It’s a necessary part of the process

It’s a necessary part of the process

Psalm 32:8 NKJV

Why are you still here? When Jesus saved you, why didn’t He simply take you to heaven to be with Him? Because He’s not only interested in your final destination; He wants to do a work in you and through you on the way to it. We get impatient when it comes to God’s will for our lives. We just want to get there! But a great deal of time usually elapses between when God calls us and when we’ve fulfilled His will for our lives. And until we accept that, we’re not ready to go anywhere! We need to understand that the journey is an important process. It matters to God what you become on the way to where you’re going. And following Him in obedience through many unknowns, trials, and difficulties is an integral and indispensable part of your preparation. God uses the journey to teach you faith, refine your character, and equip you for greater challenges that lie ahead. In fact, if you’re in the process of seeking God’s will right now, you’re already fulfilling part of it in your life. God said, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.” Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you don’t know all you’d like to, you’re not making progress. Something is happening right now. Your faith is being stretched, your patience is being developed, your doubts are being confronted and conquered, and your relationship with God is growing deeper. He always prepares us in advance for what He has planned ahead for us. Yes, the struggle is uncomfortable – but it’s a necessary part of the process.

Soul food: Josh 5:1-8:29John 14:15-25Ps 118:19-29Prov 28:5-8

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Finishing strong in ministry 

Finishing strong in ministry 

Acts 20:28 NKJV

Here’s another issue pastors often grapple with: They know how to feed others spiritually, but not themselves. Before leaving the church at Ephesus for the last time, Paul gathered its leaders together and said, “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” Before you attempt to take care of others, learn to take care of yourself. Before God builds the ministry, He builds the minister; otherwise, you become an easy target for the Enemy. When the administrative side of church threatened to rob the apostles of their daily prayer and Bible study time, they called “time out,” saying, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and…the word” (Acts 6:4). Pastor, don’t just focus on preparing your sermon, keep your soul prepared! And don’t just set boundaries for your people, set them for yourself. Believing you can cut corners spiritually opens you to wrong relationships and destructive habits. As a result, you end up living on two levels – public service and private struggle. When that happens, you live with the fear of exposure, feel like a hypocrite, and forfeit the confidence necessary for God to use you (See 1 John 3:21, 22). Consequently the church gets robbed spiritually and suffers. So…what do struggling servants of God need? Spiritual fathers! Paul writes, “You might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers” (1 Corinthians 4:15 NKJV). Find a mature, seasoned friend in ministry and reach for help before your problem gets out of co ntrol. This isn’t just a good idea – your survival in ministry may depend on it!

Soul food: 2 Chr 25-28John 12:20-36Ps 102:12-17Prov 27:10-12

Resistance training

Resistance training

James 4:7 NKJV

Have you ever watched someone doing resistance training? They get stronger every day as they press more and more weight. That’s how to view the verse “resist the devil.” Satan is out to do three things: “Kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10). Destroy what? Everything God has given you! And he doesn’t play fair. Using a whole arsenal of weapons, he’ll attack your mind, your health, your marriage, your children, your finances, and your character. And if you’re a spiritual weakling, he’ll crush you! Satan studies you. He knows your quitting points, and he’ll push you to the brink every chance he gets. So what should you do? Push back – and keep pushing! Use every spiritual weapon God has given you – prayer, praise, His Word and fellowship. It’s time to turn the tables on the Enemy and start using him as your spiritual gym! The Amplified Bible talks about “the sword that the Spirit wields, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17 AMPC). When you’re filled with God’s Spirit, He will fight in you, through you, and for you. When that happens, Satan reaches the place where he knows he can’t defeat you on a particular front, so what does he do? He attacks you on a different one! But with victory after victory being chalked up, you develop the boldness and strength to defeat him on that front too. With enough resistance training under your belt, you’ll experience the joy of walking in the truth of this wonderful promise: “God…will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20 NIV).

Soul food: 1 Chr 26:20-29:30John 10:11-21Ps 133Prov 26:7-12

Forgive – and set yourself free!

Forgive – and set yourself free!

Philippians 3:13 NIV

The Bible says that the greater the offense, the greater the need to forgive your offender in order to go on with your life. Remember when you were growing up, how your parents would tell you to close the door? That’s because in winter you were letting in the cold and in summer you were letting in the heat. Forgiveness shuts the door on your past! Paul, who martyred Christians before becoming one, writes, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching…unto those things which are before.” Only when you release your grip on the past can you secure your grip on the future. Forgetting is a decision, one you sometimes have to make daily or even hourly. Bottom line: You need to forgive every time the issue that’s hurting you rears its head (See Matthew 18:21-22). Complete healing can take months or years. When someone hurts you deeply, you must purpose in your heart to keep forgiving them until you’re free from their influence. No matter what they took from you through abuse, abandonment, betrayal, manipulation, or deceit, bitterness will take more! Like making a rod for your own back, unforgiveness lets the person who hurt you keep doing it. So until the issue is resolved, you may have to get down on your knees every day and pray, “Lord, by an act of my will, I forgive ________ and ask You to bless them. I’m turning them over to You and getting on with my life.” There’s no shortcut – it’s the only path to freedom!

Soul food: 1 Chr 16-18John 9:13-23Ps 105:1-15Prov 25:23-25

The healing power of forgiveness

The healing power of forgiveness

Luke 6:28 NKJV

Night after night, Mary was beaten by her father when he came home from the bar in a drunken rage. So the first chance she got, she left home. Given time, most physical scars begin to heal, but emotional scars can last a lifetime. They can keep you stuck in the pain of the past and cost you valuable relationships. Even the people who love you can grow weary and despair that you’ll ever get better despite their efforts to help you. Do you know someone like that? Are you that someone? Do you want to move toward healing and find joy? You can. Mary found it when she decided to forgive her dad and start praying for him. That’s when she started to become spiritually and emotionally whole. And she kept on forgiving him and praying for him until her old memories no longer held her prisoner. Jesus said, “Pray for those who spitefully use you.” The word “spiteful” implies you did nothing to cause or deserve it, that your offender hurt you for reasons you may never understand. That’s why Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 NKJV). That doesn’t let your offender off the hook. They will live with the guilt of what they did, and unless they turn to God for forgiveness they’ll have no peace. But you will have peace! When you decide to forgive someone and pray for them, you take back your power and reclaim your life.

Soul food: 1 Chr 7:20-9:44John 8:31-41Ps 30Prov 25:13-17

What’s the basis of your self-worth?

What’s the basis of your self-worth?

Hebrews 13:5 NLT

One morning, a businessman saw a fisherman lounging on his boat drinking coffee. “You’re back early,” he shouted. The sailor replied, “I’ve caught enough. I’m through for the day.” The businessman said, “Why not go out again? If you keep going out you can catch more fish and increase your income, buy a second boat, hire a crew, and become rich like me.” The man replied, “Why should I do that?” The businessman said, “So you’ll be free to do what you want and enjoy life.” Grinning, the fisherman said, “But that’s exactly what I’m doing right now! ” The Bible says, “Be satisfied with what you have,” yet many of us base our self-worth on what we own or achieve. We only feel good about ourselves when we’re involved in certain relationships or live in certain neighbourhoods or reach certain goals. We tell ourselves, “When I earn more money, or make company president, or lose fifty pounds, etc., I’ll be okay.” So, what’s the basis of your self-worth today? If you’re not sure, ask yourself, “What can I not live without?” Is there somebody you’re afraid will leave you? A job you’re too involved in? Is there something you need to accomplish before you feel complete? It is both scriptural and wise to have goals for your life, but don’t undermine yourself by believing that you’re “less than” because you’ve achieved or acquired less than someone else. The Scriptures teach that when you make God’s purposes your number one priority, “He will…give you all you need…For it gives your Father great happiness to give you [the benefits of] the Kingdom” (Luke 12:31-32 TLB).

Soul food: Deut 18:9-18Dan 2Isa 47:5-15Acts 16:16-34

Matthew 19:5 NIV

Matthew 19:5 NIV

Parents, read this letter. “Dear Dad: Thanks for all the times you held me on your lap so I could see the ball game, and times you took me to the carnival and bought me hot dogs. I’ll always remember the day you carried me through the snow because I was so cold. You’ve been a great dad and I’ll never forget you. Suzie and I were talking the other day and wondering how you’re doing. Since we moved away we don’t get to see much of you. But one of these days we’re going to come and surprise you. Take care. I love you, your son.” Nice letter, eh? Nice, if you’ve prepared yourself for the time when you’re no longer needed to do what you’re doing today. If not, you can grow resentful toward those you sacrificed so much for and feel like you’re no longer important to them. God gave you your children on a lease, with an expiration date. Poet Kahlil Gibran said, “They come through you but not from you…You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth” (See Psalm 127:4). Parenthood isn’t about ownership, it’s about stewardship. Your first assignment is to provide love to make them secure, laws to make them wise, light to walk in, and a lifestyle to follow. Your next assignment is to prepare them to go out into the world and put into practice the things you’ve taught them. So release them, celebrate the investment you’ve made, pray for them, and ask God, “What’s next?” It’s the way God planned it.

Soul food: 1 Chr 3-5John 8:1-20Ps 6Prov 25:1-7

 

Thank God for your job

Thank God for your job

Proverbs 13:4 NLT

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones tells the story of a man who dreamed he’d inherited a million dollars. In the dream he tried to take a shower, but the shower wouldn’t work. He tried to shave, but his shaver wouldn’t shave. He tried to make breakfast, but the coffee wouldn’t perk and the toaster wouldn’t toast. He went to get a newspaper, but the newspaper box was empty. He went to catch the bus to work, but the bus didn’t come. Finally, after waiting an hour, he asked somebody, “What’s going on here?” They replied, “Haven’t you heard? Everybody has inherited a million dollars and nobody’s working anymore.” Suddenly the man woke up, discovered that it was all a dream, and said, “Thank God!” So he went and had a tremendous shower, a tremendous shave, a tremendous cup of coffee, and a tremendous piece of toast while he was reading a tremendous newspaper. Finally he caught a tremendous bus to a tremendous job! Thank God today for the job He has given you, and put your very best into it. Your position and paycheck would most likely have been a dream-come-true for some of your ancestors. You may not be called to “the ministry” per se, but if your job affords you the privilege of being a solution to somebody’s problem and offers you the dignity of making a difference in life, be grateful. Imagine what your life would be like without it! “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.”

Soul food: Nahum 1-3John 4:39-54Ps 41Prov 24:5-6

Make it a personal growth experience

Make it a personal growth experience

Ephesians 4:15 NIV

Before you confront someone over an issue, stop and examine your motives. Is your goal to help or humiliate them? Jesus was in the business of lifting and restoring people, and you should be in that business too. Ask yourself, would you approach things differently if you weren’t so personally involved? Are you confronting this person to make yourself look better? Cutting someone else down in order to lift yourself up is the lowest form of ego gratification. Poet Kahlil Gibran said, “To belittle, you have to be little.” Don’t do it! It’s a sign of insecurity. Remember Nehemiah’s response to those who tried to discourage him from rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls? “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). Don’t allow your critics to break your stride. Don’t give more credence to the sentiments of a critic than you would to the encouragement of a friend. Before you put somebody else’s life under the microscope, stop and examine your own. Are you grappling with the same issue, or one just as bad? Have you succeeded where you’re accusing somebody else of failing? In other words, have you earned the right to be heard? Paul writes, “Speaking the truth in love we will grow…in every respect.” Could it be that the situation you’re dealing with right now is an opportunity to measure your own maturity and make it a spiritual growth experience?

Soul food: 2 Pet 1-3John 4:27-38Ps 87Prov 24:1-4

A formula for successful living

A formula for successful living

1 Peter 5:5-7 NLT

Somebody quipped, “The trouble with success is that the formula is the same as the one for a nervous breakdown.” The Bible gives us the real formula for successful living. It encompasses three areas: authority, attitude, and assurance. “Accept the authority of the elders…humble yourselves under the mighty power of God…Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” Let’s look at each of the three areas: (1) Submit yourself to those who are wise. Listen to their counsel, become accountable, accept reproof, take suggestions, respect experience, and follow a worthy example. Only when you can take advice will you be qualified to give it. Only when you respect and submit to leadership will you be qualified to lead others. (2) Humble yourself. In Scripture the “hand” of God symbolizes two things: His discipline and His deliverance. When you humble yourself before Him, you’re accepting His discipline as being for your good. You’re also acknowledging His willingness to answer your cry for help and deliver you by whatever means He chooses. (3) Throw yourself on God’s mercy and care. Trouble and disappointment will surely come, and when they do you need to throw yourself on the Lord. The situation may be too big for you, but it’s never too big for Him. Does that mean there’s no place for planning, goal-setting, and hard work? No, it just means you’re willing to do things God’s way, which is always best.

Soul food: 1 Sam 27-31Matt 28:11-20Ps 63Prov 22:17-23