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Trapped By Our Circumstances

A Portuguese sailing ship ran out of water off the coast of South America. Many days went by, and the crew and passengers were suffering terribly when a second ship appeared on the horizon. The Portuguese ship was able to send a message describing its predicament and asking for help. The reply came back: ?Lower your buckets.? They didn?t realize they were floating at the mouth of the Amazon, where all the water is fresh, even miles out at sea.

Sometimes we resist God?s call, because there seem to be some natural obstacles that get in the way. Bruce Larson mentions three roadblocks that get in the way of following God?s call to us. One is ?we believe we are trapped by our circumstances.? Whether it is by our choices or the choices of others that affect us, we seize up and struggle to believe that God can really use us now. A second roadblock is that ?we doubt our dreams.? Reality is what is possible, and fantasy is what we can only imagine. This is dwarfed thinking, and it shrivels our willingness even to be available for God?s purposes. Lastly, ?we rely on our instincts.? Again, David listened to God?s voice, not his instincts, when he chased down Goliath. Gideon beat back his instincts in order to let God?s voice be heard in his heart. Our instincts will tell us to always play it safe. I just don?t see that in the abundant lives of believers in Scripture.

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If You Have a Screw Loose

Perfect love is effective. Something is teleos, or perfect, if it realizes the purpose for which it is planned. We are perfect when we realize the purpose for which we are created. If you have a screw loose (and some suggest this is true on many levels), what is needed is a screwdriver that fits. The handle may not be your favorite color; it may not even fit the grip of your hand well; in fact, the tip may be dull or not even the exact size of the head of the screw. But if the screwdriver effectively tightens the screw, it is teleos. Functional. Effective. Useful toward its intended purpose. At the end of life?s journey, there are many who regret the course of their life because they sense they had a greater purpose to live for than the one they chose. Then there are others who may have specific regrets about misdeeds or missed opportunities, but have peace about how their life served a purpose that was noble.

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The Quickening Power of Truth

The truth should be presented with divine tact, gentleness, and tenderness. It should come from a heart that has been softened and made sympathetic. We need to have close communion with God, lest self rise up . . . and we pour forth a torrent of words that are unbefitting, that are not as dew or as the still showers that revive the withering plants. Let our words be gentle as we seek to win souls. God will be wisdom to him who seeks for wisdom from a divine source. We are to seek opportunities on every hand, we are to watch unto prayer, and be ready always to give a reason for the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear. Lest we shall impress unfavorably one soul for whom Christ died we should keep our hearts uplifted to God, so that when the opportunity presents itself, we may have the right word to speak at the right time. If you thus undertake work for God, the Spirit of God will be your helper. The Holy Spirit will apply the word spoken in love for the soul. The truth will have quickening power when spoken under the influence of the grace of Christ.

?Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 400.

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Continuing My Mission

Jesus? departure to heaven left His eleven disciples bereft. No longer would they have their Mentor, Teacher, and Guide physically beside them. There they were, a ragtag crew of bickering disciples who, a few days earlier, were ready to deny their Lord. Now they were given the most important assignment and the most important mission ever entrusted to anyone. But He didn?t leave them alone. The book of Acts tells the remarkable story of how the Holy Spirit took these unlikely candidates and shaped them into bold pioneers of a missionary movement. A movement that had a life-changing message of hope and healing for all people, including those who are rich and increased with goods and feel as if they need nothing.

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A God Who Sees

I have been so lost that I became certain God no longer saw me. I've experienced fears so immense and disappointments so deep that I've cried out in terror, "Where are You?" and then in anger, "Where are You!" The unanswered prayers. The silence. The sickness and loss. I have felt invisible to God.

But how I feel is not the truest thing, in the end. Because through it all, from the very first moment I started to feel lost, He saw me. He pursued me. Perhaps He was making His way toward me even as I resented His absence, but I just didn't know it. Sometimes we have to cling to what we know above what we can feel. And according to the Bible, what we can know for sure is that God is a God who sees. He sees me. He sees you. He sees everything. While we are trying desperately to get His attention, trying everything we can think of to make Him just "Look, Father, look!" He is already on His way to find us.

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Daily Communion

When we take time each day to seek Jesus in Bible study and prayer, we begin to see God and ourselves differently. We see that He is far better than we ever imagined and that we are far needier than we ever realized. We begin to have a new identity in Jesus. We realize that in Jesus we are blessed, holy, without blame, adopted, accepted, redeemed, forgiven, and empowered. Each day Jesus gives us the good fear, a reverence for the one who made us, and takes away the bad fear that comes from a distorted picture of God?s character.

This daily communion with Jesus motivates us to give glory to God in all our decisions, including what we watch, listen to, say, eat, drink, and think. It takes away our fear of people who are threatening and intimidating. It helps us shun evil, tell the truth, and hate covetousness. It gives us a sense of God?s presence and love throughout the day. It allows God to write His law and character in our hearts and minds. It gives us a clearer picture of God?s perfect, undying love for us. It allows Him to transform us!

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Happy People Are Thankful People

Embracing gratitude and expressing thankfulness are critical factors in reaching the goal of living in the pleasant tense. In numerous psychological research studies, gratitude (or thankfulness) is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. It helps people feel more positive emotions, relish fun experiences, deal better with adversity, build stronger relationships with others (including family, friends, or mere acquaintances), and improves mental and physical health.

Happy people are thankful people. Being thankful and being happy are like a two-lane road to successful living. To be truly happy, you must be willing to express your thankfulness to God and others. In fact, Meister Eckhart, a German theologian, made this observation: ?If a man had no more to do with God than to be thankful, that would suffice.?

Thankfulness is also an important motivator. It has the ripple effect, like the pebble I toss into a pond?its influence spreads. Writer Wilferd A. Peterson expressed it this way: ?When we become more fully aware that our success is due, in large measure, to the loyalty, helpfulness and encouragement we have received, our desire grows to pass on similar gifts to others. Gratitude spurs us on to prove ourselves worthy of what others have done for us. Gratitude is a powerful energizer.?

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One Good Deed

The key to making somebody feel like somebody is to just be your positive self and share whatever gifts God has given you that His Spirit might prompt you to use. We all know how good it feels when somebody lifts us up. And then be careful to never shun people or put them down. Always remember the golden rule: treat people as you would like to be treated. Making a significant difference in someone?s life by doing one good deed or making one nice comment at a time isn?t difficult. It?s my new resolution. I want to make sure the people around me feel like important people. Instead of leaving others to feel worthless and rejected, I want to help brighten their lives by making each person feel significant, worthwhile, included, and an important somebody who has been invited by the God of this universe to experience His love through the words and actions of His people.

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Love Is the Badge

We are to follow the example set by Christ, and make Him our pattern, until we shall have the same love for others as He has manifested for us. He seeks to impress us with this profound lesson of love. If your hearts have been given to selfishness, let Christ imbue you with His love. He desires that we shall love Him fully, and encourages, yes, even commands, that we shall love others as He has given us an example. He has made love the badge of our discipleship. This is the measurement to which you are to reach,??Love one another; as I have loved you.? What height, what depth and breadth of love! This love is not simply to embrace a few favorites, it is to reach to the lowliest and humblest of God?s creatures. Jesus says, ?Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.??Sons and Daughters of God, p. 147.

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Spiritual Soft Power

There?s nothing pushy or manipulative about Jesus? method of ministry. He knocks at the doors of our hearts. He doesn?t try to knock them down. This isn?t to say that hard power doesn?t have its place in mission. Apologetics, for example, uses logic, argument, and evidence to defend the Christian faith. It appeals to reason, data, and scholarship. It aims to persuade the mind. The apostle Paul used this method when he reasoned with people in the marketplace, quoted pagan literature to pagans, and philosophized on Mars Hill (Acts 17). Adventists use it in seminars, public meetings, and evangelistic literature. But hard power has its limitations: ?While logic may fail to move, and argument be powerless to convince, the love of Christ, revealed in personal ministry, may soften the stony heart, so that the seed of truth can take root.?

Spiritual soft power is all about connection. It engages and influences communities. It?s like a spiritual breeze that isn?t trapped within the four walls of a church building. It touches people?s hearts as well as their heads. It?s an influence that comes through people?people who leave the church pews to connect with the community. It comes through Jesus? followers who are putting His method of mission into practice.

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The Necessity of Faith

Often, when we don?t have success in our personal lives or ministry, rather than dealing with the root of the problem, we focus on improving our prayer methods. While our techniques can always be enhanced, in God?s kingdom, our methods are usually not the problem?nor are the lack of resources or a lack of talent. The problem is a lack of faith. Inspiration boldly tells us, ?Every failure on the part of the children of God is due to their lack of faith?!

As we quickly find when we study the Bible, having faith is not optional in the Christian walk?not if we plan to go to heaven! (See Hebrews 11:6; Revelation 21:8.) So if we are people prone to doubt, how do we develop faith?

The most powerful way to build faith is through the Word, for we are told, ?So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God? (Romans 10:17).

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True Power

We make a dire mistake when we imply that God controls everything that happens in the universe. Now, don't get me wrong; if God so chose, He could control everything and everyone. But such behavior wouldn't get what God wants: a free-flowing, reciprocal love-relationship with His creatures.

It seems to me that true power is displayed in a person's ability to capture someone else's commitment when that other person has the freedom to do otherwise. This is why God told the prophet Zechariah long ago, " 'Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord" (Zechariah 4:6). That is, this all-powerful, almighty God doesn't try to overpower His creatures in an attempt to get them to respond or obey. To put it bluntly and crudely, that's more like rape than love. Instead, God, the constant gentleman, uses His Spirit to pursue, draw, invite, and win over the hearts and allegiance of His creatures.

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