They reported all that God had done with them.

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Today’s reading is from Acts 14:27 where Paul went to Jerusalem and shared with the church, all the great things that God was doing in his ministry as he traveled among the Gentiles preaching the Kingdom of God. It is good to review what God has done in your life every so often. You don’t want to wait until the end of your life to do this, because then it may be too late to make any changes. Paul did this every time he came back from his missionary trips. You see this again in Acts 21:19. When you take time to see what God is doing in your life, then you can rejoice and glorify God like the early church did when they heard Paul’s stories. It is healthy to rejoice in the things that God has done in your life. We are told in Nehemiah 8:10, that the joy of the Lord is your strength. Some people don’t ever stop to rejoice and give thanks. They just keep moving on to the next thing ahead of them. They are missing out on experiencing that joy of the Lord which makes us strong!

There is a delicate balance of being able to rejoice in what God has done in the past to draw encouragement from it, and living in the past and only talking about all the great things that we did. We need to draw strength and encouragement from the things God has done in our past but we cannot live in the past. We need to be able to live in the present and be able to say what God is doing with us right now. There is something very fulfilling to know that you are making a difference. To know that people’s lives are better because of what you did gives a person a sense of destiny and purpose. That is so much better than looking over your life and saying, “Well I made a lot of money last year, I bought a nice new car last year, I bought a nice new coat last year, I went on a great vacation last year, etc.” How much better to be able to say, “I was part of a move of God that actually saved people’s lives last year or I gave money to help support a move of God that caused many people to give their lives to Jesus or helped people who were really in need.” I believe being active in your local church is a great way to make sure we are living lives that are making a difference. We all have that desire to be part of something that is a little bigger than ourselves so we can corporately do something big for God, that would be very hard to do by ourselves. How was your last year 2013? What are your plans for 2014?

Don’t succeed at the wrong thing

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Today’s reading is from Matthew 4:19-20. Jesus called Peter and Andrew to follow Him. Then we read that they left all to follow Him. It would appear to be irresponsible for them to give up their jobs. They had a lot going on right then and it would seem like they were throwing all of that away. I think they knew something that so many of us have to learn the hard way. If you succeed at the wrong thing, you fail. All of us know successful failures don’t we; people that are really successful and really unhappy. They succeed at things that just don’t really matter, or there is just no fulfillment at the end of the day. My heart breaks for those kinds of people. It happens to often, that people climb the ladder of success and then realize it is leaning against the wrong wall. Peter and Andrew could have climbed all the way up the ladder of success, and could have had a huge business with fast food fish sandwich franchises all over Israel, but felt like a total failure, because they really would not have pursued what God had called them to do.

When God stirs something in your heart you need to be careful not to brush it off with good excuses, like, “I can’t right now. I have too many responsibilities. I am too busy, etc.” It is so easy to ignore the passion that God has put in our heart. We put it off with legitimate excuses. “I have to take care of my family.” Is it possible that we are just hiding behind legitimate excuses?
If we want to be a part of advancing the Kingdom of God and living a spiritual adventure, start saying ‘yes’ when the Holy Spirit is prompting you to do something.

Does God still speak through dreams?

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Today’s reading is from Matthew chapter 1 and 2. God spoke to Joseph in a dream that he should go ahead and marry Mary, even though she was pregnant. Then God warn the wise men who visited the baby Jesus and told them not to go back and tell Herod that they had found Jesus. Then God spoke to Joseph again in a dream and told him to get out of Bethlehem immediately because Herod was going to try to kill Jesus. Then God spoke to Joseph again in a dream and told him it was safe to return to Israel, because Herod had died. Then God spoke to Joseph again in a dream and told him to move to Galilee.

One hundred and twenty times in the Bible, dreams are spoken of as a passageway through which God can speak. There are 25 different dreams recorded in the Bible that God gave to people, some in the OT and some in the NT. Some were given to god fearing people, some were given to Kings, and some were given to people who did not worship God.

Does God use dreams today? This is a valid question, and people are asking it all the time. Let’s look at what Peter said in Acts chapter 2:17, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall DREAM DREAMS.” According to Peter God would be speaking to men through dreams, especially as we get closer to the last days. God can and does use dreams today to reveal His will. I believe that God sometimes choses to use dreams for different reasons. Maybe we are just not open enough for His to speak it to us through impressions on our spirit during the day. So at night when we are relaxed and less distracted He can speak to us through dreams. I believe God still speaks to the hearts and spirits of people more commonly than He does through dreams but in fact He does use dreams to speak to us. God uses dreams in many different ways. They can be an answer to our prayers. They can give us direction in life, or be a warning or way of saving His people from danger. They can be for comfort during discouraging times. Usually they are pretty significant events but not always. There have been several times in my life where God spoke to me in dreams. If you would like to find out more about dreams and what the Bible says about them I have written a book, “What’s Your Sign?” that has a lot of information that may be helpful in this area. You can purchase it on Amazon. Has God ever spoken to you in a dream?

What do you see in others?

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Today’s reading is in Acts 11:25. It is the story of a man most of us know very little about. It is about a disciple whose name was Barnabas, which meant, “Son of encouragement.” He was sent to oversee a great move of God that was taking place among the Gentiles. This was something new to the early church, since all of the early disciples were all Jewish. We are told that Barnabas went and ‘sought out Saul’ and brought him along to help in this new work. It was this effort of reaching out to Saul and discipling him that changed Saul’s life. It was because Barnabas used his gift of encouragement that Saul, who later became the apostle Paul, was used by God to write thirteen books of the New Testament and plant churches all throughout Asia and parts of Europe.

It seemed that Barnabas had almost a sixth sense when it came to recognizing people’s value. He saw something new and possible for a new convert whose name was Saul, and took the risk of giving him a go when others only wanted to write him off. Barnabas saw what others couldn’t see, or perhaps what others refused to see, because of their prejudice. He saw through a different lens. He saw color when others only saw black and white. Two different times, in scripture, we find him standing beside the new convert, Saul, when he needed a friend.

Barnabas learned to see the good in people but he learned it from his Lord, Jesus Christ. When you study the life of Jesus you see Him standing by people that others rejected. Jesus saw the good in the woman who was an adulteress in John 8. Jesus saw the good in Zacchaeus, the little man that everyone loved to hate in Luke 19. Jesus saw the good in Matthew, the man that all Jewish people saw as a traitor because he collected taxes for the Romans. Jesus saw the good in the woman at the well who had five husbands and live in boyfriend.

Christianity is a faith built on second chances. Do you see the good in others or do you only see their short comings? Are you quick to judge others or slow to judge them? Are you willing to give someone another chance after they may have failed you? This is a great time to be an encourager. You never know the impact of an encouraging word or the impact you can have on a person by believing in them and encouraging them, especially in the things of God.

There was a young Sunday school teacher once named Edward Kimball. He was somewhat timid, but he desired to be obedient to the Lord. He had a heart for evangelism. He had a young man of about 18 in one of his classes once. This boy was not the brightest in the class but Edward sensed that he really needed the gospel. He went to his place of business, where this man was selling shoes and shared the gospel with him. He received Christ. His name was Dwight L. Moody. He would later be a Sunday school teacher himself, and go on to give his life to full time ministry becoming one of the greatest evangelists of the 19th Century. A timid teacher spiritually influenced a young man who would later spiritually influence thousands of souls.

You may not ever be famous. You may not ever be the president, or a general or a movie star or a millionaire, but you can make a difference in this world. How? Be an encourager. Look for the good in others. You may never know the impact you have on a person by believing in them or encouraging them, but it can have powerful influence on them and will ultimately help to advance the Kingdom of God.