Subjects:  Give Thanks! - Ready for HIS Coming - Mary Had a Little Lamb - The Humility of Jesus - Highway to Heaven - Who Will Teach? - Soldiers of Christ - What Can I Pray for Non Christians - A Place for Children - The Burning Hut - Weak Without Wind - Words from the Cross - No Easy Way Out - Window of the Heart - Wrong is Always WrongIs There Any Room for God? - Marks of a Backslider  - Our Center point - Only One Thing is First  - Humility of Jesus - Friendly Fire - Independence Day

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Even though I clutch my blanket and growl when the
alarm rings each morning,
Thank you, Lord, that I can hear.
There are those who are deaf

Even though I keep my eyes tightly closed against the morning light as long as possible,
Thank you, Lord, that I can see.
There are those who are blind.

Even though I huddle in my bed and put off the physical effort of rising,
Thank you, Lord, that I have the strength to rise.
There are many who are bedfast.

Even though the first hour of my day is hectic, when socks are lost, toast is burned, tempers are short,
Thank you, Lord, for my family.
There are many who are lonely.

Even though our breakfast table never looks like the pictures in ladies magazines, and the menu is at times unbalanced,
Thank you, Lord, for the food we have.
There are many who are hungry.

Even though the routine of my job is often monotonous,
Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to work.
There are many who have no work.

Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate and wish my modest circumstances were not quite so modest,
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of life.
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Therefore, you must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. The second coming of Jesus is taught in all but four books of the New Testament.  Jesus constantly referred to His return.  There are 318 references to His return in the 216 chapters of the New Testament. This means over one-half of the New Testament deals with the second coming.  Sheer numbers alone point out the importance of the subject.

Jesus gives the parable of the wedding feast saying, Behold the bridegroom cometh! There should be nothing frightening about this announcement.   After all it was the message they all were waiting to hear. This was the reason they came.
Why should the coming of Jesus surprise us?  Most of the New Testament was written to prepare us for His return.  The Greek used to speak of His return is parousia.  It speaks to us of the surety of the event, we can count on it.  It says Jesus' coming is a guaranteed event.  We in the church today have lost sight of this fact.

The primitive church anticipated His return.  They wanted, waited and prayed for the event.  In Aramaic, the word is marana the meaning, Lord come quickly or Come 0 Lord.  Their anticipation of His coming impacted their lives.  It changed their thinking; what they talked about; their daily walk; their priorities.  Are we ready?  Do we understand that He could come this year, this month, this week, today, before you finish this article?

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Mary had a little Lamb,
His fleece was white as snow
And everywhere that Mary went,
The Lamb was sure to go.

He followed her to school each day, When it wasn't against the rules.
He made the children laugh and play, To have a Lamb at school.
Then the rules changed one day, Against the law, it became.
To bring the Lamb of God to school, Or even speak His Name.

Every day got worse and worse, And days turned into years.
Instead of hearing children laugh and play,
You heard them crying tears.

What must we do to stop the crime, That's in our schools today?
Let the Lamb come back to school, And teach our kids to pray.

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The Humility of Jesus

"Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others " (I Corinthians 10:24, NIV).

The late Dage Hammarskjold once noted that humility is just as much the opposite of self-abasement as it is of self exaltation. Humility is not a timid, groveling spirit which delights in self-abasement but is, as Paul says, "sober judgment" of one's self The life of Jesus shows us that true humility is a spirit of courageous submission to the will of God by one whose self worth comes not from himself but from God.

So, if I could begin to know, as Jesus knew, that God is my Father, then I won't have to have important jobs or win arguments in order to feel good about myself. My self esteem won't be damaged if someone takes advantage of me in the grocery line. Like Jesus, I won't need to retaliate for offenses received; I won't have to brag or show off or get my way.

Humility is the courage to accept the position in life allotted to me. It is the commitment to live life abundantly, as Jesus did, "for the joy set before him." It is the incomparable peace that comes from the secure knowledge that I am God's child and nothing can take that from me.

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Highway to Heaven

A few years ago, Michael Landon died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 54. Three generations enjoyed the actor, first as Little Joe Cartwright, then as Charles Ingalls, and then as a helpful angel in "Highway to Heaven."

Michael Landon had just begun work on a new show when he was stricken by chest and abdominal pain. The cancer diagnosis came as quite a shock. In a Life magazine interview he said, "I think I have it because most of my life, though I was never a drunk, I drank too much. I also smoked too many cigarettes and ate a lot of the wrong things. and if you do that, even if you think you're too strong to get anything, you're going to pay."

He went on to say, "Somebody should tell us, right at the start of life, that we are dying. when we might live life to the limit, every minute... Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows."

The apostle Paul wrote in agreement, "Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity." (Eph. 5:15).

James put it this way: "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." (James 4:14)

    Let's learn the lesson and live abundantly in the Lord. The Holy life is the only real highway to Heaven.

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There was once a church staff looking for teachers for children, preschoolers and youth. And some adults said, "I don't want to leave the good fellowship and study in my adult class." But the drug pusher on the street said, "Not even the threat of jail will keep me from working with your children."

And some adults said, "I don't have the time. I'm far too busy to teach." But the pusher, the porno book dealer, and movie producer said, "We'll stay open whatever hours are necessary every day to win the minds of the kids."

Some adults said, "I'm unsuited, untrained, and unable to work with children." But the movie producer said, "We'll survey, study, and spend millions to produce whatever turns kids on."

So that adults stayed in their classes, enjoyed the fellowship, absorbed the good Bible study, and weren't tied down on the weekends.  And when Sunday came, no one was there to teach the children.  They were assured that someone would surely come to teach them some Sunday soon.  But no one ever came, and the young children soon quit coming because they had gone to listen to others who cared about what they did and about what went into their minds.

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What Can I Pray for a Non Christian?

1 - That they seek to know God.  "God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:27).
2 - That they believe the Scriptures.  "Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" (Romans 10: 17).
3 - That Satan is bound from blinding them to the truth.  "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Cor. 4:4).
4 - That the Holy Spirit works in them  "When the Holy Spirit comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.... He will guide you into all truth" (John 16:8, 13).
5 - That God sends someone to lead them to Christ.  "Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field... (Matt. 9:37-38). 6 That they believe in Christ as Savior.  "Yet to all who receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1: 12).
7 - That they turn from sin.  "God commands all people everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30).
8 - That they confess Christ as Lord.  "if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus as Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).
9 - That they be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.  "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
10 - That they take root and grow in Christ. "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thanksgiving" (Col. 2:6f).

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The life of a soldier is not easy.  It's a life of hardship, privation, separation from home and friends, forced marches, burning heat and bitter cold.  There is no glamour in the thick of the fight while men suffer and bleed and die.  And bands are reserved for the parade ground ... not the battlefield.
In the midst of easygoing, fun-loving America, Christians tend to take their religion casually and conveniently.  Forgetting that they are soldiers of Christ, they content themselves with a comfortable Christianity.

Thus, when we read of men with courage and determination, it tends to shake us up a bit.  Take David Livingstone for example.  This man spent thirty years in the dark continent of Africa, compelled by "the smoke of a thousand villages" where the gospel had not been proclaimed.  From village to village he traveled.  His mission?  "I directed their attention to Jesus as their Savior.  " In writing to London he said, "I shall try to hold myself in readiness to go anywhere provided it be forward. "

 Many were the hardships David Livingstone endured.  His house was wrecked and his belongings, included his precious papers and books, looted and plundered.  He toiled as medical doctor and wrote, "This is the country for the medical man if he wants a large practice, but he must leave fees out of the question." In the course of duty one arm was severely mangled by a lion, His teeth rattled loose, his paper and ink gave out, he had sores on his feet, pneumonia and ulcers, and no news of the outside world for five years.  Over and over he suffered from jungle fever and severe attacks of dysentery.  What did he think of these hardships?  Here are some words from his journal: "I never made a sacrifice.  Of this we ought not to talk when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father's throne on high to give Himself for us. "

 When David Livingstone died a group of natives carried his body for fifteen hundred miles from Lake Bangweolo across Tanganyika to the sea, believing that here was someone "too big to bury in Africa. "...Now, about your religion...

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Kids make messes and noise. Kids take time and money.  They require supervision.  They sometimes test our patience.  Are they worth it?

God seemed to think so.  "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward" (Ps. 127:3).

Jesus seemed to think so.  "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these ... And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands upon them" (Mark 10: 14).

Children rate high on heaven's scale of values.  What about on ours?

How welcome do children feel in the two places where they should receive the most help?

The first, obviously, is the home.  How tragic that in so many families children are neglected physically and spiritually-and are sometimes abused.  How God must grieve when He sees this!

Blessed are the mom and dad who realize what treasures God has entrusted to them - and what a serious yet-joyful responsibility parenting is.

And then there is the church.  In our society where so often children do not live near their grandparents, the church provides an extended family of positive role models and nurturing emotional support.

As a parent I'm grateful that the church supplements what Shari and I can do for our children's spiritual development.

May our congregation become widely known in this community as the happy place where children are cherished.  How children need what the church has to offer, and how the church needs children!

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The only survivor of a shipwreck washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for, God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions,

But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stung with grief and anger. "God, how could you do this to me!" he cried.

Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. "How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man of his rescuers.

 "We saw your smoke signal," they replied, 

It is easy to get discouraged when things are going bad. But we shouldn't lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering. (Phil. 4:12) Paul had confidence that good would come out of everything (Romans 8:28), so he learned to be thankful, not bitter, even when he was suffering. Who knows? Remember next time your little hut is burning to the ground -- it just may be a smoke signal that summons the grace of God.

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"Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others " (I Corinthians 10:24, NIV).

The late Dage Hammarskjold once noted that humility is just as much the opposite of self-abasement as it is of self-exaltation. Humility is not a timid, groveling spirit which delights in self-abasement but is, as Paul says, "sober judgment" of one's self. The life of Jesus shows us that true humility is a spirit of courageous submission to the will of God by one whose self worth comes not from himself but from God.

So, if I could begin to know, as Jesus knew, that God is my Father, then I won't have to have important jobs or win arguments in order to feel good about myself.  My self esteem won't be damaged if someone takes advantage of me in the grocery line.  Like Jesus, I won't need to retaliate for offenses received; I won't have to brag or show off or get my way.

Humility is the courage to accept the position in life allotted to me.  It is the commitment to live life abundantly, as Jesus did, "for the joy set before him." It is the incomparable peace that comes from the secure knowledge that I am God's child and nothing can take that from me.

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The phrase "friendly fire" is generally associated with soldiers in war who died, not at the hands of the enemy, but because of some misdirected attack by one of their own comrades. Though accidental, there is, of course, nothing friendly about being killed by a fellow soldier. Fire is fire and the deadly result is the same, regardless of who pulled the trigger. The family members who stand beside the flag-draped casket of a loved one draw no comfort from the fact that their soldier was killed by "friendly fire."

One of the tragedies in spiritual warfare is also "friendly fire." Too many Christians have been shot (or stabbed) in the back by someone who was suppose to be on their side. Those out front seem to be especially vulnerable to cheap potshots from behind. How sad that Christians who serve on the front lines for the Lord often find themselves used as targets by their own teammates. What a shame to have to dodge bullets from all directions. This ought not to be.

Our God is not glorified and His cause is not strengthened when we forget who the enemy is and we start aiming at each other. May God help us keep our sights set on Satan. Let's stand side by side and wage war with the Devil, not with each other.

Romans 12:16  "Live in harmony with one another."
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Last night patriotic Americans looked up into the sky to behold a visual wonder as our nation celebrated her independence.  If you were one of the thousands who braved the crowds to stake out your own small piece of real estate on the lawn in front of the Convention Center, you were not disappointed with what is arguably one of the most spectacular firework productions anywhere.  As I observed the masses staring with awe: into the heavens, I couldn't help but be reminded of Jesus' second coming that will attract the attention of all humanity skyward.

One time a preacher was, describing the Day of Judgment.  He shouted, "Lightning will crackle, thunder will boom, and rivers will overflow.  Flames will shoot down, the earth will quake violently and darkness will fall over the world."

At that point, a small but alert little boy piped up to ask his father, "Do you think they'll let school out early?"

It's easy to miss the point about the Day of Judgment and our eternal destination.  When Paul was trying to get the attention of the Athenians, he said "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world. . . " (Acts 17:30, 3 1).

At the beginning of the holiday weekend, a gas station was very crowded.  Finally, an attendant ran up to the local minister, who had been waiting in line for some time.  The attendant apologized for the delay, saying "Seems like everyone waits for the last minute to get ready for a trip which they knew they would be going on." The minister smiled and said, "I know what you mean.  I have the same problem in my business."

Don't put it off.  Put on Jesus.  Because "It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).

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For two years, scientist sequestered themselves in an artificial environment called Biosphcre2. Inside their self-sustaining community, the Biosplierians created a number of mini-environments, including a desert, rain forest, even an ocean. Nearly every weather condition could be simulated except one - wind.

Over time, the effects of their windless environment became apparent. A number of acacia trees bent over and even snapped. Without the stress of wind to strengthen the wood, the trees grew weak and could not hold up their own weight.

Sometimes we imagine how grand life would be if all our problems and struggles would go away. But James reminds us to be grateful for our trials, because through them we develop patience, maturity, and perseverance needed to serve the Lord more effectively. We also learn to depend more completely on the Lord, thus allowing His glory to be more evident in our weakness. So we can. rejoice even in our trials, and in so doing, we display to the world a faith that cannot be ignored.

The Bible does not say all things are good, but it does say all things are for our good, when we trust God. Do that today!

In addition to bringing strength and maturity to our lives, adversity also provides us a greater appreciation for our blessings. Have you noticed how different your outlook. and perspective have been due to the spring-like weather this week? After months of rain we find the sky a little bluer and the grass a little greener than we ever remember seeing it. The clouds and rain of yesterday help us to better appreciate the sunshine of today. If everyday were clear, we would soon fail to recognize its beauty. Stop and smell the roses. Give thanks to God for His rich goodness!

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At Golgotha God did His best and man did his worst. And nowhere will you find the contrast between the Savior's heart of grace and man's heart of rebellion more striking. The greatness of Christ can be easily discerned by the seven sentences he uttered from the Cross.

(1) "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Despite all they had done to him, there was no bitterness in the heart of Christ. No trace of resentment, no anger, no desire to get even. His concern for others was sincere. He was still being true to His mission ... to seek and save the Lost.

(2) "Today shall thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). The thief was unworthy, but we must remember that there are no hopeless cases with Jesus. He boldly proclaims that this life is not the end. Sinners can be saved and enjoy paradise.

(3) "Woman, behold thy son. Son, behold thy mother'' (John 19:26). Even while He is suffering the agony of death Jesus is thinking of others. See his compassion and concern for his mother. There was no selfishness in Jesus.

(4) "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'' (Mark 15:34). It has been suggested that mental torment is harder than physical. Can you think of any other time when Jesus ever asked God a question? Consider the agony of this hour and the distance Jesus traveled to save man. Have you ever felt forsaken by God'?

(5) "1 thirst" (John 19:28). Is this not clear evidence of the humanity of Jesus? There was a physical price to be paid. He is the Messiah; the Suffering Messiah.

(6) It is finished" (John 19:30). In the words of W.T. Hamilton, "All that he had come to do was done. Prophecies fulfilled; atonement made; law fulfilled (Matt. 5:17); suffering over. This is a statement of victory." So complete was the payment Jesus made for our sins He used a banking term to proclaim your salvation. Telelestai was a financial term used to announce the final installment, the ultimate payment. "It is finished" means "Paid in full!"

(7) "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46). There was no doubt. His trust was still in God. God would take care of him Charles L. Allen describes this cry as the "cry of faith."

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Mark Twain once wrote a story he called, "The Terrible Catastrophe." Before the story was finished he had the characters in such a predicament that whatever anyone of them did, all would be destroyed. Twain concluded his story with these words: "I have these characters in such a fix I cannot get them out. Anyone who thinks lie can is welcome to try." That is a funny way to end a story ... but a lot of us can identify with the feeling.

It also makes me wonder if he had some special insight into the late 20th century world! A lot of people seem to have their lives so tangled up there is no easy way out. And all of us have know the feeling of getting deeper and deeper into something until we feel hopeless. Remember that good feeling when a solution was found?

However there is another side to this coin. Sometimes the solutions to our problems are known, ...but difficult. We just don't want to do what we have to do to solve them. Human nature seems to suggest we keep on doing what we enjoy even though it brings on our problems!

Here is where one of the wonderful things about God comes in. He has not promised to remove the physical consequences of our past actions, but He will remove the guilt . . . on His terms. If we are willing to follow His plan for our lives we can receive a lot of help from Him. This word of warning, though, must be kept in mind. If following our way has led us into our troubles, we can't keep doing what we want to do and expect even God to get us out! He tells us it is not in man that walks to direct his own steps (Jer. 10:23). On the other hand, His way for us becomes a preventive which will keep more problems from coming.

We may not be able to finish Mark Twain's story. But God can finish ours. The only difficult thing is that we must let Him. And work with Him. He knows the way out of the maze we've gotten into. And He is a wonderful guide.

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There is a window in your heart through which you can see God. Once upon a time that window was clear. Your view of God was crisp. You could see God as vividly as you could see a gentle valley or hillside. The glass was clean, the pane unbroken.

You knew God. You knew how he worked. You knew what he wanted you to do. no surprises. Nothing unexpected. You knew that God had a will, and you continually discovered what it was.

Then, suddenly, the window cracked. A pebble broke the window. A pebble of pain.

Perhaps the stone struck when you were a child and a parent left home--forever. Maybe the rock hit in adolescence when your heart was broken. Maybe you made it into adulthood before the window was cracked. But then the pebble came .... Whatever the pebble's form, the result was the same--a shattered window. The pebble missiled into the pane and shattered it. The crash echoed down the halls of your heart. Cracks shot out from the point of impact, creating a spider web of fragmented pieces.

And suddenly God was not so easy to see. The view that had been so crisp that changed. You turned to see God, and his figure was distorted. It was hard to see him through the pain. It was hard to see him through the fragments of hurt.

You were puzzled. God wouldn't allow something like this to happen, would he? Tragedy and travesty weren't on the agenda of the One you had seen, were they? Had you been fooled? Had you been blind?

The moment the pebble struck, the glass became a reference point for you. From then on, there was life before the pain and life after the pain. Before your pain, the view was clear; God seemed so near. After your pain, well, he was harder to see. He seemed a bit distant ... harder to perceive. Your pain distorted the view--not eclipsed it, but distorted it.

Maybe these words don't describe your situation ... Most of us know what it means to feel disappointed by God ... Most of us have a way of completing this sentence: "if God is God, then..." Call it an agenda, a divine job description. Each of us has an unspoken, yet definitive, expectation of what God should do. "If God is God, then..."

We look for God, but can't find him. Fragmented glass hinders our vision.

--taken from IN THE EYE OF THE STORM by Max Lucado

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In a time of sagging morals, Satan provides many rationalizations for improper behavior. Those who would live faithful Christian lives must not be "Ignorant" of his "devices" (11 Corinthians 2:11). Wrong is always wrong despite our efforts to excuse our actions.

Wrong is wrong, even if you don't get caught. From "little things" like littering the highways and breaking the speed limit to "more serious offenses" such as adultery and stealing, our society seems to think the only wrong is getting caught. It just isn't so. Let us remember that "the eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the evil and the good." (Proverbs 15:13).

Wrong is wrong, even if you do it for a good cause. The honorable purpose does not justify a dishonorable deed or action. Stealing is stealing even if it is done by a mother who does it to feed children neglected and abandoned by their father. The end never justifies the means. "All sin is transgression of the law" (I John 3:4, 5:17; 11 John 9).

 Wrong is wrong, even if others are doing worse things. It will be of little comfort to you in the day of judgment if you should be lost, knowing that others did things which you considered to be worse than your sins. "The thoughts of sins is foolishness" (Proverbs 24:9).

 Wrong is wrong, even if it doesn't bother your conscience. The conscience can be trained or educated to accept wrong-doing. Whoever transgresses God's law has sinned, even if his conscience does approve. Even an honest sin or evil done in sincerity is sinful in the sight of God. What a man sows, that shall a man reap" (Galatians 6:7).

Wrong is wrong, even if it is commonly considered acceptable. The Bible says, "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil" (Exodus 32:2). The Christian should "enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it and pass away" (Proverbs 4:4, 5). "Prove all things and hold fast to that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil" (I Thessalonians 5:21, 22).

Remember, there is never a right way to do wrong!

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Start with your schedule. How full is it? Is your appointment book overflowing with engagements? Are your activities so consuming that, before you know it, you have gone a week (a month ... a year ... a lifetime!) with little time for prayer; for reading the Psalms; for reflection and meditation? Is your church attendance like your life? Do you rush to church, out of breath, with no "spiritual preparation" for the assembly?

'Then look at your beliefs. Are you an expert at Christian apologetics? Do you know the philosophical arguments for the existence of God? Are you able to argue convincingly that Jesus did live, that He was raised from the dead? But, after all your beliefs are neatly packaged, do you find that they are all "true"; but removed from your daily struggle called life? Is your faith one that sustains you, comforts you, challenges you, calls you, transforms you?

Next, go to your heart. It is here that you get closest to the "real you." What is on the inside of your heart? Is it a heart of trust, of simple childlike faith? Is it a heart that, in the hand of the great Potter, is being fashioned into a pure and loving heart? Does the heart create the lifestyle?

And then go to that most revealing of all categories--your lifestyle. How is it shaping up? Could some observer notice you and continent that it appears to be shaped by a Power bigger than life itself. Does your lifestyle: how you treat people, how you raise your children, how you respond to people ... reveal that there is a God who is "creating you for good works"?

In other words, if someone looked at your life in all of its diverse facets, would they comment that you have carved out a large portion of it and labeled that portion "God's"? Do you belong to Him? Do you make any room for God?

He longs to come be with you. He lives to embrace and transform His people. He is not distant, but longs for us to seek His presence. He is ready to forgive, quick to empower, willing to give light to our path. He is the God who is near!

Is He near to you?

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A great deal has been said and written about backsliding. Some think a man must be a drunkard or immoral in order to be a backslider. If you were ever closer to God than you are right now, you have backslidden. If you more faithful to Christ and the church than you are now, you are a backslider.

Backsliding is a gradual process of development, but here are some telltale signs of it:

1. The backslider is one who neglects to read his Bible. Previously it had a vital place in his life. Now he neglects this source of his spiritual nourishment. He says he is too busy.
2. He ceases to pray. Once prayer was a vital and mighty force in his life, and he prayed often. Now the backslider no longer asks God for wisdom and guidance in his affairs, or for God to bless others and forgive his sins. Since he ignores Him, God seems farther and farther away.
3. He begins to criticize others. Needing some justification for his actions (or lack of action) he tries to ease his conscience by his hunting and magnifying the faults of others, until he feels they are just as bad (or maybe worse) than he is. He finds fault with the preacher and elders or as he puts it, "the ones who run the church."
4. He gives less and speaks of how much the church is "wasting money." If he does not happen to agree with how the elders use the money of the church, he rebels by not giving liberally as he should or if he gives at all, by sending his money elsewhere, thus becoming "an elder" himself
5. He becomes irregular in his attendance. His heart is now in the world. No longer does he thrill to worship or really enjoy communion with God. Fellowship with the saints means but little or nothing. The Bible states to absent yourself only if there is a matter to be straightened out with you and your brother, doesn't it? The assembly certainly takes priority over the ordinary of life. There is more to being a Christian than attending services, but the attendance can never be minimized so it's not a vital part of duty.

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Someone once related a story told by Admiral Byrd, the celebrated explorer, concerning his expedition to the South Pole. Byrd said that he left his isolated hut one day for a brief trip of exploration only to be caught in a sudden blizzard. Hopelessly lost, all he could see was white all around him, losing all sense of direction. Realizing that if he struck out blindly in search of his hut, he would soon be frozen in the storm. Using a long pole which he always carried with him to feel for ice holes, he tied a scarf around the top and stuck the "flag" in the snow and ice. Byrd said: "That was my center. If I failed to find my hut, I could return to the center and try again. He made three attempts, but failed each time. He returned, however, to his "center." On the fourth attempt he came upon his hut and survived the storm. Only because he had a center point from which to work was he successful, for that center point gave a spot to return if unsuccessful in his endeavor.

How fitting an example for the Christian in that the servant of God has a center point: Jesus Christ. Paul told the church in Philippi: "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21). Paul knew that whatever he did, wherever he might go and whomever lie might meet, he would live for Jesus Christ. Christ was his center point.

So many today do not do as Admiral Byrd and establish their center point. Instead they strike out blindly on their own, moving about with no direction or real purpose. Their focus is on the world and it temporary pleasures. They put their emphasis on success and monetary gain that will do them no good whatsoever when they face the time of death. When trouble and confusion sets in they seek out the help of those who are socially professional in dealing with the worries and problems of mankind, not realizing that they who offer the help are as lost and misdirected as they are themselves.

By putting Christ into the center of our lives and revolving ourselves around Him we find the focal point from which we can be assured of success. There must be a home port to which we can return. The Prodigal Son, realizing that he had nothing, returned to his father and home: his center point (Luke 15). There he found refuge, comfort and love. With Christ as our center point, we, too, can find that refuge in times of need, a focus to live our lives and a framework in which to build ourselves into stronger, more mature servants of a risen savior.

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How simple the principle is. How easy it should be to understand. Only one thing can hold first place in our hearts and lives. Something else may be second or twenty second; but only one thing can be first. Our biggest problem, therefore, is deciding on the priority; but once it is decided, everything else falls into place. Strive as other things may to fill that number one spot, they are not able to succeed simply because it is already filled by that which we have chosen to be first.

Admittedly, many things want to be first. Our job, our family, our recreation and our own personal desires cry for more favorable attention. Some of their demands seem justified. The very fact that they are precious to us are persuasive arguments for giving them a more favorable place in our lives. We may be amply justified in giving them a better place; but we are not justified in giving them first place. When the priorities become altered, strange and hurtful things begin to happen. A man is caught up in his work. He lives and breathes his job; and management likes to have it so. His focus must be on his job twenty four hours a day. It's the way to get ahead in this dog-eat-dog world; but once he has established his priority other things must stand aside, and sometimes there is a fearsome price to be paid. Others may focus on a hobby or sport; but once it becomes first it dominates their lives. They have little time for family and sometimes God because they have established a priority that leaves Him out. Others live in constant conflict because they are persistently trying to make more than one thing first. They are trying to fit two things, or many things, into a space that can be occupied by only one. It is not surprising, then, that God is spoken of as a "jealous God" (Exod. 20:5); that we are spoken of as being married to Christ (Rom. 7:4); and that we are commanded to deny self (Matt. 16:24). He is simply establishing His right to be first in our lives. Something is first with every one of us, either deliberately or by default. It may be God, Satan or self It may be a person or an activity. It may be an attitude, a concept or a doctrine; but something is first. What is first will determine the importance that anything else can have in your life. It will eliminate excuses and cure non-involvement. It will bring peace to much inner conflict when we firmly establish the priority: "This is first. The most anything or anybody else can be is second place."

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Last Updated: 09/09/2010