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Were you really ‘born that way’? - MONDAY APRIL 10

‘I was a sinner when my mother conceived me.’ Psalm 51:5 GWT

Whether your struggle is with alcohol, drugs, sex, anger, gossip, unforgiveness, stealing, lying, or gambling, one thing’s certain - we are all born with a propensity towards certain behaviours. So it’s not a genetics issue, it’s a spiritual issue. It’s not about science, it’s about sin. Any of us might find ourselves struggling with these issues - not because we inherited a gene for it, but because we inherited Adam’s fallen nature the day we were conceived. David said, ‘I was born guilty. I was a sinner when my mother conceived me.’ Solomon said there are no exceptions: ‘Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins’ (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT). So the answer is yes, we were all ‘born that way’.

The reason these behaviours come naturally to us is not because we ‘can’t help being the way we are’; it’s because our sin nature is stronger than our desire to please God. Even when we try, at times we lose the fight! Paul, the greatest of Christians, admitted to failing when he tried to do right. ‘I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out’ (Romans 7:18 NIV 2011 Edition). So if we are all born that way, what’s the good news? Paul gives it to us: ‘Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 7:24-25 NLT). When you were born you received Adam’s corrupt nature, but through the new birth you receive Christ’s sin-conquering, life-changing, righteous nature!

You’re qualified for the job - SUNDAY APRIL 9

‘God has chosen.’ 1 Corinthians 1:27 NKJV

People are often drawn to us because of our difference, not our similarity. So don’t fail them by downplaying the things God has given you that qualify you to meet their needs. The disciples didn’t blend in, they stood out, and the world they lived in took note that ‘they had been with Jesus’ (Acts 4:13 KJV). They preached His message, used His methods, and demonstrated His miracles. At Antioch they were first called ‘Christians’ (Acts 11:26). That’s because they talked and acted so much like Christ. What a compliment! What a calling! What a challenge! Because a cleaning lady told a Syrian general about her God, he was healed of leprosy (see 2 Kings 5). Because Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams when others couldn’t, he saved the world from famine (see Genesis 41).

Because a boy offered Jesus what he had - five loaves and two fish - a multitude of hungry people was miraculously fed (see Mark 6:34-44). When it comes to hiring, personality profiling is a useful tool for discovering someone's suitability for a job. But it’s different in God’s kingdom. When God calls you, He equips you. Do you think you’re not qualified? Who told you that? Not God! His Word says: ‘God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise…the weak things…to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things…which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence’ (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NKJV). So, the word for you today is - you’re qualified for the job!

Simplifying doesn’t have to be complicated - SATURDAY APRIL 8

‘Do not worry about your life.’ Matthew 6:25 NKJV

Thoreau said, ‘Our lives are frittered away by detail…simplify, simplify.’ Jesus put it another way: ‘Do not worry about your life…the birds…neither sow…reap nor gather into barns…yet your…Father feeds them’ (vv. 25-26 NKJV). Charlie Shedd pastored a large church with many demands. He and his wife created a simplicity list: Make sure you need to simplify. Your problem may be inertia…because you aren’t doing enough. Selfishness never simplifies - it complicates. Remember why you’re here. Put God’s will first. You unclutter by having a pivotal purpose on which your life swings. Drop useless goals. Don’t wear yourself out on meaningless pursuits. You frustrate yourself by dedicating your life to the unimportant. You can’t do everything.

If God intended you to be six people, he’d have divided you up! Leave some ‘world building’ to others. Live one day at a time. Plan and hope for the future - but don’t live there. ‘Each day has enough trouble of its own’ (v. 34 NIV 2011 Edition). Live well today and tomorrow’s strength will come. Wherever you are - be there. Stop thinking happiness comes at five o’clock, or at the evening’s party, or when you fall asleep. Live in the present. Develop a hobby. A change of activity keeps you fresh. Time spent playing is time well spent. You can’t slow the world, so slow yourself. Learn to gear down. When you can’t alter the pace, retire to the inner sanctuary and alter yourself. Adopt the perfect pattern: Christ…whose life cut history squarely in two. Follow Him as He lives a mighty life in quiet confidence. ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 2:5 KJV).

Be a uniter, not a divider - FRIDAY APRIL 7

‘How good…it is…to dwell together in unity!’ Psalm 133:1 NKJV

David said, ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity…there the Lord commanded the blessing’ (vv. 1, 3 NKJV). When we strive to work together in spite of our differences, God ‘commands’ His blessing to be upon our efforts. Satan knows this, so his chief strategy is to divide and conquer. He knows the power, synergy, and blessing that results from working in harmony; therefore he makes every effort to bring division. So when things begin to splinter and fall apart, look for ‘the devil in the details’. The sixth chapter of Proverbs lists seven things the Lord detests; among them is ‘a man who stirs up dissention’ (v. 19 NIV 1984 Edition).

Paul says, ‘Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace’ (Ephesians 4:3 NIV 2011 Edition). (He knew that sometimes it required tremendous effort.) We can’t afford to be ignorant of Satan’s tactics designed to keep us at odds with one another. He’ll cause you to become offended over a harmless statement, or read more into a comment than the speaker intended, or ascribe impure motives to someone’s behaviour, or believe a lie. But when you pray and seek God, He’ll reveal the truth of the situation. ‘He is our peace’ (Ephesians 2:14 KJV), and when we embrace Him, He directs us into peaceful resolution of our issues. In fact, our conflicts can become stepping stones to stronger relationships when we make a commitment to understand each other and refrain from divisiveness. That’s why Paul writes, ‘I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose’ (1 Corinthians 1:10 TLB).

Overcoming bad memories - THURSDAY APRIL 6

‘Do not…ponder things of the past.’ Isaiah 43:18 NASB

To overcome bad memories you must:

1) Reframe them. Looking back, Joseph said, ‘You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good’ (Genesis 50:20 NASB).

2) Reject them. The next time a bad memory resurfaces, refuse to entertain it. ‘Do not…ponder the things of the past.’

3) Refocus your thoughts. ‘Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead’ (Philippians 3:13 NKJV).

You say, ‘I can’t help remembering.’ If you can recall your troubles, you can recall your blessings. The most effective way to overcome bad memories - is to replace them with good ones! And here’s some great news: every promise God gives you contains the power to fulfil it. So meditate on these words and personalise them: ‘Fear not…do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth’ (Isaiah 54:4 NASB). ‘The former things shall not be remembered or come into mind…be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create’ (Isaiah 65:17-18 AMP Classic Edition).

Notice the word create. God can create beauty out of ashes and order out of chaos - but it doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll do a lot of growing and forgiving along the way. In some cases you’ll forgive others; in other cases you’ll forgive yourself. You say, ‘But all those promises are from the Old Testament!’ Yes, but the Bible says, ‘He carries out and fulfils all of [His] promises, no matter how many…there are’ (2 Corinthians 1:20 TLB). So bring your bad memories to God and let Him heal them.