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And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

Recently I got a new camera for a trip we took to Disney World. We took hundreds of pictures to remember our trip by. When we got home we sat down to look at the pictures. Many of them were fantastic memories of our trip, but several of the pictures were a disappointment. Apparently the new camera I got had a slight design flaw. If you weren’t careful one of the dials could be switched and the focus of the pictures would become grainy or blurry. Several picture memories were ruined because the picture was out of focus.

There are software programs out there that can improve the lighting, the color and many other aspects of the picture. But if the focus is off, there is little that can be done. I learned the hard way to make sure that this camera had its dial on the correct settings before taking a picture!

Sometimes life can be like that. We get out of focus. It’s not dials that cause our problems. We play the ‘blame game’ and blame people, our past, our family, the injustice of the ‘so-called’ justice system, finances, politics, bad choices or even God for all the bad things that happen in our lives.

We get failure and adversity so ingrained in our thought processes that we lose sight of the many positive aspects of life. The circumstances of life aren’t what keep us in prison. It’s our reaction to the circumstances of life that hinders our ability to move forward. Fear, guilt, hate, anger, shame and unforgiveness keep us in bondage so that we can’t function. We go through life crippled by unhappiness and frustration.

The Apostle Paul gives us a cure for losing the focus on life. He tells the Philippians to keep their minds focused on the truth. There are some things in life that we will never change. Learn to accept them. There are other things we can change if we rely on God for the strength and wisdom to forge ahead.

We can’t always change the circumstances in our lives, but we can always change how we react to them. Start your day by forcing your mind to focus on the good things God has done for you. The fact that you can read this is a start! You are breathing! Jesus loves you even when you can’t feel it! If you are a Christ-follower you are forgiven and have eternity to look forward to. These are just a few things we can focus on. Train your mind to see the many works of God around you. Live a life of praise in the midst of adversity.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I admit to you that I can find plenty of people and things to blame for the pain I’m suffering right now. I’ve been attacked wrongfully. I’ve tried to follow you and failed. I’ve even questioned your Love and power. Sometimes I’ve wondered if you are even there! I ask that through the power of your Holy Spirit you would empower me to train my mind to focus on the true and honorable things in my life. Amen.

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3

When we commit our plans to the Lord the Bible says that those plans will succeed. What a wonderful promise to look forward to! The reality is that for many of us the path we’ve journeyed along in life is strewn with the wreckage of failures, poor choices, ruined relationships and piles of debt. Not much success to be seen.

There are really only two options available for us. If our plans have met with failure then we have to conclude that either God isn’t able to fulfill His end of the bargain, or we failed to completely commit our plans to Him. There really isn’t a middle ground.

So, how can we insure success with our plans? First of all we need to think carefully about the word commit. Commit does not mean merely ‘running the idea past God’. It doesn’t carry the idea of telling your wife as you leave the house “By the way I’m stopping for a haircut on the way home today.” Commit carries with it a turning over the responsibility of our plans to someone else, in this case God.

A second aspect of commitment regards how our actions or plans match up to the plumb line of God’s character. The illustration of the plumb line, or plum bob, reminds us that while God loves us and has given us much freedom through Jesus Christ, there are some things that simply will not work in God’s Kingdom. If our plans and/or actions operate outside of these boundaries success as we know it can not happen.

Lastly, commitment of our plans to the Lord requires that we evaluate our definition of success. Success by the world’s standards usually involved numbers. The amount of money you gain from the action, the number of friends and/or other people you influence, the number of points you make. It’s all about numbers.

In God’s economy numbers don’t matter. Quality of character and relationships are the only thing that matter. If we took the time to look back amongst the wreckage of our past; if we pulled back the shattered dreams, looked underneath the broken relationships or pushed aside the pile of debt we would no doubt see the green shoots of new life. New life consisting of lessons learned, experience gained and wisdom acquired.

In God’s eyes that is success. Not that we won the race, but that we finished it. Not that we were looked on with respect by others but that we learned how to lean more fully on God. Not that our lives generated much wealth, fame and fortune, but that those who follow us will find the way to a living peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Giving your plans and actions over to God’s control is risky. But it is the only way in which we can be all that God wants us to be. As you grow in relationship with Him through prayer, bible study and fellowship you will find that your plans will align with His character and success will be measured by Him, not those around you.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I look behind me and the road I’ve travelled and see so many mistakes, so many poor choices, so many doubts, fears and times of rebellion. I’ve neglected truly committing those plans to you and they have caused pain to myself and those around me. Thank you for the painful lessons I’ve learned. Forgive me for arrogantly thinking I knew best. Empower me through your Holy Spirit to commit my ways to you in a real and practical way. Amen.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5

 I often wonder what it would have been like to see Jesus during the days He walked on earth as a human being. I imagine that I would most likely have been like many who lived with Him on a daily basis. My human eyes would have been blinded to who He really was. There are so many of the disciples that remind me of myself.

Even so, He must have been an incredible character to watch. Compassionate and understanding enough to kneel before children in order to meet them on their level even though He was the creator God of the universe! But that position of awesome authority and power meant nothing to Him.

To see Him in the crowd, with the throng pressing against Him, yet being so aware of each person that He noticed when the woman who was bleeding (emotionally as well as physically) touched Him. To realize that even today, in the midst of the crowd, He notices my pain, my agony, my incurable condition (sin).

In the midst of unthinkable agony, as parents struggled to find answers when their children were sick or had died, to be able to reach out and with a single touch not only heal the child but heal the wound in the heart and soul of the mom and dad. Even though He himself wasn’t a parent, He had the heart of one.

When the crowd misunderstood Him, and the religious fanatics tried to defame Him. He knew who He was, yet not once did He lash back in anger and hate towards individuals. He always responded with truth and honesty. He was so secure in knowing who He was that the verbal, physical and emotional attacks leveled against Him had no effect. He responded in love.

When His friends never seemed to ‘get it’; when they argued over who was greatest. Imagine that! Playing the ‘I’m better than you’ game in front of the God of the universe! Yet He led them with grace and compassion. When He needed their support the most, they left Him to die alone. Yet His first act after rising from the dead was to make them breakfast.

And still today, when I struggle to obey. When I fall to the temptation to have my own way, to worry about tomorrow, or selfishly ‘stand up for my rights’. He accepts me as I am flaws and all. He forgives. He understands. He encourages. He loves.

Paul writes to the Philippians and to us. He begs us to have that attitude, that mindset that set Jesus apart from the rest. An attitude of love, compassion, forgiveness and security. As Christ-followers we have an opportunity…an obligation as such, to show the world what Jesus was really about. He wasn’t about rules, regulations or religious dogmas. He was about relationship.

PRAYER: My dear Jesus. When I think of how you responded to daily life I’m in awe of your patience, love and compassion. Thank you for loving me the way you do. Empower me with your Holy Spirit so that I may live with the same attitude, the same mindset you did. Help me to live so that others will see Jesus in me. Amen.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Colossians 3:1 (NLT)

What is the reality of Heaven? It’s more than a ‘pie in the sky’ response to life. The realities of Heaven start with us today and are a result of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s not about rules, or denominations or religious dogma.

When we talk about our relationship with Jesus Christ, or being a Christian or being a Christ-follower what things set us apart from any other social club?

  • We are forgiven: 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
  • We are equal: Romans 12:5- “so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
  • We are Free to live: John 8:36- “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
  • We can call God our Daddy: Romans 8:15- “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
  • We can live forever with Jesus: John 3:16-“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
  • Our Past doesn’t matter: 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

These are just a few of the many things that God has promised us in his Word as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Today focus on just one thing and praise God for His loving promises in our lives.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I am so thankful today for the many promises I have in you. I praise you for the fact that my life with you is based on relationship and not rules. I praise you today that even though I fail you on a daily basis you love me and care for me. Help me to focus on you today. Amen.

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 2 Chronicles 20:15

King Jehoshaphat was sitting in his palace one day when ominous news came to him. A huge army was on its way to Jerusalem to conquer the mighty city. Although Jehoshaphat made some mistakes as King of Israel, he trusted God and tried to lead the country in a Godly fashion.

When news of the approaching army came to him, Jehoshaphat took immediate steps of action to defend the country. He called on all of his advisors, priests and people to meet together for prayer. The news spread like wildfire and soon it seemed the entire country was praying for deliverance.

A prophet came before the King and the entire assembly and gave the word of the Lord. He told the people not to be afraid of this vast army because the Lord God was in complete control. This was not Israel’s battle to fight, it was God’s.  

The Israelite army followed God’s command. They bravely went out onto a hillside ready for battle but watching to see how God was going to deliver them. The people of God watched as the enemy was soundly defeated and Jerusalem was saved.

Like Jehoshaphat there are many times in our lives when people will come to us warning us of the future. This is especially true today as we see scripture being fulfilled before our eyes. The increase of natural disasters, the ungodly actions of government leaders, the increased risk of terrorists and the demise of social values are just a few things that can really get us down.

Take a lesson from Jehoshaphat. When things in your life look ominous. When fear attacks and you are unsure of your ability to go on, remember to turn your eyes upon Jesus. Go to Him in prayer and offer up your feelings of worry, fear and doubt. Surround yourself with Christ-followers that will pray with you, encourage you and give you words of Godly wisdom to comfort, guide and support.

The people of Israel were delivered from the enemy once they realized that the battle wasn’t really theirs at all. God reminded them that ‘this is my battle to fight. You are to be ready for battle, but your job is to watch me conquer the enemies in your life.’

The army still had to get ready for battle. They still had to take action. But the real war was fought in the heavens. The same is true in our lives. Once we have prayed and sought Godly wisdom; once we have prepared a battle plan based on Godly wisdom and prayer, we need to move forward with confidence knowing that the battles in our lives are ultimately fought by God if we are living for Him.

PRAYER: Holy God, creator and sustainer of the universe. I acknowledge to You that You are the supreme ruler and guiding force of the seen and unseen world. I thank you that you know about the things in my life that scare me and worry me. You hear the words of the nay-Sayers and doomsday preachers. Remind me that the battle ahead is your battle and that you have promised to fight for me. Give me peace as I go through the activities of my day, knowing that you are at my side always. Amen.

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