Are You Willing to Serve Others During Your Tough Times? –Acts 28

Today’s Scripture Reading:  Acts 28:1-32, Ephesians 1:1-2:22

When times are tough my first choice is to go to bed, cover my head and not get up until the storm has passed.   The last thing I want to do is serve others.  I tend to close the windows, pull down the shades and get very selfish and self-centered during seasons of hardship.

What if…

the reason God  allowed seasons of hardship in our lives was for the spreading of the gospel?

The Apostle Paul was an expert at continuing to serve God in the midst of tough times.  In today’s reading we see three instances of Paul ministering to others during his “tough times.”

  • Paul prayed for Publius’s father who was ill with fever and dysentery and he was healed
  • When the news spread of Paul’s healing power, all the other sick people on the island came for prayer and Paul prayed and they were healed
  • Paul gathered the local Jewish leaders to share the gospel of Jesus Christ

Paul was in chains or on house arrest and guarded by a soldier during these times of serving others.

How did Paul do that?

  • He was focused on God’s calling on his life more than his personal desires or comfort.  But the Lord said (to Ananias), “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.  And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” Acts 9:15-16 (explanation mine)
  • He knew that God uses our dependence on Him in the tough times to bring people to Jesus
  • He knew that God uses different ways to get His will accomplished (what better way to get a meeting with a king than to be arrested and brought before him)
  • He believed Romans 8:28:  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
  • He saw EVERYTHING as a divine appointment

What are you going through today?

How does God want to use your “tough times” to spread the love of Christ to others?

Are you willing to serve God and others during your tough times?

Heavenly Father, in our humanness we want to be served in life’s tough times rather than serve others.  Holy Spirit, help us to see the opportunities to serve others in our tough times as God’s calling and plan for our life.  Lord, we want to be like Paul and put others’ needs ahead of our own.  Use our lives for Your Kingdom and Your Glory.

In Jesus’ Name.  Amen and Amen!

 

© 2013 Dianne Guthmuller
Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading:   Ephesians 3:1-5:14

Can I Recover From My Poor Choices?–Acts 27:21

Today’s Scripture Reading: Acts 27:1-44

If we’re honest, there are many times we could say to someone, “I told you so.”  In today’s reading Paul didn’t just think it, he said it!

No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’  So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said.  –Acts 27:21-25

Paul handled his “I told you so” moment quite differently than most of us.  He used it as an opportunity to encourage and point them to God.

Paul wasn’t just encouraging the crew, this was written for you and me.  God knew we were going to “choose the wrong door” from time to time.

God knew we were going need an encouraging “I told you so” from time to time.

Here’s what I believe God is telling us through Paul’s story.

  • There will be times when we do not listen to the voice of God
  • There will be consequences to our bad choices
  • Our ship may go down but we will be safe if we don’t jump out of the boat
  • If God says it, it will come to pass

Are there consequences to my bad decisions?  Definitely

Will God help me and show me a way to recover from it?  Absolutely

Will He miraculously make my mistake go away? Probably not

Heavenly Father, forgive me when I make the wrong choice.  Thank You for Your forgiveness. Thank You for encouraging me, and not dwelling on the “I told you so.” Fill me with Your Spirit today!

In Jesus’ Name.  Amen and Amen!

 

© 2013 Dianne Guthmuller

Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Acts 28:1-32; Ephesians 1:1-2:22

Do You Have This Kind of Freedom? –Acts 26:32

Today’s Scripture Reading: Acts 24:1-26:32

As a Christian and an American freedom is important to me.  Add to that my strong-willed and independent personality and I’m a downright freedom junky.  The Apostle Paul taught me something about freedom today.

Then the king, the governor, Bernice, and all the others stood and left.  As they went out, they talked it over and agreed, “This man hasn’t done anything to deserve death or imprisonment.”

And Agrippa said to Festus, “He could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.” –Acts 26:30-32

My first thought was, “Why did Paul open his mouth and say he wanted to appeal to Caesar?” (Acts 25:10-12)

In my humanness, it looks like he made a mistake.

Until

I remembered the whole story.

Yes, they sent him to Rome.

Yes, he went as a prisoner.

But

What he really went on was a missionary journey.

Paul’s lack of freedom was God’s way of getting His mission accomplished.  Paul didn’t have the money to travel to Rome but through his chains he got a free trip and witnessed to countless people along the way.

Is there an area of your life in which you feel trapped?

    • A dead-end job
    • An unhappy marriage
    • A chronic health struggle

Maybe…your chains are God’s tool to reach someone who is unreachable.

Maybe…you should look around and see who needs God that is within your reach.

Paul knew the real meaning of freedom–being in the center of God’s Will.

Heavenly Father, help us to look to Paul’s example and apply it to our lives.  Jesus, help us to seek after and desire the kind of freedom that is greater than anything this world has to offer–Knowing You and making You known!

In Jesus’ Name.  Amen and Amen!

 

© 2013 Dianne Guthmuller
Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Acts 27:1-44

Are You Window Shopping in Another Person’s Life? —Acts 23:11


Today’s Scripture Reading:  Acts 21:37-23:35

During the Christmas season it’s easy to wish for a more “Hallmark movie” type of life. You know, the man of your dreams magically appears on December 23rd and by Christmas morning he’s proposing or a check for a $1000 shows up in your mailbox just in time to buy your kid’s Christmas.

Do you ever look at someone’s life and say, “I want that?”

Maybe it’s…

  • their special family
  • their spouse
  • their material possessions, such as a home or car
  • their physical beauty
  • their strength
  • their youth
  • their education
  • their career
  • their wisdom
  • their influence

Window shopping in other peoples’ lives can get you in trouble…

God told us in the Tenth Commandment:

“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” –Exodus 20:17

…but as I read Acts 23:11, I found myself saying, “I want that!”

That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.”

I want the Lord to…

  • appear to me
  • encourage me
  • tell me what I’m doing well
  • tell me what to do next

The funny thing about wanting what others have is we don’t usually want to do what others did to get there.

Paul sacrificed EVERYTHING to be obedient to God, be His witness and serve Him for all of his life.

In these turbulent times there’s something more valuable that material possessions, education, and physical attributes—

It’s being comforted, encouraged, and led by the Holy Spirit.

Friends, the good news is, we can have what Paul had. Paul said it himself, God does not show favoritism. –Romans 2:11

But we have to do what Paul did:

When God spoke, Paul…

  • Stopped (Acts 21:7)
  • Listened  (Acts 21:7)
  • Asked, “What should I do, Lord?” (Acts 21:10)
  • Immediately began to do what God told him to do (Acts 21:10-11)

Are you like me?

Do you want a relationship with God like Paul?

Let’s make time today to…

  • STOP-get alone with God, away from the noise of our day
  • LISTEN for Him to speak to us either through His Word or to our spirit
  • ASK God what we should to, just for today
  • JUST DO IT!—be about the day’s assignment!

What’s God saying to you today?

Heavenly Father, I give myself and my day to you today. Speak loudly Lord.  Use me deliver Your joy, peace, and comfort to someone today.

In Jesus’ Name.  Amen and Amen!

 

© 2013 Dianne Guthmuller

Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Acts 24:1-26:32

What Are You Focusing On?–Acts 20:21


Today’s Scripture Reading:  Acts 20:13-21:36

“He’s sort of cocky.”

Do you know someone who fits that description?

What if I told you that person could change the world for Christ?

The Apostle Paul sounds a little cocky, a little self-absorbed at times in his letters to the Corinthians.

Why did the Holy Spirit want us to see that side of Paul?

After all, if it’s in the Bible, there’s a lesson to be learned.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from the Apostle Paul:

  • God can use us in spite of and because of our personality
  • God can used us in spite of and because of our past
  • We have a choice, just like Paul, we can focus on our mistakes or we can focus on the job God has for us to do

Paul focused on one thing:

I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord –Jesus. Acts 20:21

Does the enemy of your soul ever say to you, “You aren’t worthy to be used because of your past?”  Or, maybe he says you’re not worthy because of your present.

Paul dealt with those thoughts as well; he considered himself the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  I’m sure the fact that he actively persecuted the early church and watched as Stephen was stoned to death, because of his faith in Christ, crossed his mind when he penned those words.

But…

He stayed focused on the message he was called to give and God used him to turn the world upside down for Jesus Christ.

There are things about my personality that I wish were different, there are mistakes I’ve made that I’m not proud of, but God has a job for me to do while on this earth; He has a message for me to bring.

The question is…

Will I focus on the message or myself?

What about you; what’s your life’s focus?

What’s your message for the world?

Heavenly Father, fill me so full of Your Spirit!  I want to be able to focus on Your plans, not my weaknesses.  I want Your thoughts.

In Jesus’ Name.  Amen and Amen!

 

© 2013 Dianne Guthmuller

Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading:  Acts 21:37-23:35

Are You the Real Deal? 4 Questions to Check Your Faith — 2 Corinthians 13:5

Today’s Scripture Reading:  2 Corinthians 11:1-13:14, Acts 20:7-12

“Is it a counterfeit?”  That was the big question when twenty-dollar bills came through my teller window.

I was a teller for only a short time, so I needed a counterfeit pen to sort the real from the fake, but some of the experienced, life-long tellers could “feel” the counterfeit bills.  I would watch in amazement as they would say, “this one’s a fake.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we had an instrument we could use to test our faith?

In Paul’s final words to the Corinthians he told them to examine themselves to see if their faith was genuine.

It seemed that Paul could spot the counterfeit Christians as easy as my teller friends could feel the fake money.

Here are some of the reasons he was concerned about the Corinthians:

  • They happily put up with whatever anyone told them, even if they preached a different Jesus, or a different Spirit or a different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4)
  • They were being disloyal to Paul by listening to false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:12-13)
  • Some were falsely accusing Paul of taking advantage of them (2 Corinthians 12:16-17)
  • Paul suspected quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorderly behavior (2 Corinthians 12:20)
  • Many had not given up their old sins (2 Corinthians 12:21)
  • They had not repented of their impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure (2 Corinthians 12:21)

Friends, Paul could have been talking to the 21st century church.

He could have been talking to you and me.

Paul’s desire was to strengthen the Corinthians, not tear them down. Sometimes we all need a good dose of reality.  Paul prayed that they would NOT do what was wrong by refusing his correction.

Paul closed his letter with four outward signs of a genuine Christian  (2 Corinthians 13:11).

  1. Are you a joyful person?
  2. Are you growing and maturing in your faith in Jesus Christ? (Do you “know Him more” than you did a year ago?)
  3. Do you encourage others?
  4. Do you seek to live in harmony and peace with others?

Let’s stop our world, our brain, and our body and take some time to examine our faith.

The world can spot a counterfeit Christian without a special tool; being around a genuine Christian just “feels” different!

Heavenly Father, forgive us for following in the footsteps of the Corinthian church.  Thank you for Your Word that corrects us.  Help us to be people of action and make the changes in our lives that move us closer to being more like you Jesus.  Help us to be the “real deal” to those who don’t know You.  Help others to “feel” Your love for them through us.

In Jesus’ Name.  Amen and Amen!

 

© 2013 Dianne Guthmuller
Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Acts 20:13-21:36

What is Godly Sorrow? 2 Corinthians 7:10


Today’s Scripture Reading:  2 Corinthians 6:14-10:18

“Jeremy, tell Allison you’re sorry!”

Jeremy muffled under his breath, “sorry.”

Then  in my “Mom” voice I sternly said, “Nope, that’s not good enough.”

“Say it like this:  ‘Allison, I’m sorry for ___________.  Please forgive me.’”

Jeremy would grudgingly mouth the words. Was he really sorry? At that time, probably not.

When is the last time you told God you were sorry?

How did you say it?

What did your body language say?

Were you really sorry?

Were you just going through the motions?

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. —2 Corinthians 7:10-11

Godly sorrow, is this a worn-out term that’s no longer relevant for today’s “educated and intellectual culture?”

I say a very loud “NO!”

Do we really believe God sees and disapproves of our sinful behavior (and we all have it, by the way)?

I remember a time in my life when I was completely deceived.  No, I wasn’t a young Christian, I knew better.  I was like Eve in the garden… Satan said, “God really didn’t mean “that” was a sin.  Try it, you’ll like it.”

I bit the apple.  The funny thing about it… I was so deceived that I didn’t feel bad about it.  I knew the Word of God. I knew this was one of those black and white areas of the Bible; there was no question about God’s stand on this topic.  But somehow I thought, “This situation is different, it’ll be okay.”

There was no sorrow and certainly no godly sorrow.

Until…

… Some time had passed and the Holy Spirit began to show me my sinful state.  It was like a supernatural magnifying mirror, you know one of those kinds that show every wrinkle, bump, and imperfection.

With tear-filled eyes I can say that the godly sorrow came that day.  The depth of God’s disappointment hit me in a way I’d never felt before; it felt like physical pain.

“Sorry” wasn’t good enough for this situation.  I spent days and weeks journaling, crying, and grieving over my sin.  Yes, the Lord forgave me as soon as I asked but my sorrow over my sin still lingers today.

There is no regret for this kind of sorrow…it led me away from sin and to true repentance.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your conviction.  Thank you for your forgiveness.  Please continue to show me the things in my life that aren’t pleasing to you.  Lord, use me for Your Glory, in spite of my failings and shortcomings.

In Jesus’ Name.  Amen and Amen

 

© 2013 Dianne Guthmuller

If you have a couple of extra minutes read Psalm 51.  King David gave us a great example of godly sorrow:

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

Have mercy upon me, O God,

According to Your lovingkindness;

According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,

Blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

And cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions,

And my sin is always before me.

Against You, You only, have I sinned,

And done this evil in Your sight—

That You may be found just when You speak,[a]

And blameless when You judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,

And in sin my mother conceived me.

Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,

And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear joy and gladness,

That the bones You have broken may rejoice.

Hide Your face from my sins,

And blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from Your presence,

And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,

And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,

And sinners shall be converted to You.

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,

The God of my salvation,

And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.

O Lord, open my lips,

And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;

You do not delight in burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,

A broken and a contrite heart—

These, O God, You will not despise.

Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;

Build the walls of Jerusalem.

Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,

With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;

Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading:  2 Corinthians 11:1-13:14, Acts 20:7-12

The Phases of Forgiveness—2 Corinthians 2:5-8

Today’s Scripture Reading:  2 Corinthians 2:5-6:13

“Nana, I’m sorry.”

“Of course I forgive you.”

It’s so easy to forgive my grandkids.

But what about the people in our lives that aren’t so easy to forgive, the people who have deeply hurt or disappointed us?

I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me.  Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough.  Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement.  So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him. —2 Corinthians 2:5-8

Forgive and Comfort?

The last thing I want for my grandchildren is discouragement.  I can’t stand it when their hearts are broken because they’ve disappointed me; so it’s easy to comfort them.

But forgiving and comforting an adult, who should know better, so they won’t be discouraged—WHAT!

I’m the one who needs comforting…

I thought forgiving was hard, but forgiving and comforting…

How is that possible?

There’s only one way… with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Depending on the depth of the hurt it may take a while.  In the past I’ve gotten upset when I couldn’t instantly forgive and forget, but over years I’ve learned that there are phases of forgiveness.

As Paul said, in today’s reading…it’s time to forgive.

Let’s get started:

A phase is a distinct stage of development.  The phases may be different for each person.

Here are the 10 phases of forgiveness I’ve experienced:

Phase 1—I can’t forgive.  I’ve been hurt, I’m angry, I want to hurt back.

Phase 2—I don’t want to forgive. The other person(s) doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.

Phase 3—I should forgive (Matthew 6:14-15, Luke 17:3-4) but it’s so hard—Lord help me!

Phase 4—I’m trying to forgive but I can’t stop thinking about it and talking about it (Luke 6:45).

Phase 5—I have moments of forgiveness, a minute here a second there.

Phase 6—I have periods of forgiveness.  The pain is starting to going away!

Phase 7—I am completely free of the pain of unforgiveness!

Phase 8—I want the person(s) who hurt me to be free of the pain as well.  I don’t want them to be overcome with discouragement (2 Corinthians 2:5-8).

Phase 9—I make an effort comfort and encourage the person(s) who hurt me.  I free them from the responsibility of the pain they caused me (Job 42:10).

Phase 10—I forget the pain (not necessarily the event) the person(s) caused me.

The example from the Bible that comes to mind is Job.  Job was so angry at his three friends for accusing him of sinning against God.  Job worked through the phases of his anger throughout the forty-plus chapters of Job.  In Job 42:10, Job prayed for his “friends” and released them from their responsibility of hurting him and then the Lord made Job prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.

One of the biggest mistakes we make in the area of forgiveness is thinking we can go straight to phase 10.  This is the reason so many people are still living with the pain of the past–they don’t want to work through it, they just want to forget it.  That’s just not possible!

If you allow the Holy Spirit to walk you through each phase of forgiveness you will be truly free from the pain and sincerely want the best for those who’ve hurt you.

What a mighty God we serve!  Only through Him can we forgive and comfort!

Heavenly Father, I pray for my friends who are struggling with unforgiveness today.  Holy Spirit help them walk through each phase of forgiveness until they are truly free from the pain of the past.

In Jesus’ Name.  Amen and Amen!

 

© 2013 Dianne Guthmuller

Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading:  2 Corinthians 6:14-10:18

Can You Tell An “Encouraging” Story? 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

Today’s Scripture Reading: Romans 15:1-16:27; 2 Corinthians 1:1-2:4

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia (2 Corinthians 1:8).

Not exactly an encouraging and motivational message, unless you hear the whole story.

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.  In fact, we expected to die. 

But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.  And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.

–2 Corinthians 1:8-10

Here are the highlights of the story:

  • We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure
  • We thought we would never live through it
  • We expected to die

Lessons Learned:

  • We stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God
  • God rescued us from mortal danger
  • God will rescue us again, if needed
  • We have placed our confidence in Him
  • God will continue to rescue us

Paul shows us the proper way to share our stories in today’s scripture reading.

Don’t get me wrong, when we’re in the midst of a trial we need someone with whom we can share the good, the bad and the ugly. You know, kick, scream, throw dirt, pout, etc.

But when we’re sharing to encourage, we need to spend more time sharing about the lessons learned than the trouble itself.

Sharing our lessons learned through life’s hard times is one of our greatest witnessing tools, if we do it in a way that shines the light on the greatness of God and not our problems.

Heavenly Father, fill us with Your Spirit.  Speak through us.  Help us to use our lessons learned through life’s difficult times to point others to Jesus.

In Your Name.  Amen and Amen!

 

© 2013 Dianne Guthmuller
Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:5-6:13

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