I HAVE MOVED

Hello all! In case you didn’t get the word, I have moved to http://www.keithlbell.com!! Since moving there, my subscribers have tipped the 14,000 readers scale! Join me there and get a FREE eBook “Your Eternal Security”, a 30-Day dEvotional!

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God bless,
-Keith

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Victim or Victor?

When allowing people to speak into your situation, be very careful not to let them set you up to play victim for the rest of your life.

There is not much more validation you will need in order to adopt better (or worse) feelings about yourself (or others) than when someone you see as an authority speaks to you.  Their words can make you play the victim or be the victor. The world is full of sincere, well-meaning, even Christian counsel; and there is a place for it, as long as it is biblical, and it truly frees you to love even your enemies.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Outside The Sanctuary

Have you ever been really disappointed with someone? Maybe a friend, a spouse or other acquaintance really let you down. Honestly, how did you treat them?

madatgod2

Did you give them the cold shoulder or the silent treatment for a period of time? Did you avoid them? Maybe you even tried to get revenge on them by intentionally appearing to be enjoying the company of anyone else but them.

These responses and others like them are the ways we show our disapproval–our dislike for those we feel have in some way failed us.

Have you lost the excitement you used to have for God’s word, and replaced it with entertainment? Have you begun to spend more time with people who make no time for God in their lives? Have you simply stopped talking to God in daily prayer? Do you no longer whisper breaths of prayer to God in various moments throughout your day?

Let me tell you from my own experiences what may have happened. You likely have stopped going into the sanctuary. And no, I don’t merely mean the local church building.

With the inception of the internet and the social network, we are finding it increasingly possible to travel to places we would probably have never even thought of visiting. But the unfortunate thing about it is that we are usually visiting those places from our computers or other electronic devices.  We are not really in those places, and so we don’t get the whole story.

While the people we look in on seem to be flying high, our lives seem to have never gotten off the ground.  It makes us feel like somewhere along the line, we missed it.  When that happens, it becomes easy for us to think that maybe all the things we gave up when we became Christians was where we actually went wrong.

We long for the life we imagine others are living to the point that it begins to make us frustrated with the God who called us to a very different life. And we shouldn’t think of these feelings as strange. Asaph, one of the writers of the Psalms, experienced some of these same emotions. For example in his thoughts to God he wrote:

…my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked… When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you (Psa. 73:2-3, 21-22, ESV).

Asaph experienced times of great frustration and disdain for the life he was called to live. He was seeing life through the green lenses of envy. And why? Because he let his imagination wander into the realm of those who apparently prospered despite their lack of godliness.

By constantly looking at the world around him and failing to look upon the Savior of the world, Asaph found himself caught up in what went on outside the sanctuary of God; which, in his case, was literally the tent where God was worshiped.

Today, while there are more than enough church buildings in the world, the sanctuary Asaph worshiped in pointed to the ultimate sanctuary that would not be assembled with human hands, but the sanctuary that would be (or not be) in our hearts. The Lord spoke of it himself in a conversation with a Samaritan woman.  He said:

Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

Asaph didn’t have the clarity of understanding that Christ gives us today, but there came a point in his life when he realized that his perception was severely flawed. When did he discover that fact? He tells us:

But when I thought how to understand [why the wicked prosper], it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.

Christian (or would-be Christian) here’s the point: The reason this world needed a Savior is because the world is fallen. And if the devil had the audacity to tempt that Savior with food, fame, and fortune (see Matt. 4:1-10), then what makes you think that he doesn’t have a system in place to continually tempt you to turn from the God who created you? That is why you and I need to enter the sanctuary of God each new day, and endeavor to linger there as we go about our daily occupations.

Israel had to set up the tent of worship and then disassemble and pack it all up whenever God was ready for them to move on to a new location. Today, we don’t have to do all of that because the Lord desires to make our hearts his sanctuary. And all we have to do once we’ve trusted in him for salvation is meet with him each new day he gives through prayer and the obedient study of his word, taking what he gives and allowing it to influence our choices throughout the day.  If we do this we will be well on our way to gaining the true perspective about our lives, the lives of those around us, and those around the world.

Like Asaph, we will understand better, and we will gain a real (rather than virtual) appreciation for life as we begin to live out God’s reason for making us. We will find it virtually impossible to get angry with a God who has so much in store for us..

You don’t have to live outside of the sanctuary of God when God desires to make your heart his sanctuary!

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Who Made This?

CafeCieloStarbucksPhotoArtist: Tenaya Fritts

Have you ever wondered like me how they get those nicely drawn blackboard advertisements in Starbucks? I am somewhat of an artist myself; or I’d at least like to think that I am.  So if I am traveling and I pop into a Starbucks, I immediately look for the blackboards for two reasons: to see what they are brewing and to also admire the artwork.  I often find myself both enjoying how nice they look and wondering who the artist might be.

Maybe I overthought it, but I even wondered if Starbucks had assigned local artists to each area who just popped into stores whenever it had a new promotion coming up and he or she just churned out the items the store needed and then moved on to the next location. Read the rest of this entry »

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Death or Life… What Gives?

lifeanddeathWhen it comes to life and death, what gives anyway?  I mean, since the dawn of time, people have been “searching for the meaning of life”, right?  And truth be told (relative truth, that is…), various people throughout history have “discovered” life’s meaning and have even documented their discoveries.  Yet many, if not most of them, have very different answers; so who’s right?

Well, rather than tossing my brain into a blender of esoteric answers to that greatest of questions, I decided to simply take a good hard look at life and death.  And you know what I found?  I discovered to my amazement that life gives, and death takes.  Wow!

All jokes aside, as I pondered life and death more, I came to the conclusion that maybe that was the reason why Jesus said that he came not only to give life, but that you and I might have it in super-abundance—life that keeps on giving life, and giving life (see John 10:10)!  Or maybe it’s why Jesus also stated emphatically that his heavenly Father was not the God of the dead, but of the living (Mark 12:26).

And what else did Jesus say to support that simple statement?  He also told those who didn’t quite understand what life and death were about that they were wrong in their assumptions about the resurrection of the dead.  He reminded them of where God said, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”.  Notice that Jesus spoke of the relationship of these three patriarchs with his Father in the PRESENT tense.  This was to signify that they were alive and well because by faith in Him they have eternal life!  God IS, not was, the God of the living (that keeps on giving!).

So what is the meaning of life?  I believe that we who are in Christ will spend eternity learning more and more about life’s true definition, which starts with the word “Jesus”.  But one thing’s for sure, life gives and death takes.  So maybe we should consider re-phrasing some of our statements on the topic.

For instance, we continually hear people say, “Life stinks!” or “Life sucks!” don’t we?  Well, the reality of it all is that death stinks in how it makes surviving loved-ones feel when it takes a person from them, not to mention how it makes a corpse begin to smell!  And death also sucks the life out of everything it possibly can, doesn’t it?

So maybe we can start placing more blame on death, where it really belongs and instead start giving life more credit.  Death takes and life gives!  And the only reason why we can place any sort of blame on life is because there is sin in the world.  Remember, Adam and Eve forfeited the “Tree of Life”, and allowed death to come in to take paradise away!

But don’t be dismayed!  Jesus, the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), has prevailed in regaining all that the first Adam lost and infinitely more!  And again, as before, he totally intends to give it all to you Christian… and to whoever you and I can lovingly lead to faith in Him!

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SUBMIT YOUR QUIT!

MMA_SubmissionHoldHave you ever had occasion to watch the sport known as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)?  Are you as amazed as I am at the levels of endurance that must be required to make it through one of those crazy matches?  Though knockout punches and kicks are pretty impressive, I am awestruck at some of the techniques that MMA fighters use to grapple with each other while down on the mat.

And as they fight, they, through brute strength, quickness and flexibility, often find themselves tied in what looks like knots.  I cannot imagine constantly having to fight at such close quarters.  Equally impressive to me are some of the intuitive ways a fighter maneuvers himself to be able to place a submission hold on his opponent that is impossible to escape.

Sometimes a fight can go on round after round all the way down to the final seconds and then one wrong move can land a great fighter in the clutches of an underdog’s “Arm Bar” or “Rear Naked Choke”, and in just seconds, the fight is over because the loser was “submitted” before his arm was broken or before he was choked unconscious.

In our lives as Christians, there is often nothing that we have to wrestle with more than the continual temptation to quit living life or handling particular circumstances the way Christ intended.  Far too many of us give up or give in when things get uncomfortable.  But Jesus promised us that our lives would continually have such difficulties (Jn. 16:33).

So what do we do about that promise?  It is as good as gold because Jesus said it!  And let’s be honest, we all, by personal experience, know it’s true.  But through his word, the Lord has made us other great promises and has given us other important exhortations that we know are equally true.

For example, the apostle Paul tells us that we are spiritual wrestlers, fighting a spiritual warfare against supernatural forces, (Eph. 6:12), who are using natural means to try to “submit” us like weak and unprepared MMA fighters facing a menacing champion.  But because we can do all things through “Christ’s” strength (Phil. 4:13), rather than quit, we need to condition ourselves to submit our quits!

Here are a few things we can use the letters of the word “QUIT” to remind us of before we tap-out in submission to whatever would threaten our ability to live the abundant Christian life:

  • “Q” is for Question!  Take the time to question your motives for quitting.  But even more importantly than questioning your motives, you should ask yourself, “Are the long-term benefits of quitting truly more valuable than staying the course?”  “Do I stand to lose more if I quit, than if I continue to strive for victory despite the difficulty?  (See Heb. 12:2 and I Pet. 5:10 before you quit!)
  • “U” is for Understand!  Make sure that you have as accurate an understanding of the situation as possible before you give up.  Doing that is called WISDOM.  God’s word says it is the principle thing to live by.  And God is more than willing to give it to you if you truly want it.  (See Prov. 4:7 and Jas. 1:5 before you quit!)
  • “I” is for Identify!  First, always try your best to identify with the other parties involved.  You may never know all of their motivations, but you must remember that there is always more to them than meets your eye—and NEWSFLASH! It is not always bad!  Secondly, and most importantly, seek to identify the things in you that might also be causing some of the difficulties you are facing.  Truth is, we often see others faults better then we see our own; and there is a very good reason why… It has something to do with a plank, beam, or 2×4 and the ocular area.  (Try to see Matt. 7:3-5 if you can before you quit!)
  • “T” is for Tell-Jesus!  I thought about letting “T” represent something like “try” or “tough-it-out”, but I just didn’t get much peace with that one.  Christian!  If you want to quit doing something that deep down inside you know is worthwhile to God, to others and perhaps even yourself, then try telling Christ that you are about to quit doing it.  And make sure that you also tell him that you are deciding to tough-it-out alone—that you don’t need his help.  This is perhaps the most honest thing anyone of us can ever do when we feel like giving up. Why? Because it takes it all back to our source who says, “Without me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).  Yet, it is he who will also remind us, if we are willing to hear it, that we can still do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13)!

So Christian, please don’t quit until you really attempt to DO IT!  Do what?  SUBMIT YOUR QUIT by faith in the omnipotent power of the Christ at work in you (Eph. 3:20)!  The temptation to quit is going to always step up to challenge you.  So don’t be surprised!  It is when we get too comfortable and used to the good times that we make a wrong move and find ourselves gripped with fear and ready to give up.  But we have all that we need in Christ to submit that desire to quit to the God who never gives up on us!

Question:  Does this information encourage or discourage you to persevere?  How?

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The Labor of Waiting Patiently on The Lord

Rushing At Mount Sinai, (Exodus 24:15-18), Moses went up alone to meet with the LORD.  It was only after patiently waiting for six whole days in a thick mist that covered the mountain that on the seventh day Moses heard God’s voice call to him out of the cloud.  Then… Moses spent another 40 days in solitude with the LORD!

The result was the production of arguably one of the most influential written pieces ever known–a document  that every civilized society since has essentially ruled itself by.

We live in a very hurried world today where people find it almost impossible to wait for things.  They sacrifice so much of the precious gifts of peace and quiet meditation for the quick response or result.

Don’t discount the value of getting alone and waiting quietly and intentionally to hear what the LORD might want you to know.  Do it daily.  It will change your world.  “Wait, I say, on the LORD.”

You may feel like you are losing ground in the rat-race as you make those precious pit-stops for God’s guidance.  But remember, God also says that the first shall be last…
(e.g., Matthew 20:1-16)

QUESTION:  What is a time or situation where you really wished you had waited on the Lord before you took action?  (please respond by leaving a reply below):

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