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“Supermarket behavior” is fascinating to watch. It seems as though people change when they enter the door, get their cart, and begin to walk through the aisles with searching eyes
The cart becomes a very special “space” that will eventually be filled with various items for particular purposes and various – even strange – needs. We would consider someone strange or weird if they met us at the door and said, “Here, take my cart and fill it with whatever you think I want, and I’ll meet you at the check-out area.”
Often, however, we do that with our minds. We become careless with what we read, what we watch, what or who we listen to, or what we think about. It can be dangerous, just as it would be dangerous if we allowed some stranger to fill our shopping cart with unwholesome “trash.”
We are warned in Proverbs to “guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your life.” In the Bible, the heart is the “keeper” of our feelings and thoughts, it guides our decisions, and provides solutions for our problems. The heart is critical in the battle between wisdom and foolishness, righteousness and evil. That’s why it is so important for us to set “boundaries” or “guards” around our heads and hearts. We must control the content that goes in or is kept out of our “carts” – our heads and hearts – or we will end up with poisons that kill.
Prayer: Help us, Father, to be very careful about the things that enter into our minds, and then control our lives. Guard our thoughts so that our minds avoid sinful thoughts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your life.
SEIZE THE MOMENT!
A young, unemployed musician had spent weeks walking the streets of New York looking for work. One afternoon he walked into a theater, sat in the front row watching the organist closely. Finally, the organist stood up and left the stage for a break. At that moment he jumped up, ran to the organ, sat down on the bench and started to play an inspiring blues song.
Immediately, the owner ran onto the stage and began to reprimand him for what he had done. But the crowd began cheering loudly and clapping wildly. As he listened to the response of the audience, he realized what had happened, turned to the musician and said, “Want a job?”
“Yes!” said Count Basie and the career of one of the world’s most recognized musicians began at that moment.
God often presents a “once in a lifetime” opportunity for us to use the talents He has given us. It may be in the least expected place at the most unusual time. But opportunities come and go. And when they come, we must be ready and willing to accept them for they are God at work in our lives, calling us to work with Him to achieve His purpose in the world. He will always give us the talents to do what He has called us to do. But, we must be ready to “accept the challenge” when the moment of opportunity comes and honor His calling on our lives.
Prayer: Lord, open our eyes, ears, and hearts to recognize and accept the opportunities for serving You that You set before us. Help us to use our gifts to serve You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Psalm 90:17 And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!
SALVATION AND CHANGE
“Never trust Tom. I did and he disappointed me. Not only once, but twice!” said his employer.
“But why should I not trust him?” his friend asked.
“People never change. Once a thief, always a thief! Once a liar, always a liar,” he raged.
But that is not always true.
Few people were more despised than the tax collectors in Jesus’ day. The Romans were attempting to establish a world empire, and it was a costly venture. They needed money!
To accomplish their goal, they levied heavy taxes on all of the nations that were under their control. Without the tax collectors, the Empire could not survive. So, it was no surprise that the people were shocked when Jesus went to the home of Zacchaeus. How could someone as honest as Jesus associate with such a dishonest thief and liar as Zacchaeus?
However, when confronted by Jesus, he realized his sins and shortcomings and that he needed to straighten out his life. And he did! “Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor. If I have cheated anyone of anything, I will pay him back four times.” And he did.
The new birth brings new behaviors. When God changes the inside, people will see it by the way we act on the outside. No change on the outside? No change on the inside.
Prayer: Forgive us, Father, if we claim to be born again but continue to live sinful lives. May we repent now, give our hearts and lives to You, and become “new creations in Christ!” Amen.
Scripture For Today:Psalm 90:17 And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!
Years ago I fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams when I visited Yellowstone National Park. Many of my friends who had visited the park told me of the majesty and power of the geysers as they exploded into the air, sending steam and spray skyward.
The geyser that fascinated me the most, however, was not the largest geyser, nor the smallest geyser, nor did it spout water higher than the other geysers. It is the world’s most famous geyser: Old Faithful! Its fame is found in its name because of its faithfulness.
There are times when we envy others for the power and prestige associated with their names or the skills and talents that God has given them. Perhaps we envy them because of their fame and notoriety. We man even resent them for the things that they can do and the things we cannot do. We become angry with God for blessing them more than we think He has blest us. We become filled with jealousy and bitterness and believe that God has “His favorites.” Not true! He gives us each of the talents we need to do what He has designed for us to do. It is not about His favorites but about our faithfulness.
In the final analysis, it’s never about favorites but about our being faithful to Him, to do what He has called us to do with the talents and gifts He has given us. “He who is faithful,” scripture reminds us, “will be given the Crown of Life.”
Prayer: We ask, Father, that no matter what You call us to be or do, we will remain faithful to You at all times and in all places. Give us courage and commitment! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Revelation 2:10 But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.
Years ago Ben Franklin Stores were a major, successful retail chain. Many of their customers came from rural areas to shop for their needs. One observant employee overheard some customers describing the difficult time they had in getting to one of the stores to shop. He discussed the problem with Franklin and recommended to him that he open some stores in rural areas. When his suggestion was rejected, he resigned and began building stores closer to the people.
As a result of his vision, Sam Walton’s name is known around the world and Wal-Mart stores are everywhere. He did not expect people to come to him. So, he went to the people!
One day Jesus said to Simon, “Now, go out where it is deeper and let down your nets and catch some fish.” Initially, Simon was hesitant, saying that he and his co-workers had already tried that and it did not work. Then, after thinking for a moment, he said to His Lord, “But if You say so, I’ll let them down again.” And when he followed the advice of Jesus, the results were simply amazing.
Jesus left a command for each of us to obey: “Go into the world and make disciples!” Fish never come to the fisherman – the fishermen always go where the fish are. Skepticism and disobedience to Christ’s command have ended many opportunities to reach out to win the lost. Like Sam Walton, we must go to the people with God’s message of love, mercy, grace, salvation, and hope.
Prayer: Father, may we reach beyond our homes, our churches, and “our world,” to find those whom You love and died for. May we do all that we can to win the lost. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Luke 5:1-11 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.
PLANNING FOR SUCCESS
Early in life, Michael Johnson was taught how to plan for success. Each time he would share his dreams with his father, he was asked, “How do you plan to do that?” He was then expected to list each step involved in reaching his goals, research everything that was involved to accomplish his goals, and list every step involved in attaining his goals. Life was all about “the goals!”
When he became a sprinter, he applied the same rules to running. As a result of his goal-setting skills, his careful planning, and extensive training, he won four gold medals as a sprinter in the Olympics. After his victorious achievements, he was “crowned” the world champion sprinter eight times and still holds two world records. In the world of running, everyone acknowledges his success.
For the Christian, success is victorious living and honoring God with the gifts He has given us. We must take our goals and plans to God and ask for His blessings on them. We must make certain that they are deeply rooted in God’s Word, that He can empower them with His blessings, have integrity and honesty, and be consistent with God’s will for our lives and His world. There is a vast difference in worldly success and Godly success, however. Godly success comes to the Christian when we honor Him in everything we do. And, we can be assured that we are honoring Him when He blesses our lives for being faithful to Him. We may never set any world records or receive a single one of this world’s medals, but we will inherit the “Crown of Life” if we are faithful.
Prayer: Lord, may we always set goals and make plans that You can bless. May we strive to honor You in all that we do. May each achievement in our lives be blest by You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Leaving church one Sunday morning, a husband and wife said to the pastor, “That was a great sermon, one of your very best. I only wish that our neighbors had been here with us. Everything you said applied specifically to them. They needed to hear it, not us!”
Far too many individuals come to church with a shield or sieve, not a wagon or wheelbarrow. Instead of taking the message with them and applying it to their lives, they deflect anything that applies to them or allow only little bits and pieces of carefully sifted material to enter their minds or hearts.
One of the important parts of a healthy lifestyle is an annual physical examination by a physician. It is designed as an “early warning system” to detect any life-threatening disease. Many times illnesses can be stopped immediately and effectively before it becomes deadly.
That is why we need a Scriptural check-up, using God’s Word as the “standard” of our Spiritual health. Paul wrote, “Examine yourselves…test yourselves” – with His word as the measure – to see if you are truly living a God-honoring, Spirit-filled, Christian life. A Scriptural checkup done daily will help us to recognize “which direction we are growing.” There must be an awareness of Christ’s presence and power in our lives by the way we are living and how we are honoring God. If we are not getting closer to God every day, we are moving farther away from Him. It’s one way or the other – either/or. It cannot be both!
Prayer: Help us, Father, to be honest with ourselves about the “condition” of our salvation and our relationship with You. May we be true Christians, not imposters. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.
A fierce storm was raging. It was dark and cold, and Jim’s mother was busy cleaning the kitchen. Nearing the end of her work, she said, “Please go outside and get me the mop, would you?”
“But Mom,” he pleaded, “I’m afraid of the dark.”
“Don’t be afraid, son,” she said. “Jesus is there to help you.”
He opened the door, peered into the darkness, stuck one hand outside and said, “Jesus, would you please hand me the mop?” Is that really one of Jesus’ responsibilities?
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul said, “I can do everything with the help of Christ.” Most of us wonder what he meant by “everything.” So, it’s fair to ask: what did he mean?
As we live in Christ, with Christ, through Christ, and for Christ, we can do “everything” with the help of Christ as long as we are doing His will: following His teachings and being obedient to His commands. His power is always available and His strength is certainly sufficient to meet, face and overcome any challenge that may confront us. But we must abide in His Word, be obedient to His teachings, and follow the directions He gives us in His Word.
Prayer: Father, we know that we can do everything You have called us to do with Your help. Be with us, empower us, and enable us to be faithful and obedient to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Philippians 4:1 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
MAKING DIFFICULT DECISIONS
President McKinley was having a difficult time making a decision between two qualified candidates for a key position in his cabinet. He labored long and hard knowing that his decision would affect the nation and the world.
One evening he boarded a crowded streetcar on his way home. After finding a seat he noticed one of the men he was considering for the position seated near the entrance. At the next stop, an elderly lady with a large cumbersome package struggled to get onboard.
The candidate for the position turned his eyes, pretending that he did not see the lady who was having a difficult time. He kept his seat while he looked out the window as though she did not exist. The president not only helped her with her package, but he also gave her his seat.
The next morning McKinley made his decision. The man’s lack of kindness eliminated him from further consideration, and the other man received the appointment.
God is aware of every decision we make and how we live because it reflects who we are and what is important to us. Paul said: “be kind, tenderhearted, and loving toward one another.”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, make us aware of our decisions and deeds. What we do for and to and with others reflects our love for You. May our deeds always bless others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
KNOWING AND DOING
Two men were enjoying the annual church golf tournament. While waiting for their turn, one said to the other, “There are times when I would like to ask God why He allows hunger and poverty to exist. If He is all-powerful, why doesn’t He do something about it?”
“Well,” asked his friend, “why don’t you ask Him?”
“Because,” he answered, “I’m afraid He might ask me the same question.”
Many believe that we only sin when we do what we know is wrong: by not obeying the Word of God, its commands, and teachings. Not so, writes James. Listen carefully…
“Sin,” said James, “is also not doing what we know to be the right thing to do.” We would all agree that it is a sin to disregard and break the Ten Commandments. But it is also a sin if someone speaks evil of a brother or sister and remain silent. We sin if we do not speak up on behalf of others when they are being harmed by gossip and greed. God also expects us to do kind acts, serve those in need, be good stewards of His gifts, and protect others the way He protects us. Someday we will be judged by our standard of giving not our standard of living.
Prayer: Help us, Lord, to do what we know is right, to avoid what we know is wrong, and always honor You as Your son honored us. May we follow His example each day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: James 4:17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.