Establish your core convictions

Establish your core convictions

Daniel 1:8 NIV

What was Daniel’s problem? What was wrong with eating the best food in the country? Most people lived on a meager diet. Daniel was going to have the opportunity to eat, literally, like a king. Why the hard line? When you dig down into the cultural realities of the situation, more seems to be at stake. A Babylonian feast was always eaten in honor of the gods. So whenever you sat down to a meal, it wasn’t just dining that you participated in, but an act of worship. This food had previously been sacrificed to a pagan god. For a Jewish teenager who took his faith in God seriously, participation would mean compromising who he was called to be. By eating their meal, he would be worshiping their god. And for Daniel, that was a bridge too far. It was about compromising his character, and that he would not do. You don’t discover your convictions when the pressure is on; you decide them in advance. It’s during the good times that you determine what you will or won’t do during the hard times. The psalmist said: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:9-11 NIV). Victorious Christian living is encapsulated in these three statements: (1) “By living according to your word.” (2) “I seek you with all my heart.” (3) “I have hidden your word in my heart.”

Soul food: 1 Sam 8-10Matt 26:47-68Ps 54Prov 21:18-21

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Overcoming stress (2)

The Word for Today

  2019/09/13

Overcoming stress (2)

John 5:30 NIV

Know who you are trying to please. Jesus didn’t try to please everybody, so isn’t it foolish for you to try to do something even God doesn’t do? It was a settled issue with Jesus: “I’m going to please God, period!” And God replied, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). When you lose sight of who you’re trying to please you’ll always cave in to three things: Criticism, because you’re overly concerned about what others think of you. Competition, because you’re afraid somebody will get ahead of you. Conflict, because you’re threatened by anyone who disagrees with you. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things [that you’re stressed out over] shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). By focusing on God’s will you simplify your life! You’ll always be doing the right thing, the thing that pleases Him, regardless of what anybody else thinks. We love to blame stress on other people and on our obligations: “You made me do…I have to…I’ve got to.” Actually, there are few things in life apart from our jobs that we must do. So what we’re really saying is, “I choose to [you fill in the blank] because I don’t want to handle the consequences.” Rarely does anybody make us do anything, so we can’t blame other people for our stress. When we feel pressured, we’re choosing to let others put us there. The fact is, we’re not victims unless we allow ourselves to be pressured by outside demands.

Soul food: 2 Cor 9:1-11:15Matt 25:22-30Ps 24Prov 21:1-2

 

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Overcoming stress (1)

Overcoming stress (1)

John 8:25 NLT

Jesus was constantly under pressure. There were grueling demands on His time. He rarely had personal privacy, and He was constantly interrupted. People repeatedly misunderstood, criticized, and ridiculed Him. He was under enormous stress, yet He remained at peace under pressure. How did he do it? He based His life on eight sound principles of stress management. So for the next week let’s look at them and see what we can learn. Know who you are. “‘Who are you?’ they demanded. Jesus replied, ‘The one I have always claimed to be.'” If you don’t know who you are, ot hers might try to tell you who they think you are. If you don’t know who you are, you’ll subconsciously let other people pressure you into believing you’re somebody you’re not. A lot of stress comes from our hiding behind masks, living double lives, being unreal with others, and trying to be somebody we’re not. Insecurity always produces pressure in our lives; when we’re insecure we feel coerced into performing and conforming. We set unrealistic standards for ourselves, and even though we work, work, work, we still can’t meet them. So what should you do? You must know who you are, and Whose you are! You’re a redeemed child of God, put on this earth not by accident but for a purpose. You are deeply loved and fully accepted by God. He has a plan for your life; therefore you are significant. To overcome stress you must know who you are, and until you deal decisively with this issue you’ll be plagued by it.

Soul food: 2 Cor 5-8Matt 25:14-21Ps 78:65-72Prov 20:26-30

 

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Remember the overlooked and forgotten

Remember the overlooked and forgotten

Isaiah 1:17 NIV

In New Testament times society had no welfare system. That’s why the apostle James wrote, “Religion that God…accepts…is…to look after orphans and widows” (James 1:27 NIV). This could be the kind of ministry you’ve been looking for! The only qualification you need is the memory of how it feels to “be left out” and the compassion to “do something about it.” The following poignant letter, “The Story of Widowhood,” was written by a lady whose husband died. “First numbness, then busyness. A million things to settle. Endless death certificates and things to sign. Friends are so considerate; caring support from relatives. You keep busy. But at night you pound the empty side of the bed in grief. Finally you close your eyes, throw his toothbrush into the garbage, and toss out the old work shoes you brought home from the hospital in a plastic bag. You empty the closet and give all his things away. It’s heartache like you wouldn’t believe. Every suit in his closet reminds you of a special place or time you shared together. A year has passed; you’re still in one piece. Then the blow! Your friends celebrate a birthday – all couples. You’re not included because you’d be a ‘fifth wheel.’ Some wives may even consider you a threat. Please remember us. Don’t treat us like excess baggage. We’ve been handed a rotten break, and we need friends. Signed, Forgotten.” Think of the difference you could make today in somebody’s life by being willing to seek out those that society so often overlooks and forgets.

Soul food: 2 Cor 1-4Matt 25:1-13Ps 78:56-64Prov 20:25

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Enjoy your life!

Enjoy your life!

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NKJV

When did you last take time to laugh, to dance, and to love? Can you even remember? In the words of an unknown poet: “This is the age of the half-read page; the quick hash and the mad dash. The bright knight with the nerves tight; the plane hop and the brief stop. The lamp-tan in a brief span; the big shot in a good spot. The brain strain and the heart pain; the catnaps until the spring snaps…and the fun’s done!” Sobering words, right? But does it have to be that way? No, if it’s that way in your life today, chances are it’s because you made it that way. And you’re only one who can make it different! You say you’re busy? We’re all busy. Who says you can’t enjoy life even when the pace picks up? Certainly not God! Chuck Swindoll writes: “I refuse to force hilarity into the back seat every time responsibility takes the wheel. If the fun’s gone, it’s because we didn’t want it around – not because it didn’t fit…I don’t care if your ‘to do’ list is as long as the horizon, you need to get back in balance and take the time to laugh…to dance…and to love. Why? Because the Bible says so! Furthermore, your family and friends will enjoy you a lot more when you do.” The psalmist said, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11 NKJV). So go ahead and enjoy your life the way God intended – it will be over before you know it.

Soul food: Ezek 43-45Matt 24:26-35Ps 78:32-39Prov 20:20-21

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You are being observed

You are being observed

Proverbs 22:29 MSG

He started out working hard as a section hand for a railroad company. When he was given an opportunity to work in the shipping office for a few days, he jumped at it. During that time his superintendent asked him for some vital facts and figures. “Have them on my desk when I get back in three days,” he said. The young man didn’t know anything about bookkeeping but he worked three days and nights without sleep, and when the superintendent returned he had the facts and figures ready for him. This won the respect and admiration of his superintendent, and as soon as a permanent position opened up he recommended the young man for the job. Over time the young man was promoted many times, and each time he was applauded for his thoroughness and trustworthiness. Eventually, he ended up as vice president of the Ralston Purina Company in St. Louis, Missouri, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of pet food. The Bible says, “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men” (NKJV). In The Message, Eugene Peterson paraphrases it this way: “Observe people who are good at their work – skilled workers are always in demand and admired; they don’t take a back seat to anyone.” Whether you realize it or not, you are being watched on the job. Your character, your work ethic, and your attitude are being observed. And you will be rewarded not only according to the tasks you complete, but for your attitude and the way in which you complete them!

 

Soul food: Ezek 37:1-40:9Matt 24:1-14Ps 78:9-16Prov 20:11-14

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Know your life’s purpose

Know your life’s purpose

John 18:37 NKJV

Standing before Pilate, Jesus said, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” Jesus knew why He was born and what He was called to do, and He focused on it like a laser. And you are called to follow in His footsteps (See 1 Peter 2:21). There are three types of people: (1) Those with no life purpose. They are drifters, aimlessly cruising through life. They go to school, get a job, switch jobs, find a spouse, switch spouses, move from house to house and place to place, retire, and eventually die. They don’t really live; they just exist. (2) Those who have the wrong life purpose. They may be super achievers, people who have climbed the ladders of financial, political, and social success only to find their ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. They either discovered too late or never realized that they missed a purposeful life that positively influenced others. (3) Those who have the right life purpose. They know why they were created. They know why God put them on this earth, and they are all about fulfilling that purpose. That is the life that brings a smile to the face of God. That is success that lasts. It has nothing to do with popularity, power, or possessions. It has everything to do with purpose, because that is the only thing that brings a God-given assurance of success. So do you know your life’s purpose? If not, ask God and He will reveal it to you.

Soul food: Ezek 34-36Matt 23:23-39Ps 78:1-8Prov 20:7-10

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Teach me to receive your love

“Teach me to receive your love”

1 John 4:19 NKJV

We know how frustrating it is to try to give a gift to somebody who keeps refusing it. Insecurity and feelings of unworthiness keep many of us from being good “receivers.” We think we must earn or deserve everything we get. We even go so far as to mistrust the giver and think: “Why would you want to do that for me? What’s your real motive?” Now if we feel that way, imagine how God feels when He extends His love and we refuse it because we feel undeserving, or we’re harboring a false sense of humility. Or worse, we question His motives. The truth is , none of us deserves God’s love. But when He reaches out to you in love, He’s attempting to establish a cycle that will bless you as well as others. His plan is simple. He wants you to: (1) Receive His love. (2) Learn to love yourself in a balanced and healthy way. (3) Love Him in return. (4) Extend His love to those He sends into your life. And learning to do those things takes time – in most cases, lots of it! And just as God did when the Israelites entered the Promised Land, He will help you to conquer your hang-ups “little by little” (See Exodus 23:30 NKJV). Change happens gradually as you continue to pray, read His Word, and act on it (See 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT). He’s “the author and finisher of our faith” (See Hebrews 12:2). The Bible says God initiated this “good work” in your life and He will complete it (See Philippians 1:6). So today ask Him to help you receive and embrace His unconditional love for you.

Soul food: Ezek 31-33Matt 23:13-22Ps 27Prov 20:5-6

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When you have a vision

When you have a vision

Acts 26:19 NIV

When God gives you a vision for your life, you need to know how to: (1) Hold it. Your vision is governed by a time frame: “The vision is…for an appointed time…though it tarry, wait for it” (Habakkuk 2:3). Some of us can conceive a vision, but we can’t carry it to full term because we’re not willing to endure the stretching and discomfort involved. We rush ahead of God and our vision is stillborn, or too weak to survive. Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). When your vision is bor n of the Spirit, it’ll be sustained by the Spirit. But when it’s born of the flesh, you’re on your own! (2) Hide it. It’s a mistake to share your vision with those who can’t appreciate it. Joseph did that, and he landed in a pit. Not everybody will celebrate your success, especially if your light shines brighter than theirs. So ask God for discernment. Judas may seem like your friend right now, but inevitably he’ll betray you. (3) Water it. Read these two Scriptures carefully and prayerfully: “David encouraged himself in the Lord” (1 Samuel 30:6); “Building up yourselves on your most holy faith” (Jude 20). You must know how to encourage and build yourself up spiritually and how to water your vision. God told Habakkuk, “Write the vision, and make it plain” (Habakkuk 2:2). Write your vision on a three-by-five card and carry it with you. And start acting like the person you expect to be when it becomes reality – and it will!
Soul food: Ezek 24:1-27:24; Matt 22:34-46; Ps 20; Prov 19:24-29

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Spiritual yet still carnal

Spiritual yet still carnal

Galatians 4:19 NIV

When you become a Christian you discover that part of you wants to walk “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), while another part wants to walk “after the flesh” (Romans 8:5). And you would, if it weren’t for God’s Spirit who lives in your divided house and “groans” when you do certain things, challenging you with God’s Word (See John 16:7-14). The truth is, your new heart is still living in your old body. One author writes: “When I first came to Christ I thought others had mastered a level of holiness that always eluded me. So I attacked my carnality with passion! I didn’t realize that everything that’s born needs time to grow. I was expecting an immediate, all-inclusive metamorphosis that would make me the kind of person God could really love. I now realize His love isn’t doled out on a merit system: If you do well, He loves you, and if you don’t, He doesn’t.” God doesn’t want do-it-yourself righteousness. The Bible says, “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Paul writes, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” God alone knows the process it will take for the Christ who saved you to be formed in you! We each travel our own paths at our own pace, but our goal is the same: to bear a greater resemblance to our heavenly Father. And getting us there is God’s job – so let Him do it. Your job is to keep walking with Him day by day as He does it.

Soul food: Ezek 14:1-16:52Matt 21:33-46Ps 103:1-12Prov 19:12-16

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