The good news is that God not only played favorites with Israel, he holds you as the apple of his eye, too. How so? When you came to Christ trough faith, God took all the love he displayed for Israel, and for his Son, and he placed it on you. Now you ...

 

The Apple Of God’s Eye

The good news is that God not only played favorites with Israel, he holds you as the apple of his eye, too. How so? When you came to Christ trough faith, God took all the love he displayed for Israel, and for his Son, and he placed it on you. Now you are the one he loves.

Enduring Truth // Focus: Psalm 17:8

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.

Did you know that God has favorites? The Bible tells us that he held the nation of Israel as the apple of his eye. Really—you can read that in Deuteronomy 32:9-11 and Zechariah 2:7-9.

The good news is that God not only played favorites with Israel, he holds you as the apple of his eye, too. How so? Through Christ’s blood shed on the cross for you! You see, when you came to Christ through faith, God took all the love he displayed for Israel, and for his Son, and he placed it on you. Now you are the one he loves.

An inspiring writer by the name of Brennan Manning tells the story of an Irish priest who was on a walking tour of his rural parish one day. And there by the roadside he found an old man, a peasant, kneeling in prayer. The priest was quite impressed, so he walked over and interrupted the man: “You must be very close to God.”

The peasant looked up from his prayers, thought for a moment, smiled and said, “Yes, he’s very fond of me.”

This simple man had a simple faith that revealed a profound self-awareness of his true identity—he knew he was loved by God, and that was all that mattered! Manning developed his own personal declaration from that touching story. He would say of himself, “I am the one Jesus loves.”

It sounds a little arrogant, but he’s actually quoting Scripture. Jesus’ closest friend, John, identified himself in his Gospel as, “the one Jesus loved.” If you were to ask John, “What is your primary identity in life?” he wouldn’t reply, ‘I’m one of Jesus’ disciples—actually one of the three in his inner circle!” He wouldn’t say, “I’m one of the twelve apostles.” Nor would he identify himself as “the author of the Gospel that bears my name. As a matter of fact, I wrote the original ‘Left Behind’ book—Revelation.” Rather, John would simply say, “I am the one Jesus loves.”

I hope that you, too, will take to saying that. More importantly, I pray that you will start believing it in your heart, because when you truly grasp how great the Father’s love for you really is, it will change your entire life! Peter Kreeft insightfully wrote, “Sin comes from not realizing God’s love. Sin comes from thinking ourselves only as sinners, while overcoming sin comes from thinking ourselves as overcomers. We act our perceived identities.”

Friend, your identity is the “one Jesus loves”. Now start perceiving it. You are the apple of God’s eye—that is who you are. In fact, your Father is watching over you at this very moment with great delight.

Now go act like that’s true, because it is!

Every day for the next thirty days, declare this truth when you awaken, when you take your lunch break, and before you fall to sleep at night: I am the one Jesus loves. Do it unwaveringly, because it is true!

Thrive: Every day for the next thirty days, declare this truth when you awaken, when you take your lunch break, and before you fall to sleep at night: I am the one Jesus loves. Do it unwaveringly, because it is true!

Not only do we only know God through Jesus Christ, but we only know ourselves through Jesus Christ; we only know life and death through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ we cannot know the meaning of our life or our death, of God or of ourselves.

—BLAISE PASCAL

  

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God, Make Me Ready for the End of Time

52 Simple Prayers for 2018

The Bible is full of promises, —hundreds, perhaps thousands of them, that God has made to his children. Not all of them have been fulfilled, but none of them have been broken. Nor will they ever be. Every promise in scripture will come true—including God’s promise to send to earth his Son a second time. And that promise could be fulfilled today.

Christ will appear a second time, not to bear, sin but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

—HEBREWS 9:28

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A Simple Prayer for End-Time Readiness:

God, make me ready for Christ’s return today. And help me to live each day as if it were my last. Give me a passion for purity, an urgency to share my faith in Jesus, a greater boldness to withstand the pressures of evil, and an unquenchable longing for the return of my Lord and Savior. And yes, on this day, even so, come Lord Jesus.
  

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The Malpractice of Prayer – And How To Avoid It

Getting Real With God

Jesus is calling us out of the legalistic, joyless intimidation of misunderstood and malpracticed prayer and into an authentic, intimate, simple, day-by-day, moment-by-moment practice of the presence of God. This is the kind of prayer that pleases our Father God more than anything. And “when you pray” like that, the Father opens up all of heaven to you!

Enduring Truth // Focus: Matthew 6:5

When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.

In Jesus’ day, prayer had been hijacked. The culprits were the religious leaders and the Pharisee—Jesus called them “hypocrites”. They had turned the simple and wonderful practice of talking to God into a ritualized, formalized, mechanized and stylized event. As a result, something meant to connect people with God had turned into an intimidating, joyless experience since few people were eloquent enough to pull off the impressive public prayers demanded by the spiritual elite.

This misuse and abuse of prayer disgusted Jesus, the master of prayer. So in a teaching moment that was both scathing, yet soothing at the same time, he sat the record straight as to what the kind of prayer that truly pleases God really looked like.

First of all, Jesus taught that God-pleasing prayer is authentic. Jesus said in verse 5, “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them.” The hypocrites—the Pharisees and religious leaders—were pretentious. Their motive for praying was to impress the crowds, but they were anything but real. God wasn’t, and isn’t, impressed by the style or the content of our prayers. He’s moved by our honesty—even if it is not too articulate and especially when it is heartfelt. Jesus is saying that God wants his children to just “get real” before him.

Secondly, Jesus taught that God-pleasing prayer is intimate. Verse 6 says, “when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.” The use of the name “Father” isn’t a mistake. Jesus is painting an altogether different picture of what God intended prayer to be than what man had turned it into. Jesus is referring to a childlike quality and posture that payer is to take before the Father. That’s because God-pleasing prayer is really a parent-child exchange. It is simply being with a Father who longs to be close to his kids.

Finally, Jesus taught that God-pleasing prayer is simple. He said in verse 7, “don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” I can’t help but think if Jesus was here today to teach us about prayer, he would instruct us in the KISS method: Keep it simple, sweetheart!

Jesus is calling us out of the legalistic, joyless intimidation of misunderstood and malpracticed prayer and into an authentic, intimate, simple, day-by-day, moment-by-moment practice of the presence of God. This is the kind of prayer that pleases our Father God more than anything. And “when you pray” like that, the Father opens up all of heaven to you!

Thrive: Practice brutally real, child-to-Father, very simple prayers throughout the day. You will please God more than you know!

Heaven is full of answers to prayers for which no one ever bothered to ask.

—BILLY GRAHAM

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I Don’t Feel Like Going To Church Today

Big Deal—Do It Anyway

Biblically speaking, going to church is a decree, not an option for when we feel like it. As Eugene Peterson says, “Feelings are important in many areas, but completely unreliable in matters of faith.” The surest way to “feel like it” is by doing the very thing you don’t feel like doing—in this case, going to church to give thanks. When we get up and get going to church to give thanks, by faith and in obedience, the result will be that we will develop the best feelings of all: feelings for God!

Enduring Truth // Focus: Psalm 122:1

When they said, “Let’s go to the house of God,” my heart leaped for joy.

The psalmist was talking about going to church, and unlike an increasing number of “Christians” in America, he was excited. Among other things, he was looking forward to gathering with God’s people to “give thanks to the name of God,” according to Psalm 122:5 (MSG). That’s just one of the things, albeit a very important thing, that believers are meant to do.

That is a decree, by the way, not an option for when we feel like it. As Eugene Peterson says, “Feelings are important in many areas, but completely unreliable in matters of faith.” The surest way to “feel like it” is by doing the very thing you don’t feel like doing—in this case, going to church to give thanks. When we get up and get going to church to give thanks, by faith and in obedience, the result will be that we will develop the best feelings of all: feelings for God!

I am told that the average church-goer in the United States now attends their place of worship just a tick under two times per month. Somehow I don’t think that would cut it with the psalmist, who centered his life around the house of God, and I know it doesn’t cut it with God.

God loves it when his family stops by for dinner, and he has so ordered it that we should do that on a regular basis. (Hebrews 10:24-25) One could argue that nowhere does the Bible say that has to be every Sunday, but I would counter that with, first of all, the practice of the church from the beginning, which was gathering for praise, thanks, instruction and encouragement, minimally, every week on the first day. And second of all, those who make that argument have missed the point: Gladness in going to God’s house. If you are finding reasons not to go, and justifying those reasons, it is highly likely that your reservoir of gladness is empty.

If that is the case, I would suggest you go to God and ask him to fill your tank. He is pretty good about doing that. And if you just don’t feel like going to God, or to church, grab your feelings if you have to and drag them with you. When you do, at some point you will make one of the great discoveries in life, a discovery that great people of faith have known for some time: You can act your way into feeling much more quickly than you can feel your way into acting.

Thrive: Put a permanent appointment on your weekly calendar: going to church. And keep that appointment for the rest of your life.

It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting.

— JERRY STERNIN

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God, Pour Out Special Blessings On All Who Serve You

52 Simple Prayers for 2018

We are enamored with celebrity in our culture—even in the Christian world. We elevate TV preachers; we give special attention to pastors of mega-churches; we idolize Christian singers, entertainers and authors of best-selling books. God doesn’t. He is not all that impressed. He isn’t enamored with celebrity, he does not elevate high profile Christians, he is not drawn to talented and successful believers any more than he is to ordinary ones. God sees the little person—the one who faithfully and diligently serves behind the scenes in his kingdom, doing the things no one notices and rarely appreciates. And he will not forget their sacrificial service. Neither should we.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them..

— HEBREWS 6:10

A Simple Prayer To Bless God’s Servants:

God, I pray for a special blessing on all of the people in your kingdom who faithfully, selflessly and sacrificially serve you by serving the church – your people. They are mostly unsung and unnoticed, except by you. So show them a sign of your favor today. Bless them with your abundance. And on that glorious Day, honor them in your presence above all others.
  

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