Unbridled Freedom…

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Hebrews 10:24 (KJV)

24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works

Far too often, people turn a good situation into slavery by ignoring wise boundaries of personal freedom.

A godly accountability partner can help you enjoy privilege without abusing it.

The benefits are plentiful:

Clearer direction.

Honesty about faults and failures will open you to receive right counsel and encouragement.

This process will increase your potential to do and become all that God has in mind for you.

Increased integrity.

If you have to give an account to somebody, you’ll be honest and transparent. Even when the truth hurts, the result is heightened integrity.

Better stewardship.

Accounting for the way you use money, time, or talent makes you careful not to waste those resources.

Protection against excess.

As children of God, we are free in Christ, but an accountability partner keeps us balanced and guards us from taking liberties.

Healthy self-examination.

Another person can often point out what we cannot see in ourselves. When we allow someone  to be an accurate mirror of our faults, we’re in a better position to make improvements.

Safeguard against unwise relationships.

If you have to give an account of where you go and which people you spend time with, you’ll be more likely to avoid problematic places and relationships.

Unbridled freedom may seem like a great blessing, but it can be a recipe for disaster.

Do you give account to anybody for the way you handle money, time, and relationships? If not, consider inviting a trustworthy Christian to fill that role.

Taking this step reveals a heart that longs to please God.

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Everybody Is Accountable To Somebody…

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James 5:13-16 (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.

There are plenty of biblical directives about making ourselves accountable to one another.

But for many, the idea of revealing personal information seems restrictive or even an invasion of privacy.

Such confession seems a hindrance to the pursuit of pleasure, prosperity, and prestige.

Most people prefer to keep to themselves and not involve others in their business.

The Bible, however, makes it clear that Christians are to support each other in this regard: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

Accountability in the body of Christ is a biblical principle.

Church members take direction from their pastor (Heb. 13:17).

Paul tells us to be subject one to another (Eph. 5:21).

Yet he was answerable to the church (Acts 14:27), just as Timothy was subordinate to him (1 Tim. 4:13-16).

The apostles were certainly under the authority of Jesus (Luke 10), even as Jesus was subject to the Father (John 8:28-29).

Of course, the Bible tells us that the whole church is obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:24).

Regardless of one’s position, everybody is accountable to somebody.

And this holds true for the entire family of faith–from the congregation to the ministers to Jesus Himself, who served God the Father.

People avoid accountability for various reasons, including pride, ignorance, fear, and self-reliance.

This is a dangerous approach to life. Our Enemy knows our weaknesses and how to exploit them. But we can prevail with the support of friends.

There is strength in the body of Christ.

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Our 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).

In heaven, what will we do with the crowns we have earned?

We will cast them before Jesus’ feet (Rev. 4:10), laying them down as a tribute to the One who saved us, gifted us, equipped us, and lived in us.

Everything good and right came to us through the Lord, so He deserves our crowns.

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His Best Is On The Way…

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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.

In this devotion, we’ll look at 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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Are You Quietly Offering A “Better” Plan?

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1 Samuel 15:1-23 (KJV)

1  Samuel also said unto Saul, The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord.
2  Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.
3  Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.
4  And Saul gathered the people together, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah.
5  And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley.laid…: or, fought
6  And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye shewed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.
7  And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt.
8  And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.
9  But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.fatlings: or, second sort
10 Then came the word of the Lord unto Samuel, saying,
11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the Lord all night.
12 And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal.
13 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord.
14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
15 And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.
16Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on.
17 And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel?
18 And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed.they…: Heb. they consume them
19 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord?
20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.
22 And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

When God calls you to do something specific, how do you respond?

Now, most of us don’t raise a fist at Him and yell, “I won’t do it!” Instead, we usually struggle with the idea for a while.

Sometimes we argue, telling Him all the reasons why it won’t work.

At other times, we’ll begin to doubt we heard Him right and then deny that He’s even called us.

Or we could react like Jonah and simply run the other direction (Jonah 1:2-3).

However, there’s another response that is often so subtle we don’t even recognize it as disobedience.

Substituting our plan for God’s is a way to appear obedient and yet avoid doing what we don’t like.

That’s how King Saul responded to the divine command he’d been given.

In his eyes, saving a few animals to sacrifice to the Lord seemed like a better idea than God’s.

Saul’s sin seems obvious to us, but we’re often unaware of the ways we make similar substitutions.

Maybe God is calling you to serve in a particular way, but because you’re afraid, you decide to serve in a less challenging area.

Or perhaps you work extra hard on the job so the Lord won’t notice you’re neglecting your family.

Sometimes we have so blended our plans with His that we cannot even differentiate between the two.

What are you substituting for obedience in your life?

By offering a “better” plan, are you quietly and subtly resisting God’s call to live fully committed to Him?

There’s no way you can ever improve on His plan for your life.

Those who try to alter it lead powerless lives, because partial obedience is disobedience.

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Peace and Contentment That Money Can Never Buy…

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Ephesians 1:1-14 (KJV)

1   Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2   Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
3   Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4   According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5   Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6   To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
7   In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
8   Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
9   Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Do you think of yourself as rich?

At the moment of salvation, He deposited into your account “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (v. 3).

Why, then, do so many believers live in spiritual poverty?

Ignorance.

Some Christians don’t know about this unlimited spiritual “bank account,” and, therefore, they never draw upon it.

Confusion.

Too many believers just don’t know how to access the treasures of God’s grace. As a result, they worry and complain about their needs and problems or in desperation come to the Lord begging and pleading for help, never realizing His abundant supply has already been deposited into their account.

Competing Interests.

Distraction by things of this world may be the most common reason. Christians in this category focus on possessions, pressing responsibilities, and advancement but lack interest in God’s spiritual blessings.

The riches of God’s grace supersede any earthly wealth.

They give the peace and contentment that money can never buy, and their benefits reach all the way into eternity.

The only way to access God’s spiritual riches is by faith.

We don’t have to beg or persuade the Lord to give what He has already made available to us.

 

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Divine Energy…

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John 15:1-5 (KJV)

1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

The Holy Spirit’s job is to live the life of Christ through each believer.

This process is known by a variety of names, including the exchanged life, the Spirit-filled life, and the abiding life.

All of these monikers describe the joyful existence Paul spoke of in Galatians 2:20: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.”

The apostle meant those words literally.

Seen from the outside, a branch does not appear to be doing anything.

But don’t get the idea that the abiding life is passive.

Jesus was the perfect example of a Spirit-filled life, and He certainly didn’t sit around!

He worked hard out of a reservoir of divine energy (John 14:10).

All of Christ’s wisdom, knowledge, and courage were drawn from God through the Holy Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit does not pop out of believers through effort; Christians bear fruit through surrender.

We “take root” in the heavenly Father by meditating on His Word, praying, and serving.

We reserve nothing for ourselves to control but fully rely upon Him. That’s not passive living; it’s an abiding life

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Failure Is The Catalyst…

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Luke 22:31-34, Luke 22:54-62 (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.

—–

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.

Every one of us makes 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 the end of the story.

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), referring to the vigorous shaking 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 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 failure.

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 the Lord.

He wants us shelved far from the action of God’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 our 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 led to greater faith and true servanthood.

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