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“Giving is one way we get in on God’s miracles.”

A thought by Mark Batterson (2013-09-24) in his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life(Kindle Locations 2105-2106). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. (Click on the title to go to Amazon.com to buy the book.)

And the whole Christmas celebration is about a miracle.It is the miracle of God coming to earth as a baby.That is an unbelievable miracle and giving is one way we get in on it. If you have read the story of the Nativity you know about the Magi, the Three Kings from the East who brought gifts for the baby Jesus.Mark says, “At first glance, it seems like the Magi bring the wrong gifts to this baby shower, doesn’t it? What kid wants a bottle of frankincense, right? Get the poor kid an ancient Jewish action figure — David with slingshot or Shamgar with oxgoad.”
Now when the Wise Men came searching for the child they went to King Herod and asked where the young ruler was to be born. The fact that there was this young ruler out there who could take his place so dis…

“If God has forgiven me for every offense, how can I take offense at someone else’s sin?”

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book,All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life(Kindle Location 1888). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

I was standing in the Express Line at Whole Foods a couple of hours ago and I was really frustrated to the point that I wanted to say something to the guy in front of me who had more than 12 items.The sign said that the line was for people who had 12 items or less.But as I was walking out having a conversation in my mind with that guy God broke in with something that I had asked Him to forgive me for and that put me right in my place.
If God had forgiven me for the offense I had done how could I take offense at this nonsensical action this guy had done?But we do it I think because we don’t really realize that He has forgiven us.It’s probably because we haven’t forgiven our self or even because we haven’t accepted what He has already done for us.“If God has forgiven me for every offense, how can I take offense at someone…

“Bad decisions usually lead to worse decisions.”

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life(Kindle Location 2021). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
That is so true.I made one bad financial decision many years ago that lead to other bad decisions until finally I took my head out of the sand and started made a good decision.We still lived with the consequences of my bad decisions but we are now starting to see the benefits of the good decision.
Do you understand what Mark is saying?Have you made a bad decision that lead to worse decisions?
He uses Judas as an example.He made the bad decision to betray Jesus and then when he realized what he had done, he made a worse decision and he went out and hung himself.But it didn’t have to be that way.
Mark continues, “The good news is that God can forgive our bad decisions. And one good decision can totally change the trajectory of our lives. And that one good decision will lead to better decisions. But it starts by making the …

“When God doesn’t conform to our expectations, we’re tempted to betray what we believe in.”

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life(Kindle Locations 1999-2000). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

That is so easy to do even after a Sunday and all that spiritual focus and encouragement.I mean Monday is the real world and we come back to what life is really all about.
Somehow we do that.We separate Sunday from the rest of the week.When in reality God is also God of Sunday and Monday and Tuesday.The problem is our focus.I mean when we hear that message and sing those songs we believe that God can do anything but then comes Monday and that problem at work or those kids or my husband/wife and then my finances.It sounds good on Sunday but Monday is the real world.
And that is the problem too many times in our relationship with God.We have this level of expectation but when life through God doesn’t fit in that then we tend to compartmentalize and put God in church not to be lived out on Monday.
But God is also the …

“Nothing takes longer to build than a godly reputation.”

A thought by Mark Batterson (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life (Kindle Location 1940). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

I was a Youth Minister for a bunch of years.When I got too old to handle the all-nighters I headed into Adult Ministry.One main difference between the two was you had a honeymoon period working with adults but you had to earn the respect of youth.
I used to work and work to earn their respect and confidence and then loose it all with overreacting to something they did.I then had to start over.
But the truth is it takes a long time to earn the respect of both adults and youth. Someone said that a church doesn’t really get to the point that they believe in you as a Pastor until about seven years.At that point they get to thinking that maybe you’re going to stay so they let down their guard and start following and trusting you.
Mark then said, “And nothing is destroyed more quickly by one stroke of sin.”And that has been sh…

“An opportunity isn’t an opportunity if you have to compromise your integrity.”

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life (Kindle Location 1828). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
You might say, “Wow, there is this woman at work who seems to really like me and she seems to really understand me and what I’m going through.Yes, I’m married and so is she but God made us for each other.”But “An opportunity isn’t an opportunity if you have to compromise your integrity.”
You might say, “There is this tremendous opportunity that God has brought into my life.I will be paid in cash so I don’t have to pay income taxes.That is exactly what I need right at this time in my life.I need to think about when I retire.”But “An opportunity isn’t an opportunity if you have to compromise your integrity.”
You might say, “There is this job that is exactly what I want and I am qualified to do it but one of the requirements is a Masters.I have more experience than most people who have a Masters and I’m real close to gett…

“It’s the worst of circumstances that often brings out the best in us.”

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life (Kindle Locations 1541-1542). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
It is in those times that we really turn to God.Chuck Milhuff said, “The difference between Christ and us is that He was totally dependent upon God all the time.”And that is when we are at our best.When we can’t do anything about our circumstance that is usually when we turn to God and we are totally dependent upon Him.
Mark said right before this, “Our prayers tend to focus on external circumstances more than internal attitudes because we’d rather have God change our circumstances than change us. It’s a lot easier that way.”But doing what is easiest is not us at our best is it?
Those difficult times have a way of building something in us that can’t be taken away from us.It can build character.It can build confidence.It can build faith.It can build trust.All of those are what is best in us.
He then said, “And if i…

“When you have a setback, you do not take a step back, because God is already preparing your comeback.”

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life (Kindle Location 1609). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
I look five days a week in books by varied authors for thoughts that will inform, challenge and encourage.I realize that for many life is tough.We have been going through some difficult days and there are thoughts that have a way of fortifying us in our journey.
I have determined to read through the Bible this year. I am right now in the middle of reading the book of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible.It is a story of a man who lost everything.It was a very difficult time.He even lost his whole family and he even lost his health.And this story is a classic example of this thought by Mark.The story not only tells what is happening to Job on the surface but also it pulls back the curtain and shows us what is happening in the spiritual dimension. It shows Satan’s hand in all that happened to Job but also it shows how …

“Release the part of you that wants to protect and open up the part of you that wants to explore.”

A thought by Erwin Raphael McManus, (2014-02-25) from his book,The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life into a Work of Art(p. 52). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
I live in greater Los Angeles.There is so much here to experience and explore but to really do it right, you have to get in a car and that is one dangerous thing to do. When I retired, we moved to Long Island in New York.A great place to live but the traffic was horrendous to the point that most people took the train to work in Manhattan and of course to many, Manhattan is scary. You could get mugged.
When I retired Margaret and I decided that every Saturday where ever we lived, we would explore.As a Pastor I worked on Saturday which was the day Margaret was off so after I retired we used our Saturday to see and experience where we lived.We went all over the place on Long Island and New York City.We even made it to upstate New York and saw where they had Woodstock and to Hyde Park where FDR lived.We went to Connecticut and saw wher…

“It’s God’s job to get us where He wants us to go.”

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life (Kindle Locations 1373-1374). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
Then Mark says, “Our job is to make ourselves available anytime, anyplace.”
“What would happen if...?” is such a great question to ask in so many areas of life that fear is holding us back.One “What would happen if...?” question that has monumental potential in our lives but one that so many times holds us back is the question, “What would happen if I knew what God wanted me to do?”We hide too many times behind the fact that we don't know that we say, “We don’t know then we don’t need to do” but God is just waiting on us.What would happen if we said, “Here am I, God, use me.”?There is unlimited potential in making a difference in someone’s life, in our neighborhood, in the world, if we would just say that to God and really mean it.
Another “What would happen if?” question we ask is “What would happen if I wer…

"Losses loom larger than gains."

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life (Kindle Location 1126). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
A scientific study on the brain seemed to come up with that fact and I’m sure if you looked at your life you would also say that is true.But it doesn’t need to hold us back even though for many it does.
Think about the successes that you have had at your work but then think of that time when you were reprimanded.Or when you were in school and the A’s and B’s but it is that D or C that you really remember.It was Latin, Chemistry and Biology that I got my C’s.Or in your relationships and all those good friends you have who would be there but it’s that one person who didn’t want to be your friend.There is still pain after all these years.That memory many times holds you back from reaching out to someone new.But it doesn’t need too.
Yes it is easier to remember your losses.That is the way you are held back from making a di…

"But the worst dictator is fear."

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life(Kindle Location 1106). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
We each have to make decision every day. Sometimes they are life changing decisions.
Mark was talking to an influential man in Washington D.C. where Mark is the pastor of National Community Church.At the end of the conversation he asked the man if he could pray for him.Mark said, “…his profoundly honest response was the result of some serious introspection. He looked me in the eye and said, ‘Pray that I don’t let fear dictate my decisions.’”
That is a prayer that we each need to make because so many of the decisions we make in life are dictated by fear.
Mark continued, “You have to choose a dictator. You can let fear dictate your decisions, or you can let faith dictate your decisions.”
What decision do you have to make today?It may be a defining moment in your life decision.One that will set the course of your life.Let fa…

"Most people who criticize water walkers do so from the comfortable confines of a boat."

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life (Kindle Locations 996-997). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Margaret and I watched the Oscar’s last night and I was taken back there when I read this quote.I was thinking of all the people who were sitting in their front rooms watching the show and criticizing everyone on there.Of course they had never risked doing anything out of the ordinary but they can criticize from the comfort of the front room.
We go to a very large church that has a very large sanctuary.Margaret wasn’t feeling well so I went along but sat with my son, Brett and my daughter-in-law. Marissa.And we sat in the last row because Brett had hurt his ankle and was on crutches.Now not all people who sit in the back have crutches but many do.They have the crutches of non-involvement except for criticizing those up front. Now not everyone does that back there.
Right now here I am criticizing people who critic…

"It’s all about the theoretical becoming experiential."

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life (Kindle Location 945). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

I at the age of five on a Sunday morning in my Grandma Williams’ church in Fairview, Oklahoma asked Jesus to come into my heart.It was a very real experience even though I was very young.Now I asked Him to forgive my sins because I knew that was a part of the process but at five I was not a great sinner.So for many years forgiveness was theoretical until I went through what I call my three year jerk time.After asking God to forgive me it was more than a theory it was an experience.I realized what it meant to be forgiven.1 John 1:9 (NIV), “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sinsand purify us from all unrighteousness” became very real to me.
I like how Mark puts it.“When you first read a verse of Scripture, it’s nothing more than a theory because you haven’t personally experienced it …

"God cannot give up on you. It’s not in His nature."

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life (Kindle Location 866). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

I wish we were like that.But as Mark says, “We give people political labels, sexual labels, and religious labels. But in the process, we strip them of their individuality and complexity. Prejudice is pre-judging. It’s assuming that bad stories end badly, but Jesus is in the business of turning bad beginnings into happily ever afters.”
I understand the complexities of living today. I understand our fears but perfect love casts out fear and we get that love from God.
I understand our fear of homosexuality but God sees past their sexual orientation to the individual.What about other races?He created all races.What about the political parties?Did you notice that communal living was the preference of the early Christians?Giving it all into one big pot.God sees both Republicans and Democrats as individuals whom He loves.What…

"He wanted all the benefits without any of the commitment."

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life (Kindle Location 780). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

That is so true in so many areas of our lives.
We want all the benefits that our job gives us but we don’t make an all-out effort to do what needs to be done.I mean if they ever asked us to work on Saturday we would tell them, “That isn’t fair.” We expect them to sacrifice but not me.
What about being in a relationship?So many want the benefits without the commitment.If you really loved me you would give me this but no way do I want to get married.
What about church?I love the pastor and his sermons.The music is great.I love our building but, no way do I want to become a member or tithe, or serve.I want the benefits but not the commitment.
What about friendships?We want them to jump whenever we need them but what if they are having struggles and they need us.
There are so many areas that this can be said but the mai…

"If you aren’t willing to begin at the beginning, God cannot use you."

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life(Kindle Locations 704-705). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Back when I was in college studying to be a Minister I worked as a custodian in a middle school. I was married and I needed to work to help with our expenses.Now I knew a lot of other young preacher boys who also worked as custodians but they thought they were so much better than their job because they were called of God.I looked at it a bit differently.I looked at that as a part of my calling and learning and I did my best to be the best custodian I could be.That attitude carried over into my ministry.  I appreciated what I learned as a custodian.
I know of some kids who get married and their expectations are that they should have what their parents have, a big car, a big house and they get deep in debt.They don’t want to start at the beginning.But there are lessons to be learned and character qualities to be give…

"You won’t find God in the past."

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life (Kindle Locations 623-624). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Such a good thought.Mark says, “His name is not I WAS. His name is I AM.He is an ever-present help. And when we cling too tightly to what God did last, we often miss what God wants to do next. God is at work right here, right now.”
That is so good.And we do that.We so many times live off of the experiences of our past but there is something new that God wants to do in and through us today.There are lessons to be learned from our past but they must be lived out today.Your past is past.God is the God of the present.
What is it that He wants to do in you today?Oh you may have had a great weekend but that is over. "This is the day that the Lord has made.Let us rejoice and be glad in it."
I was talking with a friend today about an experience he had back at Christmas and an injustice that had happened to him.And…

"He cannot give back what you do not give up."

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life (Kindle Location 536). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

I hear so many people talk about their rights.I have my rights.They don’t have a right to do that to me.But the truth is God wants us to give Him all our rights but He then gives them back to us as privileges.If we would get what we rightly deserve then we would never have anything.But for what our sins did to Him He takes what we give Him and He gives us back grace.We don’t have any rights for what our sins did to Him.
What about your relationships?I don’t deserve how they treat me.I am their parent/child/ spouse.I should be respected.But the truth is God gave them to you to minister to their needs not for them to minister to you and your needs.Give them to God and then God can use you to be what they need you to be and then watch what will happen.
What about your life, your dreams, your plans?How is that going?Why don…

"God always delivers what He conceives if we are willing to go through the labor pains."

A thought by Mark Batterson, (2013-09-24) from his book, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life (Kindle Locations 473-474). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

There are many young couples who would love to have a child but they don’t want to give up what they have.She maybe has to quit her job and they won’t be able to make it.And all those sleepless nights or that pain, all that pain.There is a price to be paid to have children but as a father and a grandfather, it is soooooo worth it.
What about that dream that God has for you?It is really exciting.You really want it but do you?
I had a dream, a God given dream.There was so much pain involved in it.I gave 15 years of my life for it.They were great years but difficult years.Now my human side of the dream did not happen as I perceived it but God used it to hold me steady so that His plan would be worked out in my life and in my family’s life.Up to that point of my life I had never stayed in one place longer than five yea…