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Bear One Another’s Burdens

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorBear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
—Galatians 6:2 NKJV

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A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him for dead.

Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite [temple assistant], when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.

But a certain Samaritan [a people despised and shunned by the Jews of those days], as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.”

So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves? (Jesus,Luke 10:30–36)

With the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus taught that our neighbor is anyone who needs our help, regardless of race, creed, color, nationality, condition, or location. If we have love, we won’t just pass by someone in need; we’ll take action, like the Samaritan did. That’s the difference between pity and compassion. Pity feels sorry; compassion does something about it. The compassionate put feet to their prayers and kind deeds to their kind words. Love is making a connection between God and somebody who needs His love, and we do that by showing others His love and manifesting it with action. “The love of Christ compels us.” (2 Corinthians 5:14 NKJV)

Love is the greatest need of man, so love is the greatest service to man. Love is spiritual, but is manifested in the physical. Love is seen as it is put into action. … Love is preferring the happiness of others to our own. Love is choosing to suffer, if necessary, in order to help someone else. Love is courage. Love is sacrifice. Love is never lost; it always has an effect sooner or later.

—David Brandt Berg

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“Bear one another’s burdens,” the Bible says. It is a lesson about pain that we all can agree on. Some of us will not see pain as a gift; some will always accuse God of being unfair for allowing it. But, the fact is, pain and suffering are here among us, and we need to respond in some way. The response Jesus gave was to bear the burdens of those he touched. To live in the world as his body, his emotional incarnation, we must follow his example. The image of the body accurately portrays how God is working in the world. Sometimes he does enter in, occasionally by performing miracles, and often by giving supernatural strength to those in need. But mainly he relies on us, his agents, to do his work in the world. We are asked to live out the life of Christ in the world, not just to refer back to it or describe it. We announce his message, work for justice, pray for mercy . . . and suffer with the sufferers.
—Philip Yancey

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One of the beautiful aspects of the Christian gospel is that we really don’t have to live for ourselves in order to find the good life. In fact, the opposite is true: those who seek to save their lives will lose them. Jesus offered an alternative vision as the one who came to serve. As the apostle Paul encouraged the Philippian Christians to not merely look out for their own interests, but also to have the interests of others in mind, he looked to the life of Jesus. … How different the world might look if each day we took time to think about the needs of someone else—even just once per day?
—Margaret Manning

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Joni Eareckson Tada is the president of JET Ministries, a ministry which aims to serve the disabled. She is herself a quadriplegic. A few years ago she was a spectator at the Los Angeles Special Olympics. Her husband Ken was the coordinator for track and field events. Joni was among a large crowd watching the participants prepare for the 50 meters running race.

The starter’s gun fired, and off the contestants raced. As they rushed toward the finish line, one boy left the track and started running toward his friends standing in the infield. Ken blew his whistle, trying to get the boy to come back to the track, but all to no avail.

Then one of the other competitors noticed, a Down syndrome girl with thick bottle glasses. She stopped just short of the finish line and called out to the boy, “Stop, come back, this is the way.” Hearing the voice of his friend, the boy stopped and looked. “Come back, this is the way” she called. The boy stood there, confused. His friend, realizing he was confused, left the track and ran over to him. She linked arms with him and together they ran back to the track and finished the race. They were the last to cross the line, but were greeted by hugs from their fellow competitors and a standing ovation from the crowd.

The Down syndrome girl with the bottle glasses taught everyone present that day an important life lesson: that it’s important to take time out from our own goals in life to help others find their way. Reflecting on the episode afterwards, Ken was reminded of some verses from Romans 15:

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. … May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.”

—Author unknown

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God has ordained that we may learn to bear one another’s burdens, for there is no man without fault, no man without burden, no man sufficient to himself nor wise enough. Hence we must support one another, console one another, mutually help, counsel, and advise.
―Thomas à Kempis

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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The Greatest Story Ever Told

By David Brandt Berg

free-bible-studies-online-anchorThe basic events, characters, and conditions of the future have already been revealed in the Bible and by His prophets, the foretellers of the future. (Ephesians 1:9; Isaiah 42:9; Numbers 12:6) God has already revealed them in His Word and prophecies—some of which have already come to pass and been fulfilled, proving that God’s Word is true. Therefore we can just as surely expect that the remaining prophecies of God’s Word about the future will be completely fulfilled, too, just as those in the past have been. (2 Chronicles 20:20b; John 16:4a; Isaiah 34:16, 40:8; Ezekiel 33:33)

There are thousands of prophecies in the Bible which have already been fulfilled, including prophecies about the history of nations, the rise and fall of empires, even the names of great kings and the amazing fulfillments of prophecies in the little land of Israel, particularly those concerning Jesus Christ, the Messiah, about whom hundreds of prophecies in the ancient writings of the prophets have all been fulfilled in His birth, life, and death for you and me. (Isaiah 44:28; Daniel 8:20–21; Isaiah 9:6; 11:1–5; 53:2–4)

His was a life of love! Born in love, living in love, and dying in love for you and me, so that we too might live in love for Him and others. (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9–10; Ephesians 3:19; Romans 8:38–39; 1 John 3:16) But His story does not end there, because He rose again! And He made many other promises and predictions to His disciples before He finally ascended on high, caught up in the clouds in the air to depart to be with His Father God in heaven and His precious Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:1–7, 18–20; Mark 16:16–18; John 11:25, 26)

Before He went away, He promised His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also.” For He said that “In My Father’s house are many mansions, and if it were not so, I would have told you.” ( John 14:2–3) That place that He is going to prepare for us, that heavenly city is specifically described in detail in His holy book, the Bible, in its last book, the book of Revelation. (Revelation 21–22)

Dear John, the beloved disciple, Saint John the Revelator, described it in prophecy exactly as being 1,500 miles long, 1,500 miles wide, and 1,500 miles high—the greatest, most enormous city ever built, that could only have been built by God Himself. It is surrounded by a beautiful over-200-foot-high wall composed of 12 layers of precious jewels and having 12 gates, each gate a single gigantic pearl, and filled with beautiful dwelling places for His beloved children who have loved Him and been saved through faith in Jesus’ death for them on the cross.

Only they will be permitted to live within it, in its heavenly beauty of gorgeous splendor and paradise! Free forever from pain or sickness or death or evil, to live with Him and each other forever in eternal happiness. (Revelation 21:4; 22:5,14) Only they can walk its crystal golden streets and dwell in its gorgeous mansions in the presence of God forever. (Revelation 21:24, 27)

Each gate is guarded by a mighty angel, for outside, upon the surface of a new earth without seas but watered by rivers and lakes, there are still nations with kings, populated by people who are not yet ready to enter that beautiful city. (Revelation 21:24–26) They are not yet prepared for its purity and holiness, as they at first did not receive Jesus as their Savior because they had never heard of Him. (John 1:12; 3:16–17; Acts 4:12; 10:35; Romans 6:23; Hebrews 11:13, 16) They are the resurrected good of all ages who did not rise in the first resurrection at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in the beautiful rapture of His saints, the bride of Christ, after the terrible Tribulation. (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17; Revelation 20:4–5)

They are the unsaved dead of the first 6,000 years of world history who have been brought back to life and placed upon the earth’s new paradisiacal surface because their names were found written in the Book of Life and therefore deserve their first chance to hear the gospel of Jesus and His love and of the wonderful love of God, His Father, who created all things and made all things for our benefit and our pleasure to know and to love Him.

Here on the surface of the new earth they will be taught to know the Lord. (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4; Philippians 2:10–11; Hebrews 13:14) Meanwhile, they live on this paradisiacal new earth with all of its unspoiled, re-created beauty like the Garden of Eden of old. Perfect in every respect, with no evil, no curse, no thorns, no evil varmints and poisonous serpents and insects and the horrors of the cursed earth that had gone before. (Revelation 22:3) Here in this perfect environment they are learning about Jesus and finding Christ as the Son of God. (John 14:3; 1 Corinthians 2:9–10)

But before they arrive in this beautiful paradise of God, several great periods of world history will have passed by. There was the fall from grace of man and woman, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden for disobedience in eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12–14) Driven out then into a hostile world full of curses and a difficult environment, they now must eat of their bread by the sweat of their brow, and work hard to earn a living, because they had lost the favor of the Lord through disobedience. Tempted by Satan, the king of evil, they passed on to all mankind the vicious sin of unbelief and disobedience to God. (Genesis 3:19; Hebrews 3:12, 19; 10:35–39; Romans 5:12)

Finally man became so evil that God decided that He must send a great flood of water upon the earth to destroy them all! All, that is, except one man and his family alone. That man was Noah and his wife and his three sons and their three wives. Eight souls in all were all that were saved from that great Flood, in an ark which God told Noah how to build. (Genesis 7; 1 Peter 3:20) After the Flood, over a year later, the ark landed upon the top of Mount Ararat, on the border of Turkey and Russia. And as the earth’s surface became dry enough to walk upon it, Noah and his family and all of the animals that they had saved left the ark and spread down the River Euphrates toward the Persian Gulf.

But they had not gone far or lived long before people had become evil again, this time building a mighty tower which they thought was going to reach up to heaven so that they would be like gods in their pride and their earthly might! God was angry with them for it, and He confused their tongues and their languages and divided them into all the various languages that are spoken upon the earth today. So they could no longer communicate with one another or understand each other to finish the tower. So they left off building the Tower of Babel and drifted on down the River Euphrates and began to spread out further across the surface of the earth in all directions. (Genesis 8, 11:1–9)

And it seemed the more man multiplied and populated the earth, the more wicked he became, so that they even worshipped devil gods and idols and images, and practiced worship of these demons, even including human sacrifice and the sacrifice of their own children to these false gods. (Leviticus 18:21; 2 Kings 17:14–17; Jeremiah 32:35; Psalm 106:35–39)

Finally God decided He had to do something about these descendants of the two creatures that He had created in the beginning. So He selected a people who would receive His words and write the Bible—the Jews of Israel—and produce the Messiah, Jesus Christ. But then again even the religious leaders of these chosen people, sons and daughters of Abraham the faithful, had the Son of God crucified, who had been sent to them only to show them love and explain God to them! They also tried to destroy His disciples. (Matthew 27:17–25; Acts 8:1) But God blessed Jesus’ disciples, and the Christians multiplied and spread throughout the earth until the gospel had finally conquered the Roman Empire, and Christianity became the official religion of the Western world. (Acts 8:4; 28:30–31)

But as the Christians became rich and powerful and corrupt, they too began to build temples to worship their God, like the temples of other gods, and developed a priesthood who wrote their own laws and rules and traditions. (Acts 7:48–50; 17:24–25; Mark 7:6–13) Again God sent great men of God and reformers such as Martin Luther to preach the truth throughout the world and reveal again the free gift of God’s salvation by grace through faith, and that not of themselves but the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast, but the free gift of salvation paid for by Jesus Christ with His blood shed on the cross of Calvary. (Romans 10:9–10; Ephesians 2:8–9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5; Revelation 3:20)

These new Protestant Christians began to spread throughout the Roman Empire and throughout Europe and to North and South America and throughout the known world, until there were many Christian missionaries going to heathen nations. And there these missionaries gained many converts and won many of them with the love of God into true faith in the true Messiah, the true Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. (John 14:6; Acts 10:34–35)

However, it seemed that sin and evil will multiply even more rapidly and spread into every nation on earth. Finally the world will choose a completely godless government, an anti-Christ government and an Antichrist dictator, a false messiah who will pretend to be their savior but who will be the Devil incarnate! And he will declare that he is God and that all must worship him or die. (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4) He will establish a worldwide government and insist that there be no other religions but the worship of himself and his own image, which is set up by the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem where he is on a throne inside, claiming to be God.

This evil tyrant will then begin to persecute all who will not worship him, and kill and slaughter and martyr them, fighting great wars against the religious nations who oppose him, and trying to conquer the entire world, bringing great Tribulation to the earth. (Matthew 24:15, 21; Daniel 11:31–37; Revelation 12:13–17, 13:6–7)

But suddenly there will appear in the heavens the sign of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, and He Himself will appear in the sky in the clouds. And there will be a great shout and the trump of God and the voice of the archangels calling the people of God to “Come up hither to your heavenly reward to be with your King forever!”

Suddenly all those who had died as Christians will rise from their graves with new heavenly bodies and begin to fly skyward, followed by the living Christians, who are instantly changed in the twinkling of an eye at that last trump and will rise together with them to meet the Lord in the air—Jesus with His bride, the true church of Jesus Christ from every faith and denomination all over the world. (Matthew 24:29–31; 1 Corinthians 15:51–52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)

While they are feasting and rejoicing in their great salvation and receiving their rewards for faithfulness, having done their Master’s will, God is raining judgments and His great wrath upon the wicked left behind on the face of the earth through great scourges and plagues. The Bible says that the ungodly gnaw their tongues for pain and yet repent not of their evil deeds. ( Revelation 19:6–9; Revelation 15–16; Isaiah 13:11–13)

God mounts His children upon heavenly white horses of great power and supernatural strength, and with this mighty army of saints and angels they ride out of the heavenly city through the skies to destroy the evil empire of the Antichrist in the Battle of Armageddon! Until only the good, and the people who had resisted the Antichrist and resisted his mark are left, even though they do not yet know Jesus nor have been saved in the time previous. Yet the Lord is going to give all these living their opportunity to hear the gospel about Jesus and His love and His salvation. (Revelation 19:11–21; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4; Philippians 2:10–11)

He will send His angels and His saints to rule over the earth and clean up the mess that has been left behind by the Antichrist and his reign and all of the remnants of man’s unrighteousness, to make it a new world, a cleansed earth! It is the same earth, but its surface purified and with the curse of God against evil lifted, and the Devil and his demons bound in hell for a thousand years! The earth is again restored to the beauty and perfection of the Garden of Eden. (Revelation 20:1–4) For a thousand years the earth is restored to its original beauty and purity and wonder and pleasure, so that all mankind rejoices in the kingdom of God on earth ruled by its King of kings, Jesus Christ, and His saints and angels. (Revelation 2:26–27; Revelation 5:10, 20:4)

All men still living are given an opportunity to know and love Him and to follow Him, and many are saved and regenerated, made new, living wonderful lives of righteousness and unselfishness and love for one another. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

But even in this perfect world with the perfect King of kings, there are many who still reject Him and resent Him and desire to go their own willful, wicked ways, as they had before. So that at the end of that thousand years, many will still not be regenerated and have rejected the Lord and resented His will. (Isaiah 26:10) So He allows Satan to be loosed from the pit of hell and to come back with his evil angels to go abroad through the earth and deceive as many men and nations as he possibly can, until Satan gathers followers from all nations to follow after him in a great war against the saints of God, the rulers of the earth.

God again rescues His saints from the earth, but this time He finishes off Satan and his followers and demons once and for all and forever, and destroys the surface of the earth and all of Satan’s evil rebels with a great flood of fire which completely burns up the surface of the earth and its atmosphere, the polluted heavens and junk-filled space. (Revelation 20:7–10; 2 Peter 3:10–13)

Then He renews the earth and completely remakes it into a new earth, more beautiful and more perfect than ever. (Revelation 21:1–5; Isaiah 60:19–22, 65:17–25)

Once the surface of the earth is purified and made perfect again, the Lord will see fit to permit His beautiful heavenly city to descend from the heavens and settle upon the earth, so that His habitation could be with His beloved people on this new earth in the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city—their home forever. (Revelation 21:2; Hebrews 12:22–23)

In the great White Throne Judgment of God, He has raised from the dead all of the other people of the earth who have ever died, and, sending the wicked to hell, He saves the righteous to live upon the surface of the earth to learn about Him and His love and His Son Jesus and His wonderful salvation from sin so that they too might be saved. (John 10:16, 27–29; Acts 3:21; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 1:10; 2:7)

And all the saved peoples of the earth and heaven live happily with the Lord and His angels in the beautiful paradise of the new earth and the city of God with Him forever in an eternity of love and life eternal. (Revelation 22:3–5)

That is very briefly the story of God and the earth and man’s history and the endtime of man’s rule on earth, and the establishment of the kingdom of God in the thousand years called the Millennium, and that final destruction of the surface of the earth and its atmosphere and all its pollutions and evil in a flood of fire, only to be remade anew for God and His children and their heavenly city forever!

However, many of the details and actual experiences of His children during some of these periods have not been made completely clear. Some of these secrets have not yet been revealed, of the experiences that we are actually going to live through and feel and see in the wonderful world yet to come. (Deuteronomy 29:29; 1 Corinthians 13:12)

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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Patience and God’s Plans
A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorSuppose you … simply don’t know what God wants you to do here and now. Don’t give up on yourself or God. God is answering you, but his answer for now is: Wait. God will fulfill all his promises, but in his time. He gave us promises, not timetables. He’s a lover, not a train.

Patience is the art of waiting. It is not necessarily the art of waiting patiently. Job is a famous example of patience, and of the distinction between patient waiting and waiting patiently. Poor Job cannot discern the meaning of his sufferings. He does not know what he has done (to provoke God to let him suffer so), nor what he can do (to find God or to understand his situation). He searches for thirty-seven agonizing chapters, without finding God, or answers, or comfort. Yet he holds on, and hopes. That is his patience.

I used to think that only those who never read his book could call Job patient. I thought Job was the most impatient man in the Bible. But then I realized that the Bible itself calls Job patient, (James 5:10–11) so I had to rethink what patience meant. I concluded that it did not necessarily mean a calm emotional state, for Job certainly didn’t have that, yet Job had patience, according to James. So patience has to be something deeper than an emotional state.

I think patience is simply waiting, enduring, holding on. This is all some of us can do. But it is enough. When you can do nothing but hang on and keep trying and losing, or suffering and dying, know that that is something more precious than winning—that is patience.

God had patience with us. He stuck it out with us. He stayed with us, even after we rejected him. It’s the least we can do for him when he seems to forsake us, as he seemed to reject Job, because he has promised us that he will never leave us or forsake us, no matter how much our situation seems to tell us that he has. Faith believes God’s promises, beyond appearances. Faith holds on, like an anchor, even in the murky depths, even when discernment and light are not possible. Discernment is not always necessary, but faith is.

On the last day, when God calls the rolls, when he gets to your name he will ask, like your old grade school teachers, Present? Are you still here? Are you still with me? If you can honestly answer yes, if you are “present,” if you are still seeking God and his righteousness, then you will have all other things added unto you, including the gift of discernment. All the things you failed to discern during your time on earth, you will discern in the light of eternity. In this life, discernment sheds a little light on the future; in the next life, it will shine Godlight on the past.

—Peter Kreeft

 
Waiting and learning patience

Look at the examples in the Bible of patience: Job, Moses, and David!

Job lost everything: his family, fortune, and finally his health! But he just kept on believing and obeying, saying, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15) He hung on and would not give up. “The patience of Job” ( James 5:11) served as an inspiring example for generations to come.

When Moses was in a hurry to deliver the children of Israel, he killed an Egyptian and had to flee alone for his own life. But after 40 years of patiently, humbly tending sheep in the wilderness, with time to listen to the voice of God instead of his own impulses, he was finally ready for the slow, laborious, patient work of the Exodus—slow, but sure!

David spent 17 years working under King Saul, and the Lord taught him important lessons as he watched how Saul tried to do things in his own strength, without waiting on the Lord, and he found he wasn’t strong enough. David learned that you have to wait for God.

Learning patience is one of God’s most frequent lessons to us all. So “let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.” (James 1:4)

—David Brandt Berg

 
His master plans

In 2007, the Netherlands instituted a two-hundred-year plan for adapting to and preparing for climate change. With two-thirds of the Dutch population living below sea level, changes in climate can have a drastic and tragic effect on this nation—hence the extreme caution. The plan, from my understanding, consists of 20 billion dollars being put toward the research and construction of better water defenses along their shoreline—the scope of this plan reaches till the year 2200. Their reason for this elaborate plan is simple: without it, due to changes in climate—and greater risk of floods—there is no guarantee that the Netherlands will continue to exist in 200 years unless such measures are taken now.

There is someone else, though, who leaves all other plans and planners in the dust. In Acts 17:26 the apostle Paul talks about a plan that encompasses every plan ever made. He said, “From one man, [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” In other words, from the very beginning, God had a plan: the act of creation wasn’t haphazard. God wasn’t in need of something to do on a Sunday afternoon, so bang—the earth! There is an overarching plan that is being played out every day of mankind’s existence on planet earth.

But there’s something even more personally awesome in this for you and me: every human put on earth was an intentional act of creation. God is a planner; He has plans for everyone. King David affirms about God, “Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16 NIV) And in a talk Job gives describing God’s nature, Job says to God, “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.” (Job 14:5 NLT)

Imagine God planning out Moses’ life. Chapter One doesn’t have Moses parting the Red Sea; it actually doesn’t even start with Moses receiving God’s directives at the burning bush on Mount Horeb. There are roughly 80 years’ worth of chapters and pages that come before either of those events. When studying Moses’ life it’s easy to marvel at the 40 years Moses spent tending sheep—we think of how patient he must have been at the end of that ordeal. I’m realizing now that it was really God who exercised patience in this story. Imagine creating a character and knowing that he’d only be ready to do what you wanted him to do 80 years after his creation.

Somehow, I’m comforted at the realization of God as a planner. Here’s why: even if you feel like nothing is happening for you right now, and it’s hard to wait, it could be that you’re only at the beginning pages of God’s plan for your life and the really great stuff is on page 492. Or perhaps your “awesome” is a life simply filled with days lived well and to God’s glory. Whatever the case may be, the great thing about God’s plans for you is that even when nothing seems to be happening on the surface, God has all these intricate plans going on. His Spirit is at work even on ordinary days. His Spirit is working in your life toward you reaching page 492 of your book, and beyond that page as well.

In a letter to the Romans, Paul calls God “the God of patience.” (Romans 15:5) God is described as patient and longsuffering in the Bible; it’s one of the characteristics attributed to Him. If God was that patient with His plan for Moses, and His plans for all of mankind, I’m thinking it’s not a far stretch to imagine that God wants us to also be patient with what He is doing in our lives. If God believes we’re worth the wait, then we should believe that, too.

—T.M.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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Man Shall Not Live By Bread Alone
A compilation of quotations on the Bible

free-bible-studies-online-anchorIt is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
—Matthew 4:4 ESV

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The Word is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me.
—Martin Luther

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Believe me, sir, never a night goes by, be I ever so tired, but I read the Word of God before I go to bed.
—Douglas MacArthur

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The New Testament is the best book the world has ever known or will know.
—Charles Dickens

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The Bible is nothing less than God’s written Word—and because of this, it’s just as true today as when it was first written. As the Bible says concerning itself, its writers “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)
—Billy Graham

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What makes the difference is not how many times you have been through the Bible, but how many times and how thoroughly the Bible has been through you.
—Gypsy Smith

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An African chief wanted to know the secret of Britain’s greatness. Queen Victoria, holding a Bible in her hand, said, “Tell the chief that this book, the Bible, is the secret of our greatness!” (Psalm 19:9; Proverbs 14:34)

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The majesty of the Scriptures strikes me with admiration, as the purity of the gospel has its influence on my heart. Peruse the works of our philosophers with all their pomp of diction, how mean, how contemptible are they, compared with the scriptures!
—Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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The Bible contains a complete series of facts and of historical men, to explain time and eternity, such as no other religion has to offer. … What happiness that book procures for those who believe it! What marvels those admire there who reflect upon it!
—Napoleon Bonaparte

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The Bible is an inexhaustible foundation of all truths. The existence of the Bible is the greatest blessing which humanity ever experienced.
—Immanuel Kant

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I consider an intimate knowledge of the Bible an indispensable qualification of a well-educated man.
—Robert A. Millikan

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I consider the Gospels to be thoroughly genuine; for in them there is the effective reflection of a sublimity which emanated from the person of Christ: And this is as divine as ever the divine appeared on earth.
—Goethe

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Jesus Christ opens wide the doors of the treasure-house of God’s promises, and bids us go in and take with boldness the riches that are ours.
—Corrie ten Boom

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If a man is not familiar with the Bible, he has suffered a loss which he had better make all possible haste to correct.
—Theodore Roosevelt

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The Bible is far more than a doctrinal guidebook. God’s Word generates life, creates faith, produces change, frightens the Devil, causes miracles, heals hurts, builds character, transforms circumstances, imparts joy, overcomes adversity, defeats temptation, infuses hope, releases power, cleanses our minds, brings things into being, and guarantees our future forever! We cannot live without the Word of God! Never take it for granted. You should consider it as essential to your life as food.
—Rick Warren

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The Bible is the most wonderful, supernatural, miraculous, amazing, marvelous book in the whole world. It tells you where we came from, how we got here, why we’re here, how to survive while here, how to be happy while here, and how to have love, joy, and peace forever.

The Word of God is the most powerful truth on earth.—Words that contain the very Spirit and life of God Himself. ( John 4:24) The Word is the spiritual spark of God that ignites us with His life, light, and power.

His Word is the most powerful weapon in the world, sharper than any two-edged sword, sharper than any weapon on earth. It can do more than split atoms; it has greater power than the hydrogen bomb! For it can even divide asunder the soul and the spirit of man. And can change hearts and change minds.
—David Brandt Berg

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What shall we say of Isaac Newton (1642–1727), who discovered the law of gravity, formulated the three laws of motion, developed calculus, constructed the first reflecting telescope, and whom many consider the greatest scientist who ever lived? Newton wrote an estimated 1,400,000 words on religion—more than on physics or astronomy. Here are a few quotes from him:

“I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by men who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.”

“All my discoveries have been made in answer to prayer.”

“We account the Scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever.”

Then there was Francis Bacon (1561–1626), credited with developing the scientific method. He said:

“There are two books laid before us to study, to prevent our falling into error; first, the volume of the Scriptures, which reveal the will of God; then, the volume of the Creatures, which express His power.”

How about Blaise Pascal (1623–1662), the brilliant French mathematician who developed the science of hydrostatics and helped formulate the laws of probability? From 1658 until his death, he worked on a defense of Christianity. He said:

“Except by Jesus Christ we know not what our life is, what our death is, what God is, what we are ourselves. Thus, without Scripture, which has only Jesus Christ for its object, we know nothing, and we see only obscurity and confusion in the nature of God, and in nature herself.”

Samuel F. B. Morse (1791–1872) invented the tele­graph and Morse Code, built the first camera in America, and founded the National Academy of Design. A dedicated Christian, Morse established one of America’s first Sunday schools and supported missionaries. He said:

“The nearer I approach to the end of my pilgrimage, the clearer is the evidence of the divine origin of the Bible, the grandeur and sublimity of God’s remedy for fallen man are more appreciated, and the future is illumined with hope and joy.”

The first message he sent by telegraph was: “What hath God wrought.”

Though born a slave, George Washington Carver (1864–1943) became one of the world’s greatest agricultural scientists. Working at the Tuskegee Institute, an Alabama school for African Americans, he developed over 300 products from the peanut and 118 from the sweet potato. He showed both black and white farmers how to better utilize land, and revitalized the South’s economy. He did much to improve race relations, and was also an accomplished artist. Like Pasteur, Carver patented none of his discoveries, but gave them away. He turned down an offer from Thomas Edison to leave Tuskegee Institute and work at 60 times his pay. In 1940 he donated his life savings to the Institute. A devout Christian, Carver taught his students from the Bible, in a class that met on Sundays from 1907 until his death. He said:

“The secret of my success? It is simple. It is found in the Bible, ‘In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.’”
—James Perloff

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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Making Godly Decisions: Finding the Will of God
By Peter Amsterdam

free-bible-studies-online-anchorWe have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
—Colossians 1:9–10 ESV

One of the traits of humankind, as beings created in the image of God, is free will, which includes both the ability to make decisions and the responsibility for the outcomes of our decisions. Learning to make decisions that will glorify God and fulfill His will for our lives can be very challenging at times, and can test and grow our faith, as we seek His will and wait on Him for answers and guidance.

Accepting Jesus as our Savior and receiving His free gift of salvation is the most important decision we ever face in our lives, as it determines our eternal standing in relationship to God and His kingdom. That all-important decision defines our present and our future, as well as redefines our past by canceling out the charges that “stood against us and condemned us, nailing [them] to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13–14 NIV)

The decision to accept Christ as our Savior is one that only we can make; it is a freewill choice to invite Jesus into our hearts and lives. However, salvation is not the end of the road, and once we’ve given our life to the Lord we are faced with numerous other decisions on a daily basis relating to the nurturing of our faith through studying His Word and living our lives according to His commands and guidance.

Decision-making for Christians is meant to be a relational process, involving ourselves and God, as we bring all our anxieties to Him, knowing that He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7) He has told us to “come and let us reason together,” (Isaiah 1:18) demonstrating His desire to carry on a conversation with us. He wants to be present and to participate in the conversation as we make decisions, and has promised that His Spirit in us will guide us into all truth. (John 16:13)

Throughout our lives as Christians, we are faced with course-altering decisions that affect our future, whether they relate to what career to pursue, whom to marry, how to raise our children, what country to live in, or how to commit to our faith and participate in God’s work. One of the most important steps for finding God’s will and making good decisions is acknowledging Him and committing our ways to Him. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.” (Proverbs 3:5–6 NKJV; Psalm 37:5 NASB)

Learning to make decisions that will honor God and align with His will and commands is often accompanied by times of soul searching, desperate prayer, and testing. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish what God’s will is in a situation or what decision will produce the best outcomes. At such times, we can wish that a lightning bolt would light up the sky or that we’d be knocked to the ground like the apostle Paul to give us a precise, infallible sign. And yet, so often, the voice of God is so quiet that if we don’t calm our spirit and open our minds and listen, it can be missed.

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
—1 Kings 19:11–12 NIV

How do we play our part in the decision-making process, doing everything in our power to make right decisions, to hush our spirits to hear God’s voice, and to determine the best option in decisions that will alter the course of our lives in some way? God’s Word tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)

He created us in His image, as rational beings, capable of freewill decisions and of choosing to place Him at the center of our lives. This is one of the ways by which we love God with all our minds: by making conscious decisions to love God, to make Him the center of our lives and our desires, and by seeking to glorify Him in all our decisions and ways. As we love God in this way, rationally and decisively with our minds and with the commitment in our hearts to follow wherever He leads, we are positioned to test and discern the will of God, as Paul explained in Romans: “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV)

This verse indicates that often we may need to put something to the test to find out through experience whether it is the will of God. The decision before us may not be clear-cut enough to know with absolute certainty that it is the right path. Perhaps we need to decide whether to invest in a business venture, or start a new form of mission work, or place our children in a certain school, or move to a new neighborhood. We have sought the Lord for wisdom and guidance. We have weighed the pros and cons. We have done a thorough analysis of the situation. We have asked counsel of those who are in a position to give sound advice. Yet we may find that we are still not 100 percent sure of the decision, despite a looming deadline. In such cases, you may feel that God is nudging you to take a step forward to make a preliminary decision, while making allowance for the testing and discerning stage, and the ability to alter course if the proposed direction doesn’t prove to be the will of God in your situation.

As you take the step of making a preliminary decision, the Lord will often either confirm it or new factors will emerge that will shed new light on the situation. At each new junction on the road to the final decision, you may need to relook at things and pray further before taking the next step. You may need to make course adjustments, as you discover that the coordinates of your original decision, while pointing you in the right general direction, need to be fine-tuned as you zero in on your final destination. Decision-making is often a process involving many decisions, not just a single decision, and each decision lays the foundation for our next decisions.

Most of us would prefer to receive unambiguous direction from God. Yet it seems that often God wants us to do the work of wholeheartedly seeking His will, investigating, analyzing, assessing, and using every means at our disposal to make wise and godly decisions. As so often proves to be the case, God rarely seems to do things for us that we are capable of doing. I’ve often found that I make the best decisions when I work in conjunction with the Lord through doing the background work of analyzing the possibilities and the options, weighing the pros and cons of each one, while seeking His guidance and thoughts on the matter through prayer and hearing from Him.

Making decisions that bring honor and glory to God is one of the ways that we show God that we love Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds. While most of us struggle with the grave responsibility of making godly decisions, it is also an opportunity to glorify God through our choices. As we place Him at the center of our lives, acknowledging Him in all our ways, committing our lives and times into His hands, we can trust that He will guide us and help us to discern His will and to make wise decisions.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

Becoming Your Best You—Part 2

From the Roadmap series

free-bible-studies-online-anchorThe dictionary defines a habit as an acquired pattern of action that is so automatic it’s difficult to break.

Our daily life is made up of habits and routine, which can greatly help us to be successful and accomplish our life’s goals, provided those habits are good ones. Positive habits are a great asset. Negative habits, however, are like a black hole sucking up productive, innovative, and beneficial assets in our life. We need to learn how to tell if a habit is positive or negative, and have a process for dealing with negative habits, to replace them with positive ones. Here’s a humorous account of how habits can become so engrained that they control our actions, sometimes without our noticing it.

Tiring of the drive from the airport to his country place, a man equipped his plane with pontoons so he could land on the lake directly in front of his cottage.

On the next trip, he made his approach down the runway as usual. Alarmed, his wife cried out, “Are you crazy? You can’t land this plane here without wheels!”

The startled husband abruptly yanked up the nose of the aircraft and narrowly averted certain disaster. Continuing, he landed the plane on the lake without mishap.

As he sat there, visibly shaken, he said to his wife, “I don’t know what got into me. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever done!” And with that, he opened the door and stepped out, falling into the water.

—C. Clarke Johnson

We all have habits, plenty of them. The question is, are they good habits or bad habits? Someone once said, “People don’t decide their future; they decide their habits, and their habits decide their future.”

 

The progress formula

When dealing with a mathematical problem, you simply follow the formula. Having predetermined formulas helps the process of resolving problems. Can you imagine trying to figure out mathematical problems if there were no formulas to follow?

What we need then is a formula to follow for crushing the bad habits that keep us from making forward progress. Here’s a pretty good formula for this. Let’s call this “the progress formula,” because it can help you when you are evaluating your habits, and help you formulate a plan and strategy for progress.

The elements of this formula are desire, believe you can, examine your surroundings, expose your excuses, create a plan, and monitor your progress.

 
Desire

Do you desire some change in your life? If so, how much do you want the change? Do you want it enough that you are willing to change your life to accelerate your success? Do you want it enough to ditch your negative habits and replace them with positive ones? Do you want it enough to sacrifice whatever is working against the particular change and progress that you desire?

A helpful tip is to imagine yourself where you want to be and imagine how you would feel if you reached that goal. Then ask yourself, “How much am I willing to pay to get there?”

Many people want to change any number of bad habits, but they don’t want the change enough to do what is necessary to get there; thus their desire is superficial and ineffective.

We each can ask ourselves: “How much do I desire the results of the change I seek, and am I willing to pay the price?” If the answer is yes, then we’ll be well on our way to reaching our desired destination.

 
Believe you can

You might desire a change and feel that you are willing to pay the price for that change, but deep in your heart you might be wondering if you can actually do it. You might feel that others can but you can’t, even though you want the change with all your heart. Or maybe you feel you don’t have the talent, the time, the physical strength, or the endurance to change.

Belief is an amazing thing, as the Bible says, “For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) Another verse reads, “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity.” (Proverbs 18:14)

These two Bible verses show us that the human will is a very powerful force. We are “wonderfully and fearfully made,” and the human spirit can survive and change in even the most adverse situations. The deciding factor is often our will and faith.

If you are having a hard time believing you can change, adopt a positive, full-of-faith attitude, even if you don’t “feel” it. Adopt an “I can” attitude. Start saying positive, change-reinforcing statements such as, “By the grace of God, I can change. I will change. With His help, I can do it.”

 
Examine your surroundings

Many times the desire to change is not enough to complete the change process. We have to honestly and practically look at our surroundings and identify the things we are doing on a day-to-day basis that are working against the progress we seek or that reinforce our negative habits.

We may find that with every habit we are trying to create or break, there are certain physical things that work for or against us. We need to find out what those are and change them or it will be frustrating and much slower for us to make the changes we desire.

 
Expose your excuses

We also need to take an honest look at ourselves and the excuses we have been using. Be honest with yourself and see what excuses come to mind. Write those down, and then formulate a counterattack. If your excuse for not getting up early is that you went to bed late, then formulate your counterattack of a reasonable cutoff time at night so you can get to bed earlier. If your excuse is that you like your late-night internet browsing, formulate a counterattack to remind yourself of what you will lose the next morning by not going to sleep on time. For every excuse, have a counterattack ready and keep it handy to remind yourself of it often.

Consider this concept: Great achievers create goals; underachievers create excuses.

Each of us might think this doesn’t apply to us, or that we are disadvantaged because our circumstances are difficult. However, there have been countless successful people who triumphed over obstacles, handicaps, or difficulties.

Here is one such example:

[This is] a story about a woman who truly understands what it means to prepare for success. The woman’s name is Laura Sloate, and she is the senior partner of a New York money-management firm that oversees half a billion dollars in assets.

Sloate is phenomenally successful, by the way. During one five-year span, the private accounts she managed averaged returns of 25 percent or more a year!

Needless to say, in Sloate’s line of work, her job is information intensive. She has to constantly monitor international markets, she must assess scores of financial reports every week, and she must stay on top of even the smallest global buying trends.

Sloate’s success comes as no surprise to people who know her, for, according to her friends and family, she has been preparing herself for success ever since she was a little girl.

Even as a child Sloate listened to tapes, attended seminars, and counseled with mentors. Since age six she has sought out every piece of new technology that could help her prepare herself for success. Amazingly, the only thing she did not do was read.

In fact, to this day, Laura Sloate does not read, despite the fact that information is the life blood of her business. That’s not to say that Laura Sloate is undisciplined. Or unprepared. On the contrary, Laura Sloate is a fountain of information on just about any subject you can think of. But as unlikely as it may seem, she didn’t get that information through reading.

You see, Laura Sloate has been blind since age six!

—Burke Hedges

 
Create a plan

Next, create a plan. Like that familiar saying, plan your work, work your plan. We need to document our goals and how we are going to get there. A plan is not a plan unless it is written down. And a plan is not an effective plan unless it is reviewed often. We might have the most organized plan in the world, but if it is tucked away, never to be seen again, then it was nothing more than a waste of time.

Often we use the excuse that we don’t have the time to stop and write down our plan, or to go back to our plan and monitor our progress. But if we don’t write it down, then we are not really planning; we only think we’re planning. It’s too easy to forget or compromise a plan in our head if it’s not formulated well on paper. Or worse yet, when we don’t write our plan down, we aren’t taking the time and brainpower needed to come up with a good plan, so our plan will likely be mediocre, and our follow-through even worse.

When making your plan, remember to be realistic, because if you are unrealistic, you will get discouraged too soon, and then you may quit and never reach your goal. It’s better to be realistic and reach your goal gradually than never get there at all.

And last of all, don’t allow yourself to get discouraged. We all have times when we slip or have a bad day. This is not a serious problem; in fact, we need to expect that there will be some setbacks and anticipate them so that we are not overwhelmed when they happen.

 
Monitor your progress

Last but not least,monitor your progress. Regularly evaluate your plan to see if it is working for you; if not, change it! Your plan is a tool for progress. If you find that your original plan was unrealistic, adjust it. If you were too lenient, tighten it.

With every plan we make in life, it’s helpful to have it broken down into three categories:

  1. Long-term goals (to be reached within two to five years)
  2. Short-term goals (to be reached within six months to a year)
  3. Immediate goals (to be reached within 30 days)

Using a fitness example, we could specify goals as follows:

  • Long-term goal: Reach my ideal weight and become more fit overall, with more muscle tone and endurance.
  • Short-term goal: I will lose 10 kilos over the next year, which is less than one kilo a month, and I will add a weight-lifting plan to my current exercise routine.
  • Immediate goals: I will monitor my calorie intake, I will drink more water, I will exercise five times a week, and I will cut down on snacks, alcohol, and sugar.

Having each plan broken down into long-term, short-term, and immediate goals gives structure to our plan and life. This also gives us a yardstick by which we can measure our progress. If our plans are vague, we will not know how to properly gauge our progress. But if we have our goals broken down into these three segments, our progress will be more easily noticeable and tracked.

We can make it a habit to revisit our plans every month. We can measure our progress according to last month’s immediate goals, adjust our plan, create new immediate goals, and then keep going.

If we are faithful to do this each month, we will see tremendous progress. If we take the time to apply the progress formula to our lives, we will know what to do each time a nonproductive hole appears in our day, and we will know how to fill it and what to fill it with because we have a plan!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

—Jeremiah 29:114

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

Becoming Your Best You—Part 1
From the Roadmap series

free-bible-studies-online-anchorOur lives are the result of the choices we make each day. Every day is a chance to make decisions that will guide our future. Every day is a chance to make decisions to perform the tasks before us with a commitment to excellence, or decisions to invest the minimal effort necessary and to settle for mediocrity.

We consciously make decisions each day whether to pursue life in a mediocre way, doing only the minimum necessary, or to rise to the occasion, work hard, and make our goals a reality. Every one of us can just sleepily live life half throttle, being content to drag ourselves through life, one lazy, uneventful day at a time. Or we can attain new levels of success by vigorously evaluating and improving our life, day by day, week by week, year by year.

Let’s explore how to deal mediocrity a lethal, below-the-belt blow, and in so doing, put ourselves in a better position for a life of fulfillment.

 
We each choose

We make many choices every day, one after the other after the other that ultimately set the course for our lives and future. The quality of our lives doesn’t just appear like magic. The magic lies in making good choices that will set us on the right course for the future. But not only that, it’s in realizing that our choices will ultimately shape what our lives become. Will they be full of passion, commitment, and determination, in spite of the bad stuff that comes our way? Will we take advantage of opportunities and progress, even if our resources and finances are limited?

Your choices will ultimately guide the path of your life. That’s a pretty amazing concept, but it’s true. We each determine how circumstances will affect us by the decisions we make in response to our circumstances.

This is sometimes a difficult concept to accept, as often we want the circumstances to change before we’re willing to make the right choices. Yet if we can embrace it, our lives can change regardless of our circumstances, if we choose to commit these to God and trust in His plan for our lives. We will begin to feel more empowered, less victimized, and that the Lord is in control of our lives.

When we feel trapped and as if we aren’t making our own choices, we feel like victims. From time to time, many of us fall into the trap of believing that our circumstances are entirely beyond our control, and that there is no use in attempting to change them. Taking responsibility for the choices that we can make, however, takes us out of the victim mentality and into an empowering “all things are possible with God” mindset.

Contrary to popular opinion, God does not usually choose for us. We have to choose for ourselves, find His will for ourselves, and seek Him diligently to know His will. This is why He put us here, this is what we’re here to learn, and the major part of our training: how to make the right decisions through our personal contact with Him, our knowledge of His Word and His will, and our love for Him and others. We must do what we know is right, and be willing to live and to die for what we know is the truth.

But as He says, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Be sure you’re right, and then go ahead and do what you know is right, no matter what anybody says, and not because anyone has said it, but because you yourself are personally convinced it’s God’s will.

—David Brandt Berg

If we accept that we are responsible for our own choices, then we won’t blame others or our circumstances for any difficulties or hardships that arise from those choices. We’ll take responsibility for our lives—how we live, how we fulfill the Great Commission, and how we make a living—which will ultimately be a reflection of the decisions we make each day.

 
The role of discipline

It’s pretty easy to decide that we want to be successful at whatever we choose to pursue in life and to set lofty goals for where we want to be in a few years. But it’s much more difficult to actually get there. Accomplishment is not just about thinking, wishing, hoping, or even planning. It’s about doing! Planning is important, but a great plan and a tremendous destination is not much help if we never get started, persevere, and work to reach that destination. It takes self-discipline to get to where we want to go and achieve what we want to achieve. We have to evaluate our life, our priorities, our schedule, our off-hours, and take a good, hard look at what we are doing that is not productive, so we can change what needs to be changed, and then commit to the self-discipline needed to reach those goals.

We each need to kick our own butt! What a concept! This means that if we want to achieve success in life, in any endeavor, it’s going to require self-discipline. Achieving our goals is not necessarily synonymous with just taking life as it comes. If we want to mature and grow and reach our goals, if we want to pursue a profession or career or field of study, or devote ourselves to the mission; if we want to be responsible and make a difference, then self-discipline will be an important quality to cultivate.

If you never seem to be reaching your goals, or worse, if you don’t have any goals, there is something you can do about it. You can kick your own butt.

This takes developing self-discipline. Self-discipline—a bad word? No. It might be a painful or uncomfortable word, but really, it’s a powerful word when you consider that discipline is a key to achieving success. Self-discipline is not easy. It can be hard, even grueling. But if you want to be all you can be, if you want to be your best you, that’s the price.

Discipline derives from disciple—disciple to a philosophy, disciple to a set of principles, disciple to a set of values, disciple to an overriding purpose, to a goal or a person who represents that goal.

In other words, if you are an effective manager of yourself, your discipline comes from within; it is a function of your independent will. You are a follower of your own deep values and their source. And you have the will, the integrity, to subordinate your feelings, your impulses, and your moods to those values.

One of my favorite essays is “The Common Denominator of Success,” written by Albert E. N. Gray. He spent his life searching for the one denominator that all successful people share. He found it wasn’t hard work, good luck, or astute human relations, though those were all important. The one factor that seemed to transcend all the rest [was] putting first things first.

“The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do,” Mr. Gray observed. “[Successful people] don’t like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.”

—Stephen R. Covey

The good news is that the better you get at self-discipline, the easier it becomes.

No one who achieves greatness does so without discipline. [But] … when you discipline yourself to do the things you need to do, when you need to do them, the day’s going to come when you can do the things you want to do, when you want to do them. It’s also true that life is tough, but when you are tough on yourself, life will be infinitely easier on you.

Discipline yourself today so you can have a better life tomorrow.

—Zig Ziglar

Success is rarely luck. Sure, there is the rare case when someone just happens to be at the right place at the right time and stumbles onto a gold mine. But for most of us, success in whatever goals we set for ourselves comes as a result of self-discipline and methodical plodding, so that when an opportunity presents itself, we are in the position to reach out and grab hold of it.

In his book, The Life God Blesses, Gordon MacDonald tells a story about his experiences on the track team at the University of Colorado in the late fifties. In particular, he remembers the difficult workouts he did with a teammate named Bill. “To this day I have anguished memories of our workouts each Monday afternoon,” says Gordon. “When those Monday workouts ended, I would stagger in exhaustion to the locker room.” But Bill was different. When he was finished, he would rest on the grass near the track. But after about 20 minutes, while Gordon showered, Bill repeated the entire workout!

Bill didn’t consider himself to be an exceptional athlete in college. “I was not a great athlete,” observed Bill. “But I had a ‘bag of tricks theory,’ that is, there is no one big move you can make in your training or in competition, but there are thousands of little things you can do.”

Bill might not have made a great impact during his college years, but his discipline and desire paid off over time. Through disciplined effort and continual improvement, the unspectacular college athlete who had worked out with Gordon MacDonald became the world-famous athlete, Bill Toomey, the decathlete inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 1984.

What elevated Bill to such high accomplishments was his discipline. Gordon MacDonald’s insight says it all: “The difference between the two of us began on Monday afternoons during workout. He was unafraid of discipline and did the maximum; I was afraid of discipline and did the minimum.”

—John C. Maxwell

 
“I don’t have time…”

One of our most common excuses is “I don’t have time.” We’ve all said that on numerous occasions. And at first glance, this might seem like a solid excuse. It’s true we are busy.

But how are we spending our time? Let’s look at an everyday example: watching TV. According to a recent survey, Americans now watch an average of five hours of television every day, 35 hours a week. The average American television viewer is watching more than 151 hours of television per month. If someone works 40 hours a week—the average American work week—that means they spend almost as much time watching television as working.

Okay, let’s say we don’t watch that much television. But what about computer games? Blogging and chatting online? Surfing the internet? If we add up those hours, how do we fare?

You’ve probably heard the concept that if you devote one hour a day to studying a topic, after about 10,000 hours, or in about five years, you’ll be a master or expert. What do each of us want to be an expert at? Does how we spend our time prove that?

Do we read and study to become the professional that we want to become? If we’re not reading and studying on our particular field of interest or what we’re hoping to excel in, then it’s likely we’re not reaching our full potential.

Consider this example:

Before becoming a full-time writer, John Grisham was a lawyer. Like most successful lawyers, he put in long hours at the office, often 60 hours a week, sometimes 80! Despite his grueling schedule, Grisham wanted more than anything to write a novel.

However, Grisham had countless ready-made excuses as to why he could NOT write a book, excuses like the fact he had no “creative” writing experience, that he had obligations to his wife and two kids, that he didn’t have time because he was working 10-hour days, six days a week, that he was under incredible stress at work.

But Grisham knew that he had a choice. He could either find reasons TO write a novel or he could find reasons NOT TO write a novel and then justify to himself why he couldn’t do it. Fortunately, Grisham chose to find reasons TO write his first novel.

He wrote his first book, A Time to Kill, by making one simple adjustment in his life. He started getting up at 5:00 a.m. and working on his novel. In effect, he didn’t have time to write. So he made the time by getting up a couple of hours earlier each day. Less than one year later, Grisham had a completed manuscript to send to publishers.

Only one problem. The first publisher said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” So did the second, and the third, and the fourth, and so on. But Grisham was determined, so he kept submitting his book until, finally, publisher number 26 said, “yes!”

The publisher had so little faith in the book that only 5,000 copies were printed. At the time it seemed like 4,000 too many! The book was a flop.

So Grisham made another choice. He bought 1,000 copies and decided to market the book himself. It took months before his habit of giving talks and signing books on weekends began to pay off.

Word of mouth kept building and building until, finally, after nearly a year’s worth of weekend personal appearances, John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, exploded onto the best-seller list, where it stayed for 100 weeks! To date there are more than 10 million copies of Grisham’s first novel in print.

Grisham was able to accomplish what he did because he changed his habits. … Grisham’s new habit of getting up at 5:00 a.m. allowed him to accomplish a lifelong dream. The habit of adding two productive hours a day can make a world of difference; over the span of a year, you could add 15 work weeks of productive time to each and every year of your life.

—Burke Hedges, adapted

Having self-discipline pays off over time. This can happen in our lives as well.

With self-discipline most anything is possible.

—Theodore Roosevelt

 

With God all things are possible.

—Jesus, Matthew 19:265

 

 

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