Saturday, August 31, 2013

He'll Lead the Way

By:  B. Bohnert

It is wise to have plans for the future; having dreams and desires is part of what keeps life moving forward. We have all arrived at where we are today by the decisions we’ve made.

The exciting news is to know that we can continue to grow and rise to greater heights with God’s assistance. As we are traveling down the road of life, we shouldn’t worry about where we are going, but who we are following.

I would rather follow God’s lead and stay on course, than go my own way and stumble along. For when I am uncertain about the correct path to follow, God illuminates the way. I find peace from the words God spoke through Isaiah the prophet.

The Lord says in Isaiah 42:16,

“I will lead the blind on roads they have never known; I will guide them on paths they have never traveled. Their road is dark and rough, but I will give light to keep them from stumbling.”(CEV)

When walking in the dark a flashlight is very useful, otherwise we might run into something and fall. By simply following the light, every obstacle becomes visible. God’s Word is also like a flashlight that guides us.

Psalms 119:105 tells us,

“By His words we can see where we’re going; they throw a beam of light on our dark path.”(MSG) 

Jeremiah 33:3 gives us direction on how to receive spiritual clarity. Listen,

“Call to me and I will answer you. I'll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.”(MSG)

You and I can sit around thinking about the future and still come to a dead end. Prayer, not purposeful thinking, is the key to unlocking doors. 

Prior to my writing aspirations I had gone through several years of Biblical study. The Biblical courses were beneficial to me and deep down I knew they would also be beneficial to an effective ministry.

I had envisioned a speaking ministry even though I was a little doubtful about my speaking abilities. So I went to my Bible for guidance and the answer as what I was to pray came fromIsaiah 50. Beginning in verse four it says,

“The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to himwho is weary.”(NKJV)

This Scripture became my foundation on which to stand. Then after a period of time had passed the opportunity for me to write came up unexpectedly. The funny thing is, I never thought of speaking through the written Word.

God knew I would be hesitant with the idea so that is why I believe He didn’t reveal to me the method He’d choose. Still, if it had not been for my persistent prayer, I would have lacked the confidence necessary to write a word in season. There may well be a time for me to speak in the future, but for now I’m standing firm.

In his article, Use What Is In Your Hand to Fulfill What Is In Your Heart, Pastor Brian Houston from Hillsong Church said, “Over the years I have encountered many gifted people with a passion to serve God who became stale and stagnant because they didn't do anything with it. The desire was burning in their hearts but they were blind to what was in their hand.” 

Thankfully, unlike these people mentioned by Brian Houston I accepted the challenge to write and faced my fears head on.

Where do you feel like the Lord is leading you? Are you uncertain about the path? Don’t worry for a minute because you have the Bible, God’s Word, as your road map. Obey the counsel provided within its pages and you too will have success.

As Joshua 1:8 says,

“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”(NLT)

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Judgment Seat

By:  Blackaby

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

There are many motivations in the Christian’s life. One is our awareness that one day we will give an account of our lives to Christ, as He sits in judgment upon humanity. It is much more comforting to believe that Christians will be ushered into heaven with no questions asked about our faithfulness upon earth, but that is not what Scripture says will happen.

Paul cautioned that in the final day of judgment every Christian will give an account for his or her actions. This expectation terrified Paul and motivated him to strive to please God in everything he did (2 Cor. 5:9–11). Paul knew that although he might ignore the Spirit’s quiet voice during His life on earth, a time of accounting would come when he would have to explain why he had rejected God’s instructions. Paul never carelessly assumed that, because of all he had done for God’s kingdom, God would overlook his sin. Instead, he understood that to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).

God does not force His will upon us. He will ask us to answer for the way we responded to Him. Christians have been pardoned by the sacrifice of Jesus. We are not condemned. But because God is absolutely just, we will be called on to give an account of our actions. The Christian life gives a tremendous freedom, but it also brings a pervasive sense of our accountability to God and to others. We can learn from Paul that accountability is healthy; it gives us a powerful motivation to please God.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Golden Bowls of Prayer

By:  D. Delay

Our family enjoys the fun andrefreshment of water slides and lazy rivers during hot summer vacations. At most water parks, there are also one or two spots where large buckets hang overhead filling little by little with water. The closer the bucket gets to being full, the larger the crowd grows beneath in anticipation—children and adults alike wait for the outpouring. Then SUDDENLY the bucket tips and a great flood of refreshment crashes down on all below!

In the Book of Revelation, the Bible describes golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5:8). In other words, the prayers of God's people collectively fill heavenly bowls with sweet aroma, much like the burnt offerings did in days of old. In Revelation 8, we discover what these bowls are used for:

"Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden alter which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake" (verses 3-5).

Much like the water park buckets, the prayers of God's people fill golden bowls in heaven. As these bowls fill, the prayers are mingled with incense creating a pleasing aroma to God. Then as the bowls brim over, an angel takes the censor dipped in incense and prayers and showers the fire of God on the earth.

God said, "If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).

The "fire from the altar" is the power of God released from heaven to change the earth. As our prayers are lifted up to God, the golden bowls are filled until they reach a point when the bowls tip and pour out God's power and provision on the earth.

When God's people pray earnestly, the "effective, fervent prayer of the righteous" avails much (James 5:16). I'm not talking about begging God. Begging God is not the same as believing God. Effective, fervent prayer is always filled with faith. But to be effective, our prayers can’t be like bullets, popping off toward God like He's a target. No, our prayers must be spirit-led and intentional. "The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]" (Amplified).

Jentzen Franklin said, "What a marvelous image! When you pray, you are filling the prayer bowls of heaven. In God's perfect timing, your prayers are mixed with the fire of God (His power) and cast back down to earth to change your situation... Even if you don't feel like anything is happening in the natural world, when you pray, you are filling the prayer bowls in the spirit realm. When they are full, they will tilt and pour out answers to your prayers!" (The Amazing Discernment of Women, by Jentezen Franklin)

The truth is, we’re guilty of not lingering in prayer long enough. The people at the water park who wearied of waiting for the buckets to fill missed an outpouring. The same is true in prayer. However, it's not about works (trying to make something happen), it's about diligence. The word "earnest" describes something serious in intention, purpose, or effort. It can also mean sincerely zealous, meaning it is active, devoted, and diligent, while at the same time being free of hypocrisy or deceit. This kind of prayer is genuine and real. It's not about how many words are prayed or the manner in which we pray, as long as our prayers are heartfelt, faith-filled, and authentic.

The earth needs saints to be fervent in prayer. God would not have destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah if there had been even 10 righteous people calling out to Him for deliverance. The same is still true today if God's people will pray. He is ready to tilt the prayer bowl on this generation! So be encouraged in your prayer life—the golden bowls are being filled and the fire of heaven is about to fall!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

We Know Love By This

By:  J. Devlin

“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren”1 John 3:16

I find it impossible to lose sight of the fact that Christ not only died for our sins, but He also endured everything we would have to endure, so that we could never say that He didn’t understand our problems.

In the verse above, we see how Jesus shows His unconditional, undeserved love through His willingness to die for us in order to give us life. With this action on His part, He has every right to request that we offer the littlest portion of such a gesture for someone else. This verse doesn’t only talk about showing love by losing your physical life; but also about setting aside your own agenda in order to help, reach out to, and love others.

If you think there are no people on earth today that are willing to die for their fellow man, look again! All you have to do is take a look around your community—from the policemen, firemen, and emergency crews to members of the military.

We see that such a love for others is all around us. It doesn’t have to be as glamorous as the secret service in their dapper suits and earpiece communications to be a life-saving profession. We all witnessed countless heroes on 9/11 and during other tragedies who did their all to save the lives of others.

We see accounts of heroism on some level just about every night on the evening news. People are seen laying their own lives on the line for someone else. How much moreshould we be willing to lay down our lives for others since we have the example of Christ being sacrificed once for all men!

If you ask any of these people (servicemen and women, firemen, policemen, etc.) “why” they do what they do, they may not be able to tell you, it’s just something in them—a sense of duty that makes them willing. It’s the same with our faith! With the Holy Spirit in us, we will just be walking in the Spirit, willing to do what we should as we love each other.

The picture of love that Christ showed us is perfect. Love in its simplest form according to Christ is obedience. Christ was obedient to the Father and became the ultimate sacrifice, a greater example of love does not exist!

In John 14:15 we see Jesus give guidance on our relationship with Him, where He says,

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

Obedience is a result of love and respect. When we love Jesus, we obey His requests. Jesus loved the Father and obeyed His commands.

We love God and others, and one way we show our love is through obeying God’s commands. Jesus clearly tells His people,

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."John 13:34

In this, we can see that loving one another Jesus’ way is more than “mushy gushy love talk” and a quick hug. It’s the real, lay down your life, pull together and help someone where they need you (even when it’s not easy) type gesture backed up by genuine, hard-working action.

Love is the best when it is being “worked out” and actions are involved. Love is an action. It is not just a passing emotion that requires little more than brainpower and some smooth talk!   

Jesus showed love to those He came into contact with during His earthly ministry by improving their situation. He impacted their lives in positive ways. He cast out demons, making the possessed emotionally whole. He healed physical conditions; He helped out at a wedding to bring honor to those hosting it. He changed lives. Jesus helped us all by giving us the hope of salvation.

Excerpted from Life Principles for Christ-like Living, with permission, Copyright 2006 by Jennifer Devlin, ISBN 0-89957-339-8. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Subtle Deception of Sin

By:  C. Arrington

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye" (Matthew 7:3 NIV).

Recently celebrated cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted he cheated to win. Although it's been a while since allegations emerged, this was the first time he stopped denying the charges. I read an account of the interview and then fumed about the bad example he set for aspiring athletes, annoyed by his seeming lack of remorse.

And then, as is often His way, the Lord whispered, "You're like Lance Armstrong."

"Me? No, I'm not!"

"Remember high school Latin class?"

"Oh. That."

It began innocently, if cheating is ever innocent. There were only four of us in the class and our teacher was old and partially blind. One day we had a pop quiz and one of the girls slid her open book into her desk and looked up the answers. Soon, the others were doing the same. I resisted until a day when I hadn't studied the vocabulary. I was going to fail the quiz. ... unless.

Everyone was doing it. Why shouldn't I? Soon, an open book in my desk was commonplace. Then, prior to the exam, which we all would exempt because of our high, ill-gotten grades, the one who began the practice of cheating outed us all. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and mad. Why had she exposed us without warning, without giving us a chance to stop? I'd been caught, and my sin was out there for all to know.

"For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies" John 8:44

Satan is a sly guy. He convinces us sin is fine, as long as we don't get caught. He whispers, "Go ahead. You're safe. No one will find out." So we reason there is nothing wrong with your tiny sins—jumping a turnstile, running a red light, fabricating reasons for incomplete tasks, blaming others for mistakes, twisting the truth slightly. But don't be deceived by the father of lies. Sin is sin and all sin is equal. There is no grading scale—no this-sin-is-less-bad-than-another. Every sin has the same effect—separation from God.

Aren't we all like Lance Armstrong? We cheat and expect not to get caught. We look at others, measure our sin against theirs, and think what I'm doing isn't as bad. Perhaps the greatest deception of sin is the lies we tell ourselves to justify our actions and attitudes, and the only way to avoid deceiving ourselves is to actively work to stay off the slippery slope of lies. You see, sin has a snowball effect. Once you lie, to yourself or someone else, you usually have to tell another lie to cover the first one.

My grandfather was a wise man. One of his life precepts was: "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember what you said." In other words, if you lie, you have to remember the lie so you can make sure you re-create it later. Most of us aren't smart enough to juggle that many lies for very long. So why try?

Start today. Make a conscious effort to change the things in your life that you consider "tiny" sins. Ask God to help you. One of the first steps in overcoming sin is admitting what you're doing is sin and that it's wrong. Then repent, which means to go in the opposite direction, making an intentional about-face.

While we may be indignant about the sin of others, we're all just as tarnished as a cheating multi-medal-winning cyclist. Admit it, and then move forward with honesty, believing you can change through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit within. God doesn't expect us to be perfect, but He does expect us to make an effort to be more like Him.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

How to Reach the Others God Has for You to Reach

By:  J. Meyer

Jesus began His public ministry in Nazareth. It was the town where He grew up, where all His close friends and family lived―where any one of us would have expected plenty of hugs and hand claps of encouragement. But for Jesus, it was not a good experience.

The crowd was happy with Jesus’ teachings to a point, but when His words became a little more direct and corrective, the Bible says they became so enraged that they actually tried to kill Him (see Luke 4:28,29). Jesus didn’t even try to defend the validity of His ministry. Verse 30 says, “But passing through their midst, He went on His way.”

Now, the next place He went was Capernaum, where He preached to large crowds, performed miracles and cast out devils from among the people. And they were just so happy. They said, “Stay with us, Jesus. This is Your spot!” Well, who wouldn’t want to stay where everybody loves and appreciates you? But Jesus didn’t hang around there either because He knew there were others who needed to hear His message.

There’s a major lesson to be learned here. See, Jesus wasn’t moved by people’s rejection nor was He moved by their acceptance. He was moved by the Spirit of God.

If you can learn how to follow God whether you’re accepted or rejected, you’re well on your way to fulfilling the call of God on your life to reach out to others.

What to Do When Others Reject You

Have you ever tried to help someone who didn’t really want to be helped out of their situation? You know, we tend to think that if we could just explain things a little more clearly or be a little bit better witness, they could be helped. But honestly and truly, we’ve got to know when to break free from the burden of false responsibility.

In Matthew 10, Jesus was sending out His disciples, and He told them that if they went to a town and the people didn’t accept them, they should shake the dust off their feet and go to the next town.

What does that mean for Christians today? It means if someone doesn’t want to be helped, we can continue to pray on their behalf, but we are not obligated to try and change them.

The world is full of hungry, hurting, needy people who would love to get any little bit of love and encouragement you have to give them. So when one person rejects you, don’t let that stop you. Just do what Jesus did. Move on to the next person and the next person until somebody wants what you’ve got.

What to Do When Others Ask Too Much

Now, there are going to be others in your life who love and appreciate you and won’t ever want you to leave their side because of who you are and what you do for them. And it’s tempting to stay around people like that because they genuinely care about you. But if you choose to stay in that same small circle, you won’t be able to reach out to others in need―and “on others” is where God wants our focus to be.

I think it would absolutely set the church on fire if every Christian would realize they have what it takes to make a difference in the lives of others.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Victory One Step at a Time

By:  Blackaby

And the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you little by little; you will be unable to destroy them at once, lest the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. (Deuteronomy 7:22)

When God led His people into the Promised Land, He did so step by step. If He had allowed them to annihilate their enemies at once, the land would have been too difficult to manage. So He allowed some of the enemies to remain for a time in order to maintain the land and suppress the wildlife. In doing so, God taught His people to trust Him step by step. He gave them only as much responsibility as they could handle at one time.

As God leads you in your Christian growth, He will allow challenges that match your character and relationship to Him. God will not totally change your character at once when you become a Christian. Rather, He will lead you through a process to become more like His Son. He will keep working in an area in your life until it is controlled by the Holy Spirit. You may eagerly desire maturity in every area of your character, but steady, gradual growth is more lasting. God will not take shortcuts in His process of making you like Christ. He sees your life from eternity and will take as long as necessary to produce lasting spiritual growth in you.

Do not become impatient while God is producing Christlikeness in you. Do not seek more responsibilities than those He has given you. Obey all that you know He has asked, and He will lead you at a pace that fits your present character and His purposes for you.

Waiting on God and His Light in the Heart

By:   A. Murray “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they t...