Anchor

Never Ever Quit!

By Peter Amsterdam

free-bible-studies-online-anchorLife is hard sometimes.

When you’ve worked as hard as you possibly could and yet you failed to make the grade, your dreams remain out of reach, and you feel you just can’t do it anymore, you can feel like giving up.

All of us have probably felt that way at some time or another. Maybe you’ve been in that situation recently. In fact, maybe you feel that way right now.

When you’re getting pounded and slammed again and again, how do you get through it?

I know how. You do too.

You keep going!

No matter what, you just keep going! As Winston Churchill said: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Okay, that might be oversimplifying a complex issue, but really, in order to accomplish anything significant, you have to keep fighting day after day, no matter what roadblocks you run into. In the face of disappointment or even failure, that’s the time to try again, work harder, study more, and pray desperately.

All great accomplishments take a lot of work and time; they don’t come easily. When progress is slow and our plans or dreams are not coming together as quickly as we’d hoped, it’s easy to wonder if something is wrong. More often, however, I believe that when we hit a brick wall we’re simply going through the normal paces required for progress and success. It’s not that we have to give more or sacrifice more than most others. No, that’s just the road to accomplishment.

If we embark on a new adventure and expect quick results, if that doesn’t happen, or more likely when that doesn’t happen, we can become disappointed and even disillusioned. And even worse, we can be tempted to quit. If we can realize that God’s path for us isn’t likely to be an easy road, then we’ll face the challenges with enthusiasm, and we won’t be caught off guard or derailed when working toward our goals is much more confusing, taxing, and time-consuming than we anticipated.

God works with each of us differently. We are each on our own personal paths that can lead us to both beautiful vistas and dark valleys at different stages of our journey.

Tony Snow explained the challenges of life as follows:

God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease—smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see—but God likes to go off-road. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension—and yet don’t. By His love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise.

Tony Snow, age 51 and father of three, declared those inspiring words when he was in the midst of fighting cancer.

There are many different approaches to facing setbacks and disappointments. I don’t think there’s one perfect formula for overcoming difficulties. There’s no set list of “must do’s” if you’re looking to muster up courage and strength to endure fear, stress, heartache, frustration, or any of the other challenges that accompany the dry spells in our lives. Some things that can help us get through the worst of times are praying and asking others to pray with or for us; seeking the advice of a trusted friend or mentor; taking some time away from the situation to think, regain perspective, and get a better overall understanding of what our options are; hearing from the Lord; reading the Word and inspirational or comforting writings; or having a heart-to-heart talk with a loved one.

I often find inspiration from true stories about people who have accomplished great things in the face of hardship or handicap. Sports provide some great examples along these lines because they’re such public examples and there’s a clear means of measuring their accomplishments. For example:

During a Monday night football game between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants, one of the announcers observed that Walter Payton, the Bears’ running back, had accumulated over nine miles in career rushing yardage. The other announcer remarked, “Yeah, and that’s with somebody knocking him down every 4.6 yards!” Walter Payton, the most successful running back ever, knows that everyone—even the very best—gets knocked down. The key to success is to get up and run again just as hard.

Sometimes great athletes have overcome tremendous odds. This adds to their amazing stories of courage and perseverance, such as the story of Wilma Rudolph.

[She] didn’t get much of a head start in life. A bout with polio left her left leg crooked and her foot twisted inward so she had to wear leg braces. After seven years of painful therapy, she could walk without her braces. At age 12 Wilma tried out for a girls’ basketball team, but didn’t make it. Determined, she practiced with a girlfriend and two boys every day. The next year she made the team. When a college track coach saw her during a game, he talked her into letting him train her as a runner. By age 14 she had outrun the fastest sprinters in the U.S. In 1956 Wilma made the U.S. Olympic team, but showed poorly. That bitter disappointment motivated her to work harder for the 1960 Olympics in Rome—and there Wilma Rudolph won three gold medals, the most a woman had ever won.

Sports isn’t the only arena that requires vision and persistence. You can find great examples in all walks of life, including business. Here’s a fairly well-known story.

Automobile genius Henry Ford once came up with a revolutionary plan for a new kind of engine which we know today as the V-8. Ford was eager to get his great new idea into production. He had some men draw up the plans, and presented them to the engineers. As the engineers studied the drawings, one by one they came to the same conclusion. Their visionary boss just didn’t know much about the fundamental principles of engineering. He’d have to be told gently—his dream was impossible.

Ford said, “Produce it anyway.” They replied, “But it’s impossible.” “Go ahead,” Ford commanded, “and stay on the job until you succeed, no matter how much time is required.”

For six months they struggled with drawing after drawing, design after design. Nothing. Another six months. Nothing. At the end of the year Ford checked with his engineers and they once again told him that what he wanted was impossible. Ford told them to keep going. They did. And they discovered how to build a V-8 engine.

I think we can minimize a lot of the frustration or confusion we might encounter if we adopt the attitude that reaching our goals will take time, there’s no way around that. And it’s a sure thing there will be setbacks, but if we persist through them, eventually we’ll find success.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2–4 ESV)

Let’s remember, too, that setbacks are not indicative of God’s displeasure or that you’re missing the mark or out of His will in some way; they’re simply the natural course of life and part of the journey to any accomplishment. So it helps to not catastrophize when we run into problems or delays, because thinking negatively about our challenges dampens our faith and the positive action that’s required to push through the difficulty. Instead of lamenting how hard our lives are or how terribly everything is going, it’s more effective to fill our minds with God’s faith-building Word, encouraging stories of overcoming, and empowering thoughts and positive statements.

Sometimes I set goals, but then whatever I’m working toward ends up taking so much longer than I planned or expected. Often things don’t happen according to our timetable; but maybe God has a different timetable, in accordance with His overarching plan. If we have faith and determination, then we won’t just quit and make excuses when something doesn’t work out as we had hoped. That would be a cop-out, and that’s not going to bring about the end goal of our living the lives we’re hoping for. As Helen Keller reportedly said: “A bend in the road is not the end of the road… Unless you fail to make the turn.”

Life can’t always be balanced. Sometimes you’ll find that you’re doing double or triple time; there’s work, the children, studying, managing the house, caring for a sick or disabled loved one or child, and on and on it goes. Those really tough times are what a friend of mine calls “the kill years.” That’s when you’re way busier than you want to be, you’re getting very little sleep and exercise, you have almost no free time, and you’re absolutely exhausted. And on top of that, you often don’t see the progress or success you had hoped for.

Yep, those are the “kill years.” It’s hard. And yet you just have to push through. You just have to keep going.

Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.
―Theodore Roosevelt

Whether you’re studying, starting a business, pursuing a new career, learning a new skill, or whatever you’re busy doing, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll face challenges—a lot of challenges! And this certainly applies to those who are pioneering or building a mission work. Often it takes a long time before you see fruit, and you might face difficulties or opposition along the way. Sometimes we hear or read about men or women who accomplished great things for the Lord, and we might conclude that they found success and favor easily. But we are likely not seeing the full story. Take this example from the diary of the great evangelist and founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley:

Sunday, A.M., May 5 Preached in St. Anne’s. Was asked not to come back anymore.

Sunday, P.M., May 5 Preached in St. John’s. Deacons said “Get out and stay out.”

Sunday, A.M., May 12 Preached in St. Jude’s. Can’t go back there, either.

Sunday, A.M., May 19 Preached in St. Somebody Else’s. Deacons called special meeting and said I couldn’t return.

Sunday, P.M., May 19 Preached on street. Kicked off street.

Sunday, A.M., May 26 Preached in meadow. Chased out of meadow as bull was turned loose during service.

Sunday, A.M., June 2 Preached out at the edge of town. Kicked off the highway.

Sunday, P.M., June 2 Afternoon, preached in a pasture. Ten thousand people came out to hear me.

There are many true stories, like this one, that illustrate the magic that happens when you refuse to surrender in the face of difficulty. Each of those stories is a testimony to the power of perseverance.

The takeaway for our lives is this: When we don’t quit, anything is possible.

“Don’t ever give up. Don’t ever give in. Don’t ever stop trying. Don’t ever sell out. And if you find yourself succumbing to one of the above for a brief moment, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, whisper a prayer, and start where you left off. But never, ever, ever give up.”

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9 ESV)

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

Slate Wiped Clean

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorYou were redeemed … with the precious blood of Christ.
—1 Peter 1:18–19 NIV

*

The expression, a clean slate, comes from a slate upon which a tavern’s daily bill of fare was written in soft chalk to be easily erased for a new day’s menu, and from a previous generation of schoolchildren who wrote their lessons or answers in chalk on a small slate—or chalkboard. The slate could easily be wiped clean and ready for another use. Since the mid-1800s the expression has been used figuratively to describe a fresh start, a new beginning without old baggage, or the act of wiping out old offences or debts.

The entire record of everything—unintended or unimagined—that ever was done by you that was unworthy and unholy is wiped clean when you invite Jesus into your life as Savior. (See John 3:16–17 NKJV) God’s forgiveness gives you a clean slate—a new, fresh start. …

Think of how wonderful that is. All the things that you cannot forget that you have done, let alone forgive yourself for ever doing, have been erased forever—once and for all—by the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s Son, on a cross. The slate has been wiped clean; you are given a fresh start. A redemption that you could never have purchased yourself is freely afforded you in salvation. …

The Bible asks a rhetorical question whose answer is obvious and certain, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies! Who is he that condemns?” (Romans 8:33–34 NIV) There is no accuser left standing for the truly redeemed. Here’s Paul’s description of your clean slate, “Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority and marched them naked through the streets.” (Colossians 2:14–15 The Message)

—Allen Randolph

 
Life and Tetris

I’m a fan of Tetris, which, if you haven’t heard of it, is a tile-matching puzzle video game. The reason I like it is that I can plan it all out by looking at the pieces that will come up next, and as they come down, I can fit them all in place evenly and lower the stack. At least, that’s the idea.

Even better than that is solving the mistakes I make. Sometimes I plunk a piece down right in the wrong spot, then I have to figure out how to work around that mistake to get rid of the problem spot. It doesn’t always work out like that, though. I do great for the first few levels, but as things speed up and pieces are dropping faster and faster, I can’t control them as well anymore. Pieces end up in the wrong places, and the stack gets closer and closer to the top.

Soon enough, “GAME OVER” is blinking on the screen, and my excitement for the game is tinged with frustration.

Sometimes life can feel like that. We make one mistake after the next, and suddenly it seems like there is nothing we can do to fix things. Sometimes even our best plans end up in a mess, and no matter what we try or how we maneuver things, problems pile up and it feels like the game is over.

But the best thing about a game like Tetris is that there’s always a chance to play again. It doesn’t matter how many times you lose; you’ve always got a fresh start when you want it.

That’s what Jesus does for us. He knows we’re not perfect. He understands our limitations and weaknesses. He designed us, and He understands that we can’t “win” every time.

Jesus has promised to remove our mistakes and sins “as far as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12) That means they’re gone; we’ve got a clean slate and we can start over. And this doesn’t just apply to your spiritual life. No matter how well you try to plan out your life, there will come times when you’ll need to start all over.

Perhaps you’ve invested time in certain goals and suddenly things have changed. You’ve put a lot of time, thought, and energy into something you thought was the way to go, but now everything’s different and you’ve got to start from scratch. When that happens, it can be discouraging. All you can see is that big “GAME OVER” sign blinking in your mind.

But after the game is over, there’s always a chance to play again.

A clean slate is an awesome thing. It means the past is done and gone. When you start a new game of Tetris, it won’t refuse you the chance to play again if you’ve lost one too many times. It just gives you a fresh game, no questions asked. When Jesus gives you a clean slate, it’s really a clean slate. He’s not looking back at your past record of mistakes and failings. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

You’ve probably heard the saying “where there’s life, there’s hope.” That’s what I’m talking about here: as long as you’re alive and you keep “playing,” as long as you keep getting up and trying again, there’s always hope, there’s always a fresh start, and sooner or later you’re going to win.

Do you feel like your plans have gone up in smoke, and you don’t know how to start rebuilding? Or are you just discouraged because your first attempts have gone nowhere? Remember that you’ve always got a chance to start a new game. Jesus has a plan and a goal for your life, and He’ll use even the mistakes you make to bring you closer to that goal.

King Solomon tells us that a righteous man falls seven times and gets back up. (Proverbs 24:16) There’s no way around falling. It’s getting up and starting again that matters.

—Marie Story

 
Under construction

Every human being is under construction from conception to death. Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting, and growing, practicing patience and being persistent. At the end of construction—death—we have completed the process.

You formed my inward parts…
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought…
The days fashioned for me.
—Psalm 139:13, 15–16 NKJV

Death says, “This is the finality of accomplishment.” While we cannot add anything more to our experience, believers in Christ have the hope of hearing the Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21 NKJV)

The Apostle Paul spoke of the Christian being “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith.” (Colossians 2:7 NKJV) This is part of our ongoing construction in this life. But the Bible assures us that “if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1 NKJV) …

Life can be like traveling a treacherous road. There are potholes that jolt us, detours that get us off course, and signs warning of danger ahead. The destination of the soul and spirit is of utmost importance to God, so He offers us daily guidance. Some pay close attention to God’s directions; others ignore them and speed past the flashing lights. But everyone eventually arrives at the final destination: death’s door…

No one escapes life without difficulties. Some experience bad health even in their youth. Some born into wealth lose everything. Some seek love and find only rejection time and again. Without a firm foundation, life’s load is harder to bear.

God has a purpose for each of us, and He desires that we build upon Him, the very foundation He has put in place. Scripture speaks of craftsmen fastening the work of their hands with pegs “that it might not totter.” (Isaiah 41:7 NKJV) When Christ’s hands were pierced by spikes and fastened to the cross, He became our secure foundation.

—Billy Graham

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

Building Spiritual Endurance

By Maria Fontaine

free-bible-studies-online-anchor“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. In your patience possess ye your souls.”
—Hebrews 10:36; Luke 21:19

As a part of our spiritual growth and Christian development, we inevitably experience the process of learning how to endure difficulties and delays. At different points in our lives, we may find ourselves having to get used to fighting more long-term battles. And in the process, we learn what it means to really hold on, not just for one day or one week or one month, but perhaps for many months or even years at a time. Through these experiences, we learn to truly cling to God’s Word and “endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.” (2 Timothy 2:3)

We may not have had to learn such heavy lessons of patience and endurance before, and it may seem like a hard saying when these lessons come knocking at our door. In our personal battles and trials, in many cases we may have experienced shorter struggles with quick victories in answer to our prayers. We’ve seen lives changed and souls won so easily. We’ve finished projects and have gotten quick answers to our prayers. We’ve seen rapid healings.

However, we all will face times in life where we have to make up our minds that we may have extended periods of not seeing any evidence of victory or even improvement at all, times when, if anything, you may be feeling pretty rotten. There may be times when you won’t be able to go on your feelings at all, but will have to cling to the promises of His Word, that God still loves you and God still cares. He is expecting you to go on for Him, no matter what you feel like, and no matter how long you don’t feel like it. It may come down to having to learn to keep going even if you feel like you’re just going through the motions, just doing what you’re supposed to do because God says so in His Word.

The Word tells us, “Blessed is the man that endures temptation.” (James 1:12) “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:11) “Endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5 NKJV) “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces patience; and patience, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3–4 NKJV)

Knowing that God’s Word tells us that we are blessed when we endure can give us courage to keep on going in the face of seemingly hopeless situations. You may have to keep going even when it seems like everything has turned against you, believing that God will never fail in one of His good promises. You may have to choose to wait on the Lord and rest in Jesus’ arms with those unbreakable promises in your mind and heart, like many of the hymn writers expressed, who learned to endure. We have to ground our faith in His Word and trust that His purpose for each one of us will be fulfilled, as we continue to believe and trust in His promises.

You can’t look at faith the way that a lot of people look at marriages nowadays, “Oh well, if it doesn’t work out, I’ll just get a divorce.” You’ve got to be “fully persuaded” in your own mind and heart that God is able to do whatever He promises. (Romans 4:21) You’ve got to have the attitude of “to whom shall we go; no one else has the words of eternal life!” (John 6:68) If you have consecrated and dedicated yourself and have made that kind of a commitment to the Lord, then no matter how hard things get, you’ll keep going by His grace and keep living for the Lord in whatever way He has called you.

Should we cower and tremble and hide our faces at the prospect of enduring hardness? No! We should be challenged and excited at the wonderful things the Lord is going to do through us.

If you are worried or fearful of the future and its uncertainties, the secret lies in increasing your faith through His Word and the wonderful promises that the Lord has given. Even if you find yourself in a time of suffering or enduring hardship in this life, you can rejoice that it is your destiny and your calling to be victorious over it, whether in this life or the next! The thing you have to realize when you go through trying times is that as a Christian there is a purpose in everything you experience in your life.

We don’t have to fear! Although we may have lots of problems, at least we know there’s a good reason for it, a purpose behind it all. We understand that we are in a spiritual warfare, and that most of our problems are a result of that, and they ultimately teach us lessons and make us strong. So just the fact that we know that these trials have a valuable, eternal purpose makes it a lot easier for us to bear them.

We have God’s Word, we have prayer, we have the Lord’s promises, we have a vision, we have a purpose, we have Holy Spirit power, and we know God’s plan for the future and where we’re going after this life. We have a reason for patient endurance during times of tribulation.

As Christians, we should not only believe it but we should preach it, even when what we believe and practice and preach is in opposition to much of what the world believes and practices. We’re called to preach the gospel, in season and out of season. It’s our calling as Christians to stand up for what we believe, even when God’s truth is unpopular. How much better to suffer affliction now with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin for a season. (Hebrews 11:25)

So let us rather “boast all the more gladly of our weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon us.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) He has promised that His grace will be sufficient!

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

How to Become a Hero

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorI can remember reading The Hiding Place (the story of Corrie ten Boom, a woman who risked her life to save Jews during World War II) and desperately praying that I would have Corrie’s courage and self-sacrifice when I’m eventually confronted with a time that requires it.

How does one become such a person? Jonathan Parnell has some thoughts about this on the Desiring God Blog, where he writes about Jon Meis, a young man who risked his life to save his fellow students during the shooting at Seattle Pacific University:

The person who’d be willing to put the good of others before himself in the event of great loss is the one who puts the good of others before himself in the hundred events of little losses every day. “We are always becoming,” as Joe Rigney puts it, “who we will be. Right this minute, we are headed somewhere, and sooner or later, we are bound to end up there” (Live like a Narnian, 52).

The person of great sacrifice, therefore, must be the person of little sacrifices—the person who has discovered that the life of sacrificial love is the life of greatest joy. The response of sacrificial love in the midst of panic is the end of a trajectory that gets played out as sacrificial love in the midst of normalcy….

The big moment of courageous action doesn’t occur in a vacuum, but has behind it tiny moments of simple sacrifice that have been trending that direction all along. In other words, if we can’t wash dishes and change diapers, we shouldn’t kid ourselves with the idea that we’d step in front of a bullet. If we are stingy with our time and money toward those in need, we’ll be stingy with our lives when a gun gets pulled on innocent people.

Stories like Jon’s should make us pause and ask whether we’d respond like he did. But the question isn’t what we’d do in a particular situation; it’s about what we’re doing now.

We won’t truly know who we’ve become until we’ve been tested. Until then, pray the Holy Spirit enables us to give up our lives in the everyday moments. “The person of great sacrifice must be the person of little sacrifices.” Now is the time to practice dying by His power, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.

“Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43–45)

—Amy K. Hall

 
The heart of a hero

I remember memorizing Hebrews 11 as a child, which detailed quite a few gruesome ways to die: “They were stoned; they were [sawn] in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and [in] mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:37–38 NIV)

It made me wonder how much it hurt to die. I knew that I was quite a pansy when it came to pain, so I tried to figure out, if one had to die, what would be the least painful way to go—as I’d opt for that. You see, I really didn’t want to disgrace God by being a total wimp.

Today I can look back at my childhood worries with amusement. I realize now that the real issue was that I’ve always felt lacking in courage. In the Bible there are countless stories of men who did courageous things. Open to almost any book and you read of brave deeds galore. Again, Hebrews 11 lists many of these courageous folk. “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.” (Hebrews 11:32–34 NIV)

Looking at the brave men listed in this chapter, the origins of the word “courage” take on greater meaning—their hearts were in the right place. These men who did such courageous things had something wonderful in common—which was the source of their courage. In Psalm 37:31 King David says this about a righteous man, “The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip.”

There’s the famous Bible account of three Hebrew boys who were told to either worship a golden image or be thrown into a furnace. But, no, these boys stand there and they say they’re not going to bow down. This is what they probably thought were their last words in response to an angry king:

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold[en] statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16–18 NLT)

I read this account in the safety of my house, separated from this scene by thousands of years—but still the strength of their belief is loud in their words; there isn’t any faltering or trying to negotiate something less mortally dangerous for themselves. But to have the courage to face an experience like this, I think you have to go back a bit. You see, I don’t think their parents ever told them, “You know, one day you’re going to be brought before a scary king, and there’s going to be a furnace, and you’re going to choose between your life or worshipping an idol—when that happens, remember to choose the furnace.”

Instead, I think they told these boys something more along the lines of, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV) And, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10 NIV)

I doubt that the parents of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew what lay in store for them, or when and how they might be faced with needing to act courageously. But there is one thing they knew they could control—what was stored up in their children’s hearts. Proverbs 4:23 explains this concept well: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” The New Living Translation has translated this same verse into these words: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

Everyone loves a good hero story; the ones with the good guys in capes and tights are a particular favorite of mine. The thing is, in real life, you don’t get to decide whether you will have the opportunity for a huge heroic moment—if you get to rescue someone, or somehow or another save the day—but what you do have control over is what you put in your heart. That’s how you can be prepared for these larger-than-life moments, as well as those everyday moments that require courage.

—T. M.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

God’s Love for Humankind

By Peter Amsterdam

free-bible-studies-online-anchorGod loves unconditionally. What does unconditionally mean? We could say that God’s love has no bounds, is unchanging, and without limitations. Unconditional love is sometimes defined as a love that is “given freely” to the loved one “no matter what.”

Each of us has sinned, and sin brings separation from God, and there is nothing we can do by ourselves to repair that breach. Nevertheless, God loves us. His love isn’t dependent on us, as we can’t earn His love. He loves us despite our sinful nature. He loves those who don’t love Him. He loves us all “no matter what.” It doesn’t mean He loves all that we do, but He loves us. In fact, He loves humanity so much that He made it possible for the breach caused by our sins and wrongdoing to be bridged through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus. Though we are sinners, God, because of His love for us, made it possible for us to be reconciled to Him.

As it says in Romans, chapter 5: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6–8 NIV)

God loves us not because of who we are but because of who He is. He is the creator of all things. He’s the Almighty. He is all-powerful and knows everything, and yet He loves you and me. In fact, not just you and me and those of us who are Christians and who appreciate the great sacrifice He made in giving His only Son to die for us, but He loves every single person in the whole world equally and unconditionally. He loved us before we believed in Him, before we loved Him. Even if someone has never heard of God the Father, even if someone says they hate Him, He still loves that person unconditionally. God’s love is unfathomable. It is perfect. It is unconditional.

The foundation point for us as Christians in helping to meet the needs of those we come in contact with, regardless of whether those needs are physical or spiritual, is the understanding that every person is precious to God, regardless of age, race, nationality, physical appearance, economic status, religious belief, political affiliation, or sexual orientation. None of that matters; everyone is loved by God. He loves the beggar on the street as much as He loves the richest man in the world.

God asks that we value every individual, that we see humankind through His eyes of love, which means that we will look at others without bias, prejudice, or preconceived negative opinions. By embracing God’s perspective and seeing others as He does, we will avoid stereotyping people, or thinking of ourselves as better than others.

We don’t have to like every person’s belief system, lifestyle, or choices. We may not agree with them. They may live without regard to God’s moral standards, they may live lives of grave sin, but no matter what their state, God loves them. “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)

Each person on earth is God’s creation just as we are, and God loves them just as He loves us. We are all equal in God’s eyes. God loves each human being, and Jesus died for each human being. We are instructed to love people, and to show God’s love in both practical and spiritual ways, to the best of our ability.

Jesus said that the two most important commandments are to love God and to love others. (Matthew 22:37–40) When we remember that Scripture says that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, that love is of God, that God is love and He loves us all, (Genesis 1:26–27; 1 John 4:7–8) then the awesome love of God becomes our touchstone; it’s an example of how we should love others. When we look at this benchmark, we understand that we are to emulate God’s attributes of love, compassion, and mercy, just as Jesus did.

We are told to let our light so shine that others may see our good works and glorify God. (Matthew 5:16) This is a call to action, as it expresses the understanding that God intends for us to interact with others in a manner that reflects Him. It’s a call to emulate Him, to treat others with love, compassion, and mercy. We’re called to be conduits of His beautiful, unconditional love to others. This, like many other things on the path of discipleship, often requires some sacrifice. But when you think about Jesus’ sacrifice for us, there really is no comparison.

This touching story makes the point well:

The story has been told of a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her five-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.

The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. He hesitated only for a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save her.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”

The little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

What a tender and beautiful example of love! The Bible says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16)

James, the brother of Jesus, expressed that the true practice of our faith consists of both outward and inward action. Outward toward others in practical ways, and inward through our devotion to God. He said: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27 NAU)

Manifesting our faith is not only inward activity; we are called to express it through our Christlike, Christ-emulating actions. This calls for sacrificing time we would use for ourselves, and instead giving it to others. It’s letting go of previously made plans in order to help others in need. It’s living our faith by intentionally doing things for the benefit of those in need.

In his book Well Done, Thomas said, “Roll-up-your-shirt-sleeves Christians see Christianity as faith and action. They still make the time to talk with God through prayer, [they] study Scripture with devotion, [they are] super-active in their church and take their ministry to others to spread the Good Word.”

As Rick Warren said in The Purpose Driven Life: “In heaven God won’t say, ‘Tell me about your career, your bank account, and your hobbies.’ Instead he will review how you treated others, particularly those in need.”

Jesus set the example of the “roll-up-your-shirt-sleeves” concept. He constantly showed love to others. He felt compassion for those in need and was moved to loving action. He was merciful. He showed kindness. He fed the hungry and healed the afflicted. He fought against evil and unrighteousness.

Jesus said: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) Let’s do what we can to be tangible examples of God’s love for humanity, by following what He shows us to do to share Him and His love with those in need, spiritually through introducing them to Jesus, and practically through ministering to their other needs.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

God’s Masterpiece

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorWe are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
—Ephesians 2:10 NLT

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The reason you have value is because of what God says about you, not because of what other people say about you.

Many people lack self-esteem. They don’t feel good about themselves because they’re always trying to pump themselves up by the kind of clothes they wear, the kind of car they drive, and the things they say. They’re always trying to pump themselves up to make them feel better about themselves because they really don’t accept themselves—which is rebellion against God.

If God wanted you to be somebody else, you wouldn’t exist. But he wanted you! He made you to be you. Real self-esteem comes from three facts:

  1. God created you.
  2. Jesus died for you.
  3. God’s Spirit lives in you.

The Bible says, “We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT) The New Testament was written originally in Greek. The Greek word for “masterpiece” is “poema.” It’s the word we get “poem” from. God says, “You’re my poem. You’re my masterpiece. I don’t want you copying somebody else. I’ve put gifts in you—heart, abilities, personality, and experiences—and I want you to use them.” You have worth because of what God says about you and has done for you.

You’re not just wanted; you’re needed! The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 12:4–6, “There are different spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, and yet the same Lord is served. There are different types of work to do, but the same God produces every gift in every person.”

You are needed. You’re needed in your church. You are needed in your community. You are needed in this world. If you weren’t needed, God would not have made you. He didn’t create you to just sit and soak and sour. He brought you here to make a contribution with your life. And everybody is needed.

There are no little people in the family of God. Every part is necessary. Do you know what the most important light is in my house? It’s not the big chandelier in the dining room. It’s the little dinky light I turn on every night so that when I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I don’t stub my toe.

Every role is important. You are important. You have value because God said so and because he paid such a large ransom for your life when he sent his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for you.

—Rick Warren

 
God’s unfinished business

On a rare day that I actually had a bit of time to do some organizing, I came to a realization about myself (not the most impressive one): I have a lot of “unfinished business,” at least with personal projects. I often wonder why so many of my personal projects or work is left undone. Why does it seem difficult to complete even one? And why do I operate this way?

Is it procrastination? Busyness? Lack of organization? Too many pies up there in the sky? All of the above? What’s the solution to getting projects or other to-dos from “pending” in my brain to the complete version where they can actually make a difference?

In his book, The Weathering Grace of God, Ken Gire writes of the importance of “stillness.”

Poets know the importance of … stillness. They know that if they are still enough, long enough, the art they are working on will speak to them, tell them what it wants to be and what it needs from them to become it. All artists know this, whether they work with paint or clay, words or musical notes.

Michelangelo knew how to be still before the stone and listen to the David within it. Strauss knew how to be still before the Danube and listen to the waltz that was eddying about in its waters. Monet knew how to be still before the pond and listen to the lilies sunning on its surface. … Our culture knows little of this kind of listening.

The best ideas, and the completion of them, require not only time to do them, but also stillness and quietness of body, mind, and spirit. The Lord encourages us in the book of Psalms to “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) The finishing work, whether of a small project or of life itself, requires stillness in mind and soul.

It’s easy to start something. It’s good to start something. Well begun is half done, they say. But to finish something—to see it through to the end—that’s not always easy.

It takes time. Patience. Faith. And those aren’t always easy to come by. We don’t always find them by looking within or looking around. But when we look up, and with peace and quiet of mind, listen to the still, small voice of God that whispers to us when we take time to listen, we will know the path to take. We will know how to complete what we have begun … and what He has begun in our lives.

We are all, in a way, God’s unfinished business. He has started a lot of “projects” that are well begun, even perfect in their own right, but they are not complete. The work of the Master on His creation continues: the molding, the shaping, the cutting, the polishing. It all comes with the promise, “He makes all things beautiful in His time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

—Jewel Roque

 
A perfect work of art

I was getting a haircut one day when the guy cutting my hair suddenly stopped and said, “Look at that!”

I looked over my shoulder, and there was one of the most stunning sunsets I had ever seen. Several people got up out of their chairs and walked outside to take a look. It was such an incredible sunset that people stood there in awe.

Of course, it is a reminder that “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1 NKJV) God is a great artist; there is no question about it.

But God’s greatest masterpiece isn’t some of the sunsets you may have had the privilege of seeing, or the Alps (as spectacular as they are), or the islands of Hawaii and Tahiti (as gorgeous and beautiful as they can be).

God’s greatest masterpiece of creation is you. And it is me. We are God’s greatest masterpieces.

In fact, we read in Ephesians 2:10 that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” That word workmanship could be translated as “we are His work of art.” We are His poem. Or as another translation puts it, we are God’s masterpiece. …

In addition to “workmanship” speaking of a poem or a work of art, it is a word that speaks of something that is perfect. It carries the idea of rhythm, orderliness, and beauty. When I look at my life, I don’t necessarily see rhythm, orderliness, or beauty. And I can guarantee that I don’t see perfection. When we see ourselves, we tend to see our flaws. We see so many things that need to change. But God says, “You are my work of art. You are my poem. You are my masterwork.”

God is not like a doting father who’s oblivious to his child’s faults. Rather, He is your all-knowing, yet all-powerful Father in heaven who can envision what you will be when it is all said and done. God can look at you and can see what you will become before you have actually become it.

We look at ourselves and say, “I don’t get it. This doesn’t look like a perfect person. This doesn’t look like a work of beauty.”

But you are a work in progress. It is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. It is going to take all of your life on earth. It won’t be completely finished until you get to heaven.

Then you will see that you indeed are a perfect work of art—God’s masterpiece.

—Greg Laurie

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

Blessed Above All People

By Maria Fontaine

free-bible-studies-online-anchorSometimes our struggles can seem so difficult, so monumental. In fact, sometimes they are difficult and monumental. Life is certainly not easy for any of us! But the thing to remember is that when compared with the heartbreaks, devastating loneliness, frustration, hopelessness, and lack of love and purpose that many people who do not know the Lord face, without the promise of an eternity with God, our problems seem less significant!

As God’s children, we’re blessed with the constant companionship of His Spirit, and fellowship with our friends and loved ones who share our faith. We have confidence in the Lord’s unconditional love, and we know that even though we make a lot of mistakes, His forgiveness is readily available to us if we will just come to Him and ask for it. Many of us haven’t yet learned to not succumb to guilt, remorse, and condemnation despite our knowledge of the Lord’s unconditional love and forgiveness, but we’re learning, and we know by faith that we don’t have to be weighed down by regrets, bitterness, guilt, and condemnation. We have His Word to claim, that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1–2)

So if you’re weary with the trials and tribulations of life on earth, if you’re tempted to grumble about how bad you have it, remind yourself that compared to the poor lost people of the world who don’t know the Lord, and sometimes don’t even have anything to eat or a place to live—as His children, we are blessed! Jesus died to save us so that we could help Him to save others. We are called to love and comfort others with the same comfort and love He gives to us. (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Each of God’s children has a unique calling. The Lord has a plan and purpose for each of us. If we question or become bitter about His plan for our lives, it can cloud and hinder the precious time that He has given us on this earth to live for Him.

As His disciples, we are called to go out into the sea of humankind, seeking those who are lost, sinking, and drowning, to offer them life, hope, and truth. We have the vastness of His riches to share with a lost and dying world—we have His wonderful comfort, the power of His Word, our knowledge of the future He has promised for all His children. We are called to share what we have received with the dying and desperate of this world who have lost hope of any comfort or who lack the knowledge of God who loves them or the heaven that awaits them. They desperately need God’s love and truth, these who die a thousand deaths before their physical body is laid to rest in the grave. Won’t you do everything possible to share with them the lasting joy and peace of mind and eternal life that you have in Jesus?

The Lord has given each of us our assignments for our time on earth. God’s Word says that Jesus came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) Jesus said, “As My Father has sent Me, so send I you.” (John 20:21) His Father sent Him to the earth to die that we might live. Our job is to “die daily” to self for others that they may live—giving of our selves every day that others might find eternal life in Jesus.

Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) If you will look at both Jesus’ life and Paul’s life, you’ll see they weren’t very easy. Jesus never promised us a life of ease, but He did say that this life is but for a moment, and if we suffer for Him, we’ll also reign with Him. (2 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Timothy 2:12) However, He even says that He will give us things right here and now in this life that will make our lives fulfilled and joyous! (1 Peter 1:8; John 15:11)

The Lord is able to use even the sadness we feel when we lose someone to become aware of His sadness for His loved ones who are lost to Him. He tells us to weep with those who weep and let our hearts be broken for those who don’t yet know Him. These are dying spiritually every day without His love. Just as our hearts ache and we are engulfed with sadness at missing those who are gone from us now, so does His heart long for His lost children. You know how it is when your heart is broken and you’re devastated by some tragic experience or loss. You can feel it physically—you sometimes feel sick to your stomach; your heart actually aches.

Just as we as parents miss our children when we are away from them, and just as we are desperate to know that they are safe and happy and well, so does the Lord care for His children. He wants them in His arms, close to His bosom and safe in His home—all the same things we wish for our children.

Do you remember what it was like before you found the Lord, when all seemed lost to you, you were in great despair, and your life seemed meaningless, empty, and void of understanding? Do you remember how unhappy and desperate you were? The Lord heard your heartcry, and He reached out to you and took you in His arms in your time of need. And to do this, He probably used some person, someone who was a faithful witness, who was overflowing with thanksgiving and joy for the wonderful love of the Lord in his or her heart.

Even if you grew up all your life with the knowledge of the Lord ever since you were a little child, you likewise are probably the fruit of someone’s faithfulness to witness to your parents, or their parents before them. How convicting it is to think of what the Lord has done for us, and how He used some faithful messenger, someone like you to do it! He beseeches us to do the same for others, for those who are lost and lonely in the cold and darkness—to imitate His example by sharing His love and Word and truth with others.

What if you had no purpose in life, no hope for the future, no one to go to when you were fearful, no one to comfort you when you were sad, no one to help you when you were confused, no way to get rid of your burdens of condemnation, no way to deal with the death of loved ones, no way of knowing where they had gone or if you would ever see them again, no way of dealing with loss or injury or illness or catastrophe, no one to help you when you are lonely? If someone helped each of us to know Jesus and His salvation, how can we fail to do the same for others? If Jesus loved you so much that He died for you, He also loved them so much that He died for them. Someone made it possible for each of us to know Jesus, and it’s now our responsibility to pass the message on!

The Lord wants us to have great concern for others, realizing that they live in turmoil and confusion and lack of love, and we have the answers in Him and His Word that they’re looking for. The Lord promises great returns if we’ll give unto others. “Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” (Colossians 3:24 NLT)

What a marvelous cycle! As we give to others, the Lord promises to give to us—strength, faith, and joy. As a result, others will see us and they’ll know we’ve been with Jesus, and they’ll want Him too. And so the cycle will go on and on. Praise the Lord!

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.