How Do You Get Back To God?

“When you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” Jeremiah 29:13.

No matter how far you are from God today, there is a pathway back to him.

I don’t know where you are right now. Maybe you haven’t been to church in years, or you’ve just been distant for a month or two. Maybe you’ve had one of those weeks where you thought, “I really don’t feel God’s presence in my life.” And yet you long to be close to God.

How do you get back to him?

Here is a pathway to spiritual transformation the three things you need to do to get back to God:

Realize you need to change. Nothing is going to change in your life until you get dissatisfied with the way you are. You need to get to the point where you say, “I don’t like this. I’m tired of being stressed out all the time. I’m tired of being frustrated all the time. I’m tired of being overworked all the time. I’m tired of feeling distant from God.”

Why does God let you get to that point? Because he loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way. He will not let you waste your life.

God says in Jeremiah 29:13, “When you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed”.

Own up to your sin. Isaiah 59:2 says, “The trouble is that your sins have cut you off from God. Because of sin he has turned his face away from you”.

Have you ever prayed and felt like God was a million miles away or like there was a wall between you and God?

Where does that distance come from? Your sins have separated you from God. But if you feel far from God, guess who moved? You! God has always been there. He loves you unconditionally, and he’s waiting for you to own up to your sin so you can have a right relationship with him again.

Give up control. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings ever greater glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”.

True transformation happens when your heart moves from self-centeredness to God-centeredness. Are you there yet?

That transformation doesn’t happen overnight. God is going to work on you your entire life. But to start the process, you have to make a decision to repent and, “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your [body] as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).

God wants to be close to you. And he promises that when you seriously seek him, you will not be disappointed. Watch expectantly how God works in your life this coming year as you seek him with all your heart, mind, and soul.

Godly Goals Give You Hope To Endure

“I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize.” Philippians 3:12

Yesterday we talked about three reasons you need to set goals. Today we’re going to talk about three more reasons why goal setting is so important that even Jesus set goals for himself.

Set goals because they give you hope to keep moving and endure. Job said, “What strength do I have left that I can go on hoping? What goal do I have that I would want to prolong my life?” (Job 6:11). You need a goal to keep you going.

To motivate you, a goal doesn’t have to be big. For instance, if you needed surgery, your first goal in recovery could be to sit up in bed. Then you might work toward standing up and later walking down the hallway.

Those are small goals, but they’re all important. To get from where you are to where you want to be isn’t done in one big leap. It’s many small steps. A goal doesn’t have to be big to be important. Even small goals encourage you to carry on.

Set goals because they build your character. The greatest benefit to your life will not be your accomplishments but rather what happens inside you while you’re moving toward your goal.

God is more interested in your character than your accomplishments. While you’re working on your goal, God is working on you. He is building your character, because that’s what will last for eternity.

That’s why Paul said in Philippians 3:12, “I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize”. It takes energy, effort, and purpose to reach your goal, and the result is that you become more like Christ.

Set goals because good goals will be rewarded. Proverbs 11:27 says, “If your goals are good, you will be respected”. When you give your life to a good goal, it brings honor and builds a legacy on earth. But the real reward in setting good goals is going to come in eternity.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 9:25-26, “All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step”. Paul was a purpose driven goal setter. God wants you to be one, too, so that you can win the prize he has prepared for you in heaven.

Faith Helps You Focus On Your Goals

“God can do anything, you know far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” Ephesians 3:20

We know that setting goals is important because the Bible tells us that Jesus set goals. In fact, he often announced publicly his goal for the next phase of his ministry.

So why should you set goals? Today we’re going to talk about three reasons to set goals, and tomorrow we’ll talk about three more.

Set goals because it is your spiritual responsibility. If you don’t have goals for your life, you have already decided to let other people run your life. When you don’t decide in advance what’s important, you’re letting other people decide. You end up wasting your life, because you haven’t clarified how you want to grow as a follower of Christ.

The Bible says that, to be spiritually mature, you have to set goals and move toward them.

“I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize . . . I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done. All of us who are mature should think in this same way” (Philippians 3:12, 14-15).

Set goals because they are statements of faith. If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ and you set a goal, you’re saying, “I believe that God wants me to accomplish this by this time. This is what I believe God is going to do in my life.”

Goals aren’t just a statement of faith. They stretch your faith. The bigger your goal, the more your faith will be stretched. And that pleases God.

Ephesians 3:20 says, “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”).

Set goals because they focus your energy. Focus is the key to an effective life. If you spread your energy out and diffuse it over many things, you’ll reduce your impact. But a focused life is powerful and can change the world.

You don’t have time to do everything. But here’s the good news: God doesn’t expect you to do everything! The key to being effective in life as a follower of Jesus is to do what matters most and forget everything else. Goals help you maintain that kind of focus.

1 Corinthians 9:26 says it this way: “I do not run without a goal. I fight like a boxer who is hitting something—not just the air”.

Get The Power To Go After Your Dreams

“We plan the way we want to live, but only GOD makes us able to live it.” Proverbs 16:9

You get to plan the way you want to live, but only God gives you the power and energy to experience transformation. Why? Because God provides the three things you must have to reach your goals and change your life.

God’s Spirit to empower you
You need God’s help to make changes you can’t make on your own. Life-change is not based on willpower. It’s based on God’s power. It’s not based on trying. It’s based on trusting.

Zechariah 4:6 says, “‘You will not succeed by your own strength or by your own power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord All-Powerful”.

God’s Word to guide you
The Bible is the owner’s manual for life. The more you read it, study it, memorize it, and meditate on it, the more successful and fulfilled you’re going to be.

When Joshua was given the great dream of taking over the Promised Land a goal that would take him the rest of his life God spoke these words to him: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will achieve success” (Joshua 1:8).

God’s people to support you
You will not be able to reach your goals on your own. It takes a team to fulfill a dream! Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped”.

A crowd can’t support you, but a small group can. The people in your small group know when you’re sick, when you’re having a tough time, and when you need a break. You can share your goals, successes, and failures. They will rejoice with you and encourage you to keep going. You’re going to need their support to help you make and pursue the right kind of goals.

Have you been trying to reach your goals and change your life on your own? It’s time to stop flying solo and learn to rely on the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, and God’s people.

Get To Know Your Savior

“He came to the world that was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to all who did accept him and believe in him he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:11-12

Nobody’s perfect. That’s pretty common knowledge!

I don’t measure up to my own standards, much less God’s and you don’t either. We all have flaws, and we all make fumbles.

That’s why you need to know Jesus, the Savior who came to die for your sins.

Heaven is a perfect place no sorrow, sadness, or sickness. Heaven is beyond your wildest dreams! Heaven is perfect, but you and I are not. If God let imperfect people into heaven, then it wouldn’t be a perfect place. If God let us into heaven, with all of our imperfections, then heaven would be no better than Earth.

But God had a plan: He came to Earth. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life in your place. Then Jesus died to pay for all of your sins so you don’t have to. You get to go to heaven by just trusting him. What a deal!

“He came to the world that was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to all who did accept him and believe in him he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:11-12).

When you trust in Jesus as Savior, you get to become a part of God’s family, and that family is going to last forever.

God created everybody. God loves everybody. God has a purpose for everybody. But God is only the Father of those who choose to become a part of his family by meeting the family requirements: Believe in the Son he sent. That’s the condition.

God made you, but he also saved you. The reason he came was to die for all your sins.

I can’t think of a better reason to give him your focus and devotion.

Four Habits To Fortify Your Faith

Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit.” 1 Timothy 4:7

If you want God to use you fortify your faith.

The Bible says in 1 Timothy 4:7, “Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit”

Do you ever wake up thinking, “I get to exercise today?” I certainly don’t. But I do know that we all need both physical and spiritual exercise. I also know this about exercise: I want the most benefit I can get out of every minute I exercise, whether it’s physical or spiritual.

I’d like to help you get the most out of your spiritual exercise by giving you four spiritual habits that will fortify your faith.

1. Study the Bible.
 You need to study the Bible personally. You can’t depend on someone else’s study of the Bible to fortify your faith. You have to do it yourself.

The Bible says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

God’s Word is the “Get Ready” manual for life. If you want to get ready to be used by God, you’ve got to study the Bible.

2. Read Christian books. Proverbs 19:8 says, “Do yourself a favor and learn all you can”. You learn a lot more when you read books that help you grow spiritually.

3. Write out your testimony. The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have”. Just like nobody else can study for you, nobody else can tell your story. There are four parts to a testimony: what your life was like before you came to Christ, how you realized you needed Christ in your life, how you committed your life to Christ, and what your life is like now.

4. Join a small group. The Bible says, “Encourage each other and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). When it comes to fortifying your faith, few things can compare to regular contact with your small group. If you are not in a small group, find people who you can share life with and who will support you as you grow in faith.

These four habits will help you stay spiritually fit so that you’re ready to be used by God. Which one will you start practicing today?

Advent Love: God With Us

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” — John 1:14

Sometimes it can take a while to understand what is going on around you.

On October 30, 2010, hundreds of shoppers filled Macy’s department store in Philadelphia. It was a normal shopping day until, without any fanfare, over 650 singers, many who were from the Opera Company of Philadelphia Chorus, began singing Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” You may remember seeing this event, which was captured on video and then went viral on the Internet. At first, shoppers appeared confused as the chorus broke out in song. The singers were not on a stage but were interspersed among the shoppers. This “random act of culture” may have looked spontaneous, but it took some effort to make this event happen.

When Jesus appeared on earth, it initially looked like a random birth to many. Though a few people knew of Jesus’ coming, most were unaware of the plans that had been made in heaven in order to bring about this cosmic event.

The Gospel of John gives us a glimpse into the long-term planning that went into bringing Jesus to us. The birth of Christ was more than a simple occasion of a young woman giving birth in a stable, to which shepherds and wise men came to visit. This was an event that God had perfectly choreographed to rescue people from all nations. This was part of God’s plan from the time when Adam and Eve fell into sin, way back in the Garden of Eden. This was a masterpiece of love in which Jesus left his place in heaven to walk the dusty roads of earth.

Let’s rejoice, for God made his dwelling among us! And he did that for you and me!

We praise you for your great plans and works of salvation, Lord Jesus. Help us to see the amazing love you have shown in coming to be with us and save us. Amen.

Advent Love: Come Let Us Adore Him

We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”Matthew 2:2

Imagine what those Magi were thinking as they came to Jerusalem. Looking for a child worthy of adoration, they might well have dropped in at the temple to look for clues about the child’s identity.

But the Magi would have been disappointed, even shocked, by the welcome they received there. They would not have been allowed further into the temple than the outer court. Signs on the walls would have told these Gentiles that they risked death if they went any further.

But the Magi had come to worship. And days later, in Bethlehem, as they stepped into the presence of Jesus, they experienced worship in a way that temple visitors could only anticipate. For as the Magi drew near to Jesus, they entered into the presence of God, a reality only previously experienced by the priests that entered the Most Holy Place in the temple.

The Most Holy Place represented the heavenly throne room of God. Now, coming into the presence of the Christ child, the Magi were entering into the presence of the divine King. In that visit the words of Isaiah 60:3 were finding fulfillment: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

On this Christmas Eve, many of us will gather for worship. Some of us may sing carols by candlelight, others will watch the retelling of the Christmas story and some may even share a communion meal. However we worship, let us enter the throne room of the King with adoration and rejoice in the access we have to our almighty God. Today, join the Magi. Join the worship!

Lord, on this Christmas Eve, don’t allow us to hang back. By your Spirit, bring us up close to Jesus so that we may adore your great gift and honor him as our Savior. Amen.

Advent Love: Jesus Friend Of Sinners

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.” — Matthew 11:19

Jesus is the greatest expression of God’s love for you and me. Jesus is full of compassion. He became a friend of sinners and ate with tax collectors, who were seen as traitors and thieves. He visited the homes of people rejected by society. He embraced children, touched lepers, healed the sick, and fed the hungry. His love was countercultural.

Today, Jesus’ love, compassion, and concern for each one of us is no different. He knows our pain, sees our tears, and listens to our cries. He knows our past and sees our future. He knows our feelings, reads all our thoughts, and guides our dreams.

And because of the love we receive from Jesus, we are called to follow in his footsteps. As you prepare for Christmas, how will you show the countercultural love of Jesus? Will you dine this week with “sinners, traitors, or thieves”? Will you respond to those in need? Will you prepare food for those who are hungry? And if you do, how will you do it in a way that shines the love of God?

Beloved Father, even when my heart was marked by spiritual misery, you never stopped loving me. Help me step away from what is safe and comfortable, and be willing to love others as we celebrate the boundless love of Jesus this Christmas. Amen.

Advent: Loving And Giving

If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”1 John 4:12

Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who kept a diary while hiding from Nazi soldiers during their occupation of the Netherlands, penned these words: “No one has ever become poor by giving.” Indeed, in many ways we are made spiritually rich by giving.

As we noted yesterday, John 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” tells the whole story of God’s love. In this passage, as well as today’s reading, we notice a common theme that love involves giving. If we love, we give. When we truly have love in our hearts, we are willing to give of our time, energy, finances, and other resources to help and minister to others.

God has shown us love by giving us his Son. And when his love fills our hearts through faith, it transforms us. We become more Christlike and we want to share God’s love in everything we do. Giving during the Christmas season is an easy and organic way to live into God’s message of love. Whether you give time, money, effort, or mercy, you are reflecting God’s love.

Through giving, we also find we are blessed with the spiritual richness of knowing that “if we love one another, God lives in us.”

Lord, during this Christmas season fill our hearts with your love so that we long to give. May the gifts we offer to you and others reflect the love and Spirit of Christ working in us. Amen.

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