DEVOTIONALS

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Willpower?

It has been said, ““Using willpower to overcome worldly seduction is like telling a man who has gone without water for three days to control himself and quit being thirsty…”

Just quit thinking about it.   Yeah right.

Just don’t feel that way anymore.  Uh huh.

Just stay away from that person.  Easier said than done.

Worse part about seduction?  Nobody is immune.  All of us, if we’re not careful, can get caught in the “trap” that today’s verse talks about.  It’s not just sexual either… seduction comes in many forms.  It is everywhere…  and sometimes we don’t see it coming.  People, ideas, or feelings… all slowly draw us into a life that God never intended for us to live.  The enemy prowls like a lion waiting to find out what appeals to us and slyly provides an avenue for those things to play out.

Late night inappropriate websites… gossip-filled conversations… overeating… overthinking… traps and snares…

How can we avoid it?

Let’s look at today’s verse;

“While I was at the window of my house,    
   looking through the curtain,
I saw some naive young men,      
   and one in particular who lacked common sense.
He was crossing the street near the house of an immoral woman,    
   strolling down the path by her house.
It was at twilight, in the evening,
   as deep darkness fell.
The woman approached him,
   seductively dressed and sly of heart.

So she seduced him with her pretty speech
  and enticed him with her flattery.
He followed her at once,      
    like an ox going to the slaughter.
He was like a stag caught in a trap,    
    awaiting the arrow that would pierce its heart.  
He was like a bird flying into a snare,
    little knowing it would cost him his life.

So listen to me, my sons,
      and pay attention to my words.
Don’t let your hearts stray away toward her.
      Don’t wander down her wayward path.
For she has been the ruin of many;
      many men have been her victims.
 Her house is the road to the grave.
      Her bedroom is the den of death.”
                                       Proverbs 7:6-10 and 21-27

How to avoid temptation?

1)  “so listen to me…”  –  Listen to God… He says that you will never face a temptation that you won’t have the strength to avoid

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”  1 Cor. 10:13

2) “pay attention to my words” – Don’t just read scripture… live it out!  There is a blessing in it for you!

“Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”  Luke 11:28

3) “Don’t let your hearts stray toward her.” – Don’t think about just the moment of pleasure.  What you are about to do has long term consequences… your health, your marriage, and your reputation are at stake.  Quick decisions can lead to long-lasting trouble.

“The wise are cautious and avoid danger;
    fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence.”  Proverbs 14:16

4) “Don’t wander down her wayward path.” – Seduction starts a road that often ends in embarrassment, ruin, shame, destruction, and guilt.  It looks pretty at the start but often ends up in total darkness

“But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”  Matthew 7:14

You CAN avoid the swamp of seduction… I’ll be praying for you as we partner together to be more like Christ and reach the potential for which we were created.

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Making a Choice

    We’ve all faced them…. You are standing in line at Universal Studios and the sign says “Children 9 and younger” get in at a reduced price.  Your daughter just turned 10.  What do you do?  It’s the middle of the night and you pull up to a red light.  You look left, right… nobody.   In fact, there are no headlights to be found anywhere…other than yours.  What do you do?  Run the light or stay put?  Too much change at a convenience store?   An extra zero on your tax return?   
     Our reputation is based on choices such as these.  What may seem like small decisions here or there actually determine many things.  How do we see ourselves?  Are we comfortable with past choices, our morality, or our closeness to God based on what we’ve decided in the past?  How do others see us?  What is our reputation around people that we partner with throughout the day?  Do we set the example… or are we swayed by the popular or selfish thing to do?
Scripture talks about this in the book of Daniel… 
“Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world:
   “Peace and prosperity to you!
“I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel.
   For he is the living God,
      and he will endure forever.
   His kingdom will never be destroyed,
      and his rule will never end.”   –  Daniel 6:25-26
Daniel was an advisor to King Darius of the Persians and had an airtight reputation.  Many of the nobles under the king spent a lot of time trying to find flaws in Daniel’s decision making… did he ever compromise what he knew to be right?  Was he disloyal?  Was he reflecting his God or himself?  Did he make the right decision regardless of the cost or did he sell out to selfishness?  They were convinced that Daniel’s reputation couldn’t be that spotless… 

But it was. In fact, King Darius was so impressed with Daniel that he declared to all of his people that they should serve Daniel’s God!  Daniel’s reputation for doing the right thing at all times reflected God’s character!   His choices weren’t always easy…and they cost him in many ways… but he knew that to be a person who honored God, he had to do so in all areas of his life.  You will have many decisions today… and many chances to reflect God in the way you handle them.  Tread with wisdom.  What you choose to do in the small things adds up…and the way others see you (and God) is affected.  
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Following Directions

An old sailor repeatedly got lost at sea, so his friends gave him a compass and urged him to use it. The next time he went out in his boat, he followed their advice and took the compass with him. But as usual he became hopelessly confused and was unable to find land. Finally, he was once again rescued by his friends.  Disgusted and impatient with him, they asked, “Why didn’t you use that compass we gave you? You could have saved us a lot of trouble!”  The sailor responded: “I didn’t dare to! I wanted to go north, but as hard as I tried to make the needle aim in that direction, it just kept on pointing southeast.” 
That old sailor was so certain he knew which way was north, that he stubbornly tried to force his own personal persuasion on his compass. As a result he was unable to benefit from the guidance it offered. 
Sometimes our life gets off course… and we are in desperate need of direction.
So many ask for it.  So few accept the answers they receive. 
The Bible talks about this type of person:
“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”  James 1:22
I talk to so many who listen to what we teach at Potential Church… read God’s word for further confirmation… and when it comes time to make the decision, decide to go a completely different direction.  
Many blame God for not stepping in and helping… providing no insight or course of action for them.  Not true.  It isn’t God’s unwillingness to lead.. it’s our unwillingness to follow.  
Far too often we know the truth.  We know the way to go.  We understand what God wants us to do. But we don’t want to follow it because it isn’t convenient, easy, or popular.
God has our best interests in mind.  He knows what’s best for us and provides a way for us to live our lives filled with blessings and joy.  Sure there are challenges, but by seeking and following His guidance… He leads us through and strengthens us in the process.

God’s word is our compass.  It is always the right way to go.  When we follow it, we stay on course.  When we alter from His direction, we find our lives detached and adrift from His purposes.  North is north and God’s Word will always be the absolute truth.  Feeling lost today?  Not sure which way to turn?  Seek His solution and be bold enough to follow it.  I promise that when you do… where you end up will be the exact right place.

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Paul’s Secret

To those that struggle with contentment… there will never be enough.  It will always lie one arms length beyond their ability to sleep at night.   Those that live in this camp wonder when the next one will be and never cherish what is.  Their entire existence is based on what they might miss out on by not having more. 
Today’s verses help with this.  
“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.”  1 Timothy 6:6
“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.”   Philippians 4:11 (Paul)
Godliness with contentment, Paul says, is of great value.  In fact, he goes on to tell the churches in Philipi that he has “learned how to be content with whatever I have.” [sic].  
What was Paul’s secret?  What helped him move from greedy to grateful?  It’s simple.  Perspective.  Paul saw that his needs were met and that was enough.  He probably had wants…things that he’d like to have in his life… but he realized that these were superfluous to his mission.   Paul was sent to spread the Gospel… and help those around him find Christ as Lord.  He knew that God would provide whatever he needed to fulfill his calling.  
What’s your calling?  To grow, learn, love, support, partner, develop, share Christ, and become the person God created you to be?  Great!  I promise you… to do all of those things.. God will give you exactly what you need exactly when you need it.  All the other stuff that ties up your heart in the bonds of dissatisfaction are unnecessary… and only lead to stress, sadness, and the false feeling that you are missing out on something.  

Ready to move from greedy to grateful?  From wanting to worshiping?   From pouting to praise?  Make the commitment today to do so.   It won’t take long before you realize that Paul had it right… It’s not about having stuff…it’s about knowing it’s enough.  And thanking God for his graciousness in allowing us to hold onto it for awhile.  
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Covering Up

Humanity has a long history of wearing a mask.
Adam did it. 
“Then the Lord God called to the man [Adam], ‘Where are you?’
He replied, ‘I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.’”  Genesis 3:9-10
The disciples did it. 
“That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.”  John 20:19a
Adam wore a mask to hide from his sin… 
The disciples wore one because their faith was challenged…and they locked themselves inside a room for safety after Christ was crucified.  Hiding in fear… worried.
Why hide?  Why wear a mask? Why do any of us?
Alcoholics Anonymous has a famous saying that says “We are as sick as our secrets”… and they might be right.  So many of us are sick… withering under the blistering heat of regret, self-doubt, worry, and a shameful past.  We put our masks on years ago and they have become part of us… feeling irremovable… seemingly permanent… 
Want to know if you’re wearing one?  When asked, “How are you?”…  Have you ever replied…
“I’m alright” (but you aren’t)
“It doesn’t hurt” (oh, but it does…)
“I deserve to be treated that way”  (I guess I don’t deserve better)
“It’s just the way he is” (What would he say if I confronted him?)
“I’ve grown to just put up with her” (All these years… I haven’t been able to change her)
Everything ok?  
We say “yes” with a lump in our throat and our heart broken.
Why?  What is the point of wearing a mask?  
Good question.  Maybe a better one is… “How do we take the mask off?”
How can we live authentically?
How can we go from our masquerade to God’s master plan for our lives?
We can start by asking ourselves these questions:
  • Am I accountable to someone other than God?  Does anybody else know what I do?
  • Who can freely speak into my life?  How do I take their feedback?
  • How insecure am I?  
  • Am I happy when I’m away from people because it takes all of my energy to be the person that they think I am?
  • What would people think of the real me?
Do I even know the real me anymore?
You don’t have to hide… God says to discover His love… realize how unique and special He made you to be… and live authentically.  
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”  1 Peter 3:3-4
You are precious.  Behind the mask… under the braided hair, the jewelry, the cars, the job, or the stack of bills.  You don’t have to hide anymore.  Let’s get real.  With God.  With ourselves. With our loved ones.  No masks… no shame… no more fake smiles.  

It’s time that the world sees the real you.  And let the real you grow closer to the loving God who put purpose behind every one of your heartbeats.  
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Never Changing

Doesn’t it sometimes seem that the only consistent thing we have in the world is change?  Things are always shifting, getting new flavor, realigning position… generally disrupting the everyday “normalness” of our lives.  I once read that the only person who likes change is a baby with a dirty diaper.
  Change is good in some cases.  It helps us grow and stretch, forces us to see life differently, and allows us to not get too comfortable.  Embracing change helps us to navigate life’s curves better… and if we stay out in front of it… can actually be a blessing rather than a perceived curse.  
But what about our spiritual lives?
What about change when it comes to God?
–  Can I please Him one day and disappoint Him the next (even though I’m doing the exact same thing?)
  • Does He still get fired up about the things I read about in the Old Testament?
  • Will He love me more if I obey Him?
  • Will He get mad at me if I don’t?
  • Is the same God who sent the rainbow… the same God who sends them today?
  • Does God get mood swings like I do?
  • Can something make God weaker?
If you’ve ever asked a question like these… you aren’t alone.  If you’ve ever wondered about God in this way… I have good news for you.
God does NOT change.  His is divinely consistent.  
“I am the Lord, and I do not change.”  Malachi 3:6a
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  Hebrews 13:8
“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”  James 1:17
God’s plan does not change.  
“But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever;
    his intentions can never be shaken.”  Psalm 33:11
He made the world intentionally… and He created you with a consistent purpose.  What happens to you may look different day to day… but what He wants to do through you is the same as when you were born.   Just know… if people have hurt you in the past… if you’ve made bad decisions… if you feel as though you are useless to God… You aren’t.  You were made for a reason and there was no mistake in your blueprint.  You are part of His unchanging and perfect plan for an imperfect world.  
God’s ways do not change
“God’s way is perfect.
    All the Lord’s promises prove true.
    He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.”  Psalm 18:30
Every single promise in scripture is as true for you today as when it was written.  
God promises:
He wants what’s best for you (Jeremiah 29:11)
He will give you rest when you are weary (Matthew 11:28-29)
He will strengthen you when you hurt (Isaiah 40:29-31)
He will give you what you need (Philippians 4:19)
He will always love you (Romans 8:37-39)
He will give you peace (Proverbs 1:33)
He wants you to spend eternity with Him. (Romans 6:23)
These promises from God will never change… and their consistency should bring us joy that the world can never take away.  
God’s commitment never changes
He is committed to you.  Unflinchingly and unapologetically consistent in His dedication to your growth and protection.  
He is committed to your forever.  If you have trusted Christ as Lord… your eternity is secure.  That will never change and it can’t be taken from you.  
He is committed to your growth… He is much more concerned about your character than your comfort… so much in fact that He allows challenging things to happen to you so that you can develop perseverance and stronger faith as a result.  

A lot is going to happen to you today.  Unexpected things.  Other people’s decisions will alter your trajectory and cause you to wonder and worry.  Instead… choose to worship.  Draw closer to God who never varies… who never waivers… who never gets caught by surprise or has no plan.   No matter what changes may come… you can count on His consistency.

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Keep Climbing

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”  James 1:2-4
“…For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37
A little boy was leading his sister up a mountain path and the way was not too easy. “Why this isn’t a path at all,¨ the little girl complained. “Its all rocky and bumpy.¨ Her little brother kept on up the mountain, pausing just long enough to call out, “Sure, but the bumps are what you climb on.”
Ever faced a bump in your path?  We all do.  Many try to go around it… thinking that if they didn’t have it to deal with, they would be better off.  Not so.  Refuse to see challenges as inconveniences or barriers… they are tough but necessary steps leading you onward and upward toward a stronger faith and a fulfilled life.   
The troubles you faced in the past were tough… but you made it through them.
The troubles you are facing today are hard… some will tell you that what you want to do or where you want to go is impossible.  
God says nothing is impossible.  
Keep climbing… pushing yourself beyond what’s comfortable and easy… 
Stretch yourself to the point where fear gives way to faith… Be ready to take on the world not based on the opinions of others but on what God’s word says.  

And when you get to the peak of that mountain you are trying to climb… moving up and over all of those challenges… the view will be breathtaking.   
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Answering

One day a woman was rushing home from a doctor’s appointment. The doctor had been somewhat delayed at the hospital, and the lab work took a little longer than usual so by the time she left the clinic she was running quite a bit behind schedule. She still had to pick up her prescription, pick up the children from the baby-sitter, and get home and make supper, all in time to make it to the prayer meeting at her church that evening. As she began to circle the busy Wal-Mart parking lot, looking for a space, the windows of heaven were opened, as it says in Genesis, and a downpour began. While she wasn’t usually the type to bother God with small problems, she began to pray as she turned down the row closest to the front door. “Lord, you know what kind of a day I’ve had, and there’s still an awful lot to do. Could you please grant me a parking space right away, oh, and close to the building so I don’t get soaked.” The words weren’t even completely out of her mouth when she saw the backup lights of a car come on at the end of the row. It was the best space in the whole parking lot, right next to the handicap spots and straight out from the front door. She made straight for it and as she pulled in, she said, “never mind God, something just opened up.”
Too often this is us…
We pray for God to hear and answer our prayers… and when He does we act as if we we’re owed His provision.  That somehow His blessings should be taken for granted… as ordinary… or as something we’ve somehow earned.  
Has the uncommon become too common?  Are we still grateful for God’s blessings?
A parking space opens up… our child gets into the school… we catch every green light on the way to work….  or maybe it’s bigger things…
The cancer goes away
The spouse returns home
What seemed impossible is now reality because we prayed for it.  
This isn’t a new situation.  
“As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.
One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!”  He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”  Luke 17:11-19
Only one came back to thank God.  
Only one didn’t see the healing as coincidence or something that he deserved.  
Only one was grateful to Jesus for answering his plea.
Only one showed gratitude not entitlement. 
Today, if you’ve been blessed by God or had prayers answered… take a few minutes and tell God thank you.  It’s not that He’s waiting in Heaven for us to do so… but being grateful helps us remember where blessings come from.  It isn’t luck.  It isn’t coincidence.  
It doesn’t come because we do good… it happens because HE is good.  
He hears prayers.  Every single one of them.  And when He answers them… don’t be surprised.  Don’t think it’s something you’re owed.  Don’t let the enemy convince you that you were due a “break” from God.  
See answered prayer as further evidence of His involvement in our lives.   He cares deeply for us…not for us to be happy all the time… but for us to have the right (and reverent) attitude toward Him.  
Been praying?
He answers.

Thank God.
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Definitely

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  
John 16:33
How could God allow tragedy?  The answer is simple.  Sometimes people choose to do things outside of God’s plan.   They disregard the scripture… and plot to bring destruction, chaos, and hurt.  People have disobeyed God since the first two in the Garden of Eden…and for thousands of years thereafter.  It isn’t new or exclusive to this generation.  Freewill is wonderful.  It allows us to love God because we WANT to…not because we are forced to.  It’s genuine.  But this same freedom has a potentially dangerous side.  People can choose the other way.  
But God tells us to take heart because He has overcome the world.  Will bad things happen here?  Yes.  Will God be here with us through it?  Definitely.  
– Through His servants doing whatever it takes to comfort the mourning.  God is there.
– Through area churches providing counseling to the grieving. God is there.
– Through Christ-followers around the world that will spend a few extra minutes on their knees in deep prayer.  God is there.

We serve a God that knows anguish firsthand.  He has felt what you feel.  May His grace and strength continue to be with you as you persevere on the journey back to health. Take heart and know that you aren’t alone…  God is there…. He has overcome this world… and He loves you more than you’ll ever know.  
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Unloveable?

Leonardo Da Vinci, just before he started work on his “Last Supper” had a violent argument with a fellow painter. Leonardo was so bitter that he determined to paint the face of his enemy, the other artist, into the face of Judas, and thus take his revenge by handing the man down in infamy and scorn to succeeding generations. The face of Judas was, therefore, one of the first he finished. And everyone could easily recognize it as the face of the painter with whom he had fought with.

But when he came to paint the face of Christ, he could make no progress. Something seemed to be baffling him, holding him back, frustrating his best efforts. Finally he came to the conclusion that the thing that was frustrating him was that he had painted the face of his enemy onto the face of Judas. He painted out the face of Judas and was then able to resume his work on the face of Jesus and this time did it with the success that the ages have acclaimed.

Sometimes negative feelings can hold us back from where we desire to be in life. Like Leonardo, maybe it’s the spirit of revenge… or perhaps it’s anger, jealousy, or spitefulness. God’s plan for our lives doesn’t revolve around any of these. In fact, those reactions that we feel entitled to actually get in the way of our obedience toward Him… and His blessing on our lives. God has a much better idea…

Love others

“‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” Matthew 22:36-40

The second part of the verse unlocks a clue as to how to be obedient. Loving others. This is not a suggestion or an option. If we are Christ-followers we are told to love those that He has placed around us. Friends… enemies… those that encourage AND those that tear us down. Not an easy task… but one that we must figure out to be obedient. How do we do that? How can we love those that we don’t even like?

1) Recognize that our lack of love for them is sin. Confess it… and ask for God to remind us of how He loves us (even in our broken and sinful condition). We tend to expect God’s love but struggle to pass it along to others.

2) Choose not to be controlled by feelings. You can’t force yourself to feel love… but you can CHOOSE to love in spite of the negative feelings. It’s will over want. (Matt. 5:43-44)

3) Trust God to help you love them. What we cannot do ourselves… the Holy Spirit can do within us. God’s word says to do it… so it can’t be impossible. We can count on God to provide the strength and will we’ll need to love even the most unloveable. 


4) Pray for them… not that they’ll change… but that God would help you see them differently. Pray for their success…that they would grow and thrive… that God would bless them. He may not change them but the exercise will DEFINITELY change you.

Today’s devotional is the type that many will dismiss as impossible. Or unfair. It just doesn’t seem right to have to love someone who treats us poorly or gives us no love in return. But remember, God’s thoughts are not like ours (Isaiah 55:8). He died for the world. Everyone. Not just the nice… or the semi-perfect… or the put together… He sacrificed Himself for everyone. There will be people in this world that you might not like to be around… but they can be loved because they are His creation too. God loves them just as much as He loves you.

Spend a few minutes and take some inventory. Are there people you have labelled as unloveable? Pray for them today. Not that God would change them… but that He would give you some fresh insight… a renewed heart… a different way of seeing the world. Your life will never be the same. When we obediently love God and love His creation… we are blessed… and we take steps toward our God potential.

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