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Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank Proverbs 22:29

The difference between excellence and mediocrity can often be determined by our attitude about God, ourselves and others. Of the three, our view of ourselves is perhaps the most powerful adversary to our rising to excellence.

If we see ourselves as failures, we will most likely never rise to excellence. We look at past failures and say to ourselves “I’ll never amount to anything. Everything I’ve ever done has failed. The more we dwell on our failures the easier it is to become afraid to fail, complacent in what we do, or just give up all together. I wonder if even the Apostle Paul was near that point when he wrote in his letter to the Romans “The things I want to do I never do, the things I hate doing, I always do.”

The Bible is full of stories of people just like you who have failed in life. Time and again they’ve picked themselves up only to be knocked down. But God used them in mighty ways. Don’t let the past keep you from excelling into the future.

Another hindrance to our rising to the level of excellence is our view of what success really is. Often we measure success by what other people have done or are doing. This is true in the spiritual realm, the physical realm, and the emotional/relational realm. We look at someone else’s job, skills, ‘spirituality’, spouse, etc. and say, I’ll never succeed. Look at how well Mary prays or how well Joe does his job.

Excellence is a personal thing. Your Heavenly Father is the one that bestowed gifts on you. He is the one that gives you opportunities to use those gifts. Excellence in your corner of the world may never be seen by others outside of your own circle. That doesn’t make it less excellent. Stop comparing yourself to others. Be the very best you can be. Accept your flaws, work to correct what you can and do what you can to make your corner of the world brighter.

When our past gets in the way or we are surrounded by people who seem to have ‘made it’ it’s easy to play the blame game as well. We ask God why He won’t do for us what He did for them. We may even get angry with Him and doubt His wisdom, power or existence. That’s the time to step back and remember that God’s desire is for you to rely on Him, not to have a bunch of friends and be famous. Excellence to God is being godly parents, children and members of our community who walk in close relationship to Him.

Stop comparing yourself to others. Don’t let the past act as handcuffs in keeping you from living the future to its fullest. Allow God to work through you to be the best you can be. He isn’t looking for cookie-cutter Christians. He’s looking for people of excellence.

PRAYER: Father, there are some many times when I’ve allowed my view of myself or the view others have of me to keep me from being excellent for you. Forgive me for basing who I am on what I see in others. Empower me to be excellent in everything I do today, in each life I touch and every task I do. For I exist to glorify You, not myself. In Jesus name, Amen.

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NLT)

If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that one of the hardest parts of living a life of faith is that so much of our belief system is built on the reality of things that we don’t see and the assurance that things in our lives are not coincidental but part of an overall plan by an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving eternal being.

It’s far easier to put our trust in things we can see, touch, hear and smell. Our entire lives are made up of the five senses that make us aware of life in the good times as well as in the bad times. We evaluate everything on the basis of sight, touch, feel, smell and hearing.

The Bible challenges us to implement a sixth sense into our thought processes. It’s the sense that we call faith. Just as our five senses can be trained to evaluate our environment, our ‘faith-sense’ can be trained to evaluate the things we can’t see.

When we focus our minds on the trials we are in the midst of then everything we think, say and do is affected by our perception of things. Even those things that are ‘insignificant’ can appear exceedingly difficult to endure.

If we are able to look at things through our ‘faith-sense’ then the things that trouble us can be looked at as temporary glitches in a life bound for eternal happiness such as our physical senses are incapable of comprehending.

Using our ‘faith-sense’ doesn’t remove the stress and pressure of our physical existence, but we will find it easier to bear the pain and agony of life and all that we have to endure until we get to glory.

When troubles seem to overwhelm you, train yourself to look at things through the ‘eyes’ of your ‘faith-sense’. Everything you see around you will someday end. Relationships, the earth’s beauty, money, toys, even life itself. But some things will never end. For Example:

  • God will never end. He is the same today, yesterday and forever. Nothing on this earth, neither, the things you see with your physical senses or the things you can’t see (spirit world, future, etc.) will ever be able to change the God we worship as Creator/sustainer of the universe. He’s simply NOT going away!
  • God’s Love will never end. To love someone who loves you is normal. To love someone who only ‘likes you’ is noble. To love someone who openly hates you is Divine. God’s love for you is the same regardless of how you treat Him, the mistakes or your past or the habits you wrestle with on a daily basis.
  • Salvation through Jesus Christ is always available. Jesus doesn’t require you to ‘clean up’ our act to qualify for forgiveness. It’s free for the asking to all who desire it. Simply admit you have failed and ask Him to forgive you. It’s that easy.
  • Heaven. I don’t know what heaven will be like. Looking at the good part of life now, I don’t think it will be all angel wings and choirs. Heaven is a real place for us to enjoy each other and God. It’s not changing. It’s a place where all the things we are troubled by now will simply be non-existent.

The beauty of this world will pass away. The struggles of this world will end. Relationships, the good ones and the bad ones will fade away. Financial stability, health and all the troubles of this life will end. Focus on the things that will endure the heat of the fire and the test of time

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. I look around me at all the things that affect my life. Some of them are so very good, like the fall colors, the smell of spring rain, the awesome storms of summer and the purity of the new fallen snow. Yet in the midst of all this beauty pain and agony seem to follow me. Empower me by Your Spirit to focus my heart and mind on the things that won’t pass away. Forgive me for my past and my doubt and help me see Jesus. Amen.

The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. Psalm 145:14

What a marvelous promise from God! In verse 13 the Psalmist reminds us that the Lord is the same from generation to generation. The older I get the more I’m amazed at the amount of change going on around me.

When I was growing up portable phones were the sizes of suitcases and had a range of a few hundred feet. Now we can talk anywhere on little boxes that you can slip into your pocket. Not only that but our ‘phones’ surf the internet, take pictures, do business and most anything else you can imagine.

With all the change going on around us there is one constant. We serve a God that never changes. Technology changes. Political regions change. The environment changes. Relationships change. But God never changes, yet at the same time He remains relevant and in touch with everything that we see around us. He’s the only one that not only keeps up with technology, he’s ahead of the game!

When David wrote this song of praise he was writing to us, to believers and followers of Jesus Christ. He tells us that God ‘upholds all those who fall’. The word picture here is meant for those of us who struggle with life. We are tired. We are weak. We find ourselves doing the same destructive things over and over again.

The message is clear. When we fall, when we can’t seem to get the ‘Christian life’ right, He is there to hold us up. Our past can’t keep us down. Our human weakness can’t hold us back from following after Christ. We have a God that supports us.

The second message of this verse is that God ‘lifts up those who are bowed down’. He lifts those who are struggling under the burdens placed on us by others. He picks up the weary, the abused, the battered, the homeless and the grief stricken.

We serve and awesome, loving, compassionate God. The enemy would have you to believe you can’t go on. He’ll remind you of your mistakes. He’ll throw temptation and worry in your way. He’ll constantly try to keep you bound by guilt, shame and remorse. Don’t listen to the enemy’s lies about you. You are a child of the King! Adversity and failure will come, but God will always be there to lift you up.

Lean on your Heavenly Father. Feel His strong, loving arms lift you up. Rest in the promise that because of Him you are free. Truly free!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father. I think of what this verse really means and I’m humbled, yet at the same time so encouraged. You know my weaknesses. You know the pain I’m under. You alone know the feelings I have of failure, guilt, and shame. I ask that you would help me to lean on you during the hard times. Help me feel your arms of love lifting me up when I can no longer stand alone. Thank you for Jesus love and forgiveness. Amen.

If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37:23-24

When I was young I used to dream of being a famous athlete. I imagined myself being in position to win the big game. Sometimes it was the winning basket at the buzzer in the championship game. Sometimes it was hitting a homerun with bases loaded, two out, behind by three and a 3 ball, two strike count. Other times it was breaking free for the winning touchdown.

There were several things that kept those dreams from becoming a reality. The major one is that while I love sports of all kinds, I’m really not very athletic! So no matter how much I’d like to make any of those achievements, it just wasn’t going to happen!

Sometimes we feel that way about our walk with Jesus. We get up in the morning feeling like we can tackle any challenge before us. Then we burn the toast, remember that we forgot to buy milk and find a flat tire on our car! Things tend to go downhill from there and at the end of the day we realize that our thoughts, actions and words haven’t made us the spiritual champion we hoped we would be.

To make matters worse, it seems like people who could care less about living for Jesus seem to be prosperous, happy, successful people. We look at others and wonder what we are doing wrong and if God even notices that we are doing our best.

Psalm 37 has good news for us. Even though it seems that people who are evil are winning, they aren’t. God doesn’t look on a person’s actions. He measures us by our heart, our desires, our yearning to follow Him.

I like the way the message phrases Psalm 37:23-24, “Stalwart walks in step with GOD; his path blazed by GOD, he’s happy. If he stumbles, he’s not down for long; GOD has a grip on his hand”

These verses remind me of a small child walking on ice. No matter how hard they try to walk, they will slip and fall. But, if a loving parent is holding their hand, even if they do fall, the fall will be temporary and relatively painless. Mom or dad will lift them back to their feet. That’s what Jesus does for us. We try to live for him. We fail by the words we speak or the thoughts we think. We do things we’ve promised ourselves we’ll never do (and do them again!). Still, because of His love, forgiveness and grace, He picks us up and helps us continue on our way.

There are three promises of God in these verses. First, God delights in our attempts at living for Him. Second, we will fail at times. Third (and I like this best), He’ll help us get back on our feet!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I come to you today feeling like a complete failure. There are so many times I’ve tried to live for you. So many times I’ve tried to break the bad habits I’ve formed, said words I didn’t mean and had thoughts that are displeasing to you. Forgive me for my failures. Help me back to my feet so I can walk closely with you. Most of all, thank you for loving me so much! In Your name I pray, Amen.

Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy. Psalm 107:22

When we’ve been through the tough times of life it’s important to look back with joy and thankfulness to be reminded of what God has done for us. It’s human nature during the storm to be concerned for our safety. It’s normal when our health fails to be distracted by the pain of our illness and the uncertainty of our future. During those times it may seem like God is far from us.

But once we have endured, once we have come through the tough times we need to take a moment to look back at the road we’ve travelled. During the tough times of life it may seem as though we’ve been forgotten. We may look back at the mistakes we’ve made, the intentional and rebellious ways in which we’ve taken life into our own hands, the people we’ve hurt or who have hurt us and wonder where God is in all that.

But in the midst of the bad times we need to focus on the fact that regardless of how life looks around us, God is love. He is in control. He is present and loves us very much. Take a fresh look at the positive things He has done in the midst of the storm. If we do that, with an open mind to the realization of God’s love, we will see that even the things that seemed tragic at the time were beneficial for us in the long run.

In Psalm 107 the psalmist writes of the many ways in which God’s deliverance has been evident in the lives of His people. He reminds them of His bountiful provision. He reminds them of God’s love and forgiveness. He asks them to recollect how, when they were sick He brought comfort and healing; when they were homeless He provided shelter; when their friends and family forsook them He became their comfort.

We live in times of great struggle and adversity. Homes are being foreclosed on. Jobs are being lost. Relationships are failing. Families are being torn apart by divorce, death and illness. During these times it’s especially hard to see God’s presence. It’s during these times that we need to hold on tight to the promises that have been made.

God loves you. Regardless of what you are going through, He loves you. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is that you are suffering. Fault doesn’t change His love for you. Take time to focus on what He has done for you. Ask Him for strength to see through the fog of your pain to the strength of His love. Praise Him that even in the darkness He is there for you to comfort, guide and protect.

PRAYER: Dear God. You know the struggle I have today. I’m in such confusion that I doubt Your presence and my ability to continue on. Please show Yourself to me in a real way today. Help me to see the good in all the bad that surrounds me. Forgive me for my doubt and rebellion and help me sense Jesus’ love for me like I never have before. Amen.

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