Handling Difficult Circumstances

Scripture: Philippians 3:8-11
The apostle Paul understood how to handle tough circumstances. Even while confined in a prison cell, he kept his eyes on Christ and trusted firmly in the Savior. Therefore, despite being in chains, he was able to celebrate the Lord’s work in his life. In fact, the epistle he wrote from jail to the Philippians was filled with rejoicing and praise (Philippians 1:18; Philippians 2:18; Philippians 3:1).
Focusing on Christ is neither a natural reaction nor an easy one. Our instinct is to dwell on the situation at hand, searching for solutions or stewing over the pain and difficulty. As a result, troubles look insurmountable and overwhelm us with a sense of failure.
However, fear and defeat can’t live long in a heart that trusts the Lord. I’m not saying you will forget what you’re going through, but you can choose to dwell on His provision and care instead. He is the Deliverer (2 Corinthians 1:10). He is the Healer (Jeremiah 17:14). And He is the Guide (Proverbs 3:6). The believer who lays claim to divine promises discovers that God pushes back negative emotions. In their place, hope, confidence, and contentment take up residence (Philippians 4:11). You aren’t going to be happy about any difficult situation, but you can be satisfied that God is in control and up to something good in the midst of trouble.
The Lord’s principles and promises don’t change, no matter how severe or painful the situation is. Focus on Christ instead of the circumstances—God will comfort your heart and bring you safely through the trial. Then you will be ready to answer Paul’s call to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).

STAY BLESSED

All Glory to God

‘For you have been given…the privilege of suffering for him.’  – Philippians 1:29 NLT
How do you live for God’s glory when you’re in severe pain? Think of Gethsemane, the garden where Jesus Himself wrestled with the will of God, saying ‘Take this cup from me’ (Mark 14:36NIV). He was talking about the cup of God’s anger. Jesus knew He’d have to drink it to the dregs. But before He did, He asked His Father if He could take it away, if there was any other way to accomplish God’s plan. Then He ended with total surrender: ‘Not My will, but Yours, be done’ (Luke 22:42 NKJV). Our prayers tend to focus on external circumstances – what’s around us that’s bothering us – more than internal attitudes – who we’re becoming through the situation. We’d rather have God change our circumstances than change us. It’s a lot easier that way. But we miss the point altogether. It’s the worst of circumstances that often brings out the best in us. And if it’s the bad things that bring out the good things, then maybe those bad things are good things when you look back on them. It’s only when you’ve been tested that you have a story to share with others. Yes, you can be saved without suffering, but you can’t mature, or serve well, without it. That doesn’t mean you seek it out, but it does mean you see it for what it is – an opportunity to glorify God. Paul, who suffered a lot, writes, ‘For you have been given…the privilege of suffering for him.’ Where did Paul find that kind of strength? ‘I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us’ (Romans 8:18 NKJV). There’s loads of glory coming our way. But first, we need to do the work God’s given us, even in painful moments.

What Now?

Ask yourself, ‘What is pain producing in my life?’ Despair and sadness, as if God didn’t exist beyond the pain? Or hope that God is alive and well, can deliver you, and has something for you to learn in the pain?STAY BLESSED

He Remembers No More

“For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more”   – Jeremiah 31:34.
When we know the LORD, we receive the forgiveness of sins. We know Him as the God of grace, passing by our transgressions. What a joyful discovery is this!

But how divinely is this promise worded: the LORD promises no more to remember our sins! Can God forget? He says He will, and He means what He says. He will regard us as though we had never sinned. The great atonement so effectually removed all sin that it is to the mind of God no more in existence. The believer is now in Christ Jesus, as accepted as Adam in his innocence; yea, more so, for he wears a divine righteousness, and that of Adam was but human.

The great LORD will not remember our sins so as to punish them, or so as to love us one atom the less because of them. As a debt when paid ceases to be a debt, even so doth the LORD make a complete obliteration of the iniquity of His people.

When we are mourning over our transgressions and shortcomings, and this is our duty as long as we live, let us at the same time rejoice that they will never be mentioned against us. This makes us hate sin. God’s free pardon makes us anxious never again to grieve Him by disobedience.

STAY BLESSED
SOURCE: Culled from Crosswalk Daily Inspirations.

Seasoned with Salt: Speak Gracefully

Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person. — Colossians 4:6 HCSB

Seasoning is vital to any dish you make. Steak, pasta, or seafood all need the appropriate mix of spices to wow a person’s palate. One thing that can cause any dish to be a disappointment is for it to not have enough salt. Watch any cooking show and you’ll see that cooks salt everything from pasta water to ground beef to salads. Salt makes rice pop and adds an extra dose of pizzazz to spaghetti sauce. It’s an appropriate addition to almost any dish and can be found on practically every table in every restaurant. You just can’t go wrong with a dash of salt.

In the book of Colossians, Paul taught the Christ-followers to season their conversations with salt. First, he told them to make the best use of their time. In other words, share the gospel at every opportunity. Paul then went on to tell them to always be gracious in their conversations.

Grace in a conversation is like salt in a dish; you can’t go wrong.

Have you ever eaten a particular dish at someone’s home and been surprised that you liked it? Maybe Brussels sprouts have always triggered your gag reflex. Then Nana serves them one day for Sunday brunch, so you try them to be polite and discover that they’re quite tasty! It’s because they are seasoned in a way that makes them more palatable.

Our conversations with others should be the same way. We don’t always know people’s experiences. They may have had an encounter where the gospel was presented in an aggressive or harsh way or may have a past that causes them to be hesitant to listen. Our conversations should always be well seasoned, and a dash of grace is always appropriate.

Lord, remind me to always season my speech with grace. Teach me to speak the truth, but to speak it in love. May every word that comes out of my mouth point others to You.

Your Turn
Think back to a time when you tried a bite of food that you didn’t expect to like. Now think back to a conversation with someone which had previously been a painful or upsetting one… but this time it wasn’t. You felt heard, loved, understood, given space, respected. That’s truth with grace. Who needs to hear grace (with truth) from you today? Who needs you to be salt? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

STAY BLESSED
SOURCE: Culled from Devotions from the Kitchen Table

Got Skills?

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!
“And I have personally appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to be his assistant. Moreover, I have given special skill to all the gifted craftsmen so they can make all the things I have commanded you to make.” – Exodus 31:1-6

Reflect
God values the skills of all his people, not merely those with theological or ministerial abilities. We tend to value only those who are up front in leadership roles. We believe the notion that having influence is what really matters. But God gave Bezalel and Oholiab Spirit-filled abilities in artistic craftsmanship. Their work would outlast both Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership.

But neither influence nor longevity is anything. Instead, Moses, Aaron, Bezalel, and Oholiab submitted their skills to God and committed them to doing his work. When we do this, our skills are given great meaning and purpose.

Take notice of all the abilities God gives his people. Don’t diminish your skills if they are not like Moses’ and Aaron’s. Remember, the one you serve is more important than what you do.

Respond
What skills do you have? Have you found a way to use them? Spend time improving the skills you have and talking with God about them. As you do, you may find new opportunities open up for using them.

STAY BLESSED

Coming Together

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:13

If you know how to listen to the voice of God, you can hear Him calling throughout the Body of Christ today. He is calling for unity. He is calling us to lay down our disagreements and come together in preparation for Jesus’ return.
Just the thought of that scares some believers. “How can I unify with someone from another denomination?” they say. “I’m not going to give up my doctrines and agree with theirs just for unity’s sake!”
What they don’t realize is this: scriptural unity isn’t based on doctrine.
Winds of doctrine, according to Ephesians 4:14, are childish. Winds of doctrine don’t unify. They divide and blow people in every direction. The Word doesn’t say anything about us coming into the unity of our doctrines. It says we’ll come into the unity of the faith.
In the past, we’ve failed to understand that and tried to demand doctrinal unity from each other anyway.
“If you don’t agree with me on the issue of tongues,” we’ve said, “or on the timing of the rapture…or on the proper depth for baptismal waters, I won’t accept you as a brother in the Lord. I’ll break fellowship with you.
But that’s not God’s way of doing things. He doesn’t have a long list of doctrinal demands for us to meet. His requirements are simple. First John 3:23 tells us what they are: to believe on the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another.
Once you and I come to a place where we keep those requirements and quit worrying about the rest, we’ll be able to forget our denominational squabbles and come together in the unity of faith. We’ll grow so strong together that the winds of doctrine won’t be able to drive us apart.
When that happens, the devil’s going to panic because the unity of the faith of God’s people is a staggering thing. It’s the most unlimited, powerful thing on earth.
Right now all over the world, the Spirit is calling the Church of the living God to unite. Hear Him and obey, and you can be a part of one of the most magnificent moves of God this world has ever seen.

STAY BLESSED
Source: Culled from Elolam Networks International.

Shortcutting God’s Will

Scripture: Psalm 37:1-9
In sports, construction, and travel, precision timing is essential. Rushing ahead of the plan could result in lost opportunities, future problems, or disaster. God’s plan for our life also contains time-sensitive elements. He orchestrates events to accomplish His will, bring Himself glory, and benefit us. This is why cooperation with His timing is so crucial. Instead of learning this lesson the hard way, consider what happened in the following situations from Scripture:

• Abraham and Sarah tried to gain the promised son through Hagar, resulting in domestic discord and anger (Gen. 16:1-6).
• Rebekah and Jacob used deception in an attempt to gain the Lord’s blessing, and Jacob became a fugitive (Gen. 27:1-43).
• Becoming impatient for Samuel’s arrival, King Saul offered the sacrifice himself, and God took away his kingdom (1 Samuel 13:8-14).

Refusing to wait for God’s plan brings heartache and closes doors. But trusting in the Lord’s wisdom, believing His promises, waiting for His timing, and committing our way to Him will bring the blessings of obedience.

There are no shortcuts to God’s will, and His path for us may not be easy. To cooperate with Him, we must die to self, relinquish our own desires and plans in order to pursue His, and understand that we are His servants.

Coming up with a plan and rushing ahead may seem like the best approach, but who is better qualified to lead the way—you or God? One pathway is filled with fretting and uncertainty, but the other leads to rest and blessing. Which will you choose?

STAY BLESSED
Source: Culled from InTouch Ministries.

Why We Should Pray Scripture

Jesus understood the power of God’s Word. So did David. And Moses. And the apostle Paul. And the prophets of the Old Testament. And countless other heroes of the faith. That’s why they quoted Scripture in their private interactions with God.

Here are three things you’ll discover if you follow their lead:
Praying God’s Word solidifies your relationship with the Lord.
In order to incorporate Scripture effectively into your prayer life, you have to spend time in its pages. You have to study God’s interaction with people in good times and in bad. You have to examine the way he makes all things work according to his purposes. You have to come face to face with the fact that no situation is ever beyond his control. You have to make note of his goodness, his mercy and his grace.
And you can’t do those things without developing a deeper appreciation and love for the One who loves you beyond all measure and has a unique plan laid out for your life.

Praying God’s Word fosters a healthy perspective toward Scripture.
Hebrews 4:12 says “the word of God is alive and active.” It’s not some relic from a bygone era or an ancient religious history book. It’s a tool, a weapon—a source of power, encouragement and inspiration that’s every bit as potent today as it was three thousand years ago.

To use God’s Word in prayer is to tap into its power —
• to claim the promises that Moses clung to;
• to marvel at the wonders of creation that blew David’s mind;
• to connect with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe as Job did;
• to find comfort and strength in our heavenly Father’s presence as Jesus did.

Praying God’s Word encourages an active and creative approach to prayer.
Incorporating Scripture into your prayers shows that you’re not content to rattle off rote words of praise, thanksgiving or supplication. Praying God’s Word requires forethought and preparation. When you pull Scripture into your prayer time, you’re saying to God, “This isn’t something I want to rush through. This is something I want to savor, enjoy and make the most of.”

STAY BLESSED
Source: Culled from NIV Devotional Articles.

Three Mental Barriers to Hearing God’s Voice

“Get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls” –  James 1:21 NLT.
We’ve all noticed that the reception quality on a cell phone varies widely. The same is true with you. You must be positioned correctly to hear God speak.

Sometimes we don’t give God a chance to talk to us. We’ve made up our minds. We want to do what we want to do, not what God wants us to do. Our hearts are hardened, and we’re unwilling to listen.

When you have a closed mind, of course he’s not going to talk to you!  But if you really want to hear from God — and what believer doesn’t? — you have to understand what is keeping you from hearing from God. Here are three mental barriers that keep your mind closed to God’s message.
1. Pride. If you think you don’t need God in your life and you want to handle things yourself, you’re probably not listening for God to speak. Pride keeps you from being open to the possibility that God might want to say something to you.

2. Fear. A lot of people can’t hear God because they’re afraid to hear God speak. Maybe you think that hearing God’s voice or sensing his leading makes you some kind of religious fanatic.

3. Bitterness. When you hold on to hurt, resentment, or a grudge, you’re not going to be able to hear God, because your heart is hardened. It has grown cold and made you defensive, even to God’s love.

Perhaps you have been hurt badly, maybe this week or even years ago, and you’re still holding on to it. I want to tell you that you’ve got to let it go. Not for another person’s sake, but for your sake. The resentment is killing you! Resentment is a self-inflicted wound that allows people from your past to continue to hurt you today. You need to let it go, not because they deserve forgiveness but because you need to get on with your life. You need to get rid of the bitterness, fear, and pride that keep you from hearing God’s voice and living out his purpose for your life.

James 1:21 says, “Get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls” (NLT).

“Humbly accept” means you let go of your pride and stop trying to figure it out on your own. This is the key to opening your mind and heart so that you can hear from the Lord.

Talk It Over
How do you hear God’s voice or sense his leading? In what ways has he spoken to you?
What changes do you need to make in your life so that you can get rid of the “filth and evil” and hear God’s voice?
Why do we sometimes equate hearing God’s voice with religious fanaticism?

STAY BLESSED
Source: Culled from Daily Hope with Rick Warren.

Going Against the Flow

Scripture: Psalm 62:1-6
A majority may rule in the culture, but in your personal life, there should be only one ruler—and that’s God. It makes no difference if 10,000 people tell you what you ought to do. Once you have decided to follow the Lord, it’s best to stand right where you are until you get marching orders from Him.

Does this mean we should never take godly counsel? Not at all. It simply means that when we know God hasn’t said to move, we shouldn’t yield to the temptation to please others by following their directives or timeline. In other words, while seeking scriptural advice, believers should also listen for the Holy Spirit’s promptings and warnings. For example, when dealing with your children, you may sense there’s a time to bring up an issue and a time to hold off (Eccl. 3:7).

Sometimes, however, a fear of failure may discourage us from doing things God’s way, making us think, What if things don’t turn out as I planned? What if I’m ridiculed by my peers? But ultimately, we must ask ourselves whether we’re going to listen to God or the world. Remember, you don’t have to fear failure when you obey the Lord. He’s the one who intervenes in times of hardship. And He promises to act in behalf of the one who waits for Him (Isa. 64:4).

Remaining steadfast takes courage. That’s why Paul said, “Be strong in the Lord” (Eph. 6:10). All the pressure in the world can’t make you budge when you trust the Rock upon which you stand. With God’s guidance, you can act with complete confidence of a successful outcome.STAY BLESSED
Source: Culled from InTouch Ministries.