Be strong and courageous!

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We can let fear dominate our lives or we can choose to be strong and courageous. I say we can “choose” but if you notice in today’s verse it is a command? Why would God do that? Why would He command us to be strong and courageous? Because we NEED it and He is WORTHY of it! However, we do have options. We can let fear grip our heart and influence our decisions. We can rationalize why we can’t be strong or courageous. We can justify why we should be discouraged and drown in self-pity and yet what does God command? “Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Today, decide to obey the Lord. Be strong and courageous in all you face today.

“This is my command–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Joshua was about to lead a vast number of wilderness wanderers into the Land of Promise. But he would have to be strong and courageous. And he would have to remember that God would never leave him or forsake him. We have to remember that too. We know in our heads that God will never leave us or forsake us, but when a crisis hits, we often feel like He already has.

In moments of confusion or pain, we can get really disoriented The God who seemed like He was on our side yesterday suddenly seems like He doesn’t even know our names. In those times of confusion, we need to insist to ourselves what we know to be true: that He hasn’t left and He isn’t going to. He is still on our side.

Like Joshua, we face big moments of decision, times when we have to put our faith on the line and be strong and courageous. We may fear the outcome, but we don’t have to. Even if the outcome isn’t what we expected, God will be with us in the surprise or disappointment. But He will also be with us in many victories. Whatever we have to walk through, He is there.

Stake everything on that, no matter how present or absent He seems to be. Trust Him even when you can’t sense Him. He made a binding promise to be with you. And He never breaks a promise.

Have a wonderfully blessed day in the presence of the Lord. Love you all.

Rewards?

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When is the last time you heard a sermon that suggested that a motive for our obedience should be the rewards we receive in heaven?  I imagine for most of us it has been a long time, maybe even never. Whenever a sermon (or book) provides a motive for obedience, it is almost always thankfulness for what Christ has done.  And certainly that is a wonderful and foundational motivation.  But is it the only motivation?

The New Testament writings suggest it is not.  For those who faithfully endure persecution, Jesus makes it clear, “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:23). Paul states it plainly, “But each will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Cor 3:8).  The author of Hebrews even reminds us that Moses was motivated by rewards, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Heb 11:26).

But, if rewards are clearly presented as a motivation in the Christian life, why don’t we hear more about rewards in our modern pulpits?  I am sure there are many answers to that question, but let me suggest one: we have been convinced that our obedience doesn’t matter.   While we are rightly told that only Christ’s obedience can secure our justification, and that he has kept the law perfectly for us, our own obedience receives far less attention in the pulpit.  Justification is center stage, and sanctification is peripheral.

No doubt, the downplaying of Christian obedience is borne out of good motives—some think Christ is glorified the most when we disparage our own obedience.  Our good works are just “filthy rags” (Is 64:6), we are reminded.

But, this whole line of thought misses the distinction between an unbeliever’s attempts at law-keeping and that of regenerated believer.  Granted, neither can merit salvation or justification.  Both fall woefully short of God’s perfect standards.  But, that does not mean that the believer’s obedience doesn’t matter.  God can still be pleased with it, even though it is imperfect.  Consider John Piper’s comments on this point:

It is terribly confusing when people say that the only righteousness that has any value is the imputed righteousness of Christ.  I agree that justification is not grounded on any of our righteousness, but only the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.  But sometimes people are careless and speak disparagingly of all human righteousness, as if there were no such thing that pleased God. They often cite Isaiah 64:6 which says our righteousness is as filthy rags…[But] when my sons do what I tell them to do—I do not call their obedience “filthy rags” even if it is not perfect.  Neither does God. All the more because he himself is “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” (Hebrews 13:21).  He does not call his own, Spirit-wrought fruit, “rags” (Future Grace, 151-152).

It is only when we recognize that the obedience of the believer really does matter, and that we really can please our Father, that the rewards passages in the Bible will make any sense. And that can be a tremendous encouragement to those of us who labor heavily in ministry.  When we toil for the cause of Christ, we want to hear, and are bolstered by hearing, the encouraging words of Paul: “Your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).

World greatest liar

As a former contender for “Worlds’ Greatest Liar”, I became proficient at telling all sorts of tall tales, exaggerations, embellishments and all-out fabrications.  As a result, the words I spoke meant little.  They built nothing.  They were nothing.  They simply flew out into the air and disappeared in the wind.  It there wasn’t any wind, I provided plenty of hot air.

It is hard to reach out and grasp the word ‘liar’ and place it on my own forehead but if I ever want to see the truth in my life, I have to come to grips with the liar I had become.  If I refuse the title I have chosen, I am doomed to remain as I was.  A liar cannot become truthful unless he confesses the lies just as a man cannot change direction unless he realizes he is going the wrong way.

For years, decades even, in order to avoid facing truth, I lied and in order to keep lying I had to lie to myself.  Without swallowing my own lies as truth, I would be forced to change.  But by buying my own B.S., I enabled myself to believe that some good came from what I said and did.

Proverbs 14:8 The prudent understand where they are going, but fools deceive themselves.

There is that ‘fool’ word again.  I once avoided these verses thinking I wasn’t a fool, that I wasn’t even capable of being a fool.  My pride kept me from learning to make my life better but in throwing back the illusion of deception that I couldn’t possibly be the fool in these scriptures, I can see that I have choices to make and hope for a better tomorrow.

I used to think that I would rather be a fool than prudent.  I pictured a prude, with self-righteous condemnation and an expression of indignation smeared all over their face.  But ‘prudent’ means to act with care and concern for the future.  Honestly, I used to see little value in this quality.  I like reckless abandon and being in the moment. 

Reckless abandon requires a little lying to myself.  It can’t hurt.  Only the other guy will crash and burn.  I’ll be OK by tomorrow.  Of course, none of that worked for me.  I was always in pain, always under repair and never OK. 

Being in the moment is a good thing when kept in the context of where I am going.  Even a little reckless abandon is alright when it doesn’t detour me from my ultimate destination.  Better to follow God than allow myself to believe my own lies and be drawn into places that do considerable damage to me, though. 

I can’t lie to myself and think I am too awesome to be the fool.  I tend to live as a fool on the edge of wisdom.  The more clearly I see this, the further from the edge and deeper into the heart of truth I venture.

The Gift of Faith!

So many people in this world today are hurting, lonely, desperate, and hopeless – and many of those people are Christians. Many people who say they are believers, still surrender to a life of pain and heartbreak, finding no reason for joy or hope. I think we are all guilty of feeling that way at some point in our lives, but the evidence of someone exhibiting in true faith, is that they choose not to stay in that pattern of defeat. Even Christians, who say they have faith, can live lives, or have attitudes, that do not portray that faith. When that is the case, is it possible that maybe they don’t really understand faith? Maybe they believe in God, but they do not fully trust Him and His sovereignty? Maybe they are having a hard time believing that God is good, because they are basing their faith on proof, not blind faith? Maybe they don’t really understand the power of prayer? Never would I claim to be an expert on faith. But I just think there is a difference between surface faith and heart faith – and that what we want to strive for in order to be fully dependent on Christ, is heart faith. Grounded faith.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, SO THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM…..

Belief requires faith. Faith is such a precious gift. We have free will to choose it or not, but it is one of those gifts, that if left unopened, wanes and diminishes. I don’t think anyone allows their faith to diminish on purpose, it just happens – stuff happens – life happens – circumstances happen – to pull us away from God. Those series of events can sometimes cause us to feel so disconnected from God, that it seems like the journey back to Him is too long and impossible, so it becomes easier to give up, than fight the battle for faith. Sometimes giving up seems easier than giving in to God. But no matter how far we have gone, faith is always available. We can always choose to embrace a new journey of faith.

There are things in life that are so hard to have faith about. Things that we desperately want to sustain faith about, but find ourselves questioning God for answers and reasons. Life is not carefree, and I’m sure you have your own list of concerns and problems. But what we share together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, is FAITH.

The one thing I know I can rely on, and that I always try to look for hope and answers, is Jesus. I try to believe to the core of my soul when Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” That is the only thing I can believe, when times seem hopeless, scary, confusing or disappointing.

Without faith, what else do we have to help us get through? Without faith, where can we find hope? Without faith, what is left to do besides focus on despair? God knew we would have hard times; He assured that this life would bring trouble. But He equipped us to handle life, through His gift of faith. Faith – an immeasurable, invaluable, priceless gift that sustains us, gives us life and gets us through life. Have you fully opened this gift this yet? Ask God to show you ways that you need to trust Him and areas of your life that you need to turn over to Him.

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Have a wonderfully blessed day. Love you all! Please share this blog with others if you feel led. God bless you!

Restoration by God

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…..” ~ Joel 2:25

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God is in the business of restoration. He is faithful to recompense you for everything you have lost when you trust Him. God can make up for wasted time. He specializes in redeeming rough seasons in our lives.

You may have had some disappointments or unfair things happen in your life; but instead of dwelling on the past and living in defeat, choose to focus on His promises because God wants to restore everything that’s been stolen from your life. He wants to restore your joy, your peace, your health, and your finances. But here’s the key: you have to have a vision for it. You have to get your hopes up and decide to get your thoughts and words going in the right direction.

Today, choose to focus on the future and release past hurts through forgiveness. Draw a line in the sand and say, “I am a child of the Most High God, and I’m not going to live my life negative and defeated. This is a new day, and I’m taking back what belongs to me!” That’s having a restoration mentality!

How can I glorify God?

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“I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4)

Jesus honored God by fulfilling His purpose on earth. You can honor God in the same way. When anything in creation fulfills its purpose, it brings Glory to God. Even the lowly ant brings glory to God when it fulfills the purpose it was created for. But God made ants to be ants and He made you to be you! There are a lot of things that can bring glory to God, and here are just some of it that might help you to do what pleases HIM who created you.

You can bring Glory to God by Loving Him.

Loving God is the first of all the commandment, you heard that it was said in the scripture,”Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38,NKJV). You are created to love the One who gave His all to you. God created you to love, to love Him and to love the people who surround you. You need to let God teach you what love really is, for He Himself is LOVE.

You can bring Glory to God by worshiping Him.

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

Worship is far more than praising, singing, and praying to God. Worship is a lifestyle of connecting yourself to God and enjoying His company, loving Him, and giving yourselves to be used for His purpose. When you use your life for God’s glory, everything you do can be an act of worship. You must worship God in spirit and in truth. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

You can bring Glory to God by becoming like Christ.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Once you are born into God’s family, He wants us to grow to spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is becoming like Jesus in the way we think, feel and act. The more you develop a Christ like character, the more it will bring glory to God.

You can bring glory to God by telling others about Him.

“And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Once we know the truth, He expects us to share it with others. This is a great privileged—introducing others to Jesus, helping them discover their purpose, and preparing them for their eternal destiny. This is your great commission as a Christian and a follower of Christ. This brings glory to God.

Living the rest of your life for the glory of God will require a change in your priorities, your schedule, and your relationship. It requires your full surrender to God and letting Him do His will for your life on earth as it is in heaven. Will you live for your own goals, comfort and pleasure, or will you live the rest of your life for God’s glory? When loving God is your first priority in life, then living to glorify Him for the rest of your life will be as easy as anyone can.