Why Leaders Need Respect More than Love

By Joseph Mattera

Comparing the traits of leaders who desire love versus respect, the general axiom regarding this subject is: if your greatest goal is to please people, become an entertainer; if you want to be a great leader, expect to have those who oppose you.

Traits of Those Whose Goal in Life is to Receive Love

I. They care more about being sensitive than solidifying their team around vision.

1. There are times when you have to take people off your team because their lax regarding commitment waters down the standard necessary to obtain the goals.

2. Sometimes leaders have to let certain people go because their qualifications do not match their desire and passion. Faithfulness is not enough sometimes; ability plus faithfulness is the match needed to accomplish purpose.

II. They become men-pleasers rather than God-pleasers.

1. Remember King Saul’s response to the Prophet Samuel when rebuked for not obeying the Lord (1 Samuel 15:24).

2. They tend to take public opinion polls before they do anything of consequence.

III. Their attitude, self-esteem, and feelings are dependent upon the affirmation they receive day-to-day.

1. Strong leaders are driven by the vision the Lord has given them, not by the daily conversations and affirmation of their staff, team, and those around them.

2. Those driven by a need for love rather than respect usually have emotional highs and lows akin to a yo-yo; they are always either very happy or very depressed.

IV. They don’t have clarity of mind and heart regarding the voice of the Lord.

1. Because they are always subconsciously between two opinions (discerning the voice of God and the will of the people) their spirit is muddled and they become duplicitous.

2. We can only serve one master. God cannot be served if there are other gods in your life.

V. They don’t communicate based on the full spectrum of truth.

They only either preach wishy-washy messages or communicate one-on-one in a way that is postured to please the listener than present the truth at hand.

VI. They tend to avoid confrontation and value peace more than victory and truth.

1. They will be one way with one person, then another way with another person.

a.) Their desire to be loved is so strong that all their relationships are duplicitous and never reflect core values and principles.

b.) Every person they speak to thinks they agree with them, even those sitting on opposite poles conceptually.

VII. They tend to run a very informal and lax organization.

1. They run a laissez faire (anything goes) organization that often has very little administrative and organizational excellence.

2. They allow their employees to take off extensively and work in an unaccountable environment.

VIII. They tend to overpay their staff.

1. They pay to please rather than remit pay commensurate to the quality and skill of the employee.

2. They reward staff based on personal affection rather than job performance.

IX. They are intimidated by principle-based leaders.

Traits of a Respect (Principle) Driven Leader

I. They lead based on principle, not on people.

1. The vision they have trumps the affirmation they receive from the people. Thus, they are not afraid to make decisions that displease their staff or the people they lead.

2. They realize that people will respect them more if they hold to principle than to vacillate based on people.

II. Their heart and mind are focused on pleasing God first.

Because of this, they are able to hear the voice of the Lord clearly; their mind and heart are not muddled with distracting voices and emotions.

III. They are secure in themselves because they receive their primary affirmation from the Lord.

IV. They hold up in unstable environments and opposition to the vision.

In the emotional IQ test, the most common trait of a great leader is their ability to handle an enormous amount of stress and their ability to problem solve.

V. They have organizations built on integrity and truth.

Great leaders have the best chance of building multi-generational organizations.

VI. They are not afraid to confront in love.

1. One of the most common reasons for stress in most people is because they bottle up their emotions because they are not willing to confront other people. Hence they layer their anger, resentment, and pain with busyness and phony relationships that fail to get to the root of the issues.

2. The Bible commands us to confront one another, have transparent relationships, and keep short accounts (Matthew 18:15-18; 1 John 1:7).

VII. They have a stable personality and attitude.

1. Because their affirmation is from the Lord, they are upbeat and filled with vision, purpose, and joy because they are living to please the Lord, not the mercurial emotions and desires of people.

2. Those around great leaders know that, no matter what season it is, their leader will always be consistent in their actions and goals.

VIII. They value truth and principle more than peace among their team.

They would rather lose a team member than compromise the vision or obedience to the Lord. (Of course, we are speaking about major issues, not minor things we are called to overlook in love.)

IX. They understand that engendering respect is more important than engendering feelings of love.

1. Leaders are not called to be everyone’s close associate or friend. A leader will go a lot further with the gas tank of great respect than that of feelings of love.

2. Principled people will tend to follow a leader they have great admiration and respect for more than a person they merely love.

3. Respect comes from years of having a good track record of accomplishments; love can come after just one deep conversation.


Steps To Spiritual Recovery

Experiencing God When You've Blown It Big Time
By Chip Ingram

One thing all human beings have in common is failure. King David was no different. One day, from his balcony, he saw a woman named Bathsheba bathing. He saw, he looked, and he kept looking. Then he sent for her and committed adultery with her. Some time later, Bathsheba informed the king she was pregnant. At first, David tried to cover up his sins by bringing her husband home from battle to sleep with her. When that plan failed, he had Bathsheba's husband killed.

Yes, David failed big time but that wasn't the end. It was a moment when all could have been lost, but it wasn't. With God, failure never has to be final! No matter how bad, how wrong, or how ashamed you may rightly feel, God is there for you. Even though you knew better, God is willing to meet you. At times like these, we need to turn to God like David did. Will there be consequences? Sure. Will there be pain? Of course. Does it have to ruin your life forever? No, absolutely not.

Steps and a Promise from Psalm 51:

[A Psalm of King David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba]

[1] Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. [2] Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. [3] For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. [4] Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. [5] Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. [6] Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

[7] Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. [8] Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. [9] Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. [10] Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. [11] Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. [12] Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. [13] Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

[14] Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. [15] O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. [16] For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. [17] The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. [18] Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. [19] Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

As you carefully read Psalm 51, you will discover seven clearly definable steps to spiritual recovery in this prayer. In this article I'll outline the first four steps but you can find the other three in my book I Am With You Always. I warn you up front, however, using these steps will take great spiritual integrity and courage. But if you are willing to respond God's way, the God of the universe will be there for you.

Remember, these steps are not the solution to your problem - God is the solution. But the steps define a process that must occur in our hearts as we deal with guilt, shame, and consequences of our sin.

Step 1: Come Clean

The first step is to come clean with God. Get it out in the open. David was in denial for a long time until the prophet Nathan finally called him out. David's response was, "I have sinned against the Lord." According to Psalm 51:1, David dared to come clean with God because he shamelessly relied on God's unfailing love and compassion. If you don't know that aspect of God's nature, you will probably be afraid to risk taking the first step. If you're too scared to come clean, maybe you don't know that God's love and compassion never fail.

Step 2: Ask God's Forgiveness

David prayed, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin." (Psalm 51:1-2). He clearly asked God to forgive him and remove his sins. We need to be that clear when we have blown it. No hedging about whether or not we've done anything wrong. Then we must ask God to forgive us of the specific sins we have committed.

Step 3: Accept Responsibility for Your Sin

David owned his own sin. Five times in verses 2-4, he took responsibility for his sin. He calls it "my iniquity," "my sin," "my transgressions." "My sin is ever before me," David said. "Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned." He admits in verse 5 that he has a sin problem that goes well beyond his actions with Bathsheba. Like all of us, sin was a problem in the core of his being, not just a symptom.

Step 4: Accept God's Forgiveness on God's Terms

As a pastor, I frequently see people trying to cut deals with God. This will never work. God provides a way to be forgiven, but it's not by trading a few good deeds or promising to make up for what you've done. Verse 7 says, "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." Hyssop was a little herb the Jews would dip in blood for use in ritual cleansing. David's phrase pictures God performing a ceremonial cleansing. He accepted that God's mode of cleaning was sufficient because God was doing the clean-up.

You're probably giving some thought to how these steps apply to you. You may be remembering ways you've blown it in the past. It may be something others would easily excuse, but God's Spirit has spoken to you about it. Stop for a moment and be still. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit of God. Ask Him if there is any sin in your life that you need to address right now. Choose to take the first step now. Rely on the unfailing covenant love of God.

Chip Ingram is President of Walk Thru the Bible in Atlanta, GA, and Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge, a national radio ministry. Walk Thru the Bible partners with the local church worldwide to teach God's Word in relevant ways for lasting life change. To fulfill this mission, Walk Thru the Bible creates and distributes high quality, award-winning resources in a variety of formats, helping individuals ?walk thru? the Bible with greater clarity and understanding. Walk Thru the Bible seminars are taught in over 45 languages by more than 50,000 men and women in over 90 countries; Living on the Edge radio ministry broadcasts on more than 800 radio outlets reaching nearly one million listeners a week; and more than 100 million devotionals have been packaged into daily magazines, books and other publications that reach over five million people each year.

To learn more about Walk Thru the Bible, please visit our web-site at www.walkthru.org.


Repentance: A Key To Powerful Living

How a Change Of Mind Can Change Your Life

If you have ever changed your mind about anything, then you understand the basis of one of the most important spiritual principles in the Bible: repentance.

What is Repentance?

Repentance implies a change in direction -- 180-degree course correction in our relation with God. It begins with a decision to turn from sin and surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. And it's vitally necessary for anyone desiring to draw near to the Lord and walk with Him everyday.

That's because every person is born with a sinful nature that finds expression in sinful actions. This sin creates a chasm between God and man that cannot be bridged by our human efforts (Romans 3:23, 6:23)

Our sin, however, is not the end of the story. In fact, God works through everything that happens in our lives, including our sin, to draw us to Jesus (John 6:44, 45; 14:6; Romans 8:28, 29).

No matter what you have done, God has made a way home -- through his Son, Jesus Christ. His death on the cross and triumphant resurrection secures for you all the blessings of God, including forgiveness. All you have to do is repent and turn your life over to Jesus (Acts 3:19)

This is what the Bible calls being "born again" of the Spirit of God (John 3:3,5). We enter into the born-again experience by repenting of our sin, yielding our lives to Jesus as Savior and Lord, and trusting in faith that He will forgive and cleanse us from all sin (Romans 3:23; 10:13; 1John 1:8,9; John 1:12).

A Daily Walk

Repentance is also the key to growing daily in your relationship with Christ. That's because the Christian life is a journey -- we are not perfected in an instant. For the rest of your life, you will contend with the sinful and selfish tendencies of your flesh. The only way to overcome this ongoing struggle with sin is through repentance.

Some attitudes and actions are obviously sinful. The Bible calls these the "works of the flesh" and they include: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissension's, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, etc. Such works of the flesh, if not repented of, results in spiritual death (Gal. 5:19-21; James 1:15).

In fact, anything that is not a faith-filled response to our circumstances and relationships is sin (Romans 14:23; 1 John 5:17, James 4:17). Anxiety, worry, fear, bitterness, depression, pride, resentment and anger all have their roots in sin. Also, anything that takes the place of trusting in the Lord -- such as fortune-telling, psychics, horoscopes, numerology, astrology -- needs to be repented of.

Finding Faith to Repent

If you have been struggling with a besetting sin, repentance may seem like a difficult thing. But consider that the Bible says "the kindness of God leads you to repentance" (Romans 2:4). Another verse lets us know that God is patiently waiting for us to repent (2 Peter 3::9).

Your heavenly Father is not looking for ways to punish you. Yes, God is just, but He is also a loving Father searching for the lost coin or the one lost sheep -- willing to leave 99 in the safe pasture to find the one that has gone astray.

One of the most powerful portraits of God's love can be seen in the parable of the prodigal son. After the son changed his mind and headed home, the Bible says, "while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him" (Luke 15:20). This is God's heart toward you when you come to Him in repentance.

As You Pray

God is patiently waiting with open arms, for His sons and daughters to come home. All it takes is humility on our part and faith to believe that a loving Father will hear our honest pleas and cleanse us of our sin.

Take a moment right now to repent -- to change your mind and turn from whatever is separating you from God and those around you. "Father, I believe You love me. Your Word says that it is your patience and kindness that leads me to repentance. So I come to You humbly, and confess my sin. I thank You that You forgive me by the blood of Jesus, and ask for a fresh cleansing of my body, soul and spirit. Teach me how to walk honestly before You in repentance every day. In Jesus name. Amen."

God's Word On Repentance

"Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:30,31)

"I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death" (2 Cor. 7:9,10)

Scriptures For Study

Romans 3:23
Who has sinned?

Luke 13:3, Acts 17:30, 31
Who needs to repent?

2 Peter 3:9
Repentance and God's patience

1 John 1:8-10
God's promise if we repent

Luke 15:7
How repentance brings joy

Psalm 51
David's example of true repentance


Conviction vs. Condemnation

By Charles Stanley


How secure do you feel about your standing before God? Do you have a rock-solid assurance that, regardless of your sinful nature, you will spend eternity in the presence of God? Could it be instead that you struggle with doubts about your destiny after this life?

Some believers have trouble with this issue because they live by the inconsistency of their emotions. Facts are always more reliable than our feelings. The Bible offers you an eternal assurance that is crystal-clear. God intends for you to be stable and steadfast in your faith.

Perhaps you feel condemned and convicted. Romans 8:2 says that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death."

Scriptural Principles:

1. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins. What is the difference between condemnation and conviction? "There is now no more condemnation of those who are in Jesus Christ" (Romans 8:1). Jesus also assured us that He did not come into the world to condemn it but to save it. (John 3:17) Therefore Christians are free of condemnation, but conviction is another matter. The Holy Spirit comes to live in our hearts when we accept Christ as Lord. He awakens us to those things in our lives that are unpleasing to God-this is called conviction. It is the Spirit of God nudging us to avoid sin and live in the way God intends us to live.

2. The Holy Spirit assures us of God's approval. Beyond conviction of daily sin, the Spirit of God does something else. He lets us know not only when we have done something wrong, but when we have done something right. He is delighted on those occasions when He fills us with the satisfaction of knowing we are being obedient. He reveals God's approval, so that we can be encouraged that we have kept in step with the kind of life He wants us to lead. Therefore in every action we take, the Holy Spirit of God is guiding us to do what is right and pleasing to God.

3. The Holy Spirit speaks to unbelievers about their standing before God. How, then, is the Spirit of God manifest in the life of an unbeliever? He convicts that person of sin, just as He does for the believer. He penetrates the heart and makes an unbeliever aware of impurities in action and attitude. However, the Holy Spirit's primary focus is that individual's standing before God. He reveals the lack of a relationship to Christ, and He makes people aware of their danger of judgment before Almighty God. His great goal is to bring every unbeliever to confession, repentance, and salvation through the acceptance of the death and Resurrection of God's Son. His motivation is amazing love for every one of us.

4. The Holy Spirit speaks to believers about their relationship to Christ. While the Holy Spirit deals with unbelievers on the basis of their eternal standing, He relates to Christians based on the intimate personal relationship we have with Christ. He convicts us of our sin and disobedience, and He encourages us toward living the Spirit-filled life. He convicts, but He never condemns. As we have seen in Romans 8, there is no condemnation whatsoever for those who have become children of God and adopted into His Kingdom. Our sins have been forgiven once and for all, so it is our conduct that is the Spirit's focus, not our eternal standing.

5. We are free of condemnation because we are "in Christ." Romans 8:2 tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are "in Christ." What does that phrase mean? The Apostle Paul uses it frequently, and it refers to the eternal relationship we have with Christ. At the moment we are saved, we enjoy a new standing before God. It is a perfect standing that results from all our sin, past, present, and future, being forgiven once and for all. No behavior or conduct can have any effect on that relationship while we are in Christ, because this forgiveness is something God alone has done.

6. We are free of condemnation because we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Paul uses another important phrase about our new condition. He says we have been "sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Ephesians 1:13). Not only are we in Christ, but we have been "sealed" there permanently at the moment of salvation. We have become children of God, and what He has done cannot be undone. The Spirit has come into our lives in the same way "earnest money" is offered at the time of sale in real estate - as a pledge of the final culmination of ownership. The Spirit is God's pledge that we now belong to Him, and that someday we will live with Him eternally.

7. We are not free to sin or to waste our lives. The devil harasses us with feelings of condemnation, but those feelings are deceptions. Jesus has told us that He came into the world to save it rather than condemn it, and only if we reject Him will there be condemnation. Since you and I know that we enjoy that kind of eternal security, does it mean we are free to sin? Absolutely not. We are free to be accountable to Him, to serve Him, and to honor Him in every possible way. We are responsible to our God, and therefore we feel conviction rather than condemnation. As Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, "Neither do I condemn you; Go your way. From now on sin no more" (John 8:11).

8. We can enjoy this freedom only when we accept the gift of eternal life. My friend, there is nothing in this universe that is more wonderful than the assurance of eternal security that we can enjoy. That tremendous freedom is only available to us, however, when we accept His Lordship and salvation. Jesus Christ, God's only Son, has already paid the price for our sins, otherwise we would face the full condemnation of God's righteous wrath. All we need to do is to say yes to the Holy Spirit and receive Christ as our personal Savior. Only then can we enter into all the joy He wishes you and I to receive.


Where is your standing before our loving Father? Do you know for a certainty that you have received His free gift? Have you accepted His forgiveness, been saved, redeemed, and are you being sanctified by the Lord each day?

If you are one of those people standing on the outside, wondering about Jesus Christ without receiving Him, I offer you this advice with all my heart. The wisest thing you can do is to lay aside your arguments and doubts. Walk away from those entanglements that hold you back from God's love. You may not understand everything, but God will accept you just as you are. Believe in Him and this very moment you will be washed absolutely clean, free of condemnation, and in the midst of His awesome grace.


The Landmine of Fear

By Charles Stanley


Have you ever considered how the power of your own emotions affects your life? Love, for example, influences our feelings, our behavior, and even our looks. So does fear. It can affect our thoughts and our conduct as well as our physical health. Apprehension also has the power to hold us back from all that God wants to accomplish in our lives.

Satan relies upon the emotion of fear because he wants you to miss what the Lord has planned for you. You may think that you have no particular fears, but the truth is that nearly everyone is afraid of something. Your fears may be hidden, and that's the very reason they're so dangerous.

The Bible offers you power over your anxieties, no matter what they may be. Isaiah 41:10 says, "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." Almighty God is greater than any terror the human mind can imagine, and therefore He wants us to walk in courage and faith.

Scriptural Principles:

1. Aspects of Fear. The human reaction of fear is not a sin, nor is it evil in itself. It has several forms, some of which are useful or even wise. Practical protective fear, for example, is usually good common sense. We need to fear the daily threats that lie within this world. This kind of fear helps keep us safe. There is also the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10) This means that we are to reserve only reverence, honor, and exaltation for the holy God we worship. In other words, we are to stand in awe of Him. There is, however, a negative type of fear, which is a landmine. This is the kind of anxiety that enslaves. God told Joshua," Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9). Fear is a normal part of life, but not one that should hold us constantly in its grip. Our heavenly Father gives us promise after promise so that we never need to be dominated by fear.

2. The Nature of Fear. Why is fear so damaging? First of all, it divides the mind. God commands Isaiah, "Do not anxiously look about you," and yet, that is exactly what fearful people do. They are constantly mindful of their apprehensions, looking nervously about instead of focusing on what the Lord wants them to see. Secondly, fear torments and punishes people - worry itself is often worse than the source of someone's fear. This damaging emotion enslaves us, as fright dominates all our goals and desires; it also blocks our spiritual growth, since we cannot build our faith while giving in to fear. Our anxiety is a way of saying we do not find God sufficient to protect us. In fact, the fearful person becomes more and more blind to the Lord's powerful promises. Since he feels he cannot trust God, he begins to assess and respond to his circumstances in his own strength and reasoning power - and then comes up empty in life. Fear simply does not fit the life of a child of God. We may have moments of fear, but we should handle them by quickly remembering God's promise in Romans 8:28. He will use all things for our benefit and His glory.

3. The Sources of Fear. Where does fear come from? It can be the product of sin. Someone who disobeys God will be fearful of the consequences - anxiety and guilt are a natural result of transgression. Fear can also result from things we have been taught. For example, parents can instill apprehension within us when we are ve ry young. The imagination, too, can create "shadow fears," which our minds convince us are real, even though they are not. Or, we dwell on some possibility until we are consumed with anxiety. Ignorance of God's Word is another source. Those whose hearts are not fortified by His promises are more susceptible to worry. The more we dwell upon His Word, the more courageous we will be. Doubt and poor self-image are also sources of fear. Those who live with apprehension expect the worst from life.

4. The Consequences of Fear. There are terrible results for those who give in to the tyranny of fear. Since anxiety creates a divided mind, a number of troubles plague a worrier's life. Such a person is afraid to take risks and, as a result, will be incapable of launching out upon those great adventures God has pre p a red for him. There will be indecision and procrastination, and therefore a very limited ability to achieve pleasing results in life. self-confidence is undermined by apprehension. A person afflicted by worry will undergo torment and suffering. He will give in to panic and irrational courses of action. In summary, fear is a cruel master. Its domination ultimately encompasses a person's entire life. Fearful people feel the overwhelming desire to be free from this tyranny. That freedom comes through trusting the power and love of God.

5. The Way to be Healed of Enslaving Fear. Begin by asking yourself a simple question: Do I really want to be free of fear? The answer should come easily, since no one wants to suffer. Secondly, recognize that the basic cause of fear is a failure to trust in the sovereignty of God. Psalm 103:19 tells us that "the LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all." You can believe the infallible Word of God! Then thirdly, you must make a choice to be courageous - to take your eyes off that object of fear, and gaze upon God instead. He will liberate you from those powerful emotions. Then you need to keep your heart and soul on the right track by meditating upon Scripture. Read and reflect upon Psalm 23:4; Psalm 27:1, 3; Psalm 46:1-2; and Isaiah 41:10-13. Keep these words of life before you at all times, and see how your fears fade away.

6. Why There is No Need to Fear. The Lord is with you. He is not out of reach in some distant place, but He is there beside you at every moment. He is your God, and He loves you more than even a mother or father ever could. He will strengthen you and He will help you. These are solid promises from His Word, and He has never broken a single pledge He has made. You can expect Him to fill your every need, no matter what obstacle you may face in life. You also have His assurance that He will uphold you with His righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10) His words to Joshua are also His words for you: "Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9). According to Isaiah 54:17, no weapon formed against you will prosper. This is your wonderful heritage as a child of God.


Imagine living your whole life and missing out on all the good things the heavenly Father has prepared for you. Every single person in the world has but one opportunity to live this earthly life. My friend, there is absolutely no reason to spend that time in the vicious bondage of fear.

My prayer is that the next time you are afraid, and you start to feel anxiety wrap its coils around you, you will take hold of God's Word instead of giving in to your apprehensions. Don't anxiously look about you, but be strong and courageous! Your heavenly Father has given you His promise that He will never leave you nor forsake you. He wants you to be able to proclaim with confidence, "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6)

No matter what the Lord calls you to do, He will give you the power to accomplish it. He calls you out of your areas of comfort to bless you, not to frighten you. Trust in Him and experience a resounding victory over the enslavement of fear.


Faith: More than an Act

By Whitney Hopler
Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Christine Caine's new book, Stop Acting Like a Christian, Just Be One, (Regal Books, 2007).

Do you enjoy a time of worship at church on Sunday, yet argue with your spouse on the way home while reacting rudely to other drivers in traffic? Do the people with whom you interact during the week see the same you that others in your congregation see, or do they see someone who struggles with gossiping, lying, envying, or a host of other behaviors you just can’t seem to overcome?

It’s not enough just to try your best to act like a Christian, modifying your behavior from the outside in. You need to invite Jesus to change you from the inside out, transforming you into an authentic Christian.

Here’s how you can stop acting like a Christian and just be one:

Let love – not a sense of obligation – motivate you. Don’t waste time and energy trying to impress God with religious words or rituals if your heart isn’t truly in them. Understand that God doesn’t want you to come to Him out of a sense of duty, but out of a genuine passion for Him. Strengthen your heart – your core spiritual muscle – by staying in close communication with God through prayer and remaining obedient to His Word, the Bible. Expect that as you seek God, you will discover more and more about Him that will cause you to genuinely fall in love with Him and naturally motivate you to live in a way that pleases Him.

Guard against potential heart blockages. Combat attitudes that can block your intimacy with God. Instead of becoming bored with your faith journey, remain bold and adventurous to keep your relationship with God fresh and dynamic. Remember that there is always more for you to learn about God, and there are always more ways for you to grow into the person He wants you to become. Keep seeking God, and taking risks that He leads you to take. Don’t let your familiarity with God lead you to take Him for granted. Remember that everything you have – even you next breath – is a gift from God. Express your gratitude to Him on a regular basis, and live in awe of His power. Prevent lust from blocking a close relationship with God by staying focused on God as your top priority in life. Know that this will keep everything and everything else in proper perspective so you don’t become controlled by your desires. Overcome laziness that can block your relationship with God by recognizing that the good works He created you to do are not empty and dead tasks, but life-giving works that are full of purpose. Ask God to help you notice how He uses even the most mundane activities in your life to fulfill exciting purposes. Embrace His plan for your life, and decide to do your part to see that plan realized. Don’t let disobedience block your intimacy with God. Remember that every small step of obedience has eternal ramifications. Whenever you sense God leading you to do something, do it. Keep in mind that if God sees that He can trust you to obey Him in small ways, He will trust you with larger assignments.

Pursue the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Realize that all true Christians should produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Don’t withhold any part of your life from God; invite His Spirit to take control of every aspect of it. Seek healing for any damage in your soul that is causing you to produce bad fruit (such as anger, fear, jealousy, depression, or low self-esteem) in your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your soul and empower you to live faithfully.

Strengthen your mind. Know that if you want to change your life, you must change the way you think. Recognize that the quality of your mind depends on how much of God’s truth (as found in His Word, the Bible) you believe and apply to your life. Daily pray for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind as you read and reflect on Scripture. Don’t allow negative thoughts to remain in your mind long enough for you to dwell on them and have them lead you in the wrong direction. Instead, choose to focus on positive thoughts, and let those thoughts guide you in the direction God wants you to go in life. Expect that when you fill your mind with God’s thoughts, you will naturally start to act more like Jesus and experience unshakable peace and joy.

Don’t just go to church on the weekends – become the church all the time. Realize that the church isn’t a building; it’s the group of believers who loves God and other people both inside and outside the building. Don’t keep your faith confined to just a weekend worship service. Instead, live out your faith constantly. Share the Gospel message with people, respond to people’s needs through loving service, work for justice, disciple new believers, and engage in other activities that God leads you to do in your community and elsewhere. Just as God is transforming you, work to transform your world. Never let complacency distract you from your core mission to help seek and save the lost in this fallen world. Ask God to help you view others you meet as He sees them, and to value their souls enough to give your best to reach out to them in love.

Shine your light into the darkness around you. As you invite God to transform your life, point other people toward the life God has waiting for them. Look for opportunities to shine the light of God’s love into the darkness of the fallen world, dispelling despair with hope. Don’t hide from the evil in the world or be overwhelmed by it. Instead, ask God to show you how you can overcome evil with good every day at work, in your neighborhood, at school, and wherever else you go.

Get up close and personal with other people. Ask God to help you love lost and hurting people. Realize that, while you’re not called to help everyone, you are called to help certain people in certain ways – and you need to respond. Pray for God to let you know of specific ways He wants you to help meet specific needs for specific people. Don’t hesitate to become involved in the lives of people to whom God calls you to reach, building genuine relationships with them. Rather than viewing them as projects to work on, see them simply as people to love.

Remain committed. Stay faithful to the ongoing process of living out your faith authentically. Realize that authentic Christians like you, when working together, wield tremendous potential to change the world for the better.

Adapted from Stop Acting Like a Christian, Just Be One, copyright 2007 by Christine Caine. Published by Regal Books, a division of Gospel Light, Ventura, Ca.,


The Encouraging Message of The Resurrection

By Charles Stanley


What would you call the most encouraging word ever spoken? It was a single word spoken in Greek, two thousand years ago. We translate it into three English words: He is risen!

Suppose you had been a follower of Jesus during the time He walked in Jerusalem, and that you heard every wonderful word He spoke. How would you have felt when they arrested Him, tried Him unjustly, and crucified Him? Then, imagine your thoughts when that one powerful word was spoken. He is risen!

That, my friend, is the awesome message of the Resurrection. We celebrate it at Easter and on every other day of the year, because it encourages us more than any message could. "Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me" (Isaiah 46:9). There is no one like our God, and no one like our Lord Jesus Christ.

Key Passage: Isaiah 46:5-10

Supporting Scripture:
2 Corinthians 5:17-19
Hebrews 9:11-14, 24-26, 28
John 5:26-29
Ephesians 2:8-10
John 11:24-26
2 Corinthians 5:8
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Revelation 22:1-5
Matthew 17:1-4
1 Peter 2:12
Philippians 3:20-21

Scriptural Principles:

1. We are encouraged because Christ conquered death. When we think of all the prophets who have walked through this world, we think of the fact that every one of them is dead with one exception. What can a dead prophet do for you? Not one single thing. Only Christ has conquered death. His grave is empty, and now He sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. And what is He doing? He is an advocate for us, interceding on our behalf before God. He is also caring for us, because He knows our needs. He lives within us in the person of the Holy Spirit, guiding us and empowering us. We as believers can rejoice and be encouraged, because He lives today and for all eternity. That's enough reason for you and me to praise God forever!

2. We are encouraged because our sins are forgiven and we are eternally secure. This was the very reason why Jesus came to earth -- not simply to teach, preach, and heal, but to forgive us. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:19 that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself." Every single one of us was separated from God because of our sin, but Christ has brought us back into a loving relationship with our heavenly Father. Our debt of sin has been paid in full at the cross, where Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice, removing the stain of our sin by the shedding of His own blood, as Hebrews 9:11-14 explains.

3. We are encouraged because we are going to live forever. Someone may believe that already, but I might ask that person, "On what basis?" What prophet could get us to heaven, and how? We can have no hope of living a life that's good enough. No one who ever lived, other than Jesus, could claim to have more good works than bad ones. Sin is simply too powerful for us, but God sent His Son into the world not to condemn it but to save it through Him. The Lord Jesus Christ is our only hope of salvation, and if we reject Him we have rejected our only chance to avoid the judgment we will deserve on that final day. Christ gives us the hope of heaven and the encouragement of knowing that we need never fear death.

4. We are encouraged because God will care for our deceased loved ones. Paul's friends, the Thessalonians, wrote him a letter asking him, among other things, what would happen to those friends and family members who had already died. Where are they from now until the final judgment? Paul explained that they are "asleep." They sleep in Jesus, and God will care for them. Our loved ones do not wait in the cold caskets of this world. If they died in Christ as believers, they are in the presence of Almighty God already. One day, when Christ returns, they will be raised in bodily resurrection. We will join them, and we will all be transformed to the redeemed heavenly bodies that we will have for all eternity.

5. We are encouraged because Christ has a special place prepared for us. We are also encouraged because we know there is an eternal home waiting for us. Some people believe there is this life, then nothing afterward. How sad life would be if this was all we were ever going to have! Jesus told His disciples that He couldn't stay in this world because He had the task of going to prepare a place for them (and for us). How did He describe this place? He said that in His Father's house there are many mansions, so we know there is a definite, specific, and wonderful place, rather than somewhere in limbo. The book of Revelation describes a wonderful, beautiful place that is far more than our earthbound minds can possibly imagine. What an awesome encouragement to live every day with that hope!

6. We are encouraged because we will recognize our loved ones in heaven. Many believers ask about this. We might ask them this question in return: Would it be heaven if we could not recognize one another there? If everyone in heaven was a stranger to everyone else, what kind of place would our wonderful Savior have prepared for us? Not a single verse in all of Scripture implies that we will not know our loved ones in eternity. Matthew 17:1-4 tells us how Jesus' closest disciples saw Him transfigured on the mountain, beside Moses and Elijah. He was in His eternal glory, yet the disciples recognized Him. God made family, He made relationships, and gave us the love we have for one another.

7. We are encouraged because God has a special plan for our lives on earth. Isn't it wonderful to know that even as we await that wonderful home in eternity, God has a plan for the present as well? You can have every assurance that He has a specific plan for your life, and that it includes a number of things. He wants you to know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and to walk in obedience to His will. He has a plan for you to receive all the good things He has in store for every believer. Finally, His plan is for you to have the pleasure and the honor of bringing glory to His name every day of your life. That's His ultimate goal for you, and it is in your power to accept or reject that wonderful offer from the One who loves you the most of all.


My friend, I cannot imagine why any believer should live a single day of life with a sad or gloomy disposition. We have heard the most encouraging word ever spoken: He is risen! We know that if He is risen, we are too -- not only from the death that awaits every individual, but from the sin and the miseries that this world contains.

Because He is risen, we have the hope of heaven one day, and even if that were our only hope, it would be a wonderful one. We would know that an awesome home awaits us, lovingly prepared by the hands of our Savior. We would know we could look forward to a reunion with our loved ones. Our encouragement is even greater because our Lord lives within us here and now. Glory, hallelujah to the Lord of all encouragement!


The Landmine Of Pride

By Charles Stanley


One of the most destructive weapons an enemy could use against us in war is a landmine. Our enemy, Satan, has laid his landmines in the pathway of every believer. When we step on one of them, it affects our relationship with the Father, our Christian witness, and the way we live our daily life. Because tripping over Satan's landmines can ultimately lead to our self-destruction, we must learn not only to detect and identify them, but also to protect ourselves.

Pride is one of the most treacherous landmines because it is difficult to identify -- we are usually the last to recognize it. Pride is simply the act of overemphasizing ourselves; it reflects a very distorted view of who we are. Instead of looking to God for guidance, we focus on what we think, feel, and want. At its worst, pride can actually prevent us from going to heaven by blinding us to our need for the Savior Jesus Christ.

Scriptural Principles:

1. God's attitude toward pride:

* It is one of the characteristics of Satan himself. Satan said, "I will make myself like the Most High." (Isaiah 14:14) In essence, he said he would make himself like God.

* It brings dishonor. (Proverbs 11:2) Proverbs 29:23 adds, "A man's pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor."

* It is a stumbling block in our lives. Proverbs 16:18 says that "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling."

* It is deceptive. Pride boasts, "I don't need anything." But we do need something -- we need God. Not a single one of us is self-sufficient.

2. What causes pride in a person's life? We give pride a stronghold in our life when we care more about ourselves than about other people or the will of God. Feelings of insufficiency or inadequacy produce fertile ground for seeds of conceit, which serve as a cover-up for our own weakness. Other sources of arrogance are discontentment with God's blessings and a craving for worldly praise. Those who desire power are easily seduced by pride -- when God gives them experiences that will build their character instead of personal affluence, they become resentful and bitter. Failure to recognize that all we have comes from the Father's hand is a grievous oversight; every good thing results from His grace, love, and mercy.

3. The consequences of pride are severe:

* Pride hinders your relationship with the Lord. There is no way for you to have a right relationship with God when you have pride in your life. God hates pride.

* Pride disrupts your relationships with other people. Nobody wants to be around a prideful, egotistical person.

* Pride hampers your effectiveness as a leader. People cannot trust leaders who are focused on their own achievements because they are blinded by conceit.

* Personal ambition obstructs your ability to show fairness. A prideful person shows favoritism toward people who build his or her ego, people who belittle themselves in order to gain acceptance. That is not how a child of God treats others.

* Pride hinders the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. Once pride enters our life, we stop praying because we don't think we need God anymore.

* Pride compromises your rewards in heaven. God will judge us by our motives. If pride has motivated our actions, we will lose our heavenly rewards. God will not bless your arrogance; He will wait until you turn your focus from yourself and seek Him.

* Pride keeps the unbeliever out of heaven. Failing to believe in the God who created you is an act of pride that will keep you from an eternity in heaven.

4. Pride shows itself in many ways. A person who strives to be number one and always has to be the center of attention may suffer from pride. Prideful people also shrink from doing menial tasks, but the Christian should remember that Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. A self-important person does not delight in the success of others, is hesitant to admit fault or offer an apology, and does not accept criticism. Love of prominence also results from pride. An arrogant person will ignore those less fortunate, choosing instead to acquaint himself with rich or influential people. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fall short of God's glory, and that He loves each of us, regardless of our social standing.

5. How should we deal with pride? The first step to avoiding this landmine is recognizing it. When we honestly identify areas of pride in our life, confess our sin to God, and repent specifically, we take ground from the Enemy. Serving others, remembering our humble origins, recalling the life God has saved us from, and finding our identity in Christ (rather than from the approval of others) are tangible measures we can take to regain a proper sense of meekness. The ultimate correction of pride is adversity. In order to deal successfully with pride, pray for God to send into your life whatever is necessary to mold you into a reflection of His Son. In that way, you can accomplish what the Lord desires of you.

6. The ultimate correction of pride is adversity. We know that the opposite of pride is humility. Proverbs 11:2 tells us that "When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom." So how do you acquire humility in order to combat arrogance? The ultimate correction for conceit is adversity. Pray for God to send into your life whatever is necessary to mold you into a reflection of His Son. If pride has a stronghold in your life, then God may use hardship to strike it out. But if you humble yourself to His work, you will become worthy of the greatest applause -- His praise. It is in our weakness that He is made strong.


When God brings us to a place of total dependence upon Him, everything we have relied upon before -- including the praise and acceptance from others -- turns to ashes. The only thing that matters is our relationship with Him.

Pride, which caused Satan's downfall, is also his most dangerous weapon against us. He said, "I will make myself like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:14). When we seek to be in charge of our own circumstances -- as Satan did-- we fall headfirst into the landmine of pride.

Make Proverbs 27:2 a rule to live by: "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth." Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you to be cautious, alert, and wise. You do not want to step on the landmine of pride, which can render you ineffective, cause you to self-destruct, or hinder your relationship with God.


"Active Positivism"

By Flor B. Conopio

These days, if we want to remain in sanity amidst difficulties and seemingly endless predicaments that engulf and overwhelm us, we must learn and practice "active positivism," says Manila Bulletin columnist, Zenaida Amador, in one of her columns. According to her, active positivism is looking at the bright, not at the dark, side of life. The first thing that can lead us to active positivism is the counting of God's blessings in our individual lives. We need to audit and monitor the resources at our command. We need to find our what we could thank the Lord for instead of what we need to gripe and complain about.

Many times conflict arises in our relationship with one another when we focus on the weakness, and not on the strengths, of our fellowmen.

Active positivism is considering a person's potentials and possibilities instead of considering one's inadequacies. If we believe, truly believe, that each of us is created in God's image, then we should also believe that each one of us is possessed with the goodness and excellence that come from God.

When, therefore, we judge an individual and criticize him, do we not become judgmental and critical of God's creative handiwork? We also miss the opportunity to get a vision of the beauty of God which we can experience in the community of His people. This is because each of us is bequeathed with a goodness that comes from our Creator. Each of us is distinctly blessed in a different way. God's glory and character are revealed in each one of us' we only have to focus on the good in our individual selves.

This is possibly why the apostle Paul wants us to consider only the things that are "lovely, honest, pure and of good report" in our surroundings and in our fellowship with one another (Philippians 4:8). The apostle wants us to practice and experience active positivism.

I would not have enjoyed 35 years of unbroken service in my work if I had not in some way practiced active positivism. Let us each one practice active positivism.


The Spirituality of Work

By Don Whitney

Bill often wonders whether he is a second-class Christian because of the less-than-Christian atmosphere where he works. His occupation is good and necessary for society, but it’s also one in which liars, cheats and thieves seem to flourish. Vulgar and blasphemous language typically fills the air of Bill’s workplace.

For other believers, the problem at work is not a godless environment; it’s the gnawing lack of meaning to their labor. They trudge through tedious days on a job that often feels intolerably unimportant.

Can followers of Jesus work in these conditions and still maintain a close relationship with Him? Or is the Lord somewhat disappointed in them because of where they work or what they do?

God ordained work. Before sin entered the world, "the Lord God took the man [Adam] and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it" (Genesis 2:15). All kinds of work - paid and unpaid - are necessary in the world for us "to subdue it" according to God’s will (Genesis 1:28). People must grow food, care for children, make clothes, tend the sick, construct buildings and roads, transport goods, govern the cities and so forth.

Obviously, therefore, God intends for most people to devote themselves to what’s often called "secular" employment. Only a small percentage should be vocational pastors, church-planting missionaries and the like (even though more are needed). Otherwise, who'd work the fields, deliver the mail, build ships and cars, develop water systems, and make medicines?

Because God has ordained it, all work has a spiritual dimension. The Bible repeatedly commends useful, honest labor (see Ephesians 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:10), which shows God's intense interest in it. When we actively recognize His presence in our workplace, we acknowledge His sovereignty over all of life. And that’s basic to true spirituality.

Even if your daily responsibilities may seem dull and unimportant or cause you to associate with worldly, God-hating people, remember that "the Lord takes pleasure in His people" (Psalm 149:4). And He takes pleasure in us not just at church, but at work as well. He’s as attentive to us in our work routines as He was to Joseph in his service as Potiphar’s slave, to Jesus in the carpentry shop and to the Apostle Paul when he was making tents.

Work is not a hindrance to spirituality; it is a part of it. Even slaves were instructed by Paul not to fear that their awful condition in any way diminished their spiritual standing with God (see 1 Corinthians 7:22). Our spirituality depends upon who we are in Christ, not the circumstances of our workplace. God’s presence and favor are not limited by co-workers or job descriptions.

Enlarge your vision of your spiritual life to include your daily work. "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:23-24). Present your work to God. You are working for Him.


Leave A Powerful Legacy

By Whitney Hopler

The following is a report on the practical applications of Jeff O'Leary's new book, Footprints in Time: Fulfilling God’s Destiny for Your Life, (Nelson Books, 2006).

Of the billions of people who have lived throughout history, many aren’t remembered. But some have lived such remarkable lives that time can’t erase their legacies. They were just ordinary people, yet they lived in extraordinary ways that inspired future generations. Such a legacy is within your own reach if you follow their examples of faith.

Here’s how you can leave a powerful legacy:

* Seek God. Make it your top priority in life to pursue God and grow closer to Him with each passing day.

* Find and follow your calling. Ask God to reveal what contributions He wants you to make to the world. Invite Him to use your life in powerful ways. Then obey His will and set out to fulfill His purposes for your life.

* Don’t settle for less than God’s best. Know that there’s much more to life than just making money to pay bills and putting together some harmonious relationships. Don’t just get by; choose to live with passion. Focus beyond the mundane to the eternal. Pursue eternal values so your life will have lasting significance. Learn what’s truly important and what’s not, and don’t waste time or energy on pursuits that don’t really matter.

* Defeat hopelessness with courage. When you encounter a situation that’s morally wrong, refuse to accept it and decide to do something about it. Be willing to place other people’s needs before your own. Consider the victory of your cause more important than even your own survival, and be willing to pay whatever cost you need to pay to right the wrong. Remember that death is not the end, but the beginning of a better life. Throw yourself into the fray rather than cowing before it. Do whatever is necessary to protect your honor.

* Act with the integrity of a clear conscience. Listen carefully to the quiet inner voice of the conscience God gave you -- and heed what it says. Realize that God often speaks to you through your conscience. Understand that integrity is formed one decision at a time. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you constantly as you make choices. Live to please God alone, regardless of what other people think of you. Recognize that your daily decisions will create habits, which in turn will create your future self. Make the kinds of decisions that will help you reflect Christ more and more. Expect to experience discord when your integrity makes others uncomfortable with their own choices. Be willing to endure friction and persecution so that you can inspire others when you stand strong, and ultimately cause them to examine their own lives. Keep a clear vision of the finish line of faith -- the moment you meet Christ in person at the end of your life -- and strive to live in a way you’ll be pleased with then. Whenever you make mistakes, pray for fresh forgiveness and the grace to keep growing.

* Focus your energy. Fight back against distractions that keep you from fulfilling your God-given destiny. Don’t let your dreams be crushed under the weight of your mundane responsibilities. Instead, develop a fierce and tenacious concentration on what God is calling you to do. Pray for the discipline you need to stay focused on your calling and devote yourself to it -- no matter what your circumstances -- so your energy doesn’t get dissipated. Don’t try to walk both God’s path and the world’s path; choose to stay on God’s path by giving Him your whole heart. Recognize that you can accomplish more than you can imagine when you focus your energy. Stretch yourself on a regular basis as you pursue your mission. Remember that if you’re diligent, God will ultimately bring about good results from your dedication, and you won’t be disappointed.

* Face failure with tenacity. Ask God to help you develop an indomitable spirit and an unbreakable will. Understand that dogged persistence will aid you greatly in the face of seemingly impossible problems or overwhelming odds. Don’t despair when you encounter misfortune; instead learn from the experience so you can become a stronger person. Remember that many people who came before you have survived and even thrived under enormous pressure. Overcome fear. Decide to act with courage, even when you don’t feel courageous, trusting that God will than build courage into you. Keep pressing ahead with confidence until you break through the barrier that has been stumping you. Pray persistently. Learn from your mistakes, and try again. Know that success will often come after many failures, and if you give up, you’ll never know how close you were to success. Never give up!

* Pursue wisdom with a passion. Recognize that great value in wisdom, and know that it’s worth pursuing, whatever the cost. Know that God is the source of all true wisdom. Pray daily for Him to give you a passion for learning, renew your mind, and help you discern all He would like you to understand. Be willing to work hard at whatever tasks God calls you to undertake, giving your very best and being alert for what God wants to teach you through your experiences. Know that you should never stop learning, no matter how old you become. Keep asking questions, listening, reading, and seeking out wisdom until you die. Spend more time on education than you do on entertainment. Strive to be contributor more than a consumer. Stay current and competitive in your field of work. Discuss current events and biblical issues with your family and friends on a regular basis, such as at mealtimes and in the car. Learn how to listen well to other people. Pass on your own wisdom to others, such as your kids.

* Dare to do the impossible. Honestly consider whether or not your dreams are too small -- and if they are, enlarge them. Ask God to reveal His big dreams for your life, and embrace them. Be bold about taking risks to make those dreams come true. Be willing to make sacrifices necessary to pursue God’s vision for your life. Remember that Christ is worth everything it costs you to follow Him to change the world.

* Take the long view. Ask God to give you His perspective on challenging situations in your life. Expect suffering in our fallen world, but look beyond that to see how suffering helps you become more mature and sensitive to Christ’s love and other people’s pain.

* Don’t squander time. Remember that every moment you live is a gift, and decide to use it as well as you possibly can.

* Beware of idols that can cause you to stumble. Regularly take inventory of your thoughts and behaviors to make sure you’re not devoting yourself to fame, beauty, power, wealth, or possessions more than you are to God. Keep your relationship with God your top priority. Forsake everything that threatens to take your attention away from Him.

* Say "no" to self and "yes" to Christ. Be willing to pick up your cross and follow Christ by giving Him full authority in every area of your life -- with no exceptions. If God allows challenges like economic deprivation, physical ailments, or persecution in your life, accept them and do all you can to learn from them. Trust God to provide all you need. Embrace the whole Gospel message, even when it makes you uncomfortable, and let it stretch you to become the person God intends you to be.

* Be faithful to the end. Realize that fulfilling God’s plans for your life may involve great personal costs. Don’t shrink back from what He asks you to do; trust Him. Don’t stop short of completing the work God has given you to do. Be willing to lay down your pride, reputation, possessions, and even your life so that God’s will can be accomplished through you. Hold onto your life with an open hand, ready to give whatever you need to give to serve God faithfully. Ask Him to help you commit your heart fully to Him. Remember that anything you might lose for His sake in this life means nothing compared to the treasure that awaits you when you meet Christ face to face.


God's Purpose in the Storm

By Charles Stanley


Violent storms have devastated our world in recent times. Tragic images of destruction flowed across your television screen and mine. As I watched the news reports with sadness and compassion, I was reminded of other storms -- the quieter storms that trouble people in their everyday lives. These trials may bring no rain or winds but the danger is just as great. What is God's purpose in personal storms?

This subject quickly brings to mind the familiar words of Romans 8:28: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." These powerful words are misunderstood and misquoted when people claim that "everything works for good." It does not! Almighty God causes everything to work together for good, for those who love Him. Therefore it is very important how you and I respond to the circumstances we face.

What about you, my friend? How do you behave during the storms of life that have nothing to do with weather?

Key Passage: Romans 8:28-29

Supporting Scripture:
Psalm 119:67,71
Psalm 57:1
2 Corinthians 1:4
2 Corinthians 12:9

Scriptural Principles:

1 God commands our attention through cleansing. Six simple words help us understand God's purposes for the storms of life. The first is cleansing. God oftentimes sends the storms when you and I are not walking in His will. If you are rebelling against His plan for you, then you can count on the coming of some kind of storm. The psalmist wrote, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your Word" (Psalm 119:67). Four verses later, the psalmist added that the storm helped him to learn obedience. If some troubling crisis in your own life drives you to depend more upon Him, wouldn't you agree that the crisis turned out to be a good thing? We must understand that sometimes God sends the storm because He loves us. It is painful and we suffer, but the end result makes the suffering worth every tear we shed.

2 God wants us to walk intimately with Him in companionship. God blesses us so often and so graciously that His very blessings become distractions to us. It is easy to be so involved with our gifts that we forget the Giver. Sometimes when a storm comes God will use it to help us return to a loving relationship with Him. When you turn from Him, you will experience a "divine loneliness," an emptiness that will cause you to seek Him more intimately. If it takes a storm for you to recognize your need for God's companionship, He is willing to send it. David wrote, "In the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge, until destruction passes by" (Psalm 57:1). You and I may not like the dark clouds, but God loves us enough to bring us home through them. He longs for the intimate friendship that difficult times make possible.

3 God is reshaping us to the likeness of His Son by conformity. Romans 8:29 tells us that in using all things to work together, God's great goal is that we "become conformed to the image of His Son." Conformity explains His purpose for all of the storms in your life. We are poured into the mold of worldliness by the books we read, the television shows we watch, and the friendships we cultivate. God wants to mold us into the shape of His own Son. We are influenced most by the person upon whom we gaze most often. It could be a movie star or a sports hero. The human imagination is one of the most powerful aspects of our identity. If I want to resemble the Lord Jesus Christ, I will gaze upon Him. The storms help to shape us, and cause us to take our eyes away from the world and place them upon Him.

4 God wants to do something special with us through comfort. The Lord wants to use you every day of your life "so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Corinthians 1:4). We will not have that comfort to give unless we have first received it ourselves. God's storms prepare us to support His other children when they are battered by storms of their own. When our hearts are broken, our hands become stronger through comforting others. He props open the doors of our hearts, and we become more sensitive and compassionate to those around us in difficult circumstances. Then we become living, caring tools in the hands of a loving God who wants to bless everyone who needs to be blessed. Remember, the deeper the valley and the darker the storm, the greater blessing we will become to others. Ours is an awesome God with awesome purposes for you and for me.

5 God helps us determine what we believe about Him through convictions. When the storms of life come, we discover exactly what kind of faith we have. It's not difficult to have conviction when the sun is shining, but what about when a crisis arrives? Storms reveal our doubts, but they also deepen our dependence. When we have no refuge in this world, trusting in Him teaches us how present, powerful, protective, and providing He is when we need Him the most. We emerge as changed people, more trusting and faithful when the next storm appears on life's horizon. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9 how he learned, through terrible trials including beatings, stonings, and imprisonment, that God's grace was sufficient for Him in any crisis. The times of torment served not to diminish his faith but to make it stronger. Can you say that about the storms of your life?

6 God wants to rescue us from our own disobedience through change. How terrible a crisis will it take for God to get your attention? Look at the New Testament example of Paul. Did Paul turn to God when he witnessed the tragic stoning of Stephen, a loving and obedient Christian? No, for Paul persisted in attacking the church. It took blindness and helplessness during a journey to Damascus, when Paul finally saw Christ face to face. A terrible, humbling calamity was required for Paul to change into someone who could be useful to the Lord -- and how useful Paul became! The intensity of the storm and the depth of the valley is based on the intensity and depth of your rebellion against God. The deeper the hole you dig for yourself, the deeper He must reach to rescue and bless you.


My friend, I want to challenge you to hold these six words close to your heart in the coming days: cleansing, companionship, conformity, comfort, conviction, and change. It could be that a storm of some kind will appear in your life. How will you respond?

Could this storm have risen because you have strayed from God? Is there some sin that needs to be cleansed? Is your faith strong enough to walk with Him even in the midst of dark times?

You can be certain that whatever storm you may face, God has a purpose for it, and His purpose is loving and just. In the end, you will be able to say that because He is so good, the storm that He allows to happen is good as well.


The Gift of Giving

By Charles Stanley


You may have many talents, but if you are a Christian there is one gift that defines your life. Once you are saved your entire personality is driven by one of the seven motivational gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8. You will be most joyful and productive when you operate in the strength of your spiritual gift.

If your gift is giving, your life may resemble that of Matthew, the disciple and author of the lengthiest gospel. Although Matthew was a tax collector, he came to understand godly giving and he wrote more than any other gospel writer about the wise use of money and resources.

Key Passage: Romans 12:6-8

Scriptural Principles:

1. Those with the gift of giving are able to identify resources. These believers have the ability to see resources that others would overlook. Therefore they can make the wisest use of their money in giving for the Lord's work. Where others will feel they have nothing to give, the giver will always find some way to free up resources for a godly gift.

2. Those with the gift of giving desire to feel a part of God's work. Givers give of themselves, and they feel a rewarding sense of involvement in ministry through their giving. They are not interested in giving in an impersonal way; they must give from the heart, and therefore they need the personal assurance that their decision to give is one that comes from God.

3. Those with the gift of giving desire to give high quality. Where others might economize in their giving, believers with this gift want to offer the best they can make available. They want their gift to have lasting value, so they are often very careful about their selections and purchases. They give generously and wholeheartedly, and they insist that their gifts should always reflect the highest values.

4. Those with the gift of giving hope the gift is an answer to prayer. This is a gift that is practiced carefully. Givers are motivated to find and fill needs, and they will give to do so without being asked. It is their deep pleasure to know that the Spirit of God has led them to minister through giving to fill a need.

5. Those with the gift of giving desire to give secretly. When was the last time you gave an anonymous gift? Those with the gift of giving are not concerned about receiving credit or gratitude. They want only to know that they have clearly heard God's voice, been obedient to Him, and given just the thing that best served His kingdom.

6. Those with the gift of giving prefer to give without pressured appeals. Actually, most of us don't like being pressured to give. Believers with the gift of giving wait upon God for giving decisions rather than responding to pressure from people. They realize that if God wants something done, He will impress our hearts with the burden to do it.

7. Those with the gift of giving are concerned that giving may corrupt. These believers know that money is neither good nor bad; it is a tool for godly use. Yet money can corrupt through the way it is used by people. Givers want to be certain that their gifts will be used in the way that most glorifies God, and never in a way that would dishonor Him.

8. Those with the gift of giving exercise personal thriftiness. Debt is a destructive force among God's children. Thriftiness is a discipline that allows us to create an abundance in our resources. Then we have a wonderful freedom to give generously to God's purposes. Believers with this gift are creatively economical with their resources in order to serve God better.

9. Those with the gift of giving give to motivate others to give. One of the most exciting results of our giving is our ability to positively influence others. Givers are thrilled when they find the opportunity to motivate other believers to share their joy. They frequently use their personal testimonies of giving, trusting God to use them for the encouragement of others.

10. Those with the gift of giving see financial needs that others overlook. Gifted givers can quickly recognize unused resources and make them available to serve God's purposes. They might sell personal items such as property or jewelry, for example, to create more finances for giving. They never make these decisions spontaneously, but seek confirmation through prayer and godly advice.

11. Those with the gift of giving confirm amounts with godly counsel. Believers with this gift are always generous but never impulsive. They respect the potential for God to use their resources, so they seek wise counsel for deciding upon the amount for a significant gift. They are particularly careful about their financial legacy to ensure that it provides for the continued work of God.

12. What are some misunderstandings of the gift of giving? Givers pay attention to finances, so they may be misjudged as materialistic. They make sure their gifts are used properly, so they may seem to be trying to control the work or the worker. As they encourage others to give, they may seem overbearing, though their own lack of response to pressure may seem like a lack of generosity. Givers are frugal, which could be misinterpreted as stinginess or insensitivity to their friends' desires.

13. What are the results of walking in the flesh for those with this gift? Godly givers are grateful people, but in the carnal life this trait becomes ingratitude. The punctual giver becomes known for tardiness, and tolerance becomes prejudice. Thriftiness gives way to extravagance, resourcefulness vanishes, and wastefulness takes it place. The contentment of giving becomes a covetous discontent. These believers are cautious when living in the Spirit, but rash when walking in the flesh.


Would you like for God to bless you financially, so that you can experience the many blessings of giving? The first principle to learn is that of discipline. In the coming week, I challenge you to ask God whether each potential purchase is wise or unwise. You will be surprised at the money you will save in one week as God guides your use of resources.

You will also be surprised by how much joy you feel as you find yourself giving more and more to purposes that have eternal value. God will multiply your resources. He will honor your giving heart. He will free you from the tyranny of financial debt. Trust Him in this, and you will discover that giving is among the greatest of gifts.


The Gift of Mercy

By Charles Stanley


Understanding your spiritual gift is key to living with joy and fulfillment. God created you in a unique way. Your gift defines the very purpose He gave you for living, not only in the church but in every area of your life. If you possess the gift of mercy, for example, you will be the most content and effective when you are serving others through this gift.

Romans 12:6-8 describes these motivational gifts, and tells us that we must exercise our gifts in the context of His purpose for us. The gift of mercy is absolutely essential among the people of God and should be used with cheerfulness.

Key Passage: Romans 12:6-8

Scriptural Principles:

1. The merciful feel the emotional atmosphere around an individual or group. The most obvious characteristic of the believer with this gift is an ability to sense joy or distress in others. Merciful people do not live by their own emotions, but they are especially sensitive to the feelings of others.

2. The merciful are drawn to those who are in mental or emotional distress. Spiritual gifts are always focused on service. Christians with the gift of mercy, therefore, are constantly attracted to people experiencing emotional distress, and often make friends with those in need.

3. The merciful seek to remove pain rather than find its benefits. Even when someone suffers as a result of his own disobedience, the gift of mercy concerns itself with soothing the sinner's pain. Those with the gift of prophecy or exhortation would focus on God's discipline or His other greater purposes. For this reason, the gift of mercy could actually interfere with God's work in some situations. The merciful should always exercise spiritual discernment.

4. The merciful are more concerned with mental distress than physical distress. Merciful believers are emotionally driven. They enjoy ministering to people in physical pain, but they respond especially to those who are in emotional or spiritual pain. These believers vicariously experience the feelings that others bear. This allows them to help others more effectively.

5. The merciful are sensitive to words and actions which could be hurtful. Merciful believers react negatively to critical statements about others, even when they are true. They take offense to hurtful words about someone else and may offer positive statements to offset the negative ones.

6. The merciful tend to react harshly when intimate friends are rejected. While merciful people are loving, kind, and gentle, they are also loyal and devoted. They rally to the defense of their close friends who feel rejection. They realize that rejection is one of the most painful emotions we can feel, so they are quick to come to a friend's defense.

7. The merciful sense genuine love, and are more vulnerable to unloving spirits. Believers with the gift of mercy can be easily hurt due to their deep sensitivity. Because the merciful are so sensitive, they may open themselves more readily to love despite the possibility of rejection.

8. The merciful need deep friendships with mutual commitment. Genuine commitment is always important to believers with the gift of mercy. They are willing to give themselves fully to their spouses, friends, or family members in loving devotion. When others fail to return the same level of devotion, the merciful will be deeply hurt.

9. The merciful measure acceptance by closeness and quality time together. Gifts, recognition, and other tokens might bring great satisfaction to other believers, but those with the gift of mercy value the sharing of time and togetherness. They yearn to be physically close to others, and they need plenty of quality time together. This is particularly true in marriage.

10. The merciful connect with those who are sensitive to others. These believers love being with others who share their special gift. They experience a special oneness with those who are attuned to the issues of love, acceptance, and the emotions of life.

11. The merciful tend to avoid firmness until they see the benefits involved. Parents with the gift of mercy may struggle to be firm with their children, because they hate for their children to be disappointed. In every area of life, however, there is a need to be firm at times.

12. The merciful often harden their spirits toward those who are insensitive. Just as those with this gift find joy with like-minded believers, they are appalled by people who lack love, gentleness, and compassion. Insensitivity is very difficult for them to understand and accept.

13. What are some common misunderstandings of those with this gift? A lack of firmness can seem weak and indecisive to others. Sensitivity to feelings can seem like an over dependence on emotion rather than reason. As the merciful gravitate toward emotional needs, they can be dangerously misunderstood by those of the opposite sex. When these believers react to hurtful words about others, they may appear to be taking the opposing side. Finally, a merciful believer who shuns insincere people seem unapproachable.

14. What are the results of walking in the flesh for those with this gift? As they live in the Spirit, the merciful are the most attentive of believers. Otherwise, they develop a lack of concern. Likewise they are sensitive as they serve Christ, but callous when they live in a worldly way. Their Spirit-led sense of fairness becomes an unjust partiality, while the natural compassion of the merciful can turn to indifference that isn't merciful at all in the flesh. Gentleness becomes harshness; deference becomes rudeness; meekness becomes anger.


I know you will agree that this world needs all the merciful, godly men and women it can get. Could it be that you have this gift? If so, these principles will help you understand why you think and act the way you do. If you have some other gift, these principles will help you love and support those with the wonderful gift of mercy.

Either way, the truth is that every single one of us needs the presence of mercy in our lives. We need to love, and we need to experience the warmth of love. Almighty God loves you and me more than we could ever imagine. The greatest gift of mercy came to us in His Son, Jesus Christ.


Living Godly in an Ungodly Age

By Charles Stanley


What do we mean when we talk about a "godly life"? The godly man or woman lives a life guided by the Holy Spirit. This person has a passion for God, seeks an intimate relationship with Him, and is always growing wiser and more mature.The godly person makes decisions based on biblical principles rather than personal preferences, and serves God faithfully.

How many people around you would be described in that way? How close are those words to a definition of your own life? Do you speak, dress, and relate to others in a way that conforms to that definition? In Titus 1:5-16, God’s Word shows us how to live a godly life in a world that grows darker with each passing day.

Key Passage: Titus 1:5-16
Supporting Scripture: Isaiah 40:8

Scriptural Principles:

1. We live in a world that opposes almighty God. Paul wrote to Titus with instructions about how to pastor a church in Crete.As we read about the conditions there, we are reminded of our own world. "For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers, deceivers" there (Titus 1:10). We notice several characteristics of an ungodly world. First, it is secular. For many of its people, there is no place for God in daily life. Second, we live in a materialistic world. The greatest driving force around us is the greed for money.Third, we live in a sensual world, filled with the uncontrolled pursuit of pleasure. Finally, this is an anti-Christian world in which some groups try to remove every reminder of God.

2. We live a godly life by clinging to the Word of God. How can you and I live a godly life in a world that is opposed to our Lord and Savior? Paul writes that a believer can do so by "holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (Titus 1:9). The Bible is the mind of God on the printed page; the story of His work in our world, and our guide for every day of life.

3. The power of God’s Word leads us to salvation. What happens when we hold fast to the faithful Word of God? First, it leads us to salvation. No other book can point us in the direction of forgiveness for our sins, rescue us from our own rebellion against God’s righteousness, and nourish our souls.The power of God flows through His Word, offering you the free gift of salvation.

4. The power of God’s Word guides our steps. This wonderful book, the awesome and eternal Word of the living God, gives us practical help for every day of life, and practical wisdom for every decision that we may face. We can come to the Word of God to seek answers, and He will give us those answers. Every problem of life has its solution in these pages.

5. The power of God’s Word lifts our burdens. David came to God’s Word when he felt deep sorrow, and the Word brought him joy. In the same way, there is no depression or despair so deep that we cannot find comfort in the healing words that are in God’s book. Whether we read the psalms of David or the writings of Paul, all of it is inspired by the Spirit of God.

6. The power of God’s Word brings us peace and joy. When we are troubled, our friends give us advice. But nothing they can tell us offers peace, unless they give us the Word of God and His promise never to leave or forsake us. What else but the Bible can bring you such joy? Whatever our circumstances may be,we can feel contentment when we cling to the Word of God.

7. The power of God’s Word keeps us from sin. Every moment that we read the Scriptures, we are being cleansed. His Word cleanses us from wrong thinking. It cleanses us from lust, anger, resentment, and doubt. Why? Because the Word of God reminds us that those emotions do not describe who we have become in Christ.

8. The power of God’s Word brings us physical health. Not only do the Scriptures clean the mind; they provide health for the body. Sinful emotions have a negative impact on our health, but the wholesome peace and joy of the Bible clears those negative emotions away and helps us to be strong and vigorous.

9. The power of God’s Word brings us back to God. When we get off track in life, it is His Word that can reach and restore us. Hearing the Word of God convicts us of our sin, leads us to repentance, and guides us in restoring the joy of our salvation.

10. The power of God’s Word exposes false doctrine. Many lies and error-filled teachings surround us. They are in the media, in the advice of our friends, and everywhere else. Held up to God’s eternal Word, these errors are exposed for the destructive lies they are.

11. How can we cling to the Word of God? Therefore, as Paul exhorts us, we must hold fast to the Word of God. We must read it carefully, meditate upon it daily, and study it seriously. Then we must believe it wholeheartedly and apply it personally. If we do all these things, we will be transformed by His Word. He will give us just the verse we need when we need it.

12. What are the consequences if we fail to cling to God’s Word? When we begin to think the way the world thinks, the world wins our affections. We begin to compromise our convictions as we find that worldly values dominate our conversation and redirect our focus from God. The world influences our dress and it steals God’s tithe. It alters our schedule and it feeds the mind with sensual thoughts leading to immoral actions. Finally, the world ruins our testimony and renders us useless to God’s kingdom.


These are dangerous times for the mind and soul, but we have the living Word of God to sustain us. It is our handbook for every moment of life. The Word is our assurance of salvation. It pulls us through our earthly trials with confidence.

As the prophet Isaiah wrote, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8). If we cling to it faithfully, we will also stand.We will experience joy, hope, and peace. May we stand as a testimony to the living Word!