His Authority in All Things…

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Isaiah 66:1-2 (KJV)

1 Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?
2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

Believers are always under the canopy of God’s grace and love.

Nothing we do can change that.

At the same time, our behavior and the way we position our heart does determine whether we receive the fullness of His blessings.

Today’s passage teaches us how to experience the Father’s favor.

First, He desires that we have a contrite heart and a humble spirit (Ps. 51:17).

For that to be the case, all aspects of our lives must be surrendered to Jesus.

Yet some dreams, desires, and people are difficult to release into His hands.

Anything we do not give over to His authority is evidence of pride, the exact opposite of what our Father wants in His children.

Remember that “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Lack of submission proves that we think our way is better than His plan.

Second, God tells us to tremble at His Word (Isa. 66:2).

Scripture–the unfolding revelation of Jesus Himself–is living and powerful to teach and transform us.

Consider how we treat this treasure.

Do we devote time each day to know what the Bible says and how to apply its principles?

Do we hunger for more of the Word in our lives so we can know its Author better?

One measure of our reverence is obedience: to honor the Lord, we must obey Him.

We all desire God’s favor.

Are you living in a manner that positions you to receive His full blessings?

Prayerfully consider whether you have submitted all areas of your life–from finances and health to relationships and work habits–to Jesus Christ.

Recognize His authority in all things, and revere His Word.

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Fighting Anxiety…

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Philippians 4:8-9 (KJV)

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.

People fret over all kinds of issues, from safety and job security to election results.

For many folks—and maybe you are one—anxiety is woven so tightly into the fabric of their day that they’ve learned to live with it.

We treat worry like a benign emotion when in fact it can be harmful.

Anxiety clouds our thinking, divides our focus, and robs us of concentration. To complicate matters, the body can react to prolonged pressure on the psyche.

Stress can manifest physically through tension headaches, elevated blood pressure, and even heart attacks.

Drifting through an exhausting life is not the Lord’s plan for us.

Our challenge is to take anxious thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5) and replace them with God-pleasing ones by dwelling on that which is pure, good, and right.

The best way to remove stray threads of worry is to crowd them out with something positive. We do this by weaving Scripture into our mental grid instead.

God has something to say about everything that concerns us.

If we’re feeling weak or underqualified, Philippians 4:13 assures us we “can do all things through Him who strengthens [us].”

If we fear the paycheck won’t cover this month’s expenses, Matthew 6:31-32 reminds us not to be anxious, “for [our] heavenly Father knows that [we] need all these things.”

Jesus said worry adds nothing to our life (Matt. 6:27).

In fact, we actually waste time and energy dwelling on concerns instead of affirming our trust in the Lord.

We must choose to set our minds upon Him before anxiety leaves us feeling frayed.

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When Challenges Arise…

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Romans 8:32-39 (KJV)

32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.
34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We all experience hardship, and trials can shake us unless we cling to truth.

Let me share three assurances to remember when troublesome circumstances arise.

First, God will always meet our needs.

This doesn’t mean He provides everything we want. Instead, the Lord will bless us with all that is necessary to fulfill His purpose for our lives. His goal is to sanctify us, not simply to satisfy each immediate desire.

Second, we’re never alone.

God promised to be with us always (Heb. 13:5). Loneliness often accompanies hardship, so we may feel deserted or opposed by family and friends. But our Father has sent His Spirit to be with us and in us, until the day He brings us to heaven (John 14:16-17).

He is all we need–our advocate, guide, helper, and comforter. Recognizing His intimate presence gives us confidence in the midst of trials.

Third, God’s love is eternal.

Regardless of our circumstances or poor decisions, His care is unconditional–even when He reprimands us. Loving parents allow disobedient children to experience the consequences of wrong choices; they recognize the benefit of learning from mistakes. Of course, there are also times when we are negatively affected by others’ wrong actions. Even then, God is sovereign and allows only what will bring good in His followers’ lives.

In difficult times, we can remember that God will meet all of our needs, is always with us, and loves us forever.

Though Jesus said we would face troubles in this life, He offered encouragement: The ultimate victory is His.

So keep in mind that trials are fleeting, whereas our Father’s love is forever.

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As Bright As We May Seem…

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Matthew 5:14-16 (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.

God’s children are on display to the world like a city on a hill (Matt. 5:14).

The light from a thriving metropolis can be seen for miles. Likewise, believers are to “shine” in such a way that others will observe our good works and honor God.

A Christian’s “faith light” is evident through his or her deeds.

We want coworkers, friends, and others in our sphere of influence to sit up and take notice of the way we live.

The reason?

Because once people notice that we are not simply “out for number one,” they’ll want to know why.

Then they might gradually begin to connect the dots: Thinking, He helps others even when it’s difficult or She says she does this because she’s a Christian could lead them to conclude, Then their God must be worthy and good.

The more we are seen doing good works, the more glory goes to God, who is the Author of our service record.

To balance the command to shine, however, the Lord did give an admonition in Matthew 6:1:

 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them.”

In other words, be mindful of the motive.

If we’re performing in order to get a pat on the back or the attention of others, we will lose out on a heavenly reward.

That fleeting bit of worldly appreciation is all we’ll get for our efforts.

Believers are here to point others to the God they serve.

We are a reflection of His light and glory.

It is He who not only gives opportunity to shine but also equips us with the strength and gifts to work for the kingdom.

As bright as we may seem, we are nothing apart from the Lord.

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Persistence- The Combination of Strong Desire and Willpower

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Philippians 3:10-14 (KJV)

10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Everyone desires success.

Simply wanting it, however, won’t guarantee achievement. That’s why many people fail to reach their goal:

They encounter hardship and give up.

So let’s discuss one characteristic needed to accomplish what you set out to do: Persistence is the combination of strong desire and willpower.

Paul exemplified this capacity to stay on course in the face of difficulty and refuse to quit.

He was passionate about sharing the gospel with both Jews and Gentiles across the known world. Acts 20:24 records his purpose: “That I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”

Though he encountered tremendous obstacles like shipwreck, prison, physical punishment, and constant danger, the apostle never quit (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).

What motivated Paul to persevere amidst struggles?

First, he had a clear God-given goal and trusted that the Lord would enable him to achieve it.

Second, the apostle felt indebted to share the life-changing truth of salvation.

Third, he knew the devastation awaiting those who do not know Jesus.

Paul had his eyes fixed on his purpose, which he so valued that no circumstance could deter him.

Ultimately, he achieved what almighty God had ordained.

The Father has great goals for His children.

Striving for anything less will neither fulfill us nor achieve what He’s planned in our life.

Once His direction is clear, we should passionately pursue God’s purposes with the Holy Spirit’s strength and guidance—especially when obstacles arise.

Don’t give up!

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Overcoming Feelings of Hopelessness…

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Acts 27:13-26 (KJV)

13 And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.
14 But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.
15 And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.
16 And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat:
17 Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven.
18 And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship;
19 And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.
20 And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.
21 But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.
22 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.
23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
25 Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.
26 Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.

Life doesn’t always meet our expectations.

Even when making plans according to God’s lead, we may run into something that interrupts them.

Frustration over the obstacle can lead to discouragement and loss of hope.

Then, if the hindrance should persist, our spirits may plummet toward despair.

Oftentimes, what trips us up is the circumstance that seems impossible to overcome. Think about Paul’s voyage to Rome by sea. When a bad storm arose, the sailors worked hard to save the ship.

But since they couldn’t control the weather, they gradually gave up all hope of being saved (Acts 27:20). There are times when we can’t change what has happened—whether it’s a job loss, a loved one’s death, or a devastating diagnosis.

In such situations, feelings of hopelessness can overtake us.

Postponed plans can also be disheartening. Hannah is an example of someone who became dejected because of “hope deferred” (1 Sam. 1:10-11; see also Prov. 13:12). She saw other women bearing children, but her own maternal desires had not yet been fulfilled.

When things do not go according to our schedule, we may experience emotions like hers.

Feeling abandoned by the Lord is another thing that can throw believers off track. I remember a season of life when I felt all alone. My mind said God was with me, but my feelings said otherwise. To counter those emotions, I pursued the Lord through prayer and meditation on Scripture.

In times of discouragement, you have a choice.

Will you focus on your circumstances, or will you fix your gaze on our loving Father and trust Him?

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His Obedience in Suffering…

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Hebrews 5:7-8 (KJV)

7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to suffer so much when He came to earth as a man?

One might expect that the Son of the living God would live a comfortable life and die a peaceful death.

After all, wouldn’t His blood have paid for our sins whether it was shed painlessly or torturously?

But Jesus took on human flesh and came to earth not just to die for our transgressions but also–with the exception of sin–to identify with us in every area of our lives.

And that includes suffering (Heb. 2:17-18).

How would a Savior who had no experience with pain help us when we hurt?

Also, when it’s difficult for us to obey the Lord, we need the help of One who learned obedience from the things He suffered.

Unlike us, Jesus didn’t move from being rebellious to becoming obedient.

Rather, He learned by personal experience the pathway we have to walk when God calls us to do something difficult or painful.

In His humanity, Christ struggled with the assignment that lay before Him: death on the cross.

Even though the Father heard His cries, the plan was not changed, and Jesus walked through all of it in complete submission, just as He had done with every divine “assignment” throughout His earthly life.

The only reason you and I have salvation is because Jesus always did what pleased His Father–had He rebelled in that one area, all hope for lost humanity would be cancelled.

If His obedience in suffering resulted in such a great benefit, just imagine what is in store for us when we do what God wants.

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His Attitude Toward Us…

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Psalm 37:3-5

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.

The gospel writers spoke about children coming to Jesus, giving the impression that the young were very comfortable around Him (Matt. 18:2-3; Matt. 19:13-14).

Some probably climbed onto His lap, while others perhaps sat at His feet.

We can picture them asking Him lots of questions, begging to hear more parables, and whispering secrets in His ear.

It isn’t surprising that they would gather around Jesus; children can usually sense when an adult loves them deeply.

Contrast this snapshot of the Savior’s welcoming, loving nature with the picture some Christians have of God—they see Him as a judgmental taskmaster who motivates by intimidation.

While it’s true that we are to obey the Lord’s commands, we’re also to delight in Him, just as we would enjoy the company of a close friend.

Do you think of God as a stern overlord who weighs good actions against bad?

If so, you’ll have trouble considering Him a friend.

Christians who envision a harsh God devote much time and energy to proving their salvation is deserved.

How much better to have a biblically accurate view—namely, that God, while sovereign over the universe, balances authority with love. He wants us to relax and enjoy spending time with Him.

Taking pleasure in the Lord requires that we understand His attitude toward us:

Our Father loves us passionately.

He sees past our faults and mistakes to the precious child He created. In fact, He loves us so much that He sent Jesus Christ to save us and enable us to be with Him in heaven eternally.

We have no greater friend!

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