Settle only for the best

9/06/28

Settle only for the best

Psalm 33:3 NLT

To “play skillfully” means to do it well and strive for excellence when it comes to your God-given talents. One author puts it this way: “There’s a remarkable difference between 99 percent and 100 percent commitment. At 100 percent you see your problems all the way through to their solution. At 99 percent you can still find a way to take the path of least resistance. We live in a culture where excellence is the exception, but God’s Word says, ‘Be a…different person with a fresh newness in all you do’ (Romans 12:2 TLB). You must be willing to pay the price, and here it is: ‘To win…you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best’ (1 Corinthians 9:25 TLB). People will gauge your character by the height of your ideals, the breadth of your compassion, the depth of your convictions, and the length of your persistence. Approach every task thinking how you can do it better.” If you’re good at crunching numbers, excel as an accountant. If you’re a skilled communicator, be the best teacher you can be. If you’re a visionary who can inspire others, be the best possible leader. A former president of Yale University points out that Hamlet could never have been written by a committee, or the Mona Lisa painted by a club, or the New Testament composed by a conference. Creative ideas usually come from individuals. And the great thing about life is if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you often get it!

Soul food: Jer 31-32Matt 4:12-25Ps 98Prov 14:34-35

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Be realistic about your abilities

Be realistic about your abilities

Romans 12:3 NLT

God told Moses, “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring…the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10 NIV). But instead of thinking, “What an honor,” Moses replied, “Who am I to …lead the people?” (Exodus3:11 NLT). Moses’ upbringing as Pharaoh’s adopted grandson had prepared him for the job, but now he was in exile after killing an Egyptian. It’s easy to criticize Moses’ hesitancy, but Mark Roberts observes: “Wise leaders have a certain reluctance that comes from personal humility and taking seriously the responsibility of leadership…After all, God chose Moses knowing full well he’d be reluctant…God [could] have gone after someone with more self-confidence, but He didn’t…Consider how this scene might have been different if Moses had responded, ‘No problem, God. I’m your man…I’ve had years of experience in Pharaoh’s household!’ Would someone with such abundant self-confidence have been right for the job? I doubt it. If our reluctance to lead comes from a realistic sense of our limitations and a genuine recognition of heavy responsibility…it positions us perfectly to have healthy confidence as a leader…Instead of listing Moses’ abilities and accomplishments, God simply said, ‘I will be with you’ (v. 12 NLT).” In other words, “I know you can’t do this alone, but I’ll be with you and that’s what matters.” Paul writes, “Think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3 NIV). It doesn’t matter how much you know or how many people follow you, the litmus test of l eadership is operating in God’s strength, not your own. “The Kingdom of God is not just…talk; it is living by God’s power (1 Corinthians 4:20 NLT).

Soul food: Jer 28-30Matt 3:11-4:11Ps 95Prov 14:29-33

 

Three biblical rules for success (2)

 

Three biblical rules for success (2)

Joshua 1:8 NIV

Second, let it in. The word “meditate” means “to ponder, ruminate, or examine attentively.” So don’t just read the Scriptures, thoroughly digest them. Pray, “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions” (Psalm 119:18 NLT). You can read a Scripture dozens of times and suddenly see something you’ve never seen before. The idea is to train your mind to see things from God’s viewpoint. Mark Twain said the two best days in a person’s life are the day they’re born, and the day they discover why they’re born. And the only person who can tell you that, is your Creator. Third, live it out. “Be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8 NIV). Yes, study the Bible, meditate on the Bible, and even memorize the Bible. But if you want to find success in life you must obey the Bible. You must translate truth into action. No one can guarantee you success except God – and that guarantee is found in reading, meditating, and obeying His Word. Value and worth are directly related to purpose. A car that won’t run is worthless. A pen that won’t write is useless. Likewise, if you are going to be what you need to be, you need to find your purpose in life and fulfill it. At death, your fame and fortune will not matter. The thing of eternal value will be your answer to this question: “Did I live my life in the presence of God and for His purpose?” C. S. Lewis put it this way: “He who has God and everything, has no more than the person who has God alone.”

Soul food: Jer 25-27Matt 2:16-3:10Ps 64Prov 14:25-28

 

 

Three biblical rules for success (1)

Three biblical rules for success (1)

Joshua 1:8 NIV

God told Joshua: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and…have good success” (v. 8 NKJV). God views success as simple to achieve, and equally simple for Him to measure. If we are going to succeed in things that really matter, we must follow the instructions for life found in Scripture. So here are three biblical rules for success: First, look it up. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth.” Or as the American Express credit card company likes to say, “Don’t leave home without it!” Success entails making the study of God’s Word a constant part of your life. This may mean a radical change for you. Ninety percent of Americans own a Bible. Fifty percent never read it, including 23 percent of all followers of Christ. And only 18 percent of those read it every day. Imagine going to a doctor when you’re sick and getting a prescription that can make you well. But you only take it once a week, or when you feel like it, or never at all. Would you blame the doctor for not getting well? Some of us do that with God: “Lord, why has this happened to me? I don’t understand it.” Would you say the medicine doesn’t work? Not if you don’t take it. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). So the word for you today is: Get into God’s Word and get it into you!

Soul food: Jer 22-24Matt 2:1-15Ps 59:9-17Prov 14:23-24

 

 

Pray from your heart

Pray from your heart

Matthew 6:5 TM

Jesus said the Pharisees turned prayer into “a theatrical production,” and that God wasn’t moved by it. Author John Ortberg points out five things about them: “(1) Their prayers had become a shallow exercise rather than a deep relationship-building one. (2) They were rituals, rather than authentic expressions of a loving heart. (3) They were long and wordy, designed to impress others. (4) They were filled with meaningless clichés. (5) They became a cause for pride rather than an opportunity to express humble reliance on God.” Can you imagine your child approa ching you with a whole bunch of religious “thee’s” and “thou’s”? How would it make you feel? When it comes to prayer, Jesus said: “Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply” (vv. 6-8 NIV). You can pray anywhere, at any time: in your car, in the bathroom, lying in bed, while you’re exercising, or at work. All God asks is that you be spontaneous, personal, and honest. In other words, pray from your heart.

Soul food: Jer 18-21Matt 1:1-25Ps 59:1-8Prov 14:21-22

 

Check your attitude

Check your attitude

Philippians 2:5 NLT

A flying instructor will tell you that periodically your plane needs to be “trimmed” or “balanced in flight.” After flying through storms, it gets knocked out of alignment and needs to be adjusted. And the same thing happens on your spiritual journey. The storms of life can “knock you out of alignment.” Unexpected “weather conditions” like sickness, depression, unemployment, divorce, disappointment, and death can force you to change direction and strategy. That’s why your attitude needs to be regularly checked and adjusted. So what are you dealing with that calls for an attitude check? Paul writes, “You must have the same attitude…Jesus had.” Is such a lifestyle possible? Yes, but you must make it a priority and pursue it each day. Joshua wanted to turn an army of complainers into an army that could conquer the Promised Land. So God gave him this formula for success: “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night…be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do” (Joshua 1:8 NLT). Try the “three-by-five technique.” Each week identify a Scripture that relates to an area in which you want to grow, write it down on a three-by-five card, and memorize it. In one year you’ll have fifty-two Scriptures you can recall and stand on. Think how that will impact your life! Not only will wrong attitudes become right attitudes, but your life will begin to move in the right direction.

Soul food: Jer 10-13Mark 15:33-47Ps 17Prov 14:13-16

 

 

Share it with them

Share it with them

John 4:14 NKJV

One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?” (Luke 5:30 NLT). Such contempt – and from those who should have been the first to show love and compassion! Jesus loved people; look how He dealt with the woman at the well. First, He broke the rules. Jews didn’t mix with Gentiles, and they certainly didn’t associate with her kind. (She’d been divorced five times.) Jesus walked for miles to meet this woman. He went into her world to bring her into His. He mixed with her not to take advantage of her or become like her, but to reach, rede em, and restore her. That’s why He’s called “a friend of…sinners” (Matthew 11:19). Could people say that about you? Second, He broke the ice. Jesus talked about what she was interested in – water. You must start where people are, not where you think they should be. You must use words they understand. And get over your fear of rejection. You may lose face if they say no, but think what they’ll lose if they never have a chance to say yes to the gospel. Third, He broke the news. He offered her living water instead of dead religion. How can you say you love someone and not share with them the greatest thing you ever found – salvation? Everybody you meet is hung up on the past, anxious about the future, or in need of a real friend. Once you find which door they’re behind, walk through it with love and sensitivity. They’re thirsty for “the living water.” Share it with them.

Soul food: 2 Kings 24-25Mark 14:12-26Ps 73:17-28Prov 13:20

 

Pray for “wisdom from above”

Pray for “wisdom from above”

James 3:17 NLT

Some people seem to thrive on conflict. They are always picking on others, arguing, disagreeing, or trying to get something started. They fight just for the sport of it, not because they passionately believe in a particular cause. They are quick to jump in and expend their energy fighting other people’s battles in which they have no stake. These people seem confident but they make poor decisions, so others learn to ignore them and not take them seriously. They need to “always win” in order to feel good about themselves. When it comes to your relationships with others, you need “wisdom from above.” When you have it, you won’t need to put everyone else on the mat just to show how strong or smart you are. True self-confidence, including confidence in your ability to make good decisions, comes from within. “The wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness” (vv. 17-18 NLT). When you operate according to these scriptural principles, you’ll know whether or not a battle is worthy of your attention. If you keep your eyes on the prize that God has set before you, you’ll realize that some things simply aren’t worth your time and attention. As a result you’ll make better decisions about your life as well as your relationships.

Soul food: 2 Kings 21-23Mark 14:1-11Ps 73:1-16Prov 13:17-19

 

Your Father’s got you!

“Your Father’s got you!”

John 10:28 TM

On a hot Florida afternoon, a little boy swimming in the lake behind his house didn’t see the alligator that was following him. His father, who was doing yard work, saw it and yelled to his son to turn back. Too late! Just as the boy reached his dad, the alligator reached the boy. In an incredible tug-of-war the father grabbed his son’s arms while the alligator snatched his legs. The alligator was determined, but the father was too passionate to let go. A farmer driving by heard the screaming, leaped from his truck, and shot the reptile. Remarkably, the boy survived, and after weeks in the hospital he was interviewed by the local paper. He showed the reporter the terrible scars on his legs, then with obvious pride he added, “I’ve got great scars on my arms too because my dad held me and wouldn’t let go!” Jesus said, “[You] are protected from the Destroyer…No one can steal [you]…out of my hand.” It’s not that the Enemy won’t try. He’ll make you think you’re so far from God that there’s no way home. He’ll send others to attack you with discouragement and guilt. He’ll tempt you to walk away from God. You may even make poor choices that leave you spiritually and emotionally scarred, but when you belong to God no one can have you! No circumstances can take you away from His love (See Romans 8:38). No consequence can steal you from the hand of your Father. “Your Father’s got you!” Let those powerful words of assurance give you peace today.

Soul food: 2 Kings 18:17-20:21Mark 13:24-37Ps 80:12-19Prov 13:13-16

 

You’ll get through this storm

You’ll get through this storm

Acts 27:20 NIV

There are times in life when God seems distant. We pray but feel abandoned, at the mercy of our circumstances, afraid and hopeless. Paul was no different. He’d longed for an opportunity to preach in Rome and was on his way there when a hurricane struck his ship, plunging everyone into despair. Paul had not only foreseen the loss of the vessel, its crew and cargo, but his “own [life] also” (See v. 10 NIV). And his warning was disregarded by the captain, the pilot, and the centurion in charge of him. Consequently Paul and 276 fellow passengers were place d in a life-threatening crisis, and there was nothing he could do about it. Terrified, he and his companions declared, “We finally gave up all hope of being saved!” After fourteen days at sea without sun or stars to guide them, and just when the hurricane was fiercest, God sent an angel to Paul. “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you” (v. 24 NIV). They were cold, soaked, and hungry when their ship finally ran aground on an island south of Italy. Every circumstance pointed to tragedy and the demise of Paul’s dream of preaching in Rome. However, when the sun rose on the island of Malta next morning, it became clear that God had piloted them through the storm to the exact destination He had planned for them. And Paul ended up declaring God’s Word before Caesar in Rome. So take courage – you’ll get through this storm!

Soul food: 2 Kings 16:1-18:16Mark 13:12-23Ps 80:1-11Prov 13:11-12