Stir Me Up Lord!

Stir Me Up Lord!: May 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

As a US Army Veteran, I wanted to acknowledge those that have paid the Ultimate Sacrifice for our country. Today is a day to recognize the fallen, it is hard for those who haven't served to understand the sanctity of this day. We are privileged to still be here and have the utmost respect for those who are not, please do not honor a Veteran today; it takes away from those that can not be here with us. Our freedoms were paid with the blood of Patriots and that is who we honor today.

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13 NLT)

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

When it’s all About You, You’re Living Wrong

This Christian life isn’t about what can you do for me, it’s about what can I do for God and others. If we’re taking offense at someone’s words or actions, that means it’s all about us; it’s all about what just happened to us . When we take offense, we’ve allowed bitterness into our hearts.  When we think or dwell on that bitterness, it begins to take root in our hearts. When we allow bitterness to take root, we stop allowing God’s love to fill our hearts.  When we’ve stopped God’s love growing in our hearts, our hearts begin to harden and constrict, and we’re not able to expand our hearts and grow our love for others. With our hearts hardened we’re controlled by our flesh and its worldly desires, instead of, the love that God wants us to share.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. (Galatians 5:24 NLT)

We’re not here to see what we can get from God; we’re here to see what we can give to God. He’s already given us His Son along with His righteousness, to be called His adopted children.

For just as by one man’s disobedience (failing to hear, heedlessness, and carelessness) the many were constituted sinners, so by one Man’s obedience the many will be constituted righteous (made acceptable to God, brought into right standing with Him). (Romans 5:19 AMP)

Jesus gave a parable to the people in Matthew 25, about the Master who gave talents (this was a very large amount of money, comparable to 16 years of wages) to each of his three servants. The first and second servant doubled the amount of talents and the third hid the talents. The first two were given more because of what they did with the talents, while the third was tossed into ‘outer darkness’.  The parable represents that the ‘gifts’ or 'responsibilities' that we all have been given to further the Kingdom of God, each person is given a gift from God – whether it be a gift of musical abilities, speaking, teaching, helping others with a service related ability; everyone has something that they can use.  Maybe you have a car and can take others to church with you, maybe you have lots of friends and you can invite them to service, or maybe you have a job skill that you can share with the church. Everyone has something and one day we will all be accounted of how we used those gifts.  Based on how you use those gifts or responsibilities, means whether or not you hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” OR cast into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (quoted from Matthew  5:14-30 NKJV)

The reason we use our gifts isn’t because we’re afraid we’ll be cast into ‘outer darkness’, we use our gifts because our hearts have been enlarged by God and we want to please Him. Yet, we can’t do that if our hearts have been overgrown with bitterness, that bitterness is what caused the third servant to hide his talents – he believed the Master was a cruel and a hard person. 

If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. (Philippians 2:1-4 MSG)

When we’re busy loving others and putting God before ourselves, we’re not comparing ourselves to our neighbor and feeling sorry for ourselves or jealousy. Comparing only leads to thoughts that we're superior or inferior, so either way, we're making it all about us, instead of God. When God is first, our priorities fall into line with God’s plan for our lives and that’s where the blessings are.

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. (Galatians 6:4 NLT)

Focus on what you can do for God today and when you’ve given of your heart to God, you will always hear ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

My Weapons of Mass Destruction

Once we’ve said it, it’s impossible to take it back. We can say we’re sorry, but that doesn’t remove the impact the words created, whether intentional or not, our words can be weapons of mass destruction.  But it's not just our words that can be used to hurt or harm a person, sometimes it’s the words we don’t say as well.

Recently I chose not to say anything after a friend was hurt by something I had said: the problem was, I was equally hurt because she took what I had said the wrong way –  we both were hurt by something that was never intended to hurt. My biggest mistake in the whole thing was my silence, I chose not to correct the situation and apologize for the miscommunication. What bothers me the most out of this predicament, is that she is a new Believer and I don’t want her taking offense.  I should have spoken out from the beginning and now I’m concerned that my late apology might not be enough for her and the last thing I want is her heart to be hardened by my mistake.

Thank you God that you are a loving, kind, and merciful God. Thank you God, that you allow us to come boldly to your throne of grace and receive your mercy, I pray that you would keep my own heart tender so that I wouldn't take offense, but keep my focus on you, by blessing and encouraging others, and to speak up when I need to.

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.  Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.   You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.  (Philippians 2:1-5 NLT)

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

You are Blessed, Not Cursed

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to forget God when everything is going good in our lives, but the second life gets some trouble we turn to God for help (or worst some people blame God for the trouble).  First thing we have to remember is GOD wants to bless us, HE has only good things for us, earthly fathers don’t bring calamity or disease on their children to teach them a lesson, so of course our Heavenly Father being perfect and the very essence of goodness, kindness, love, mercy and grace, wouldn't either!

Good fathers will try to warn their children when they see the wrong decisions their children are making and try to steer them in another direction. When we make a wrong choice, the Holy Spirit is in us warning us not to do or say what we are about to do; but so many times we ignore that leading and go ahead and do it anyways, only bringing trouble upon ourselves. Yet people are so quick to blame God when trouble befalls them, GOD tried to warn them but HE was ignored and then when the consequences come up to ‘bite them’ they blame God.

I tell both my sons, my teenager especially; you’re given the choice and when you make the wrong one, the consequences are yours to bear. Even our kids as toddlers, know right from wrong; they know they are told not to touch certain things in the house, but yet they want to and they’ll even look right at you when they’re about to do the ‘No No’ they’ve been warned about. Our bodies are flesh and of this world, but we have our spirit that has been made a new creation in Christ. Our spirit won’t sin, it wants only to honor and please God, but our flesh, it wants what it wants and it doesn’t like to be told no.  This creates the battle within us, our flesh can be screaming at us to do the wrong thing, while our spirit is nudging us to do the right thing – remember in Romans 12:2, this is why we have to read our Bible, our instruction guide, our manual for this life on earth.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 NLT)

Sometimes we aren’t the ones to blame for the bad things that happen to us, sometimes it’s another person’s carelessness, abuse or neglect – but that doesn’t mean GOD did that. GOD doesn’t put us in bad situations or relationships, we do that to ourselves.  Some people say, "well if GOD had prevented this from happening...", I’d be willing to wager that most people have been given little nudges from GOD telling them to avoid this road, avoid that person, this isn’t right, but sometimes we blow off or just miss those nudges as silly and move on. Unfortunately we've moved into a problem, road block, trouble or a tragic situation. Sometimes its not any of that, instead it's the enemy attacking a person. The devil comes only to steal, lie and destroy; so taking a loved one, causing an accident, giving a disease, these are all tricks used by the devil to tear us away from GOD.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)

You see Jesus is the answer; HE’s the answer to our hurting and despair. Jesus is the answer to our pain and suffering, HE is the way the truth and the life and only HE can set us free. The enemy has deceived so many people (even Believers) into believing that GOD doesn’t love them, that GOD wants to punish them for what they’ve done, that when something bad happens it’s because GOD is teaching them a lesson, that famous saying, 'If GOD brings you to it, He'll bring you through it'. GOD doesn't bring you to it, either we did that ourselves, someone else did or the devil - but never did GOD bring you that!!

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)

Not only does GOD want to protect us, HE wants to reward us!

After these things the word of Yahweh came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Don't be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward." (Genesis 15:1 WEB)

GOD doesn’t want us to fear, HE doesn’t want us afraid of what might or could happen. HE wants us to know that HE is for us.

If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?  Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.  Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:31b-35, 37-39 NLT)

GOD wants us to know that when trouble does come, HE will never leave our side

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV)

When those trials do appear, GOD wants us to have his peace.

"I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT)

There was another popular saying, that if GOD had a fridge, your picture would be on it or if GOD carried a wallet, your picture would be in it.

Behold, I have indelibly imprinted (tattooed a picture of) you on the palm of each of My hands (Isaiah 49:16a AMP)

What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.  And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31 NLT)

Parents love their children, no matter the wrong choices they make, you can’t stop loving your child and we as earthly parents cannot comprehend the love that the creator of the Universe has for us. HE is Love, HE is Mercy, HE is Grace, HE is and we will never be able to grasp the concept until we are with HIM in Heaven. No matter how far we stray, no matter the mistakes or the choices we make, that doesn’t change HIS love for HIS children and once we’ve accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior we have been forgiven of all wrongs; we are washed white as snow. GOD doesn’t hold grudges, if HE did HE never would have sent HIS Son to die for us so we could be set free – HE would have left us the way we were, but because of GOD’s infinite love and mercy, we have been given a chance to be righteous – not by anything we’ve done, but by what HIS Son did for us on the cross. Don’t live in the guilt, sin, despair and death that the devil wants to keep you held bondage in, choose life and the freedom that Christ has already paid the price for.

Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19 NLT)

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:3, 16-17 NLT)

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Darkness and the Light

Don’t do as the wicked do, and don’t follow the path of evildoers.15 Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way.  Turn away and keep moving. (Proverbs 4:14-15 NLT)

What caught my eye here was verse 15 – Don’t even think about it! How many times do we let our thoughts drift off where they don’t need to be. Do you know that most sins don’t happen ‘out of nowhere'. A person has to give that sin a thought first, if we are not careful to push that thought out of our head, if we are not being defensive, that thought can setup in our minds. That’s how the enemy can gain a foothold on a person; giving into a thought, thinking about something/someone/someplace that doesn’t need to be thought upon. If you allow your mind to stay captive with the wrong thoughts, to prevent that foothold from becoming a stronghold, you need to get rid of the thought and replace it - replace it with the Word of God. That’s why in the rest of Verse 15, we are told, to ‘turn away and keep moving’. Don’t stop and think about it, get out – have you ever watched a movie and known the ‘bad guy’ was hiding in the dark room or alleyway, and you’re yelling at the TV for the person to ‘get out, why are you going down a dark abandoned alleyway, you know nothing good ever comes from that!’ it’s the same thing with us.

The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day. 19 But the way of the wicked is like total darkness. They have no idea what they are stumbling over. (Proverbs 4:18-19 NLT)

They don’t make many horror movies with scary scenes all in daylight for one reason, when the light is shining all around us, we feel safe, we tend to not dwell on thoughts we shouldn't. But when it’s dark and we can’t see where we are or where we are going, that’s when it’s dangerous.

One of my favorite songs based on Psalm 119:105 was ‘Thy Word’ by Amy Grant: (just a few lyrics)

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path
I will not forget
Your love for me and yet,
My heart forever is wandering.
Jesus be my guide,
And hold me to Your side,
And I will love you to the end.
When I feel afraid,
And think I’ve lost my way.
Still, You’re there right beside me.
Nothing will I fear
As long as You are near;
Please be near me to the end
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path

God’s Word is a light for us, HIS Words are instructions for us, teaching us how to navigate this life. We are spiritual beings in a fleshy body, with worldly desires and a mind that has spent more time being taught about the physical world than the spiritual world – so we are in desperate need for instructions on how to live in a world that is only our temporary home. It's like going to foreign country without a guide, a map or a translator - you will get lost, confused and frustrated and probably end up where you don't want to be. 

So many times I’ll find a million excuses not to read my Bible or spend time with God, but the second that I do start reading my Bible – I can’t put it down, it’s like that ice cold refreshing drink of water when you’re so incredibly thirsty, you can’t stop drinking it! The enemy knows we are stronger when we spend time in the Word, he knows that it is our greatest weapon and with it we not only can help ourselves, but we can help others as well. He will do what he can to keep us out of GOD's Word and with the modern day distractions, he doesn't have to do much work, lots of times we do the work for him.

I joke that I don’t have much will power any more and I’m serious when I say that, that’s why it’s so important to develop habits. When you do something regularly you are less likely to stop doing it, simply because its become a habit. I worked out every morning at 4am the last few years I worked, when I retired, I stopped waking up at 4am to work out, thinking I could work out anytime during the day – WRONG! Because I got out of that habit, I developed new habits to fill in that time and I’ve been struggling to get back into a routine where I am working out again. So make it a habit to pick up your Bible at a set time of day, in the same place in your home, something that will develop into a habit to where you won't have to think about it, you'll just do it out of reflex.

Some people need accountability, I’m also one of them! I follow our church’s daily bible reading plan on my iPad. Everyday, it pulls up the chapters I’m reading for the day and when I finish my daily chapters, I get a ‘check’ mark. This is ideal for me, I like to see a To Do list and I like to see it checked off as well, so this keeps me accountable. I might fall behind once or twice during the week, but I always catch up before the end of the week so I can see that lil' check mark with the percentage telling me how close I am to completing the Reading Plan. If accountability is what you need to keep you reading your Bible, find a Bible plan and start one. I use YouVersion's app on my iPhone & iPad, which also can be used on my computer, if you prefer the touch and feel of a Bible, there are plans you can print out as well. If you are new to reading the Bible, start with one of the first 4 Gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) and then go into Acts, Romans, and the rest of the NT (there's lots of ideas on what plan is best, I just think new Believers should start with the NT before they jump into the OT); the plan I'm following is Project 3:45 Plus.

My child, pay attention to what I say.  Listen carefully to my words.21 Don’t lose sight of them.  Let them penetrate deep into your heart,22 for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.  (Proverbs 4:20-23 NLT)

You see, if we pay attention to the instructions we’ve been given in the Bible, it will bring LIFE and not death to us, it will cause HEALING – not just physically but emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Let GOD’s Word sink deep into our heart, keeping all the worldly things out, and that's where we find LIFE. Because we must protect our heart, it determines the steps we take, so if we put the Word of GOD into our hearts, we will follow the path HE has for us, the path that leads to LIFE!

Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.26 Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.27 Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil. (Proverbs 4:25-27 NLT)

Those detours of life, the ones that pull us away from GOD and the path HE has before us – they are a dangerous distraction that only leads to pain and destruction. No one likes to learn lessons the hard way, so don’t get off the path, stay on the path GOD has set out before you. Keep HIS Word in your heart, follow HIS instructions, keep yourself from unneeded pain and stay in the light where you belong – we are new creations in Christ, that is creations of the Way the Truth and the Life!

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.   And you know the way to where I am going.” “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:1-6 NLT)

We know The Way, we just need to follow The Way!

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The God Shaped Hole

So many people are looking for GOD and don’t even know it. They have an emptiness in their heart that they can’t fill; although they might try to fill it with sex, drugs, alcohol, food, or anything they can buy, the hole never gets filled. They don’t realize that only GOD can fill that hole and only GOD can make them complete.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. (Psalm 139:13 NLT)
Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. (Psalm 119:73 NIV)
As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. (Ecclesiastes 11:5 NIV)
This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer and Creator:  “I am the Lord, who made all things. I alone stretched out the heavens. Who was with me when I made the earth? I expose the false prophets as liars (Isaiah 44:24-25a NLT)

GOD created us and this world, our purpose is for HIM, our purpose is for sharing GOD with those who don’t know HIM.   
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29 NIV)

Let me explain the difference between religion and relationship – religion is what Jesus explained as the cold ritual of following rules and regulations but without a heart for GOD. The Pharisees were pious and religious, judging and condemning others; Jesus told them they didn’t know GOD because they didn’t have a heart for GOD, but only for themselves.  Jesus was so angered at how the teachers of religious law had become, He let everyone know:

 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.  They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. “Everything they do is for show…And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues.  They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces….
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites!  For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.  Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!  You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.  
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.   (Matthew 23:1-7, 13-15,23 -28 NLT )

Jesus came to set us free, not to condemn us and imprison us with rules and regulations that complicate our lives.The Laws haven’t changed, they are the morals that we are born with. The Laws that were given after the Ten Commandments were meant to protect GOD’s Chosen people from themselves. The more the Israelites began to assimilate with the nations and cultures around them, the further they fell away from GOD. The further they fell away from GOD, they began to try to fill that God shaped hole with other things, the more they tried to fill that hole with the wrong things, the more they fell away – a vicious cycle that only caused more pain and suffering.  

One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 NLT)

Jesus came as GOD, He came to show us that GOD loves us, HE loved us when we were full of sin. HE wants us to love him, HE won’t force Himself on us; we have to come to HIM. Jesus wants a relationship with us, He wants us to make Him the Lord of our lives, to spend everyday with Him because we want to, not because we feel we have to. Jesus died on the cross for us because we could never get ourselves right with GOD unless we have Jesus; so we don’t need to try and wait until we’re good enough to come to GOD (since without Jesus, that's impossible)!

"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.
"This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is."  (John 3:16-21 MSG)

Once you have GOD in your life, you are a new creation, you are made right with GOD. This doesn’t mean life has become perfect and there will be no pitfalls, detours or mistakes. The difference is now you aren’t living for yourself, you are living for GOD, you WANT to please HIM. When you WANT to make changes and become who GOD created you to be, life is different, because your focus is different. You will know the difference in your life when you've discovered that God shaped hole, isn't empty, it's being filled and the more you spend time with GOD and in HIS Word, the more that hole is filled and you you experience a comfort, joy and peace you've never known before!  

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