Do You Act The Same In Public And In Private

God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.”Matthew 5:8

Are you working to build your life on values that last? If you are, you need to learn to live with integrity.

The Bible says in Matthew 5:8, “God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God”

To “see God” means to experience the presence of God. Believers who have pure hearts get to feel the power of God. They experience the pardon of God. They get to know the purpose of God for their lives. They get to live in the peace of God. 

Do you want to be one of those people? We don’t talk a lot these days about being pure in heart, but instead we use a word with a similar meaning “integrity.”

To have integrity does not mean you are perfect because if it did, none of us would have it! So what does it mean to have integrity?

Integrity is wholeness.
A lot of people think of their lives like a pie, and the different parts of their lives are the pieces of the pie. Someone might describe their life like this:

“This slice of the pie is my career. This is my work life. This is my spiritual life. Then this is my family life. That one is my social life. Then over here is my secret life my compulsions, addictions, and the things nobody else knows about.”

When you segment your life like that, you lack integrity because your life is not a whole. Integrity means you’re the same person everywhere and with everybody in your speech, actions, and motives—no matter which part of life you’re walking through.

Integrity is uncorrupted motivation.
When you have integrity, you do the right thing, and you do it for the right reason. You have unmixed, pure motives. You’re sincere and straightforward in every area of your life and with all people. You pray so you can talk with God, not so you can impress other people.

The Bible says, “The Lord detests people with crooked hearts, but he delights in those with integrity”(Proverbs 11:20).

We’re interested in image, but God is interested in integrity. We’re interested in reputation, but God is interested in character. Reputation has to do with what everybody thinks you are; integrity is what you really are. Your reputation is connected to who you appear to be in public; integrity is connected to who you are when you’re all alone with God.

Have you been more concerned about your image and reputation than your character and integrity? Commit to being a person of integrity today.

Make A Plan To Be Merciful

God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”Matthew 5:7

God extends his mercy to us, even though we don’t deserve it and can’t earn it. All we have to do is ask for it: “O Lord, you are so good and kind, so ready to forgive, so full of mercy for all who ask your aid” (Psalm 86:5).

In the pervious devotional, we talked about seven characteristics of mercy. Today, I want to show you some ways to demonstrate those characteristics in your own life.

How can you be merciful?

Be patient with people’s quirks. What person in your life has irritating quirks? How can you practice patience with them this week?

Help anyone around you who is hurting. Who around you is obviously hurting? What’s one specific way you can help that person this week? If you can’t think of anybody, then you’re not paying attention. Look closer!

Give people a second chance. Who do you need to give a second chance to? How can you show that person mercy and compassion this week?

Do good to those who hurt you. Maybe you’re suffering from an old wound that you have not been able to let go of. You need to forgive and then turn it around for good. Who is that person in your life? Will you make a phone call or a visit to them this week?

Be kind to those who offend you. Who offends you? Maybe it’s a politician or a comedian that you can pray for. Maybe it’s a friend who has different views and says some pretty offensive things on social media. How can you be intentional about showing kindness to that person this week?

Build bridges of love to the unpopular. When you think of an outcast, who is the first person that comes to mind? Who spends their lunch breaks eating alone or doesn’t seem to have any friends at soccer games? What specific thing will you do this week to bridge the gap between you and that person with love?

Value relationships over rules. Who is an unbeliever you could invite over for dinner in the next few weeks? Will you then step up and invite that person to church? This is your ministry of mercy.

Think over your answers to all of today’s questions. That’s your plan for showing mercy. God has offered his mercy to you. You’ll experience that mercy in new ways when you start offering it to others.

Seven Characteristics Of Mercy

The wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy.”James 3:17

Would you like to see your relationships transformed? Then become an agent of mercy. 

Here are seven characteristics of mercy that God wants you to learn and apply in your life: 

1. Mercy means being patient with people’s quirks.
How do you become more patient with your kids, spouse, coworkers, or friends? You ask God for his wisdom. The Bible says in James 3:17, “The wisdom from above is . . . peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy”.

2. Mercy means helping anyone around you who is hurting.
You cannot love your neighbor as yourself without being merciful. Proverbs 3:27 says, “Whenever you possibly can, do good to those who need it”and “do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:8).

3. Mercy means giving people a second chance.
When somebody hurts us, we normally want to get even or write that person off. But the Bible says, “Stop being bitter and angry and mad at others . . . Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

4. Mercy means doing good to those who hurt you.
Mercy is giving people what they need, not what they deserve, because that’s what God does with us: “Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back . . . Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36).

5. Mercy means being kind to those who offend you.
You’ve got to be more interested in winning people to Christ than in winning the argument. Jude 1:22-23 says, “Show mercy to those who have doubts . . . even though you are afraid that you might be stained by their sinful lives”.

6. Mercy means building bridges of love to the unpopular.
When the Pharisees questioned why Jesus ate with tax collectors and other unpopular people, Jesus said, “‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (Matthew 9:13).

7. Mercy means valuing relationships over rules.
Romans 13:10 says, “Love fulfills the requirements of God’s law”. If you want to show mercy, put people before policies. Put their needs before procedures. Put relationships before regulations. Choose love over law.

Showing mercy doesn’t always come naturally. And so, in tomorrow’s devotional, we’ll discuss specific ways you can demonstrate mercy in your life.

Four Reasons To Be Merciful

God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”Matthew 5:7

Jesus says in Matthew 5:7, “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy

In other words, you’re going to get what you give. If you want God’s blessing on your life, then you’ve got to learn to be a minister of mercy. 

But why does God expect you to show mercy to others? Why should you be merciful?

Because God has shown you mercy. Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “God’s mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace that you have been saved”.

God wants you to pass on the mercy that you’ve received from him.

Because God commands you to be merciful. Do you want a summary of what life’s all about? Here it is: “The Lord has told you what is good. This is what the Lord requires from you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to live humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Because you’re going to need more mercy in the future. Between now and when you get to heaven, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes—and you’ll need God’s mercy when you do! But you cannot receive what you are unwilling to give. James 2:13 says, “You must show mercy to others, or God will not show mercy to you when he judges you. But the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment”.

Because showing mercy leads to happiness. Look again at Matthew 5:7. It says that God blesses those who are merciful. The word “blessed” also means “happy.” So the more you learn and demonstrate mercy, the more blessed and happier you’re going to be.

If you want to start giving and receiving more mercy, pray this prayer today: 

“Heavenly Father, when I look at the sin and shortcomings in my own life, I’m so grateful for the mercy you have given me. I want to become a merciful person and to give others the same mercy you’ve given me. Give me courage to offer mercy, even in hurtful and painful situations. And let my acts of mercy point others to you. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

How To Stay Hungry For God

You must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment.”1 Peter 2:2

Are you hungry for God?

It’s possible to maintain a spiritual hunger for God for the rest of your life. Here are five ways to sustain a spiritual appetite.

1. Remind yourself how much God loves you.
The more you understand how much God loves you, the more you’re going to love him. The Bible says in Ephesians 3:18-19, “May you have the power to understand . . . how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God”.

2. Stop filling up on junk food.
You are a spiritual being with a God-shaped hole in your heart that only God can fill. When you try to fill it with salary, status, success, passion, possessions, power, prestige, or anything other than God, it’s not going to be fulfilling.

Proverbs 15:14 says, “A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash”.

3. Make knowing God your number one goal.
Happiness is a byproduct of knowing God. Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well”.

4. Get into God’s Word every day.
The Bible is food for your soul. Eating just one meal a week won’t keep your body healthy. In the same way, you need to feed on God’s Word every day.

“You must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment” (1 Peter 2:2).

5. Surround yourself with other believers.
If you hang out with people who only care about politics, you’ll care about politics. If you hang out with people who only care about sports, you’ll care about sports. If you hang out with people whose focus is knowing God, that will become your focus too.

That’s why you need to join a small group of Christians for support—because whatever you talk about when you’re with others is what you’re going to be hungry for. Proverbs 2:20 says, “Follow the steps of the good, and stay on the paths of the righteous”.

How Can You Be Made Right With God

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”Romans 10:9-10

The Bible says in Romans 1:17, “The Good News shows how God makes people right with himself”

How does God make you right with himself? Through Jesus. Here’s an explanation of what that means:

You can’t make yourself righteous.
Heaven is a perfect place. There’s no sin, sadness, evil, or injustice. But here’s the problem: All people are imperfect, and God can’t let sinful people into heaven because then it would be full of sin too.

Romans 3:20 says, “No one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are”.

The only people who think they can keep God’s laws are those that don’t know them because God’s laws are perfect, and none of us are perfect. We cannot be made right on our own, and so God made a plan to rescue us from our sin and bring us into a relationship with him.

God sent Jesus to pay for your sins so you could be declared righteous.
When you break man’s laws, you pay man’s penalty. When you break God’s laws, you pay God’s penalty, which is eternity in hell. Somebody must pay for all the things you’ve done in life that hurt other people, yourself, and God. And so God sent Jesus on a rescue mission. He essentially said, “I’ll send my Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty. He will take your place so you don’t have to go to hell. You can be with me forever.”

Do you understand why the Gospel is called Good News? The Gospel says that everything you’ve ever done or will ever do wrong in life has already been paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross. Through Jesus you can be made right with God. That’s Good News!

The Bible says, “[God] saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5).

You need to accept by faith what God did for you.
To be made right with God, you need to believe and accept by faith that Jesus paid for your sins when he died on the cross. The Bible says, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved” (Romans 10:9-10).

Hallelujah! We all can be saved no matter who we are, what we’ve done, or how long we’ve done it.

Four Ways To Pray Effectively

Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them . . . I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’”Nehemiah 1:8-9

When you pray, it turns your attention toward God and helps you to see that he is bigger and more powerful than any of your concerns. And as you watch God answer your prayers, your faith deepens.

Today I want to talk to you about four ways to pray effectively, based on the life of Nehemiah:

1. Base your request on God’s character. Pray like you know God will answer you. You can say something like, “God, I’m expecting you to answer this prayer because of who you are. You are a faithful God. You are a great God. You are a loving God. You are a wonderful God. You can handle this problem!”

2. Confess the sins you’re aware of. That’s what Nehemiah did. He said, “I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us” (Nehemiah 1:6-7). It wasn’t Nehemiah’s fault that Israel went into captivity. He wasn’t even born when it happened; he was most likely born in captivity. Yet he included himself in the sins of his people. He said, “I’ve been a part of the problem.”

3. Claim the promises of God. Nehemiah prayed to the Lord, saying, “Please remember what you told your servant Moses” (Nehemiah 1:8). Can you imagine saying “remember” to God? Nehemiah reminded God of a promise made to the nation of Israel. In effect, Nehemiah prayed, “God, you warned through Moses that if we were unfaithful, we would lose the land of Israel. But you also promised that if we’d repent, you’d give it back to us.”

Does God have to be reminded? No. Does he forget what he’s promised? No. Then why should you claim God’s promises when you pray? Because it helps you remember what God has promised.

4. Be specific in what you ask for. If you want specific answers to prayer, make specific requests. If your prayers consist of general requests, how will you know if they’re answered?

When you pray, you’re submitting yourself to God’s sovereignty, acknowledging that he is active in all the details of your life and able to provide for your every need. But prayer also brings you into alignment with God’s will, helping you understand how and why he answered the way he did.  

But never doubt this: God answers your prayers.

God Is Always Present, Regardless Of How You Feel

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” Job 1:21

When you are a baby Christian, God gives you a lot of confirming emotions and often answers the most immature, self-centered prayers so you’ll know he exists. But as you grow in faith, he will wean you of these dependencies.

God’s omnipresence and the manifestation of his presence are two different things. One is a fact; the other is often a feeling. It’s a fact that God is omnipresent; he’s always there, even when you’re unaware of him. Even when you don’t feel his presence, you can always trust the fact that God is there. His presence is too profound to be measured just by emotion.

Yes, God wants you to sense his presence, but he’s more concerned that you trust him than that you feel him. We live by faith, not by sight or by our feelings.

The situations that will stretch your faith most will be those times when life falls apart and God is nowhere to be found. This happened to a man named Job. On a single day he lost everything his family, his business, his health, and all his possessions. And then, for 37 chapters in the Old Testament book of Job, God said nothing!

How do you praise God when you don’t understand what’s happening in your life and God is silent? How do you stay connected in a crisis without communication? How do you keep your eyes on Jesus when they’re full of tears? You do what Job did: “Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised’” (Job 1:20-21).

Tell God exactly how you feel. Pour out your heart to him. Unload every emotion that you’re feeling. Job did this when he said, “I can’t be quiet! I am angry and bitter. I have to speak” (Job 7:11).

He cried out when God seemed distant: “Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house” (Job 29:4).

Whether or not you can feel God today, you can trust that he’s there with you. Are you full of doubt, anger, fear, grief, confusion, or questions? Bring it all to God. He is with you, he is for you, and he can handle all your questions and concerns.

The Bible says, “… If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Why Should You Care About Being Right With God

The Good News shows how God makes people right with himself.”Romans 1:17

“Righteousness” is a big word in the Bible. It’s used hundreds of times. For example, the Bible says that God loves righteousness and that God is righteous. It says that one day God is going to judge the world in righteousness. Psalm 23 says that God leads us in the paths of righteousness.

But what in the world does this word “righteousness” really mean?

I once looked it up in a theological dictionary, and its definition went on for 27 pages! But I’ll boil it down to two things: Righteousness is a relationship and a lifestyle.

Righteousness simply means being right with God. Romans 1:17 says, “The Good News shows how God makes people right with himself” The Good News is that God made us right with himself through Jesus’ death as payment for our sins. Because of Jesus’ death, we can have a personal relationship with God.

Righteousness is also a lifestyle. It means living right, as God intends. The Bible says in 1 John 2:29, “All who practice righteousness are God’s true children”

So why should you care about being right with God? Because it’s the only way to live, and it’s the only way to heaven.

When you are disconnected from God, you’re not really living; you’re just existing. Most people in the world aren’t really fully alive. They just exist, trying to make it to the weekend. But to be disconnected from your Creator who made you for a purpose is nonsense.

Life is not about the acquisition of things or the achievement of goals. Life is about getting to know God the one who loves you and made you for a purpose. You’re not really living until you’re right with God and have a relationship with him.

Righteousness is also the way you get to heaven. God created heaven as a place for his children whom he loves, and he wants you to be with him forever. He wants you to be in heaven, but he’s not going to force you to go to heaven. You can choose to be disconnected from God here on Earth, but when your life on Earth is done, you will not be given a second chance to choose where you spend eternity.

God gives you the choice right now to have a relationship with him. He wants you to choose to love him! And when you do, you will be made right with him. It will change your life here on Earth and for eternity!

Learn How To Be Gentle By Walking With Jesus

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:28-29

Gentleness is important for so many reasons. It defuses conflict. It disarms critics. It’s persuasive. It’s attractive. It communicates love.

Most importantly, gentleness makes you more like Jesus. In Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”.

Do you feel weary and burdened today? Do you want to find rest and be at peace instead? Rest and peace come from being like Jesus from being gentle.

You can’t just walk out your door and force yourself to be gentle. Gentleness needs to be an “inside job.” It should be the fruit of God’s Spirit in you. Jesus is gentle, and when you walk alongside him, you’ll learn to be gentle too. 

For more than 30 years now, I’ve prayed the same prayer almost every day: “Lord, help me to treat people the way Jesus would.” Why? Because I am not by nature a gentle person. So I have to let God produce gentleness in my life.

Here are three simple ways for you to practice gentleness with God’s help this week:

1. When somebody serves you, be understanding, not demanding.
Then next time you’re in a long line at a government office or coffee shop, be considerate be understanding of the person who eventually helps you.

2. When somebody disagrees with you, be tender without surrender.
You’ll never get your point across by being cross. You don’t have to back down from God’s truth, but you can treat people with gentleness and respect. 

3. When somebody disappoints you, be gentle, not judgmental.
Ephesians 4:32 says it like this: “Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you”.

As you walk alongside Jesus and put these things into practice every day, you’ll find yourself becoming gentler and more like Jesus.

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