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But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides. —Matthew 6:33
Too often we spend all of our time seeking God for answers to our problems when what we should be doing is just seeking God.
As long as we are seeking God, we are staying in the secret place, under the shadow of His wing. Psalm 91:4 says, "Under His wings shall you trust and find refuge." But when we start seeking answers to all the problems and situations that confront us, trying to fulfill our desires rather than God's will, we get out from under the shadow of His wing.
For many years I sought God about how I could get my ministry to grow. The result was that it stayed just the same as it was. It never grew. Sometimes it even went backward. What I didn't realize was that all I needed to do was to seek the kingdom of God, and He would add the growth.
Do you realize that you don't even have to worry about your own spiritual growth? All you need to do is seek the Kingdom, and you will grow. Seek God, abide in Him, and He will cause increase and growth.
A baby just drinks milk and grows. All you and I have to do is desire the sincere milk of the Word, and we will grow (see 1 peter 2:2). We can never experience any real measure of success by our own human effort. Instead, we must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; then all these other things we need will be added to us.
Jesus said] When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it roams through waterless places in search [of a place] of rest (release, refreshment, ease); and finding none it says, I will go back to my house from which I came. And when it arrives, it finds [the place] swept and put in order and furnished and decorated. And it goes and brings other spirits, seven [of them], more evil than itself, and they enter in, settle down, and dwell there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first. —Luke 11:24-26
This word from Jesus can be frightening. His purpose for the warning is not to cause us to cringe and worry about unclean spirits coming back. It's a warning to tell us that it's not enough to get rid of wrong thoughts-we must keep the door locked so our enemy can't return. Not only does evil come back, but it comes back worse than before.
I once read an article about diets, and the author said that most people who diet actually lose weight-until they stop dieting. Then they regain the weight they lost and about 5 percent more. When they stop working at the problem, they not only stop losing, but they're worse than before they started. The author went on to say that the only way to win the battle of being overweight is to make a lifestyle change by becoming aware of the danger areas and guarding ourselves against making wrong choices.
It works that way spiritually; as well. One way to keep wrong thoughts out of your mind is to keep the mind active and alert and full of right things. You can cast out the devil, but then you must remain alert, always aware of his tricks.
As I point out in my book Battlefield of the Mind, there are aggressive sins (or sins of commission) and there are passive sins (sins of omission). That is, there are things we do that hurt a relationship, such as speaking careless words. But it is just as true that we hurt relationships by the omission of kind words, those thoughtful words that express appreciation, affection, or awareness of kind deeds others have done.
When confronted, passive individuals yell, "But I didn't do anything!" That's exactly the point. It's what they don't do. Their lack of action actually invites the devil back into their lives.
That's a strong statement, so I will say it a different way. You can win any time you take action and push away the thoughts and desires that don't come from God. You may do this on your own through prayer, reading the Bible, or even by resisting the passivity that may be natural for you. But once you've been set free, that's only the beginning. It's not just one victory that lasts forever. It's an ongoing battle-it's constantly rebuking the devil.
The best, easiest, and most effective way to rebuke the devil is to fill your mind and your heart with praises to God. When you worship and praise God, you've slammed the door in the enemy's face and put up a "No Trespassing" sign.
I don't want to make it sound as if you have to fight demons every second of your life. That's a trick of the devil himself to make you think like that. But when you fill your life with praise and positive, healthy thoughts, you can live in victory.
Please read this verse again-aloud-and hear the message of the Holy Spirit: "Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don't ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise" (Philippians 4:8 CEV).
Victory over passivity is just that simple: Focus your mind on the good and you will have no space left for the passive or the bad.
God, thank You for showing me the way to win over passivity and live in victory every day. In the name of Jesus, I ask You to remind me each day so that I can fill my mind and heart with only worthy thoughts. Amen.
Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. —Hebrews 12:11 NKJV
When God is chastening or dealing with you, endure it. Don't try to get away from it because God chastens us just as a loving father chas¬tens his children. Notice in today's verse that God's chastening brings "the peaceable fruit of righteousness" into your life (italics mine).
I have peace in my life now for only one reason. I have endured the chastening of the Lord (see Deut. 8:5). I've let God do what He wanted to do in my life. I let Him show me that I was prideful, haughty, obnoxious, selfish, self-centered, and hard to get along with. I've let Him show me these things because the truth about our behavior will set us free (see John 8:32).
It's not easy to endure that kind of godly chastisement. God won't let us off the potter's wheel until He's ready. It doesn't matter how tired we get of going around and around. God is the Potter and we're the clay, and He is going to make what He knows we can be.
Staying in bondage is much harder than enduring the chastisement of God. Had I not been willing to endure the chastisement of God, I'd still be back in the same old mess I was in thirty-something years ago. Allowing God to deal with you may not be comfortable or fun or easy. But He only chastises you when absolutely necessary and only for your good because He loves you. Love yourself by submitting to the work He wants to do in your life.
Love Yourself Today: Is God dealing with you in a certain area? Don't resist; let Him do it and see what good results from it.
And [as to His divine nature] according to the Spirit of holiness was openly designated the Son of God in power [in a striking, triumphant and miraculous manner] by His resurrection from the dead, even Jesus Christ our Lord (the Messiah, the Anointed One). —Romans 1:4
Today's verse refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Holiness. He is called by this name because He is the holiness of God and because it is His job to work that holiness in everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as Savior.
God wants and instructs us to be holy (see 1 Peter 1:15–16). He would never tell us to be holy without giving us the help we need to make us that way. An unholy spirit could never make us holy. So God sends His Spirit into our hearts to do a complete and thorough work in us.
In Philippians 1:6, Paul teaches us that God, Who began a good work in us, is well able to complete that work and bring it to its finish. The Holy Spirit will continue to work in us as long as we are alive on this Earth. God hates sin, and anytime He finds it in us, He quickly works to cleanse us of it.
This fact alone explains why we need the Holy Spirit living inside of us. He is there not only to lead and guide us through this life, but also to immediately work in cooperation with the Father to remove from us anything that is displeasing to Him. He will both speak to us about the things that need to change so we can grow in holiness and empower us to make the changes we need to make.
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Be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides]. —Ephesians 6:10
Do you know what happens when you spend time with God? You begin to act like David when he faced the giant Goliath. You begin to take a stand and demand of the enemy, "Who do you think you are to defy the army of the living God?" (see 1 Samuel 17:26). As soldiers of the cross, you and I are not supposed to be afraid of our enemy, the devil.
When a spirit of fear comes along, rather than shaking like a leaf, we are to be as bold as a lion. The devil comes against those who are doing damage to his kingdom, those who are doing something for God. How do we withstand the devil? By putting on the full armor of God, taking up the shield of faith, by which we can quench all his fiery darts, and by wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (see Ephesians 6:13-17).
But all of that armor and all of those weapons come from spending time in fellowship with the Lord. Ephesians 6:10 actually begins this discourse on the armor of God, saying, "Be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]." To me, that says, "Be strong through your fellowship with God." Then verse 11 goes on to say, "Put on God's whole armor." Only after being strengthened in fellowship can we properly wear the armor.
God made a covenant with Abraham, that He would bless him, and cause him to be a blessing to others (see Genesis 12:2). You too are an heir to the true riches of God (see James 1:9). As you mature spiritually and are able to handle your inheritance, God wants you to have an abundance to bless others in His name.
Before you get involved with your daily routine today, seek God and feed your soul with His truth for your life. Experiencing God will cause you to imitate His goodness, and prosper in His abundance.
The LORD's light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive. —Proverbs 20:27 NLT
I like to define a motive as "the why behind the what." A motive is the reason we do what we do. We often say we are doing things for God, but sometimes we do not understand why we do them. We only know what we are doing, but we have not taken the time to truly understand why.
Impure motives can cause many problems, one of which is being overcommitted, which results in unnecessary stress in our lives. Surely we won't live with extreme stress if we are obeying God and doing only what He wants us to do. Never agree to do something in order to impress people or because you fear what they may think or say about you if you don't. God wants us to help and bless people, but a "good work" done with a wrong motive is no longer a good work. Don't say yes with your mouth if your heart is screaming no.
Take the motive test as often as you can. Begin to ask yourself questions that will help you assess your motives, such as:
Why did I agree to serve on that committee?
Why did I say I would lead the missions group at church? Do I really have a heart for evangelism and a longing to serve God, or do I want people to talk about what a good church member I am, or am I afraid of what they will say if I do not agree to help?
Why do I really want that promotion at work so much? Is it motivated by God or worldly ambition?
As you evaluate your motives, you will begin to see what is in your heart. Pass the test by making sure your motives are pure and right before God—even if that means changing the "what." The motive test is a lifelong test. I frequently reevaluate my motives and discontinue things I find I am doing for the wrong reason, and that helps me keep my priorities in order.
Trust in HimTake a look at why you are doing what you are doing. Trusting God will help you keep your priorities in order and give you the freedom to do only what He wants you to do, which is essential to living a stress-free life.
A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken. . . . A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. —Proverbs 15:13; 17:22
Most women are concerned about their looks, and a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks instantly. Ziggy said, "A smile is a facelift that is in everyone's price range."
When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling; live your life in such a way that when you die, you will be smiling and everyone else will be crying.
You may be familiar with Joel Osteen, a pastor from Houston, Texas. He not only pastors the largest church in the United States, but he is also on television in many parts of the world. Joel is known as "the smiling preacher." He literally smiles all the time. I have eaten with him several times, and I am still trying to figure out how he can eat and smile at the same time, but he does it. He is a great pastor and teacher of God's Word, but I believe one of the main things that helps his popularity is his smile. People want to feel better, and anytime we smile at them it helps them do that. A smile reassures people and puts them at ease.
Lord, Your love and grace bring the deepest happiness to my heart. I receive it from You, and I ask You to pour it out to others through my smiles and care. Amen.
Man's steps are ordered by the Lord. How then can a man understand his way? —Proverbs 20:24
When Dave and I sensed God calling us to begin a television ministry, we began to take steps in that direction by faith. We could not do it without money, so the first thing we did was write to the people on our mailing list, asking friends and ministry partners to give financially toward helping us start a television ministry. We felt God had spoken to our hearts concerning a certain amount of money we would need to begin, and that amount is exactly what we received.
We then took another step. We needed a producer and God provided. A man had applied for a job as a television producer three months before God spoke to us about being on television. Since we were not on television we told him we would not need his services. When the time came, we remembered that man and realized that God had met our need before we even knew we had one.
The next step we took was to buy time on a few stations once a week. As the programs paid for themselves and we saw good fruit from them, we bought more time. Eventually we went on daily television and now have a daily program that airs around the world and, prayerfully, is helping millions of people.
God led Dave and me one step at a time and that is how He will lead you. Every time we took a step of faith, God gave us favor, and I encourage you to expect favor also. God already knows your needs and He has your answer, so when fear knocks on your door, answer with faith and you will do great things.
God . . . is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]. —Ephesians 3:20
When I pray about or simply meditate on all the people who are hurting, I have a strong desire to help them all. I sometimes feel that my desire is bigger than my ability, and it is—but it is not bigger than God's ability! When the thing we are facing in our lives or ministries looms so big in our eyes that our mind goes"tilt," we need to think in the spirit.
In the natural, many things are impossible. But in the supernatural, spiritual realm, with God nothing is impossible. God wants us to believe for great things, make big plans, and expect Him to do things so great it leaves us with our mouths hanging open in awe. James 4:2 tells us we have not because we ask not! We can be bold in our asking.
Sometimes in my meetings people will approach the altar for prayer and sheepishly ask if they can request two things. I tell them they can ask God for all they want to, as long as they trust Him to do it His way, in His timing. It is untold what people can do—people who don't appear to be able to do anything.
God does not usually call people who are capable. If He did, He would not get the glory. He frequently chooses those who, in the natural, feel as if they are in completely over their heads but who are ready to stand up on the inside and take bold steps of faith as they get direction from God. We usually want to wait until we "feel ready" before we step out, but if we feel ready then we tend to lean on ourselves instead of on God.
Know your weaknesses and know God—know His strength and faithfulness. Above all else, don't be a quitter.
For who has known or understood the mind (the counsels and purposes) of the Lord so as to guide and instruct Him and give Him knowledge? But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart. —I Corinthians 2:16
In 1 Corinthians 2:16 we are told we have the mind of Christ. This statement overwhelms many people. If these were not the words of the Bible, they wouldn’t even believe it. But Paul was not saying we’re perfect or we’ll never fail. He was telling us that we can think spiritual thoughts because Christ is alive within us. Thankfully, we no longer have to think the way we once did; we can begin to think as He did.
Another way to look this is to point to the promise God spoke through Ezekiel: “A new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Your mind, heart, and spirit are new in Christ. You are growing spiritually and becoming more like Him each day-that’s something to be thankful for!
Prayer of Thanks Thank You, Father, that You have given me the mind of Christ. I no longer have to dwell on anxious, fearful, insecure thoughts. Because of Jesus, my mind is renewed and I can think positive, joyful, faith-filled thoughts about my life.
You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. —Isaiah 26:3
We may not always get things our way in life, but we can trust that God’s way is better. God is a good God, and He said that He has good things planned for His children: “For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
We do not have to be afraid of harm, because God is not an ogre; He is not mean. He is good. We can rejoice with thanksgiving, knowing that everything good in life comes from God. He wants us to trust Him, and when we take a step of faith to do so, we will see the goodness of God manifested in our lives. The more we surrender, the better life becomes.
Prayer of Thanks Father, when I find myself disappointed by my circumstances, help me to remember that You are in control. I thank you that Your plan for my life is so much better than my own plan. I trust You and Your direction for my life.
Blessed and happy and enviably fortunate and spiritually prosperous (in the state in which the born-again child of God enjoys and finds satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of his outward conditions) are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake (for being and doing right), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven! —Matthew 5:10
In our world today most people compromise rather than take a stand for what is right. Jesus said we would be persecuted for righteousness' sake, and most people are not up for that. Jesus also promised a reward; however, the majority of people want reward without commitment. If we do what God has asked us to do, we will get what He promised us we could have. Salvation is free, and its only condition is to"believe," but the benefits of being a Christian do come with conditions. God simply said, "If you will, I will." Most Christians live far below their God-ordained destiny and privileges because they compromise rather than take a stand.
Take a stand. If you are the only one you know who is willing to do what is right, it may be a lonely walk, there may be persecution along the way, but the rewards are worth it. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you lived your life fully and completely and refused to let fear be your master.
Lord, I am willing to join with You and stand up for what I know is right. My destiny lies with You, and I choose Your kingdom above all. Amen.
That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you. —2 Timothy 1:6
In your spiritual life, you are either aggressively moving forward or slipping backward. Either you grow, or you start to die. There is no such thing as dormant Christianity. It is vital and essential to keep pressing on.
In this passage of Scripture Timothy needed some encouragement. Paul strongly encouraged him to get back on track, remember the call on his life, resist fear, and remember that God had not given him "the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1: 7 KJV). If you find you are feeling stagnant or slipping back into old patterns of thought and behavior, stir up the gift that is within you tonight and press forward in Him.