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We all have a lot of things to get done. A lot of things we want to have happen this year. But don’t allow what is most urgent to get in the way of what is most important. Don’t water down the joy and grace you can receive by trying to keep up or meet other people’s expectations. Let’s all do less and live more. Be present. Slow down and soon you’ll find you have more time for what matters, and that means you will start to matter more.

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God’s job is to help us along on the journey, so we can grow in our experience of this new life He has given us, but we have to choose to partner with Him. To follow Him will sometimes mean that you say no to a momentary desire and instead say yes to God and your new life. You really want to lay into that person who disrespected you, but God prompts you to let it go. You feel the burning desire to share the latest gossip with a friend, but He prompts you keep that yourself. You feel too rushed to stop and talk to that certain person, but God prompts you to reach out. You feel overwhelmed by what the day is throwing at you, but He prompts you to stop and pray. You feel the urge to keep every dollar you earn, but God prompts you to give. Listen when you feel an urge to do things the old way, and then obey Him instead, that is how you grow.

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We cannot offer anything but helplessness in this new life Jesus offers. It doesn’t matter what you drive, what you do, or who you know. It doesn't matter what moral achievements you’ve racked up, that you’ve been a nice person, that you did that one good thing that one time, or never hurt anyone, or didn’t mean to do all those things you did. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. It’s for people who discovered they’re helpless to make things right with God on their terms and are ready to receive the gift of grace that says, I love you for who you are, not what you’ve done. God sees past all that exterior stuff, the Bible says, and looks right into your heart. Jesus did not come to partially bless your old life, he came to bless you with a whole new kind of life.

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Jesus is challenging us to be persistent in our prayers, to ask and keep on asking, to knock and keep on knocking. Keep asking for your kids, your needs, your neighbors and friends. Keep asking. Things may be hard at home right now. Keep seeking. Things may be challenging with the kids right now. Keep knocking. You may be in a place of testing right now. What is being tested is where you’re preparing to be blessed. Stay hungry. Keep refusing to settle for your old life and reach out for the new life Jesus offers. Jesus did not come to partially bless your old life, he came to bless you with a whole new kind of life.

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Often, we get hungry for God in times of crisis. We seek Him out when life goes sideways. That’s a good time to seek God, to call out to Him, to get in church and start letting His truth and hope wash over you. Then, what can happen is your life settles down. You get busy and distracted. You stop seeking God. Listen, you got to stay hungry. How you train in the offseason affects how you play in season. When you stay filled up on God, seeking Him every day, you may not have as many crisis moments. You might not get yourself into those situations you need a rescue from. In the next season of your life do you want to grow and thrive? Those results are determined by what you do in this season.

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Think about this--God led Jesus into the wilderness, saw Him through the wilderness, and took care of Him on the other side of the wilderness. God may lead you into the wilderness, but if He does He’ll see you through the wilderness and He will take care of you on the other side of the wilderness. The question is, what is it that we need to learn in this season?  When we’re open to that in our lives, when our hearts are open, and our minds are open, God molds us and shapes us. It may be God’s molding and shaping of us in the wilderness is so much more crucial and important than the thing we are hoping for on the other side of the wilderness. We all go through it. We all go through it more than once.

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“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil.” - Matthew 4:1. I don’t know about you but none of that sounds very good to me. Uh, let’s see – wilderness, devil, temptation. This is not the victory I was looking for, but what’s happening here is God is leading Jesus into a time of testing and what happens in that time of testing, we discover more about ourselves. We discover more about who God is. We grow in the wilderness. The wilderness is a place of obscurity, away from the public eye. Obscurity is often the testing ground before the opportunity. If you are praying for a larger platform, don’t be surprised if God first shapes you in private struggle.

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I hope God blesses you with everything you need, but you need something else even more: to know He cares for you. If you’re in a place of scarcity, stay the course and allow God to show you His faithfulness by meeting your daily needs. You do not live by bread alone, but my every word that comes from God. Obedience comes before abundance. If you shortcut the struggle, you shortchange the breakthrough. Don’t shortcut God’s Care.

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One of the main ways we can trust God is through generosity. When you commit to give a portion of your income back to God through generosity the devil does not like that. When that extra bill hits or the expenses start to stress you out, the temptation will be to turn that giving into spending, but that might be a shortcut. Maybe God wants to show you that He can provide. Stay faithful to your giving and you will see Him meet your daily needs. He’s your source of security, not your savings, your investments, or all the extra you can accumulate.

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We all like shortcuts, but sometimes shortcuts are not shorter. Sometimes when you leave the path, you end up more lost, more scared, and more hurt. Some things just take time. There are no shortcuts to physical health--you need to stay the course. There are no shortcuts to building a great relationship with another person--It takes time. I love the saying, “you can’t make old friends.” You just need to stay the course and the same thing happens in our relationship with God. You learn to trust Him, lean on Him and put Him first in your life over time. It’s all about staying the course, especially when you find yourself in the wilderness. When things get wild, get scary and out of our control, we start to look for shortcuts. Here is what we’re going to learn in the life of Jesus today: If you shortcut the struggle, you shortchange the breakthrough.

 

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Give others the benefit of the doubt. Assume they are doing the best they can. Assume you are doing the best you can. Our best is never enough which is why Jesus came and died for us. Life is not going to be perfect until Jesus returns, because then we will all be perfect. You will receive back the grace you give. Remember to keep God in the center of your life to keep from drifting in your life.

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We’re all different. We’ve all had these moments where we look at another person’s behavior and say, “What were you thinking?” It would never occur to you to do what that person did. It can be confusing, and it can be frustrating. But it’s also evidence that we’re all unique. God has wired us all up differently. The point is not to hide it, feel bad about it, or say, “Well that’s just how I am…why fight it?” The point is to own who we are with all our strengths and weakness. We need to own who God made us to be.

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You know what I have concluded: the only real way to make my life count for something that lasts is to invest myself in other people, because EVERYTHING else isn’t going to last. That’s why at Central we say our mission is to introduce people to Jesus and help them follow Him. We want to share the hope of knowing Jesus. We want more people to know Him every single day. 

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I think all of us need to remember that none of us are all that. We’re all sinners that run on mercy. The strongest medicine to fight off a prideful and judgmental spirit is to remember God’s grace. None of us are perfect, and we’re all trying to figure things out. We all need mercy for what we have done and grace to move forward in loving each other. I don't know what your life is like. I don't know if it's a place you want to escape from or escape into. All I know is that God has placed you and He has a purpose for you.

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Focusing on loving God and loving others is simple, but significant. You can memorize it in a second and spend a lifetime applying it. Tonight, truly allow this greatest commandment to become your focus and you will find a greater life than you could ever imagine.


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Sometimes, it can seem pretty overwhelming to introduce people to Jesus. But it always just starts with one person, one friend. Who is that one friend you wish came to church with you? Who is that one friend you can pray for, hang out with, and invest in? Who is that one friend God has laid on your heart to be a bit more intentional with? Not all of us are called to stand on a stage and declare the Good News, but all of us are called to live the Good News—to bring the joy and peace that Jesus gives us into the life of another. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to be perfect, have it all together, or know the lingo. Simply love Jesus and love that friend.

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If you feel discouraged or like you won’t make it today, remember this: “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” As long as you have breath, God isn’t finished with you yet. There is no pain He can’t redeem and no life He can’t use. There is no situation so dark that His light can’t come in and make all things new. He is God and He is Good. He is with you and for you. He has a habit of taking people who’ve given up on themselves and saying to them, “Give me a shot at your life! Let me show you what I can do. You’re at the end of your rope. Good! I’ve been waiting for you here. Now let’s get started!”

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If you feel discouraged or like you won’t make it today, remember this: “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” As long as you have breath, God isn’t finished with you yet. There is no pain He can’t redeem and no life He can’t use. There is no situation so dark that His light can’t come in and make all things new. He is God and He is Good. He is with you and for you. He has a habit of taking people who’ve given up on themselves and saying to them, “Give me a shot at your life! Let me show you what I can do. You’re at the end of your rope. Good! I’ve been waiting for you here. Now let’s get started!”

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You need to walk in the new life God gives you. Walk to Him, not away from Him. Walk in step with the spirit, not away from the spirit. Everything you have in Jesus is a gift, but you can ignore a gift. Dallas Willard once put it this way, “Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort.” You cannot earn God’s love, but you can partner with God to walk in the new life he gives you. 

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God is working in our lives. He’s already preparing the way. He knows your needs and your fears. He knows what you’re up against. God is ahead of your financial struggle, your health struggle, your family struggle, your doubt, your pain, your frustration, your discouragement. He’s working in our lives even though we don’t always see it. How incredible is that?!

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