The Individual’s Capacity…

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Ephesians 3:14-19 (KJV)

14For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
16That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

Scripture says that God loves us, and the cross proves it.

Sadly, though, this is only an intellectual truth for many believers, rather than an experiential one.

The problem is not with the Lord, but with the individual’s capacity to sense His care.

One hindrance may be the tendency to measure divine love by life’s circumstances.

When the heavenly Father allows tragedies and pain, some consider Him uncaring. The age-old question then becomes very personal: “How could a loving God allow me or those I care about to suffer?”

We’ll never fully understand His ways, but we can know that His compassion and concern are bigger than the suffering of the whole world, and in the fullness of time, He will make all things right.

A sense of personal unworthiness can also obstruct the acceptance of God’s love.

Focusing on past sins and moral failures or comparing yourself with others will lead to guilt and hopelessness.

Satan specializes in promoting these self-condemning thoughts and feelings in the heart. The Lord never says, “Straighten up, and then I’ll care about you.” Remember that divine love is based on God’s character, not on our performance.

Unbelief is the root of all barriers to experiencing God’s love. When we deny His interest and concern for us, we doubt the truth of Scripture.

The Lord wants each of us to experience His great love in a personal and intimate way. Don’t let the enemy’s lies or life’s hardships steal the enjoyment and security of this great blessing.

When doubts arise, rely on the truth of God’s Word. He loves you. Believe it, and eventually you will feel it.

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Focused On What He Can Give…

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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 whereinto 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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Instead of Giving Us What We Think We Want…

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Psalm 37:1-5 (KJV)

1 Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
4 Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

When people speak about their wants, they often cite today’s passage with zeal despite having little genuine understanding.

We love the idea that the Father will give us the desires of our heart.

Unfortunately, when we focus only on receiving good things, we miss the psalm’s context, which is a divine promise with human obligations.

God’s greatest interest is not to indulge us, but rather to give us more of Himself.

Self-indulgent prayers overlook the first requirement for the promise’s fulfillment: delighting in the Lord.

We are to take pleasure in time spent communing with Him and serving Him.

As we read God’s Word and pray, we’ll experience His work in our life, and our faith in Him will deepen.

Over time, our growing trust in God means that we begin to appropriate His ways of thinking. Then committing to His plan—the second requirement—remolds our heart’s desires until they look like His own preferences for our life. Even so, sometimes what God provides may appear very different from what we requested.

But when He hears our shortsighted appeals, He answers based on His infinite knowledge and His great love for us.

Instead of giving us what we think we want, He bestows the perfect answer to our prayer.

God derives enjoyment from granting our requests, but His greatest joy is hearing us express an earnest desire to know Him better. The by-product of delighting in God and committing to His way is receiving our heart’s wishes.

Our primary reward is a relationship with the loving God who offers to share Himself with humanity.

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We Are Never Alone…

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Hebrews 4:14-16 (KJV)

14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Despite the fact that technology enables us to stay connected with each other, we haven’t solved the problem of loneliness.

Many people still feel cut off from those around them.

The real solution for healing the deep ache of isolation in our heart is an intimate relationship with the heavenly Father.

As He was about to create Adam, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).

One point of resemblance to the Lord is our desire and ability to share intimacy with other people.

Moreover, we’re created to commune with the Father.

Adam and Eve had a close bond with the Lord, who spent time with them in the Garden of Eden. However, the couple’s disobedience caused a rift in the relationship. And since God is holy, He can’t allow anything unrighteous into His presence.

Once sin entered the world through the first couple, every person born would be tainted with it and, consequently, would be separated from God. Yet because of His love, the Lord planned a way to bridge the gap between Himself and mankind.

Jesus Christ took our transgressions upon Himself when He died on the cross, wiping away the stain of sin.

Whoever trusts in His sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin goes over the “bridge” formed by the cross. Each new believer is reconciled—that is, immediately restored to a right relationship with the Lord.

Reconciliation with the Father means that we are never alone (Deut. 31:6).

We may still feel lonely on occasion, but we have a constant companion with whom we can talk. And He will provide comfort to our heart.

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The Tragic Misunderstanding…

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Matthew 5:14-15 (KJV)

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

Every Sunday countless people all over the world sit in church buildings with a false sense of security.

They assume that their morality, lifelong church membership, or baptism will earn them a place in heaven.

While many of these folks have a sincere desire to please God, they are confused about what the Christian life is all about. They think in terms of doing rather than being. So they imitate the actions of good Christians: going to a weekly service, praying, reading the Bible, and trying to be decent people.

However, salvation is not the product of our good works.

We come into the world with a corrupt nature, and our wrongdoing is born of a heart turned away from the Lord.

Because we are all sinful people, we sin. It’s that simple.

The good news is that in the salvation experience, we are given a brand-new nature (2 Cor. 5:17). Our sin is wiped away because Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself to pay the penalty we owed.

From the moment we trust in Him, the Holy Spirit dwells in our heart so we can live righteously.

The world values action, but God prioritizes relationship—specifically a right relationship with Him. People who scurry about flaunting religiosity are missing out on the deeply satisfying and joyous intimacy between a believer and the heavenly Father.

We can help correct others’ tragic misunderstanding by being ready to explain the reason for our hope. (See 1 Peter 3:15.)

Knowing Christ is what matters. So speak of the personal relationship with Him that’s possible when a person admits his or her need and trusts in the Savior.

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Using Your Spiritual Gifts…

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1 Timothy 4:12-16 (KJV)

12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.
16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

Every Christian is given at least one spiritual gift with which to serve the Lord and build up the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:7).

But many believers neglect this special empowerment of the Spirit.

Although Timothy had some good reasons to forsake his calling from God, Paul advised him to “take pains with these things” and “be absorbed in them” (v. 15).

As you look at Timothy, ask yourself if either of the following situations are hindering you from fully serving the Lord.

Age: No matter how old we are, the Lord wants us to use our spiritual gifts.

Because Timothy was young, he could easily have been intimidated by those with more experience. However, youth isn’t our only excuse. Some believers think they’re too old to serve the Lord. Even though our areas of ministry may change over the years, we’re never called into spiritual retirement.

Inadequacy: Have you ever avoided a service opportunity simply because you felt totally unqualified?

That’s probably how Timothy felt about leading the church at Ephesus.

Our spiritual gifts rarely come to us fully developed.

God often requires that we step out in faith and trust Him to work in and through us.

Over time, as we obey and serve Him in our areas of giftedness, He increases the effectiveness of our ministry.

Is anything keeping you from using your spiritual gifts? Though given to us, these abilities aren’t for us; they’re for the church.

To neglect them would not only deprive fellow believers but also rob ourselves: there is joy and blessing in serving others and doing the work God has designated for us.

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Enlarging Our Vision…

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Psalms 34 (KJV)

A lot of negative emotions accompany hardship: frustration, despair, fear, and doubt.

People ruled by these feelings will often make poor choices. This is why it’s important to decide now to respond to troubled times the way the psalmist did: with a heart of praise.

Even in the darkest hours, worshipping God fills the heart with joy and the mind with peace.

A believer who is filled in this way can wisely keep a commitment to obey the Lord no matter what.

Worshipping the Lord enlarges our vision.

By doing so, we begin to see how He is at work in the world, perhaps in ways and places we’ve never noticed before. More particularly, we see what God is doing in our situation and detect areas where He requires obedience from us.

Our human tendency is to plot a course through a situation toward the easiest solution.

But believers who strike out on their own do not mature in their faith.

Moreover, they miss out on the blessings of following the Lord’s plan. Stopping to praise can keep us from taking the easy way out and direct us to the right path—namely, the way of God’s will.

Taking a step forward in faith can be frightening.

However, we can confidently take a risk, knowing our omniscient, omnipotent God has His children’s best interest in mind (Isa. 64:4; Jer. 29:11).

It’s hard to despair while honoring the Lord for His love and strength.

We can dispel doubt by recalling His past faithfulness to us—and ease frustration by committing our future plans to Him.

Praise is not the obvious reaction to hardship, but it is the wisest response.

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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.

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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