Seven Days of Devotion
Posted by Rick Warren
Sing to God a thanksgiving hymn, play music on your instruments to God ... Psalm 147:7 (MSG)
When you express your love for God, it's called worship. One way you can express your love is by singing to him, and during the season, there are more opportunities to praise God in song than any other time of the year.
Did you know that more songs have been written about Jesus Christ than any other topic in the world? Christianity is a singing faith because it's not about religion. It's about a love affair. It's about a relationship with God. He loves you so much that He sent His Son as a baby in a manger.
Nothing will make you more aware of God's love and God's presence in your life than singing His praises. You may be thinking, 'But you don't understand. I can't sing.'
But the Bible says, "Make a joyful noise." You can do that! You don't have to be a perfect singer to make a joyful noise.
Since you can sing anywhere, you can express your love of God anywhere. That means you can worship in the shower. You can worship in your backyard mowing the lawn. You can worship washing dishes. You can worship driving to work.
This season tell God you love him by singing to Him. If you really think about what God has done in your life, you won't be able to help yourself - a song will just burst out of you.
Worship: Offering Yourself to God
So then, my friends, because of God's great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Romans 12:1-2 (TEV)
Offering yourself to God is what worship is all about.
This act of personal surrender is called many things: consecration, making Jesus Lord, taking up your cross, dying to self, yielding to the Spirit.
What matters is that you do it, not what you call it. God wants your life. All of it -- 95% is not enough.
Our total surrender to God is blocked by several things, including -
Can We Trust God?
How do I know God loves me? He gives us many evidences:
God loves you infinitely more than you can imagine -
Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1, HCSB)
If you want to know how much you matter to God, look at Christ with his arms outstretched on the cross saying, "I love you this much! I'd rather die than live without you."
God is not a cruel slave driver, or a bully who uses brute force to coerce us into submission. He doesn't try to break our will, but woos us to himself, so that we might offer it freely to him. God is a Lover and a Liberator, and surrendering brings freedom, not bondage.
When we completely surrender ourselves to Jesus, we discover that he is not a tyrant but a savior; not a boss, but a brother; not a dictator, but a friend.
Your heart and personality reveal God's purpose
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that .... Galatians 6:4b (Msg).
Another way to determine how you can serve others is to ask yourself such questions as:
Examine your experiences and extract the lessons you've learned. Review your life and think about how it has shaped you. Moses told the Israelites, "Remember today what you have learned about the Lord through your experiences with him." (Deuteronomy 11:2 TEV)
Forgotten experiences are worthless; that's a good reason to keep a spiritual journal. Paul worried that the believers in Galatia would waste the pain they had been through. He said, "Were all your experiences wasted? I hope not!" (Galatians 3:4 NCV)
We rarely see God's good purpose in pain or failure or embarrassment while it is happening. When Jesus washed Peter's feet, he said, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." (John 13:7 NIV)
Only in hindsight do we understand how God intended a problem for good.
Extracting the lessons from your experiences takes time. I recommend that you take an entire weekend for a life review retreat, where you pause to see how God has worked in the various defining moments of your life and consider how he wants to use those lessons to help others.
This will give you very clear direction on the ways he wants you to minister to others.
Don't compare or conform your shape to others
Do your own work well, and then you will have something to be proud of. But don't compare yourself with others. Galatians 6:4 (CEV)
Yesterday I noted Satan will try to steal your joy of service in two ways: by tempting you to compare your ministry with others, and by tempting you to conform your ministry to the expectations of others. Both are deadly traps that will distract you from serving in the ways God intended.
The Bible warns us never to compare ourselves with others: "Do your own work well, and then you will have something to be proud of. But don't compare yourself with others." (Galatians 6:4 CEV)
There are two reasons why you should never compare your shape, ministry, or the results of your ministry with anyone else.
Either attitude will take you out of service and rob you of your job.
Paul said it is foolish to compare ourselves with others. He said, "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." (2 Corinthians 10:12 NIV)
The Message paraphrase says, "In all this comparing and grading and competing, they quite miss the point." (2 Corinthians 10:12b Msg)
You will find that people who do not understand your shape for ministry will criticize you and try to get you to conform to what they think you should be doing. Ignore them!
Paul often had to deal with critics who misunderstood and maligned his service. His response was always the same: Avoid comparisons, resist exaggerations, and seek only God's commendation.
One of the reasons Paul was used so greatly by God was that he refused to be distracted by criticism or by comparing his ministry with others or by being drawn into fruitless debates about his ministry. John Bunyan, the author of "Pilgrims Progress," said, "If my life is fruitless, it doesn't matter who praises me, and if my life is fruitful, it doesn't matter who criticizes me."
How to be thankful in tough times
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:6 (NLT)
Don't worry about anything.
Pray about everything.
Thank God in all things.
Think about the right things.
This involves a deliberate conscious choice where you change the channels. You choose to think about the right things: focus on the positive and on God's word.
Why? Because the root cause of stress is the way I choose to think.
When we no longer worry, when we pray about everything, when we give thanks, when we focus on the right things, the Apostle Paul tells us the result is, "The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
What a guarantee! He is guaranteeing peace of mind.
When the Future seems Uncertain
by Rick Warren
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans ... to give you a future and a hope ... You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest."Â Â Jeremiah 29:11, 13 (LB)
No matter what the pollsters, pundits, and prognosticators claim, no one can accurately predict all that is going to happen this year, let alone in the next few weeks. Our best forecasts are just educated guesses.
Change is not only increasing in speed and intensity, but also in unpredictability.
The Bible suggests three timeless principles for facing an uncertain future:
Set goals according to God's direction
The Bible says, "We may make our plans, but God has the last word." (Proverbs 16:1)Â In other words, planning without praying is presumption.Â Start by praying, "God, what do YOU want me to do in 2010?"
Live one day at a time -- While you can plan for tomorrow, you can't live it until it arrives. Most people spend so much time regretting the past and worrying about the future, they have no time to enjoy today!
John Lennon once wrote, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."Â Decide to make the most of each moment this year.Â Jesus said, "Don't be anxious about tomorrow - God will take care of your tomorrows. Live one day at a time." (Matthew 6:34)
Don't procrtatsinate - DO IT NOW! - "Don't boast about what you're going to do tomorrow, for you don't know what a day may bring forth." (Proverbs 27:1)
Procrastinating is a subtle trap.Â It wastes today by postponing things until tomorrow.Â You promise yourself that you'll do it "one of these days." But "one of these days" is usually "none of these days."
What did you plan to get done last year that you didn't do?Â When do you intend to start working on it?Â
Ministry: Shaped to serve
by Rick Warren
Your hands shaped me and made me. Job 10:8 (NIV)
God formed every creature on this planet with a special area of expertise. Some animals run, some hop, some swim, some burrow, and some fly. Each has a particular role to play based on the way they were shaped by God. The same is true with humans. Each of us was uniquely designed, or "shaped" to do certain things.
Before architects design any new building they first ask, "What will be its purpose? How will it be used?" The intended function always determines the form of the building.
Before God created you, he decided what role he wanted you to play on earth. He planned exactly how he wanted you to serve him, and then he shaped you for those tasks. You are the way you are because you were made for a specific ministry.
The Bible says, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works" (Ephesians 2:10, NIV). Our English word "poem" comes from this Greek word translated "workmanship." You're God's hand-crafted work of art. You're not an assembly-line product, mass-produced without thought. You're a custom designed, one-of-a kind, original masterpiece.
God deliberately shaped and formed you to serve him in a way that makes your ministry unique. He carefully mixed the DNA recipe that created you. David praised God for this incredible personal attention to detail God gave in designing each of us: "You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous" (Psalm 139:13-14, NLT).
Not only did God shape you before your birth, he planned every day of your life to support his shaping process. David continues, "Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed" (Psalm 139:16, NLT).
This means nothing that happens in your life is insignificant. God uses all of it to mold you for your ministry to others, and shape you for your service to him.
God never wastes anything. He would not give you abilities, interests, talents, gifts, personality, and life experiences unless he intended to use them for his glory. By identifying and understanding these factors you can discover God's will for your life.
The Bible says you are "wonderfully complex." You're a combination of many different factors: "The people I have shaped for myself will broadcast my praises." (Isaiah 43:21, NJB)
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