ONE BIG REQUEST

John 15:16

Yesterday we looked at God’s promise in John 14:14. Too often people take the verse to imply, “If you ask anything, I will do it.” They overlook the most essential phrase: “in My name.”

Asking in Christ’s name has two meanings. First, believers are welcome to make requests that align with God’s purpose and plan. To do that, we need to ask Him if our prayers match His will. God has several ways of assuring followers that they are on the correct path. For instance, He may increase right desires or decrease wrong ones. Another possibility is that He will use His Word to redirect a Christian’s steps or confirm that the believer is going the right way. Either way, God will make a path for the man or woman who seeks to do His will.

Second, invoking Christ’s name means that we desire to glorify Him instead of ourselves. James gives this warning: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). To understand that, let’s consider those who are trying to pray their way out of a financial hole as an example. The question is, Does a person want to get out of debt so that he has more for himself or so that he can use the excess in God-honoring ways? Motives are apparent to God, and He will not encourage ones rooted in sin.

In the name Jesus Christ, there is abundant power. However, calling upon Him in prayer is not a magic charm to get what we want. Rather, it is a signal that we are laying down our personal desires and our own way of getting things done. In so doing, we commit to follow God and bring honor to Him.
Bible in One Year: Luke 2-3

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SOURCE: Culled from In Touch Ministries

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN PURPOSE AND PRAYER

”‘I know what I am planning for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you a hope and a good future. Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you’” (Jeremiah 29:11-12 NCV).

Is there anything God can’t do? There are a lot of things God can’t do. He can’t deny himself. He can’t be evil. God is good, so by nature, he cannot do bad things. Everything God does is good. And so, because God is good, God’s plans for your life will always be good.

Jeremiah 29:11-12 says, “‘I know what I am planning for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you a hope and a good future. Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you’” (NCV).
Do you see the connection between prayer and God’s plans for your life?

I’ve said this many times, but I’ll say it again: You are not an accident. There is a purpose for your life. There are accidental parents, but there are no accidental children. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did, and he wanted you alive.
Now, God didn’t have to create a plan for your life. He could have just let you be born and then wander around aimlessly.
But God has never made anything without a purpose. Everything has a purpose and a plan. God gave you a plan for your life. Why? Because he loves you. He is a good God, so he put a lot of thought into creating you.

And now you may ask, “Well, how do I know God’s plan?” God’s plans for your life are revealed and realized through prayer. The more you pray, the more you’re going to understand God’s plan for your life. When you pray to him, he listens, and he answers and reveals more of himself to you.
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SOURCE: Culled from Daily Hope with Rick Warren

GOD FORGIVES YOU. NOW FORGIVE YOURSELF.

”He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve . . . He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:10, 12 NLT).God always gives us what we need, not what we deserve. Psalm 103:10, 12 says, “He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve . . . He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (NLT).
Instead of giving us the punishment we deserve, Jesus Christ paid for all our sins and all our wrongs. I like that the Bible says, “as far as the east is from the west,” because there’s no end to east and west. There is a north pole, and there is a south pole. But there is no end from east to west. God has simply taken our sin and wiped it out!
And if God has forgiven you, then you need to forgive yourself.

There’s this guy in the Bible, King David, who committed adultery and then, to cover it up, had the woman’s husband murdered. Those are pretty big sins—murder and adultery. Did David deserve to be forgiven? No. Did David deserve mercy? No. But David knew that God is a good God, and so he asked for mercy. He prayed: “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2 NLT).
If you are struggling with a big sin right now, you need to go read all of Psalm 51. The entire psalm is based on who God is, not who you are.

Let me make this really clear: God forgives you not because you’re good but because he is good. He is a good God, and he has a good plan for you—even when you blow it big-time. Nothing can separate you from his love!
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SOURCE: Culled from Daily Hope with Rick Warren

BE READY

‘You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’
Luke 12:40 NIV

We know that one day Jesus is going to come back again. So we need to be ready for Him. He may come tomorrow, in a year, or even after our lifetime – so we need to make sure we’re prepared. Jesus said: ‘You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him’ (v.40 NIV). Jesus compares us waiting for His return to a manager who has been put in charge of the servant’s food allowance while the master goes away.

The Message version sums up the story like this: ‘He is a blessed man if when the master shows up he’s doing his job. But if he says to himself, “The master is certainly taking his time,” begins maltreating the servants and maids, throws parties for his friends, and gets drunk, the master will walk in when he least expects it, give him the thrashing of his life, and put him back in the kitchen peeling potatoes’ (Luke 12:42-46 MSG).

Imagine if we all started living in an un-Christlike way, treating other people badly, disobeying rules, and putting ourselves first. There would be chaos. But, even worse, imagine if we were living like that, and then Jesus showed up. He saw the way we were living. Would He be pleased with how we were behaving? This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect, we all make mistakes, and that’s why God’s grace and mercy are so amazing. But what it does mean is that we need to be trying to live in a way that glorifies Him.

He knows when we are trying to live in a Christlike way. He sees our heart.

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SOURCE: Culled from Word for You

THE CONSEQUENCES OF IMPATIENCE

Luke 15:11-21
How serious is a lack of patience? We generally write it off as inconsequential. It’s often seen as a weakness rather than a sin—after all, it’s not as bad as adultery, theft, or murder. But have you ever considered what your impatience reveals about your attitude toward God?

When we demonstrate an inability to tolerate delay, we are telling the Lord, “I don’t trust Your timing; mine is better.” Can you see the seriousness of this attitude? Impatience is a display of pride because we are elevating our understanding above that of our all-knowing God.
The prodigal son’s journey toward disaster began with impatience. He wanted his inheritance immediately and was unwilling to wait. After taking matters into his own hands, he faced the following consequences:
He brought sorrow on his family. Likewise, our impatience hurts those we love.
He left the security of home. When we run ahead of God, we often leave behind the voices of reason and wisdom in our life.
He found himself in ruin. God’s blessing accompanies our obedience, so we stand to lose a great deal when we ignore His timing.
He felt unworthy. We don’t experience fellowship with the Lord when impatience keeps us outside of His will.

Although the prodigal son was welcomed home, he could never regain the inheritance he’d lost. We, too, must often live with painful consequences as a result of jumping ahead of God. Let’s remember it’s better to wait patiently until the Lord moves us forward.
Bible in One Year: Acts 10-1

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SOURCE: Culled from In Touch Ministries

WORRY DOESN’T HELP, SO WHY WASTE YOUR TIME?

“Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6 NIV).

Worry will kill your joy and cause you stress. We tend to expect the worst in life. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, they affect 18.1 percent of the U.S. population.
But worry isn’t just a mental issue. It’s a spiritual one. It’s assuming a responsibility that God never intended for us to have. It’s playing God and trying to control the uncontrollable.

There was once a scientific study on worry that discovered:
40% of our worries never happen
30% of our worries concern the past
12% of our worries are needless worries about our health
10% of our worries are insignificant or petty concerns
8% of our worries are really legitimate concerns
Worry is worthless. It can’t change the past or control the future. It only messes you up right now. It’s an incredible waste of energy. It’s stewing without doing. When we worry about things, they get bigger and bigger.

The Bible says, “Do not worry about anything” (Philippians 4:6 NCV). It’s one of the hardest commands to obey. It’s even more countercultural when you consider where Paul was when he wrote it. He was sitting in a prison waiting for the emperor to execute him.

Worry is something we learn to do. You must practice worry to get good at it. If it is learned, it can also be unlearned.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (NIV).

Jesus gives us the ultimate antidote to worry. Live one day at a time. God will take care of tomorrow.

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SOURCE: Culled from Dailt Hope with Rick Warren

PURITY AND PERSECUTION

1 Peter 4:1-5

What is the connection between suffering and purity for the Christian? These are not terms we usually consider together, but Peter says those who suffer physically cease from sin and no longer live for human lusts. Instead, they live for the will of God. That is not to say we’ll reach a level of sinless perfection but, rather, the power of sin in our lives will be broken.

According to today’s passage, we are engaged in a battle, and Peter says to arm ourselves with the same attitude Christ had in His suffering. Just as He willingly submitted to the Father’s will and went to the cross, so we must accept that suffering is likewise part of God’s will for our life. It’s one of the ways He purifies us and breaks any attachment to our previous sinful desires.

As believers, we are called to live differently from the world around us. This doesn’t mean we’re to be deliberately antagonistic, but our lifestyle should be an example of purity. Others may find this offensive because it exposes their sin, and then they may respond by maligning us in an attempt to make themselves feel better.

Although we want the world to be attracted to Christ by our transformed lives, in reality we may make others uncomfortable or perhaps even antagonistic. This is why so many Christians around the world are being persecuted and even killed for their faith. But every time the church has faced persecution, it has also been purified and made stronger. God never intends for suffering to defeat us. Rather, His purpose is for it to make us holy and effective witnesses for Christ.

Bible in One Year: John 1-3

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SOURCE: Culled from In Touch Ministries

GOD REALLY LIKES YOU. NO, REALLY!

“For I have every confidence that nothing — not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers, height, depth, nor any created thing — can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Anointed, Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

I turned 62 years old this past summer. I thought I would have a harder time telling people my real age, but as it turns out, saying I’m 62 has become very empowering. I often tell people, “The older I get, the more I’ve learned. And the more I’ve learned, the less I know. But what I do know, I really know.”

This is what I’m confident of at age 62: I know God loves me. There! That’s it. That’s about all I really know for sure.

But, oh my goodness, that knowing changes the lens I use to view every situation, problem, blessing and even the unexpected. It changes the trajectory of my days.

I mean, think about it — if we wake up every morning and truly, deeply believe and trust that God simply loves us, how does that change how we feel about who we are? Would we go through our ordinary days with a few less self-imposed “should-haves”? Would that critical voice in our head saying, “You aren’t enough” be just a little quieter? I think it would. I think I might be more patient in traffic too — just bein’ real!

For instance, I’ll be honest and tell you I might not worry as much if I got my swim workout done or not. I might be less judgmental of myself over some misspoken words I said to my husband or one of my kids. I might be less frantic that I didn’t get all my errands done or phone calls made. I might be a kinder, gentler person if I just sit in the knowing. God loves me. God is for me.

Brennan Manning once said that God doesn’t just love you — He likes you. Whoa! That really got my attention. There are people I love, but fewer people I like. So, it makes my heart happy to think God likes me. I can’t stop thinking about it!

Today’s key verse is one of my very favorites. The word NOTHING is a big word!

“For I have every confidence that nothing — not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers, height, depth, nor any created thing — can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Anointed, Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Nothing just means nothing. It doesn’t have an “except for …” attached to it. Nothing. Period! No “buts” “ands” or “except-fors.”

I like to argue with God sometimes, and I’ll say, “But God, I’ve put on some weight, and I feel like I’ve let me and You down. Do You still love me?” And, it’s like I hear Romans 8:38 quietly in my spirit:

“Sandi, NOTHING!” “Yeah, but God …”

“NOTHING!”

“God, were You paying attention? I got a divorce. My kids have been hurt by my choices.”

But God quietly comes alongside my spirit and says, “Baby girl, I know pain. I got you. I love you — NOTHING!”
And now, at 62, I think I finally believe Him. And it’s changing me. It’s changing how I move through my days. There is eternity in every single moment because God is in every single moment.

As I return to Romans 8:38-39, I’m learning to say, “I have every confidence that NOTHING … can come between us and the love of God …” That is the first and most important building block of my faith in Christ.

Friend — I want you to know today how much you are loved by the God of the universe. Right now, in this very moment. Right where you sit or stand. With or without your makeup on. You are so deeply and passionately loved.

 

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SOURCE: Culled from Encouragement for Today

FULLY COMMITTED

‘I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.’
Philippians 3:8 NKJV

Nowhere in the Bible does God say He’s going to send us to safe places to do easy things. But He never leaves us to do challenging things on our own. He says He’ll always be with us (have a read of Hebrews 13:5). But in order to do life with God, and to walk in His ways, we need to be fully committed. Faced with the cross, Jesus prayed the ultimate prayer of commitment: ‘Yet not my will, but yours be done’ (Luke 22:42 NIV).

God’s wanting us to be totally committed to Him. Jesus said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it’ (Matthew 16:24-25 NIV). This may seem pretty extreme, but God’s looking for ‘all-in’ faith. He’s looking for followers who are willing to stick with Him, no matter what it costs. He’s looking for people who’ll put Him above everything else in their lives.

Paul was one of those kind of followers. In his letter to the Philippians, he wrote: ‘Those things were important to me, but now I think they are worth nothing because of Christ. Not only those things, but I think that all things are worth nothing compared with the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…I want to know Christ and the power that raised him from the dead. I want to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death’ (3:7-10 NCV). He even went as far as to say ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain’ (1:21 NIV).
Are you prepared to say the same?

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SOURCE: Culled from Word for You

THE LORD, OUR SHEPHERD

John 10:7-15

In the ancient world, the man who was given charge of the flocks had a challenging job. He had the responsibility of leading the sheep to new pastures and fresh water, defending them from predators, and finding the lost ones when they strayed. But his was a humble job because it was lonely and dangerous. The shepherd lived among the flock and slept across the doorway of the fold to keep the sheep in and the wolves out. This was hard, constant, and thankless work.

Yet Christ sat among His followers and said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11; John 10:14). The modern church misses the impact of those words. We have a rustic but rosy view of Jesus as a shepherd. The sovereign God of the universe humbled Himself and got His hands dirty working directly with beings just as errant, willful, and sometimes dumb as sheep.

Remember you read a moment ago that tending the flock required lying across the doorway of the sheep pen? Well, Jesus did exactly that—He became the door for us (John 10:9). He sacrificed His life for the great flock of humanity so that anyone who chooses to believe in Him may enter God’s fold (John 3:16). And once inside, we are provided for, sought when we wander, and protected from enemies.

Jesus sees Himself as mankind’s Shepherd. Thankfully, we are more than just a herd to Him. He knows everything about each one of us—our name, character, and flaws—and loves us despite all of our imperfections. What better way to show love in return than to know His voice and follow wherever it leads us?

Bible in One Year: Acts 5-7

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SOURCE: Culled from In Touch Ministries