out if we rely on our own strength.

When we experience spiritual fatigue, it’s often because of a wrong view of our faith. We find ourselves keeping a mental checklist of dos and don’ts, striving to please God with religious activities. That’s not freedom. The Christian life isn’t some formula whereby we modify our behavior to gain the Lord’s approval. God reached down and reconciled us to Himself the moment we asked Him into our hearts, so we already have His approval.

True spiritual maturity involves a growing awareness that nothing we can do—no change in conduct or attempt to live up to regulations—will make us acceptable. Rather, we give up our inability and weakness, and instead live by faith.

Then God’s omnipotence can carry us through life.

Think of God’s power as a river coursing through hilly terrain. We can hike, puffing and sweating, along the footpath, or we can simply ease into the water.

We won’t have to expend energy because the power of the current will carry us all the way to our destination.

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Impatience The All Too Common Trait…

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Hebrews 5:11-14 (KJV)

11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and no t of strong meat.
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

In today’s world, impatience is all too common a trait.

We want food, help, and information fast. Just waiting for the computer to boot up or the “next avail-able agent” to answer our call can cause frustration. But the Lord specializes in slow, steady work.

He’s more interested in a quality outcome than a speedy process.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of spiritual discernment.

When we become Christians, we aren’t instantly wise and knowledgeable. It takes a lifetime to grow to maturity. Some believers, however, don’t seem to grow up at all.

They get older, but their understanding of God’s Word never goes very deep.

This lack of godly wisdom is caused by ignorance of the Scriptures, apathy and complacency about spiritual things, and a failure to apply biblical truths.

Discernment requires time and effort. You can’t simply move through life, thoughtlessly reacting to situations yet never learning from them. Take time to reflect on your responses and observe the consequences of your actions and choices. If you feel convicted by what you notice, let that motivate you to begin a lifelong pursuit of the Lord and His ways. Start reading the Bible regularly.

And as you do, ask the Lord to open your heart and mind to understand what He’s saying.

But just reading God’s Word isn’t enough.

Without applying what you’ve read, all you’ll have is head knowledge. Obedience trains us to discern good and evil. Through practice, we learn wisdom and develop spiritual maturity.

If you’ll begin today and patiently persevere, in time discernment will come.

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Failure, An 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.

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 process—something we learn. 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 one should never take his eyes off Jesus (Matt. 14:30); God’s plan must always have priority over man’s (16:21-23; John 18:10-11); and humility is required of believers (13:5-14). He took each of those lessons to heart and thereby grew stronger in his faith. Isn’t that Romans8:28 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 all prefer to grow in our faith without ever making a mistake, but we cannot deny that missteps are instructive.

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

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Our Own Solutions…

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John 19:31-42 (KJV)

31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.
37 And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

Just as Christ once rested in the stern of a boat through a raging storm, He rested in the tomb as storms raged within His disciples.

A day after Jesus’ death, fear, doubt, and grief must have cycled endlessly through their minds. Memories of their lives with Him must have played there too: how it felt to stand upon a rolling sea, to feed thousands with a few loaves of bread, or to see Lazarus’ burial clothes heaped in the dirt.

No doubt their hearts grew sick with confusion as they contemplated these things.

The disciples’ feeble faith shouldn’t surprise us, because if we’re honest, we see it in ourselves.

The “little of faith,” as Jesus often called them, failed to believe or remember things the Lord said of Himself—that He’d lay down His life and take it up again.

Had His followers faithfully held these things in their hearts, that Sabbath day might have been a time of joyful anticipation.

At times in our lives, God may seem absent, but ultimately we know that He will never leave us (Heb. 13:5).

And unlike the disciples, we’ll never experience the dark prospect of a failed Savior. But many times we forget the promises of God. In the face of uncertainty, how frequently do we turn to a “do-it-yourself” Christianity to fix our problems?

Too often we look no further than our own solutions, when what we need is the wonder-working power of Christ’s resurrection and a posture of humility as we wait on Him.

If we are willing to wait through the darkness of night, we can rest in knowing that morning will surely come.

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Too Far Out of Balance…

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 Romans 14:7-9 (KJV)

7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.

Have you ever been around people who adamantly refuse to accept any help whatsoever?

Perhaps you have heard them balk, “I don’t need your charity!” or, “I can do this by myself!” On some level, we respect people like this, because of their commitment to earn their own way in life.

However, when this work ethic gets too far out of balance, serious spiritual problems can result.

In his allegorical look at eternity, The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis describes a character who wants nothing more than “his rights.”

That is, he wants only what he deserves—no more, no less.

On the surface, this appears to be an act of humility.

However, such an attitude is often the fruit of false humility and is actually motivated by pride. If we are determined to solve problems on our own, refusing every offer of help, then we will fail miserably when we try to solve the problem of sin.

Sin is everyone’s problem.

Scripture makes it clear that there’s no escaping it: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). So, what is the price that is to be paid for sinning? Romans 6:23 reveals that “the wages of sin is death.”

If we, like Lewis’s proud man, accept only “our rights,” then sin and death will reign in our lives.

We can overcome the burden of sin only when we relinquish our pride and humbly accept what we did not deserve—the loving sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf.

Thank Him today for providing what we could not achieve on our own: our very salvation.

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The Stains From Our Past…

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Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV)

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Jesus Christ gave His followers a pattern for prayer that includes seeking forgiveness daily.

The invitation to regular repentance is not a means of renewing our salvation, but rather a maintenance plan for our fellowship with the Lord. When we trust Jesus as our Savior, our sins are forgiven forever.

The stains from our past, present, and future wrongs are wiped from our record; however, we’re a fallen people so we do continue to commit sin.

With the exception of Jesus Christ, no person is perfect.

Sin is simply a fact of human life.

The Lord’s payment for our transgressions means that we can look forward to an eternity spent in God’s presence instead of getting the punishment we deserve.

On this side of heaven, though, we still have to contend with our tendency to do wrong–and we must also deal with the consequences. The Lord’s admonition to seek daily forgiveness is a reminder to confess our sins and turn away from them because we are forgiven.

God’s grace is not a license to sin; instead, it’s a reason to pursue righteousness.

Bad attitudes, thoughtless actions, and unkind speech do not fit who we are as children of light. We’re new creatures in Christ, bought for a price and set free to live as partakers of His grace.

Salvation makes a way for us to enter God’s presence, while regular confession and repentance keep the pathway well maintained and free of obstruction (1 John 1:9).

The so-called “sinner’s prayer” need be said only once, but a saint will tap into God’s forgiveness every day of his or her life.

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The Test of Time…

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1 Samuel 16:6-13 (KJV)

6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.
7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.
8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath the Lord chosen this.
9 Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath the Lord chosen this.
10 Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The Lord hath not chosen these.
11 And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.
12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.
13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.

What do you live for each day?

A pay raise? Retirement?

Then perhaps you’ve discovered the reality that basing aspirations on getting ahead in this world typically ends in disappointment.

People with a misguided sense of direction often wonder why they feel unfulfilled.

Maybe you’ve already realized a goal of saving for the future or moving up the corporate ladder.

You give to charity and volunteer at church, but somehow still feel a sense of insignificance or aimlessness.

If so, there is a truth you need to hear: God gives each of us life for a very specific reason: to serve Him. Nobody finds inner peace without reconciling this fact.

Our society teaches us that pleasure, prosperity, position, and popularity will make us happy–but living in the service of self always leaves an emptiness no earthly reward can fill.

Besides, worldly philosophy won’t stand the test of time.

Few of us are going to live even 100 years. So whatever we’ll become in this life, we’re in the process of becoming that right now.

Consider David: he was anointed king long before actually assuming the role (1 Sam. 16:12). He spent many years serving the purpose of God in insignificant places while developing into a great man.

As his story shows, discovering God’s purpose for your life is the surest path to success.

Our heavenly Father’s purpose for our lives comes from His heart of love–which is perfect. None of us can foretell the great things He has in store for us, but we can trust His plan completely.

Surrender to Him today and say, “Not my will, Lord, but Yours be done.”

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If Prayerless, than Powerless…

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James 5:13-18 (KJV)

13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.
18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

Have you ever watched a runner near the end of a race?

Every muscle strains with the athlete’s desire to finish first. The moment is full of intensity and determination.

This is the same kind of fervent desire God wants to see in the believer’s prayer life.

“The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).

Believers at times use certain key phrases—“in Jesus’ name” or “if it is Your will”—as if such expressions were enchanted.

People convince themselves that if a particular phrase is used, God will surely be pleased and answer the petition.

But strength is not found in the words we say, because the Lord cannot be forced to do anything outside His will. The power of prayer is in God’s reaction. He responds to petitions of the righteous by releasing His supernatural power toward the object of their concern.

A prayerless person is a powerless person.

When we devote little time to communicating with the heavenly Father, we can’t expect to see dramatic results. God’s power is released in response to our zealous desire for His intervention. A fervent petitioner, believing his Lord will intercede, is determined to pray through every barrier that Satan erects.

He stops only when God answers or if the Father makes clear that the request is outside His will.

Wise believers devote time and energy to requests of great importance.

Through our relationship with Christ, we have been made righteous, which means that we have the opportunity to communicate with the Lord through prayer.

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