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Christian Thoughts

Simple reminders of God's love and some of His truths!

Listening to God

There will be constant choices you must make throughout a day on how to live. The beautiful thing when you make God the king of your life, is that He will make the decisions for you. He will tell you whether option A or option B is the better choice. He will warn you when you need to flee from something that might be tempting you. He will always give you the answers that you need.
The difficult thing, is to listen. I know as I say all of this, some of you are thinking “well God hasn’t answered this prayer I’ve been praying for weeks.” Did He not answer it, or did you just not give Him a chance to speak? I know in my prayer life, I spend most of the time talking. It’s easy to do that, to go to God and thank Him for the blessings He’s given you that day, then to list your requests to Him, then be done praying. Do you ever stop after laying your requests before Him to actually listen to His answer? Or do you just assume He is going to shine bright lights on the choice you need to make?
God will give you all the answers you could ever need in life. We have some responsibilities in order to know those answers. We have to know Him, through prayer and through His Word. Do you ever wonder why those are the two cliché things a new believer is told to focus on, or someone who is struggling in their faith? It’s because the Bible is God’s love letter to us, and it tells us about who He is and how we need to live. Prayer is our communication with God. Just like any relationship though, it can’t be one sided where we are the only ones talking. You have to stop for a minute and actually listen if you want to hear what God is trying to tell you.

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Flee from Temptation (4 of 4)

The last thing we can take from this passage is that sometimes we have to just run away. Joseph didn’t try to talk to this woman to make her sensible about what she was trying to do. He didn’t just ignore her and hope she would go away. He didn’t just stop and pray and assume that was all he needed to do. He took the action needed. He ran from the situation, because he knew that if he stayed, he might not be strong enough to keep resisting Potiphar’s wife.
I think it’s easy when facing a temptation, to just pray about it and hope that all of a sudden God will just take away that temptation. That if we’re living for God and praying about the things we need to pray about, all of a sudden everything is going to instantly fall into place. I know that sometimes I forget that I have to be responsible for my own actions. In 2 Corinthians, Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn in his side, whatever it was that was tempting him. God refused saying “My grace is sufficient for you.”
Temptation isn’t something that is just going to instantly go away when you pray about it. However, God tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:13, that “He will also provide you a way out so that you can endure it.” I think there are two very important things to learn from this verse. The first being that God gives us a way to escape. There is never going to be a temptation for you that you are completely unable to see how you can resist it. You have to be the one that takes that way out though. God will provide it, He gives us that promise. That’s just like the free gift of salvation. God freely offers it to us, but we must be the ones to take it.
The second thing from the verse we can learn is the key word right at the end. “Endure.” God doesn’t promise us a way out so that we will never again struggle with that temptation. He provides a way out so that we may endure, stand up against, keep fighting against that temptation. We are the ones that must be taking the action needed to take that way out. We are the ones that might need to run out of the house like Joseph did.
We are so willing to run around like a madman when we are late for work or school in the morning. We don’t concern ourselves with what other people think of us when we’re rushing around because we’re late for something. If we don’t mind running from our bedroom when we are late, then why don’t we run from it when we are tempted? Even if it looks crazy to everyone around us, maybe the only way we can resist temptation is if we completely remove ourselves from it and just run. I believe that’s why Joseph had to run. If he wasn’t tempted by this woman, he wouldn’t have had to. He was so tempted, that he knew if he stayed, he would sin against God. He took the way out that God provided, by running out of the house. It didn’t immediately benefit him, but it was all part of God’s larger plan to eventually lead him to be second in command of Egypt. What big part of God’s plan might you be able to play into if you stopped worrying about what looked normal to the world, and instead ran from temptation when it showed up into God’s way out?

Flee from Temptation (3 of 4)

The next thing we can learn from this story is that when we do the right thing and follow God and resist temptation, it might not always work out the best for us right away.
Look at what happened to Joseph in verse twenty. He was thrown into prison because he followed God and refused to sleep with a man’s wife. I’ve been around people who were tempting me to do things, that when I said no, said things to me that cut me to the core. I’ve lost friendships because I chose to follow God rather than other people. I’m willing to bet that any of you that have said “no” to a temptation have ended up being hurt because of that initially.
We must remember who is in charge though. We must remember who sees the whole picture, and who works all things for good. Joseph knew that, and even when he was locked up in prison, God blessed him in everything he did. So much so that the warden put Joseph in charge of the whole prison. That didn’t happen the first night that Joseph was in prison. That happened after he remained faithful to God, even in hard circumstances, despite never having done anything wrong.
Don’t give up fighting a temptation simply because things are looking down initially. We don’t get to see the big picture, but God does. God blessed Joseph because he continually chose to follow God rather than himself. It didn’t happen overnight. The temptation didn’t go away instantly, and nothing good came from his resistance to that temptation immediately. It was a gradual blessing God poured down onto Joseph.

Flee from Temptation (2 of 4)

This was not the first time that Potiphar’s wife had come to Joseph to try and seduce him. Verse 39:10 says that “she spoke to Joseph day after day.” It wasn’t a one-time event, it was something he had to endure every single day. That’s one of the worst things about temptation. You can fight it successfully for a month straight, but then that next day it still shows up. 1 Corinthians 10:12 tells us “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.” That reminds us that even if we have seen victory against a temptation for days, weeks, months, even years, it can still creep up on us when we least expect it. We must always be on guard against our temptations.
How can we do that? How can we be on our guard? Well, Joseph refused to be with Potiphar’s wife. He completely stayed away from her. Maybe if you struggle with drinking, you don’t need to go to parties where there will be alcohol. If you’re tempted to speed when you drive, perhaps you should leave five minutes earlier. Maybe if you are tempted to look up inappropriate things on the internet, you don’t need a computer or phone in your private room where you can be all alone. You know what your temptations are, what you specifically struggle with. What would your life look like if you did everything you could to get rid of those temptations?
Be warned though, no matter how much you try to prevent temptation, it will still find a way. Joseph went into the house, doing his normal duties for the day when Potiphar’s wife presented herself to him. He had stayed away from her as best he could, but she still showed up. You might be thinking, “well why should I bother setting up guards against temptation if they’re just going to show up anyway?” You won’t be able to get rid of temptation completely, but maybe you can limit how often you do get tempted. Maybe you can keep it from being a weekly struggle, a daily struggle, an hourly struggle.

Flee From Temptation (1 of 4)

How many of you have ever overslept an alarm? Or maybe your alarm didn’t go off, or you forgot to set it. When you look at the time once you wake up though, you realize you need to be out the door in under five minutes if you want to be on time to work or school or wherever it is you need to go. Maybe you’re eating your breakfast the same time you’re buttoning your shirt, and you’re putting your shoes on as you brush your teeth. You go running out of your door, and everyone else in the household looks at you like you’re crazy because you’re just sprinting off. If you’ve never experienced anything like this, then you are a very lucky individual because I know that I have. We don’t have time to worry about the people looking at us like we’re crazy though, because we are in such a rush to get to where we need to be.
What if our lives looked like that with God? What if we were so concerned about getting to God, that we didn’t concern ourselves with whether or not we looked weird or strange to other people. Joseph didn’t concern himself with looking weird in Genesis 39. Potiphar’s wife repeatedly tried to seduce him, and eventually, he “ran out of the house” (39:12). He wasn’t concerned with how he looked, he was only concerned with getting away from a tempting situation so that he didn’t sin against God.

A Woman of Noble Character

The final chapter in Proverbs discusses a woman with noble character. It starts out quickly by saying that “her husband has full confidence in her” (31:11) and that she “works with eager hands” (31:13). These two things culminate throughout the rest of the chapter as it describes all the various things that she accomplishes. She does a little bit of everything throughout the chapter, and it is all profitable for her. Part of that is because she works so hard. She works with eager hands. To me, that means that she isn’t just working hard, but that she desires to do her very best day in and day out. That she can’t wait for each day to begin so that she can once again provide for those she loves, and help everyone out that she is able to.
Although that eager and dedicated work ethic is important, it is not the primary reason for her work prospering so much. That reason is found in verses thirty and thirty-one: “but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” It’s because she is honoring God in her work that He is blessing her in all the things that she does. Now let me clarify real quick that just because you honor God in your work, that doesn’t mean you’re going to become a millionaire. It does mean that God will bless your endeavors. Blessings aren’t always financial, and in a Biblical sense, they rarely are.
This chapter is an example of the blessings when you work for God’s honor and glory. This woman is a wife to a man who has absolute confidence in her. That trusts her completely in all the things that she does. She has knowledge in a large variety of areas because she works so hard and is obviously eager to learn. This is the kind of person to strive to be when working. Don’t work just because you have to work. Yes, we all have to make money in order to survive. Go to your job or to school with an eagerness to learn. With an eagerness to do your very best. When you do that, you will be bringing glory and honor to God in whatever situation you might currently be in.

 

A Man’s Prayer

Proverbs thirty begins with a man crying out to God. His prayer begins by him saying “I am weary, God (30:1). I think this alone shows a fantastic way to begin praying to God when things may not be going your way. Maybe they are going your way overall, you’re just having a tough time with something specific. Society teaches men that they must be strong and independent and never show any sign of weakness. Don’t you dare cry or people will look down on you as if you were weak and not really a man. Yet here is this man, Agur, beginning his prayer by simply stating that he is weary, worn out, exhausted. This demonstrates the need to be honest with God. He already knows how you are feeling, but there is such a huge difference when you actually open up to Him in prayer and tell Him what you are feeling, whether good or bad.
A few verses later, and throughout this chapter, Agur demonstrates that he knows what it is that he needs in his life right now. In verse eight, he asks God for two things. The first is to “keep falsehood and lies far from me.” How wonderful would it be to live in a world where we didn’t have to figure out when someone was telling us the truth or not? This man is aware that there are liars and deceivers all around the world, so he is simply asking God to keep those people far from him so that he can focus on truth.
The second thing that Agur asks God for is his daily bread. He specifies that he wants “neither poverty or riches” (30:8). He goes on in verse nine to explain why he wants that, and it’s because he doesn’t want to gain an ego and pride from being rich, and he doesn’t want to steal and break God’s commandments if he is poor. This again is a great example of how to pray to God. Don’t just list the things you need or want to Him, tell Him why those desires are in your heart. This man is opening his heart up to God throughout this prayer, not holding anything back. That is the way we are supposed to be in our relationship with God. We aren’t supposed to hold things back, to keep things to ourselves. If we want to have a true and genuine relationship with our Lord and Savior, we must be willing to open up our hearts to Him, and bare everything to Him without holding anything back.

 

Forgiveness

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”                                     Ephesians 4:32
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”                                    Romans 5:8
Forgiveness can be a difficult thing. There are some deep hurts and pains that aren’t easy to get over. Ephesians 4:32 gives us three straight forward commands from God. Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving. Being kind and compassionate are left at just that, but He gives us further instructions on how to forgive. We are supposed to forgive others the same way that Christ forgave us. How did Christ forgave us? Romans 5:8 tells us that.
“While we were still sinners.” Not once we were nice and kind and loving and treated God like the God He is. While we were still living away from Him in sin, He died for us. He calls us to treat others that same way. Even if the other person is not sorry, or they are still trying to hurt us more than they already have, we are still called in Ephesians to forgive the way God forgives us.
You are only responsible for your own actions. Forgiveness doesn’t exist only when everyone affected apologizes and everyone else forgives. Forgiveness as far as you are concerned, is that you apologize when you need to apologize, and you forgive when others hurt you, whether they are sorry or not. You do everything you can to make things right, but you are only responsible for your own actions, not theirs. This is definitely not an easy process, but you have an almighty God to walk through it with you.

 

The Lord’s Plans

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
Proverbs 16:9
Everybody makes plans for their days, weeks, even their overall lives. You make decisions to go to school, or to go to work, or to pursue a passion you’ve had since you were a child. As a child, I’m willing to bet you had a dream job at some point. Perhaps it was to be a star athlete, or a musician, or a movie star, or an astronaut, or some other crazy awesome career. As you grew up, you may or may not have pursued that dream, or it might have changed to another dream. Regardless of what that dream is, you make plans for your life. You make choices and decisions so that you will get to a point where you want to be. Even if your choices aren’t leading you down your top choice of possible futures, or even a top ten, you’re still making them so you can provide for yourself or maybe even others.
How many of your life altering decisions include God in the decision making? How many of your small decisions include God? Do you ever ask what step He wants you to be taking next? Do you follow your own path, pursuing what you want most, or what God wants for you? Romans 8 discusses how much better God knows us than we know ourselves, and how He can work every single circumstance for something good. The issue with that is that you have to let Him. If you continually do what you want, ignoring God’s will, then you won’t end up in the best possible circumstance. It might be a great future you can line up for yourself, a fantastic one you’ve always dreamed of, but God knows if there is an even better life out there for you. He knows exactly what you need. The great thing is: if you ask Him, He’ll direct your steps towards the best possible outcome. It might not always be easy, or obvious, or even look sensible, but God sees the whole picture. He can see where a decision leads in twenty years, when we don’t even know what it will look like tomorrow. No matter what decision you might be making, no matter how big or how small it might seem, ask God what He wants you to do in that situation. I guarantee it will be the best possible answer. It might not look that way at first, but stick to God and His will for you, and everything will work out.

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