The Character Building Path: Following His Footsteps

The Character Building Path: Following His Footsteps

Follow Me, Jesus told them, “and I will make you into fishers of men!” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Mark 1:17-18 HCSB 

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Jesus walks with you. Are you walking with Him? Hopefully, you will choose to walk with Him today and every day of your life.

Jesus loved you so much that He endured unspeakable humiliation and suffering for you. How will you respond to Christ’s sacrifice? Will you take up His cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23), or will you choose another path? When you place your hopes squarely at the foot of the cross, when you place Jesus squarely at the center of your life, you will be blessed.

The old familiar hymn begins, “What a friend we have in Jesus….” No truer words were ever penned. Jesus is the sovereign Friend and ultimate Savior of mankind. Christ showed enduring love for His believers by willingly sacrificing His own life so that we might have eternal life. Now, it is our turn to become His friend.

Let us love our Savior, let us praise Him, and let us share His message of salvation with the world. When we do, we demonstrate that our acquaintance with the Master is not a passing fancy, but is, instead, the cornerstone and the touchstone of our lives.

Following Christ is a matter of obedience. If you want to be a little more like Jesus . . . learn about His teachings, follow in His footsteps, and obey His commandments.

Imagine the spiritual strength the disciples drew from walking hundreds of miles with Jesus . . . 3 John 4. - John Maxwell 

Our responsibility is to feed from Him, to stay close to Him, to follow Him—because sheep easily go astray—so that we eternally experience the protection and companionship of our Great Shepherd the Lord Jesus Christ. - Franklin Graham 

It’s your heart that Jesus longs for: your will to be made His own with self on the cross forever, and Jesus alone on the throne. Ruth Bell Graham 

 

Walking our Talk

Walking our Talk

So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. - Galatians 6:9 NLT 

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If you’re like most people, you seek the admiration of your neighbors, your coworkers, and your family members. But the eagerness to please others should never overshadow your eagerness to please God. And your desire to impress others should never cause you to compromise your beliefs or to defy your conscience. In short, you must be a “doer of the word” by putting God first. In other words, are you walking your talk of love, grace, peace, mercy and joy?

The words of Matthew 6:33 offer clear instructions for managing your day and your life: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (HCSB).

Each new day presents countless opportunities to put God in first place . . . or not. When you honor Him by living according to His commandments, you earn the abundance and peace that He promises. But, if you ignore God’s teachings, you’ll pay a price, perhaps a very great price indeed.

Would you like a time-tested formula for successful living? Here it is: Don’t just listen to God’s Word, live by it. Does this sound too simple? Perhaps it is simple, but it is also the only way to reap the marvelous riches that God has in store for you.

Ask yourself if your behavior has been radically changed by your unfolding relationship with God. If the answer to this question is unclear to you—or if the honest answer is a resounding no—think of a single step you can take, a positive change in your life, that will bring you closer to your Creator.

Although God causes all things to work together for good for His children, He still holds us accountable for our behavior. - Kay Arthur   

Either God’s Word keeps you from sin, or sin keeps you from God’s Word. - Corrie ten Boom

There may be no trumpet sound or loud applause when we make a right decision, just a calm sense of resolution and peace. – Gloria Gaither

The temptation of the age is to look good without being good. - Brennan Manning

If we have the true love of God in our hearts, we will show it in our lives. We will not have to go up and down the earth proclaiming it. We will show it in everything we say or do. - D. L. Moody

Redeeming Power Of Love

Faith in God’s transforming power means you have hope in His redeeming love. People struggle to imagine a love that doesn’t regard actions or attitudes’men especially struggle to understand this type of love. Our love is so often a response to the conditions surrounding it that using the word unconditional to describe it, to describe love, seems like an oxymoron.

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But with God, it’s not. God’s love for you is beyond human understanding; you simply can’t grasp it. Yet that doesn’t stop it from transforming your heart, your mind, and your entire life.

It’s hard sometimes to understand how much God loves me or why He loves me. But the idea that He loves those we consider our enemies just doesn’t make any sense at all. Yet that just shows the depth and extent of God’s love.

When you place your hope in a love of such magnitude and manner, you’ll finally see that whatever sin you’ve committed, whatever evil has been done to you, or whatever good thing life has taken from you can be used by God for good.

You can’t redeem your own life. Redemption isn’t pulling yourself up by your own spiritual bootstraps.  Aside from the fact that it’s utterly futile, it doesn’t glorify God. On the contrary, it insults Him. God is ready and willing for you to accept His gracious work of redemption. The only thing He requires is that you receive Jesus Christ with the open hands of faith. It’s a simple act of surrender.

Love Is A Choice

Love is a Choice

This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. John 15:12-13 MSG

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Love is a choice. Either you choose to behave lovingly toward others . . . or not; either you behave yourself in ways that enhance your relationships . . . or not. But make no mistake: genuine love requires effort. Simply put, if you wish to build lasting relationships, you must be willing to do your part.

Christ’s words are clear: we are to love God first, and secondly, we are to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). These two commands are seldom easy, and because we are imperfect beings, we often fall short. But God’s Word commands us to try.

The Christian path is an exercise in love and forgiveness. If we are to walk in Christ’s footsteps, we must forgive those who have done us harm, and we must accept Christ’s love by sharing it freely with family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers.

God does not intend for you to experience mediocre relationships; He created you for far greater things. Building lasting relationships requires compassion, wisdom, empathy, kindness, courtesy, and forgiveness. If that sounds a lot like work, it is’which is perfectly fine with God. Why? Because He knows that you are capable of doing that work, and because He knows that the fruits of your labors will enrich the lives of your loved ones and the lives of generations yet unborn.

Do you want love to last? Then you must understand this: Genuine love requires effort. That’s why those who are lazy in love are often losers in love, too!

No man truly has joy unless he lives in love. - Thomas Aquinas

It is when we come to the Lord in our nothingness, our powerlessness and our helplessness that He then enables us to love in a way which, without Him, would be absolutely impossible. - Elisabeth Elliot

Love is extravagant in the price it is willing to pay, the time it is willing to give, the hardships it is willing to endure, and the strength it is willing to spend. Love never thinks in terms of ‘how little,’ but always in terms of ‘how much.’ Love gives, love knows, and love lasts. - Joni Eareckson Tada

To love another person is to see the face of God. - Victor Hugo

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. - 1 John 4:11 NASB

 

Accepting Yourself

Accepting Yourself

Oh Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. Psalm 130:8

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Many people seem to go about life with a kind of bravado . . . bold confidence and self-assurance. The truth, however, is that most of us wish we were different somehow. If only you were as outgoing as Jack . . . if you were as physically fit as Mary . . . if you had the financial sense of Tom . . . a full head of hair like John . . . or the quick wit of Connie. While it’s okay to admire good traits in others, often this desire to be like someone else is actually a form of covetousness, or envy. So, how about learning to accept yourself as God has made you.

Before you can truly accept yourself, however, you need to see the truth about yourself, recognizing both the gifts and the limitations that God’s given you. If you don’t, you will constantly struggle to be someone you’re not.

One way to appreciate how God has made you is to read Psalm 139. The psalmist rejoices, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous-and how well I know it.”  (139:14)

Each of us is unique and special . . . embraced and accepted by God himself . . . even though not one of us is perfect. Spiritual renewal cannot begin until you’re willing to accept yourself as God made you. Once you accept the truth about yourself your focus can change . . . and you can bring great glory to God himself. He, after all, is the one who made you, and He is the reason we live.

I am somebody. I am me. I like being me. And I need nobody to make me somebody. – Louis L’Amour

The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.- Mark Twain

It’s Not About You!

It’s Not About You!


And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. – Hebrews 10:24

itsnotaboutu.newlifeThe first sentence of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life is this: “It’s not about you!” Do you believe that? Does your life reflect that? It’s a struggle for me, and I bet it’s a struggle for you.

Consider these situations: You’re in the checkout line and the older gentleman in front of you wants to write a check, but can’t find his checkbook. He locates his checkbook, but now he has no pen. Finally pen in hand, he inquires about the date. The clerk noticing his out-of-state check calls for approval. This short “in-and-out” errand adds additional minutes to your packed schedule. It was probably the most inconvenient experience you’ve gone through. There ought to be a law! Or in the words of my mother, “It’s always something!”

Or what about your restaurant experience with the hamburger and no ketchup because the waitress forgot. She is off talking, ignoring your request, and crying about something. The serving station has ketchup but it is her job. So you sit, tap your fingers on the table, and shoot darts at the lady crying at the back of the restaurant.

Did you think to say a kind word to the gentleman to help settle his nerves, or tell the waitress that you hope things get better. You might even leave a bigger tip or offer to pray for her. It’s not about you! Look outside yourself. It’s what we’re called to do. Try it. See if God doesn’t affirm you for it.

Only God can give us a selfless love for others, as the Holy Spirit changes us from within. This is one reason we must receive Christ, for apart from His Spirit we can never be freed from the chains of selfishness, jealousy, and indifference. Will others see Christ’s love in your life today? – Billy Graham

It’s that wonderful old-fashioned idea that others come first and you come second. This was the whole ethic by which I was brought up. Others matter more than you do, so ‘don’t fuss, dear; get on with it. – Audrey Hepburn

 

 

Love Your Neighbor

Love Your Neighbor

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.- 1 John 3:18

forest.newlifeIf you’re like me, you live a life in community, but your community isn’t likely one to include your neighbors. I know people who have lived in their neighborhoods for years and still don’t know their neighbors’ names. Busyness blocks out the world immediately around them.

A friend of mine recently shared a story with me. She said that she’s lived in the same neighborhood for twelve years and never really reached out to any of her neighbors. Having learned that one of her neighbors was battling cancer and leukemia, she thought that the time had come to express care, concern, and love to her.

So, she wrote a note, wrapped up a little stuffed bunny, and approached her neighbor’s house. Her heart was pounding. Was she opening herself to ridicule? She knocked on the door, wondering how this little gift and expression of care would be received. When the neighbor came to the door, she could tell that this hand delivered expression of love really moved her. The whole 10-minute process, doing exactly what God wanted her to do, was a blessing to both and an expression of the love of God to her neighbor.

Do you need to step out of your comfort zone and express love and concern to someone? Just look around you; the opportunities are there. We just close them off in our hurry to have a day without interruptions. Express some care and concern for someone today.  Lend someone a helping hand. Spend time (and money if necessary) to be an agent of God’s love. You know you need to do it!

The Lord commands us to do good unto all men without exception, though the majority are very undeserving when judged according to their own merits… [The Scripture] teaches us that we must not think of man’s real value, but only of his creation in the image of God to which we owe all possible honor and love. – John Calvin

You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes. – A. A. Milne

Love-Hate Relationships

Love-Hate Relationships

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. - Ephesians 4:1-3

love&hate.newlifeAlmost every person has at least one—a person you love, but also deeply resent or hate.  It could be a parent, spouse, sibling, boss, a rebellious child, neighbor, friend or even God.

Living in a love-hate relationship isn’t easy.  It requires some very complicated and refined coping skills.  The problem, however, is that too many people go on, day after day, merely coping with the situation.  Either they’re unaware that they can do more than cope, or they are unwilling to do it.

Those resigned to merely cope with the situation are not happy people.  Whether they stay in the relationship or leave, they render themselves powerless to change. They lose faith in the power of God to change the situation.  They give up on prayer as a means to facilitate change.

But our challenge goes beyond prayer.  The beginning of a solution rests in your decisions—your decision to do something—to take action.  Set boundaries.  See a counselor.  Join a group.  Confront in love.

Remember, “no decision” is a decision.

The man who rolls up his sleeves seldom loses his shirt.Stephen Covey

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Relinquishing Prejudice

Relinquishing Prejudice

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. – 1 Peter 3:8

Prejudice.newlifeHave you allowed your upbringing or experiences to prejudice you against a particular group of people? Women? Men? The poor? The rich? Asians? Jews? Black or White?

Prejudice leads to hatred and a lack of compassion toward others.  To the contrary, God’s people are to be known for their love and compassion. Surrendering your life to God means recognizing and relinquishing your prejudices.

Take a look at the Old Testament figure, Jonah. He hated the people of Nineveh for their cruelty toward his people, the Israelites. He would’ve loved to have gone to Nineveh and declare God’s judgment against them. But God told Jonah to go and warn them of destruction so they might avert God’s wrath. Jonah wanted no part in this mission of mercy. He tried to run away, but God placed him in difficult circumstances. When he reluctantly obeyed and preached to the Ninevites, they changed their ways. And not surprisingly, Jonah was upset at God’s mercy on the Ninevites.

God practically had to force Jonah to let go of his prejudice and hatred. This was necessary so he could share God’s mercy with the people he hated. Your spiritual transformation will be stunted until you let go of your prejudices toward any people group. Seeing your own prejudices doesn’t come easy. You need to ask God and those close to you to help you see areas of prejudice in your life. Once you see them, confess them and ask God to change your heart.

We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders – Maya Angelo

Prejudice is a product of ignorance that hides behind barriers of tradition. – Jasper Fforde

 

A Disconnected Life

A Disconnected Life

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. – Hebrews 13:16

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I don’t have any problems relating to people. Really. It’s true. I don’t ever get irritated or upset with anyone: as long as I’m alone. It’s amazing just how easy life is when I’m alone and isolated. The worst in me can lie dormant for years as long as there’s no one around to awaken the sleeping giants inside of me.

It may be true that a life of isolation is easier, but it’s also emptier.  When you don’t have to face who you really are, you grow comfortable and stop developing into what God wants for you.

Are you going to take your place alongside the millions of others who’ve decided to abandon life by disconnecting? You may think this is the way life’s meant to be. But it’s not. Life is about relationship, relationship with God and with one another.

Be slow in choosing a friend, slower in changing.- Ben Franklin

We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community – Dorothy Day

Men are free when they belong to a living, organic, believing community, active in fulfilling some unfulfilled, perhaps unrealized purpose. Not when they are escaping to some wild west. The most unfree souls go west, and shout of freedom. – D.H. Lawrence

Tour Israel with Steve Arterburn and New Life Ministries