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RIGHT from the HEARTTurning Your Day Toward God
By Bryant Wright
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Bryant Wright
All right reserved.
Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? Isaiah 43:18–19
The New Year
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
So what is so special about a new year? Maybe it is this: Once a Wednesday is gone, another pops up seven days later. We'll see a December every year, and as much as we'll miss the spring, we can take comfort in the fact that we'll see another one the next year, and the next, and the one after that. But it doesn't work that way with years. Once this calendar year expires, it's gone. Days, months, seasons, and holidays will all eventually return, but once this year is over, it's over.
Maybe that is why we tend to schedule our resolutions for change at the beginning of each new year. The year is gone—maybe bad habits will be too. Yet real change requires so much more than a New Year's resolution.
It's tough to break established habits, but remember that there is hope for the person who sincerely desires change. The power for real change is in admitting that we are helpless to do it on our own. Lasting change requires the help of the Lord.
The Bible says that if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation. Christ transforms us when we give our lives to Him. He changes us from the inside out. He gives us an "inner want-to" to please Him. Now that's a change for the better. And it's a change that can truly last.
The Path You Choose
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 16:11 NIV
The story is told of two teenagers living in a small village where most made their livings either as shepherds or in other occupations related to sheep. One day they decided to steal a few sheep and sell them—but they got caught! To make an example of the wayward boys, the village elders branded their foreheads with the letters ST. This visible reminder of their shame would forever warn others what happens to "Sheep Thieves."
One boy became bitter. His life spiraled progressively downward until the day he fell to his death during a drunken rage. But the other young man confessed his sin, got right with the Lord, and built a life of integrity and service that eventually brought him great respect throughout that little village.
Many years later, the now-elderly man passed a father and his son along the road. The boy asked his dad why the old man had the letters ST on his forehead. The father thought for a moment, then replied, "Something happened years ago, but I just can't remember what it was. But knowing the man that he is, I guess it just stands for Saint!"
That's what the power of Jesus can do in an individual life—supernaturally transform a sinner into a saint. No matter what your past, Jesus can cleanse you and put you on a path of great value to Him and to others.
What Lurks in the Dark?
You light my lamp; the Lord my God illumines my darkness.
She had been driven crazy by her energetic children and just needed to get away, if even for only a moment. She ran upstairs to her daughter's bedroom and closed the closet door behind her. And there, in the solitude of the dark closet, she cleansed her mind by letting out a long, loud scream. She immediately felt better and opened the door to leave. But blocking her exit, with eyes the size of saucers, were her three children. Her four-year-old daughter spoke first: "Mommy, I told you there were monsters in there."
The truth is, both children and adults fear the "dark"—the unknown—and our fears are intensified when we cannot see what is really before us. Listen to these words from the psalmist: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast" (Psalm 139:7–10 NIV).
Like a loving father, God promises us He'll always be with us. He's there to offer us His hand in life's darkest hours. He'll carry us through the darkness and lead us where we need to go. And He'll be with us forever.
First, Your Sword
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:7–8 NIV
Britain claims no greater naval hero than Lord Horatio Nelson, the British admiral from the eighteenth century. Although best known for his brilliance and dedication to his duties, Lord Nelson was also noted for his courtesy and kindness toward those he defeated. On one occasion, a defeated admiral strode across the deck to meet Lord Nelson. With a sword at his side, the bested admiral put his hand out in surrender. Lord Nelson looked at him but did not immediately shake his hand. Instead he nodded and said, "Your sword first, then your hand."
What our heavenly Father does is greater. He wants to give us the gift of grace and provision, and He wants us to enjoy the love of Jesus Christ. So first He extends His hand. Then He demands that we submit our swords and any area of self-reliance in our lives to Him. We are to give Him our hearts and our wills first. Accept the hand of the Lord by submitting to the lordship of Jesus and you will immediately be blessed with all that He has to offer—like kindness that knows no bounds.
Involved Versus Committed
They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. 2 Corinthians 8:5 NIV
A pig and a chicken took an afternoon stroll that led them near their neighborhood Waffle House. They looked up at a sign in the window that advertised the daily special—Ham and Eggs for only $3.99.
"Look at that!" said the chicken. "I am involved!"
"You may be involved," replied the pig, "but for me, it's total commitment."
Lou Holtz, the famous football coach for several great schools, said of one of his teams, "They remind me of a kamikaze pilot who flew fifty missions. He was involved but not committed!" On a team, in the office, there are lots of folks who are involved but not many who are totally committed to the success of the team.
In church, to just be involved and not committed is a testimony of a lack of commitment to Jesus Christ. As people drift away from church in record numbers and still claim commitment to Christ, they are simply delusional. We don't love Jesus if we don't love His bride, the church. Now more than ever, Jesus longs for His followers not just to be involved but also to be committed to Him by being committed to His church.
Get into a Routine of Prayer
In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Mark 1:35
The new year is young, and if you've never been consistent in spending time in conversation with God, there's no time like the present to start.
1. Pick a regular place to pray. You may have a quiet spot in your home where you could meet with God each day, or perhaps it would work better to get to the office early and close the door. If you travel a lot, you may have more trouble finding a routine place. But what could be more private than a hotel room? Each person has a different place that feels right, but the important thing is to find one that works for you.
2. Pick a plan. It's good to set a routine so you can flow right into it and not have to reinvent the wheel each time. Perhaps you can start with a devotional reading that whets your spiritual appetite. Then read from the Bible, reflect on the words, and think about God. Finally, begin to pray. If you're not sure what to say, look at Jesus' model prayer, not to recite but to remind you what to include in your prayers. And then just listen for the voice and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
You can use different places and routines to develop a healthy prayer life. Find what works for you, and begin enjoying the blessing you will receive by being alone with God.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Romans 8:31
I have always been inspired by people who have faced great setbacks in their lives, yet fought hard and achieved amazing comebacks. There is a long list of people who have done this: both real and fictional, secular as well as biblical, from centuries past to recent days.
I have tremendous news for you. Comebacks are not just for people you read about in the history books or the latest edition of a weekly periodical. The power to bounce back is available to all. God is in the business of turning your setbacks into comebacks! Note what God's Word promises the Christian in Romans 8:37: "But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us."
Realize that God doesn't say, "Well, I'll arrange things so you can just squeak by!" Neither does He say, "I'll arrange your life so you can just barely endure." No! He says, "In all things, you will overwhelmingly conquer!" We don't just conquer; we overwhelmingly conquer, through the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And it is this amazing power—the power of the Creator of the universe—that will help you not to give up but instead to keep on keeping on so you can turn your setback into an overwhelming victory. May that victory be for the glory of God!
Making the Most of Your Time
Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time. Ephesians 5:15–16
Do you ever struggle with making the most of your time? Do you feel as though there's just not enough time in each day? Well, we have to remember that we all have the same amount of time: 168 hours a week, 24 hours a day. The key is making the most of our time. This is a spiritual as well as practical issue.
Today's scripture says, "Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time." So how do you do that?
List the top three to five priorities in your life. This list will help you plan your activities so you can spend your time wisely. Concentrate on what's most important, and major on the majors.
Now, as you approach each day, make a list of things you need to accomplish, and prioritize what is on that list. Begin by writing down the most important thing you need to do, and commit to doing it. Then go to the second most important thing, and do it. It sure feels good to have checked off completion of those tasks at the end of each day.
Effective time management is an important discipline to have to live a successful life. So get with it—before you run out of time.
The Best Way to Be a Good Parent
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33 NIV
Mom and Dad, the best way to be good parents is for the two of you to love and respect each other. Nothing gives a child greater security. When love and respect are modeled in front of the child on a daily basis, he or she grows to understand how God wants family members to relate to one another. The child feels secure in the home and is emotionally able to receive instruction, wisdom, and discipline from his or her parents.
If you are divorced, you may be thinking, Well, that leaves me out of the process. Actually, there is an even greater message for divorced parents. Seek to never tear down your ex in front of your child. You may feel that the comments are fully justified, but your criticism crushes the spirit of that child. That's because a child's identity is wrapped up in both Mom and Dad. Remember, when you criticize your ex-spouse in front of your child, you are actually criticizing half of your child.
The best thing Mom and Dad can do is to love and respect each other. But if love is gone, then it's even more important that the child witness Mom and Dad demonstrating respect for each other. Nothing is more important in being a good parent.
Where Is Your Strength?
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. Psalm 28:7 NIV
He had not spoken with her since high school and was enjoying their impromptu reunion. She had been his favorite teacher, and her impact went far beyond the facts and information she had taught. It was also in the character she had role-modeled.
He proudly told her of the things he had accomplished and of his family. "How's Millie?" he then asked, referring to her energetic, always-smiling eight-year-old daughter, whom he had often seen playing in the classroom after school. The teacher's eyes suddenly became sad and misty as she told him that Millie had died a few years earlier. "She had an unexpected and unexplained heart attack when she was twenty-three."
"I don't know how it is possible to handle that," the man responded. "I could never have the strength to handle the death of my child."
Then his former teacher presented him with one more bit of wisdom. "I've discovered that sometimes God does not give us the strength we need until we need it," she said. "But then, when you do need it, you can always count on His providing it."
Do you believe that? Will you choose to believe that? When the need comes, God will meet the need. Not before it comes, but when it comes. God doesn't promise to meet tomorrow's need today. He promises to meet today's need today.
Just How Big Was That Cross?
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24
We Christians have a pretty good track record of condemning sins, particularly those in which we are not currently participating. But condemnation is not our real mission. In fact, God demands that we embrace the spirit of Jesus. Although we are to hate sin, we are to love the sinner.
Anyone who is a sinner (which is all of us) can take great comfort in this fact: the gospel clearly states that Christ paid the penalty for your sins. Anyone who confesses and repents of his or her sins will receive forgiveness and salvation. Recognize that Christ did not die just for certain sins, or "little" sins, as we sometimes like to say, but for all sins. Never fear that your life has been so sinful or that your sins are so very horrid that you are beyond the power of the cross. And certainly never declare that other people are so sinful that they are beyond forgiveness. The cross of Jesus Christ is stronger than any sin!
Yes, we Christians must take a firm stand against sin. But we completely fail in our duties if we do not pair this condemnation of sin with the proclamation that the cross of Christ is big enough to forgive any sin.
Excerpted from RIGHT from the HEART by Bryant Wright Copyright © 2011 by Bryant Wright. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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