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Practice Makes Perfect - A Devotion

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Philippians 4:8-9 (Amplified)
For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]. Practice what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and model your way of living on it, and the God of peace (of untroubled, undisturbed well-being) will be with you.

If you want to be good at something from an early age, we are taught practice makes perfect. To learn a new thing requires instruction, practice and preparation in order to master whatever skill it is that you desire. For those who wish to improve their health and wellness, for example, this requires careful evaluation of one’s lifestyle including exercise and diet. To be successful in improving one’s physical state requires a change in habits and overall choices when it comes to what we do and how we do it. Being raised in the South, we love fried chicken and syrupy sweet tea. It is not exactly stellar and has negative long term effects on our body. Most of the time, people do not realize the damaging effects of poor eating habits and a lazy lifestyle until it is too late. They do not comprehend the impact of stress on their metabolism either. One day the doctor’s report rocks their world, or a long look in the mirror reveals the vivid reality that a change must be made. Some will attempt a radical life change with an unrealistic diet forgoing exercise but still experiencing dramatic physical results. However, soon reverting back to old habits and poor choices every single pound and more returns to “normal” and they become frustrated all over again. Without a lifestyle change there will be no permanent change. Only those who become committed to evaluating every single thing they put in their mouth to make sure that is a good choice, and those will to change their schedule to include regular physical exercise will experience success in producing a healthy life style. It takes self-control and discipline to maintain it. The gym is overrun with people in January and February who will soon leave and return again next year same time, same place and same problem. But this is not about exercising one’s body but rather one’s mind. I have found a solace and rest in going to the gym to relieve stress from the storm of life that we have been facing. One year ago, I decided to cleanse my body of the junk that I had been putting in it. I must admit that I was pleased with the immediate weight loss from juicing for ten days. I no longer need daily antacids to control the indigestion that had plagued me for so long. So I began to revamp the way that I was eating. No more bread and sweets to release my body from carb control worked as well, now it is only an occasional indulgence that I usually regret when my body rebels. Then I discovered the gym which my husband had been attended for a couple of years, and learned that I could sweat out stress. When your tears mix with salty perspiration nobody notices, if you were wondering. God made my body with endorphins that help combat the stress and worry attacking my mind and physical activity releases those little gems when I need it most. I share all of this to say that there will be no physical change in our circumstances until there is a heart and mind change. Until the thought occurs to us to actually do something, it remains locked away potential inside of us. With this in mind, this is not to encourage a change in your physical life but rather to promotes us to think more about our spiritual life and change the way that we think about things.

Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

True

John 14:6 (NLT)
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

Do you believe that the Word of God is true? This is foundational in changing the way that we think which in turn will change the way that we act. Jesus claims to be the way, truth and life. He is the only way to God the Father. He is the Truth that guides our life to Him. He is life. This is the basis of everything that we believe as Christians. Yet, many say that they believe but have no idea how to explain it. The Word of God is true. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) The Word teaches us what is true and helps us to find truth in our life. The ruler of darkness has wrapped the world in his lies. But to know the Truth requires first that we know Jesus who is the Word wrapped in flesh. (John 1:14) You will never have an intimate relationship with Jesus outside of knowing His Word. It is imperative that we make it a habit to read and study God’s Word every single day to know what is right in world in which we live. Loving God and living for Him is contradictory to just about every practice in the world today. To think about what is true, you must know the truth. If Jesus is the way, truth and life, then He definitely must be considered part of every thought. The only way to walk His Way and have Eternal Life requires knowing the Truth. Truth severs the bonds and attachments with the world that keep us from moving closer to the Lord. (Hebrews 4:12) Truth will conform our life to the reality of faith and establish our hope as real and genuine which plants our feet in righteousness. It reveals the firm allegiance of God to His People allowing us to consider our position and change our allegiance back to Him.

Noble

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

A noble thought is one that is elevated and high-minded. When we think noble thoughts, it is to elevate our thinking from man’s plan to God’s Purpose. His thoughts are nothing like mine. I need to get this in my head. I want to get through this life, but He wants me to make it to Eternity. His Ways are greater than I could ever imagine…so why do I always try to figure out what God is doing next rather just taking the next step of faith? God’s Ways are higher than my ways and His Thoughts are higher, too. God sees me as more than I see myself. He compares my life to the purpose, plan, future and hope that He designed for me. When I settle for less, He will do everything in His Power to elevate my thinking to where He is so that my feet will follow my faith. When we consider the fact that we are a Child of God, and work to discover what God thinks of us rather than focusing on what we think of ourselves. It changes the way that we think and then act. God is sovereign. Jesus is supreme. (Colossians 1:15-16) God’s Plan for your life will always be prevalent whether you seek to attain it or not. (Proverbs 19:21) To change the way that we live begins by changing the perception of our life. God requires a position change in order to give us a perspective change. To finally see God’s Plan, Purpose and Potential for our life allows us to let go of temporary circumstances to fully embrace the Promises of God.

Just

Romans 3:25-26 (NLT)
For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

We have been made right with God through the Blood of Jesus Christ. We have been given grace to bridge the gap between our sin and righteousness so we can leave sin behind and stand in right standing with God living in His Presence. We must take captive every thought that rebels against this idea including the one that tells us grace is an excuse to continue to sin. (2 Corinthians 10:5) Grace is not a vigilante state that allows us to take the Law of God into our own hands. But allows us to live according to the Law not subject to the death penalty attached. To live a just life is to be guided by Truth, reason and justice. God’s commandments, His Law, is not invalid as a result of God’s Mercy and Grace but we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to successfully surrender our heart and life to God stepping out in faith to obtain righteousness which is the confident hope which is its substance. You have been pardoned to become a “law-abiding” citizen. You must know God’s Expectations to live a just life which begins with learning what His Word says. This sounds pretty easy but is more like herding cats. When you begin to turn your heart and mind to align with His Word, it reveals all the areas of hidden sin and rebellious thinking that were tucked away. But a transformed life requires renewed mind (Romans 12:2) that begins with “just” thinking about what God expects from us.

Pure

Ephesians 5:25-27 (NLT)
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.

Purity is freedom from anything of a different, inferior or contaminating kind. It is clarity. It means to be free from blemishes. Fear and doubt blemish our faith and can only be washed away by the water of God’s Word. Forget the mandate to husbands (just for a moment) and focus on the process of Jesus Christ. We are to be holy and without fault. We must think about things that are different from this world, not inferior to the Way God thinks and most importantly avoid ALL contamination of ANY kind. We must evaluate every word and image that we allow in our mind for integrity and compatibility to God’s Word, Will and Way for our life. We fill our heart and mind with the world’s garbage and then wonder why we cannot make it through a storm. Our outcomes become defined by lower level thinking rather than remaining focused on hope. You know what you read. You know what you watch. You know what you listen to. If you want to change your life and become successful in all faithful pursuits, then it will require some changes.

Lovely

I Peter 3:3-4 (NLT)
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.

There are some churches that I would not be welcome in based on my physical appearance with short hair, multiple piercings, propensity for pants and painted tattoo. But God does not judge me based on such things. He instead looks inside of me to the image of my heart. He is looking for a loveliness that this world does not know. He is looking for beauty with substance. Hope is what should reign in my heart. It is should be the substance of my life as I grow and develop faith in God. To be less concerned about how the world sees me and more concerned about how God estimates my life, I must know what He finds beautiful. I must think about what God loves and promote it in my life allowing His Spirit to produce those things that are valuable to the Lord and harvesting them in my life. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Good Report

Romans 3:23-24 (NLT)
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

God has given us undeserved kindness that declares us righteous. We fell short of His Glorious Standard now He has given us a way to have it all over again. This is good news. It is time to stop trying to earn a good report and understand that it is fully achieved in Jesus Christ. Think about it. You are free to live in freedom of faith and constant hope doing nothing more than standing in the Presence of God. Grace is our good report. It is enough. We do not need to make more or find more or try to earn. It is the free favor and goodwill of God for His People fully attained and running over through Jesus Christ. If you knew this, you would be happy about it. If you fully accepted His Goodness and Kindness, then you would be satisfied and full of joy. (Psalm 145:16-18) We must acknowledge the freedom we have been given, along with the understanding to see it, and wisdom to use it. (Ephesians 1:7-8) You cannot live in it until you fully accept it. You cannot accept it until you stop trying to earn it and learn to enjoy it! Everyday should be considered a gift of God’s Grace to live up to His Glorious Standard.

Virtue and Excellence

2 Peter 1:5-8 (NLT)
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Moral excellence is the commitment of one’s life in claiming the fullness of God through Jesus Christ. It means to committedly and consistently pursue the glorious standard of living found in the Grace of God through Jesus Christ. Supplemented faith will provide moral excellence from the knowledge that changes our mind about God and His Intentions towards us. We will stop settling for lesser things by our conviction that what God has planned for us is always better. Alignment of our life with Jesus Christ, the Word of God and His Way does not produce anything new as it is a product of His Grace and predetermined before time existed. Therefore, as we do so it simply allows us to experience what has already been preplanned and provided by God which is perfected in Christ. It is the perfect plan in motion from the beginning of our life. No detail is left out and every detail is subject to His Good Will. To fully understand the blessings of obedience is to know that God planned His Grace, Goodness and Favor for us from the very beginning and that was never lessened or cheapened by sin but remains Perfect in Christ so as long as our life is aligned with His Will – we can have it all. This means that we must change our heart and mind about God in order to act upon faith and confident hope. A right mind is required or we are just exchanging one form of slavery for another. Without love, we will never achieve the good report that we have been given because after all God is love. So what am I saying in all this, it is time to change our mind about God and His Love for us. It is time to invest more energy in knowing the Lord rather than doing all this great stuff for Him to gain His Favor. It is time to become so immersed in His Word, Will and Way that no one can every change your mind or direction concerning His Love for us!

Philippians 4:9 (NLT)
Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

There are times when I think I have lost my mind. How can I laugh in the midst of such overwhelming pressure? How can I smile when my heart is broken in a million pieces? I was asked when my son was diagnosed with cancer the first time, “how can you love and serve a God who would give your son cancer?” God didn’t give our son cancer. Could He have prevented it? Sure if we had made the right choice as human beings in the beginning? Will God carry us through it? Absolutely – He already has before my son was born the plan and purpose of God was written for his life. Yes, it included the word cancer as well as the cure. Man has no control over the life or death of this young man, He is a Child of the Living God who has accepted God’s Plan by asking Jesus Christ to be His Savior AND Lord. The rest is history. It is this confident hope that I have that is the substance of my faith that holds me up when all seems lost, obstacles rise up and recurrences happen. It is the platform from which I watch God turn denial into acceptance because He is sovereign and supreme. My confidence is not in man, medicine or money but my God, His Son – Jesus Christ and His Spirit who keeps me breathing when everything seems overwhelming. It is the time that I have spent changing the way I think and getting to know the Lord that hold me in these storms as an anchor for my soul. So I can laugh and smile with inexpressible joy because I know the Author and Finisher of Faith who is faithful to the end. The God of Peace is with me allowing me to put into practice what I have learned and received from Him in the past. I can say what He said, and do what Jesus did. You are what you eat – eat the Bread of Life. You are what you hear – listen to His Voice. As I put into practice such things, the God of Peace remains with me. After all, practice makes perfect.

Psalm 119:33-35 (NLT)
Teach me your decrees, O LORD; I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart. Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.

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