Monday, December 31, 2012

The Owner's Manual for Christians

The Owner's Manual for ChristiansThe Owner's Manual for Christians by Charles R. Swindoll
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Chuck Swindoll is my favorite Bible teacher. He always is so practical. I pray the quotes from this book will bless and challenge you:

It’s never too late to start doing what is right.    p. x

Donald Grey Barnhouse said, “ Love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace.” To show grace is to extend favor or kindness to one who doesn’t deserve it and can never earn it.   p. 5

One more thing should be emphasized about grace: it is absolutely and totally free. You will never be asked to pay it back. You couldn’t even if you tried.   p. 6

Do you know what the most often-repeated command from Jesus’ lips was?  “Fear not.” p. 16

Ron Allen in a footnote in the Nelson Study Bible says, “The word, agape, describes a love that is based on the deliberate choice of the one who loves rather than the worthiness of the one who is loved. This kind of love goes against natural human inclination. It is a giving, selfless, expect-nothing-in-return kind of love . . .. Our modern ‘throw-away’ society encourages us to get rid of people in our lives who are different to get along with, whether they are friends, family, or acquaintances. Yet this attitude runs in complete contrast to the love described by Paul. True love puts up with people who would be easier to give up on.”  Chuck Swindoll says, “ . . . eros is a mystery that evokes good feelings, agape is a choice that reveals good character.” pp. 22-23

As I attempt to probe the mind of Paul, trying to find some common denominator, some secret clue to his joy, I have to conclude that it was his confidence in God. To Paul, God was in full control of everything. Everything! If hardship came, God permitted it. If pain dogged his steps, it was only because God allowed it. If he was under arrest, God still remained the sovereign director of his life. If there seemed to be no way out, God knew he was pressed. If things broke open and all pressure was relieved, God was responsible.  pp.  37-38

Basically there are two kinds of people: people who choose joy and people who don’t. People who choose joy pay no attention to what day of the week it is . . . or how old they are . . . or what level of pain they are in. They have deliberately decided to laugh again because they have chosen joy.  p. 40

The way of God is complex. He is hard for us to predict. He moves the pieces and they come somehow into a kind of order.  ~Euripides  p. 53

There is something fundamentally flawed about a purely academic interest in God. God is not an appropriate object for cool critical detached, scientific observation and evaluation. No, the true knowledge of God will always lead us to worship . . .. Our place is on our faces before Him in adoration.  John R. W. Stott  p. 53

Remember, nothing is a surprise to God. His plan may seem unfair, humanly illogical, even lacking compassion, but that’s because we dwell in the here and now. We lack the vertical view.  p. 55

This determined, decreed dimension of God’s will has four qualities: (1) It is absolute. (2) It is immutable, which means “unchangeable.” (3) It is unconditional. (4) It is always in complete harmony with His nature. In other words, the decreed will of God will be holy, it will be just, it will be good, it will be righteous; therefore, it will be best. And everything – even the evil intended by others and the afflictions of a world given over to evil – will work toward God’s predetermined ends.   p. 56

Just remember: no one ultimately is able to frustrate God’s plan . . . no one. No one who lets us down surprises God. No one who walks away from his or her responsibilities causes God to wonder why.  In the final analysis, God will have His way. What He has determined will transpire.   p. 58

The better you get to know the Word of God; the less confusing is the will of God. Those who struggle the least with the will of God are those who know the Word of God best.  p. 61

God’s Word provides all the light we will ever need on our journey through this life. It’s “a lamp to [our] feet, and a light to [our] path” (Psalm 119:105). It brings light to our darkened minds. It helps us think theologically. Strange and mysterious though His leading may seem, when we derive our understanding from a serious investigation of the written Word of God, we will not be led astray. And we will continue to stand on the solid rock of God’s Word of truth.  All other ground is sinking sand.   p. 64

1. Foremost you must be a Christian (Romans 8:14).
2. You must be wise (Ephesians 5:15-16).
3. You must really want to do the will of God. (John 7:17).
4. You must be willing to pray and to wait (Matthew 7:7-8).
5. Following the will of God means you must be willing to give up your creature comforts (Acts 20:22-24).   pp. 65-66

1. Most Basic, God leads us through His written Word (Psalm 119:105).
2. God leads us through the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:12-13).  Nothing wrong with planning. Nothing wrong with thinking it through, listing all the pros and cons, talking it over. But as you are moving along, stay sensitive to the quiet, yet all-important prompting of God through His Holy Spirit. By doing so, you may well sense inner promptings that will spur a thought, such as, “I can’t believe I’m still interested in that. I wonder what the Lord is doing? I wonder where He’s going with this?”
3. God leads us through the counsel of wise, qualified trustworthy people (Proverbs 11:4).
4. God leads us into His will by giving us an inner assurance of peace (Colossians 3:15).    pp.  67-69

Are you willing to make a major change in your life – assuming that it’s the Lord’s will? I’m now convinced that the real issue is not so much “What does the Lord want me to do?” as it is, “Am I willing to do it once He makes it clear?”    p. 70

Distance from God is a frightening thing. God will never adjust His agenda to fit ours. He will not speed His pace to catch up with ours; we need to slow our pace in order to recover our walk with Him. God will not scream and shout over the noisy clamor; He expects us to seek quietness, where His still, small voice can be heard again. God will not work within the framework of our complicated schedules; we must adapt to His style. We need to conform to His way if our lives are to be characterized by all-encompassing word Godliness.   p. 76

God often does His best work in us when He catches us by surprise and introduces a change that is completely against our own desire.   p. 81

Prayer is listening as well as speaking, receiving as well as asking; and its deepest mood is friendship  held in reverence. So the daily prayer should end as it begins – in adoration.  ~George A. Buttrick  p. 87

A primary purpose of prayer is connecting with God in order to transfer His will into your life.  It’s collaborating with God to accomplish His goals. p. 87

Prayer often involves other disciplines, such as meditation, worship, silence, solitude, and surrender – always surrender.   p. 87

Prayer is an authentic seeking of His plan as we willingly adjust our will to match His. p. 89

Prayer is not a natural response; it's a Spirit response. If we fail to cultivate this discipline, prayer winds up being our last resort rather than our first response.    p. 90

I am especially fortunate to serve in a church whose elders are mature spiritual leaders. Their dedication to prayer reveals their maturity. Our meetings are punctuated by times of prayer. We begin by praying then dive into general matters of the church only to realize it’s time once again … time for more prayer. We may see matters on the agenda that are beyond our ability to handle, so we lay them before the Lord in prayer. We stop everything to spend at least fifteen to twenty minutes each meeting in prayer as each one of us comes before the Lord with specific concerns.

This would probably seem like a huge waste of valuable time to a corporation. Some might say, “You can’t keep doing that; you’ve got a church to run.” No. Actually, we don’t. It’s not our church; it’s God’s  - and it’s not our responsibility to run it! Fortunately, He is responsible for the church’s success, however that should be defined. Our priority is to devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word. In the end, we find that our time praying is an investment that pays for itself many times over. When each elder or pastor has his will aligned with the Lord’s, we waste no time arguing for our own. It’s amazing what effect prayer has on our relationships with one another. Barriers are broken down. Hearts are softened. Wills become submissive. And fresh ideas flow freely.  pp. 92-93

Worry is wrestling with anxiety on your own rather than releasing it to the Father.   p. 95

So if you tend to worry a lot, here’s a better plan; pray a lot. For such relief to become a reality, you will have to exercise the discipline of surrender as you rely on Him to solve the problem … in His way and in His time. Effective, results-getting prayer includes the thought, Lord, this is Your problem to fix. You take control. Let me know what You want me to do if I’m to be involved in the solution. By leaving it with You, I will consider it solved.  P. 95

Our primary goal in calling out to God … can be summed up in four words: intimacy with the Almighty. Seek that first, and you will have everything you’ve longed for in life, including all the things you never knew you needed.   p. 102

Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends.   ~Dwight D. Eisenhower  p. 103

No, humility isn’t a result of having a poor self-image. True humility comes from a place of strength and inner security. p. 104

In God’s kingdom plan, suffering brings reward. p. 113

When grace changes the heart, submission out of fear changes to submission out of love, and true humility is born.  ~William Hendriksen  p. 115

I am convinced that wise planning is good. But plans, like material possessions, must always be held loosely. Yes – always! Plan wisely, but be ready for God to rearrange things and take you along paths that may feel dangerous to you. Don’t sweat it; He knows what He’s doing. And He isn’t obligated to inform you … or request permission to upset your neat little agenda!   p. 126

Forgive us, O God, for the doubting suspicion with which we regard the heart of God. We have faith in checks and banks, in trains and airplanes, in cooks, and in strangers who drive us in cabs. Forgive us for our stupidity, that we have faith in people whom we do not know and are so reluctant to have faith in Thee who knowest us altogether. We are always striving to find a complicated way through life when Thou hast a plan, and we refuse to walk in it. So many of our troubles we bring on ourselves. How silly we are.  Wilt Thou give to us that faith that we can deposit in the bank of Thy love, so that we may receive the dividends and interest that Thou art so willing to give us. We ask it all in the lovely name of Jesus Christ, our Savior.  ~Peter Marshall, the late chaplain on the United States Senate, concluded his message, “Sin in the Present Tense” with this prayer  p. 127

Never miss a good chance to shut up.  ~Will Rogers  p. 129

“We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  To do what is right is to side with the truth of God. And never doubt it, the truth of God will always prevail. Evil may cause setbacks, and it may hamper the steady march of God’s plan, but it is ultimately powerless to stop it. To do what is right is to join the winning side of the fight, though the battle will not be without pain or struggle.   p. 150

We aren’t just thrown on this earth like dice tossed across a table. We are soverignly and lovingly placed here for a purchase, having been chosen by God. His choosing us was according to His foreknowledge, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that we may obey Jesus Christ, having been sprinkled with His blood. Powerful words!  God has given us a purpose for our existence, a reason to go on, even though that existence includes tough times. Living through suffering, we become sanctified – in other words, set apart for the glory of God. We gain perspective. We grow deeper. We grow up!   p. 156

I'm absolutely convinced that nothing - nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable - absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.  (Romans 8:31-39 MSG)  p. 177

Where sin abounds, grace superabounds!  p. 180

They cared nothing about the woman [the woman caught in adultery] or her future. At the moment she meant nothing to them or to anyone else for that matter – no one except JESUS (John 8:1-11).   p. 183

The only person on earth qualified to condemn the woman [the woman caught in adultery] refused to do so. Instead, He freed her. p. 185

To all weighed down by shame remember those most unqualified to condemn you, will and the One most qualified to condemn you, won’t.  p. 185

There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.  ~Alfred Lord Tennyson  p. 186

A reflective Christian is one who is thinking deeply, questioning often. When we doubt, our minds are at work.  p. 187

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.  ~Jim Elliot  p. 195

I realized that life doesn’t revolve around me – my comfort, my desires, my dreams, my plans. Clearly, it is all about Him. p. 197

The discipline of sacrifice is one in which we forsake the security of meeting our needs with what is in our hands. It is total abandonment to God, a stepping into the darkened abyss in the faith and hope that God will bear us up …. The cautious faith that never saws off a limb on which it is sitting never learns that unattached limbs may find strange, unaccountable ways of not falling.  ~Dallas Williard  p. 201

We’re often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety. This is especially true when our treasures are loved ones, relatives, and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.  ~A.W. Tozer p. 204

How and why we give is of far greater significance to God than what we give. Attitude and motive are always more important than amount.  p. 206

We know that it was no accident. God performs all things according to the counsel of His own will. The real issues at stake on January 8, 1956, were very far greater than those, which immediately involved five young men and their families, or this small tribe of naked “savages.” Letters from many countries have told of God’s dealings with hundreds of men and women, through the examples of five who believed literally that “the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”   ~ Elisabeth Elliot  p. 211

God will not likely expect you to surrender your life all at one as these men [Jim Elliot, Nat Saint, etc.] did. Instead, He patiently waits for you to sacrifice yourself in small amounts, one decision at a time, one day at a time, so that you might enjoy an ever-increasing intimacy with Him. And this deepening intimacy with Him will inevitably make you more like Christ.  p. 212

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