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RiverOL

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Handling Nastiness

"He that would love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile; let him turn away from evil and do right; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those that do evil."1

No doubt, most of us, at one time or another, have been hurt deeply either through a misunderstanding or purposely by another. When we are, how do we handle our hurt and angry feelings in a gracious and God-like manner? Not always easily I have to admit.

Recently I received a letter from a pastor that was the most vitriolic letter I had ever received from a church leader in over 40 years of ministry. It was over an extremely simple issue. In an advertisement in a pastor's magazine I had offered a free copy of my I Hate Witnessing book providing the recipient paid only for the postage. One pastor, after he received the book, accused me of extortion because I offered the book for free but requested he pay the postage. He added further nasty words about California Christians. He told me never to contact him or his church again! I don't get my feelings hurt very often, but I confess, this letter not only hurt my feelings, but it also ticked me off (triggered my anger).

So how did I respond? Not in a hurry as I know it is never wise to answer anyone when feeling hurt, upset and/or angry. I admit that I wanted to give this man a piece of my mind so when I was ready to reply, I had to pray that God would help me to be "as Jesus" to this man. I did reply and sent this man a copy of the ad where it was very clear in two places that the book was free providing the recipient pay only for the postage.

Before mailing the letter, however, I sat on it for a couple of days, and also had Joy, my wife, read it to make sure there wasn't any bitterness in what I had written.

The day before I wrote the first draft of this letter, I read the following timely quote from Leonard Hodgson who said: "Whenever pain is so borne as to be prevented from breeding bitterness or any other evil fruit, a contribution is made to rescuing God's creation from the devil's grip."

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, whenever I am hurt and feel unjustly criticized, please help me always to deal with my emotions in a creative way, never lash out and hurt back, and always be 'as Jesus' to the one who lashed out at me. And when the criticism is justified, please help me to accept it graciously and make changes wherever such is needed. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen.
 

RiverOL

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Wake-up Call
. . . faith apart from works is dead—James 2:26

Imagine yourself, for a moment, standing before our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Imagine feeling, at first, a bit apprehensive. Imagine lifting your eyes to his. Imagine his face, when you meet his gaze. Imagine his strength, his goodness. Imagine the sound of his voice as he, like the master in his Parable of the Talents, speaks these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:14-30). How would that feel—from the one who sacrificed his life for yours—that he’s pleased with the life you’ve lived?

Each of us has work to do before we actually stand face-to-face with Jesus. “He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing” (Ephesians 2:10 MSG). Like the servants in the parable, we’re too given resources for the Master’s work. They were given money; we’re given money too, but also time, energy, natural talents, spiritual gifts, and help from the Holy Spirit. We must waste these resources no more. We must spend them for his work—not just for ourselves.

We must also, though, check our hearts. Doing “good work” isn’t about earning our way into Heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9). Rather, it’s about trusting our Master and following him into a better kind of life.


Take a few minutes to list the extra resources you’ve been given. Write down everything you possibly have to give, just as you are, right where you are, right now. Next, pray and see if you can connect a person (or group of people), and a need, to each resource you’ve listed. What you’ll end up with is the beginnings of a roadmap toward Jesus’ kind of life.
 

RiverOL

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If you're thrown - admit it
For reading & meditation: Psalms 22:1-11
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (v.1)

We continue looking at the attitude of the psalmist, who does not hesitate to tell the truth about himself. As we saw, he admits that his feet had well-nigh slipped and his faith had almost gone. I find the psalmist's honesty both stimulating and refreshing, especially when compared to the tendency of many in today's Church to pretend that things are not as they are.

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said in one of his sermons: "I know of nothing in the spiritual life more discouraging than to meet the kind of person who seems to give the impression that he or she is always walking on the mountain top." I agree. You see, it is far more important to be honest than to appear to be the sort of person who is never thrown by problems. If you are not thrown, then fine; but if you are then admit it. But can't openness be a form of exhibitionism?

Yes, it can. Some people may confess to failure as a means of drawing attention to themselves. But I do not believe that this was the psalmist's motive, for quite clearly he wrote the psalm to glorify not himself but God. The pathway to spiritual growth begins when we realistically and honestly face up to the struggles that are going on inside us. If we are so concerned about developing or preserving pleasant feelings that we ignore the negative feelings within us or pretend that they are non-existent, then we end up demeaning ourselves. An honest look may involve a struggle, but there is more hope in that for growth than there is in pretence or denial.

Prayer:
O God, teach me to be unafraid to look at anything - myself included. Make me strong enough in You not to need the defences of pretence and denial. You are on the side of honesty; I am on its side too. Help me. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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Death? Who cares?
For reading & meditation: Job 21:1-9
"Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?" (v.7)

Before moving on, we pause to remind ourselves once more of the question with which the psalmist struggles in Psalm 73: Why is it that the wicked seem to prosper while the path of the righteous is beset by so many difficulties? Look now at how the psalmist views the condition of the ungodly: "They suffer no violent pangs in their death, but their strength is firm.

They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they smitten and plagued like other men. Therefore pride is about their neck as a chain; violence covers them as a garment - as a long, luxurious robe" (Psa. 73:4-6, Amplified Bible). What a graphic description this is of the person who has no time for God, yet goes on from day to day with few troubles. It is probably the most perfect picture in all literature of the so-called successful man of the world.

Note that the psalmist begins his description of the ungodly with a reference to the way they die: "They suffer no violent pangs in their death." Throughout time the notion has been universally present that a good life ends in a good death, but the psalmist makes the observation that in his experience the reverse is true. Have you not struggled with these same feelings whenever you have heard of a Christian dying in great agony while a non-Christian passes away peacefully in his sleep? What do you do with those feelings? Ignore them? Deny them? Repress them? Remember, it is only exposed problems that can be resolved. I say again, if you are not willing to face a problem, how can you go about getting it resolved?

Prayer:
O God, save me from denying the difficult problems and feelings I encounter in life. Help me understand that it is easier to deal with things when they are up and out than when they lie buried within. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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Why we are sometimes drained
For reading & meditation: Psalms 19:7-14
"' Clear me from hidden and unconscious faults." (v.12, Amplified Bible)

We said yesterday that exposed problems are the only ones that can be resolved. Is this just an interesting theory, or is it something that can be supported from Scripture? Let me see if I can convince you that this statement has a biblical basis. Come back with me to the Garden of Eden and think again about the questions which God put to the first human pair: "Where are you? ' Who told you that you were naked? ' What is this you have done?" (Gen. 3:9-13).

Does anyone believe that God needed to ask those questions in order to gain information for Himself? Of course not; being omniscient (that is, having all knowledge), He already knew what they had done. Then why did He put those searching personal questions to them? Surely the answer must be that the direct questions encouraged them to face something that they preferred not to look at. God knew that before the problem could be dealt with it must be brought out into the open.

Some people may think that by far the best way of dealing with unacceptable thoughts and feelings is to push them back into the unconscious but, as we are now seeing, that is a fallacy. Problems that are buried inside us rather than brought out into the light work to drain us of spiritual energy. It takes a lot of emotional energy to keep things repressed. This is why people who repeatedly use the defence of repression end up feeling overtired. Healthy people are those who, like the psalmist in Psalm 73, bring their thoughts and feelings into awareness - no matter how "unspiritual" those thoughts and feelings may appear to be.

Prayer:
Father, I now begin to see why You bring me face to face with so many disturbing questions, for You know the havoc that is wrought within when issues are ignored or denied. Help me face anything and everything. In Your Name. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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Think, man, think
For reading & meditation: Romans 12:1-8
"' be transformed by the renewing of your mind '" (v.2)

The second thing the psalmist learned about himself as he paused in self-examination was this: "I saw myself so stupid and so ignorant" (Psa. 73:22, TLB). There were things he knew which he had foolishly chosen to forget. He forgot that God was in control. He forgot the temporary nature of success and prosperity. He forgot the whole purpose of godly living.

He forgot that God always has the last word. If you and I react as the psalmist did to trials, then there is only one thing that can be said about us - we are stupid and ignorant. The third thing the psalmist learned about himself was that he had reacted like an animal - instinctively: "I was a brute beast before you" (Psa. 73:22b). What is the difference between a beast and a human being? A beast lacks the faculty of reason. It is unable to stand outside itself to consider itself and its actions.

An animal responds to any stimulus instinctively without any interval for thought. The psalmist had been doing that - he had failed to put an interval of thought between the stimulus and the response. Once he did stop to think, and put the situation in a different context, his negative feelings immediately dissolved. Is not this the value of the Scriptures? As we read them they reason with us. They tell us not to react instinctively to things, but to think them through. They give us a new framework for our understanding, a new context in which to reason. The more we draw our understanding from the Scriptures and learn to think God's thoughts after Him, the more secure and the more effective our lives become.

Prayer:
Father, I am grateful that You have made me with the ability to think. My thoughts can lead me astray or they can lead me to You. Help me to draw my thought patterns not from the world but from Your Word. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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What God’s Like
I believe; help my unbelief—Mark 9:24
What should we believe about God? We’re told he’s big and powerful—so big and so powerful, in fact, he created . . . everything (Colossians 1:16). We’re told he sees everything and knows everything and can do anything (Isaiah 55:9; Hebrews 4:13; Ephesians 3:20). We’re told it’s always been so (Psalm 90:1-2).

“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Revelation 1:8).

We're also told, despite his size and power, he cares about each of us (Matthew 10:29-31); he loves us, no matter what, even to the point of laying down his life for ours (John 3:16); he wants to spend time with us and for us to know him (Revelation 3:20); and he protects and helps us and never wavers (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

We should believe all that, but do we, really? Most of us, if we were honest, would confess much belief, but some unbelief too. That’s okay; God can handle it. As his followers, though, we can’t leave it there. We must seek to learn more about him. We must seek to reconcile our beliefs with who he says he is. You see, how we see him, what we believe about him, affects everything we do. The “most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do,” wrote A.W. Tozer, “but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”
Okay, so what do we do?

Search your heart and mind, rigorously and honestly. Identify areas of unbelief. Then, be bold. Bring them to God, in prayer. Ask for help. Ask him to teach you about himself. Ask him to help your unbelief.
 

RiverOL

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The roots of some perplexities
For reading & meditation: Isaiah 55:6-13
"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord." (v.8)

We continue examining the psalmist's graphic description of the so-called successful "man of the world": "Their eyes stand out with fatness, they have more than heart could wish, and the imaginations of their minds overflow with follies. They scoff and wickedly utter oppression; they speak loftily - from on high, maliciously and blasphemously. They set their mouths against and speak down from Heaven, and their tongue swaggers through the earth - invading even Heaven with blasphemy and smearing earth with slanders" (Psa. 73:7-9, Amplified Bible).

How perfectly these words describe the person who brazenly flaunts his arrogance and rides roughshod over the rights of others. Note the phrase, "their eyes stand out with fatness", or, as the International Bible Commentary puts it: "Their beady eyes bulged through folds of fat as they busily schemed. Superior and cynical, they engaged in malicious talk and threats." We see the same kind of people today -irreligious, self-centred men and women who live only for themselves and view God as an irrelevance.

Why does God allow them to get away with such attitudes and behaviour? Perplexing, isn't it? We must realise, however, that it is only perplexing because we are dealing with the ways of an eternal Being whose thoughts and designs are infinitely greater than our own - as the text at the top of this page clearly tells us. Think about this as you make your way through the day: half our perplexities would never arise if we were prepared not to understand immediately the things that God does or the things that God allows.

Prayer:
O Father, what unnecessary perplexities we carry within us because we try to trace the reasons that lie behind Your designs rather than just trust them. Help us in our quest for a more confident faith. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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Freedom and Responsibility

"Why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.' So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God."1

Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of England, said, "I remember being taught by my parents from my earliest childhood, that the one thing about being British was you did not have to be told what to do. You rose to your responsibilities and took the initiative. Religious belief played a fundamental part in shaping that character because, whether you take the Old Testament or the New Testament, it puts the emphasis on the dignity and responsibility of the individual. You are accountable because you have freedom."

We, too, have freedom which is a priceless privilege. However, some people, because of this freedom, seem to think they can do as they please both before man and God. As such they are not free, but are in bondage to their own selfishness and passions. They are also boundary busters with little or no respect for other peoples' person, property, or principles. They have confused liberty with license forgetting that the price of freedom is still eternal vigilance—which includes moral and ethical responsibility.

If we abuse our privileges, ultimately we lose them.

With freedom comes responsibility and with responsibility, accountability. We are accountable to our fellow man and above all we are accountable to God. As today's Scripture says, "For we must all stand before God's judgment seat … [and] each of us will give an account of himself to God."

Suggested Prayer; "Dear God, please help me to so live that I will always act responsibly, that my life will always bring glory to your name, and that I will not be ashamed when I stand before you face to face and give an account of how I lived my life here on earth. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
 

RiverOL

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Take and tell
For reading & meditation: John 20:10-18
"Go ' to my brothers and tell them '" (v.17)

Today, on this penultimate day of our meditations on Psalm 73, we face the important practical question: How do we go about the task of keeping close to God? Firstly, we do so by prayer. The person who keeps close to God is the one who is always talking to God. Many definitions of prayer have been given; I add another: prayer is co-operation with God. In prayer you align your desires, your will, your life to God. You and God become agreed on life desires, life purposes, life plans, and you work them out together.

Secondly, we do it by constant study of the Scriptures. God's Word is alive with meaning, and when you read it something will happen to you, for "the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb.4:12, NKJ). Expect it to speak to you - and it will. Faith is expectancy: "According to your faith will it be done to you" (Matt. 9:29). Remember also to surrender to the truth that is revealed: "If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know '" (John 7:17, NKJ). In a moral universe the key to knowledge is moral response. The moment we cease to obey, that moment the revelation ceases to reveal. We do it, thirdly, by sharing with others.

Remember, nothing is ours if we do not share it. When we share, the things go deeper inside us. We must share what God is doing, both with our fellow Christians and with non-Christians also. The psalmist's last words are these: "I will tell of all your deeds." We take and we tell - we take and we tell; these, we must never forget, are the two heartbeats of the Christian experience.

Prayer:
Gracious Father, I don't want nearness to You to be an occasional experience - I want it to be a perpetual experience. Help me to pay the price, no matter what it costs. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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Did You Spot the Gorilla?

"I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."1

Tony Whittaker wrote how a 30-second film shows six people playing basketball, three in white shirts and three in black. Volunteers are asked to count how many times the white shirt team passes the ball. At the end of the film, they are asked if they saw anything unusual. Most do not. The unusual thing is: halfway through the film, a man wearing a gorilla suit walks through the players, beats his chest to the camera, and then walks off.

"When shown the film again, people are utterly surprised to see him, to the extent that they often believe a different film has been substituted for the original one. Their focus on one task has blinded them to a truth.

"This film trick illustrates a simple fact—that if we are only looking for one thing, we do not usually see anything different. This forms the basis of Professor Richard Wiseman's new book, Did You Spot the Gorilla? How to Recognize Hidden Opportunities. The point at which people finally see the unexpected is what he calls a 'gorilla moment.'"2 Furthermore, so often in life people see only what they want to see and don't see what they don't want or need to see.

Have you had any "gorilla moments" lately? Have you seen God in your surroundings, in the love of those who love and accept you, in the myriad of blessings we all receive every day? And have you seen God in your present circumstances, or heard what he is trying to say to you in your disappointments, your financial setback, or your losses?

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to see and experience the wonder of your handiwork in all of nature as well as in the everyday issues of life. And above all, in the words of the songwriter, 'Open my eyes, Lord; I want to see Jesus, To reach out and touch Him and say that I love Him. Open my ears, Lord; help me to listen. Open my eyes, Lord; I want to see Jesus!'3 Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
 

RiverOL

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Reflections
For reading & meditation: Psalms 73
"But as for me, it is good to be near God '" (v.28)

A tinge of sadness is upon my spirit as I come to this last day of our meditations on Psalm 73. In all my years of writing, never can I remember being so personally blessed. The truth this psalm conveys has gripped my own heart and life in a most unusual way. Let's remind ourselves of what the psalmist has taught us. Life is filled with many painful and perplexing problems which at times cause us to cry out: "Lord, why don't You intervene?"

Yet just as our feet are about to slide, something always comes to us - an idea or a thought, which, if we hold on to it, serves to halt our downward progress. We discover that when we act responsibly and do what is right, even though we do not feel like it, we put ourselves in the way of experiencing inward change. But it is not God's purpose to bring about only a little change - He desires to bring about a lot of change. How does He achieve this?

He does it by bringing us into His presence and revealing to us His Word. There we discover that our greatest problems are not the ones that are outside us but the ones that are inside us - our perspectives are wrong. Real change comes about not when our feelings are soothed but when our thinking is changed. Changed thinking leads to changed desires. When our perspectives are controlled by the Word rather than by the world, then we will experience inner peace. The psalmist resolved to draw near to God and stay close to Him so that he could "see life steadily, and see it whole." Let's make that our resolution too.

Prayer:
O Father, I see that the secret of effective living is looking at life from Your point of view. I resolve by Your grace to give myself more and more to learning this secret. Help me, my Father. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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On the Light Side

"No one lights a lamp and hides it! Instead, he puts it on a lamp stand to give light to all who enter the room."1

Lieutenant John Eisenhower, son of the late General Dwight Eisenhower, was a member of his father's staff during Word War II. On one occasion General Eisenhower gave his son a message to deliver to a colonel on the front line.

The young lieutenant said to the colonel, "My dad says to watch your right flank." The puzzled officer replied, "Really? And what does your mommy say?"

Obviously the colonel didn't know who young Eisenhower was. Eisenhower didn't make himself known. He hid his light under a bushel as it were.

While we don't want to drop names or ride on somebody else's coattails, nor make any kind of an impact in our circle of influence, it is important that we are known for who we are—not by rank or title—but by our fruit.

That is, do people know that I'm a Christian—do they "see" Jesus in me—or do I just melt into the surrounding group in which I find myself, and thereby hide my light under a bushel?

No matter how small our light is, "All the darkness in the world cannot put out the light of one small candle."

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, help me to be as Jesus to someone today. Let them see your light shining through me. And in the words of the hymn writer, 'May your beauty rest upon me, As I seek the lost to win, And may they forget the channel, Seeing only Him [you].' Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus name, amen."
 

RiverOL

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Get Hold of This!
For reading & meditation - Romans 8:28-39""... we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."" (v. 28)

Before going on to examine some of the major ways in which life breaks us, we pause to review what we have been saying over these past few days. We said that while the same things may happen to us all, they do not have the same effect upon us all. Life's blows make some people querulous and bitter; others, they sweeten and refine. We also saw that the reason some respond to life positively and turn their problems into possibilities is because of right inner attitudes.

There are many non-Christians who put us to shame when it comes to the question of rightly responding to life, and it is high time, therefore, that we Christians got our philosophy of living sorted out once and for all. If, as the Scripture teaches, God will let nothing happen to one of His children without supplying the necessary grace to turn the stumbling block into a stepping stone, then we ought to be ahead of the world in demonstrating how to meet whatever life sends us with confidence and faith.

Be quite clear about this: no one can fully represent the Christian way of living until they commit themselves to believing that, though God may allow what appears to be a disaster in the life of one of His children, He does so only if He can turn it to good effect. If transformation is not possible, then God would never have allowed it to happen in the first place. So let this truth sink deep into your spirit - God only allows what He can use.

Prayer:
Father, I come to You now to ask that this truth be so impressed upon me during the weeks ahead that never again will I have to be reminded of it. For Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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Becoming Fast & Light
How can we who died to sin still live in it?—Romans 6:2
Imagine being fast and light when moving through this life. Imagine being free from things that weigh you down, hold you back. Imagine being free to roam, free to rest. Imagine being free from sin and shame and striving and worry and self-doubt. Imagine being free to love, free to slow down, free to go wherever God calls you to go and to do whatever God calls you to do.

Brother, that’s the kind of life our King, Jesus Christ, has made available—and to which he calls us now. If he hadn’t come, we wouldn’t be able to access it. The things that encumber us would become prisons too strong for us to escape. But our King did come. He kicked open the prison doors. He knocked down the prison walls. He did what we could never do. He set us free (Galatians 5:1). Now we must do our part.

Because we find ourselves without prison walls, we’ve got to stop acting like prisoners and lay down prisoner habits and prisoner beliefs (Hebrews 12:1). We must adopt the practices of free men, men who’re fast and light . . . able to live transparent lives, free from hiding and posing, free to confess struggles and sin openly in community . . . able to make decisions with our lives and our families that align with our King, though probably not with our culture . . . and able to stop and care and help and love people, especially those in need.


What weighs you down? What holds you back? Spend a moment praying and reflecting. Trust that God the Holy Spirit will guide your thoughts. Now, make two lists. On the left, name your top encumbrances—old sin habits, old beliefs. On the right, specify how you’ll commit to laying them down.
 

RiverOL

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Framework for generosity
For reading & meditation -Proverbs 11
"The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight." (v.1)

How do we go about establishing a framework for generosity? First - decide that nothing you possess is your own but that everything you have belongs to God. This puts God in His place and you in yours. You are now ready to manage His possessions, not as you like but as He likes. This is real freedom. It gives you a sense of accountability to another - God.

You get your life orders not from a whim, a notion, self-impulse or whatever takes your fancy, but from the One who saved you and redeemed you. Second - go over your life and see what belongs to your needs and what merely belongs to your wants. Your needs are important - God has promised to supply them - but your wants?

Ah, that is another thing. You need as much as will make you fit - spiritually, physically and mentally - for the purposes of God while you are here on the earth. Beyond that, what you have belongs to the needs of others. How do you decide what belongs to your needs? No one can decide it for you - though they can make suggestions - for you are accountable to God.

Go over your life item by item and ask Him for directions. Your family should figure prominently in your concerns, but you must check everything with the Lord. Third - fix it as an axiom in your mind that you will be generous to people, not for the good feelings that generosity brings, but because you are determined to bless them in some way. You must never be generous in order to get a blessing - you must be generous to be a blessing.

Prayer:
Father, I am thankful that the basis of my life is fixed in You and from that I am able to build a framework for generosity. From now on help me to give with all the stops out. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen
 

RiverOL

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The "Yes-but" Disease

"Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.'"1

In his weekly Character Counts series, Michael Josephson wrote, "Years ago I was talking to a group of Army generals about the way politicians often treat the defense budget as an all-purpose public works fund to help bring money into their districts. One general admitted, 'Yes, if the chairman of the Appropriations Committee comes from a place that makes trucks, we're probably going to buy those trucks. That's the way it is, the way it always was, and the way it always will be.'

"I suggested that it was a form of bribery to buy the trucks just to please the politician. The general barked, 'It's not bribery. It's extortion!'

"'Don't sound so powerless,' I replied. 'You're a GENERAL!'

"Without skipping a beat, he answered, 'Yeah, but I'm only a one-star.'"2

How many times do you and I make the "Yeah, but…" excuse to avoid personal responsibility? And how many times do we try to make it sound like we are agreeing with someone by saying, "Yes, but …" when all the time we are meaning "No"?

It's a thought worth pondering … and a practice worth dropping.

As Edward Everett Hale said, "It's true I am only one, but I am one. And the fact that I can't do everything will not prevent me from doing what I can do."

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please deliver me from the 'yes, but' disease and help me to become an ethical, responsible person remembering that character does count. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
 

RiverOL

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Choose to Forgive
Proverbs 17
"He who covers over an offense promotes love ..." (v. 9)

Jesus gives us stern and uncompromising warnings about forgiveness. But if forgiveness is so important and yet so difficult, how do we go about it? We must do several things. First, we must not try to minimize or dismiss the offense as if it never happened. If it hurts, then we must face it and feel it. A common misconception that keeps people from forgiving is that they think in order to forgive they must come to the place where they look upon the things done to them as being really not that bad.

That is excusing, not forgiving. C. S. Lewis says: "Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it. That, and only that, is forgiveness." Second, we must see that forgiveness is not an emotional thing (though it can affect the emotions), but a matter of the will. It is making the decision that the wrong done against you will not count or cause a separation.

In making that decision, remember you have all the resources of God available to you. This applies not just to minor matters like snubs, but major matters like divorce. The task of forgiving must be more than a match for the magnitude of the pain involved. Our text today makes clear that a choice is involved. No matter how we are wronged, we can choose out of a desire for love to forgive.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, You looked into the eyes of those who hammered You to a cross and cried: "Father, forgive them." Help me do the same when I am confronted with lesser injury or hurt. For Your own dear Name's sake. Amen
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Bring Life into Alignment
. . . get out there and walk
. . . on the road God called you to travel—Ephesians 4:1-3

A steel beam has integrity when its purpose, its design, its manufacture, and its use are aligned. Said another way, to have integrity a beam must be designed and manufactured for a specific purpose—and it must actually be used toward that purpose. We can count on a beam like that, even to bear a heavy and important load, because all its existence is in alignment.

Though considerably more complex and wondrous, obviously, than a steel beam, we humans need alignment too, to have that kind of integrity. You see, God designs and builds us for specific purposes:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

God gives us natural talents and spiritual gifts and hearts with unique passions. And he shapes us further by our individual journeys. So, for each of us, our purposes, our design, and the way we’re built are always aligned. God does that. Unlike the beam, however, he allows us to choose our uses. He allows us to choose how we spend our lives. If we ask and search, listen and discover what he had in mind when he dreamt us up and knit us together—and then allow ourselves to be used in the ways he intends—we bring our lives into full alignment. If we strike out on our own, though, and follow the world’s “oughts” into other uses altogether, we commit ourselves to living lives of misalignment.


Start small and be practical. Come up with a short-term project that requires your unique skills and abilities, your unique spiritual gifts (if you know them), and your unique passions. Choose something with significance—i.e., it helps others. Then, don’t wait. Get going on it.
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Victim - or victor?
For reading & meditation - Ephesians 1:11-23
"' the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might '" (vv.19-20, RSV)

Permit me to ask you: What will the obstacles and opposition you meet do to you today? Will they make you bitter, or will they make you better? The last word is not with them, but with you. If your own concerns and interests are well and truly "dead", and you are committed to pursuing God's purposes, then the issue is not so much what your circumstances will do to you, but what you will do to your circumstances.

The Christian who understands this has the power to say to life - do your worst, I have the resources to take every negative and turn it into a positive. Nothing successfully opposes the believer whose life is hidden with Christ in God. Jesus once faced great opposition in His ministry: "They were filled with madness, and began to discuss with one another what they should do to Jesus" (Luke 6:11, Weymouth).

Here was opposition in its most terrifying form. What did Jesus do? Listen again to the Weymouth translation: "About that time He went out ' into the hill country to pray" (v.12). Prayer, that powerful means of communicating with God and controlling, not so much the situation as the outcome of the situation, made Jesus, not a victim, but a victor. One of the major purposes of God seems to be that of producing character in His children. Not their ease, not their happiness - except as a by-product - but their character. And how is character produced? One way it is produced is through overcoming difficulties. So don't groan at the obstacles and opposition that face you today - grow in them. They help to sharpen your character - and your wits!

Prayer: O God, forgive me that so often I cry to You for tasks equal to my powers. Help me to pray instead for power equal to my tasks. I ask this, not for my sake, but for Yours. Amen.
 
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