Manipulating Circumstances…

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Genesis 16 (KJV)

God answers prayer in one of three ways: “yes,” “no,” or “yes, but not yet.”

This last reply seems to be the most dreaded— sometimes even more than an outright “no.”

However, patience is an important trait for the Christian, as Scripture stresses repeatedly in stories, psalms, and epistles.

Waiting on the Lord to unlock a door is always wiser than attempting to pry it open ourselves, even when the delay has been long.

After God promised him descendants (Gen. 12:2), Abraham lived for 25 years with an answer of “not yet.” After that quarter-century, the answer finally became “yes.”

But meanwhile, Abraham and Sarah came up with their own plan to get an heir—Sarah’s servant Hagar bore Ishmael.

The couple may have convinced themselves they were “helping” God live up to His prophecy, but really, they were disobeying.

The consequences were disastrous.

Bitterness and blame affected every member of the family (Gen. 16:4-6; Gen. 21:9-10). What’s more, Ishmael’s people lived in enmity with their neighbors, and that hostility persists in the Middle East today (Gen. 21:9-14; Gen. 25:18).

Our patience gives God time to prepare the opportunity on the other side of a closed door.

Even if we could force our way by manipulating circumstances, we would not be happy with what we find there.

No one in Abraham’s camp was satisfied with the situation they created!

We can have contentment and joy only when we access the Lord’s will at the very moment He ordained.

The blessings we find on the other side of an open door are always worth the wait.

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Human Reasoning…

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Acts 16:5-12 (KJV)

5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.
6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,
7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.
9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;
12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

We cannot help feeling disappointed when a door of opportunity closes.

But our heavenly Father will often prevent us from going forward when He wants to redirect our steps toward a wiser pathway. What determines whether we partake of His greater blessing is our reaction:

Will we beat against the barred door or look for a new opening?

Paul’s second missionary journey included a series of divine “no admittance signs.” The apostle set out to visit the churches he had started across Asia, but the Holy Spirit led him away from city after city.

It must have felt quite frustrating to be prevented from carrying out the gospel commission (Matt. 28:19).

Paul kept traveling in search of fertile ground where he could plant a new church, and at last the Lord revealed an open door to Macedonia.

The new route eventually led him into key cities of that day. Philippi, Corinth, and Ephesus were major commerce centers teeming with dignitaries and foreign traders who could carry the gospel farther and faster than Paul.

The apostle set out with a wise and rational plan, but human reasoning isn’t always reliable.

The Bible tells us to trust in the Lord instead of our own understanding (Prov. 3:5).

If we’re to follow God’s will for our life, we must live by the Spirit’s prompting.

Consider that the Creator of the universe is taking a moment to nudge you in the right direction so that you may be fruitful and blessed.

Follow Him, and He will direct your steps down the right paths and through the best doorways.

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Hope and An Established Future…

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1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (KJV)

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

God tells us to surrender our lives to Him.

This is no small task.

All our plans, every desire we feel, each entitlement that once seemed our right–everything is put aside in order to make way for our King’s will.

But perhaps you have wondered why God can ask this of us.

The Lord has every right to demand that we give Him our all.

First, Scripture teaches us that He is sovereign–the King and Ruler over the entire universe.

As a result, we are under His authority, whether we choose to submit or not.

Next, through His death and resurrection, Jesus saved us from our sin and its consequences.

Therefore, we are indebted to Him more than we could ever repay. And finally, He sustains us; we should consider each breath and heartbeat a gift from Him.

Undoubtedly, God is entitled to ask that we yield our life to Him.

At the same time, surrender is in our best interest.

The Father promises that following Him leads to hope and an established future.

Psalm 31:19 states, “How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You . . .”

So, while He is the Almighty One with all authority to demand our life, He promises to care for us and to do what will benefit us most.

Are you willing to put yourself aside in order to follow Jesus?

His way is best, and it offers hope, joy, and peace. We will not always like everything He chooses at the moment, but He promises to work all things for good.

Will you trust God enough to hand the reins over to Him?

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Didn’t You Hear Me?

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Mark 11:20-24 (KJV)

20 And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.
21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.
22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

If you made a request of God and then time passed without results, it is understandable you might start wondering if He ever heard you at all.

Do you remember thinking,

What happened, Lord? You said that if I asked in faith, You would do it. Didn’t You hear me?

Stop to consider this question: Can you think of a time you brought a petition to the Lord and it apparently went unanswered?

What was the situation? What did you pray about it? What did you say to others about it? What did you do about it?

I believe one of the most common reasons we experience a crisis of faith is that our words and our attitude get out of line with each other.

We tell ourselves that we are praying to the heavenly Father, seeking His will, and requesting His intervention, but what we’re really doing is just complaining to Him.

We say, “Lord, I really messed this up” or “I don’t deserve this.” We might pray, “How did this happen?” Or perhaps we even cry, “How did You let this happen?”

We moan about the situation, reveling in every ounce of anguish, and then petition God to fix it. Is this a prayer that honors God?

In Mark 11:24, Jesus explains that if we ask for something, we should believe in our hearts that it has already been granted.

This level of faith is found not in our whines but in our praises.

God absolutely wants us to cry out to Him and to lay our petitions at His feet (1 Pet. 5:7).

But we must be careful to do so in a way that focuses on God’s glory—not our own.

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Thoughts, Desires, and Experiences…

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Luke 12:16-21 (KJV)

16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17  And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

We’ve all heard jokes about men who refuse to stop and ask for directions.

But in reality, there’s probably a good bit of truth to the stereotype, and it isn’t limited to males.

Plenty of men and women in this world zoom along without slowing down to ask for guidance.

If you were to look at the situation from a spiritual perspective, you’d see a world of lost souls desperately trying to save themselves. They think they can earn their way into heaven through hard work and the accumulation of good deeds.

But they’re wrong.

Today’s passage from Luke describes a wealthy person who makes a lot of plans based only on his own thoughts, desires, and experience.

Take the time to look at the passage again, and notice how many times he used the words “I” and “my.”

What you’ll see is that his focus was squarely on himself.

This parable is a sad picture of the self-directed man trying to make his own way and secure his own future with no help from anyone–including God.

The Lord didn’t mince words: He called the man “fool” (v. 20).

Worldly wisdom amounts to nothing in the eyes of our omniscient, all-wise Father (1 Cor. 1:20), and He expects His children to request and follow His guidance.

The message for us today is clear: When we figure out our own plans and take action with no thought about what God would advise, we are behaving like fools.

The Lord has a plan for your life.

He knows where you’ll succeed and where you’ll fail.

Be wise and ask Him for directions.

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An Increasing Awareness…

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2 Peter 3:17-18 (KJV)

17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

All around the world, people go to church, bow their heads to pray, and hear sermons, but many are not growing spiritually.

It is all too common for believers to assume that these actions fulfill Christian obligations.

They may complete a checklist but have an idle relationship with Jesus.

Do you see evidence in your own life that you’re maturing in your walk with the Lord?

To blossom spiritually, we must be saved.

This happens the moment God makes us new, cleansing us of unrighteousness and adopting us as His own children. Then, we can begin to grow.

However, even with this new life, we can be stagnant.

There are several indicators that reveal the quality of our Christian journey.

Today, let’s explore a few of them.

First, growing believers should sense a deepening hunger for Christ.

As we experience more of Jesus, who is the bread of life (John 6:35), our desire for Him will increase.

Second, believers dwelling closely with the Savior will notice that their discernment of sin sharpens.

Faulty teaching and thinking become more obvious as we accumulate truth within our spirit.

Third, our sphere of love should continuously expand. In time, the Holy Spirit enables us to care for people who previously were either unnoticed or difficult to accept.

Do you have a hunger for God and an increasing awareness of sin?

Is your love available only for those who match your personal standard of performance—or do you find yourself caring about even difficult people?

These are important questions to ask when evaluating your spiritual growth.

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The Whispering In Our Ears…

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Ephesians 1:3-6 (KJV)

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.

All of us have probably enjoyed times when we were selected for some honor or given an assignment that we considered special.

Though such moments pale in comparison, they can remind us of the deep joy that comes from knowing we belong to Jesus forever.

How sublime it is to realize that before the foundation of the world, God chose us to be part of His family!

This choice—which means we were divinely selected to become conformed to the likeness of Christ—undergirds and defines our identity as God’s children.

It stands as a great rock that stabilizes us when fears multiply and anxieties attack.

In spite of this, however, many believers become unsettled when they think about their own sin nature.

Knowing God will condemn all sin, they become fearful that the condemnation of the wicked might fall on them.

At the same time, Satan is forever I accusatory remarks about our behavior. He preys on our feelings of worthlessness.

When this happens, we need to remind him—and ourselves—of God’s Word, which assures us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).

Remember that the Father has marked you as one of His own.

You are somebody very special to God.

In fact, you are so dear to Him that He sent His only begotten Son into a sinful world to die on the cross so that you and I could be near to Him (John 3:16).

This is pure, unadulterated grace, for which we should praise Him unceasingly.

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Marked As One of His Own…

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Ephesians 1:3-6 (KJV)

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.

All of us have probably enjoyed times when we were selected for some honor or given an assignment that we considered special.

Though such moments pale in comparison, they can remind us of the deep joy that comes from knowing we belong to Jesus forever.

How sublime it is to realize that before the foundation of the world, God chose us to be part of His family!

This choice—which means we were divinely selected to become conformed to the likeness of Christ—undergirds and defines our identity as God’s children.

It stands as a great rock that stabilizes us when fears multiply and anxieties attack.

In spite of this, however, many believers become unsettled when they think about their own sin nature.

Knowing God will condemn all sin, they become fearful that the condemnation of the wicked might fall on them.

At the same time, Satan is forever whispering in our ears accusatory remarks about our behavior.

He preys on our feelings of worthlessness. When this happens, we need to remind him—and ourselves—of God’s Word, which assures us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).

Remember that the Father has marked you as one of His own.

You are somebody very special to God. In fact, you are so dear to Him that He sent His only begotten Son into a sinful world to die on the cross so that you and I could be near to Him (John 3:16).

This is pure, unadulterated grace, for which we should praise Him unceasingly.

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