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The Holy Spirit and the Messiah

By Peter Amsterdam

free-bible-studies-online-anchorIn the Old Testament, the Spirit of the Lord generally came upon or interacted only with specific individuals and only on a temporary basis. It was prophesied, however, that a time would come when God would pour out His Spirit in abundance upon all His people. (Joel 2:28–29)

The Old Testament also includes prophecies about the Messiah who was to come, who would be powerfully filled with the Spirit of God and would do great things in God’s name. While the Jewish people did not think that this Messiah would be the Son of God, as they had no concept that God was a Trinity, they understood that the Messiah, an anointed king, would be greatly empowered by God’s Spirit.

Referring to the Messiah, the book of Isaiah says: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:1–2)

This prophecy tells us that the Messiah would descend from the lineage of David, the son of Jesse, and that God’s Spirit would rest upon Him, meaning that the Spirit would remain on Him. He would be endowed with wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, and the fear of God. Isaiah prophesied further about the Messiah, declaring again that God’s Spirit would be upon Him. (Isaiah 42:1)

Later it was again prophesied in the book of Isaiah that God’s Spirit would be mightily upon the Messiah and that He would be anointed and do His work with the power of the Spirit of the Lord:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1–3)

These prophecies were fulfilled in the life of Jesus, the promised Messiah. All four of the Gospels speak of Jesus being filled with the Spirit at the beginning of His ministry, when He was baptized by John the Baptist. (See Matthew 3:13–17; Mark 1:9–11; Luke 3:21–22; John 1:32–34)

Later, when asked about Jesus, John the Baptist said: “He whom God has sent utters the words of God, for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.” (John 3:34–35)

On the advent of Jesus’ ministry, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him without measure and remained on Him permanently. Immediately after this, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness, where the Devil tried to defeat Him, to no avail. (Luke 4:1–2) After overcoming the temptations, Jesus began ministering to others in the power of the Spirit. (Luke 4:14–15)

When Jesus returned to Nazareth, the village where He grew up, He was chosen to read from the Scriptures in the synagogue. The passage He read was from Isaiah, about the ministry of the Messiah, and at the end of the reading, Jesus made it clear that it was speaking about Him—that He was the Messiah upon whom the Spirit of the Lord had fallen:

“And He rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:20–21)

Jesus was stating that His ministry had begun, that He would proclaim the good news, bringing liberty to the captives, healing and freeing those who were oppressed, with God’s Spirit upon Him. The Holy Spirit, who descended upon Jesus, played a major role in His ministry—leading, guiding, and empowering Him.

Right before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples that He would send the “promise of the Father,” which was the Holy Spirit, the power of God, and that they were to wait in Jerusalem until they received this power from on high. (Luke 24:49)

The Holy Spirit which led, guided, and empowered Jesus was going to do the same things for His disciples. Jesus prepared His disciples for His departure, saying that in order for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, He had to leave, but that once He was gone, the Spirit would come to them. He said, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)

Jesus said it was necessary that He ascend to heaven, to return to the Father and be glorified, before the Holy Spirit—the Comforter, the Helper—could come.

Jesus had been with His disciples for about three and a half years. They had traveled with Him, lived with Him, learned from Him, heard Him preach to and teach the crowds. They had seen Him heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons. They had private instruction from Him and watched how He interacted with others—the rich, the poor, the outcasts, the religious. They saw Him get arrested and crucified. They knew He was dead, yet He stood before them in the upper room alive again. Then came the time for Him to go. He had been many things to them, and now He was going to depart. He had told them He would ask the Father to send them another Comforter or Helper. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” (John 14:16)

The word Helper or Comforter used in this verse is translated from the Greek word paraklētos, which is defined as called to one’s side, to one’s aid, a helper, aider, assistant; as well as one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, counsel for defense, an advocate.

Jesus is saying the Father will give the disciples another Comforter, which infers they presently have one. Jesus, the Helper, Comforter, Counselor, and Advocate they presently have is going to depart, and in His place the Father is sending the Holy Spirit. What Jesus had been to the disciples, and what the Holy Spirit was going to be to them, was very similar.

  • Both “come forth”/“are sent” from the Father into the world. (John 5:43, 16:28, 18:37; John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13)
  • Both are called “Holy” and are characterized by “the truth.” (John 6:69, 14:26, 6, 16–17)
  • Both teach. (John 13:13; 14:26)
  • Jesus came to convince and to convict the world, though many did not receive Him, as is also the case with the Holy Spirit. (John 1:11–12; John 16:7–11, John 14:17)

While Jesus was Helper and Comforter to the disciples, as well as teacher and truth-teller, and a witness, He said that after He departed He and the Father would send another Comforter who would do these things as well. This Comforter would mightily anoint the disciples in their mission. That is exactly what happened.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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“Do Small Things with Great Love”

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorYou are doing something great with your life when you’re doing all the small things with His great love. Love defies logic and keeps on loving when it makes no sense because that is what love does. What matters is that in the act of loving we become more like the givenness of Love Himself. What matters most is not if our love makes other people change, but that in loving, we change. What matters is that in the sacrificing to love someone, we become more like Someone. Regardless of anything or anyone else changing, the success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving.

No matter what the outcome looks like, if your love has poured out, your life will be success-full.

We in this vulnerable communion of brokenness and givenness will simply keep surrendering again to love because God is love and this is all that wins.

Bottom line today? You aren’t ever missing your best life, when you aren’t missing opportunities to love like Christ.

—Ann Voskamp

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Do you want to be successful for the Lord and with others? Love, and you can’t lose, for love never fails! Do you want the key to every heart? Try love! It never fails, because God is love, and it’s impossible for Him to fail!

Always remember, no matter how busy you are‚ how important the work is, or how great your calling may be, love is the most important thing! Without love, all your good works are worth nothing to the Lord. Without love, all your accomplishments are empty ashes. Love is the only thing that’s going to endure beyond this life. Love is the only thing that lasts. Love is what you’re on earth to learn above all. So love!

—David Brandt Berg

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Whatever we become here in mortality is meaningless unless it is done for the benefit of others. Our gifts and talents are given to us to help us serve. And in serving others we grow spiritually.

We are here to help each other, to care for each other, to understand, forgive, and serve one another. We are here to have love for every person born on earth.

Anything we do to show love is worthwhile; a smile, a word of encouragement, a small act of sacrifice. We grow by these actions.

—Betty J. Eadie

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What is success in My eyes? What do you receive eternal rewards for? What is considered “success” in My kingdom? What is true accomplishment for Me? How do I measure it? What is most important to Me? It’s very simple: love and faithfulness.

I gave a pretty clear answer in the Bible when I said, through Paul, “One thing is required of a servant, and that is to be found faithful.” That pretty much sums it up. Faithfulness to Me, and faithfulness to love—that’s the true measure of success in My eyes.

—Jesus, speaking in prophecy

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If you want your life to count, you have to focus it. You don’t have time for everything, and not everything is of equal value.

Matthew 22:37–39 says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.’”

Jesus said there are two things that are more valuable in life than anything else: loving God and loving each other.

Have you ever wondered why God didn’t just take you to Heaven when he created you? Why did he put you on Earth? You’re only here for 100 years at the most, and you’re going to live for eternity in Heaven or Hell. Why didn’t God just take everybody to Heaven?

The Bible is very clear that God put you here on Earth to do two things: to learn to love God and to learn to love other people. Life is not about acquisition, accomplishment, or achievement. It’s not about all the things the world tells you it’s about. You’re not taking your career to Heaven. You’re not taking your car to Heaven. You’re not taking your house to Heaven. But you are taking your character. You’re taking you.

God put you on Earth for 80 to 100 years so you can learn to love him with all your heart and learn to love others. Life is one giant lesson in love.

—Rick Warren

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“Do small things with great love.” What do these words mean for you? I’d like to share with you what it means to me and how it’s changed my life.

Do you have a list of role models, mentors, or heroes that have had an impact on who you are or who you want to be? Perhaps this list for you is long or short, but either way, the names on that list are those who have had a profound impact on how you view the world and what role you want to fulfill in this world.

For me, my list consists mostly of women who I have known in real life and deeply admire, mostly for their commitment to mothering and leading their families. I also have a short list of female heroines that I haven’t met, but I’ve had the privilege of reading about and studying. …

I’d like to share with you how Mother Teresa inspires me each day in the simplest way. As a wife and mother, working and living in my home each day, I often feel that perhaps my reach, or my impact in this world is tiny … maybe a little insignificant. Don’t get me wrong, I take care of my family as if my life depends on it and I work hard, every single day. Then I see these great saints, heroines and such who went out into the world and changed lives. Occasionally I can’t help but wonder what more can I do to change this very broken world?

Then there’s Mother Teresa, who has said the most beautiful, simplest things that speak to me. She often said that we don’t need to do big things, or have great power in this world to make a change. That we can actually promote change in this world by starting at home and loving our family. She’s so right. She also said to do small things with great love. For me personally, these two, simple, profound quotes speak on a level that I so need to hear, every day. My work at home is making an impact. It’s the small things that I do with great love that are going to leave a mark on this world and be the change.

When we choose to “do small things with great love” when we are at work, at school, in the grocery store, at the beach, on vacation, or wherever your life journey takes you … you can make a big impact in the smallest way.

—Mandy Velasquez

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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Faith Strengtheners

By Maria Fontaine

free-bible-studies-online-anchorThe topic of living and experiencing faith is such a big and sometimes nebulous concept. It can be challenging to answer the question, “What is it that can give me faith or strengthen the faith I already have and make it useful for me today?”

One thing that encourages me that things will work out is knowing that God’s love for me is so great. I know that He will always make it as easy as possible for me. Everything won’t always be smooth, but in His love, He always gives grace and brings me through in His time. He doesn’t allow things to be hard for no reason. He won’t allow anything to come my way that He knows isn’t going to be helpful to me in some way.

South African pastor Andrew Murray (1828–1917) once faced a terrible crisis. Going into his studio, he sat a long while, quietly, prayerfully, thoughtfully. At last, picking up his pen, he wrote these words in his journal: “First, He brought me here; it is by His will that I am in this place of distress and trouble: in that fact I will rest. Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child. Next, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow. Last, in His good time He can bring me out again—when and how He knows best. Let me say, I am here [in this difficult place], 1) by God’s appointment, 2) in His keeping, 3) under His training, 4) for His time.”

Another thing I do is to take little minutes with Jesus whenever I feel distracted by battles and burdened by problems, pouring out my heart to Him about my troubles, often hearing a few words from Him that help me to understand, or to hang on, to not take it so hard, or whatever He knows I need to hear to bring peace to my heart.

He promised in His Word that He would always provide the comfort we need: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:18 KJV)

Additionally, the praise lessons that I’ve learned and have been able to practice through the years keep me on an even keel. Praise truly does have power, and God rewards praise because it’s a sign of my faith in Him—faith that He will help me in the situation as long as is necessary, and faith that He will bring me out eventually. Praise is powerful, and it’s one of my invincible weapons. There is so much in the Bible on praise. Reading King David’s praises in the midst of the terrible problems he faced motivates me to have faith, too.

Closely related to praise is positiveness. When I’m trying to build up my faith, I can’t be focusing on anything negative.

I found this account of someone who was spending the night in a rickety hotel in a large city in Brazil. He said, “A friend and I ascended to our room, high in the building, in a tiny, creaking elevator. From our window I saw slums spreading out far beneath me, and I felt uneasy. That evening I prayed, ‘Lord, please save us from any danger of fire. You can see that we’re at the top of a dilapidated hotel, which is nothing but a firetrap. There isn’t a fire station anywhere near, and I can’t see any fire escapes outside the building. Lord, You know that this building would go up in flames in a second, and at this very moment it’s probably full of people falling asleep with cigarettes in their mouths…’

“By the time I finished praying, I was a nervous wreck, and I hardly slept a wink all night. Next morning, as I evaluated the evening, I realized that my bedtime prayer had focused on my negative feelings rather than on God’s assurances and promises, and I learned an important lesson: unless we pray in faith, our prayers can do more harm than good.” (From an account by Robert J. Morgan)

This story is a good reminder to me to make sure my focus is on His promises—which strengthen my faith—rather than only on what is bothering me. I know He does want to hear about what is troubling me, and I need to tell Him everything that’s on my heart, but at the same time, the strengthening of my faith comes from making His promises my central focus. As the quote says, “True faith goes into operation when there are no answers.” (Elisabeth Elliot) As difficult as it may be, faith often means focusing on the promises even if there are no visible solutions.

Next, comparing—positively! When I’m going through something big, or when a whole lot of worrisome thoughts are trying to inhabit my mind, or when my eyes are in a very painful state and are hindering or delaying my work, the Lord always reminds me to think about people who are much worse off than I am, having many more struggles, afflictions, and difficult circumstances. Usually this does it for me, because I become thankful for my little afflictions and that I don’t have to deal with the tremendous struggles that so many others have.

Something else that helps me is to think about the fact that the Lord considers the trial of our faith a beautiful, valuable thing. The Bible says, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7 KJV.) If the Lord looks on the trial of our faith as having such importance and value, then it makes me feel like that’s the way I should be looking at it, too.

It certainly makes me want to not disappoint Him. Jesus expects me to believe Him, and I can’t fail Him. I know He’s looking to me to fulfill the commitment I made to Him to love Him and others, to cherish His Word, to keep His Spirit in first place in my life, to honor and respect Him for the great God that He is, and to prove it by my words and actions. I’m so indebted to Him for all He has done for me.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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Bear One Another’s Burdens

A compilation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—David Brandt Berg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Author unknown

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

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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Patience and God’s Plans
A compilation

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Peter Kreeft

 
Waiting and learning patience

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

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

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

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

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

—David Brandt Berg

 
His master plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

—T.M.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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Becoming Your Best You—Part 2

From the Roadmap series

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

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

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

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

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

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

—C. Clarke Johnson

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

 

The progress formula

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

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

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

 
Desire

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

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

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

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

 
Believe you can

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

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

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

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

 
Examine your surroundings

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

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

 
Expose your excuses

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

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

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

Here is one such example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Burke Hedges

 
Create a plan

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

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

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

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

 
Monitor your progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Jeremiah 29:114

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Anchor

Becoming Your Best You—Part 1
From the Roadmap series

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

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

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

 
We each choose

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

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

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

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

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

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

—David Brandt Berg

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

 
The role of discipline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Stephen R. Covey

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

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

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

—Zig Ziglar

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

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

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

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

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

—John C. Maxwell

 
“I don’t have time…”

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

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

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

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

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

Consider this example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Burke Hedges, adapted

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

With self-discipline most anything is possible.

—Theodore Roosevelt

 

With God all things are possible.

—Jesus, Matthew 19:265

 

 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.