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

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from In Touch Ministries

IF YOU DON’T USE THE TALENTS GOD GAVE YOU, OTHER PEOPLE GET CHEATED     

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (1 Peter 4:10 NLT).

The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:10, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (NLT). When you use your abilities to help each other, God is glorified.

God wired you to make a contribution. God did not give you talents and abilities for your benefit. They are for the benefit of other people, and their talents are for the benefit of you.

I am so grateful for people who are talented in areas that I’m not good at. For instance, I’m grateful for accountants. Because I stink at accounting! I’m grateful for people who know how to do taxes.

I’m grateful for people who have mechanical ability. I couldn’t fix a carburetor if I had to. I wouldn’t even know where to find it!

Everybody has different talents.

God has given me some talents. One of my talents is taking the Word of God and making it clear for other people to understand. When I use that ability, you get blessed. My talent is for you. It’s to help you.

But here’s the point: You’ve got talents, too. Are you using them to bless others? Are you using them to help others?

If you don’t use the talents God gave you, other people get cheated. The way you bring glory to God is by using your talents. “Use your gifts well to serve one another.” God is glorified when you use your abilities to serve others.

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Daily Hope with Rick Warren

 

PAY YOUR TAXES!

Yesterday we learned from Romans 13:1-3 that we need to submit ourselves to the laws of the land if we want to live lives free from fear.  I want to focus your attention today on the remainder of that passage, Romans 13:4-7,

“For he is God’s minister to you for good.  But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.  Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.  Render therefore to all their due:  taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” -Romans 13:4-7

What I want to address today is the need to pay our taxes with honesty, not trying to dodge our responsibility.  It is a critical part of obeying the laws of the land as we discussed yesterday.

While I do not like working hard and in the end sending a large portion of every dollar to support the government, it is the right thing to do.  I am absolutely amazed when I learn of Christians who try to dodge their responsibility to pay taxes.

Friend, you must be honest and pay your taxes.  Certainly take advantage of all that the law allows, and do not pay more than you need to, but don’t hide anything.  You need to make sure you do this because when you do, you are being obedient to God.

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Answers for Each day

WHERE WILL YOU SPEND ETERNITY?

1 Corinthians 15:1-4

In our homes, we use smoke detectors to warn us of fire. Our car’s dashboard has lights to indicate a malfunction. We’d be foolish to ignore these warnings. In the same way, Scripture   passages warn us about the terrible consequences for rejecting God’s provision of a Savior.

The Bible tells us how to be reconciled to God so we can spend eternity with Him. We need to understand and accept the following truths:

Sin separates us from God (Rom. 3:23; Col. 1:19-22). Because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion, we are all born with a nature bent away from the Lord. His justice requires that we pay for our transgressions.

God sent His Son Jesus to make that payment for us (1 Corinthians 15:3). Only the death of one who was perfect would satisfy the Father’s righteous judgment. Jesus lived a life without sin, which qualified Him to become our substitute. He willingly took our place and died on the cross in order to pay our penalty. God accepted His death in place of ours and declared us righteous in His sight (Rom. 3:22).

Salvation is a free gift, received through faith in Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9). Our good works will neither satisfy divine justice nor pay for our transgressions. They are not what God requires for forgiveness or adoption into His family. Faith in Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6). When we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord, heaven becomes our eternal destination.

God wants you to live forever with Him. If you haven’t yet made your eternal destination certain, do so now.

Bible in One Year: Luke 12-13

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from In Touch Ministries

 

BE HIS EXAMPLE

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven. — Matthew 5:16

Whether you realize it or not, you’re an example. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re too weak or inadequate to be one — there are people who look up to you and are watching to see how you live. And God wants you to be His representative to them.

Jesus came into this world as a Servant, humbly giving His life so that we would be reconciled to the Father. And God’s will is that we imitate what He did for us by serving others. We perform loving acts of service that meet the spiritual and practical needs of those around us so that they’ll grow closer to Him.

There are so many people around you in need today — not just physically or financially, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Everyone you meet needs someone to encourage him or her. Will you make time to reach out and show them the awesome, unconditional, sacrificial love of Christ? Remember, God sees everything you do in His name and will bless you for all you do in obedience to Him (Hebrews 6:10).

Jesus, show me where I can serve others with Your love and compassion. Work through me to draw others to Yourself. Amen.

My hope is in Jesus because He is worthy of my service.

See God

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. — Matthew 5:8

Do you want to see more of God’s work in your life and experience His presence in a more profound way? Would you like the capacity to perceive His protection and provision in your work, trials, relationships, and in every aspect of your existence? Jesus tells you the way: pursue purity.

When you purge your life of all the behaviors and attitudes that displease God, you clear your vision of the impediments that usually obscure His work in you. You receive a clearer understanding of how He’s behind every good gift you receive (James 1:17) and how He gives meaning to all your struggles (Romans 8:28). Without sin clouding your thinking and deadening your spiritual senses, you become more aware of how the Father is engineering all circumstances for your ultimate good.

So keep your heart pure by seeking and obeying the Lord. Invite the Holy Spirit to convict you through God’s Word and repent of sin as soon as you’re conscious of its presence. And in all things, do as He says. After all, obedience always brings blessing, and when the reward is seeing God, you’re receiving the ultimate desire of your soul. It’s certainly worthwhile!

Jesus, purify my heart and help me see You in every aspect of my life. Amen.

My hope is in Jesus because in Him is everything I need.

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Faith Gateway

 

HOW TO TRUST GOD’S TIMING IN YOUR PAIN

“‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT).

It is not God’s job to make every moment of your life easy. If he did, you would never grow up! You’d be immature, spoiled, and incredibly self-centered. That is not what God wants for you.

So when you’re in pain and you pray and don’t see the answers, should you give up? No. Your job is to keep praying and keep trusting God with the answer, because you know that everything he does and everything he allows in your life he will use for good. You accept a “No,” a “Slow,” a “Grow,” or a “Go,” because you know that God is a good Father, even when you’re in pain.

If a doctor does surgery on you and cuts you open, that’s going to cause some pain. But if that surgery saves your life, would you say that’s a bad doctor? No, because she just saved your life!

When God doesn’t immediately end your pain, he is saying to you in that moment, “My grace is sufficient for you, and you can handle a little pain and even a lot of pain in your life, because I am with you and I am going to use this for your good.”

I’ve had a lot of pain in my life. In fact, almost everything I’ve learned in life, I’ve learned through pain. I’ve learned nothing from pleasure. I’ve learned very little from success. But I’ve learned boatloads through pain. God is more interested in making me a man of God than he is in making me comfortable. And God is more interested in making you a man or woman of God than he is in making you comfortable. You will be comfortable for all of eternity in heaven, but right now, you’re in the grow-up stage, so you’re not going to get everything you ask for.

In Scripture, we read, “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts’” (NLT).

While you’re praying at one level, God is thinking about your life at a much higher level and from a much bigger perspective. He wants good for your life even more than you do.

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Daily Hope with Rick Warren

YOU HAVE TO KNOW GOD TO KNOW HOW TO TALK TO HIM

”For the Lord is always good. He is always loving and kind, and his faithfulness goes on and on to each succeeding generation” (Psalm 100:5 TLB).

Don’t you hate it when people call you on the phone and don’t identify themselves? They just jump right in as soon as you answer, assuming you know who it is. When you don’t know if it’s the pope or the pizza guy on the other end, it affects your conversation a lot. You don’t know what tone to use. You’re a little more guarded.

Even when you’re talking with someone in person, if you don’t know much about that person, you tend to be more formal. I can always tell when people I run into around town are a part of Saddleback Church because they’ll say, “Hey, Pastor Rick, how’s it going?” But when someone says, “Hello, Reverend Warren,” it’s clear they know who I am but not that much about me.

Proximity and relationship determine how you talk to somebody. What you know about somebody determines your conversation with that person. The same is true with God. Your understanding of what God is really like shapes everything else in your life, including your prayer life.

A lot of people have misconceptions about God. Some people think he’s a grumpy god, who’s cranky and upset all the time, and they think they can never please him. Some people picture the “crouching tiger” god, who is ready to pounce on them when they make the wrong move. Some people have the flaky father god, who’s moody and changes his mind continually about them.

Some people think of God as the cosmic cop, whose goal is just to make sure you keep the rules, or the dictator god, who’s never satisfied and always demanding more and more and more. And some people have what I call the Play-Doh god and just make him into any form they want.

Ever heard somebody say, “I like to think of God as . . .”? Well, I’m sorry, but it doesn’t really matter what you think God is like. It matters what the Bible says He is!

  1. Tozer wrote, “What comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you, because it affects everything else in your life.”

It’s important that you know the real God. If you have a misconception about him, then prayer is going to be a duty and drudgery. God doesn’t want you to pray out of guilt! He wants you to talk to him because you love him. And you will love him more as you get to know him better through his Word

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Daily Hope with Rick Warren.

CONTAGIOUS ANGER

Proverbs 22:24-25

Anger can wreak havoc on both the body and soul, but its scope extends beyond the individual and impacts everyone nearby. In this way, bitter outbursts and silent resentment are not just our own personal issues.

An angry spirit is contagious. It can pass from one person to another—and even from one generation to the next. Workplaces can become tense environments full of caustic words and attitudes. Ire turns homes into battlegrounds of verbal explosions or silent hostility. Even churches suffer from malicious gossip and fights over personal preferences.

God created us to live in fellowship with others, but anger can poison our relationships. Tragically, those closest to us are the ones who suffer the most. Children learn to respond to life’s situations by observing their parents’ example. They then develop similar attitudes and patterns of behavior. We need to give serious thought to what kind of heart we are passing down to our sons and daughters.

Thankfully, God is in the heart-changing business. Just as we learn an angry person’s ways by association, so we can learn righteous ways by walking closely with the Lord. Christ calls us to come, learn from Him, and find rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28-29).

Which would you prefer: churning anger or Christ’s peace? Both require sacrifice. To maintain anger, you forfeit healthy relationships and possibly a godly heritage for your descendants. But to acquire peace, you simply ask God to help you leave grudges, personal rights, and insults at the altar.

Bible in One Year: Mark 15-16

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from In Touch Ministries

WHEN COMFORT IS MY ENEMY

“God will strengthen you with his own great power so that you will not give up when troubles come, but you will be patient.” Colossians 1:11 (NCV)

Certain. Comfortable. Predictable. These are all words I long to use to describe my life. I suspect you’d be okay with these being the defining terms of your life, as well. But what if the comfort and certainties we crave today are a deadly recipe for complacency that will draw our hearts further and further away from God?

There are many examples of this in the Bible, but let’s look at one tucked into Jeremiah: “Moab has been at rest from youth, like wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another — she has not gone into exile. So she tastes as she did, and her aroma is unchanged” (Jeremiah 48:11, NIV).

On the surface, it may seem like the nation of Moab has it good. They are comfortable. Life seems predictable. They’ve been at rest for a long time. They haven’t known what it’s like to get caught off-guard. To suffer. To endure hardships due to circumstances beyond their control. Life feels good, so it must be good. No disappointments. No difficulties. But this verse is very clear that this is not what’s best for them.

People left in a complacent place for too long become tainted like impure wine. Wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another, means it’s been sitting in comfort for so long that it has absorbed the aroma of complacency. Winemakers during Jeremiah’s time would pour wine from jar to jar for two reasons. First, so the wine wouldn’t absorb the flavor of the vessel. And second, to rid the wine of the dregs or sediment that would settle into the bottom and prevent the wine from being pure.

The Moabites were not jarred from their complacency. Therefore, their culture was saturated with satisfaction apart from the Lord, and their people were full of impurities. They had no need to draw upon the Lord’s strength, so their hearts were far from Him. The Moabites were lulled into a false sense of security. Without challenges and changes, people tend to grow increasingly distant from God and resistant to His ways. In the meantime, their neighbors, the Israelites, were forced to depend on God and learn to survive suffering, captivity, enslavement. The Israelites appear to be the ones not being “saved” from hardship by God. But if we look through the lens of what’s best in the long term, Israel was being strengthened by God for her eventual good.

Settling into complacency might seem to be comfortable for today, but in the long run we, like the Moabites, may suffer more if we go untouched by God for too long.

Make no mistake: Being lulled into a false sense of security is worse than going through the process of suffering.

Scripture reveals the eventual fate of the Moabites was one of complete ruin. (Isaiah 16:6-10) It would have been better for them to go through the Israelites’ experience. To go from vessel to vessel and experience suffering in doses that made them strong enough to handle suffering in even larger doses.

It’s like getting a colonoscopy or mammogram (neither of which are comfortable at the time) just to make sure you catch something wrong early, while treatment is possible. Or like getting a vaccine before going on a missions trip to a country where diseases are an everyday risk. It’s so much better to get a small exposure to the deadly disease to help build your immunity than be exposed and risk not having the necessary strength and immunities to fight it.

We must sip the suffering of today, so we don’t have to drown in the devastations of tomorrow.

To be poured into new vessels might seem uncomfortable, chaotic, and completely unfair while suffering in the moment, but God wants us to know we can trust Him in the midst of it. He’s helping us get rid of the dregs — weakness, fear, complacency, and the hopeless resignation that all of life is unfair. He’s on guard, looking to strengthen us for what He sees coming. And He is fulfilling the promise of Colossians 1:11, “God will strengthen you with his own great power so that you will not give up when troubles come, but you will be patient.”

It’s a process that doesn’t usually feel good at the time, but God assures us it will be good in time.

Father God, thank You for reminding me that You’re more interested in preparing me than keeping me comfortable. I confess no part of me likes suffering. But I know I can trust Your heart for me. And that means I can trust You when You allow me to be poured into situations I would rather avoid. Keep shaping me. Keep strengthening me. I know the work You’re doing in me is good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:

James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV)

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Encouragement For Today

God Is Working All Things for Your Good

”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” (Romans 8:28 NLT).

God is a good God, and he has good plans for your life. Other people have bad plans for your life, and you may make some bad plans yourself, but God only has good plans for your life.

Not everything in your life may be good—God didn’t promise that. He didn’t say everything that happens in your life would be good. Friend, we live on a broken planet. Nothing works perfectly. Your body is broken. It doesn’t always work the right way. Your mind is broken. It doesn’t think the right way. The weather is broken, the economy’s broken, relationships are broken. Nothing is perfect.

God did not promise us perfection. That’s called heaven! In heaven, there is no sorrow, sadness, sickness, or suffering. We should not expect heaven to be on earth, because the earth is filled with brokenness. But even in the middle of all this brokenness, God has a good plan for your life. He is greater than your bad choices, and he can fit even foolish decisions into a good plan. What a God! He can turn crucifixions into resurrections.

The Bible says in Romans 8:28, “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” (NLT). This is not a promise for everybody in the world. Not everything is working together for good for everybody. But everything is working together for good for those who say, “God, I give you my life. I want to fulfill the purpose you made me for.” And even then, it doesn’t say all things are good. It says they all work together for your good—even the bad and even the bitter.

Have you noticed that when you make a cake, the individual ingredients don’t taste good? Flour by itself does not taste good. Raw eggs do not taste good. Vanilla by itself does not taste good. But mix it all together, and you can create a tasty masterpiece.

When you let God work all the “ingredients” together, God can take the bitter, put it in the batter, and make you better. Why? Because he’s a good God.

The more you pray, the better you’re going to know your purpose. And the better you know your purpose, the more God can use everything in your life—even the bitter and broken things.

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Daily Hope with Rick Warren.