Making a Difference with Your Life

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I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

— 2 Timothy 4:7

One morning in 1888, the inventor of dynamite awoke to read his own obituary, which was printed as a result of an error when the paper had gone to print. His brother had died and the paper carelessly printed the obituary of the wrong brother.

Anyone would have been disturbed at such a thing. But for this man, it was particularly overwhelming because he discovered himself as the world saw him, the “Dynamite King” who had made an immense fortune from explosives.

After reading his obituary, he resolved to make clear to the world the true meaning and purpose of life, which he did through the final disposition of his fortune. So the last will and testament of the inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel, included an endowment of five annual prizes for outstanding contributions to the world. The most valuable of these was given for the promotion of peace… the Nobel Peace Prize.

Wherever you are today, it’s never too late to start making a difference with your life. It doesn’t have to be on the grand scale of a peace prize—maybe it’s sharing Christ with the people right around you. Impact others with your life and leave a legacy far beyond your years!

Prayer Challenge
Ask God to show you how you can make the most of your time here and leave a lasting legacy of faith to others.
Questions for Thought
1. Who in your life left a lasting impact?
2. What did they do that left such an impression on you?
3. What things are you doing now to make a difference in other’s lives?
4. What would you like your legacy to be after you’re gone?

A Meteor Shower of “What If’s”

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Max Lucado writes, “Anxiety is like a meteor shower of “what-ifs.” The sky is falling, and it’s falling disproportionately on you.”

Anxiety ain’t fun! One would think Christians would be exempt from worry but we are not. It’s enough to make us wonder if the apostle Paul was out of touch with reality when he wrote in (Philippians 4:6), “Be anxious for nothing.”

Is that what he meant? Not exactly. He wrote the phrase in the present active tense—implying an ongoing state. “Don’t let anything in life leave you perpetually breathless and in angst.” The presence of anxiety is unavoidable, but the prison of anxiety is optional.

Could you use some calm? Of course you could. We all could! We all could use a word of comfort and God is ready to give it. Just look up, not to the meteor shower of what-if’s, but the marvelous shower of God’s riches in glory for you in Christ Jesus.

 

Beauty is the Eyes: Focus on Christ

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The world today tries to tell us that we need to be comfortably-rich, socially-powerful, successful, perfectly-beautiful, hilariously-funny, absolutely-outgoing and (fill in the blank) or else we will never be happy people with meaningful lives. We are constantly bombarded by slick, sexy television commercials, and internet ads, which tell us to “buy this” or will we be hopelessly left out of all the fun in life.

But, wait….stop the presses!  We, as Christians, don’t answer to the world is not our maker—it is certainly not our master.

Yet, sometimes we act like it is.  It tells us what we need to believe, how we should act and what we should say.  And we follow in step. Its words can often seem louder than the Word of God – especially if we aren’t taking time to hear the Word of God.

The world’s magnetic pull draws us close and we tend to get consumed us with its standards rather than getting consumed with the one who holds all life, all love and all power.

The truth is, we can’t focus on two destinations.  It’s impossible.   You can’t drive to two places at once.  And that is exactly what we are attempting to do.  We say we are driving towards Christ, yet that enticing off ramp pulls us off our course.

We continually get distracted when we take our eyes off the road leading to Christ.

We follow signs that direct us to pleasure and enjoyment – and we get sidetracked.  We see the stop sign that offers a perfect moment to look at our needs in the mirror – and our voyage is halted.  We see a billboard that advertises a perfect face of beauty, riches and power – and we get thinking.  Then, we get lost.

Let’s not set ourselves on a crash course.  In order to do this, we are wise to think about what we are thinking about – and what we shouldn’t be thinking about.   Likewise, we have to look at what we are believing – and not believing. Because, we either have our eyes set on Christ or we are swerving down the roads of the world, ready to head straight into a ditch.

God calls us to focus.
To keep our eyes on Christ.
To avoid looking at what everyone else is doing, being, and saying – and to instead see Him.

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God.”  (Hebrews 12:2 The Message)

When our eyes are on Christ, they are not on the world.
And, when our eyes are on the world, they are not on Christ.

Lets fix our eyes on the One who provides all direction, all hope and all purpose by keeping focused eyes.

  • Focused eyes understand He is the One who provides all good things.
  • Focused eyes, let the world become blurry.
  • Focused eyes allow God to magnify the right ministry opportunities.
  • Focused eyes spend time connecting with God on the daily basis.
  • Focused eyes see those that need love.
  • Focused eyes are focused on the needs of others before themselves.
  • Focused eyes are not just focused on TV.
  • Focused eyes understand that God has big plans for them.
  • Focused eyes know that God is greater than any circumstance.
  • Focused eyes know that God has not forgotten them.
  • Focused eyes know that God is alive, well and aware of all things.
  • Focused eyes know God will rescue and restore.

Focused eyes do not veer off the road.  They steer clear of potholes.  They avoid dark areas.

The result is a life that is full of Christ, abundant in love, strong in purpose, weak in pride, engaging in relationships, authentic in grace and powerful in faith.  We all want this.

When we meet Jesus, we want him to turn to us and say, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21)

When our eyes are focused, we won’t miss out on what God has for us.  The opposite happens – we see ourselves and our lives with amazing clarity.  We receive the goodness, the peace and the love that God has in store for us as believers because we are not sidetracked.  We need not fear because the Lord will keep us safe and also make us beautiful people where real, lasting beauty begins; from the inside out, not outside in. 

A New You!

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Our real, personal identity is not something we normally sit around thinking about like philosophers. It’s more a deeper, sub-conscious awareness of “how we really see ourselves,” and from that image, the way we actually respond to God, others and ourselves are profoundly impacted. In fact, it’s not going to far to say that your whole life flows out of how you interpret “who you are” as a person.

Too often, people base their identities on what they do (from their jobs to their roles in relationships), defining themselves by those pursuits. Sometimes people define themselves by what they don’t have and wish they did, or even by their relationship failures in life. But by doing so, they significantly limit their lives. The truth is that God intends for all people to find their identity in Christ.

If you’re a born-again Christian, your personal identity encompasses all the abundance of being a beloved child of God. Here’s how you can start living your life fully in Christ, keeping in mind that:

You’re loved. Regardless of your past mistakes, how you may feel about yourself right now or how others treat you, one thing is crystal clear; God loves you with a perfect love that is so great it is way beyond our ability to totally grasp. God loves you unconditionally in a way that eclipses probably the greatest human love on earth; a mother’s tender, dear, compassionate love for her child. You cannot make God love you any less or any more than He loves you right now. The only way you can begin understand this is to look to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ and why He gave His life for you, why He suffered everything to bring you back to God and transform your life in such a way from “ashes to beauty.” Once you finally grasp God’s absolutely, immense, cosmic love for you, it will radically change the way you treat others and accept yourself, as your Heavenly Father does.  While the people who love you can’t do so completely unselfishly, continually, or perfectly, God does. As a Christian, nothing can ever separate you from God’s magnificently great love for you!

You’re a saint. The fact that you’ve placed your trust in Jesus Christ is enough to qualify you to be a saint. Even though you’ll still struggle with sin while you live in this fallen world, your core identity as a Christian is as a saint, not a sinner – and you can always count on Jesus’ help to overcome sin in your life. Rely on His help to resist temptation. When you do sin, confess and repent. Maintain attitudes of humility and gratitude for God’s grace.

You’re blessed. God has given you the greatest blessing of all – Himself. No matter what other blessings God may or may not choose to send into your life, you can always be confident that God Himself will be with you, loving you, and working everything in your life out for good purposes when you trust Him to do so. God also brings many different, specific blessings into your life regularly. Make a habit of reflecting on those blessings every day (or every week) and thanking Him for them.

You’re appreciated. God notices and appreciates every good choice you make throughout your life – even when other people don’t. So change the way you live as a result. Exchange grumbling for praying, competing for celebrating, bitterness for thankfulness, performing for serving, and boasting for encouraging.

You’re saved. Thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, you’re saved from: sin, death, Satan, your old human nature, and a pattern of worldly living. You can respond in gratitude to your salvation by doing good works that God has prepared for you to do, to help others discover relationships with Him and help redeem this fallen world.

You’re reconciled. Jesus has spiritually reconciled you to God and other believers. Since God plans for all Christians – from all the diverse types of backgrounds on Earth – to live harmoniously together in heaven forever, you should do your best to live harmoniously here and now. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be peaceful, humble, and compassionate toward other people.

You’re afflicted. Everyone in this fallen world – Christians and non-Christians alike – must endure suffering. However, as a Christian, your suffering can accomplish good, redemptive purposes. Rather than asking “Why?” when you suffer, ask “Who?” instead, shifting your focus from trying to figure out something that you may not be able to understand and toward seeking God Himself, who promises to always be with you. Ask Jesus to use the suffering you experience to make you more like Him and point more people to Him.

You’re heard. God always hears and responds to your prayers when you’re connected to Him through Jesus. Feel free to confidently express any of your thoughts and feelings to God at any time, expecting Him to listen to you and answer your prayers according to what’s best for you.

You’re gifted. God has given you special abilities that He wants you to use in the Christian ministry work He calls you to do – both inside your church, and out in your community. You can discover those gifts by asking yourself questions like: “Whom/where do you have a passion to serve?”, What do you have a burden to do?”, “What needs do you see in the church?”, “What do you find joy in doing for others?”, “What opportunities has God already provided for you to serve others?”, “What things are you best at and have the most success in?”, “What have godly people commended you for doing?”, and “What acts of service have given you the deepest sense of satisfaction?”

You’re new. Jesus placed a new spirit within you when you began a relationship with Him, so, at your core, you’re a new person than who you were before you became a Christian. However, you’ll keep learning and growing every day for the rest of your life as you gradually become more like Jesus.

You’re forgiven. Since Jesus paid the price that God’s justice demands for your sin and took God’s wrath for you upon Himself, you were forgiven for all of your sins (past, present, and future), when you placed your trust in Jesus. You can thank Jesus for forgiving you by obeying His commands to forgive others who have harmed you and to seek forgiveness from people you’ve harmed.

You’re adopted. As a Christian, you’ve been adopted into God’s family. The work of your big brother – Jesus – on the cross has made it possible for you to become one of the sons or daughters of God the Father. So make your main goal of life learning how to know, love, and trust God as your Father.

You’re rewarded. God will reward you for everything faithful and holy that you do as a Christian. Although you can’t earn your salvation, after you’ve been saved you can earn rewards in heaven for the work you do serving God on Earth.

You’re victorious. Jesus has given you the power to ultimately overcome evil, sin, and death. Use the spiritual weapons at your disposal as a Christian (truth, righteousness, the Gospel, faith, salvation, scripture, prayer, and the strength to stand) in spiritual battles, trusting that you can always emerge victorious.

The more we meditate on our brand-new identity in Christ, the more our character and actions will change. Daily remind yourself of how God defines you through Christ, not your actions or the way others see you. What matters ultimately is what your eternal, loving Heavenly Father says, not this fleeting world. Embrace your new identity today!

You’re a new creation in Christ Jesus! 

David Crews 

 

Embrace Your Race

 

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You have a race to run. I have a race to run.

Your race is not exactly like my race and neither is my race like yours.

To run your race successfully and faithfully, God has already put your beautiful feet into your own special pair of spiritual Nikes custom-made for how God made you, who you are and what you will become in Christ. Your shoes are awesome, but not nearly as amazing as your race!

Your race is a very personal race you’ve been given. Your Creator planned out your course to run long before you came into this world. Perhaps, you realize this truth more at times than at others or maybe never at all. Nevertheless, this race is for you. It is your race to run. It is unlike all others.

It’s quite possible you wouldn’t have chosen your race at all, had the choice been yours. Or perhaps you wouldn’t have chosen this particular route. Or perhaps you wouldn’t have chosen your pace. Or perhaps you would have chosen different racing environments, teammates, or coaches. Or perhaps you would have chosen different capacities, strengths, and resources, ones you believe would help you run more effectively. Or perhaps you would have chosen a different distance.

But here you are: in this race, on this route, at this pace, on this terrain, in this climate, with these people, and your strengths, and your limitations, for this distance. Like it or not, this is your race.

And the question is this: “Will you embrace your race or keep trying to escape it? What mindset will you choose?” For though you may not have chosen your race, you do get to choose how you run it.

How to Run Free
There’s only one way to real freedom and real joy: we must renounce our fantasy races, routes, paces, terrains, climates, teammates, strengths, or distances, and embrace the race we have been given. This is how to run free and for joy:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1–2)

This text shows us how to run our race and run it well.

1. Learn from great runners.
You are running a unique race, but not an unprecedented race. No one has experienced exactly what you have, but many have experienced the same emotions, temptations, and various other challenges common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13). That’s why the Bible includes a “great cloud” of examples of faithful race-running.

If you want to run well, study other runners. (Hebrews 11) provides a helpful starter list, but it is by no means exhaustive. Study the great faith-runners. Examine all aspects of their courses. God did far more abundantly than all they asked or thought (Ephesians 3:20). He will do more for you, too, if you run faithfully.

2. Run as light as possible.
This is your race. God has given it to you. This truth is for your liberation, not your limitation. It’s meant to free you, not constrict you. It’s folly and sin to waste time wishing your race were different or resenting God’s choices. Most of those in the great cloud of witnesses had no idea all that God was doing while they were running very difficult races. Neither do you. But learn from the witnesses that God’s purposes are bigger and better than you can imagine.

Lay aside all the weights of fantasy and escape. Lay aside the weights of past sins and regrets. It makes for miserable, slow running. The cross pays for all the past, and the future joy will make all present difficulties now seem light and momentary (2 Corinthians 4:17). Focus on your race, and only carry what God gives you. His burden is light (Matthew 11:30).

3. Run with endurance.
Endurance is only increased by pushing our current limits. It’s hard, yes. And you don’t know how you’ll ever be able to run like other great faith-runners. Neither did they when they began. This is not a short sprint—this is a marathon.

Begin today, and push your limits. When tomorrow comes, run and push your limits. What exhausts you today will be much easier in six months, but then you’ll be pushing different limits. Don’t look at your fantasized ideal of a great faith-runner. Let Jesus make you into whatever runner He wants. You faithfully and prayerfully aim to increase your current endurance limits.

4. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Look to Jesus — He is your greatest example, your Savior, and your greatest intercessor (Hebrews 7:25). He is the source of your greatest joy — your one great prize for running well (Psalm 16:11; John 15:11). A race is only run for a prize. If the prize is not before your eyes, you will lose motivation. If you feel unmotivated to run your race, it may be because the prize has been obscured. First priority: eyes on the prize again, whatever it takes — whatever it takes! And then “run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24).

Embrace Your Race
This is your race. God has set it before you. There is more glory in it than you yet comprehend. “How are you going to run it?”

You can’t change the past; stop trying. There’s much you can’t change about the present; stop trying. There are many fantasies singing like sirens to allure you into the illusion of indulgent escape; stop listening, and don’t let them eat your race time and weigh you down. Understand God has already equipped you to run it. His daily supply of grace is more than you actually need, it’s abundant. You can totally trust Him for that. He would never put you on a course and not provide the means for you to complete it gloriously!

Embrace your race. Study the great faith-runners, run as light as possible, push your current endurance limits, and get your eyes on the Great Prize. Run freer, run faster, and run for joy. Millions of heaven’s runners and saints from the past and now in eternity are cheering you on loudly as you read these words. Can you hear them? “Go! Go!! Go!!!”

Let nothing hold you back or slow you down today. Let nothing hinder your progress now. Give your race all you got and you will celebrate with heaven forever your finish to God’s glory! Your level of joy in heaven’s eternity depends on how you run your race here and now on earth. Believe me, your race is worth the extra-effort. The grandstands are filled with cheers for you to run with dedication, strength and faithfulness. We are all rooting you on! Finish strong my friend!

Your fellow race-runner, 

David