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.

 

T-R-U-S-T 

What does trust really mean?  Let me help you understand by using the word T-R-U-S-T as an acronym.

“T” stands for trust…which means that if you are going to trust Him, you have to take Him at His word.  Even if it seems like it is not true, you take Him at His word.  If we will take Him at His word, He will guide us through the course of life and bring us across the finish line safely.

“R” stands for rest.  The Bible tells us to rest in the Lord.  1 Peter 5:7 says, Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  Do not worry.  Worry is like a rocking chair.  It gives you something to do, but you don’t get anywhere.

“U” stands for understanding.  Proverbs 3:5 says, Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  Sometimes things just won’t make sense to your understanding.

“S” stands for speech.

The final “T” stands for thanksgiving.  We offer thanks to God in advance.  Philippians 4:6 says, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  When we offer thanks to God, it is an expression of our faith.

That’s T-R-U-S-T!

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Answers for each day.

FIVE WAYS TO RELAX IN GOD’S GRACE

” Be careful that no one fails to receive God’s grace” (Hebrews 12:15 NCV).

How do you learn to “R.E.L.A.X.” in the liberating grace of God?

R—Realize nobody’s perfect.

Psalm 119:96 is a verse directed toward God, and it declares, “Nothing is perfect except your words” (TLB). What society tells you isn’t perfect. What popular opinion tells you isn’t perfect. What you learned growing up isn’t perfect. But God’s Word is perfect. When you get in the Bible and build your life on it, you will have a perfect foundation.

E—Enjoy God’s unconditional love.

The Bible says, “See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children—think of it—and we really are!” (1 John 3:1 TLB) When you become a follower of Christ, you’re not just a servant of God anymore. You are a child of the King. A servant is accepted on the basis of what he does; a child is accepted on the basis of who he is. A servant starts the day anxious and worried that her work will please her master; a child rests in the secure love of her family. A servant is accepted because of his workmanship; a child is accepted because of his relationship.

L—Let God handle things.

What do you do about the uncontrollable things in life? “Cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV). When you’re fishing and you cast a line, there comes a point where you have to take your finger off the button and let it go. Just like the essence of casting is letting go, to overcome perfectionism you have to let go and let God do his work.

A—Act in faith, not fear.

Remember how you got into God’s family in the first place. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” There’s no other way to get into heaven except by grace. You’ll never be good enough, and you can’t buy your way in. It’s a free gift from God.

X—Exchange your perfectionism for God’s peace.

Perfectionism destroys peace. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-29, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest . . . Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (The Message). What a deal!

You’re going to fail a lot in life. But you don’t have to worry about it if you’ve received God’s grace. In fact, there’s only one failure you ever need to worry about: “Be careful that no one fails to receive God’s grace” (Hebrews 12:15 NCV). Receive it right now, and then relax!

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Daily Hope with Rick Warren.

STRENGTH

‘Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.’

Isaiah 40:31 NIV

When we’re working for God’s kingdom and serving Him, we can feel amazing because we’re doing some of the things God’s called us to do. But we can also become exhausted, disillusioned and stressed. We can put extra pressure on ourselves because we’re working for, and serving, God, and we think that we must do everything we possibly can for Him. It’s great to have a good work ethic, and to want to do what we can for God. But we can’t give Him, and others, our best when we’re burnt out. The fact is, we can’t fill an empty bucket from a dry well. In order to keep giving out we must keep our batteries charged spiritually, emotionally, and physically. And that doesn’t just mean we need to stop and rest, although that’s really important.

It means we need to rely on God’s strength, and not our own. When we try and do everything in our own strength, it’s easy for us to become exhausted and even resentful of what we’re doing, and who we’re doing it for. We need to recognise our dependence on God and ask Him for strength. The Bible says: ‘Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’ That’s a great promise. When we’re feeling run down and tired, we know we’ve always got a source of strength we can go to. Eagles don’t just fly, they soar high above the storms below. And when we go to God for the strength we need, we’re told we will ‘soar on wings like eagles’. With our own strength we may be able to fly for a while, but with God’s strength we can soar for a lifetime.

What Now?

Head online and research how eagles can soar above the storms. Then ask God to give you the strength you need to soar above any storms you’re facing right now.

Bible in a Year: Jeremiah 6-8, 2 Thessalonians 1

DON’T BE JUDGEMENT-FOCUSED

On which two ancient cities did God rain brimstone and fire? If your answer is Sodom and Gomorrah, you are right. But if you think that God was all eager to destroy the two cities, you are wrong!

God wasn’t willing at all. He was not on a sin hunt. He was on a righteousness hunt so that He could spare the cities. (Genesis 18:23–32) And I believe that if Abraham had asked God, “What if You can find just one righteous man?” God’s answer would have been the same: “I will not destroy the place for the sake of one righteous man.”

Today, the righteousness of one Man—Jesus—has come. Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our justification. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our sins against us!

Therefore, no judgment will fall on you today because it fell on Jesus 2,000 years ago at Calvary. And if God was gracious enough to remove Lot and his family before the judgment fell (Genesis 19:12–22), how much more will He do for you who are no longer under judgment!

And because God does not judge you, don’t be like Lot’s wife, who became a pillar of salt when she turned around to look at the brimstone and fire. (Genesis 19:24–26) She wanted to see God’s judgment, even though the angels had warned, “Don’t look back, lest you be destroyed.” (Genesis 19:17)

So don’t be judgment-focused and look back at the sins you have committed. God is not against you. He is for you and on your side. He remembers that He has already judged and punished your sins in the body of His Son. And because He is faithful to His Son and to what His Son has done, He will never judge or punish you. Any trouble that you might have today is not from Him. But He will show you a way of escape because He is on your side. He loves you and has your best interests at heart.

Beloved, God is not out to get you. He is out to bless you. And He wants you blessed more than you can ever ask or imagine! (Ephesians 3:20)

Thought For The Day

Don’t be judgment-focused because God is not against you. He is for you and on your side.

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Joseph Prince Ministries.

FOUR CHARACTERISTICS OF BIBLICAL FORGIVENESS  

”Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).

Biblical forgiveness is not a cheap term you just throw around that instantly makes everybody feel better. That’s not real forgiveness.

The Bible says there are four characteristics to biblical forgiveness:

Forgiveness is remembering how much you’ve been forgiven.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV). This is the starting point for genuine forgiveness. If you don’t feel forgiven, you won’t want to forgive anybody else. If you’re hard on yourself, you’re going to be hard on others. But the more grace you receive from God, the more gracious you’re going to be with others. The more forgiven you feel by God, the more forgiving you’ll be toward others.

Forgiveness is relinquishing your right to get even.

Romans 12:19 says, “Never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it” (TLB). Life is not fair, but one day God’s going to settle the score. He’s going to right the wrongs. So, who can get better justice—you or God?

Forgiveness is responding to evil with good.

The Bible says in Luke 6:27-28, “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (NIV). How can you tell when you’ve really forgiven somebody? When you can look at that person’s hurt and not just your own, and pray for God to bless him or her.

You ask, “How could I ever do that for the person who’s hurt me?” You can’t unless you allow the love of God to penetrate your life. Only the love of God can help you do something like that.

Forgiveness is repeating the process as long as necessary.

“Peter came to him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’” (Matthew 18:21-22 NLT). Jewish law said you had to forgive a person three times, so Peter doubled it and threw one in for good measure. But Jesus said to go even further with your forgiveness

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Daily Hope with Rick Warren.

SETTING BOUNDARIES AGAINST TEMPTATION

2 Timothy 2:20-22

Do you have a sin that you simultaneously hate and love? You really want to overcome it, but as soon as you’re tempted, the anticipated pleasure erases all your willpower. These love/hate temptations are what cause us the greatest struggle, but sometimes part of the problem is our lack of boundaries.

Although we’ll never be totally free from temptation, we can take steps to protect ourselves—namely, we can establish practices and boundaries to guard us from wandering into a danger zone. When Scripture addresses this topic, it presents two contrasting instructions.

Flee lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace (2 Tim. 2:22). The goal isn’t simply to resist temptation, but to move as far as possible in the opposite direction, toward godliness.

Submit to God and resist the devil (James 4:7). Trying to withstand temptation is futile unless we first commit to living obediently before God. With submission comes the power to resist.

Don’t conform to the world, but be transformed by renewing your mind (Rom. 12:2). If we fill our head with the ideas and priorities of the culture, we’ll be easy targets for temptation. But Ephesians 6:17 calls God’s Word our “sword of the Spirit”—a weapon we can use for defense against the enemy’s attacks.

God showed us the boundaries behind which we are safe. He’s warned that if we toy with our cravings and place ourselves in the way of temptation, we will fall. So draw near to God (James 4:8) and the protection of His Word, wisdom, and power.

 

Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 23-25

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from In Touch Ministries.