The Act Of Receiving

It’s usually around Christmas when we think about giving and receiving gifts. Have you ever refused one? Receiving is the act of taking delivery of something. It requires action on our part. There are several delivery drivers who drop off packages at my door. Just because they’re sitting on my porch and are available to me, it doesn’t mean I have received them. I receive them when I open the door, pick them up and bring them inside. The concept of receiving something isn’t foreign to us. In Christendom, receiving works the same way, vat for some reason we don’t think of it as an act. I believe we are missing out on several things God offers us because God has set them at our door, but we haven’t done the act of receiving them.

Here are some Bible verses on receiving things from God.

1. So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.

Romans 4:16 NLT

2. Learn this well: unless you receive the revelation of the kingdom the same way a little child receives it, you will never be able to enter in.

Luke 18:17 TPT

3. For those who receive that rest which God promised will rest from their own work, just as God rested from his.

Hebrews 4:10 GNT

4. Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”

John 20:22-23 MSG

5. So get rid of all uncleanness and all that remains of wickedness, and with a humble spirit receive the word [of God] which is implanted [actually rooted in your heart], which is able to save your souls.

James 1:21 AMP

There are many other things the Bible says we are to receive. Open the door of your heart today and let God know you receive all He has for you.

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The Birth Of Grace

I’ve got a friend who, when he sees people with a sour face, likes to say, “Smile! God’s in a good mood.” It usually takes them a second to hear what he said, then they laugh or smile. Many of us think of God as this angry, Old Testament figure who is sitting up in Heaven speaking in old English and is looking for someone to smite. As a result, we try to live a smite free life that makes us miserable.

If God is always angry, why did He give us the gift of His Son? I can tell you that when I’m upset or angry with someone, giving them a life changing gift is not an idea floating around in my head. In the Old Testament, we had a pact with God where we would do our part to keep the relationship open through sacrifice, but we constantly fell short. That did make God angry and upset. How do you feel when someone breaks a promise to you? No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t do it.

Out of love, God decided to establish a New Covenant between us. One where when we fall short on our end, Jesus makes up the difference. His birth was also the birth of grace. It announced that God would make a way to reestablish the relationship between He and us. His desire has always been that we would know Him, and go to live with Him for eternity. To take the burden off of us trying to keep our part, He sent Jesus.

John 3:16-17 says, ““For this is how God loved the world: 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” (NLT). Smile! That’s good news. This Christmas, celebrate the birth of grace into our world. Live your life in response to God’s love for you rather than out of the fear of being smitten.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Comforting The Hurting

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet who lived in the 1800’s. He was no stranger to pain. His first wife died during a miscarriage. He married again almost ten years later. He had six children with her. Not long after the Civil War began, his wife was cutting their seven year old’s hair and decided to preserve some curls in wax. The wax drilled onto her dress and she caught fire. He tried to help put it out, but sustained severe burns himself. She passed away the next day. Not long after, their son joined the army to fight in the war. Henry was devastated by it all and quit writing poetry.

That first Christmas afterwards, he wrote in his journal how sad all holidays were. The next year he wrote,, “I can leave no record of these days. Better to leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps God can give me peace.” The following year he didn’t write anything. The next November he found out his son had been shot and was severely wounded, possibly mortally. When his son arrived home, it wasn’t as bad as he feared. That Christmas he penned a poem which became the carol, “I heard The Bells of Christmas”. God was able to bring him through such tragedy and increase his effectiveness as a poet and writer.

2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (NLT). The holidays are not happy for everyone. Many have endured loss and suffering and are in need of God’s peace and comfort. You and I have that ability to be agents of comfort, healing and peace during this season. If you’re struggling this season, I want to leave you with my favorite lines from his poem. It says, “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth, goodwill to men.” He can make all things work together for good.

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If you’d like to listen to my favorite version of this carol, click here.

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Saying Yes

I was just talking with some friends about Bob Goff’s book “Love Does”. If you haven’t heard of him or this book, I’d encourage you to check it out. To me, Bob is a Christian “Yes Man”. He views each interaction and request from someone as an opportunity for Jesus to show up. The book is a collection of stories from his life where he simply said yes in certain situations and incredible things happened. It challenged me to want to do more for others and God’s Kingdom. It’s prompted me to say yes to more things giving the Holy Spirit more opportunities to do things through me.

I love reading Paul’s letters to the Early Church. Not only are they great instructions for us on how to live, they also include a list of people who were examples of Christian character. He mentions how they opened their homes to him, made clothes for the poor, welcomed him in, some visited him in prison and encouraged him. These people he mentioned were just ordinary people who did what they were promoted to do because of their faith. They could have easily found an excuse to not do those things, but because they did, they’re mentioned in the Bible.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 says, “So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do” (NLT). You are called by God to do the things He’s prepared you to do. Your faith is constantly prompting you to do things. Have you been listening to it and obeying or have you been making excuses? The more we say yes to those promptings, the more we allow the Holy Spirit to accomplish things through us. You don’t have to be a Bob Goff, but you do need to live the life God is calling you to. It starts by saying yes to things He is prompting you to do.

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Sharing A Burden

When I talk to leaders, I often have a conversation with them about the difference between empathy and sympathy. Empathy is the ability to understand what someone else is feeling because you have been there yourself. Sympathy is acknowledging what someone else is feeling even though you haven’t experienced it yourself. They are slightly different, however Empathy can be much stronger because you can have a deeper emotional connection. Just because you haven’t experienced it yourself though, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t express sympathy. In both cases, you’re working to share the emotional load of another person.

Galatians 6:2-3 says, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important” (NLT). This commandment is given to all of us to help one another in whatever burden someone else is carrying. I’ve seen many believers back away from a situation because they couldn’t empathize with that person. The load of their situation was crushing them, but no one came to their aid. This where sympathy comes in. It can express itself by simply sitting with that person. Your physical presence tells them they’re not alone thereby taking some of their burden off of them.

Each of us have our own problems, but we are better and stronger when we carry them together. From the beginning God said it was not good for us to be alone. He built us for connection and to help each other. If you look around today, you will see someone in your path who is struggling to carry a heavy burden. Whether you can empathize or sympathize with them, it’s important to let them know they’re seen and they’re not alone. If you think back to a time when you were burdened down, you will remember how desperate you were for some acknowledgment that would give you hope and strength. Today, you have that opportunity to be that for someone else. Don’t miss that opportunity, and in doing so, you will fulfill the law of Christ in loving your neighbor.

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Being Productive People

Galatians 5 tells us that the Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives. James 1 tells us that the difficulties and trials we face produce character in us. Have you ever wondered what it is that you’re to produce? God created us to be productive. In many of Jesus’ parables, He compares us to gardens or seeds. In each of them, the ones that produced were promoted. The ones who didn’t produce were thrown out. It’s important to know that we are not to live idle lives. Instead, we should be producing many different things. We were created to be productive people.

Here are some Bible verses on things we’re to produce.

1. So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

James 2:17 NLT

2. Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases him. Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge of God.

Colossians 1:10 GNT

3. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

Luke 6:45 NLT

4. Therefore produce fruit that is worthy of [and consistent with your] repentance [that is, live changed lives, turn from sin and seek God and His righteousness]. And do not even begin to say to yourselves [as a defense], ‘We have Abraham for our father [and so our heritage assures us of salvation]’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children (descendants) for Abraham [for God can replace the unrepentant, regardless of their heritage, with those who are obedient].

Luke 3:8 AMP

5. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.

John 15:2 NLT

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3 Reasons To Be Thankful

When is the last time that you stopped what you were doing and truly thanked God for all he’s done for you? In I Thessalonians 5:18, it tells us that no matter what your circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks. Even if nothing seems to be going your way right now, there is reason to give thanks. 

Having a thankful heart is a mindset that you have to create. We are not naturally thankful creatures. You need to practice being thankful with others and with God. When you truly make being thankful a part of your life, you will find that your attitude, your outlook and your perspective will change for the better.

Here are some reasons I have found to give thanks.

1. For salvation

Each of us should be eternally grateful for what Jesus did on the cross for us. There is nothing that we could ever do to earn our way to Heaven. It is only because God loved us so much that He sent His son to die for our sins that we have that ability. I don’t have to spend my life hoping and trying to be good enough one day. The price for my sin was paid for by Jesus.

I love how 2 Corinthians 9:15 says it: “Now thanks be to God for His gift, precious beyond telling, His indescribable, inexpressible, free gift!” We have a very good reason to be thankful today. You do not have to spend eternity separated from God if receive His son into your life.

2. For God’s faithfulness

I’m thankful every day that God’s faithfulness doesn’t rely on my own faithfulness. 2 Timothy says that even if we are faithless or are untrue to Him, He remains faithful and true because He cannot deny Himself. What God has promised He will do, He will do no matter what. 

One of my favorite promises in scripture is found in Philippians 4:19. I remind myself of this scripture when things aren’t going my way. It says that God will supply all of my needs according to His riches. I often want Him to supply all of my wants, but He has promised to take care of my needs. I have air in my lungs, a place to sleep and food to eat. That is something to be thankful for.

3. For what He has done

How many times have we prayed and asked God for something and He’s done it? Too many to count I’m sure. I often thank Him for the big things when He does them, but what about the little things? Have we thanked Him for a good night’s sleep, help on a test, safe travels or for food to eat? We constantly petition God in prayer and rarely thank Him.

When He healed the 10 lepers in Luke 17, only one came back to thank Him. Jesus asked him where the other 9 were. How was it that only one came back for something as big as a life giving healing? I want to live my life like that one who came back and worshipped Him and thanked Him.

I know it’s hard to do sometimes. I’ve been at points in my life where it seemed I had nothing to be thankful for. The truth is that I had a lot to be thankful for, but I wasn’t looking for it. Wherever you are today, stop and give thanks to God. You will find that it will change you when you live with a grateful heart.

What is something you’re thankful for today?

Thanks to Adam Winger @awcreativeut for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Areas Of Improvement

James 1:19 says, “Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]” (AMP). Chances are that you’re doing well in at least one of these areas, but struggle at being good in all three. I’m not always quick to listen. I like to guess where you’re going with something and get to your conclusion before you do. The problem with that is when we’re not quick to listen, we’re telling the other person that we don’t value them enough. Being quick to listen is important for us as believers because we need to listen to what God’s Word and the Holy Spirit have to say as well, and for the same reason.

Being slow to speak can be difficult, especially if we don’t have much of a filter between what we think and what we say. Proverbs 17:28 says, “Even a [callous, arrogant] fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips he is regarded as sensible (prudent, discreet) and a man of understanding.” Being slow to speak changes how people perceive us. It’s tough to do, especially when we’re the type who listens in order to respond rather than to understand. Being slow to speak also gives us the opportunity to listen more. Before responding, ask yourself if that really needs to be said and if it edifies or builds up the listener.

Finally, being slow to get angry can be tough, especially when we view people through a filter of pains from our past. When we go from a 3 to a 10 quickly, we say and do things we later regret. This one can be difficult to learn, but it starts by getting better at the first two. When I listen well, and give the other person the opportunity to say everything and listen with the intent of understanding, with a patient, reflective and forgiving heart, anger slows down. The Holy Spirit is at work in each of working to produce these three things in each of us. If you’re not good at all three, don’t despair. Ask God to help you so that you can be a better representation of Him. We’re all under construction and have areas God is working on. Spiritual maturity comes from allowing the Holy Spirit to daily help us get a little bit better at following Him.

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Seeking God’s Desires

Have you seen those videos where a parent offers a piece of candy or something sweet to a toddler and asks them not to eat it? A friend of mine did this recently. They put a piece of candy on the night stand with their two year old looking at it. They told him, “Mommy is going to get something in the other room. Don’t eat that until I get back. Ok?” She walked out of the room for about 30 seconds to a minute. This kid could hardly take his eyes off the candy while she was gone. He licked his lips a couple of times, looked at the door , looked back at the candy and waited? It was fun to watch. Im not sure I could have waited!

John the Baptist was a unique and incredible guy. Despite his looks, diet and living conditions, he amassed a huge following. He preached a powerful message of repentance and it caused many hearts to turn back to God. Not long after he baptized Jesus, the crowds began to grow around Him as well. Even some of John’s followers left him to follow Jesus. Some of his other followers began to get jealous that the crowds around Jesus were larger than theirs. John quickly responded that he had told them he wasn’t the Messiah. Then in John 3:30 he told them that Jesus must increase and he must decrease.

There’s a constant battle in all of us very similar to both of these stories. We have a strong desire pulling us toward what we want and a spirit inside pulling us toward what God desires. 1 Peter 4:2 says, “So live the rest of your earthly life no longer concerned with human desires but consumed with what brings pleasure to God” (TPT). It’s tough to do. John had the right heart and attitude that we should have. We must remember that life is not about us or our desires. We have to live with eternity in mind and choose to let God’s desires and plans increase in our life instead of our own. Matthew 6:33 reminds us to seek first the Kingdom of God. When we do that, everything else falls into place.

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Divine Disruptions

How do you respond when your plans get disrupted? How do you feel when things don’t go according to the way you thought they were? At times, we follow God’s leading in our life, thinking it’s going to go one way, when things happen and they go another. It drives me nuts when that happens. I’ve already played everything out based on the information I have from the Holy Spirit, but then I find out that I don’t have all the information. He often has a different plan than the one I have. He has other motives that I don’t know about. So when He disrupts what I think is the plan, I often don’t recognize that it’s Him. Instead of rolling with the changes, I often push back.

In Acts 8, the Early Church was growing rapidly until Saul came on the scene and started persecuting Christians. People had to move away from their homes to escape. One person that did that was Philip. He went to Samaria where Jews were hated. He preached the Gospel and revival broke out. So many people were getting saved and healed that Peter and John went there and took over Philip’s ministry. An angel then told him to go down the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. There he encountered an Ethiopian reading Scripture. He explained it to him and he got saved. After baptizing him, the Spirit caught Philip away and transported him to Ashdod instead of Gaza where he thought he was supposed to go. That was a seven hour walk away.

In each of these cases, the plans Philip had were disrupted or changed. Because of the persecution, the Gospel spread around the world. Because he followed God’s leading after his ministry was taken from him, aN Ethiopian took the Gospel to Africa and established the Church there. Romans 8:28 says, “So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together for good, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose” (TPT). Whatever disruption you’re facing right now could be from God. Even if it’s not, God can work it out for good and for His purposes. Instead of throwing a pity party, ask God what He needs from you in this time. Who knows the ripple effect of what God can do through you when you submit to His will instead of your plans.

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