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TOO BLESSED TO BE STRESSED CHALLENGE 7/1 THRU 12/30, 2013
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April- One Minute Daily Devotions
Topic Started: Apr 1 2013, 03:56 AM (695 Views)
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from right from the heart ministries

Monday, Apr. 1, 2013
Aprils' Fool
"The fool says in his heart,'There is no God.'" - Psalm 53:1a NIV

Today is a day known as April Fools' Day, which got me thinking. Did you know that April Fools’ Day is a holiday that is celebrated in many countries? The custom of playing practical jokes on friends has been part of our traditional celebration dating as far back as ancient Rome. It is said to be related to the vernal equinox and the coming of spring - the time when nature fools us with the sudden changes between showers and sunshine.

So, it's nothing new that people like to play tricks on each other. “Oh, look, you’ve got a bug in your coffee.” "Oh no, come and look - someone just ran into your car!" We all seem to love to "prank" each other. But, small prank, big prank, either way, when you fall for it, you hear the phrase “April Fool!" It can be anything from silly to just plain embarrassing!

But, by far the most foolish thing that one can do is to go through life without Jesus. We need Him as a friend and Savior. We need Him to be the center of our lives. Don’t be an April Fool or any other kind of fool! As the scripture says, "Fools die for lack of judgment." Have good judgment and keep Jesus beside you each and every day!
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Tuesday, Apr. 2, 2013
The After Easter Weeks
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” - 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV

We traveled the unknown road leading up to Easter. We wept on Good Friday, pondered through Silent Saturday, and exuberantly rejoiced on Easter Sunday.

And now we live in the After Easter Weeks. We will attend a funeral soon. A friend is still hospitalized with cancer and another family is in the throes of confusion and sadness because their runaway daughter shows no sign of change. A husband is walking out the door from his wife and children.

Jesus walked and talked with his friends for over a month after His miraculous resurrection. With few exceptions, we are not privy to His words and actions. What we are sure of is that Jesus spoke two profound words which overflowed with both hope and challenge: wait and go. His disciples and friends needed to wait for the promised Holy Spirit power and then go to a hungry, broken world with the resurrection message.

It is no different for us. Through grace and by faith we are filled with the Holy Spirit and we are commissioned to go. We live in the After Easter Weeks until He returns.

So now is the time to go and tell. Begin the journey on the road with Jesus right beside you. You will never be the same.
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Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2013
Embrace Your Trials!
"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." - 1 Peter 1:7 KJV

Sometimes when we are in the midst of trials we start to wonder — Lord, will it ever end? In case you haven't noticed, it doesn't. But the good news is that with each faith-testing experience, our ability to deal with these trials and tribulations becomes better and our faith grows stronger!

In this scripture, God compares our faith to a most precious and beautiful metal — gold. But when mined, this precious metal doesn't look very precious! It's dirty looking and black. How does gold become beautiful? A refiner takes the gold and carefully melts it in a melting pot — slowly raising the temperature — but never to the point where it boils. As it melts, slowly the impurities rise to the surface and he will scoop away the dross leaving a beautiful pot of gold, ready to become your next ring or bracelet. Here's the amazing part. The refiner knows his job is done when he can look into the melting pot and see a reflection of himself.

The only way gold will become more precious is when it's placed on the fire! In the same way, the impurities of our lives must be exposed to the fire so that the Lord can scoop up the filth that shows itself when we get hot!! Notice, though, that He'll never allow us to boil! And then, when it's all said and done, He can look upon us and see the beauty of His reflection!

Let's not despise the trials we're facing today — on the contrary, let's embrace them! The Lord is using these things to prepare us to do great things for Him! Respond to the Lord today by saying what do you want me to learn from this today, Lord? And watch how the Lord blesses you through the fire!
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Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life.” - James 1:12 NIV

All of us want things to go our way all the time, but we have to admit that life doesn't work like that. Hard times come. Relationships are damaged. Financial worries plague us. There are even times of war. Yes, the clouds and the storms really do come.

Jesus said, "In this world, you will have trouble." But the good news is, He didn't stop there. He also said, "Take heart. I have overcome the world." Yes, trouble is a fact of life. But Jesus has given us a means of finding victory - the real victory - even in hard times.

Won't you allow Him to provide all you need to face the good times and the bad? He's willing and able to provide triumph, even when things look the darkest. Put your trust in Jesus Christ and you'll find the ability, not only to endure your trials, but to be stronger because of them.
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The Red Hammer And The Sickle
"Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts." - Hebrews 4:7

Over this past weekend, I watched a program that took us back through many truly amazing times in the history of our world. One of the most poignant visuals was on Christmas Day 1991. The world watched as the Soviet Union's leader resigned and the Communist red hammer and sickle flag was lowered for the last time, marking the end of over 70 years of repression and 45 years of Soviet-American conflict.

God's sense of timing is perfect. He must have chuckled on that Christmas as He watched the very government which tried to destroy Christianity for more than seventy years officially end on Christmas Day.

My friends, God is in control of all of history. His plans are sure. His timing is perfect - from the birth of His Son, to the end of the Soviet Union on Christmas Day. And one day, in His perfect timing, Jesus will return. The way history is moving, it won't be long. Let us all be ready for His coming by walking in God's will every day, through faith in Christ.
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"Anyone who is among the living has hope - even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!" - Ecclesiastes 9:4 NAS

We spend a lot of time reaching out to students, parents, and to adults in general. I was thinking today - what about you teachers? What a job you have! And everywhere you turn, you are constantly bombarded with more and more rules you must follow. Such an important role you play in all of our lives, yet you have one of the most thankless jobs anywhere.

Do you ever feel that there is no hope for you or possibly no hope for one of your students? Hopefully, this scripture will remind you that where there is life, there is hope. As you teach longer, you may think your productive classroom years are behind you. Maybe your accomplishments seem so small and you're wishing you had done more. The students you did not reach, and the students who never cared probably haunt your memories. Even your victories may seem insignificant.

Well, let me tell you something. You are WRONG! God has purpose for your existence. He designed you to teach. Your place of employment and/or job assignment may change through the years, but you will always have purpose. You need to discover God’s purpose in each day and pursue it with all your might. Too often we all seek the "big picture" before we start the puzzle. But, often God asks us to place each piece of our puzzle before Him daily and He will bring the big picture into focus in His time. Frustrating, I know, but it's the truth.

Set God's work and His love as your goal and press toward it with all your might. Only in eternity will you know how valuable yesterday's class was in His Kingdom and what today's plans will accomplish. Live today to its fullest. The secret to success is purpose and perseverance. God will lead you if you will follow.

Thank you for teaching and loving our kids. God bless Teachers!
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God's Influence In Your Life Shows
“Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and princes. Because of his great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire. Then the other administrators and princes began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling his affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize. He was faithful and honest and always responsible.” - Daniel 6:3-4 NLT

The quality of our character grows in proportion to the time we spend in God’s presence and in His Word. While Daniel couldn't wait for his moments alone with God, others spent their time trying to find fault with him. But they couldn't. Daniel was a man who spent quality time with God. His outward life was a direct reflection of the time he diligently spent in the presence of God. So it is with us.

It is impossible to spend quality time with God and not be changed. Jesus exemplified this for us. He was a man of prayer who continually spent hours alone with God. Whether trudging into the wilderness at dawn or speedily boarding a ship, Jesus knew that apart from His Father He could do nothing. Accordingly, if we desire to live the life Christ has for us then we must do the same. As we continue to spend time in His Word, we cultivate the very character of Christ. Jesus said it like this, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you...you shall bear much fruit.”

My desire is to grow progressively in the likeness of Jesus. His presence and His Word are the only two ingredients that cause us to live as He did. The more influence we allow, the greater our character. Let His presence and His Word be our greatest priority in this life.
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What Would Your Wish Be?
"So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil." - 1 Kings 3:9

When I was a kid, a bunch of us guys would sit around and ask each other the question, "Okay, you get one wish. What is it?"

I would sit there smirking under my breath while others said obvious things like, lots of money, a big house, or a motorcycle. Then, finally it was my turn and, of course, being the really smart kid I thought I was, I'd say, "I'd wish for unlimited wishes!" Boy, did I feel like the king of the hill! Great wish, huh? Sadly, looking back, it simply revealed how selfish I was.

Years ago God said to Israel's young King Solomon, "Ask whatever you wish Me to give you." What an offer! Solomon chose "wisdom to lead and discernment between good and evil." God was pleased, knowing he could have asked for wealth or long life. So God granted his wish and gave him a wealthy, long life.

Asking God for wisdom is a wise request indeed, for so often with wisdom comes great success and the respect of others. The world is drawn to people who are wise. Remember, God and His Word are the best sources of wisdom.

If I ever have another chance to play that game, I know what my wish would be today! How about you?
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Spring Break
"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” - Matthew 21:28b NIV

This is Spring Break for a lot of teens from our church and the surrounding area. Many have chosen to go on a mission trip. Some go to the beach or some other vacation destination. But if you're the parent of a teen who is staying home, here are a few tips to share with them that can not only keep them occupied, but can enrich their lives in many ways:

1. Start a Devotional
There are plenty of devotionals geared toward Christian teens, and this is a great time to get started on a new one.

2. Volunteer
Giving back to others can be the biggest reward, and Spring Break is a wonderful time to do that giving. Join an outreach team or contact someone to volunteer. Volunteer possibilities are endless.

3. Read a Book
If you are a reader, you have the free time to immerse yourself in your favorite authors' books. Head to the library or the bookstore to pick one up.

4. Try Something New
Got something that you wish you had time to try? For some, the "something new" can be an adventure like rock climbing. For others it could involve learning to sew or cook. Take the time this week to learn a new skill or try a new activity.

5. Just "Veg"
Many Christian teens are busy people during the school year. Between school, school activities, homework, church, youth group activities, and more, a student's life can be pretty non-stop. Take time during your Spring Break to actually take a break.

6. Family Time
Many Christian teens get so busy that they are lucky to have time to eat a meal with their families when school is in session. Try to fit in some time to relax and "hang out" with your family members.

7. Pray
Are there some burning items you wish you could focus on more in your prayer times? Make a list of the things you wish you could spend more time praying about and devote some significant break time in prayer about those things.

Whatever you do, remember that God doesn't take breaks. He's always there when you need Him!
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What a Man Wants
“…as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” - Ephesians 5:24

Wives, do you often find yourself wishing that you could figure out what your husbands want? Do they want looks, devotion, or smarts? Of course, every guy is different, but many wives are clueless about what their husbands need the most. They often make the mistake of thinking that his greatest need is like hers - the need for romantic love. Well, he may want that, too, but the husband’s greatest need is for respect. This is how God has wired him. So wives, how can you live this out? Here are a few clues:

Praise: Build him up in a world where he often gets beaten down. Just think how much you like to hear the words,”I love you,” and praise him just that much and more.

Seek to be his best friend: With his wife, he needs support not competition. Men as a whole, are not as relational and verbal as women.

Have a willingness to follow his lead. You’re kidding! In the 21st century you want me to follow his lead?

Well, if this makes you mad, argue with God, not me. It’s His Book. This is how you really respect your husband. When he senses this, it’s amazing how much he will strive to please you and respect what you have to say.
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What a Woman Wants
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church…” - Ephesians 5:25

A few years back, there was a successful movie entitled What Women Want. Starring actor, Mel Gibson, after an accident, this chauvinistic executive gains the ability to hear what women are really thinking. The movie proceeds to show him that what women really want is to be loved, noticed and feel secure. Strangely enough, it was not terribly far from the truth.

Dr. James Dobson was asked, “Why are men so insensitive to women’s needs today?”

He answered, “I question whether men have really changed all that much. I doubt if men ever responded as women preferred. Did the farmer of a century ago come in from the fields to say, ‘Tell me how it went with the kids today?' No. He was as oblivious to his wife’s nature then as husbands are today.”

So, men, if you’re struggling to meet your wife’s needs, the Bible gives a few tips as to what they need:

Physical affection. Not just sex, but a tender touch-a few hugs all through the day.

Security. A wife desires a sense of security, physically, financially and emotionally.

Understanding. This means listening more than telling her what to do.

To think she’s beautiful. She needs reassurance in a society of constant comparison.

Spiritual leadership. Not dictatorships, but servant leadership, like Christ for His church.

These are what a wife needs most from her husband.
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The Bondage Of Lying
"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body." - Ephesians 4:25 NIV

Lying has become a pervasive problem. Have you fallen into the habit? Many Christians do not look on lying as the grievous sin that it is. I’m going to be honest with you: there are people who would never attend a dirty movie, but they will lie at the drop of a hat.

It seems that today's "me first" mindset places very little value on honesty and personal integrity. Truth is sacrificed on the altar of self-advancement. At the time, you may think that lying will make your life easier, but one lie almost always requires another and another and another. You have to remember everything you said to keep from confusing your lies. But when you tell the truth, you don't have to remember what you said. That makes life a lot less complicated!

I’ve known Christian women who were fanatical about dressing modestly, and yet they think nothing to manipulate a situation using untruths. Spouses lie to one another in the name of keeping the peace, parents lie to their own children and vice versa, employers and employees just the same. Advertisers lie to sell products. Politicians lie in order to spin things their way.

Which life have you created for yourself?

There's only one way to break the bondage of a lie, and that's with the truth. Seek to live with integrity and honesty and you'll find new freedom for living. How? The truth is found in Jesus Christ. Find Him, and find the truth, the power, and strength to become a person of integrity.
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The Ultimate Judge
"Therefore, anyone of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself sense you, the judge, do the same thing." - Romans 2:1 NIV

Jesus Christ, in His ministry on the earth was a master, really a genius, at painting word pictures in ways that even a child could understand. And in what is referred to as "The Sermon on the Mount," He was gathered before thousands along the Sea of Galilee and He painted a word picture about judging others.

He said something like this: "When you see someone with a speck (a little piece of dust- maybe a little grain of something) in their eye, and you go to them to try and get that speck out of their eye, and you’ve got a log in your own, well—you look like an idiot." Now, He didn’t use the words, "You look like an idiot," but what He was seeking to communicate in painting the word picture is that we do look like idiots when we seek to judge others for what may be even a minor flaw in them, when we have a major flaw of sin in our life.

Jesus tells us, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” In other words, the way you judge others is the way that God is going to judge you. When a person genuinely feels like they are basically good and are morally superior than those around them, or those they see or read about in the news, that's a classic sign of a person that is far from God. Because the closer we come to Christ, the more we’re aware of our own sinfulness. The further we are from God, the more we feel that we are basically good.

So, does that describe you? Is that really how you feel deep down inside? If the answer is yes, it's time for you to seek forgiveness and ask God to show you how you can let go of those thoughts of superiority and let Him be the judge. Because He is, you know - the ultimate judge - and jury.
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You Have Heard - Did You Listen?
"He who hast the Son, Jesus, has life, eternal life. He who does not have the Son does not have eternal life." - 1 John 5:12 NIV

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Me.” So, what happens to those who die without actually hearing of the salvation found in Christ? It is a difficult question to answer, but with what Jesus said, it couldn’t be clearer. Because of that, the church is given a mandate; we’re to take the gospel to every tribe and nation.

But what about those who never have a chance to hear because the church simply has not completed its job yet? The Bible says the person that has never been able to hear of Jesus is still going to be responsible for responding to God with the natural revelation of God that they have received (Romans 1:20). Now how God does this, I don’t know. Yet, we know that God, who has sacrificed His Son for our salvation, wants us to receive that salvation. And He is going to be fair, and just, and loving. We must trust Him to make the right decision for those who have never heard. We know He will do the right thing.

But as for you – you have heard - did you listen? Because those who have heard are without excuse. Be sure you choose Jesus – because He truly is the only way to God.
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The Light Of His Cross
"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." - Matthew 5:16 NIV

For the lucky residents of the Southern Hemisphere, or those fortunate enough to enjoy a vacation in Hawaii or Cancun, there’s a stellar delight that few Northerners know about. It’s called the Southern Cross, a small but beautiful constellation located in the southern sky, very close to the neighboring constellation of Centaurus.

Unfortunately, while the Southern Cross is one of the most recognizable features in the skies of the Southern Hemisphere, because of the increase in the amount of artificial light in places like Sydney, Australia, the Southern Cross is beginning to appear fainter and less distinctive in the sky, as though it is becoming invisible.

How like the lives of many who claim to be Christians. The influence of the world on the ethical and moral standards is so great that the truth as found in the Bible is becoming harder to see. Where once we were light in the darkness, now some of our light has faded into obscurity, no longer seen in a world filled with darkness.

But it doesn't have to be that way. If you call yourself a Christian, let me ask you a question. Is the Light of Christ, the Light of His Cross, shining through your life? Or is it really non-existent - invisible to others? Don't allow your light to vanish without having a positive influence for Christ.
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Don't Take Your Eyes Off Of Him!
“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” - Psalm 119:10

When the disciples were in trouble during a storm, Peter was able to walk on water when he kept his eyes on Jesus. Then the problems of this world drew him away-and he sank.

It's still true today. I love this story - you may have read it before, but it so beautifully illustrates the need to keep our eyes on Jesus:

Walking through freshly fallen snow, a father wanted to teach his son a key lesson in life. He said, “Son, I’m going to walk to that tree fifty feet ahead in a perfectly straight line. Then I want you to do the same.”

The father walked to the tree. He turned to look at his son and they both observed the perfectly straight tracks in the snow. Not wanting to fail the test, the son looked at his father and began to walk. He looked down at his steps and veered to the left. He looked up and corrected his course. He looked down again. He veered to the right and had to correct his course once more.

Arriving at the tree, his tracks told the story of his failure.

His father explained, “Son, as long as you focused on me, your tracks were straight. The moment you took your eyes off me, you got off track. The key is keeping your eyes on the goal.”

So it is in life. There is one primary goal and if it becomes the heart and focus of your life it will be the key to eternal success. That goal is following the Lord. If we are to have a strong walk with Christ Jesus, we have to look to Him as the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. We have to look to Him and not take our eyes off Him. We take our eyes off Him when we are lured in by the weight and sin of the world which clings so closely. Keep your eyes on Him, and He will keep you right on track to where you need to go.
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Face To Face With Death
"For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." - Philippians 1:21

I've never really been afraid of planes, so I was a pretty happy guy when all of the sudden, the plane on which I was flying started dropping out of the sky - five people in a twin-engine Cessna. It all happened so fast. The right engine had gone out, and then the left followed. We knew that within a minute or two we would crash. You've heard the saying the your life flashes in front of your eyes - well, that's true. Fear for myself was quickly overcome by the thought that my wife might have to go on without her husband. And our three-month-old son? Would he have to grow up without a father?

I prayed that God would guide the pilot in bringing us down. Still, I knew the ground was quickly coming closer and closer. Amazingly, in a way I can't explain, a peace came over me, a sureness that I would be okay whether I lived or died, because I knew Christ.

We crashed in a rice field. Part of the left wing broke off and we belly-flopped and spun to a stop. We all looked up and couldn't believe it - we all walked away unharmed - a miracle, for sure! But the greater miracle for me was to be face-to-face with death and unafraid. That meant everything.

If you were in my seat that day, how would you have felt? Would you have that inexplicable peace that only comes from God? The good news is, with Jesus Christ, we can face death knowing that whether we live or die - we live!
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A Truly Repentant Heart
"I hate, (says God- I hate) I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." - Amos 5:21-24 NAS

So NOW, they wanted God’s help! The economy had gone south and their crops were not fruitful. They only gave God their leftovers. They had turned against God and His will for their lives. And the children of Israel couldn’t understand why God wasn’t coming through for them. Really!

Sound familiar? The economy has gone south. Jobs have been lost. Marriages ruined. You ever find yourself asking, “Hey, God, I’m going to church on Sunday, I’m singing Your praises, I'm a good person, so why haven’t things turned around for me?” Never mind that I’m cheating on my income taxes. Or that I’m feasting on pornography. Or that I’m mistreating my children."

I’ve got news for you: we cannot buy God’s favor with our offerings. We do not impress Him with an emotional, weeping, passionate worship, if our lifestyle doesn’t show a heart for God. He is far more concerned with our obedience than with our emotional worship. In fact, He won’t even ACCEPT our offerings or our songs of worship unless our hearts are truly repentant and our lives are following Jesus.

So, I ask you… where is your heart?
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How Do We Spot False Prophets?
"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep." - 2 Peter 2:1-3 NAS

Did you know that one of the “signs” of the return of Jesus is an increase in false prophets? Oh, sure, there have been false prophets in every single generation, but look around! They're everywhere, and some of the false teachings are sprinkled with enough truth that it's hard to tell the difference.

Take the “Health and Wealth” or “Prosperity Theology” and the thousands of preachers saying you give to God in order to get. It really should be called “The Gospel of Greed.” Or, if you really pray hard enough, God will heal your disease. Give money to this or that ministry and you’ll get rich. It’s this false idea that God won’t let you suffer and wants you to be rich. That is heresy.

Other false prophets say that there are no absolute truths; that Christ is just a man; that the Bible is not true and always trustworthy. And as awful as it is, we shouldn’t be surprised about this. Jesus and God’s Word tells us to expect it.

So, how can you keep from being deceived by a false prophet or leader? The key is in knowing Jesus and His Word. Then ask these very important three questions:

Would Jesus say that?
Would Jesus do that?
Is what this person is saying consistent with Jesus and His Word?

If you’re a Christian, you have an added bonus: the Holy Spirit that dwells in you teaches you how to understand the Word and gives you a check in your spirit when something doesn’t ring true. But you have to be listening! Just make sure you're listening to the Him and not to the prophets that want to tickle your ears with false teachings. For you see, even Christians can be deceived. Don't let that happen to you.
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God Knows Your Heart
“I have sinned against the Lord…” - 2 Samuel 12:13 NIV

Even though most Christians would agree that being accepted as a child of God has nothing to do with works, it's often hard for all of us not to resort to that way of thinking - especially when we look at OTHER people. Adultery. Murder. Abuse of power. Don't these things seem like they would create a permanent wall between a person and God? Even more, would they be performed by someone who holds a special place in God's heart?

Well, thankfully for King David (and for us), the answer to that question is a resounding "Yes!" Surprisingly, the Bible shows us that King David was a man who found special favor with God, even though he was guilty of all those things. But the Bible also shows us that David recognized his mistakes and called them what they were - sins against God. He asked God's forgiveness and then committed himself to living God's way.

Even though we may not have done the same things that David did, we have all sinned. God's Word says, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." He died to pay the penalty for our sins and to offer us forgiveness.

When you mess up, confess your sin to God just like David did. I think knowing about David's sins and God's forgiveness actually give us hope for our own lives. Ask for God's forgiveness and for strength to resist sin in the future. Anything you say won't be a surprise to Him. He knows everything and He knows your heart. He is the only answer to man's ultimate problem of sin.
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Shipwrecked And Feeling Like A Fool
"...he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes." - John 12:35b NIV

Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas cowboys said, "The thrill of knowing Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened to me...I think God has put me in a very special place, and He expects me to use it to His glory in everything I do...whether coaching football or talking to the press, I'm always a Christian...Christ is first, family second and football third."

What a wonderful man of God! Well, Tom is now in heaven, watching his team from the best seat in the house! But before he died, he told a great story of the captain of a battleship who, in the middle of the night, saw the light of another ship coming directly at him. The captain radioed the oncoming ship and said, "Turn south immediately."

The response was, "You turn south immediately."

The captain was furious. He radioed back, "This is a battleship. I command you to turn south immediately."

The response was, "This is the lighthouse. You turn south immediately."

I imagine that captain felt pretty ridiculous. But are we any better? Often we have an attitude just like that captain's. We are arrogant towards God and mankind. We expect others to get out of our way, and we ignore God's guidance for living our life. Then, suddenly, we find ourselves shipwrecked and feeling like fools.

Jesus Christ is the Lighthouse trying to warn us of danger, and lead us to safety. I encourage you to trust Christ and be willing to follow His leadership in your life. He will keep you out of a lot of trouble.
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The Real You
“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection…” - Philippians 3:10

Have you noticed that we all tend to think a lot about ourselves? I suppose, when you get right down to it, that makes sense, because the person we spend the most time with is our self.

I ask you: Do you really like yourself? Would you rather be somebody else? Are you realistic about your strengths and weaknesses?

Socrates gets credit for saying, "Know thyself," even though what he really said, was, "the unexamined life is not worth living." Either way, the message is clear. Knowing ourselves is a key to a meaningful life.

Let me go a step further. Since God is your Creator and He knows you better than anyone, why don't you get to know God personally and then you'll get to know yourself--the real you--better than you ever could on your own. God gives us the way to know Him through Jesus and His Word. If you get to know Him, you'll come to know yourself and why you're here. You'll be on the road to a very meaningful life.
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Can Love Be Defined?
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8 NAS

Love.

How often we use the word and what does it mean? Can love really be defined?

We love warm weather. We love our husband or wife. We love our college football team. We love the latest fashion trend. We love chocolate. We speak the word in our most tender moments and then use it to describe our feelings about a flavor of ice cream.

Do you know that you are loved? Really loved?

The God who created all of life defines love. He IS love. And He loves you even if you don't love Him in return. He doesn't wait for you to demonstrate your love for Him. He loves you first. He clearly demonstrated His love through Jesus Christ, especially when Christ gave His life for us.

Over the next few days, try to notice how many times the word "love" is used in casual conversation. Each time you hear it, think about the love of God - real love. Think of how much He loves you and begin to experience His love. When you begin to know His love, you'll be amazed at the joy in your life.
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I Hope To See You There
"I say to you, that many shall come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 8:11 KJV

Ever been to a family reunion? If you have, you know that they can be a lot of fun or total misery. Just how many times can you hear that same old story from Uncle Billy? Or what about that relative who doesn't like you, no matter what you do? Well, whether a reunion is good or bad depends on you, members of your family, or both.

But I'm here to tell you that a family reunion can be really, really great! I want to tell you about the ultimate family reunion - one that we'll all want to attend.

I'm speaking of what happens when Christians die. Not only do we get to be with Christ, we also get to be with those who have died in Christ before us and are enjoying the eternal family reunion in heaven - a reunion where everyone gets along. Won't that be something?

Well, it won't be if you miss it!

The good news is that we can be sure we make the ultimate family reunion by believing and knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. And when we step over from this life to the next, He'll welcome us home with the greatest family reunion we can imagine.

I'm looking forward to that ultimate family reunion. I hope to see you there one day.
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How To Defend The Truth In God's Word
"'You surely will not die,' the serpent said to the woman. 'For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'" - Genesis 3:4-5 NIV

Sadly, there are a lot of "religious" folks out there who espouse what may actually sound reasonable, because they quote from the Bible. But the problem is, these false prophets will take a verse out of context and base their whole theology around it. While this is sometimes done unintentionally, there are some that will twist a few words on purpose, resulting in an interpretation bearing no resemblance to God's actual message.

This is an effective technique that the devil has mastered well. Think about the consequences for mankind when the devil twisted God's words in the Garden of Eden! And remember how Satan tried to tempt Jesus in the beginning of His ministry? He twisted the word of God just a little bit, making it seem that He was saying the exact opposite of the actual meaning. He uses just a smattering of truth to make what he says seem legit. What deception!

How can you defend against these ridiculous distortions of God's Word? First, study the Scriptures - here are a few suggestions that might help:

1. Always study Scripture in light of Scripture.
2. Study the Old Testament in light of the New Testament.
3. Study the Gospels in light of the Epistles of Paul (beginning in Romans), so that you can have the theological and doctrinal understanding of the life of Christ, why He came, and what He's all about. You want to study a verse in the context of the chapter, and in the context of the book.

The more you study the Bible, the easier it will be to defend yourself from false - or ignorant - prophets, and the more you will understand the truths that God wants to impart to us all.
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Can't I Worship God On The Lake?
"Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." - Hebrews 10:23-25 NLT

One of the things I'm often asked is whether or not you have to go to church to be a Christian. I love what Billy Graham says: "Being in church no more makes you a Christian than being in a garage makes you a car."

No, you do not have to go to church to be a Christian, but attending church serves a three-fold purpose to help us to grow in our faith.

To worship with other believers.
Church is a place of Christian fellowship, and lone ranger Christians don't do well in the journey of faith.
Church is a place where we can use our gifts in service and ministry.

While you don't have to come to church to be a Christian, failure to attend retards your spiritual growth. But not only that, not attending your church is just plain selfish, because it denies sharing your spiritual gifts with fellow believers. And when we're not in church, we miss out on the rich fellowship of other meaningful relationships with believers.

Yes, you can worship God out on the lake, or on the golf course. But doing so only takes from the creation of God. We miss out on the encouragement of others and we miss out on them being encouraged by us. While you do not have to be in church to be a Christian, it is certainly the place where you are needed and where the committed Christian wants to be.
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Mary's Response To Grace
"Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.'" - Luke 7:39 NIV

"Well, it's just a matter of perspective." Have you ever heard or said that? We know that to be true, because Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are all basically telling the same story, but each book was written from the perspective of different men.

Speaking of perspective, picture the scene: Jesus had been invited to dinner by some of the prestigious religious leaders in town. It was not really a social courtesy, but they wanted to quiz Him and find out where He was coming from - they were checking Him out! And then, just after the first course was served, a young, beautiful woman enters, drops to the ground beside Jesus, weeping so much that she actually uses her tears to wash his feet, wiping them with her hair.

I can just picture the Pharisees, jaws dropped to the floor, eyes the size of saucers. What do you think was going through their minds? The woman was of questionable reputation. Men of good reputation would never allow this! But those Pharisees - they're like a lot of good church folks who are quick to judge known sinners while being blind to their own sin. Sound familiar?

But this woman had a great appreciation for Jesus because she was keenly aware of the immoral life she had lived. She was overcome by the forgiveness Christ offered her. So there she was, her hair wet with tears, washing the feet of Jesus in an act of pure worship and gratitude.

Two very different responses to Jesus. Two very different perspectives. With whom do you most identify?

The religious moralists who felt they were right with God by their outward righteousness?

Or the sinful woman who knew she deserved God's judgment and was surprise by His grace?
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The Fatherhood Manual
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart." - Colossians 3:21 NAS

Most dads have the fear that they won't measure up - that they will fail to be what a father should be.

Sadly, as guys, we often will skip the manual, figuring we can wing it … but when things go wrong, it’s nice to have that manual to go back to. Well, there is a manual and we certainly don't need to skip it! So, if you're a dad looking for a little help in being a good father, one particular verse from the Bible really helps: "Fathers, don't provoke your children, instead bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord:"

1. Don't provoke your children. That means don't make unrealistic demands. Don't crush their spirit by being aloof or overly strict. Every child has a fragile psyche that needs to be built up, not torn down.

2. Bring them up in discipline. Discipline should be fair and consistent. They need to know the boundaries and know there are negative consequences if they ignore them. This gives children security and helps them know they are loved.

3. ...and the instruction of the Lord. Discipline precedes instruction--any good teacher knows that. But discipline without instruction exasperates children. They need Dad to teach them right from wrong, and to do it with love.

It's not easy being a good dad but we surely do have a great model in our Heavenly Father, revealed to us through Jesus.
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