Psalm 130:3 NIV

Put away the measuring stick!

Psalm 130:3 NIV

We live in a results-oriented society where we’re rewarded for our performance in school, in sports, and on the job. But God doesn’t think like that. His thoughts and ways are far above ours (See Isaiah 55:8-9). He’s not impressed by “empty rituals…He wants you to listen to him!” (1 Samuel 15:22 TM). Feelings and emotions are powerful, but they’re seldom objective. And when you base your worth as a Christian on your performance as a flawed human being, the Enemy has a field day. Satan is called “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10); he wants you to run a checklist of your failures an d mistakes. That way he can torment you by reminding you of all the times you lose your temper, criticize, fail to speak up for what’s right, or let a misconception go unchecked to make yourself look better. David said if the “Lord, kept a record of sin…who could stand?” Even the most disciplined believer has areas where he or she struggles and fails. It’s why we need God’s grace and forgiveness 24/7. “He knows how weak we are” (Psalm 103:14 NLT), and He’s never surprised when despite our best intentions, we fall short. Reimar Schultze says: “God doesn’t measure us by our performance, but by our love for Jesus. Indeed, in the Kingdom of God our love for Jesus is our performance. Everything else is secondary. Desire to be with Him, to abide in Him, to keep in fellowship with Him, to please Him, is what our Master longs for.” So put away your measuring stick and be glad God’s not grading you based on your performance, but on Christ’s performance.

Soul food: Deut 28-29; Mat 8:1-17; Ps 57; Prov 12:15-17

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Psalm 125:1 TLB

Unmoved by any circumstance

Psalm 125:1 TLB

By age twenty-nine, author Carson McCullers had suffered three strokes. Then while she was still crippled and partially paralyzed, her husband committed suicide. Despite her problems she forced herself to write every day, and as a result became a distinguished novelist. The English poet John Milton was blind. World-renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman had polio. Former Miss America Heather Whitestone is deaf. Stephen Hawking, physicist and lecturer at Cambridge University, has Lou Gehrig’s disease. No wonder Thomas Edison said if we did all the things we were capable of doing, we’d astound ourselves! So, what’s the secret to enduring and enjoying life? It’s this: “Those who trust in the Lord are…unmoved by any [did you get that-any] circumstance.” Despite how you feel today, your problems aren’t insurmountable. The Bible says, “God can do what men can’t” (Luke 18:27 TLB). And what’s more, He listens to “the prayers of the destitute… he is never too busy” (Psalm 102:17 TLB). Einstein said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” The same God who guided Abraham when he didn’t have a clue where he was going, gave Sarah a child in her old age, rolled back the Red Sea, and raised Jesus from the dead, is alive and working in your life. So “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10 KJV). Remember, His chariots of deliverance “are…thousands and thousands of thousands” (Psalm 68:17 NIV 2011 Edition). Today take heart! “The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you” (Deuteronomy 33:27 NLT).

Soul food: 2 Chron 7:12-16; Mat 6:5-15; Luk 18:1-8

Luke 23:34 NIV

Anger

Luke 23:34 NIV

Max Lucado writes: “It begins as a drop of water…Someone gets your parking place, pulls in front of you on the freeway, a waitress is slow and you’re in a hurry, the toast burns… Get enough of these seemingly innocent drops of anger and you’ve got a bucket full of rage…We trust no one…bare our teeth at anyone who gets near… become walking time bombs that, given the right amount of tension and fear, could explode… We can’t deny…anger exists. How do we harness it? Jesus said about the mob that killed him, ‘Father, forgive them…they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34 NIV 2011 Edition)…He saw this bloodthirsty, death-hungry crowd not as murderers, but as victims…He saw in their faces not hatred, but confusion…He regarded them not as a militant mob but ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ (Mark 6:34NIV 2011 Edition). ‘They don’t know what they are doing…’think about it…they hadn’t the faintest idea…They were a stir-crazy mob, mad at something they couldn’t see so they took it out on, of all people, God. They didn’t know what they were doing, and for the most part neither do we. Much as we hate to admit it, we’re shepherdless sheep….born out of one eternity and frighteningly close to another…We can’t answer our own questions about love and hurt…can’t solve the riddle of aging…don’t know how to heal our own bodies or get along with our mates…My point is: Uncontrolled anger won’t better our world… sympathetic understanding will. Once we begin to operate not from a posture of anger but of compassion…we realize the lights are out…a lot of people are stumbling in the darkness…So we light candles.”

Soul food: Acts 10-11; Luk 24:36-44; Ps 103:13-22; Prov 10:30-32

Psalm 51:5 GWT

Were you really “born that way”?

Psalm 51:5 GWT

Whether your struggle is with alcohol, drugs, sex, anger, gossip, unforgiveness, stealing, lying, or gambling, one thing’s certain-we are all born with a propensity toward certain behaviors. So it’s not a genetics issue, it’s a spiritual issue. It’s not about science, it’s about sin. Any of us might find ourselves struggling with these issues-not because we inherited a gene for it, but because we inherited Adam’s fallen nature the day we were conceived. David said, “I was born guilty. I was a sinner when my mother conceived me.” Solomon said there are no exceptions: “Not a single person on earth i s always good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT). So the answer is yes, we were all “born that way.” The reason these behaviors come naturally to us is not because we “can’t help being the way we are”; it’s because our sin nature is stronger than our desire to please God. Even when we try, at times we lose the fight! Paul, the greatest of Christians, admitted to failing when he tried to do right. “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18NIV 2011 Edition). So if we are all born that way, what’s the good news? Paul gives it to us: “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25 NLT). When you were born you received Adam’s corrupt nature, but through the new birth you receive Christ’s sin-conquering, life-changing, righteous nature!

Soul food: Jer 51-52; Luk 22:63-71; Ps 56; Prov 10:14-16

Psalm 133:1 NKJV

Be a uniter, not a divider

Psalm 133:1 NKJV

David said, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity…there the Lord commanded the blessing” (vv. 1, 3 NKJV). When we strive to work together in spite of our differences, God “commands” His blessing to be upon our efforts. Satan knows this, so his chief strategy is to divide and conquer. He knows the power, synergy, and blessing that results from working in harmony; therefore he makes every effort to bring division. So when things begin to splinter and fall apart, look for “the Devil in the details.” The sixth chapter of Proverbs lists seven things the Lord detests; among them is “a man who stirs up dissention” (v. 19 NIV 1984 Edition). Paul says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3 NIV 2011 Edition). (He knew that sometimes it required tremendous effort). We can’t afford to be ignorant of Satan’s tactics designed to keep us at odds with one another. He’ll cause you to become offended over a harmless statement, or read more into a comment than the speaker intended, or ascribe impure motives to someone’s behavior, or believe a lie. But when you pray and seek God, He’ll reveal the truth of the situation. “He is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14 KJV), and when we embrace Him, He directs us into peaceful resolution of our issues. In fact, our conflicts can become stepping stones to stronger relationships when we make a commitment to understand each other and refrain from divisiveness. That’s why Paul writes, “I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose” (1 Corinthians 1:10 TLB).

Soul food: Jer 45-48; Luk 22:39-53; Ps 50:1-15; Prov 10:8-10

Isaiah 43:18 NAS

Overcoming bad memories

Isaiah 43:18 NAS

To overcome bad memories you must: (1) Reframe them. Looking back, Joseph said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20 NAS). (2) Reject them. The next time a bad memory resurfaces, refuse to entertain it. “Do not…ponder the things of the past.” (3) Refocus your thoughts. “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13 NKJV). You say, “I can’t help remembering.” If you can recall your troubles, you can recall your blessings. The most effective way to overcome bad memories-is to replace them with good ones! And here’s some great news: Every promise God gives you contains the power to fulfil it. So meditate on these words and personalize them: “Fear not…do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth” (Isaiah 54:4 NAS). “The former things shall not be remembered or come into mind…be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create” (Isaiah 65:17-18 AMP). Notice the word create. God can create beauty out of ashes and order out of chaos-but it doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll do a lot of growing and forgiving along the way. In some cases you’ll forgive others; in other cases you’ll forgive yourself. You say, “But all those promises are from the Old Testament!” Yes, but the Bible says, “He carries out and fulfils all of [His] promises, no matter how many…there are” (2 Corinthians 1:20 TLB). So bring your bad memories to God and let Him heal them.

Soul food: Jer 41-44; Luk 22:24-38; Ps 25:16-22; Prov 10:4-7

Exodus 16:7 NIV

Don’t let complaining creep in (2)

Exodus 16:7 NIV

When you complain, God takes it personally. It shows a lack of faith in His Word that says, “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love [him]” (Romans 8:28 NLT). The Bible says: “When Pharaoh…let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, ‘If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led them in a roundabout way” (Exodus 13:17-18 NLT). God sees the end from the beginning, and He’s leading you in a roundabout way! Once you accept that, you can stop complaining. When Israel grumbled, “the Lord’s anger blazed…and…he destroyed some of the people” (Numbers 11:1 NLT). Dr. Dale A. Robbins writes: “They refused to trust Him to provide, protect, and direct their lives…The whole premise of Christianity is Jesus becomes the ‘boss’ of our circumstances. We’re in His hands. If believers complain, it becomes an accusation against the Lord to whom we’ve trusted our lives, and He ‘[hears] all your complaints against him’ (Exodus 16:8 NLT).” When you go through tough times, don’t resort to complaining. Praise God in spite of what’s happening. “Be thankful in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18NLT). Thanksgiving is the opposite of complaining. It expresses appreciation for everything God has done and what He promises to do, and shows confidence that He’s in charge. The Psalmist said, “Offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and…in the day of trouble; I will deliver you” (Psalm 50:14-15 AMP). Gratitude-not grumbling-motivates God to work on your behalf.

Soul food: Jer 36:27-40:16; Luk 22:14-23; Ps 25:8-15; Prov 10:1-3

Jude V. 16 NLT

Don’t let complaining creep in (1)

Jude V. 16 NLT

Jon Gordon says: “My wife’s friend Rachel wouldn’t stop complaining about her job … the company, the economy, her lack of sales…I finally stopped her and said, ‘It’s simple. You have a choice. You can accept your company’s new policies, come to work with a positive attitude and be your best every day, or you can find a new job. But whatever you do, stop complaining because it’s not doing any good. Change your job or change your attitude…The conversation was over, and so was our friendship, I thought. Rachel wouldn’t speak to me for a few months. Then I saw her at a party and she told me she decided to take my advice. She stayed in her job, stopped complaining and started selling more. Three months after changing her attitude her sales were up 30 percent, a year later they were up 70 percent…The other day, three years after our initial conversation, I caught up with Rachel again and asked her how she was doing. She told me during the last two years her sales continued to grow. She’s been promoted twice and is now in her dream job. It’s the job she always wanted and she’s more excited and passionate than ever. Is complaining sabotaging you and/or your team?…I was in a similar situation ten years ago. But I learned when you stop whining and take positive action, you start winning.” The Bible places whiners and complainers in the same class as “sinners [who] have spoken against [God]…grumblers and complainers…living only to satisfy their desires…to get what they want” (vv. 15-16 NLT). Instead, you should be full of faith-thanking God for His blessings and trusting Him for the future.

Soul food: Jer 33:1-36:26; Luk 22:1-13; Ps 25:1-7; Prov 9:17-18

Colossians 1:27 MSG

Christ is in you (2)

Colossians 1:27 MSG

Paul writes, “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20 NKJV). No other religion makes such a claim. No other movement implies the living presence of its founder in his followers. No wonder Paul refers to it as “the mystery.” We comprehend the idea of Christ for me, or with me, or ahead of me. But Paul said it’s better than that-Christ in me! In his writings Paul refers to this union with Christ 216 times. John mentions it 26 times. They describe a Christ who not only woos us to Himself, but actually “ones” us with Himself. John writes, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:15 NKJV). Just as you own the home you live in, so the Christ who lives in you owns you. And when you own a home you rearrange it the way you want it. Likewise, Jesus moves in and commandeers your hands and feet, requisitions your mind and your tongue. Do you sense things being rearranged in your life today? That’s “Christ in you”! Eugene Peterson paraphrases Paul’s words this way: “He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son” (Romans 8:29 MSG). Ever hear the old saying, “Making a silk purse out of a pig’s ear”? That’s what Jesus does when He takes up residence in your heart. He has a plan for your life, and He also provides the power to fulfil it. And what’s your part? To surrender and cooperate fully with Him.

Soul food: Jer 22-24; Luk 20:41-47; Ps 31; Prov 8:34-36

Ezekiel 36:26 NKJV

Christ is in you (1)

Ezekiel 36:26 NKJV

When God said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you,” you could call it “a spiritual heart transplant.” Tara Storch understands this miracle. In 2010 a skiing accident claimed the life of her thirteen-year-old daughter, Taylor. What followed for Tara and her husband, Todd, was every parent’s worst nightmare: a funeral, a burial, a flood of questions and tears. They decided to donate their daughter’s organs to needy patients. And few people needed a heart more than Patricia Winters. Her heart had begun to fail five years earlier, leaving her too weak to do much more than sleep. Taylor’s heart gave Patricia a fresh start in life. Taylor’s mom had only one request: She wanted to hear her daughter’s heartbeat. She and Todd flew from Dallas to Phoenix and went to Patricia’s home, where the two mothers embraced for a long time. Then Patricia offered Tara and Todd a stethoscope. The question is: When they listened to the healthy rhythm, whose heart did they hear? Did they not hear the still-beating heart of their daughter? It indwelt a different body, but the heart was still the heart of their child. And when God hears your heart, does He not hear the still-beating heart of His Son? Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20 NKJV). The apostle sensed within himself not just the philosophy, ideals, and influence of Christ, but the person of Christ. Christ moved in-and He still does. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27 NKJV).

Soul food: Jer 18-21; Luk 20:27-40; Ps 6; Prov 8:32-33