Category Archives: Anchor

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Near to the Heart of God

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorThe great passion of the writer of Hebrews is that we “draw near” to God. (Hebrews 4:16, 7:25, 10:22, 11:6) Draw near to his throne to find all the help we need. Draw near to him, confident that he will reward us with all that he is for us in Jesus. And this is clearly what he means in Hebrews 10:22, because verse 19 says that we have confidence “to enter the holy place,” that is, the new heavenly “holy of holies,” like that inner room in the old tabernacle of the Old Testament where the high priest met with God once a year, and where his glory descended on the ark of the covenant. So the one command, the one exhortation that we are given in Hebrews 10:19–22 is to draw near to God. The great aim of this writer is that we get near God, that we have fellowship with him, that we not settle for a Christian life at a distance from God, that God not be a distant thought, but a near and present reality, that we experience what the old Puritans called communion with God.

This drawing near is not a physical act. It’s not building a tower of Babel, by your achievements, to get to heaven. It’s not necessarily going into a church building, or walking to an altar at the front. It is an invisible act of the heart. … It is a directing of the heart into the presence of God who is as distant as the holy of holies in heaven, and yet as near as the door of faith. He is commanding us to come, to approach him, to draw near to him…

“We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:11) This is the center of the gospel—this is what the Garden of Gethsemane and Good Friday are all about—that God has done astonishing and costly things to draw us near. He has sent his Son to suffer and to die so that through him we might draw near. It’s all so that we might draw near. And all of this is for our joy and for his glory.

He does not need us. If we stay away, he is not impoverished. He does not need us in order to be happy in the fellowship of the Trinity. But he magnifies his mercy by giving us free access through his Son, in spite of our sin, to the one Reality that can satisfy us completely and forever, namely, himself. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

—John Piper

 
Keep going for God

You’ve got to keep going for the Lord in this life! No matter how many mistakes you make, how many stumbles and falls and how many times you get off the track, you’ve just got to keep trying. You’ve got to keep going! Even if you keep on crying, you’ve got to keep on trying. Keep going for God! Hallelujah!

To love someone more dearly every day,
To help a wandering soul to find his way,
To ponder o’er His holy Word and pray,
And pray when evening comes,
And smile when evening comes: This is my task.

To follow truth as blind men long for light,
To do my best from dawn of day till night,
To keep my heart fit for His holy sight
And answer when He calls
And answer when He calls: This is my task.

And then my Savior by and by I’ll see,
When faith hath made our task on earth complete,
And lay my homage at my Master’s feet,
Within those jasper walls,
Within those jasper walls: This crowns my task!

(My Task,” Maude Ray (1903), adapted)

God bless you and make you a blessing! May that be your task, in Jesus’ name, amen. Whatever you do, keep going for God! Jesus never fails!

—David Brandt Berg

 
Bigger than anything

Bigger than all my problems, bigger than all my fears,
God is bigger than any mountain I can, or cannot, see,
Bigger than all my questions, bigger than anything,
God is bigger than any mountain I can, or cannot, see.

God is far bigger than I can ever imagine! God is a “doing” God! He is a God who is well able to do anything! He is able to do anything, far beyond our every human thought or imagination. The Bible says in Ephesians 3:20, “Unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think.”

There is no impossible circumstance too far gone that God cannot minister to,
No problem too big that God cannot solve,
No sickness He cannot heal,
No miracle which God cannot do,
No prayer which He cannot answer,
No sinner too lost in their sin that God cannot save,
No backslider too far from God that God cannot restore,
No city too hard that God cannot bring a mighty revival to.
For our God is well able to do far above all that we ask or think … He is able to do!

If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we, more often than not, tend to fix our eyes on the problem. Then as we dwell on it, we allow it to grow until it becomes to us this huge mountain before us. However, in the eyes of our great and awesome God, it is but a speck of dust, which He can blow away by the gentlest breath…

Our God is able to do whatever it is you need Him to do.
Our God is able to heal you.
Our God is able to rescue you.
Our God is able to save you.
Our God is able to meet all your needs.
Our God is able to turn things around for you.
Our God is able to restore you.
Our God is able to heal your broken marriage.
Our God is able to forgive you.
Our God is able to show you mercy and grace.
Our God is able to answer all your prayers.
Our God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think.
Our God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
Our God is a great big God, bigger than all our problems; He is bigger than anything.

We may never grasp how awesome God is, or the enormity of God. Or even how omnipotent, omnipresent, or omniscient He is. However, may we grasp the fullness of this promise from the Lord in Ephesians 3:20: “Unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think,” because our God is an awesome God!

—Matthew McDonald

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

Countercultural Christianity

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorBut you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
—1 Peter 2:9

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Every generation must face this quandary of how to maintain cultural influence, and in our changing world, the conversation has been resurrected again.

In an effort to appeal to outsiders, some Christians simply copy culture. They become a Xerox of what they perceive as hip in hopes that people will perceive them—and their organizations, ministries, and churches—as “cool” and give them a chance. Unfortunately, this pursuit of pop culture removes the church from its historically prophetic position in society. Relating to the world by following the world is a recipe for disaster.

The next generation of Christians aren’t separatists, antagonists, or striving to be “relevant.” Instead, they are countercultural as they advance the common good in society. The next Christians see themselves as salt, preserving agents actively working for restoration in the middle of a decaying culture. They attach themselves to people and structures that are in danger of rotting while availing themselves of Christ’s redeeming power to work through them. They understand that by being restorers they fight against the cultural norms and often flow counter to the cultural tide. But they feel that, as Christians, they’ve been called to partner with God in restoring and renewing everything they see falling apart.

Paradoxically, in our current cultural context, this not only opens up more people to personal salvation, but it also sustains a God-glorifying testimony to the world of His restoration power at work. It’s truly good news to the world. Rather than fighting off culture to protect an insular Christian community, they are fighting for the world to redeem it. …

A commitment to being countercultural rather than being removed or “relevant” isn’t always easy. Living differently can be hard. Going against the ebbs and flows of culture can create friction and sometimes provoke a hostile reaction to the good we are trying to create. Theologians Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon remind us that this should be expected, for “whenever a people are bound together in loyalty to a story that includes something as strange as the Sermon on the Mount, we are put at odds with the world.”

Yet, it is through maintaining this cultural orientation that the world can experience God’s restoration power and people will be convinced that our faith is all we claim, all that Jesus commissioned His followers to. As the apostle Peter encourages, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12 NIV)

Is a countercultural community the answer to restoring the soul of the world, winning the skeptics, and revitalizing our faith? We’ll have to wait and see. For now we know that the clear call of Jesus is for the Christian community to be salt on a rotting world and light in the dimmest places.

—Gabe Lyons

 
God’s new nation

God called His people a new nation, a holy nation. That means a whole new culture, a whole new way of life, a brand-new people. We come from all races, creeds and colors, but now we’re all one in Christ Jesus, and that is a miracle in itself. (Galatians 3:28) No matter what nationality, race, or place we originally came from, we all now have the same faith, love, wonder-working power, and changed lives.

There are many different governments and kingdoms of man, but only one kingdom of God. We are a people without a permanent country on this earth because we seek one to come, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 13:14; 11:10) We seek a country established by God Himself, and it is certainly not any of the nations on the face of this earth. Not even the most Christian ones could be called His country.

We belong to the kingdom of God; that’s our country. We seek a better country, a country which we already have in our hearts, thank the Lord, the kingdom of heaven! That’s our country—the best country in the entire universe, one that has never persecuted the poor or oppressed the weak, a country that’s never lost a battle, and never fought a war for the wrong reasons!

We are strangers and pilgrims here on this earth, God’s representatives and ambassadors of His soon-coming kingdom of love, the greatest kingdom the world is ever going to know.

—David Brandt Berg

 
By this everyone will know

There are some ways in which we don’t want the church to be countercultural. Churches accommodate themselves to culture in a whole number of very good ways. It’s a good thing, for instance, that Christians around the world use a word in their local language for God …

Being countercultural is a strong theme in the Bible. Jesus told his followers that they “do not belong to the world.” (John 15:19 NIV) St. Paul told the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world.” (Romans 12:2) But it is quite another thing to figure out just what that means. There are a bewildering array of cultures and subcultures which proclaim and embody different values, ideas, and intuitions. How do we decide what we are to be counter to?

The Bible makes clear that the most significant way in which Christians demonstrate their distinctiveness is in the nature of their life together. How the Christian community’s members interact with one another, engage in discourse, and welcome others, for instance, are all part of their witness to God. This is what Jesus was getting at when he told his followers that “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” (John 13:35) The apostolic church was noted for its distinctive relationships. The life of the early Christians—“all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44)—was countercultural in the context of a Roman society stratified by divisions of wealth. A central part of St. Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians is that, if they want to follow Jesus, all Christians actually need one another—no matter how unlikely that may seem and how much the world presses them to think otherwise.

Interdependence, relatedness, community: these are ideas that strike me as pretty countercultural in our contemporary society.

—Jesse Zink

 
Sent to be a witness

The particular notion that we are “in the world but not of the world” is based on the prayer of Jesus in the Last Supper discourses in the Gospel of John. Jesus said, “They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world,” and “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” (John 17:16, 18 NAB)

We are sent into the world to witness and share the good news that we have come to know in Christ. Peace is possible. Love is real. All creation has dignity and is sacred and can bring us closer to God.

This loving witness is costly. We may stick out or be misunderstood. We could end up like the one we follow, and so we must embrace the cross. We may have to pay a major price for proclaiming prophetic messages. Christ, after all, is our model for countercultural gospel living.

In his prayer recorded in John 17:22, Jesus declares that the ultimate aim of all countercultural Christian living is not actually division and separation, but unity: “And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

As we live our countercultural Christian lives, may we remain rooted in this vision. May we always remember that we witness Christ’s love in order to more boldly manifest the union and love that is found in God alone.

—Julia Walsh

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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Be Enthusiastic!

Based on the writings of David Brandt Berg

free-bible-studies-online-anchorIf there’s anything that catches people’s attention and causes them to take notice of what you’re saying or doing, it’s enthusiasm! The word enthusiasm is derived from two Greek words: en, which means in, and theos, which means God. So enthusiasm literally means “in God,” or “God in us.” Thus the truly enthusiastic person is one who acts and speaks as if he were possessed by God.

God’s Word tells us, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) and “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord!” (Romans 12:11 NIV)

The same driving passion, the same irresistible compassion that motivated the apostles and martyrs and every great man or woman of God throughout the ages should motivate every child of God in everything they do, everything they say, everywhere they go, with everybody. The apostle Paul summed it up in these few famous and ringing words which have cried out from the heart of every true Christian in every true good deed he has ever done, and for which indeed he is willing to die: “The love of Christ compels us!” (2 Corinthians 5:14)

Regardless of what you may lack in the way of natural talents, abilities, or even material goods, if you obey God’s Word and let Him live in you and through you so that your heart burns with His love, then He will be able to greatly use you and make you a blessing to many.

As a young man, David Livingstone faced an important decision. “I have found that I have no unusual endowments of intellect,” he wrote in his diary, “but this day I resolve that I will be an uncommon Christian.” He “purposed in his heart” to give his all to the Lord, and determined to become an enthusiast for the truth—and he was! He became one of the greatest missionaries the world has ever known.

The British historian Arnold Toynbee said, “Apathy can only be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal which takes the imagination by storm, and second, a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice.”

What greater ideal could anyone have than to bring everlasting salvation and eternal heavenly life to a lost and dying world that is perishing without it? And what better “intelligible plan” could anyone have than that given by Jesus to His followers: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”? (Mark 16:15) As Christians, we should be the most enthusiastic people in the entire world!

The apostle Paul was another of God’s great enthusiasts. Even before his conversion, he showed a great deal of enthusiasm—though with the wrong ideal and the wrong plan.

But as soon as Paul’s eyes were opened, he became an enthusiast for the right side. When others saw his total dedication and enthusiasm for the Lord, they got on fire for God too. The work he started spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.

Nothing could quench Paul’s enthusiasm. At one point he testified, “Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day [adrift] in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from the Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false brothers! I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” (2 Corinthians 11:24–27 NIV) Did Paul let these difficulties and obstacles stop him? No! He went right on serving God no matter what hardships or difficulties befell him.

Nothing can stop the man who is on fire for God. He will keep going no matter what, because he knows he is doing the right thing for the right cause and for the One who is always right!

So where do we get such enthusiasm, this inspiration that fills a life with fire and fervor for the Lord? From the Holy Spirit of God! The Bible says, “Our God is a consuming fire,” (Hebrews 12:29) and repeatedly compares His Spirit to a fire or flames of fire. (See Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:3–4; Revelation 4:5) So if you want to be enthusiastic for the Lord, full of His fiery anointing and inspiration, just pray and ask Him to fill you with the power of His Holy Spirit, and He will.

Someone once asked a great man of God what was the secret of his success, and he replied, “I just get on fire for God, and the world comes out to see me burn!”

As Christians, our hearts should be so full of the love of Jesus that we want to overflow and share it with others. You’ve got to be alive and enthusiastic to be able to show others that what you’ve got with Jesus is better than what they’ve got without Him.

Why did people listen to Jesus? Jesus spoke from His heart, from the Spirit, and it brought life; it moved people. It didn’t just tickle their ears, but it reached and touched their hearts. He said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63) The words the scribes and the Pharisees (the religious leaders of Jesus’ day) spoke were well-educated, but they were dry and dead and only brought death. Why? Because they only spoke from their heads.

That’s the difference! You cannot kindle a fire in any other heart until it is burning within your own.

Of course, we should not only be enthusiastic in presenting the gospel to others, but in everything we do. Whatever task is set before us, the Bible tells us we’re to “do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” (Colossians 3:23) In everything you do, even the most menial tasks, you can be happy, inspired, and full of enthusiasm. If you’re asking the Lord to inspire you, He will give you that divine spark of His Spirit that will make every little task a joy!

Let’s get on fire for God by earnestly praying and faithfully reading His Word. Let’s ask for His Spirit to inspire us with the vision of the great things He wants to do through us. And then let’s do our part by putting our whole heart into whatever He asks us to do for Him and others.

Come, let’s set the world afire for God and enlighten the hearts of all men everywhere! “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!”

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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Jesus Loves Me!

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorGive thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.
—Psalm 136:26 ESV

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Occasionally, all too occasionally, I sense the truth of grace. There are times when I study the parables and grasp that they are about me. I am the sheep the shepherd has left the flock to find, the prodigal for whom the father scans the horizon, the servant whose debt has been forgiven. I am the beloved one of God.

Not long ago I received in the mail a postcard from a friend that had on it only six words, “I am the one Jesus loves.” I smiled when I saw the return address, for my strange friend excels at these pious slogans. When I called him, though, he told me the slogan came from the author and speaker Brennan Manning. At a seminar, Manning referred to Jesus’ closest friend on earth, the disciple named John, identified in the Gospels as “the one Jesus loved.” Manning said, “If John were to be asked, ‘What is your primary identity in life?’ he would not reply, ‘I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist, an author of one of the four Gospels,’ but rather, ‘I am the one Jesus loves.’”

What would it mean, I ask myself, if I too came to the place where I saw my primary identity in life as “the one Jesus loves”? How differently would I view myself at the end of a day?

Sociologists have a theory of the looking-glass self: you become what the most important person in your life (wife, father, boss, etc.) thinks you are. How would my life change if I truly believed the Bible’s astounding words about God’s love for me, if I looked in the mirror and saw what God sees?

Brennan Manning tells the story of an Irish priest who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man, “You must be very close to God.” The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment, and then smiles. “Yes, he’s very fond of me.”

—Philip Yancey

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As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you. …

I know you through and through. I know everything about you. Each hair of your head is counted. There is nothing unimportant to Me about your life. All these years I have followed you, and even in your strayings I have always loved you.

I know each of your problems, I know all of your needs and all of your wants, and yes, I also know all of your sins. Still, I will repeat again that I love you, not because of what you have or haven’t done, but because of you yourself, for the sake of the beauty and the value that My Father has given you, creating you in His own likeness. That value that you so often forget about, that beauty that you have covered with sin. I love you as you are, and I have poured out My blood to win you again. …

I care for you, more than you can even imagine—even to the death of the cross for your sake.

I thirst for you. Yes, this is the only way that I can express to you My love. I thirst for you, thirst to love you and thirst after your love. You are very precious to Me. I thirst for you. Come to Me, and I will fill up your heart and heal your wounds. I will remake you into a new creation, and even in all your trials will I give you peace. I thirst for you.

Never doubt My mercy, My desire and will to forgive, My yearning to bless you and live in you. I thirst for you. If in the world’s eyes you are of little importance, that means nothing. In this world, I have no one more important than you. I thirst for you. Open up to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me. Give Me your life and I will show you how much you mean to My heart.

It doesn’t matter how far you have strayed, it doesn’t matter how often you have forgotten Me, it doesn’t matter how many crosses you are able to carry, there is just one thing that you have to remember that is true, that will never change: I thirst for you, just as you are.

—Jesus, speaking in prophecy, as penned by Mother Teresa

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The Bible tells us, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) He is not a cruel tyrant, not a monster who is trying to frighten everyone into hell, but a God who is trying to love everyone into heaven! He’s so close, so intimate, so personal, so loving, so kind, so tender, so gentle, so concerned. He is the great Spirit of Love who created you and me and this beautiful world and the entire universe! To show us His love and to help us understand Himself, He sent His own Son to earth in the form of a man—Jesus Christ.

God loves you so much that He gave His most priceless possession, the most cherished thing He had for you, Jesus, “that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) He shared His love with the whole world.

God is pictured in His Son, Jesus, a man who loved everybody, even the poorest and the worst of all. He came for love and lived in love and died for love that we might live and love forever. His death brings life, forgiveness, and eternal joy to those who love Him in return.

He loves you dearly, more dearly than the spoken word can tell! You can never understand the love of God. It’s too great, it passes all understanding. You just have to receive it and feel it with your heart. (Ephesians 3:19)

—David Brandt Berg

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For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
—Romans 8:38–39 ESV

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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Ditching Ruts and Taking Flight

Words from Jesus

free-bible-studies-online-anchorMaking your good better and your better best

I’m in the business of helping you to make your good better and your better best. I want to help you to take the good things in your life and improve them and make them even better. But if you never take the time to think about these things, maybe because you consider the way you go about it a good thing or “good enough,” a set thing or something that works well for you—then you’ll lack the motivation to strive for something better.

When you’ve found a rhythm that works for you in some area, it would only seem logical that it would be My will for you to keep it going. That’s an example of a good habit, something that is helping you to do the right thing, and you’re probably doing it in the same way day after day. But even something that has worked well for you can still be improved when change is introduced from time to time.

Variety and change often build experience and growth, which are important for your spiritual life. New experiences that increase your faith in what I’m able to do through you help you to realize that you’re capable of more than you thought you were.

How can you tell whether something has become a rut in your life that might be holding you back from trying new things, gaining experience and growth? Obviously there are bad habits and besetting sins that clearly have negative consequences. Those are pretty easy to recognize. But there are also routines that can, if left alone, eventually pose a problem or stifle your growth in some area.

Some indications of this type of “bad rut” are:

  • If you don’t know why you do it that way; it’s just how it happened or how you’ve always done it.
  • If it’s perpetuated because doing things a new way seems too difficult, or you’re afraid of what it will cost, or afraid you won’t be able to learn the new way.
  • If it’s so hard to learn something new or do something differently, if it throws you off kilter and you become stressed and edgy because there was a disruption in your routine, then you may have gotten into a rut.

When you identify a rut that fits the definition of a bad rut, then getting out of that rut with a positive dose of the new is not something “nice to do” or to change just for “change’s sake‚” but rather vital for your growth and fruitfulness. You don’t want to get to the end of your life and lament the fact that you’ve hardly ever changed and done new things—whether in your mindsets and attitudes that kept you from being fully used by Me or in your physical surroundings when you could have improved things and benefited from changes that could have been catalysts to growth and progress.

Seek Me about where you might be stuck in a rut and be open to change as needed. I can guide you and help you to break out of ruts that stifle your growth. I am the best rut-breaker of all time. Call on Me to help you smash any chains that hold you back, and I will help set you free.

 
Take flight

Ruts can be bad for your spiritual life because they make it harder for you to go in a new way, a new direction. Ruts generally yield stagnation. They keep you from moving forward, and they keep you from seeing and embracing new possibilities for growth and development. Ruts keep you from reaching your full potential.

When you’re stuck in a rut, you may feel like you’re moving forward and gaining ground, but you may be going in circles, boring deep grooves in your life without really making forward progress. Maybe because you’ve gotten into a rut as to how you operate, you’re held back, you’re hindered in your progress, and you won’t be able to move forward in some area.

You are meant to soar the skies, charting new terrain, and seeing the world with My bird’s-eye vision of faith and hope. But if you’re stuck in a rut in certain areas of your life, then you’re not reaching this full potential. If you want to fly high in My skies as you are destined to, put your ruts behind you and be on the lookout for the new ways that I want you to operate. Leaving your ruts behind will better your life and make your service for Me more of a joy and a blessing than a struggle or a strain. The new methods I show you, the new things I show you, will be for the purpose of making your work run much more smoothly and your personal life blossom more beautifully.

Ask Me today what ruts might be holding you back from reaching your full potential. I will lead you into all truth, and I will help you to break those chains and chart new paths that lead you forward and take you farther for Me and My kingdom. Then ditch the ruts and don the wings! My skies of fresh ideas and newness of spirit wait to embrace you. You were made for flight; let’s reach your full potential!

 
Embracing new challenges

It’s tough to change the things that have become second nature to you. But when these things are holding you back, they need to be countered, challenged, and overcome. That’s what makes change so difficult‚ but so wonderfully challenging—you are defying the very elements of human nature in habits that bind you to doing things in the same way. You are altering your course to head in a new direction that will bring forth fruit and growth.

So don’t ever feel that overcoming ruts and bad habits is not worth the effort. It is worth every tear shed, every ounce of effort spent, and every difficulty. This brings to life the fighter in you. It is breaking loose from the ties of routine, of characteristics, of what you have come to believe are unchangeable elements of your personality or circumstances, and it is making a decision to turn around and go in a new direction that will move you forward.

The determination to break the chains of bad habits and ruts can bring out the best in you, for it causes you to rise above the circumstance of comfort and search out a new route—a new challenge in life—and as difficult as it may sometimes be to leave behind the old, the promise of better things ahead becomes a compelling force, a reason to live.

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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Finding Grace in a World of Ungrace

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorI’m not perfect. And who knows how many times I’ve fallen short. We all fall short. That’s the amazing thing about the grace of God.
—Tim Tebow

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I came to see that the image of God that I had been raised with was woefully incomplete. I came to know a God who is, in the words of the psalmist, “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15 NIV)

Grace comes free of charge to people who do not deserve it, and I am one of those people. I think back to who I was—resentful, wound up tight with anger, a single hardened link in a long chain of ungrace learned from family and church. Now I am trying in my own small way to pipe the tune of grace. I do so because I know, more surely than I know anything, that any pang of healing or forgiveness or goodness I have ever felt comes solely from the grace of God.

—Philip Yancey

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The Christian faith is not about performance; it’s about God’s relentless tenderness and love. You are the prodigal child, the pearl of great price, and the treasure in the field, Jesus said through parables. And he instructed his followers to address God as abba, our daddy.

Christianity is not primarily a moral code, or an ethic, or a philosophy of life. It’s a love affair. Jesus takes us to the father, and they pour out the Holy Spirit upon us—not to be nicer people with better morals, but brand-new creations, prophets, lovers, human torches ignited with the flaming Spirit of the living God.

Self-condemnation and gloom block God’s way to us. The key is to let yourself be loved in your brokenness. Let the focus of your inner life rest on one truth, the staggering, mind-blowing truth that God loves you unconditionally as you are and not as you should be. Because nobody is as they should be.

—Brennan Manning

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The meaning of life. The wasted years of life. The poor choices of life. God answers the mess of life with one word: grace.
—Max Lucado

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By the law we are judged for our sins and condemned to suffer and die. Jesus came to save us by His love, by His grace, by His mercy, offering Himself as a sacrifice for our sins and thereby fulfilling the law. And Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang on love for God and love for our neighbors.

But when people are not willing to receive the freedom that God’s Spirit and salvation by grace give, they often turn back to legalism and the law to prove their points. And when they do that, they are also turning their backs on the freedom of grace and the liberty which the Lord has given us.

You’ve either got to go all the way by accepting salvation by grace or you’ve got to go all the way by attempting to earn your salvation by works and keeping the law, because if you fail to keep the law even on one point, you are held accountable for the whole law. (Romans 11:6; James 2:10)

So “stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free!” (Galatians 5:1)

—David Brandt Berg

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When a person works an eight-hour day and receives a fair day’s pay for his time, that is a wage. When a person competes with an opponent and receives a trophy for his performance, that is a prize. When a person receives appropriate recognition for his long service or high achievements, that is an award. But when a person is not capable of earning a wage, can win no prize, and deserves no award, yet receives such a gift anyway, that is a good picture of God’s unmerited favor. This is what we mean when we talk about the grace of God.
—G. W. Knight

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Now I will say this to every sinner, though he should think himself to be the worst sinner who ever lived: cry to the Lord and seek Him while He may be found. A throne of grace is a place fitted for you. By simple faith, go to your Savior, for He is the throne of grace.
—Charles Spurgeon

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Watching a trapeze show is breathtaking. We wonder at the dexterity and timing. We gasp at near-misses. In most cases, there is a net underneath. When they fall, they jump up and bounce back to the trapeze.

In Christ, we live on the trapeze. The whole world should be able to watch and say, “Look how they live, how they love one another. Look how well the husbands treat their wives. And aren’t they the best workers, the best neighbors, the best students?” That is to live on the trapeze, being a show to the world.

What happens when we slip? The net is surely there. The blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, has provided forgiveness for ALL our trespasses. Both the net and the ability to stay on the trapeze are works of God’s grace.

—Juan Carlos Ortiz

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I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.
—Anne Lamott

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A story of grace: One cold winter’s day a 10-year-old boy was standing barefoot in front of a shoe store, peering through the window and shivering with cold. A lady approached the boy and asked him what he was doing.

“I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes,” the boy replied.

The lady took him by the hand and went into the store, and asked the clerk to get a half dozen pairs of socks for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water and a towel. He quickly brought them to her. She took the boy to the back part of the store, knelt down, washed his little feet, and dried them with a towel.

By this time the clerk had returned with the socks. Placing a pair upon the boy’s feet, she then purchased him a pair of shoes, and tying up the remaining pairs of socks, gave them to him. She patted him on the head and said, “No doubt, my little fellow, you feel more comfortable now?”

As she turned to go, the astonished lad caught her by the hand, and looking up in her face, with tears in his eyes, answered the question with these words: “Are you God’s wife?”

—Author unknown

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

The Unconquerable Life

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchor“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
—Romans 8:31 (NIV)

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If we are in Christ, and predestined to be like Him by an all-powerful sovereign God, then it stands to reason Paul would ask, “Who can be against us?” The reality is that all kinds of things can be against us, but to what effect? Paul asks another question. “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” (Romans 8:33) The reality is that there are many charges and condemnation that come against us, but to what effect?

The key to our security and serenity in a world where there is plenty working against us is our dependency on God, and knowing that in all things He works for the good. If God is for us, then no one can be against us to any avail, because we are on God’s agenda, and being moulded to the image of Christ, who, by His death, burial, and resurrection has already defeated anything that threatens us, including death. Paul writes, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) God does not leave us unequipped and stranded, but He gives us Jesus, through whom we are strengthened and sustained in every hardship.

We all encounter situations of tension and conflict, but if I may paraphrase, “If God is for us, who cares about anything against us?” As Christians, we are to live with a disposition of heart that says, “If God is for me, then I am secure, regardless of what comes against me.” The issue is not about conflicts and tension coming into our lives. They are part of life we all contend with. The issue is about our response to them. Paul says, “Who then is the one who condemns us? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34) Our response needs to be one of victory already received. Why? Because God is in us.

Paul then asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35) He says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors in Christ,” because “nothing in all creation is able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:37,39) It is in a love relationship with Jesus Christ that we place ourselves in the hands of an all-powerful, sovereign God who has given us the unconquerable life that we have in His Son.

—Charles Price

 
Surviving disappointment

Life certainly doesn’t always turn out the way we imagine it will. When it doesn’t, how can we survive the disappointment? How can we get through those dark times?

Often our greatest times of disappointment come when someone fails us, or we at least feel that they have. People can hurt us deeply. Sometimes they know what they are doing, while other times they’re only doing the best they know how to do with the tools they have. In either case, the level of fulfillment and happiness we experience in our lives doesn’t depend on other people; it depends on God. Of course, we do rely on other people for certain things, and it’s painful when they let us down. But the ultimate success or joy of our life should not depend on them. We don’t have to prolong suffering over what others do or don’t do to us, because ultimately our reward is in God’s hands.

It’s also seriously disappointing when we believe we have failed in some way, perhaps due to our own carelessness or in spite of our best efforts. Or we think we have failed when we really haven’t at all. And we sit in darkness over it, torturing ourselves. The regret and condemnation pounds us down like a giant sledgehammer to our soul. “If only I hadn’t…” “If I just would have…” “Why didn’t I…” It’s a weight we can’t carry and were never meant to.

Even when we have to bear the consequences for the wrong choices we’ve made, God is still on our side. “When I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.” (Micah 7:8) How wonderful it is to know that even in a darkness of our own creation, God is still there and so is His light. I think that’s what makes us love Him most. His grace. We realize how little we deserve it and how far short of His glory we fall, yet He loves and accepts us anyway. Even in our greatest depth of failure, God brings good out of it as long as we reach humbly to Him.

We make a mistake in expecting too much from ourselves, other people, and life, when our expectations should be from God. God often allows hard things to happen in our lives in order to bless us in some way. If we are willing to allow for that possibility in everything that happens, it saves us from being devastated by people and situations that are ultimately going to be used for God’s glory. If we surrender our disappointment to God and say, “Be my light and lead me through this, Lord,” His work will be accomplished faster. …

Remember that no matter how dark times of disappointment become, God is still your light. Walk in the light He gives you.

—Stormie Omartian

 
New dreams

We all have them: plans that didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped, prayers that seem like they didn’t make it past the ceiling, dreams that break and are shattered as we wonder what went wrong. We go on, leaving behind broken dreams and seemingly unanswered prayers, but often they remain etched in our mind along with a question mark. Why didn’t things turn out the way I had planned, or hoped, or prayed?

What is a broken dream, anyway, but an idea of a path, or somewhere we thought our life should go but that led us elsewhere. We made a turn, somewhere, where life seemed to fall apart, or we lost our way and missed it somehow.

Being the flawed human beings that we are, we usually think we’ve failed. We begin to blame ourselves, or others, and carry a weight of failure or disappointment around, sometimes for years. If we blame others, that can be a heavy weight to carry, and until we give it up and forgive, it has the power to taint and mar the joy in our life so much that life itself can become a sad and weary experience.

The way we tend to judge things to be either “a success” or “a failure” is often such a keyhole-sized view. We peer inside and see only a tiny glimpse, which confirms, once again, a sad, sad acceptance of our failure. But if we could only see our lives from a bigger, more complete perspective, so many other elements and colors and highlights would come into view, and that tiny image would be transformed into the marvelous masterpiece that it truly can be, and probably is, in God’s eyes.

If we try to figure God out or try to fully understand His plan for our lives, forcing things to fit into our very limited perspective, we will only be disappointed in ourselves and Him when things don’t happen the way we dreamed and hoped. But if we have the faith to give Him the shattered pieces of our broken dreams, and trust Him to work with them as He knows is best, we will find that dreams can be mended and realize that all is not lost.

How can this happen? When does it happen? In His perfect way and in His perfect time. He, who is only love, has His own dream for our lives. He, who has only our best interests in mind, stands waiting with a paintbrush ready to paint into reality His dream of a life full of splashes of light and blends of color, depth, and texture. This is a dream that will not break. All we have to do is let go and let Him make something beautiful.

—Janet Kluck

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.