Ever found that when you are trying to do something important that it can be difficult? It might be a process thing. It might be a people thing. It might be a personal thing. But when you get it done the rewards of how worthwhile it is become so self-evident.
Many times it can be a matter of perspective how we make it through. Is it a challenge or an opportunity? Is it a blocker or something with potential? Is it half full or half empty? How are you looking at it? Are you seeing beyond it or stuck in front of it?
Don’t give up on Jesus! He didn’t give up on you!
Don’t give up! Persevere!
Don’t give up! Finish Strong!
It’s not all about how you start, but how you finish!
Ever heard the parable of the sower? Ever consider it from the other angle being the parable of the soil? Taking the focus off the one who was throwing the seed and considering it from the perspective of the heart of the one where the seed (the Word of God) is scattered? The hard ground – a hard hearted person where the Word of God just bounces of their heart and the devil comes along and steals it away. The rocky ground – where the person receives the hope of Jesus, the Good News bring great joy, but because their spiritual roots are shallow when the troubles of this world, the attacks people make in regards to christians take place, family thinks they have lost their mind, friends start to mock them, they can’t withstand it and fade away. The thorny ground – where the heart is in a “ya but” mode, they aren’t able to receive it fully because even though the ground was good and ready for the seed, the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things come in and choke them out. The thing is God’s plan is good – to give you a hope and a future – that we have good ground to plant His Word in- so we need to break thru the hard ground, we need to tear up and get rid of the rocks so that the topsoil is ready for the seeds to grow, we need to pull out the weeds so that the good ground will be ready for the seeds to grow! When the seed lands on the good ground, it is as God desires, it is a heart that has been soften and is ready to receive the Word of God! Some consider getting as high as 10% a good return, but we hear when God has good ground to plant seed in, the return starts at 30x, 60x, and even 100x. To do this we need to be engaged in the Word of God, we need to be a part of His body, we need to be serving, and we need to be generous! So rather than looking at the outward, consider the inside! Consider how you can spend time with people pouring into their lives so that hard ground can be broken up, how that rocky ground can be cleaned up, how that thorny ground can be cleared up, and how you can pour some good top soil in to help them realize the truth, the hope, the love, and the joy that is real for the rest of their lives!
Don’t be fooled by the ways of the world! Don’t be tripped by the success of life! Keep your focus on God rather than the wealth of this world and the lies of what wealth will give you when the reality is God has already done everything that is needed through Jesus who gave His all so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God!
Will you receive the Word of God? Will you receive the Good News? Will you choose to accept Jesus as Your Lord and Savior?
The Christian Life is Not Easy
— Day 173: Bible In One Year 2017
Devotional, Psalm 77:1-9, Acts 15:1-21, 1 Kings 9:10-28, 1 Kings 10, 1 Kings 11:1-13
Distress: How should you respond? … Psalm 77:1-9
My friend, Luigi, is a Benedictine monk. He often begins his prayers with ‘a time of complaining’! This psalm begins with the psalmist pouring out his complaints to God.
Having a relationship with God does not protect us from ‘distress’ (v.2). The psalmist was ‘awake all night – not a wink of sleep’ (v.4a, MSG). He feels as if God has rejected him and that he will never experience God’s favour again (vv.7–9).
In this, the first half of Psalm 77, we begin to see how to respond to distress. You can be assured that:
God listens to your cry
Tell God exactly what you’re feeling: ‘I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might, I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens. I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord’ (vv.1–2a, MSG).
God likes your honesty
There is a therapeutic effect in asking honest questions. God’s people bring their doubts, difficulties and distress to God and question him. Even Jesus, on the cross, asked a question, quoting Psalm 22:1: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46).
God wants you to be real with him. He does not want you to pretend that all is well. He wants to hear the cry of your heart. This draws you close to him, even in times of great distress.
–from Day 173: Bible In One Year 2017
- Disputes: How should you resolve them? … Acts 15:1-21
There is nothing surprising about ‘arguments’, ‘disputes’ and ‘debates’ in the church. We read here of a ‘sharp dispute and debate’ (v.2) about what was required in order to be fully accepted as a Christian – a member of the church – and to be ‘saved’ (v.1). Was circumcision a requirement? (v.1).
We see here a four-step process for decision-making. This is a great model for dealing with disputes in the local, national and even global church today.
Call a meeting
Some were insisting that everyone be circumcised. Paul and Barnabas fiercely protested. They called a special meeting to bring the two sides of the debate together.
Do not be afraid of conflict. When intelligent people come together to talk about issues that matter, it is both natural and productive for disagreement to occur. In fact, that is what makes meetings interesting!
Consider and discuss
‘The arguments went on and on, back and forth, getting more and more heated’ (v.7, MSG). In the end, two factors swayed the debate.
First, their reasoning was based on the experience of the Spirit. Peter’s first argument was based on what he had seen the Holy Spirit doing at Cornelius’ house: ‘God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them [the Gentiles] by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them’ (vv.8–9). To make a distinction would have been to oppose God. This led him to the conclusion: ‘We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are’ (v.11).
Second, their reasoning was based on the evidence of the Scriptures.James points out that the word of God and the Spirit of God are in alignment: ‘The words of the prophets are in agreement with this’ (v.15). He shows that the Scriptures foretold the inclusion of ‘all the Gentiles’ (v.17) and suggests a way forward consistent with following the experience of the Holy Spirit and the evidence of Scripture (vv.19–21). We can be sure that the word of God and the Spirit of God will always be in agreement. What we cannot be sure of is that our understanding of either is correct. Those arguing that everyone should be circumcised did so on the basis of Scripture. Peter and James did not set aside the Scriptures, but they did argue that they had been misunderstood.
Come to a decision
In the end, they decided (v.22). This was an extraordinary moment in the life of the early church. ‘The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them’ (v.12). It was a spine-tingling moment, which reduced them to silence.
At the end of the day decisions require judgment. The apostle James says, ‘It is my judgment’ (v.19). The deciding factor was that they did not want to ‘make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God’ (v.19). All people were to be invited into the church, regardless of their background, although not all practices were allowed (v.20).
The lesson here is that we need to be very careful about putting unnecessary obstacles in front of people who are exploring faith in Jesus and we need to be careful about defining the church too narrowly.
Communicate the decision
They wrote it down (v.20). Minutes of a meeting are not just a formality. It is important to record decisions. Then, as we will see tomorrow, they need to be communicated (vv.23–29).
–from Day 173: Bible In One Year 2017
- Decoys: How should you resist them? … 1 Kings 9:10-11:13
Success can be more dangerous for us than failure. Solomon was highly successful. He did much right. He had a great gift of wisdom and yet, in the end, he was led astray. Solomon’s life presents us with a challenge and a warning.
Solomon had everything. In twenty years, he had built two great buildings: the temple and his palace (9:10). The Queen of Sheba was astonished by what she saw: ‘The half was not told me. You have added wisdom and goodness exceeding the fame I heard’ (10:7, AMP).
She recognises it could only be God: ‘making you king to keep a just order and nurture a God-pleasing people’ (v.9, MSG).
Yet, the tragedy is that Solomon did not finish well. His ‘heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been… his heart had turned away from the Lord’ (11:4,9).
What went wrong? It started with promiscuity. King Solomon was obsessed with sex: ‘He had seven hundred royal wives and three hundred concubines – a thousand women in all!’ (v.3, MSG).
It ended with following detestable gods: ‘As Solomon grew older, his wives beguiled him with their alien gods’ (4a, MSG). He ‘did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done’ (v.6). He acted contrary to the Lord’s explicit command that the king ‘must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold’ (Deuteronomy 17:17). These decoys led Solomon astray.
David messed up from time to time. When he did, he repented and turned back to the Lord and followed him wholeheartedly. Solomon shows us something different. Seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines do not happen overnight. There must have been compromise in Solomon’s heart. In spite of all God’s blessings, Solomon allowed sin to breed and in the end it ruined him.
To avoid ending up like Solomon you need to stay close to Jesus and listen to him. For as Jesus said, the Queen of Sheba ‘came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here’ (Matthew 12:42).
–from Day 173: Bible In One Year 2017