A few days ago I wrote and published “What Does Contentment Really Mean?”. In it I wrote that being content doesn't mean settling for the consolation prize. Being content is being in a place of extreme satisfaction. Being content in Christ has nothing to do with our emotions or our stuff. It is resting in Him knowing that He will provide everything that we need materially, emotionally, or spiritually even if we don't like the situation or circumstances.
When Paul wrote;
Philippians 4:11-13 NIV I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
he was saying that he had made the choice to rest in the security of a trusting relationship with God. He didn't say that he was happy in every situation but that he knew by faith that God was with him and would provide for him.
Hebrews 13:5 NIV Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Sometimes we have to accept the place and circumstance where God has placed us even if we don’t like it. Although we accept where we are and are content there it doesn't mean that we’re happy.
If that’s where you are today then don't be afraid to tell God that you're not happy where you are but that you trust Him. Tell Him that you trust Him because His word says that even though He has you in a rough place you know that:
Romans 8:28-30, 38-39 NIV And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Accept Where You Are And What God Is Doing
From the YouVersion Bible Reading Plan Hope In The Dark by Pastor Craig Groeschel and Life.Church from his book, Hope in the Dark: Believing God Is Good When Life Is Not. (Emphasis mine)
It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept. — Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes
Sometimes, even when we remember all that God has done for us, it doesn’t change our circumstances. Sometimes we just have to accept that it’s beyond our understanding right now and just keep going. But we must also realize that acceptance is not denial.
When you accept what God is doing, you don’t simply stuff your feelings down and let your heart die, even as you’re practicing your smile in the mirror and memorizing Bible verses. When you accept that God’s up to something that you can’t see or understand right now, you don’t just roll over and play dead and resign yourself to despair. No, you keep praying for a miracle from him unless he tells you otherwise. But you don’t pretend that everything is okay when clearly it’s not.
Habakkuk certainly couldn’t pretend and keep his head in the sand. After he questioned God and the Lord responded by telling him that he was going to use the wicked Babylonians to destroy Israel, Habakkuk said, “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled”
Habakkuk 3:16-18 NLT I tremble inside when I heard this; my lips quivered with fear. My legs gave way beneath me, and I shook in terror. I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us. Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord ! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
His response is visceral. You know that sinking sensation you get in your gut when something bad happens that’s beyond your control? That’s what Habakkuk was facing.
When Habakkuk accepted reality while waiting on God, it wasn’t denial. It was faith. Not faith that God would do what Habakkuk wanted God to do. But faith in God’s character. Habakkuk goes on to say, “The sovereign hand of God is doing something here. God has spoken, so I’ll accept whatever he is doing, as difficult as that may be for me.”
Sometime, something is going to happen that you don’t like. It may be happening right now.
You remember what God has done. You accept what God is doing. You trust what God is going to do.
Psalms 42:5 NLT Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and
Psalms 33:20-21 NLT We put our hope in the Lord . He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
We often hear people saying come to my church to be blessed; you can really get blessed if you come to my church; come to my church and get healed; come to my church and you will prosper; come to my church. God does things in my church that He doesn't do in others so come to my church at
because we are a special place, this is Holy Ground. When most of the people who say those things say them what they are really saying is that my church is special, my pastor is special, my choir is special.
We should think that the place where we worship is great because of the love of the members for each other.
1 John 1:7 (NKJV) But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
We should think that the place we worship is great because we have wonderful praise and worship.
Psalm 150:1 (NKJV) Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
We should think that the place we worship is great because the word when preached is what we need in order to live and function in a fallen world.
Psalm 119:105 (NKJV) Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
Great but not special and certainly not Holy Ground.
It's not where you worship, how you worship, or when you worship it’s who you worship. We are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but our blessings are not determined by the place we worship.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NKJV) 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Spirit so every where you are is Holy Ground.
Exodus 3:4-5 (NKJV) 4 So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am."
5 Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground."
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NKJV) 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.
Jesus had a conversation with the Pharisees about the place and the trappings of the place they considered Holy Ground.
Matthew 23:16-22 (NKJV)16 Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.'17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?18 And, 'Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.'19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?20 Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it.21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it.22 And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.
The Pharisees had taught that there are distinctions in the binding force of various oaths. Oaths that used general references to the temple or the altar did not obligate the user to perform them, but mention of the more specific gold of the temple or the gift on the altar were binding. Jesus showed the absurdity of such reasoning by pointing out that the greater (temple, altar, God) includes the smaller (gold, gift, heaven). In view of such perversity, Christ taught, "Swear not at all" (Mt 5:33-37). - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
For us this means that the place where we worship, or the one that teaches us, or lays hands on us while important in the kingdom of God are not as important as the King and it is the King who blesses through the gifts that He has placed in the Church .
Let’s first look at a definition for worship; it’s “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity”. To Worship then, is to show reverence and adoration for (a deity); to honor them with religious rites. Of course the deity we are talking about is God.
Eugene Patterson the creator of “The Message” Bible translation says that worship is “A tribute to God when He comes.”
We worship when we come into God’s presence. God’s presence makes us who we are. His presence sets us apart from others. And every time we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.
We don’t have to be in a church or any specific place to feel God’s presence and worship Him.
Psalm 139 says that God's presence can be wherever we are.
Psalms 139:1-10 NKJV O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord , You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.
We know that God isn’t confined to a church building or only available at certain times of day. So we don’t have to wait until we come to church or a certain time of day to worship Him. We don’t even have to wait until we feel spiritual. There is nowhere we can go, no situation, no challenge, no relationship, no conversation where God isn’t present.
We all remember the conversation that Jesus had with the woman at a well in Samaria which was recorded in John chapter 4. In the conversation, Jesus revealed that He knew about this woman she had been married 5 times, and the guy she was living with now with was not her husband. This made her uncomfortable, so she changed the subject from her personal life to religion, asking why the Samaritans worshiped at Mount Gerizim and the Jews at Jerusalem. Jesus’ response was that a day was coming when that it didn’t matter WHERE a person worshiped God. What mattered was HOW they worshiped Him. He said they must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
John 4:23-24 (NKJV) 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
Sometimes people walk out of church saying things like, “I didn’t really like the songs today,” or “I just wasn’t really feeling worship today,” or “That singer or the band wasn’t that good. It kinda took me out of it.” Pastor wasn’t on it today that sermon was flat. The Spirit wasn’t here today.
Here’s a little secret; worship isn’t about you anyway. It’s about carving out time in our busy lives and responding to who God is and what He’s done for us. It’s about a deep, inner spirit response. Worship doesn’t always mean singing at the top of your lungs, or dancing or shouting. It’s about just entering into His presence and your response to that.
God doesn’t require some kind of perfect, complicated worship act. He just wants it to be authentic and genuine.
Over the last five years I’ve written and published I don’t know how many posts on waiting for answers to prayer. I’ve written that waiting doesn't mean just sitting around and doing nothing but waiting on God is active as we exercise faith in Him. I’ve written that while we wait we should never forget that God is with us as we wait.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
I’ve written that we wait because believe that God loves us and that He keeps His promises .
Psalms 145:13 NLT For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations. The Lord always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does.
I’ve written that while we wait God may be working to put things in place for the perfect time. I’ve written that waiting teaches us patience which will end in perfection.
James 1:2-4 NLT Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
Yes I’ve written about waiting and trusting and I believe the things that the scriptures tell me about God’s faithfulness. However when you've been praying and waiting for something for years and no answer there come times when your faith starts to falter. Yes know that God will either answer yes or no. You also know that He may still have you to wait. It’s at these times, and I’m going through one of those times now, that you have to rely on the Holy Spirit to encourage you to be patient.
Galatians 5:22-23 NLT But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
God Acts On Behalf Of Those Who Wait For Him
By Dr. Charles Stanley from Life Principles To Live By 30 Day Reading Plan from InTouch Ministries
Life Principle 14: God acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.
In this hurry-up world, waiting for anything can cause us to lose our temper and our good sense more often than we care to admit. Yet the Word of God insists we learn some of life’s greatest lessons while we wait. Though waiting rooms can be hard classrooms, God promises vast reward to those who wait for Him.
When we wait on God …
We discover His will.
God does not allow delay in giving us the desire of our hearts to lead us along. Rather, even as we wait, He reveals His will to us and works all things together for our good and His glory.
Romans 8:28 NLT 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.
We receive supernatural energy and strength.
As God deepens our relationship with Him through times of waiting, He also increases our energy, faith, endurance, and strength.
Isaiah 40:29-31 NLT He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
We’re victorious in battle.
When we do things our way in our time, we end up defeated. But when we wait on God and obey His commands, He ensures our victory.
Proverbs 20:22 NLT Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the Lord to handle the matter.
We see the fulfillment of our faith.
Though others may encourage us to forge ahead instead of waiting on the Lord, we must remember He’s the only One who can truly help us and who will never let us down.
Isaiah 49:23 NLT Kings and queens will serve you and care for all your needs. They will bow to the earth before you and lick the dust from your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord . Those who trust in me will never be put to shame.”
We witness Him working on our behalf.
While we actively wait, God actively works.
Isaiah 64:4 NLT For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!
Every single day, we have the greatest Mediator working on our behalf. And even when things seem to go wrong, He’s making sure that everything works according to His purpose. What a wonderful promise!
Although waiting can be one of the more difficult things in the Christian life, it’s not wasted time. God gives us instructions through periods of actively waiting, keeps us in step with His will, prepares us for His answers, and uses the time to sift our motives and strengthen our faith. When we choose to wait on Him, God will use the long pauses in our lives for our blessing—both large and unexpected—if we let Him.
From Hope In The Dark Reading Plan by Craig Groeschel
Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work.
Most of us don’t have to wait very long for anything anymore. Just think about how antsy you feel when the dentist is running behind schedule. Drives you crazy, doesn’t it?
Apparently, Habakkuk wasn’t crazy about waiting either. Nonetheless, he knew that was the next thing he had to do if he was going to make it out of the valley of despondency. God told him, “The revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay”
Habakkuk 2:2-3 NLT Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.
The Hebrew word here for “appointed time” is mow’ed, which means the right time, the affixed time, the divinely chosen time that God permits something to happen. There’s an old saying that God is rarely early, never late, and always right on time. That’s summed up by mow’ed.
Maybe you’ve been praying for what seems like forever for someone you love to come to Christ. So you wait. You might be asking God for another kind of miracle. For someone to be healed. For someone to be freed from an addiction. For a promotion. Or a spouse. So you pray. You wait.
Then you wait some more.
Isaiah 40:26-31 NLT Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing. O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights? Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
James 5:7-8 NLT Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.
Psalms 27:14 NLT Wait patiently for the Lord . Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord .
When you look through Scripture, you’ll see example after example after example of people who are chosen by God, close to him, who still find themselves waiting.
Some seasons in life, you just wait.
When your world has been turned upside down by the news of a serious, maybe terminal illness for you or a loved one; the death of a parent, child or spouse, loss of employment, a serious financial crises, a divorce, the collapse of a close friendship. When any of those things happen, and sometimes more than one of them happens at once, it feels as if everything is closing in our you and there's no way out.
We know that because because of the sin of Adam and Eve, we live in a fallen world where bad things happen. Jesus Himself told us that trouble would come, but He also told us that He has overcome them.
John 16:33 NIV “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The scriptures also tell us that if we are in Christ we are more than conquerors.
Romans 8:37-39 NIV No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
They also tell us that no matter the situation we are never alone.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5-6 NIV Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
We also know
Psalm 34:19 NIV The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;
We know all these things and when things are going well we quote them with great enthusiasm. We still quote them, although not as enthusiastically when trouble starts. When the trouble lingers and even more trouble comes we may still quote them but, we may start to wonder it anybody other than us hears or really cares. When it get to that point we need to be reminded that God who made those promises loves us.
1 John 4:7-11 NIV Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
He’s left us reminders of that love,
God Gives Us Reminders That He Loves Us
Reminder #1 Creation
The creation itself should remind us of how all powerful God is. It is also evidence that He does, in fact, exist. The very fact that he created the universe and then allowed us to be masters over the earth should remind us that there is somebody out there who is bigger than we are.
Genesis 1:27-31 (NLT) So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened. Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.
When my wife and I visited Hawaii a few years ago the folk’s house where we were staying had a view out of their kitchen window from which you could see the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. It was awe inspiring. On another occasion I had an opportunity to drive to Las Vegas, from Payson, AZ, a little town mountains. We drove through some canyons the view of which would cause my jaw to drop. Looking up at some cloud formations will give you that same feeling.
Psalm 19:1-6 (NLT)1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.2 Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.3 They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.5 It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.6 The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat.
God has made Himself obvious through His creation.
Romans 1:20 (NLT)20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
These things about God’s creation remind us of how big God is, His faithfulness, and proof that He loves you.
● The next time you see a sunrise,remind yourself, God is faithful.
● The next time you see snow-covered mountains with their peaks pointing toward the sky, remind yourself, God is faithful.
● The next time you see flowers that have burst into bloom because winter couldn’t stop them from developing in the hidden places, remind yourself, God is faithful.
● The next time you hold a soft-skinned baby in your arms, remind yourself, God is faithful.
Reminder #2: The People We Meet
God uses what we may consider chance meetings or encounters to benefit us later. God had plans for you before you were born. Like the prophet Jeremiah God had plans for you before you were born.
Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT) “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
You’ve never met anybody by accident.
Psalms 37:23 (NLT) The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
Think about some relationships that you had when you were in school. Not those where you stayed in close contact but people that you haven’t seen for years or have never seen ever again, maybe a teacher, a coach, or just another classmate. Think about the impact on you and your life of something they said, an introduction to someone else, or an example you follow today.
The way I plan my workday and workweek is the result of something that a man taught me over 40 years ago when I worked for Bank of America. My love for studying the scripture is because I met a group of guys in San Jose over 30 years ago. I don’t even remember their names but the result of meeting and studying with them is why I am doing what I do today and using the spiritual gift of teaching that the Holy Spirit gave me.
When you doubt whether God cares about you and loves you think about the people that he has placed in your life over the years. If I just sit and think back about some of the difficult and stressful times I’ll remember somebody doing something, or saying something or giving me something, seemingly out of the blue that helped get me through. That wasn't just a coincidence, that was a reminder that God loves me.
Reminder #3: The Circumstances We Go Through
Our circumstances change and they change us. For example moving from one city to another is a change in location or circumstance. There are two possibilities. We can be put in a situation where it is more expensive to live than where we were before and that creates stress. That’s a change for the worse, at least for a while. On the other hand we move from one city to another and we get a huge increase in income, that’s a change of circumstance that is for the good. But in either case it the change in circumstance changes us.
Reminder #4: Jesus - The Greatest Reminder
Jesus is the greatest remainder of all of God’s love. When things seem so overwhelming we need to change our focus. When we realize that God gave His Son Jesus so that He could pay the ransom for mankind and take the punishment of sin we know that God loves us. Jesus came and willingly laid down His life as our sacrifice He then sent the Holy Spirit by and through whom we are able to live a life that is pleasing to God.
Romans 8:31-39 NLT What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” ) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When you wrestle with anxiety and stress especially in situations where you have no control remember all that He went through for you. Remember the agony in the garden of Gethsemane, the humiliation at His trial, the paid of the beatings and finally His crucifixion. It looked as if He had no control over any of this but on the third day He rose from the dead to show that God never lost control. Jesus is the Great Reminder that God loves you.
Things to Remember When Your World Is Turned Upside Down
excerpted from God’s Wisdom and Promises by Jack Countryman
Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” — John 16:31-33
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. — James 1:2-5
Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. — Romans 5:1-5
We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. — 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer. — Romans 12:9-12
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. — 1 Thessalonians 5:18-22
In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8:37-39
Excerpted with permission from God’s Wisdom and Promises compiled by Jack Countryman, copyright Jack Countryman.
Finally some advice from the prophet Habakkuk
From YouVersion Reading Plan Hope In The Dark by Life.Church Pastor Craig Groeschel.
If we desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and therefore, through trial, be strengthened.
How do you react when life crashes in on you? What are your default responses, the things you run to for comfort, relief, or escape?
Trying to avoid a situation only makes matters worse. We end up even more frustrated, because nothing changes. We may even feel guilty for not being strong enough to deal with whatever thorn has gotten under our skin. Ultimately, we run even farther away from the only one who can truly help us.
Until we’re willing to have that honest conversation with God, we will never know peace. But how?
Habakkuk helps guide us through the valley with three specific actions. First, Habakkuk questioned the apparent injustice of God. Then he decided to stop and listen to God. Next, he took notes. God told Habakkuk, “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it”
Habakkuk 2:2 NIV Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.
Why would God want him to do that? Basically, God told Habakkuk, “Write it down so that when I prove myself just and true, everyone can remember that I am a God of my word.”
When God says something to you, record it, because your spiritual enemy is an expert at stealing the seeds of truth that God wants to plant.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Come on, Craig! I get what you’re saying, but I’m just not much of a writer. It’s a great idea, but do you really expect me to get on my phone, tablet—or even crazier, take out paper and pen—and write down what I think God’s saying to me?”
You got it.
The very act of putting words on the page or screen produces a testimony, seals a memory, and helps hold you accountable. Record his message to you.
Isaiah 40:8 NIV The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
Proverbs 3:1-3 NIV My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
Hebrews 13:8 NIV Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Deuteronomy 28:1-2 NIV If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:
Imagine if I planted a tree in my front yard, but after awhile, I decided it would look better in my backyard. Then after a few months, I realized it would be better in the front yard. So I dig it up and plant it again in the front yard. Not only will that tree fail to flourish, but it also will struggle to just survive.
Yet some people are like that with God. They decide to go to church, read their Bible, and pray regularly. They do this for a month, and then they uproot themselves and disappear for a few months. Then they come back again. Then they uproot themselves and go back to the old life again. Eventually they come back and are at it again. But they never will grow spiritually that way.
Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). That is the secret of spiritual growth: to abide. To abide means to stay in a given place. For believers, it means to maintain unbroken fellowship with God. It is regularity. It is consistency. And it results in producing lasting fruit.
Another way of abiding is walking with God. As 1 John 2:6 says, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” Walking speaks of consistent motion. That means making time for the Word of God and for prayer every day. If you are too busy, then get up earlier. Go to bed earlier. You will find time for what is important.
The true mark of conversion is the test of time and results in your life. Are you producing spiritual fruit?
Taken from “The Secret of Spiritual Growth” by Harvest Ministries (used by permission
In the past couple of months I’ve published several posts on ministry burnout (See Burnout). Last week I read two devotions written by Rick Warren “God’s Gifts for Now”, and “Life Is About Relationship, Not Acquisition” in it he wrote that the secret to contentment is to learn to enjoy what God has already given you. One of the reasons that we experience burnout is that we feel that we have to work and work and work to earn the things from God that will result in our enjoyment. Once we get them we think that we have to keep working so that we can enjoy them. We are never content and happy with the material spiritual blessings we receive through the gifts and talents He has given us.
While we will receive rewards, in eternity, for the things that we do in this life, the gifts, talents, and blessings from God are for us to enjoy for His glory now.
2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Philippians 3:12-14 NIV Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
God’s Gifts for Now
By Rick Warren
“If God gives us wealth and property and lets us enjoy them, we should be grateful and enjoy what we have worked for. It is a gift from God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19 GNT).
The Bible says in 1 Timothy 6:17 that God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (NIV). That’s the kind of God we serve. He gave us the world for our enjoyment! But here’s the problem: We’re so busy getting more that we don’t enjoy what we’ve got.
The secret of contentment is to learn to enjoy what God has given you. Ecclesiastes 5:19 says, “If God gives us wealth and property and lets us enjoy them, we should be grateful and enjoy what we have worked for. It is a gift from God” (GNT). Pay more attention to what you do have. Open your eyes, appreciate what God has already given you, and enjoy what you’ve got.
One of my favorite things to do is watch the sunrise from the slope in our yard. I put a deck chair out there almost 20 years ago. I think I bought it at Target, so it’s not expensive. It’s faded, and a couple of its slats are broken. I love to sit in that ratty, old chair and watch the sun come up. It gives me great pleasure!
Would I have any more joy watching the sunrise if I were sitting in a diamond-encrusted Barcalounger instead of a ratty chair from Target? No. It would not increase my joy one bit. In fact, there is an advantage to not having a diamond-encrusted Barcalounger. It’s better to have a ratty chair on the slope. Why? Because nobody steals it!
You need to ask yourself, “What am I not enjoying right now?” Most of us get into what I call “when and then” thinking — “When this happens, then I’ll be happy.”
“When I get a boyfriend, then I’ll be happy.” “When I get married, then I’ll be happy.” “When I have kids, then I’ll be happy.” “When my kids go off to school, then I’ll be happy.” “When I get married again, then I’ll be happy.”
You are as happy as you choose to be. Happiness is a choice! If you’re not happy now, you’re not going to be happy later. I could take you to some of the worst places in the world and show you two people living right next door to each other. One is miserable, and one is happy. Why? Happiness has nothing to do with your circumstances. It has everything to do with your attitude. If you’re not happy living on what you’re living on right now, I can guarantee you that you’re not going to be happy with any more. Because you’re always going to want a little bit more.
Happiness is a choice. Choose to enjoy what God has given you right now for your enjoyment!
Life Is About Relationship, Not Acquisition
By Rick Warren
“But as for me, my contentment is not in wealth but in seeing you and knowing all is well between us. And when I awake in heaven, I will be fully satisfied, for I will see you face-to-face” (Psalm 17:15 TLB).
Life is not about things. You’ve got to maintain the right perspective about possessions, or you’ll be possessed by your possessions. You’ve got to realize none of it is going to last.
Jesus says in Luke 12:15, “Watch out and guard yourselves from every kind of greed; because your true life is not made up of the things you own, no matter how rich you may be” (GNT).
Never judge your self-worth by your net worth. Never think your value is related to your valuables. Realize that the greatest things in life aren’t things. You didn’t bring anything into the world, and you’re not taking anything out of it. Life is not about acquisition or achievement. Life is about relationship and learning how to love God and other people.
The best way to remember that your life is not about things is to build your life on eternal priorities. Focus on what will last forever. Every possession is temporary, so don’t build your life on acquiring possessions. Only two things are going to last forever: the Word of God and people.
You’ve got a choice to make. The world is telling you that you’ve got to get more to be happier, more successful, more important, more valuable, and more secure. You’ve got to decide if you’re going to listen to Madison Avenue or the Master. Are you going to listen to culture or Christ? Are you going to listen to the world or the Word?
One will make you dissatisfied the rest of your life; one will make you truly happy. Before you can move toward financial freedom, you have to ask yourself, “What is the primary purpose of my life? To just get more? What do I think about, talk about, and give my most to? What am I living my life for?”
There was a famous millionaire in Orange County who took her own life many years ago. At the funeral somebody said, “I don’t understand it. She had so much to live for.” I thought, “No. She had so much to live on. She had nothing to live for.”
You may have a lot to live on, but do you have anything to live for? Do you have a relationship with God? The myth of the world is that you can have it all. The truth is that you can’t have it all. And more importantly, you don’t need it all to be happy. You’re as happy as you choose to be.
The secret of contentment is finding your security and your satisfaction not in what you have but in whose you are. You find it in Christ.
Psalm 17:15 says, “But as for me, my contentment is not in wealth but in seeing you and knowing all is well between us. And when I awake in heaven, I will be fully satisfied, for I will see you face-to-face” (TLB).
Both devotionals © 2018 by Rick Warren. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
For more Daily Hope with Rick Warren, please visit pastorrick.com!
Contentment With Peace
Contentment will keep you from working yourself to into burnout, and cure it if you're already there.
Philippians 4:11-13 NIV I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
1 Timothy 6:6-10 NIV But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
And with this contentment comes peace.
John 14:26-27 NIV But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Philippians 4:8-9 NIV Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. In a world where we are told that it’s alright to stretch the truth, cut corners, lie, gossip, and/or cheat to get ahead it’s often hard to maintain your integrity. Maintaining your integrity could result in you not getting that job you want, not getting that mortgage for the dream house, not convincing that man or woman to enter into a relationship.
As a child and young adult I was taught that the primary message the Old Testament book of Job was patience. I was told that I should have the patience of Job, to hold out when things were tough. As I got older I realized that the real message of Job was his integrity. Yes he was patient, but he could have been patient, and done what his wife suggested;
Job 2:9-10 NIV His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
Yes he exhibited patience after all that his friends said about him and the untruths they encouraged him to admit, but he maintained his integrity.
Job 27:1-6 NIV And Job continued his discourse: “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made my life bitter, as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not say anything wicked, and my tongue will not utter lies. I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my innocence and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.
Like Job we can maintain our integrity by trusting in our relationship with the Lord and standing on the promises of His Word.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Romans 8:31-39 NIV What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Six Ways to Maintain Integrity
By Rick Warren
“We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open” (2 Corinthians 4:2 The Message).
Integrity demands that every area of your life is treated with the same intensity. You have the same commitment to excellence in your marriage as you do in your career. You have the same commitment to excellence in ministry as you do in your parenting.
Let me give you six ways you can work this week to pursue integrity. You become a person of integrity by . .
1. Keeping your promises.
People of integrity keep their word. If they say they’ll do it, they do it. If they say they’ll be there, they show up. The Bible says in Proverbs 25:14, “People who promise things that they never give are like clouds and wind that bring no rain” (GNT).
2. Paying your bills.
You may not think this is a big deal, but it’s a big deal to God. Do you spend more money than you make? That is a lack of integrity. Do you get yourself in debt for things that you can’t pay off? That is a lack of integrity. Psalm 37:21 says, “The wicked borrow and never pay back” (GNT).
3. Refusing to gossip.
God is looking for men and women of integrity who know how to keep a secret and not pass it around on social media. Don’t talk about people behind their back. Don’t even listen to gossip! “A . . . gossip can’t be trusted with a secret, but someone of integrity won’t violate a confidence” (Proverbs 11:13 The Message).
4. Tithing faithfully.
Wherever you put your money first is what’s most important to you. Malachi 3:8-10 says, “Is it right for a person to cheat God? Of course not, yet you are cheating me. ‘How?’ you ask. In the matter of tithes and offerings. . . . Bring the full amount of your tithes to the Temple . . . Put me to the test and you will see that I will open the windows of heaven and pour out on you in abundance all kinds of good things” (GNT).
5. Doing your best at work.
The Bible says in Colossians 3:23, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (NLT). If you’re a believer, your real boss is God, and whether or not anybody else sees your work, God does.
6. Being real with others.
A person of integrity doesn’t act one way in church and another way at work and another way on the golf course. “We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open” (2 Corinthians 4:2 The Message).
Compassion - sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
What is Compassion?
The word ‘compassion’ comes from two Latin words, ‘suffer’ and ‘with’. To show compassion means to suffer with someone, to enter into a person’s situation and become involved in that person’s suffering. Compassion is not a theoretical attitude, put a practical involvement. It involves doing, not just thinking or saying. ‘A compassionate response to suffering requires that one be moved by the suffering of the other, act to remove the immediate effects of the suffering, and respond at length to correct the structures which may have given rise to the suffering itself.’ (New Dictionary of Christian Ethics, ed. D. J. Atkinson & D. F. Field [Downers Grove, Illinois, InterVarsity Press], p. 244).
There are two aspects of compassion. They are emotion and action. The emotion of compassion, expresses a desire to relieve a person’s suffering. But that emotion must lead to action. Compassion is an act of will - a decision to become actively involved in alleviating that person’s suffering.
Jesus’ whole life demonstrated compassion. He left His home having no place to lay His head;
Matthew 8:20 NIV Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He became the friend of the outcast;
Matthew 11:19 NIV The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”
He had compassion for all of the people who flocked to see, hear, and be healed of physical, mental, and emotional sickness and demonic possession.
Matthew 9:35-36 NIV Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Even when He tried to get away to be by Himself after the execution of John the Baptist, the crowds follow Him. Seeing their desperation He has compassion on them, healed their sick and then fed them.
Matthew 14:13-21 NIV When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
He even disregarded His own safety when in His compassion He touched lepers and didn't forbid them from coming near him.
Mark 1:40-42 NIV A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
Compassion for Sinners
Jesus’ compassion was not confined to cases of physical need or suffering. Let's take Jesus’ disciple, Matthew the writer of the Gospel that bears his name. Matthew was working as a tax collector, and hated by his fellow Jews. At a dinner party at his house where he invited Jesus along with others identified as sinners.
Matthew 9:9-11 NIV As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus’ response to the Pharisees was one of compassion.
Matthew 9:12-13 NIV On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Then there’s the time the Pharisees brought a woman actually caught in an adulterous act to Jesus to see how he would react. He responded with compassion not judgement.
John 8:9-11 NIV At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus’ Statement Of Compassion
Luke 4:16-21 NIV He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus brought hope, where people had abandoned hope. He declared forgiveness, where people were tormented by guilt. He brought inner release, where people were oppressed by evil spirits. He brought healing, where there was sickness. He fed the hungry, where there was hunger. Compassion is concerned for people’s spiritual and social problems.
1 John 4:7-12 NIV Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
We are challenged by Jesus to be compassionate and merciful, as he was. What follows is an example of compassion that Jesus had for us and wants us to have for others. There is no evidence that the story is true but the message of compassion is crystal clear.
A Story Of Extraordinary Compassion
A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside. "Your son is here," she said to the old man.
She had to repeat the words several times before the patient's eyes opened. Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man's limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement. The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed. All through the night, the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man's hand and offering him words of love and strength.
Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile. He refused. Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital - the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients. Now and then, she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night.
Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he waited. Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her.
"Who was that man?" he asked.
The nurse was startled. "He was your father," she answered.
"No, he wasn't," the Marine replied. "I never saw him before in my life."
"Then why didn't you say something when I left you with him?"
"I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn't here. When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed." (from Cybersalt Digest)]
Just a few days ago I published “Dealing With Doubt”. In it I give you six tips on how to deal with your doubt. One of those tips was to “make the main things the main things” in other words don’t dwell on the things that are secondary, but dwell on the things that actually shape your moral convictions. So don’t dwell on things like how and when God created the world or the details of Christ’s return. What’s really important is how we live our lives surrendered to the will of God for us as individuals. That’s where our core convictions that shape our ongoing relationship with God become more important than anything else.
The Daniel Dilemma: Core Convictions Shape the Way We Live Our Lives
by Chris Hodges, from The Daniel Dilemma
Convictions require you to decide what’s right ahead of time. They’re not based on what feels good or seems right in the moment. They are, instead, the unmovable foundation upon which our lives are built. We don’t need to be mean or judgmental when we share them with others, but we do need to be sure of them.
Our beliefs, values, and moral convictions provide a starting point for what we think and feel, the decisions we make, and the actions we take. They shape every aspect of our lives.
We can see how our convictions influence our lives most clearly in our relationships. For instance, my wife, Tammy, and I have been married for more than thirty years, and I’m the only guy who has ever kissed her. You know what that makes me? The best kisser in her world!
Seriously, we decided early in our lives how we wanted our relationships, especially with the opposite sex, to honor God. As a result, when we married we were both virgins and could give ourselves to each other fully, knowing we got to open God’s gift of intimacy together without having to compare, complain, or compete with anyone else. I’ve talked to many people in the church who have struggled with the aftermath of giving their sexual purity away before marriage. But the good news is, it’s possible to become pure again in the eyes of God. If you’ve had that same struggle, know that God wants to restore you and heal you. That process can begin when you come before Him, ask for forgiveness, and lift up your hurt.
Another thing Tammy and I agreed to when we got married was to take our vows as seriously as God takes them. We defined “till death do us part” as a lifetime commitment — no matter what. Consequently, we agreed to throw out two words from our dictionary: impossible (because it’s not in God’s vocabulary) and divorce (because it’s not an option).
I won’t presume to tell you exactly what your core convictions should be, since a range of different convictions can all be rooted in the Word of God, but because I’m frequently asked about my own, I would like to explore a few areas of conviction that are crucial to how one engages with the surrounding culture.
1. Worship, or placing worth and value on who God is, tops my list.
Scripture is crystal clear about God’s preeminence, the way He surpasses all others:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the Church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. — Colossians 1:15-18
When we worship God, we embrace His attributes. We see Him as omnipresent (everywhere at once), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), totally good, and totally loving. Worship is not about responsive readings or singing hymns. Worship is surrendering yourself to the power, majesty, and goodness of your Creator, letting God be God — even when you don’t understand what He’s doing or when you disagree.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. — Romans 12:1
When we surrender ourselves to God in all things and acknowledge His headship, we don’t question Him, even when the culture does.
2. God’s word, or placing worth and value on the Bible and believing it is the infallible Word of God, comes next.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. — 2 Timothy 3:16-17
With any situation you face, let God’s Word settle it. Don’t let society explain away what God says is true.
We must stay full of the Word of God, using it as the guiding light for our daily lives and the moral basis for our value system. We must be careful to rely solely on truth, avoiding gossip, hearsay, and the opinions of others.
When asked what I think about current events or some particular issue, I often respond, “What makes you think my opinion matters? It’s what God thinks that counts.”
3. Holiness raises the standard of personal purity as we honor the lordship of Christ. God’s character, Christ’s example, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance provide our understanding of personal holiness. It’s being set apart from the world in a way that distinctly reflects who God is and what he’s about.
You know the guidelines we laid out for you from the Master Jesus. God wants you to live a pure life. Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity. Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God. — 1 Thessalonians 4:2-5 MSG
Holiness requires us to maintain a standard of salt-and-light leadership to those around us. It acknowledges God’s lordship over our lives and demonstrates our willingness to follow in the sacrificial footsteps of Jesus. It means we think through our words, actions, habits, and attitudes at all times. Holiness prevents us from conforming to cultural changes and moral relativism.
4. Family carries worth and value as a sacred institution created by God. We are made in His image and designed for relationship. This begins with our families and extends when we marry and start a family of our own. As children, we’re instructed to honor our fathers and our mothers and to obey them; as parents, we are warned not to provoke or harm our children (Ephesians 6:2-4). Families take care of one another.
Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. — 1 Timothy 5:8
One relationship that is central to the family is marriage. God considers marriage to be a lifelong sacred covenant between a man and a woman. He hates divorce, because marriage is designed to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church. According to Ephesians 5, husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the Church, leading through sacrificial service, and wives must love their husbands with respect, honoring them through sacrificial devotion (Ephesians 5:22-26).
Strong families grow out of strong marriages in which husbands and wives love and respect each other, serve and honor each other.
5. Life has intrinsic value in all forms, reflecting this most precious gift from God. Therefore, no person has the right to terminate human life, their own or anyone else’s.
The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations’. — Jeremiah 1:4-5
God knew each person even before he or she was conceived, so we must value each life as a gift from God. In light of this truth, we must face the fact that abortion is murder — there’s no nice way to say it — and taking one’s own life — including euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide — is not our decision to make.
Life is precious, and only God has the right to control when we live and when we die — not human beings.
6. Humility reflects an attitude of service, compassion, and strength. It’s the quality of placing the needs of others above your own, refusing to grandstand and draw attention to yourself. Truly humble people always reflect the glory of God, reminding us that He is the source of life. The opposite, of course, is pride — our human tendency to want the praise, adoration, and attention of those around us, to take all the credit and shift all the responsibility. Yet God’s view on human pride is clear:
God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. — James 4:6
Humility serves as the remedy for prideful self-centeredness. It reflects simplicity and sincerity, a willingness to sacrifice one’s ego. My family and I keep our lives and our ministry simple so we can do more for God. Living simply lowers costs and frees up our time so resources can go to the work of the Lord. We reach people for the glory of God, not for our own egos. Sincerity keeps us real and touchable, and it makes sure our words and thoughts match. Humility keeps our hearts tuned to God and not ourselves.
These core areas of conviction probably don’t surprise you, but if you don’t know what you believe about any of them, then I encourage you to explore God’s Word and commit to His truth. Culture will continue to be our Enemy’s smokescreen for obscuring truth and confusing God’s people.
But if you keep your eyes on the firm ground of God’s truth, deciding what you believe before you’re tested, then you will stand strong no matter how many bow down to the cultural pressure around you.
Excerpted with permission from The Daniel Dilemma by Chris Hodges, copyright Chris Hodges.
Christians today face a dilemma: in a world that seems to reject everything we believe, how do we walk closely with God without caving to pressure or alienating those we hope to reach? In this eye-opening new book, Chris Hodges provides a solution by examining the life of the prophet Daniel, who persevered in a corrupt culture that closely resembles our own—and emerged as an influential force in God’s redemptive plan. Full of scripture and seasoned with Hodges’ candid personal insights, The Daniel Dilemma shows us that we can hold firmly to biblical beliefs without becoming obnoxious, insulting, or mad. We can stand strong while loving others well. Because standing for truth isn’t about winning the argument; it’s about winning hearts. And when we learn the secret of connecting before correcting, we discover that we can respond to today’s hard questions without compromising grace or truth. With fresh insights and practical ideas, Hodges encourages Christians struggling with our cultural reality to hold God’s standards high and his grace deep—just as Jesus did, and just as his followers today are called to do. $16.99
David Green is the founder of Hobby Lobby, the largest privately owned arts and crafts retailer in the world. He is soft-spoken, passionate about his faith, and dedicated to his family.
In 1970 David Green borrowed $600.00 to buy a molding chopper, set up shop in his garage at home, and started making miniature wooden picture frames. As of 2015, Hobby Lobby employs over 32,000 people, operates 600 stores in forty-seven states, and grosses 3.6 billion dollars a year.
David & his wife Barbara are the proud parents of two sons and one daughter, grandparents to ten, and great grandparents to eight. David writes what it looks like to leave a lasting legacy in Giving It All Away..And Getting It Back Again (Zondervan).
The following is an excerpt from Giving It All Away...And Getting It Back Again by Cory Mansfield and published by Preaching.com
The following is an excerpt from David Green’s new book, Giving It All Away…and Getting It All Back Again. David Green, the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, delves into an amazing story of generosity. David’s heart and passion for God’s glory is contagious, and his example of giving is one that can instill courage in us all. I think you’ll particularly like the portion of this excerpt devoted to C.T. Studd as it really pushes us to make every moment count for the One who gave us life.
I realize that running a billion dollar company doesn’t exactly make me just one of the guys from a purely financial standpoint. Money tends to separate us in our culture, and that’s unfortunate because I’m just like you. I get up every day, spend time with God, kiss my wife, eat some breakfast, and go to work.
I’m just a man. I started my career working retail, stocking shelves. I got married and started a family. I’ve lost sleep wondering about the future of my wife and kids. Now I’m entering that area of the baton exchange, and I want to do it well. I want us all to do it well. I want my grandchildren to grow up understanding that generosity begins with an attitude that extends into every aspect of life, not just money. I want them to understand that today begins their legacy. Because if there’s one thing I’ve discovered, it’s that true wealth encompasses all of life.
That’s the big idea. I believe we can chart a course for our lives and our families that allows us to think beyond one generation. We can outline our vision, mission, and values. And we can live that out through our generosity. These ideas will allow us to stay rich for generations—not just in a monetary sense but in a values sense.
Some of you reading this are standing in shoes similar to my own. You are nearing the end of your life, wondering how to finish well and leave a legacy that will bless your family and those they interact with for generations to come. Some of you are just starting out in life, taking your first steps toward those dreams and plans.
Whether you’re at the end or the beginning of life, I want to challenge you to do three things:
1. Work with all your heart, for God and not for men.
2. Hold those plans lightly, because you really have no idea what the Lord has in store.
3. Consider now what you want your legacy to be. It is not too early to begin.
The decisions you make today will affect the legacy you leave behind. Whether you are a young business man who has found himself encountering what the world sees as success both in career and family life, or a young woman who recently graduated and has no idea what is in front of you, today is the right day to make your decisions in light of the truth that God owns it all. Live your life in this world while investing your wealth in the next.
Only One LifeWhen I was growing up, we did not have much artwork in our house. Money was tight, and our family got along with just the basics of life. Knicknacks, frills, and family photos were not to be found in our simple home. But there was one plaque on the wall I have never forgotten. It was a short poem:
Only one life
’Twill soon be past
Only what’s done
For Christ will last.
In my teen years and for quite a few years into my adulthood, the words of that poem stirred up guilt inside me whenever I remembered them. Assuming that “what’s done for Christ” meant work done as a pastor with his flock, as an evangelist on the street corner, or as a missionary to remote tribes in Africa, I felt defeated because I knew those were things I could not do. Not until my late thirties did I discover the joy of giving to God’s work and come to realize its lasting value.
Until recently, I had no idea that those lines were actually part of a longer poem with a very interesting story. It was written by the son of a wealthy British family, Charles Thomas (C. T.) Studd, who lived from 1860 to 1931. His father had made a fortune producing indigo dye in India. Charles and his brothers attended the best schools England could offer, first Eaton and then Cambridge, where Charles became, as some have called him, the Michael Jordan of cricket. Charles represented his country on the national cricket team and became a household name in Britain. He knew that when he turned twenty-five years old, he would inherit a large sum—some $25 million in today’s dollars—from his father’s estate.
Yet by that time, God had touched his heart and called him to service overseas. He started out in China, where he married a young Irish woman of like mind. Together, they gave away their entire portion of the Studd fortune to such ministries as George Müller’s orphanage, D. L. Moody’s Bible school in Chicago, the China Inland Mission, and the Salvation Army. From that point on, they trusted God to supply their needs.
Ten years of work in China were followed by six years in India, where Studd’s father had become rich. C.T.’s health was not the greatest by then, and neither was his wife’s. After India, he pressed on for another twenty-one years in the heart of Africa until he died and was buried there at age seventy. His passion was to share the gospel with those who had never heard of Christ.
C. T. Studd was a man who did not let family money distract him from what was truly important in life. History tells us that his children caught his values system. Three of his daughters married Christian leaders. Some two thousand Congolese showed up for his funeral in July 1931.
I will never be the speaker and writer he was, but I am just as committed to the goals he exemplified. Of the various scriptures under the plexiglas on my desk, this is perhaps the most compelling in my heart and mind: “This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth” (1 Tim. 2:7–8 The Message).
I hope they put that verse on my tombstone. Through the efforts of the company God has allowed us to build, I want as many people as possible to come to know Christ as Savior. Fortunately, if God blesses the values and financial arrangements that I’ve described in this book, then there is no reason my work will not go on long after I’m gone.
I can think of nothing that would make me happier.
Taken from Giving It All Away…And Getting It Back Again by David Green with Bill High. Copyright © [2017 by David Green. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.