For God’s Blessing, Put Him First
by Rick Warren
“You should live in a way that proves you belong to the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:12 GW)
The Kingdom of God is a present reality. It’s what we’re to be doing on the earth right now. The power of God is the present resource. It’s the energy you get to do what God wants you to do once you’re surrendered and submitted to his will.God’s glory is the reason.
It’s not the reality or the resource. It is the present reason for everything. It’s all for God’s glory.Romans 11:36 says, “
You were made for more than survival. You will never find fulfillment in life until you begin to live in God’s Kingdom, by God’s power, and for God’s glory.How do you live a fulfilled life — the kind of life that you were designed by God to live?The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 2:12, “You should live in a way that proves you belong to the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (GW).
What does it mean to live in God’s Kingdom? It means you make God’s agenda your agenda. You make God’s will your will. You care about what God cares about. Whatever you want God to bless, put him first in that area.
What does it mean to put God first in your life? I made up a little acrostic, FIRST, to give you five things you need to put God first in.Finances. If you want God to bless your finances, even during a recession, you must tithe. Sorry! There’s no other alternative.Interests. Put him first in your hobbies, your career, and your recreation. Give God first consideration in every decision.Relationships. Put him first in your family, your marriage, and your friendships.Schedule. That means you give him the first part of every day. You get up and sit on the side of your bed every morning and say, “God if I don’t get anything else done today, I just want to love you a little bit more and know you a little bit better.”Troubles. You need to turn to God first when you have a problem. Prayer should never be your last resort. It should be your first choice.
Talk It Over
What do you need to change so that God is first in your finances, interests, relationships, and schedule?
What is your first reaction to trouble?
How can you develop a habit of prayer in your life?
Speak Words of Life and Health
‘Gentle words cause life and health…’ Proverbs 15:4 TLBJames writes, ‘If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.’ (James 1:26 NIV) The poet wrote, ‘Oh I say the things that I never should, just want to be heard or I never would. Talk on and on and know it’s wrong; the trouble is, my tongue’s too long.’ So how can you control your tongue’s negative propensity? Engage it positively. How?
(1) Be an encourager! ‘Gentle words cause life and health.’ Your words can help a hopeless person keep on living and motivate a sick loved one to fight illness and become whole. Encouragers are God’s frontline against defeat, despair and depression!
(2) Speak the truth in love. Saying what needs to be heard is often hard, but being a friend requires saying difficult things. ‘Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.’ (Proverbs 27:6 NLT) Truth spoken in love can release people from their delusions, misperceptions and inflexibility to live free, productive lives. (John 8:32)
(3)Ask God for the right words. ‘The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable…’ (Proverbs 10:32 NAS) How do you know what words the hearer will accept? Let God be your guide.
(4) Make your words life-giving. ‘The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.’ (Proverbs 13:14 NIV) The people you meet need words that turn them from spiritual death to eternal life. So today, speak words of life and health.
Hope in God, Not Your Bank Account
by Rick Warren
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV)
The only thing in all of creation that worries is human beings. Plants don’t worry. Animals don’t worry. Only human beings act as if we don’t have a heavenly Father. When you worry about your finances, you’re basically saying, “I think God is a liar. I don’t really think he will meet my needs.” But God will, if you meet the conditions.
When I was a kid, I’d go to my dad and say, “Dad, I need some money.” Not once when I was growing up did I ever wonder, “Where is he going to get it?” It’s kind of an unwritten rule: Dads make it, and kids spend it. Kids never wonder, “Where is my dad going to get this money?” I never worried about it.
Worry is really a form of atheism. Every time you worry, you’re basically saying, “I don’t believe there’s a God who is going to take care of me.” If you’re a Christian and you worry, you’re acting like an orphan. You’re acting like you don’t have a heavenly Father who has already promised over and over again in Scripture, “I will meet your needs if you will obey me and do what I tell you to do.” Trust forces you to live by faith.
Worry is a warning light. Every time you worry about your finances, it’s a warning that you doubt that God loves you and will take care of you. We always get into trouble when we doubt God’s love. Always.
Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (NLT).
As long as you love anything more than God, that thing is going to be a source of anxiety. There was one thing meant for first place in your life, and it’s not your family. Anything you put first in your life besides God will create anxiety, because that thing can always be lost.
Your bank account is not your security, no matter how big it gets. The Bible says in 1 Timothy 6:17, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (NIV).
Put your hope in God, because he will assume responsibility for your needs if you’ll trust him.
Talk It Over
Is there anything that you love more than God? Is your answer obvious to everyone else by the way you live your life?
In times of economic recession or financial need, in what or whom do you put your hope?
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‘The weapons we fight with…demolish strongholds.’ 2 Corinthians 10:4 NIV
In Bible times when an attack was launched against a city, a first strategy was to bring in a battering ram, demolish the gates and defeat the inhabitants. Today you are at war with Satan! Only when you recognise that, is victory possible. And the good news is: ‘The weapons we fight with…have…power to demolish strongholds.’ But you must ‘Put on the whole armour of God…’ (Ephesians 6:11 NKJV) It’s not something you pick up and wear when you feel like it. And you’ve got to keep it on, because the enemy never lets up. He wants you to think he’s equal with God. He’s not! God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent; He can do anything, anywhere, anytime. No question, Satan is a formidable foe, but there are limits on what he’s permitted to do (Job 1:12). Your mind is Command Central; it’s where victory or defeat is decided. Paul told the Corinthians, ‘I fear, lest…your minds…be corrupted…’ (2 Corinthians 11:3 NKJV) Satan knows Christ’s return is imminent and he’s ratcheting up the opposition (Revelation 12:12).
The way you win the battle is through:
(1) Praise, the garment that protects you (Isaiah 61:3).
(2) Abiding in Christ, your source of spiritual growth and fruitfulness (John 15:8-10).
(3) God’s Word, it’s ‘…living…active…sharper than any two-edged sword…’ (Hebrews 4:12 NAS), and it’s designed to defeat the enemy. When Satan comes against you, combat his lies with what God says.
(4) Walking in love toward others. It’s impossible to be victorious when you’re wrapped up in yourself.
‘Our struggle is…against…spiritual forces…’ Ephesians 6:12 NAS
When the first plane hit the World Trade Center in September 2001, we thought it was accidental. When another plane hit it, we knew New York was under attack. Dr. Robert Jeffress says: ‘Knowing the source of the problem is crucial…a navigational accident demands one response. A hostile strike requires a completely different strategy. Every day our world is invaded by what we consider random events. Couples divorce, so we develop marriage guidance; drug use increases, so we educate our children to just say no; pornography among Christians rises, so we organise accountability groups; churches threaten to split, so we employ arbitrators to help with conflict resolution; Christians battle depression and suicidal thoughts, so we medicate them with the latest drugs. Please understand, I’m all for [such programmes], but what if the source is more than random events and we’re under enemy attack? Would we change our strategy? Through Scripture we discover there’s an unseen world and it’s at war. Paul writes: Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against…spiritual forces of wickedness. You can’t just shrug your shoulders and say, I don’t have a horse in that race. You’re living in the crossfire of this spiritual war…the enemy’s determined to destroy everything and everyone important to you. And those who dismiss such words as being over the top – do so to their own detriment.’ Martin Lloyd-Jones said, ‘Not to realise you’re in a conflict…means you are so hopelessly defeated…that you do not even know it.’ We’re in a very real war, the stakes are high, the enemy skilled, armed, and determined. The possibility of losing…is real. You must be aware of what’s happening and be prepared to fight.
Change the Way You Think
by Rick Warren
“We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV)
Here’s the secret to temptation: Don’t fight it. Just refocus. Whatever you resist persists.
Did you know that in the Bible, not once are you told to resist temptation? We are told to resist the Devil, and that’s a whole different issue. But the key to overcoming temptation is not to push back. It’s to change your focus.
Whatever gets your attention gets you. The battle for sin always starts in the mind. That’s why the Bible says in Psalm 119:6, “Thinking about your commands will keep me from doing some foolish thing” (CEV). Why? Because if you’re thinking about God’s truth, you’re not thinking about the dumb stuff you could be doing.
Have you ever looked over a cliff and felt like you were being drawn to jump off? Not like a temptation, but like there was this force that was pulling you. It’s because whatever you focus on pulls you.
It’s true in every single area of life — good or bad. If you focus on godly things, it’s going to pull you that direction. If you focus on the stuff that’s at the movies and in magazines, it’s going to pull you that direction. Whatever you focus on gets your attention. Whatever gets your attention is going to get you.
The key is to just change your mind.
Temptation always follows a predictable pattern: attention, arousal, and action. Your mind gets hooked, your mind kicks in, and then you act on it.
So you don’t fight a temptation; you just turn your mind to something else. “We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV).
The thing is, we’re not very good at capturing every thought and turning it to Christ, because it takes lots of practice. You can’t always control your circumstances, and you can’t even always control the way you feel. But you can control what you think about. That’s always your choice. And if you change the way you think, it changes the way you feel, and that will change the way you act.
Talk It Over
• What do you spend your time thinking about? Where does your mind wander when you’re not focused on something specific?
• How can you train yourself so that it is more natural for you to focus on God’s Word and truths instead of the things of this world?
Why Should You Forgive?
by Rick Warren
“The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.”(Matthew 18:27 NIV)God’s Word gives us three reasons why we have to let go of our hurt and resentment and why we have to forgive. We’ve got to release it instead of rehearsing it. There are three reasons we must forgive.
Because God forgives you.
In Matthew 18, Jesus tells the story of a king who forgives his servant. Verse 27 says, “The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go” (NIV). Just as the king canceled the debt of this servant, God sent Jesus Christ to pay for your debt. Everything you’ve ever done wrong in your life has already been paid for. Jesus took your rap. He paid your jail time. He took your offense and paid the wages of sin. Jesus Christ died for all of your sins.
Because resentment is self-torture.
It is a self-inflicted wound. Whenever you’re resentful, it always hurts you more than the person you’re bitter against. In fact, while you’re still worrying about something that happened years ago, they’ve forgotten about it! Your past is past, and it can’t hurt you any more unless you hold on to it.
Because you need forgiveness every day.
The Bible teaches very clearly that we cannot receive what we are unwilling to give. Do you want to be forgiven? The Bible says you need to be forgiving.Forgiveness is a lifestyle. It’s not just something you do one time. You need it every day of your life. You’ve got to ask for forgiveness. You’ve got to accept forgiveness from God and from others. And you’ve got to offer forgiveness. Forgiveness must be continual. It must be enjoyed, and it must be employed.
Talk It Over
Who is the first person that comes to mind if you were asked about the greatest hurt in your life?
Do you ever find yourself reacting to somebody because they remind you of somebody else?
Choose Grace, Not Bitterness
by Rick Warren
“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15 NIV)
If you’re still holding on to resentment, then someone is controlling you. Have you ever said, “You make me so mad”? What you’re admitting at that point is, “You are controlling me.” The only way you get this person out of your mind and heart and not controlling you anymore is you heal it with grace — God’s grace.
Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (NIV).
Have you ever known a family where a bitter mom poisoned the whole family? Have you ever known a family where a bitter dad poisoned the whole family?
Bitterness is contagious, and it can actually become generational. Somebody has to break the chain, and it better be you. If your parents are bitter because their parents were bitter because their parents were bitter, you’re going to have to break the chain. And there’s only one way to break it: Heal it with grace.
Friends, if you don’t get God’s grace in your life, life will make you bitter. Because life isn’t fair. Why? Because sin is in the world. We live on a broken planet. This is not Heaven. Evil people get away with evil things all the time. Life is not fair.And if you don’t get grace in your heart, it’s going to make you bitter.Is forgiveness fair? Absolutely not.
But it is not about fairness. It is not about justice. It’s about grace. You don’t forgive a person because it’s the fair thing to do. You forgive a person because it’s the right thing to do, and you don’t want your heart full of poison. You don’t want your heart holding on to the hurt and the hate.
Forgiveness is free, but it is not cheap. It cost Jesus his life. It cost God his Son. And as Jesus was dying on the cross, with his arms outstretched and the blood dripping down, he said, “Father, forgive them! They don’t know what they’re doing.” He was saying, “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.” He was saying, “They don’t deserve it. They don’t even know what they’re doing. But Father, forgive them.”Leave justice to God. Heal your bitterness with his grace.Talk It OverHave you experienced bitterness toward someone? What has been the result in your life?Why do you think it’s so important to us that everything is fair?