Biblical Determination 


When my mom was in the hospital and the doctors said there was nothing else they could do, my dad pulled all of us into a room. He explained that the hospital was sending her home and that hospice would be providing care at the house. He then said, “I still believe God can heal her, but if He chooses not to, we need to be prepared for that. I want each of you to determine in your heart that you won’t get bitter against God.” That choice, made with determination, is what kept my relationship with God during my stages of grief.

The word “determine” comes from the Latin words “de” and “terminare”, which means to completely terminate. When we determine something, we completely terminate all other options. We have a single-minded focus to do what we are set out to do. I believe Jesus was determined to pay the price for you and I. The Bible says His face was set like a flint toward Jerusalem. He had terminated all other options and was determined to complete His mission. You and I can have that same determination to do what God has called us to do, but we have to terminate all other options in our heart first.

Here are some verses in the Bible about being determined:

1.   Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.
Ephesians 5:10 NLT

2.   You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit!—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble.
1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 MSG

3.   But Ruth answered, “Don’t ask me to leave you! Let me go with you. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and that is where I will be buried. May the Lord’s worst punishment come upon me if I let anything but death separate me from you!” When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.
Ruth 1:16-18 GNT

4.   Indeed all who delight in piety and are determined to live a devoted and godly life in Christ Jesus will meet with persecution [will be made to suffer because of their religious stand].
2 Timothy 3:12 AMPC

5.   Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
Proverbs 4:23 NLT

6.     Remember that I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the Lord your God, am with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9 GNT

7.   Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset–rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same (identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world.
1 Peter 5:8-9 AMPC

8.   I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations.
Psalms 119:30 NLT

9.   As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us.
Hebrews 12:1 GNT

10.   Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.
Isaiah 50:7 NLT

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Wake Your Dream Up


I recently asked a group of people what was the difference between a goal and a dream. I got several answers, but one stood out to me. They said, “A goal is something you can attain through making a plan, but a dream is that thing that is unattainable.” I thought, “If a dream is unattainable, then why have them?” Because so many of us think our dreams are unattainable, we let them die. We never chase them or go after them, so we focus on goals.

When I was younger, God gave me a dream of who I was to become. Yes, it was a calling, but it was so far out of reach, I treated it like a dream. I felt like if God wanted me to be who He wanted me to be, He’d just have to do a miracle. I lived all of my life with that dream in the back of my mind, but never had a thought of how I could attain it, so I never worked towards it. I knew the things I could do to move in the direction of it, but I stayed still.

In 2012, my former youth pastor was invited to speak at our church. I hadn’t seen him since the mid 90’s. After his sermon, I sat in my pew and quietly prayed, “God, if you want to make this a reality, I’m ready to do the work.” Immediately, he spoke into the microphone, “God just told me that someone in here has been running from their calling and just surrendered to it. If it’s you, He wants me to pray for you.” He actually got into more specifics than that and it was clear he was talking about me.

On that day, the dream God put in my heart came back to life. I began to do things, like starting this website, to get me closer to that dream calling. It’s no longer just a pipe dream. Each day that I do something about it, I get closer to God completing it. When I think about the Israelites, they couldn’t get to the Promised Land unless they were willing to leave the desert. They couldn’t enter it from the Sinai desert. They had to go towards the Jordan River. Once they got to the Jordan, God could perform the miracle for them to cross over into their dream land.

If you’ve allowed the dream God placed in your heart to die or lie dormant, I want you to take a step today from Ezekiel 37:9 and say what God told Ezekiel to say to the army built from the dry bones. Say, “Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again” (NLT). I believe if God placed a dream in your heart, He wants to revive it. You don’t have to be afraid that it’s too big. If you can’t accomplish it without His help, it probably didn’t come from Him. Speak life into that dream today and do something that moves you in the direction of your Jordan. 

You’re not too old. It’s not too late.

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Your Market Value


When I was a kid, my best friend and I would collect baseball cards. We would walk to the little store in the neighborhood to buy packages of Tops baseball cards. After we got back to his house, we would go through our cards and look them up in a book to see how much they were worth. The book had the value of all baseball cards in it. The most expensive card listed was for a player named Honus Wagner. It was worth several hundred thousand dollars. We dreamed of getting a Honus Wagner card one day.

In 2007, a Honus Wagner card auctioned for $2.7 million. Originally, the card came free in a can of tobacco, but now it was worth the millions to the person willing to pay for it. The market value of anything is based on what someone is willing to pay and auctions are proof of that. What made this card so valuable was that it was in mint condition. The better the condition, the greater the value. Who knows what that card will sell for the next time it goes to auction.

Sometimes we look at our lives like baseball cards. We think some are more valuable than others. We are always wondering what we are worth. If only there was a book where we could look ourselves up in and see. Of course, then we would wonder who is the most valuable. Who is the Honus Wagner of our generation? Who’s life is in mint condition? We look at our own life and know we are battered, wrinkled, and have torn edges. We somehow think that devalues us.

You are not a baseball card. Your value however, is based on the market value of what some is willing to pay. You read that right. God paid the highest price for you. To purchase you and to give you freedom, He gave up His one and only son. Romans 5:8 says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (NLT). He doesn’t care how messed up your life is and that it’s not in mint condition. He sees Honus Wagner type value in you.

Your value is not based on what you or anyone else thinks. It is based on the price Jesus was willing to pay for you. The next time those thoughts of worthlessness come into your mind, remind them that you were bought with a price. When someone treats at you like you’re worthless, don’t dwell on it. They don’t determine your value. God does, and He already said you are worth everything He has and more. The market value for you is Heaven’s firstborn. Don’t let anyone cause you to think you’re worth anything less than that.

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How To Keep Bitterness Away


I’ve combed through the book of Jeremiah looking for things to learn and grow from. What I found was a man who obeyed God, said what he was supposed to say, and was rejected because of it. He was beaten, thrown into a public prison, dumped into a cistern to die, dragged off against his will, and called a liar when people didn’t like the messages God gave him. Before he even gave the messages, he knew that the people were going to reject the messages. He even tried to keep quiet at one point, but he said the word of God felt like a fire trapped in his bones until he spoke it.

I can only imagine what he felt. In Lamentations 3:16-19, he described some of it for us. He wrote, “He has made me chew on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust. Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, ‘My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!’ The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss” (NLT). Powerful words describing a bitter time.

Even though this period of life was bitter for him, he didn’t become bitter. For me, that’s been one of my goals in life. When times get tough and all hope is lost, find a way to not get bitter through the process. When we have to endure bitter times in our lives, we have a choice. We can dwell on our losses, our disappointments, our failures, and our suffering or we can choose to dwell on God’s faithfulness through it all. One choice will make you as bitter as your circumstances and one will give you strength to endure.

Jeremiah chose the latter. In Lamentations 3:21-23 he wrote, “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” No matter what you’re having to go through, God has been faithful to you and He loves you. Concentrate on who He is and what He’s done for you throughout your life instead of your present situation. A smooth life isn’t guaranteed to any of us, but the love and faithfulness of the Lord is.

Sing this hymn to yourself today to help you remember:

Great is Thy faithfulness! 

Great is Thy faithfulness! 

Morning by morning new mercies I see. 

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided,

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

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Surrender


White flag. Tap out. Give up. Submit. Yield. Say, “Uncle.” Throw in the towel. Surrender. I don’t know anyone who likes to do it. Surrendering is admitting defeat. It’s embarrassing really. I, like you, don’t like to give up. I don’t like to face defeat. It goes against everything in me. Maybe you’re the same. When all the odds are against you, your theme song starts playing. Maybe it’s “The Eye of the Tiger” or “This is my Fight Song” or whatever, but it plays and pumps you up to keep you from surrendering and giving in.

In the prophet Jeremiah’s day, Jerusalem was under siege and there was very little hope. God was pronouncing His judgement against the people who had turned their back on Him. They refused to repent so God was sending them into captivity. The king secretly went to Jeremiah to ask what he should do. Jeremiah told him if he wanted to live, he needed to surrender. In Jeremiah 38:19, the king responded, “But I am afraid to surrender” (NLT). He was too afraid of how he would appear if he surrendered, so he disobeyed and it cost him his freedom.

Romans 8 tells us that the flesh and the spirit are at a constant war with each other. The flesh wants to do things its own way, and the spirit wants us to follow God’s way. For so many Christians, it’s a daily struggle and a guess as to which side will win. As Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” More times than not, our flesh wins because we fail to surrender to God’s plan for our lives. Surrender is so foreign to our flesh that we fight against what the spirit is trying to accomplish in our lives.

In Luke 14:33, Jesus put it this way, “So then, any of you who does not forsake (renounce, surrender claim to, give up, say good-bye to) all that he has cannot be My disciple” (AMPC). If we truly want to be God’s disciples, we have to be willing to surrender all we have for all He offers. According to Romans 8:13, when we surrender to what the spirit wants, we will live. You and I are given the same choice that the king of Israel had. Don’t make the same mistake he did. Surrender and live.

What is God asking you to surrender today in order to be His disciple?

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Pray Without Ceasing


As Michael and I were kicking around the idea of this week’s debate on prayer times (morning or evening), I asked people on my Facebook page when was the best time for them to pray. I got a few people who said that the morning was their best time and a few who said that the evening was. What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of religious, Sunday school answers I got. Over and over I got, “Pray without ceasing. Duh, Chris!” I rephrased the question multiple times so people understood that I wasn’t asking when should we pray, but when did they find was the best time for them to pray. The overwhelming answer was the same.

Either they didn’t understand what I was asking or they didn’t understand prayer. Since I rephrased, put all caps, and tried a few times to get the question right, I’m left with the thought that people don’t truly understand what the Bible means to pray or they wouldn’t be saying they’re doing it without ceasing. I know I don’t pray without ceasing (and I consider myself a person of prayer), and I’m pretty sure most of my friends don’t either. I can count on one hand the amount of people I know who spend hours in prayer each day. They’re the closest ones I know to praying without ceasing.

Sending up a, “God please help me,” a “please let this problem go away,” or a “bless my food” prayer isn’t praying without ceasing. The Greek word for that verse is proseúxomai. It means an exchange, as in a dialogue. Prayer is not about you giving God a wish list. It’s about you having an exchange of words, a conversation with Him. The quick one liner prayers when you’re in a bind don’t constitute an exchange. They’re one sided and don’t invite God to speak back. They only invite Him to listen and to come to your rescue. He wants more than that from you and me.

My wife and I have a monitor in my son’s room so we can hear him and he can talk to us. The problem is that it’s one way. We can hear him, but he can’t hear us. Too many Christians operate that way with God. They think He’s got a monitor in their life where He can hear us, but not talk back. Just like my wife and I talk back to our son without him hearing, so too we aren’t listening for God to speak to us.

I was in a conference with John Maxwell this week. One of the many thought provoking things he said was, “There’s a direct correlation between you being willing to listen and God being willing to talk.” This week, Michael and I have gone back and forth making arguments for when the best time to pray is. The truth is, the best time to pray is when you have the time to listen. God is always wanting to speak to us. The problem is we only give Him the opportunity to listen. Change that as you go forward. Give Him space and time to speak, then get ready to listen. Once you start listening to God speak, you’ll want to pray without ceasing.

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My Response To: Why Morning Prayer Is Not Essential To The Christian Life

I’d like to start off by reminding you that my friend and fellow blogger, Michael Stephens, and I often engage in dialogues where we share different points of view. We have a mutual respect for each other and find that our discussions open our own perspectives to see things in a different light. We often discuss theology, current events, pop culture, and politics. Our discussions are meant to share a point of view more than to convince the other that one of us is right and the other is wrong. We thought it would be fun to share one of our dialogues with you. This is my response to his assertion that morning prayer is not essential to the Christian life.

To read what he wrote before you read my response, click here.


Solitude is Essential

Michael said the following about the discipline of solitude, “The establishment of spiritual discipline in the heart is imperative.” We both agree on this point. Yes, prayer can be done anytime, anywhere, but throughout scripture, those places of solitude provided distraction free zones in which to commune with God. Jesus often went away to solitary places to pray. He even told us in Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go into your [most] private room, and, closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open” (AMP).

Michael also wrote that “Solitude can be created in chaotic times and places.” While I agree with that statement, not everyone has developed the discipline to do that. I once read the story of a Native American in New York City who was walking through the streets. He heard something and began walking down an alley. There it was, a cricket. He had heard it chirping above all the noise of the city. While he could hear it, most could not. They, like we, are too distracted by all the noise in our life to hear that still small voice in the chaos of life. That’s why solitude is so important, and what better time to find it than in the morning before our world gets noisy with texts, calls, emails, and other distractions?

We should pray when our hearts are most receptive and our minds are most alert

I agree with that statement and studies show, it’s in the morning. I remember in my first semester of college, my psychology professor gave us some helpful advice. He said, “Studies show that the later in the day it gets, the less function your mind has.” The National Sleep Foundation recently said that being awake 18 hours is the equivalent of having .08 blood alcohol level, which is the legal limit for being drunk. The later in the day we wait to pray, the less in control we have over our thoughts and actions. Our minds are freshest in the morning.

Michael mentioned that he used to be a morning prayer person, but it sometimes felt like a chore. The truth is that whatever time you pray can be considered “a chore”. I have a friend that I’m an accountability partner for in his prayer life. I have a reminder on my phone at 9:30 PM to remind him to pray. He too says it often feels like a chore, so he needs motivation to pray. If you’re finding that your prayer time feels like a chore, ask a friend to hold you accountable or keep a prayer journal so you can write down what God is saying to you. These will keep you on your toes and help make prayer exciting.

God always hears our prayers

Amen and thank God for it! No matter where we are or what situation we are in, God always hears our prayers. Michael wrote, “A morning prayer is no less heard than a prayer made on the busiest corner of Los Angeles at the height of Rush Hour.” Again, I agree with that statement, but what we are discussing here is not what I call a 9-1-1 prayer. We are talking about a set aside time to commune with God where we share our heart and listen to his. It’s difficult to do that on that corner in Los Angeles.

We both agree that prayer is essential to the Christian life. It is our lifeblood that keeps us going. Show me a person who doesn’t spend time with God each day and I’ll show you a person who will struggle in their faith the moment hard times come. Each of us will face those moments in life. Our survival is dependent on how deep our roots are in the famines of life. Prayer, alone time with God that is set aside, is what grows those roots. Tomorrow, I will dive deeper into what it means to commune with God.

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