Thursday, September 26, 2013

How Could Such an Evil Thing Happen?

By:  D. N. Matthews

Just how low can a society sink when the people reject God’s truth and try to live by their own standards? The book of Judges leads us through a dark period in Israel’s history. (Read Judges 20:1-14) When Joshua and the elder generation died, the Israelites had no appointed leader to rule over them. Just as Joshua had feared, the people let themselves be influenced by the Canaanites they had allowed to remain in the land. The Israelites intermarried with the pagan people around them and worshiped their gods, breaking the covenant vows they had sworn to uphold. The last two chapters of Judges especially show the disastrous results of each person doing whatever seems right to them.

A Levite traveling to his home in Ephraim stopped for the night in Gibeah, accepting hospitality from an old man. That night some of the local men surrounded the house and demanded that the Levite come out and have sex with them. When they refused to leave, the Levite gave them his concubine; they abused her all night until she died. The next morning, the Levite cut her body into twelve pieces and sent the pieces throughout Israel.

At a special gathering, the Levite told his story (conveniently leaving out the fact that he pushed his concubine out the door to save his own skin). As immoral and sin-hardened as the nation of Israel had become, the news of this crime outraged the people. Men were sent to confront the tribe of Benjamin. “How could such an evil thing happen among you?” they asked. “Now hand over those worthless men in Gibeah.” The men of Benjamin refused to listen to the men of Israel. The Benjamites’ refusal to hand over the guilty men led to civil war and their tribe’s near annihilation.

When people reject God’s standards, they begin a downward spiral into sin and degradation. This process may be gradual and go unnoticed at first, but one compromise with the truth leads to another. Eventually, the culture becomes so hardened to sin that it takes something horrific to shock people and make them ask, “How could such an evil thing happen among us?”

The book of Judges paints a sad picture of what can happen when a culture rebels against God’s authority. As people reject his standards of right and wrong, gross immorality and chaos result. Judges explains much of what we see happening around us in the world today. It also serves as a personal warning of how our mind can become darkened when we substitute our own personal ideas of morality for God’s clear-cut instructions in the Bible.

It’s dangerous to rely on our own reasoning and judgment rather than God’s Word. Our minds and emotions are easily deceived. Our thinking can become so distorted that we have a hard time recognizing evil. How much better our life—and our country—will be if we choose to be ruled by God rather than by our deceitful mind.

In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. Judges 21:25 (NLT)

The human mind is the most deceitful of all things. Jeremiah 17:9 (GW)

Ask God to reveal any area of your life where you’ve drifted away from his standards of right and wrong.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Responding with the Unlovely

By:  T. Meeuwsen

As a parent I want my children to be gentle and generous of spirit in their evaluation of others. It’s easy to be critical of people who are unlovely or annoying; it’s inadvertent and spontaneous for us to compare ourselves to people whom we encounter, read about, or even see in the media. This activity leaves us feeling either superior or inferior. How should we react to people who are unlovely or annoying to us?

I took my daughter, Tory, to Atlantic City, New Jersey, for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Miss American Pageant. A big reunion of former Miss Americas was planned, and forty-four of us were returning. A special book had been commissioned to commemorate the anniversary. Tory went armed with the book and a pen, determined to get every autograph.

As we walked along the board walk, I was struck by the incredible dichotomy before us. Flashing lights and glittering displays lit the boardwalk. Pageant attendees were dressed to the nines in tuxedos and dresses that sparkled. In the midst of it all, homeless people curled up alongside the buildings. Beggars, many of them handicapped, were playing harmonicas or holding out hopeful cups.

As I watched my daughter look with admiration and awe at all the “beautiful” people, I prayed, Lord, help her to see past the trimmings. Teach her to find her identity in You – not in her family or her possessions or her accomplishments. Help us both, as women of God, to see people the way You see them. And, Lord, when we come upon people who’ve lost track of who they are, help us to slow down and acknowledge them.

James 1:22-27 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

It’s easy to love the lovely, but speaking gentle words from a kind and forgiving heart when you’ve been wronged or provoked is a work of the Holy Spirit. It happens when we give up our agenda and grab hold of God’s.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Lord, forgive me for judging others harshly and speaking critically. Help me to remember how much You have forgiven in my own life. I want to reflect You to all I meet, and especially to my children. Use my words to bring wholeness and healing.


Orig Title - Love Bears All Things

Monday, September 23, 2013

Star Gazing

By:  J. Devlin 

I attended a high school that had its very own planetarium. As a kid who would rather do anything than chemistry, I was excited to see the option for stargazing hiding in the course descriptions for senior year. Could it be? Can I get out of high school with credit for taking astronomy instead of chemistry? It’s worth a try, I thought to myself. With the guidance counselor’s approval and class schedule in hand, I wove my way through the hallways until I found the subtle enclave with the right room number affixed above the door.

The first day of class, we all filed into the covert hideaway nestled between the library and the main hall. Each row of reclining seats beckoned the new students with a comfort we had not been given in any other class on campus. It was almost too much to bear when the instructor asked us to lean back in reclining chairs in a pitch dark room and look at the projected scene on the ceiling. We all looked at each other and just knew this was the best-kept secret of the school.

For a whole semester, we began our day in easy chairs and dim light—almost as if we were still at home under the covers hitting the snooze button one more time. Amidst the comfort and constant presentations, we learned many things about the universe the Father created, and now I’m grateful for that class. Not only because I could check a block for graduation, but my semester in astronomy also gave me memories and a love for the sky that would have eluded me without the need for a high school science credit.

For as long as there have been stars in the sky, there have been people fascinated with the starry hosts in view each night. Centuries of star gazers and galactic researchers have brought us detailed explanations of the placement, qualities, and intricacies of the solar system. While the nighttime display is beautiful and majestic, the excitement for the unknown treasures above the earth’s atmosphere has caused quite a stir. In their zeal for understanding the things above, some people over the ages have misplaced their focus of worship from Creator to the created stellar objects. May we never fall prey to such deception.

We are never to worship the celestial creations. We are created to worship the one true God who created the vision we see in the sky. The vastness of the nighttime display pales in comparison to the unending power and majesty of our God. He is big—real big. The Father’s presence is greater than the furthest reaches of the universe. As we look to the sky in wonder of sun, moon, and stars above, let us be mindful of the God who gave us the massive display.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Who Am I?

By:  K. C. Tate

“I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2).

“Who am I?” That’s the question we’re seeking to answer. Admittedly this is my passion, that people know who they truly are. Everything flows from that—your mindset, your choices, your outlook, your mood, and yes, your eternity. A great many go through life believing a lie. They only know the deceiver’s version of who they are. But when you know the truth—God’s version—and you walk in it, you’re set free to live the abundant life He intended for you.

God called Abraham out of Ur. He left behind his native land, family, and his very identity to follow God and the promise of a new land, a new family, and a new identity. In fact, God promised to make an entirely new nation through Abraham—the nation of Israel.

Abraham had a son, Isaac, and Isaac had Jacob (also known as Israel). Jacob had twelve sons, and the entire clan ended up in Egypt due to a famine, where they multiplied in number and then were subjected to slavery for four hundred years. God had told Abraham this would happen, but He also promised that He would bring them out (Genesis 15:13).

Through Moses, God did deliver them from Egypt by a strong hand. But four hundred years was a long time. Generations had lived and died. For those living at the time of the exodus, Egypt was all they had known. Egyptian culture had become ingrained, from the food to the form of worship, which encompassed all manner of gods. God not only had to get them out of Egypt; He needed to get Egypt out of them. What’s more, they were headed to Canaan, another land filled with people whose practices were sinful to God. God told them through Moses, “‘I am the LORD your God. You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you…’” (Leviticus 18:3).

The Israelites needed to know that they weren’t like other people. They’d been set apart unto God. They were different. As God’s people, they had their own identity, their own customs and practices, and their own form of worship—true worship. Much of the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy is about grounding them in their new identity as they prepared to enter the Promised Land, where they were to be a light and an example of holiness and righteousness to the world.

You probably know the story. As a people, they never quite settled into the higher identity to which God had called them. Instead, they kept identifying with the cultures around them, aligning themselves with people who didn’t know the true God, adopting their ways. There were bright lights among them, such as Joshua, who declared, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). But the people as a whole drifted from God. Worse, their spiritual leaders led the way. Instead of speaking God’s words, they spoke their own (Jeremiah 23Ezekiel 34).

God had promised blessing for obedience, but because of their unfaithfulness, God allowed His people to be conquered and led into captivity (2 Kings 17:24-25).

Is any of this relevant to us? Absolutely! If you’ve been saved, God has brought you out of slavery too—slavery to sin (Romans 6:17-18). But although God has delivered us “out of Egypt,” there’s still a need to get “Egypt” out of us. All we’ve ever known and believed about ourselves and the world has been filtered through the evil one (Ephesians 2:1-2). But just as God taught the Israelites, He teaches us through His Word so that we can renew our minds to the truth of who we are and whose we are. We have been set apart unto God, and the more we walk in our divine identity and in His divine ways, the more we will enjoy God’s blessings…and shine the light of Jesus to a lost world.

Heavenly Father, thank You for delivering me from being a slave to sin. May I no longer walk or think as I used to. Renew my mind, O God. Make me know Your ways, teach me Your paths. I desire to walk in truth, for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pleasing God is Paramount

By:  Blackaby

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

At times you will have to make a choice between pleasing God and pleasing those around you, for God’s ways are not man’s ways (Isa. 55:8–9). As important as it is to strive for good relations with others, it is even more important to maintain a steadfast and obedient relationship with Christ. Disobeying God to keep peace with other people is never wise. Peace with God is always paramount.

Jesus warned that obeying Him might cause division in your relationships (Matt. 10:35–36). If Paul’s primary goal had been to please others, he would never have become an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul went completely against the wishes of his colleagues in order to obey Christ.

At times, obedience to God sets family members at odds with each other (Matt. 10:35–36). When you follow Jesus’ Lordship, your family may misunderstand, or even oppose you, yet your obedience to God reflects your identity as His child. Jesus said that those who obey His will are His brothers and sisters (Luke 8:21). God does not intend to divide the home, but He places obedience before domestic harmony.

It is important to get alone in quietness with God so that you understand what pleases Him. The world’s thinking will mislead you more easily when you are not clear about what God desires.

It broke Peter’s heart to know that the opinion of a servant girl had mattered more to him than the approval of his Lord!

If the desire to appease others tempts you to compromise what you know God wants you to do, learn from Peter’s mistake. Determine that you will please your Lord regardless of the opinions of others.


Orig Title - Pleasing God, pleasing Men  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

If I Were The Devil

By:  F. Kong

Paul Harvey wrote this thought provoking article entitled: “IF I WERE THE DEVIL.” Listen to this carefully.

If I were the devil, I would gain control of the most powerful nation in the world;

I would delude their minds into thinking that they had come from man's effort, instead of God's blessings;

I would promote an attitude of loving things and using people, instead of the other way around;

I would dupe entire states into relying on gambling for their state revenue;

I would convince people that character is not an issue when it comes to leadership;

I would make it legal to take the life of unborn babies; I would make it socially acceptable to take one's own life, and invent machines to make it convenient;

I would cheapen human life as much as possible so that the life of animals are valued more than human beings;

I would take God out of the schools, where even the mention of His name was grounds for a lawsuit;

I would come up with drugs that sedate the mind and target the young, and I would get sports heroes to advertise them; I would get control of the media, so that every night I could pollute the mind of every family member for my agenda; I would attack the family, the backbone of any nation.

I would make divorce acceptable and easy, even fashionable.  If the family crumbles, so does the nation;

I would compel people to express their most depraved fantasies on canvas and movie screens, and I would call it art; I would convince the world that people are born homosexuals, and that their lifestyles should be accepted and marveled; I would convince the people that right and wrong are determined by a few who call themselves authorities and refer to their agenda as politically correct;

I would persuade people that the church is irrelevant and out of date, and the Bible is for the naive;

I would dull the minds of religious folks, and make them believe that prayer is not important, and that faithfulness and obedience are optional;  And then Paul Harvey ended his material by saying his last line.

“I guess I would leave things pretty much the way they are. ”

Darwin’s theory of evolution says that man came from animals and that they are forever progressing into a higher form. One look at our headlines and we realize that mankind is not getting any better. The sad fact is that there are many heinous things that human beings do to each other that even the animals do not do.

I guess Ruth Graham said it correctly. She said that if God does not pronounce judgment on America then He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. Strong statements. God is merciful and He is still currently extending His grace – inviting people to come to His kingdom. But this does not go on forever.

And yet the person who has connected into a personal intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ no longer fears His coming. He knows Christ is coming yet his lips say: “Even so come Lord Jesus.” God has written the first chapter of human history. He writes the last one too. And by the way, before we forget. History essentially is His Story. And for that reason alone, I am glad and comforted.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Know the Value of Others

There was once a young man, a summa cum laude of a prestigious university, who came to a remote village and crossed a wide river via small boat. While travelling, he asked the boatman, “Do you know the exact weight of your boat when it is full to its capacity?” “I don’t know, Sir,” replied the boatman. “Well, you are a boatman. You should know that!”

Few minutes passed and the young man asked again, “Do you know the exact height of that mountain over there?” The poor boatman answered, “I’m sorry, Sir, but I don’t know the height of that mountain, Sir.” “Well, you are always here boating everyday so, you should know that!,” insisted the young man.

Then, after few minutes, the wind suddenly blew so furiously that it heavily hit the boat. The boatman insistently suggested, “Sir!, we need to jump out of the boat immediately and swim across the shore to spare our lives!” The young man fearfully exclaimed, “What!? Swim? No!, just keep rowing! I don’t know how to swim! I don’t know that!!” The boatman said, “But, Sir, that’s the only option we can do to save our lives! You should know how to swim! You should know that, SIR!! ... I’m sorry, Sir, but with this kind of storm I can’t save you, and I must now go!”

Indeed, there are things you know that others don’t, and there are things others know that you don’t. So, we don’t need to compare ourselves with anybody else nor do we need to demean others with their seemingly disadvantage. We don’t even have the license to belittle someone because of our seemingly advantage over them, either. The Book of Romans is astute in reminding us by saying, “… Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you” (Rom. 12:3).

My former military chaplain had once said, “Nobody has the monopoly of knowledge and intelligences... not even the monopoly of GOD’s blessings.”

GOD gives each person with skills and talents that make him or her totally special. That is why we do not have the right to label anyone dumb or stupid, even the mere thought of it. Better yet, we need to explore our own areas of intelligence and help others discover their’s, too. Then we’d all be happier and more content with ourselves.

Likewise, we are here not to compete with each other. Instead, we are here to complete each other. In the same way, we ought to learn the truth that we need each other. Our strengths and weaknesses give us the chance to complement each other. In other words, we help and support each other in our weak areas, and we use our strengths for the benefit of the whole. And so, there’s absolutely no competition there.

Be careful. Respect everybody because we’re all GOD’s creation. You may not admire someone much, but nevertheless, GOD loves him. There’s an African saying that goes this way: “The opinion of the intelligent is better than the certainty of the ignorant.”

As Citizens of the Kingdom, we are expected to use our talents, skills, intelligences, or any advantage that we have to serve and to help each other in the spirit of warmth, harmony, and love. For one day we will face the real Judge and shall render an account.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Victory Over Fear

By:  B. Espinoza

Black Bart, who robbed 29 Wells Fargo stage coaches between 1875 and 1883, managed to strike fear in the hearts of his victims. Bart used his evil demeanor to ignite fear in anyone unfortunate to be on or around a Wells Fargo stagecoach during a robbery. Bart used fear to get his victims eyes on their circumstances. He knew distracting his victims from what was true was his only hope for a successful robbery and get away. The truth about Black Bart was in the 29 robberies history documents; he never once fired his gun or took a hostage. I wonder if the victims of his later robberies would have been as afraid, when robbed, if they had just set their mind on that truth. Like Black Bart, Satan uses fear as a tool to distract us from what is true.

Satan's understanding of who we are in Christ is evidenced by his repeated attempts to get us to submit to fear. When we are fully aware of the truth of who we are in Christ, we will not be afraid. The only thing Satan can do is to distract us from this truth. He does this by attempting to re-direct our focus, from our riches in Christ, onto our seemingly fearful circumstances. Satan knows he can't rob us of our riches in Christ, so he has no choice but to encourage us to lose sight of all we have and all we are in Christ.

Though we may lose sight of this, at times, God continues to prove Himself faithful in our lives. Remember when the Armenian army surrounded the Israelites camp? (2 Kings 6:15-17) A fear struck servant came to Elisha with the disheartening news. However, Elisha assured the servant. So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16 NKJV)  Elisha prayed and instantly the servant's eyes were opened to see the hills, all around, covered with horses and chariots of fire. The truth was that God had provided the Israelites more than enough protection from the Armenians. Elisha's eyes were on what was true while the servant's gaze had been distracted by the surrounding enemy.  I wonder if the servant would have seen God's army from the start had he not allowed the enemy to distract him from what was true.

Though, in Christ, I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37), on occasion, I allow intimidating circumstances distract me from this truth, and I submit myself to fear. Just as the turbulent waves of the sea distracted Peter from Jesus' invitation to walk on water, causing Peter to be consumed by the waves, when I focus on the waves in my life overwhelming feelings of helplessness rob me of doing the impossible through Christ.  Like Peter, when I fix my eyes on Jesus I am able to confidently rise above my fears and miraculously walk to Jesus, by faith, on what previously were my fears.

All throughout the Bible, God instructs people to not fear. Though we may feel sometimes this is easier said than done, it is no coincidence that when you add up all the instances in Scripture where it is instructs, "do not fear," "fear not," and "be not afraid" they total 365 occurrences--one occurrence for every day of the year. Perhaps this is God's way of telling us never will we face a day that we will ever have a valid reason to be afraid.

May our faith in Jesus shine so bright, extinguishing all ungodly fears, that those who don't know Jesus will marvel at our boldness and know, as the Sanhedrin did after witnessing the boldness of Peter and John, that we have been with Jesus. (Acts 4:5-13)

Why I’m Retiring Early and Inviting You To Do the Same

By:  C. Chua

As of today, I’m retired from work and life.

What do I mean? I mean that I’ll no longer work or live life as conventional society deems me to. I’ll no longer concern myself with monetary needs, societal statuses, creating a lifetime of achievements, matching people’s expectations, and so on. I’ll just do my thing, act the way I want to act, and live the life I want to live, void of expectations and self-obligation—and trust that everything will work itself out in the end.

Why? Technically I still have a good four decades to go before I am considered fit for retirement. (The retirement age in Singapore is 65 now. It was 62 previously and was extended to 65 last year, and is probably going to be 68 or even 70 by the time I’m in 50 or 60.)

I guess I just realized that life is too short to be spent doing something, anything, I don’t want to do. Thinking back, a good part of my life had been spent living for someone or something else. From my studying years to my working years, I had constantly been in mad pursuit of goals which were both set by myself and by the society.

While the pursuit of these goals had made me a stronger and better person, the act of pursuing them had made me defer the present moment in wait of a better future. It made me constantly wonder “What’s next?” and look out into the future for greater happiness rather than actively live in the present.

Now that majority of my life goals have been achieved, I’m seeking for the next level-up where every moment of my life is pure bliss. I have realized that this requires me to organically create my life path from the present moment, based on my current passions and needs, rather than constantly think about how to manipulate my present reality to achieve a hypothetical future.

The latter focuses a lot on delayed gratification (putting off your current needs), while the former is about being aware of your current moment and nurturing it into a better moment the next.

The future:
(A point that isn’t here yet / Constant obsessions)
How can I get there?
What should I do next?

The past:
How I was living in the past?

The present:
(Where we are at now / New thinking)
What do I feel like doing today?
What is inspiring me the most right now?

How I’m going to live starting from today?

This is what I’m trying to convey too: to live life in a child-like manner, based on today and now, rather than worrying about what should be or what others might think!

On the surface it may not seem as though anything is going to change. I’ll still be writing articles at the blog. I’ll still be creating videos. I’ll still be taking on media interviews to spread my message. I may still be creating new courses (I’m thinking of an anti-procrastination course or a fear-crushing course next.) I’ll still be creating new business ideas because I love conceptualizing, strategizing, and creation. I’ll still be creating plans for my life because I love to plan.

However, on the micro-level, things will be different. Instead of asking, “What’s next?” or “What should I do today to achieve my goal?,” I will be asking myself, “What do I want to do today/right now?.” Then, I will proceed to do just that. It’s a slightly, but fundamentally, different approach to life that will create a different life experience altogether.

This is more than just semantics. This is something that’s going to change my life inside out. I’ve already begun living this way for the past few weeks and I’m really liking the shift so far. Gone are the days of negligent self-pressure, self-burdening, and life deferment. What I’m experiencing now is true inspiration and passion, from moment to moment. It’s like being in a perpetual state of flow.

To You

For you reading this, I encourage you to imagine you are retired now. What is the life you want to live? What is your definition of true bliss? What is a dream reality to you?

Then, think about how you can create that life right now, right now in this moment, rather than defer that life to some distant future.

Because you don’t live in the future. You live in the now. If you’re not completely happy today, in this present moment, then when are you ever going to be happy? Happiness starts in the now. If you want to live a happy life, you have to make happiness a present reality. Then, build on your present to create a greater future.

I’m done putting off my present in pursuit of a supposed better future. I invite you to do the same as me too—to live in the present, make happiness a present reality, then use that to create a marvelous life path as you move forward, rather than defer the current reality for the future.

I’ll end off with this quote by Confucious:

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ~ Confucious


Why I’m Retiring at 28 and Inviting You To Do the Same  – Orig title

Saturday, September 14, 2013

You Are Accepted

By:  R. Warren

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)

Most of us spend our entire lives trying to earn acceptance. We want to earn it from our parents, peers, partners in life, people we respect ourselves, and even people we envy. The desire to be accepted drives us to do all kinds of things. It can influence the kind of clothes you wear, the kind of car you drive, the kind of house you buy, even the career you choose.

Would you agree that people do the craziest things to be accepted? Remember as a kid you wanted so badly to be in the in-crowd that someone would say to you, “I dare you to do this,” and you did something stupid. You did it because your desire to be accepted overruled the desire for personal safety in your life. When you played baseball as a kid and teams were chosen, remember how great it felt to be picked by the better player? Remember how bad you felt when they got down to the last two or three and you still weren't chosen?

We love the feeling of being accepted.

Being chosen does tremendous things for your self-esteem. 1 Peter 2:9 says,“You are a chosen people” (NIV). That ought to raise your self-esteem! Christ has accepted you — not based on your performance, something that you earned, or something that you deserve. God simply says, “I chose you.”

You may have accepted Jesus into your life, but have you ever realized that Christ has accepted you? You don't have to earn it; you don't have to prove yourself.

“Even if my mother and father abandon me, the LORD will take care of me”(Psalm 27:10 GW). The fact is, some of you had parents whom you could never please. No matter what you did, it wasn't good enough. If you got C’s, they wanted B's. If you got B's, they wanted A's. If you got A's, they wanted straight A's.

The tragedy is that some of you today are still trying to prove yourself to your parents. You're still trying to earn their acceptance, but, in all likelihood, you're not going to get their approval if they haven't given it to you by now, because that's their problem.

The good news is this: You don't need it to be happy! There are 7 billion people in the world. If two people don't like you, who cares? As a part of God’s family, you have been accepted by God!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Enjoying Who God Created You to Be

By:  J. Meyer

Start believing today that you are a rare, one-of-a-kind, valuable and precious individual. To help you learn how to be successful at being yourself, I want to give you some easy-to-follow suggestions:

Speak good things about yourself. 

Declare what God’s Word says about you. For example, say to yourself, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ. I am made acceptable in the Beloved. God formed me with His own hand, He loves me, and God doesn’t make mistakes.”

Avoid comparing yourself with others.

God must love variety, or all of us wouldn’t look so different. He has created each of us differently right down to our fingertips. We can look to certain people as good examples to follow, but even then, good traits if duplicated will manifest differently through our individual personalities.

Focus on your potential instead of your limitations. 

Refuse to concentrate on your weaknesses except in an effort to turn them into strengths. Keep your flaws in perspective. People with a high level of confidence have just as many weaknesses as those without confidence, but they focus on their strengths instead of their weaknesses.

Learn to cope with criticism. 

If you dare to be different, you’ll have to expect some criticism. Going along with the crowd when you know in your heart that God is leading you in a different direction is one of the reasons individuals don’t succeed at being themselves. You won’t be comfortable in your own skin if you go against your own convictions.

You are a person who is perfected and complete in Him. When you start to believe that, you will no longer feel that you are lacking anything or that there is anything wrong with you.

Remember this: God will never anoint you to be anyone other than yourself. Let now be your time to go forward and be set free from the torments of comparing yourself with others and trying to be someone you’re not. God is proud of who He made you to be!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Small Beginnings

By:  L. Stewart

 Zech 4:10 says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” 

I’m so glad that God gets excited when I start something new. He knows that trusting Him will cost me something.  

I recently started a new life adventure. God directed me, an almost 40-year-old school teacher, to move from California to Virginia to go back to school. As a wife and mother of three, you can imagine the tremendous leap of faith this was for my husband and children. But the Word of God is full of such stories.

When the exiles returned to Jerusalem from Babylon, they faced one obstacle after another.  First, the Jewish exiles had no place of worship since Solomon’s temple had been destroyed. Zerubbabel and Jeshua were priests in charge of building a new temple. But before they could build the temple, an altar of sacrifice was built. 

Ezra 3:3 says, “Even though the people were afraid of the local residents, they rebuilt the altar.” 

Have you ever been afraid to start something for God? God almost always calls us to the very thing that terrifies us. Fear is the opposite of faith. He must kill the fear that lies within us, in order to make us people who solely rely on Him and His Word. Faith is what pleases God.

When God spoke to me in 2005 He said, “Major in Communications and prepare for television.”  My first thought was, “I’m afraid to speak! And I don’t know the first thing about television!” 

God probably smiled right about then. I love what Joyce Meyer says. If God asks you to do something that makes you afraid, just “do it afraid!”

Have you ever started something new for God and nobody seemed to care or offer to help? Jeshua and  Zerubbabel believed God wanted them to rebuild the temple. Unlike today, the men had no building program launch celebration. They couldn’t even pay the workers real wages; the Bible says the Jewish exiles paid the workers with food, wine, and olive oil. 

When we moved to Virginia, my husband and I had no jobs waiting for us. No one welcomed us when we arrived, because nobody knew we existed yet! We only knew that if God provided for all the obedient men and women in the Bible and in history, then God would do it for us too.

Have you ever wanted to start something new and all you hear is negative voices? Zerubbabel and Jeshua faced discouragement from the older generation. Ezra 3:12-13records that while most of the people were rejoicing when the foundation was laid, another sound was heard--weeping!  The older priests remembered Solomon’s glorious temple and they wept when they realized the new temple would not be as grand. 

When God tells you to start something, count on a few things:

Small beginnings

Real risk

Financial need


Discouragement , even from some believers

Not a very appealing list, is it? Now do you see why God rejoices when we begin a new work for Him? Our faith and obedience attract His favor and His supernatural power. 

God will give you favor from unexpected people when you dare to obey Him. King Cyrus fully supported the exiles return and the building project. The next Persian kings, Darius and Artaxerxes also encouraged construction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Maybe the local people opposed the rebuilding, but the exiles had the favor of the most powerful people of their time.

As you step out in faith, God will not only meet your needs, but will bless you with abundance. Over time, financial provision arrived for the builders, accompanied by reinforcements. God sent a second wave of exiles led by Ezra.  Artaxerxes loaded Ezra with gifts and provisions (Ezra 7) to take back and even wrote to his treasurers, “You are to give Ezra whatever he requests of you.” 

Can you guess how the story ends? The temple is rebuilt and that inspires another man, Nehemiah, to return to build the city wall. See, your obedience to start small may ultimately lead to more people starting small, and the cycle continues. 

My story is still in the “small beginning” stage. But I can tell you that God provided an incredible job for my husband, and I successfully completed my first semester in grad school. May God rejoice over you as you are faithful to start small.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Difficult People

By:  GST

What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men (Daniel 2:11).

G.K. Chesterton, the British author and critic wrote, "The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies, probably because they are generally the same people" (Mark Rosen, Thank You For Being Such A Pain, (New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1999), p. 13.)

Difficult people are all around you.  In the office the difficult person tells you your faults. At home he or she has the frankness to tell you your lipstick isn't the right shade, that you are wearing the wrong clothes, that your fried chicken isn't as good as Colonel Sanders'.  Your difficult neighbor tells you that your house isn't painted the right color, or that you should have more sense than to vote the way you do, or that your tree is on his property.  A difficult teacher picks at your work, accuses you of plagiarism when you wrote your own essay, and reminds you that she has the power to keep you from graduating.

A difficult person makes you miserable, refuses to give you your due recognition, ignores your good work, and minimizes your contribution to the cause, thinks that your business is his business and feels compelled to point out your flaws.

The Bible is a 3000-year record of difficult people who made other people feel uncomfortable.  Cain, Adam's son, made life difficult for his brother Abel, so difficult that he found him in the field and took his life, and from that moment to the present there have been difficult people with whom you have to contend.  They won't go away.  There's no escaping them.  In his book, Thank You For Being Such a Pain, Mark Rosen says, "A difficult person is someone who causes us to feel things we'd rather not be feeling." (Rosen, p. 13.)

Today, however, some have elevated the task to an art form-they are the ones who bedevil you and irritate you and make you wish that a bolt of lightning would take them out of your life.

That's why difficult people offer a great challenge or an opportunity.  They can be as abrasive as an axe that cuts to the root, or else their acerbic deeds, words, and personalities can serve as a grinding stone, sharpening the edge of your axe.  Instead of allowing them to get to you, you learn from them, profit from their critiques, and gain an inner strength which makes you a better person.

Everyone is difficult to someone.  Most of the time, however, people are not trying to be difficult.  Their personality simply runs against the grain of yours.  Their insecurities produce flaws in their relationships which they don't know even exist, and, at the time, they actually think they are doing you a favor to point out the fact that your lipstick isn't the right shade for your complexion.

Since we lived across the street from a golf course, I began playing golf as a kid. With my brother and several of my friends I would whack the ball around the old Overland Golf Course.  It was great fun because we enjoyed each other; however, it was when I began playing with guys who were much better than I that my game improved.  They made the difficult shots that I missed and it was the pressure to do better which made my game improve.

The same thing occurred in college and graduate school.  Hazel Potts was brilliant.  She knew English literature as did no other professor I ever had, but she was also difficult, at times very difficult.  She had a cold look that could turn your blood to ice water and a mannerism which reminded me of a matron in a woman's prison.  But I can tell you one thing for sure, I learned more from her than from the teachers who had pleasant personalities and big smiles.

You can profit from those difficult people in your life.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Long Enough on the Mountain

By:  Blackaby

The LORD our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: "'You have dwelt long enough at this mountain." (Deuteronomy 1:6)

If God allowed us to live on the “mountaintop,” we would not experience trials, but neither would we achieve any victories. The Israelites had gathered at the foot of Mount Horeb while God spoke to them and gave them His law. It was a breathtaking experience! Fire and smoke covered that awesome mountain; lightning flashed, and loud trumpet sounds pierced the air in a deafening crescendo! The ground at the foot of the mountain shook, and the people trembled in fear (Exod. 19:16–25).

As important as it was for God’s people to have this inspiring encounter with Him, their Lord had not rescued them from Egypt in order for them to settle around a mountain in the wilderness. God delivered them so that they could conquer the Promised Land. God wanted to demonstrate His power to the Israelites so that they would trust Him in their conquest of Canaan. Finally, God announced that they had been long enough at the mountain; it was time to go to battle.

The mountain is an enticing place to set up camp. Peter, James, and John were prepared to reside on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, but their Lord knew that a demon-possessed boy needed their assistance down below (Matt. 17:4, 14–18).

At times God will graciously provide you a mountaintop experience. These times come in many settings: during your time alone with Him, at a Christian conference, by reading a Christian book, or at a prayer meeting. You may wish you could spend the rest of your life basking in the glow of your encounter with God. But remember, these mountaintop encounters are God’s way of preparing you for the battles that await you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

How a Hot Furnace Can Help You Chill Out

By:  J. Meyer

We often find ourselves stressed out and overwhelmed when we have a whole list of things we can't control. Maybe you're having trouble paying the bills and worried you can't afford to buy your child's birthday gift, a set of tires for your car or pay for the dental work you really need.

The devil wants you to spend your life frustrated, anxious, in fear, and out of touch with God. But we have to stop thinking about what's wrong and start focusing our mind on God, who's in control.

In the Fire, but not Burned

You can do everything you need to do when God is with you—and He's always with you. In the Bible, the book of Daniel shares the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who, because of their faith in God, refused to worship a statue of the king of Babylon. Their protest infuriated the king so much that he ordered them to be thrown into a fiery furnace that was heated seven times hotter than usual. In fact, the furnace was so hot it burned up the men who threw them inside of it!

The Bible says that the three men were thrown into the fire bound, but when the king looked in, he saw four unbound men walking around in the fire. Who was the fourth man? Who freed them from bondage and rescued them from death? The One who never leaves us nor forsakes us.

So here's the point: If you go in the fiery furnace, Jesus will go in with you.

Giving Your Questions to God

Anxiety comes when we try to figure everything out on our own. One of the things we have to learn when we're having trouble is that we don't need to have the answers all the time. We don't have to know how, when or why. If we knew all the answers, we wouldn't need to trust God.

We have to get comfortable not knowing. That's what faith is.

When you have faith, it's actually just as good as having what you prayed for because you've released your faith over it and now you have hope, joy, and peace in knowing that God is in control. (See Proverbs 3:5.)

The roughest times in your life are when you need to dig in the deepest. That's what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did when they stepped into the furnace. But when they came out, they came out free, with an experience nobody could steal from them.

Walk This Way

If you feel like you're walking through a furnace right now, cry out to God. He'll help you through it. Don't let anxiety overtake you. Don't look at the difficulty in front of you and think, There's just no way I'm going to get through this. You don't need to see a way when you know the Way.

No matter what you might be facing right now or what comes up in the future, I want you to remember two things: God is with you—and He's in control. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fail Your Way Forward

By:  E. Jones

Some months ago I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with best selling author Bruce Wilkinson. Bruce stood behind an accordion partition, waiting to go on stage. I stood beside him, examining the subtleties of God's promises. Neither of us spoke to the other, but we both shared a common bond that evening: we'd both followed God’s voice and found failure at the end of the journey.

When Bruce took the platform he explained how years earlier his first publication folded after just five issues. “When that first magazine ceased publication, I was certain of only one thing - I'd never produce another magazine.” Soon afterwards, Bruce explained, he did produce another periodical, albeit reluctantly. In 1978 Bruce launched Daily Walk and his Walk Thru the Bible publishing ministry began. "Had that first magazine succeeded, I might have been tempted to take credit for its success and that of Daily Walk. But that failure left no doubt in my mind as to who deserved the glory."

I, too, have launched and lost money in publishing ventures. I, too, have felt certain of God’s voice and found myself lost in a wasteland of debt and doubt. What does it mean to create and fail in the thing God has called you to? What does it mean to begot and not have success?

This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers. - Matthew 1:1-2(NLT)

Abraham became a father, as God promised, but the pause between God's pledge and the fulfillment of that promise, spanned decades, causing Abraham to question the accuracy of God's vision. Like us, Abraham sought to reshape God’s promise into an idol he could touch, see and understand. “Compromise is the answer,” we say. “I will sleep with the maidservant for this is what God meant.”

God's plan, in God's time, with God's people always produces fruit, but that doesn't mean we won't stumble and fail our way forward. Our time in the desert is both necessary and ordained by God for it prepares us for His vision. The testing of our faith transforms us into a servant worthy of big dreams with bold outcomes. The trials demand we answer this question: “Will I trust God enough to see me through to the other side even when I can’t see the edge?” Isn’t that the question that haunts us as we breathe our final breath?

I lost $30,000 on a boating magazine and swore I’d never publish another book or periodical. And yet, here I am thirty years later publishing Christian books.

At the close of the conference, I walked to the summit of Chimney Rock and stood on the mesa overlooking the terracotta stratus of New Mexico's brown and tan mountains. A cold westerly wind pushed against me, driving me away from the edge. This is the thing we fear: falling, failure, and defeat in all its finality. We reach for the dream and recoil when our fingers find nothing but emptiness.

"The problem with the Church," Bruce said, "is too many Christians are afraid of failure. But God rarely makes our fear disappear. Instead, He asks us to be strong and take courage."

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” - Matthew 14:27 (NLT)

Take courage, create, and claim the promises God has planted in your heart. Hold God's hand and give birth to your dream. You can't find the edge if you don't lean over. So lean on Him and look across the wasteland.

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...