USING YOUR GIFT FOR THE RIGHT PURPOSES (2)

Your young men shall see visions. – Acts 2:17

Andrés Segovia was born in Southern Spain and began playing guitar as a small child. In those days the guitar was little more than a folk instrument. Serious composers and musicians didn’t respect it. But Segovia saw potential in the guitar for classical music. He began studying the techniques of classical musicians who played the violin and cello. Then he applied those techniques to his playing and developed other methods on his own. He adapted the compositions of masters such as Bach, and learned to play them on his instrument. In 1909, Segovia made his debut—at the age of 16. In 1919, he

toured the world and won over the classical establishment.

Soon, for the first time, composers were writing classical music for the guitar and a whole new kind of music was born. Over the course of nearly 80 years, Segovia completely changed people’s perception of his instrument. But like many big dreams that become realized, his dream made an impact far beyond what he imagined. It could be argued that his efforts opened the door for the guitar, not only to the concert hall but also to the jazz band. That in turn led to the electrically amplified guitar. If you’ve enjoyed the music of the Beatles or Eric Clapton, then thank Andrés Segovia. If it wasn’t for his dream the music of the 20th century may have gone in an entirely different direction.

Big oaks grow from little acorns. When you discover your God-given gift and commit to it, there’s no telling how far you’ll go or what kind of impact you’ll make.



USING YOUR GIFT FOR THE RIGHT PURPOSES (1)

You are a chosen people… to tell… the wonderful acts of God.  Peter 20.9 CEV

Raised amidst arguments and money problems, Rich Stearns decided that education was his ticket out. Scholarships and hard work got him into Cornell University, then earned him an MBA from Wharton. Business came easy to Rich and he eventually became the CEO for Parker Brothers and Lenox China. He had it all: big house, nice family and secure job. So why did he still feel unfulfilled? He knew what his skill was: management. He knew where to use it: big organizations. But why? He considered becoming a missionary but didn’t see how God could use someone whose strengths were budgets and flow charts. In 1998 when World Vision invited him to be their CEO, he declined. It would be career suicide to move his family across the country, take a 75% pay cut and assume the reins of a ministry! But they persisted. When board member Bill Hybels told Rich, “This is a chance to marry your gifts with God’s call.. -to enter the zone in which you were made to live,” Rich prayed, weighed his options, and accepted.

Looking back Rich Stearns says, “This is the fulfillment of who I was created to be… I’ve found my stride.. . I wonder why I waited 23 years.” And World Vision has no regrets either.  During his first 6 years their annual budget doubled, making it the largest relief organization in the world. It’s amazing what happens when you use your gifts “to tell.. .the wonderful acts of God.” So, what are you doing with your gifts?



RIVERS AND RESERVOIRS (2)

Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a [constant reminder] before God.  Acts 10:4 NIV

The things you do for others don’t go unnoticed. God is keeping track of every single one. He “doesn’t miss anything. He knows…the love you’ve shown…by helping” (Heb 6:10 TM). God heard the kind words you spoke to that person who was hurting. He saw your sacrificial giving when you could least afford it. By doing what you did you paved the way for God to help you. He’s storing it all up so that in your time of need you’ll have a rich account to draw on.

The Bible speaks about a Roman soldier named Comelius, a “good man.. .always helping people in need” (Ac 10:2 TM). And what happened to Cornelius? His family became the first Gentile household to hear and receive the gospel. What a payoff! Why did God pick Cornelius? Because of his generous spirit, “An angel.. .came to him and said… ‘Your.. .gifts.. .have come up as a [constant reminder] before God.”‘

A lady was praying about starting a pet grooming business but couldn’t afford to advertise. So she went to her local animal shelter and volunteered to groom the pets in order to help increase their chances for adoption. Interestingly, the harder she worked the more her own business grew by word of mouth. Finally she ended up with more clients than she could handle! Does that mean if you don’t help others God won’t help you? No, thankfully His love is unconditional. But a missed opportunity to give is a missed opportunity to receive, because when you are generous with others God promises to be generous with you.



RIVERS AND RESERVOIRS (1)

Be stingy and lose everything. The generous…prosper.  Proverbs 11:24-25 NLT

One reason the Dead Sea is a big tourist attraction is because it’s got such high mineral concentrations that even non swimmers can stay afloat in its waters. The only problem is the smell; because it has no outlets, any fresh water that comes in quickly becomes contaminated, Solomon said, “Be stingy and lose everything. The generous.. .prosper.” God never intended us to be reservoirs that just take in; He called us to be rivers that flow out to bless others. Something interesting happens when you stop focusing on yourself and get concerned with other people’s needs. Paul says, “A person who gives cheerfully. he .will.. .have.. .plenty left.. .to share” (2Co 9:7-8 NLT). If you want to grow you’ve got to sow! When the Macedonian church was “tested by great troubles, and… very poor.. .they gave.. .much.. .more than they could afford” (2Co 8:2-3 NCV). These folks understood that when you invest in the lives of others, God promises to meet your needs too.

So if you need a job today, volunteer at a soup kitchen while you’re looking for work. If you’re praying for an increase in your business, pour yourself into somebody else’s business and ask God to prosper them. The Bible says when you “Give generously… your gifts will return to you later,” plus, “In the days ahead you yourself may need. ..help” (Ecc 11:1-2 TLB). Even if you don’t have a specific need right now, sow a seed of kindness anyway. Only God knows what the future holds, and one day when you need it the most it’ll come back to bless you with a harvest.



BIGGER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER

Who.. .despises the day of small things?  Zechariah 4: 10 AMP

While the world trades in the sensational and stunning, God loves to work through the ordinary and insignificant. In His Kingdom, bigger isn’t always better. When He gave Gideon victory over the Midianites He used an army of just 300 to defeat an enemy hundreds of thousands strong. That wasn’t because there weren’t more soldiers available; God just wanted to demonstrate His power in “the day of small things.” Jesus could have chosen any number of followers, but He handpicked 12 to reach the world with the Gospel. On a mountain He fed 5,000 people with 5 rolls and 2 fish from a child’s lunch box. He compared God’s Kingdom to a mustard seed, the smallest there is, yet it grows into a massive tree. He also likened it to yeast that’s barely discemible, yet it can raise an entire batch of dough,

Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Lk 16: 10 NIV). So if you’re asking God to make you bigger instead of better, you may be disappointed. All the prayers in the world won’t pressure Him into giving you what you’re not ready to handle. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said “Most of us would succeed in small things if we weren’t so troubled with blind ambition.” The drive to be bigger can give you ulcers, keep you awake at night, and stop you from enjoying the blessings God has already given you. Better may be harder to measure and not as glamorous, but the inner stability that comes from gradual success is more valuable and lasting



MIND CLUTTER!

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek. Psalm 27:4 NIV

If you are really serious about developing your spiritual life, begin by assessing what stands in your way. That requires honesty. The first challenge is how to deal with the stress in our lives and the resulting clutter it produces in our minds. Dr. Howard Hendricks gives us 4 sources of mind clutter. Let’s examine them carefully:

(1 ) Saying yes to far too many things! Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer once said, “Much of our activity is little more than a cheap anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty life.” All our “going and doing” fails to address our core of emptiness.

(2) Not stopping to recharge our batteries! We dutifully pull out our day-planner and fill in the spaces between activities. But let’s not fool ourselves; avoiding overlapping activities isn’t planning. As a result we’re a stressed-out, short-tempered, horn-blowing crowd, commuting between poorly planned activities that add little to our spiritual well being.

(3) Failure to enjoy what we accomplish! Solomon wrote, “A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul” (Pr 13:19 NKJV). With always too much to do, we dash off to the next obligation, often without finishing the previous one, or taking time to stand back and savor a job well done. No wonder we worry that our existence seems meaningless.

(4) Owing more than we can repay. Next time you’re faced with a credit purchase, wait! Don’t necessarily say no. Just present your so-called “need” to God before presenting it to the bank and see what He says about it. If you’re really serious about developing your spiritual life, deal with your mind clutter!



OVERCOMING THROUGH FAITH!

The Spirit in you is. ..stronger than anything in the world. 1 John                 TM

When a diving injury turned Joni Eareckson into a quadriplegic, her world changed radically. Faced with an unknown future her first response was to look for a quick way out. Her second was to live. She learned to paint holding a brush in her mouth, and later took classes at a university. A public speaking course inspired her to talk about what she knew best: relating to physically challenged people, life in a wheelchair, and her experience as a follower of Christ. When a businessman sponsored an exhibition of her art it launched her successful career as an artist. Each piece included a testimony about her relationship with Jesus. When she made a list of her heart’s desires she wrote: “It’s time to step out.. .into a new dream. To be a ‘doer’ of God’s Word.. .and help other disabled people with dreams of their own.”

From that desire was born “Joni and Friends,” a ministry that brings together people of faith and disabled persons, sponsors workshops and offers financial aid. Joni’s also on the National Council on Disability and has her own radio program on 900-plus stations. She’s also married and is a popular speaker who’s authored 18 books. She says: “I don’t know what lies ahead. But I do know who I am. I have a dream, and I know where I’m going.”

John writes, “The Spirit in you is.. .stronger than anything in the world.” And Jesus said, “He who overcomes…l will …acknowledge. ..before my Father” (Rev 3:5 NIV). Joni Eareckson Tada surely qualifies! The question is, what are you doing with the lemons life hands you? Have you developed a woe-is-me attitude, or are you busy making lemonade?



THE TUG OF GOD’S LOVE

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. – Romans 8:16 NKJV

The story is told of an atheist spending a quiet day fishing when his boat is attacked by the Loch Ness monster.  the beast tosses him and his boat high into the air, then it opens its mouth to swallow them both. The man cries out “Oh my God, help me!” Suddenly the attack scene freezes in place. As the atheist hangs in mid air a voice from heaven says, “I thought you didn’t believe in Me!” “Come on God, give me a break!” the man pleads. “Two minutes ago I didn’t believe in the Loch Ness monster either!”

Billy Graham says, “Whenever anyone asks me how I can be so certain about who and what God really is, I’ m reminded of the story of the little boy who was out flying a kite. The wind was brisk and large billowing clouds were blowing across the sky. The kite went up and up until it was entirely hidden by the clouds, ‘What are you doing?’ a man asked the little boy. ‘I’m flying my kite,’ he replied. ‘Flying your kite?’ the man said. ‘How can you be sure? You can’t see the kite.’ ‘No,’ said the little boy, ‘I can’t see it, but every little while I feel a tug, so I know for sure it’s there!”‘

Don’t take anyone else’s word for it. Find God for yourself by inviting Jesus Christ into your life, Then you too will know by the warm, wonderful tug on your heartstrings that He’s there for sure, and that He lives in you.



THE WAY OF ESCAPE

God.. .will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13 NAS

In the wilderness temptation Satan offered Jesus 3 things. He also offers them to you:

(1 ) Satisfaction! Jesus was hungry and Satan tempted Him to turn stones into bread. But this was satisfaction without God, because God’s plan was to feed His Son supernaturally through angels. Jesus refused to settle for less—and so should you!

(2) Success! But it was success without God. Taking Jesus to the top of the temple, Satan said “Jump off, God will protect You and everyone will believe in You.” Success without the cross. Take the easy way out! And hasn’t Satan made you that same offer: “You don’t have to take up your cross. You don’t have to practice self-denial.” Satan lied then, and he’s lying to you now.

(3) Significance! Satan offered Jesus the kingdoms of this world and their glory if He’d just bow down to him. What an offer. Significance without God! But Jesus rebuked him with a reminder from Scripture that God alone is worthy of being glorified.

Satan will take every legitimate desire you have and try to get you to fulfill it in an illegitimate way. But God “will provide the way of escape.” You say “I don’t see the way of escape.” That’s because you’re focused on the temptation instead of the way out. God’s promise of escape doesn’t mean you won’t have to persevere and be faithful to Him. And, as in the case of Christ, it involves knowing and being able to use the Scriptures. But it does mean that when God’s purpose of victory over temptation has been served, you’ll come out victorious !



GOD’S FAVOR

When God approves of your life, even your enemies will end up shaking your hand. -Proverbs 16:7 TM

You can’t please everybody all the time. And it’s a big mistake to try. Your constant need for approval can end up costing you God’s best. When you’re doing anything worthwhile, expect opposition from those who aren’t privy to God’s plan for your life. That goes with the turf. Notice, Jesus “made himself of no reputation” (Php 2:7). He wasn’t always well thought of by others, but He knew He had God’s approval—and that’s what mattered to Him!

In Proverbs 21: 1 Solomon says that just like changing the direction of a moving river, God can change hearts and give you favor with those who’d otherwise reject you. He also said, “When God approves of your life, even your enemies will end up shaking your hand.” Does that mean you won’t encounter opposition or people who disagree with you? No, but when you do, just concentrate on pleasing God and let Him deal with the fallout.

Remember, God takes up where you leave off. When you’ve exhausted all your efforts He can step in and open doors with the right people at just the right time. The truth is, He can get you a better job than you could get on your own, and give you blessings that, humanly speaking, you don’t deserve or qualify for. Just like the Holy Spirit enabled Jesus to fulfill His life’s mission (See Lk 4: 18-19), God will call, equip and enable you to fulfill His plan for your life. So stop trying so hard to make things happen on your terms, and begin praying for God’s favor!




 

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