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I remember taking Driver’s Ed. There came a time in the class where we took the instruction and put it into practice by driving around. When it was my turn to log some hours, he had me drive on the freeway for a while. There were times when he had to hit the brakes on his side of the car because I wouldn’t go slower than the speed of traffic. When I went to change lanes, the instructor asked me what I needed to check after I turned on my blinker. I replied, “My rear view and side mirror.” He then asked, “What else?” I shrugged. He told me I needed to look over my shoulder as well to check my blind spot. If I change lanes and hit a car, it’s my fault because I should have checked my blind spots. I’ve never forgotten those instructions.
We all have blind spots in our lives, and we all need instruction and correction too, but not all of us invite it into our lives. In Exodus 18, Moses’ father in law had heard all of the great things Moses had done for his people, so he went to meet him. The next day he saw Moses judging the people and how inefficient it was. After asking a few questions about it, he said, “Moses’ father-in-law said to him in Exodus 18:17-18, “The thing that you are doing is not good. You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you [to bear]; you cannot do it alone” (AMP). He gave Moses a better way to do it. Instead of responding, “I’m in charge here and don’t need your help,” Moses listened to the counsel, received the instructions and accepted the correction. How do you respond when someone does that to you?
Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to counsel, receive instruction, and accept correction, that you may be wise in the time to come.” Counsel is an outside perspective that helps guide us so we don’t hit things, or people, in our blind spots. Instruction is someone else telling us how do something we often think we know how to do. Correction is being told we’re in the wrong. All three are often hard to receive because of our pride. If we’re willing to put aside our pride, and invite these three things into our life with an open heart and mind, we will achieve far more than we ever could without it. We will also have better relationships with the people around us because we won’t be bumping into them in our blind spots as much. The key is for us to invite it into our lives or to accept it when someone else, including an in law, is offering it.
There’s a saying that says, “Always leave them wanting more.” When teaching people this principle, I like to tell the story of something that happened a couple of years ago. I was riding with my friend in his truck on a rainy day. As we were going down the road, we saw a guy carrying a duffle bag walking on the shoulder. He was getting soaked and we thought the Christian thing to do was to pick him up. He put the duffle bag in the bed of the truck where it was still getting rained on, and climbed in the back seat. My buddy told him he could bring it inside, but he declined. As we we driving, he asked him what was in the bag. The man said sternly, “It’s none of your business!” Shocked, I said, “You don’t have to be rude about it. We just wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to get messed up.” He repeated himself with even more attitude. My buddy pulled the truck over and told him to get out. Before he could grab the bag, we sped off!
On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Your lives are like salt among the people. But if you, like salt, become bland, how can your ‘saltiness’ be restored? Flavorless salt is good for nothing and will be thrown out and trampled on by others” (Matthew 5:13 TPT). Salt brings out incredible flavors in food, and it also makes you thirsty. If there’s too much, it makes the food inedible. If there’s too little, or you can’t taste it, what’s the point. The question my wife and I ask all the time is, “Did you leave them thirsting for more?” As people explore faith or are around us as Christians, that’s the question we have to ask. Did our conversation, and the way we acted, make them want to know more about God?
Colossians 4:5-6 says, “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” (NLT). The word “attractive” means seasoned with salt. We need to make sure we’re interacting with people who don’t know Jesus so we can be salt and light. There’s little point to salt or light unless you’re around unseasoned people in the dark. Jesus didn’t spend all His time in the Temple or only with believers. He made a point to be among people who didn’t believe in God, taught them in ways they could understand and left them wanting more. We need to ask God daily for wisdom in how to live, speak and act in front of non-believers so that we make them thirsty to know more about Him. We will know it’s the right amount when they ask for more.
P.S. I know you’re dying to know what was in the bag, and it’s none of your business. 😉😂
Several years ago, I had the incredible privilege to celebrate Good Friday at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. As I attended the sunrise service, I kept staring over at the door to the tomb. I imagined the size of the rock that once covered that entrance. I pictured Mary weeping just a few feet away. I wondered what direction Peter and John came running from. It was surreal to be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus by the tomb that once held Him. As the sun came up, my mind turned its attention to the Angels who were there and the message they gave to all who came to that place.
Mark 16:6 records them as saying, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!” All of christianity hinges on that last statement. 1 Corinthians 15:14 says, “If Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. (NLT)” Jesus didn’t come just to die. He came to rise again. He wasn’t just going to be crucified for our sins, He was going to be raised from the dead to give us life. His resurrection brought life where Adam’s sin brought death. Jesus defeated the power of death the moment He burst out of that tomb.
In Luke 24:5, the Angels asked the women, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?” Jesus had told them He would be raised on the third day, so why were they visiting the borrowed tomb with spices to embalm Him? They were looking for a crucified Jesus instead of a resurrected Jesus. Their message goes out to us today. Quit looking for the right thing in the wrong place. Our Lord was crucified, but He rose from the dead. You don’t have to go to a tomb to find Him. He left the place of the dead so that He could walk with you today among the living.
The final thing I thought about as I sat there came from Mark 16:7. The angel said, “Now go tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.” My favorite part is where he said, “including Peter”. After Peter denied Jesus, I’m sure he no longer felt like a disciple. I’m sure he was beating himself up for the mistake he made. The Angels wanted to make sure he knew that he was still loved and considered by God as a disciple. They sent him a clear message that he was forgiven no matter what he did.
Too many times we beat ourselves up over sins we have committed. We keep ourselves from the grace that has been given to us. While Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for your sin, His resurrection gives you new life after it. You can put your name in that message where Peter’s name is. The Angels are speaking to you too, they are saying you are loved, you are forgiven and Jesus is waiting for you. All He’s asking is that you trust the power of the resurrection, that you leave the cemetery of your past and that you move ahead to the new life where He is leading you.
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.
One of the ways that my wife and I define success as parents is if our son grows up to follow Jesus. Each of us were given a heritage of faith. Like. A baton in a race, it’s been handed down from one generation to the next. I was in my twenties when I first recognized that godly heritage for what it is. I remember reaching out to my parents and grandparents to thank them for investing in my foundation of faith. I was taken to church every time the doors were opened whether I wanted to go or not. I was given the gift of a Christian school education as well where teachers poured into that foundation. Now, we are doing the same thing for our son. We explain to him why we believe what we believe and partner with family, friends, church and teachers to build a foundation of faith in him so that it doesn’t stop with us.
Throughout the first few books of the Bible, as God gives Moses and His people the Law and the Commandments, he reminds him that these are not just for them. God specifically asks them to teach them to their children. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “Never forget these commands that I am giving you today. Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working” (GNT). He didn’t just tell them to let them learn about them at church or school. It was the parents responsibility to daily pour into the children’s foundation of faith. It was up to them to talk about them all the time and to explain to their kids the great things God has done for them in their life and throughout history.
In one of my last conversations with my mom before she died, she recounted every time God answered her prayers from the time she was a little girl until that day. After what seemed like hours, she looked at me and said, “God has been faithful all my life. Whether He chooses to heal me or not, I have peace because I trust Him.” It was one of the most impactful conversations we ever had. As she was dying, she was continuing to pour into my foundation so that I would continue the family’s legacy of faith. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first generation Christian or fifth, our responsibility is to pass the baton of faith to the next generation. I once heard someone say that Christianity is only one generation from extinction. Don’t let it end with you. Give your kids the gift of a foundation of faith.
Watching the March Madness college basketball tournament reminds me of the days when I played basketball. There was always excitement on game day, and a bit of nervousness too. When we would play in the opponent’s gym, sometimes they would have a rowdy crowd. When you’re shooting free throws, and the crowd is doing everything they can to disrupt you to make you miss, you rely on muscle memory to make the shot. Muscle memory is developed in practice when the fundamentals are poured into you and repeated over and over. You do the same routine over and over so your brain isn’t distracted by the craziness on game day. So, when you’re standing there on that line, you remember what you’ve been taught and practiced and make the shot.
In 2 Timothy 3, Paul let’s Timothy know that crazy, difficult days are ahead. He said, “People will be selfish, greedy, boastful, and conceited; they will be insulting, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, and irreligious; they will be unkind, merciless, slanderers, violent, and fierce; they will hate the good; they will be treacherous, reckless, and swollen with pride; they will love pleasure rather than God; they will hold to the outward form of our religion, but reject its real power. Keep away from such people” (2 Timothy 3:2-5 GNT). That sounds an awful lot like world we are living in now. There are so many distractions around us, and so many things trying to divide the Church. There’s pressure to leave the fundamentals of Christianity because it is opposed to all these things listed, which have been normalized. With all of this going on, it would be easy for us to miss the shot right in front of us. That’s why Paul told us what to do during these times.
In verse 14, he wrote, “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you” (NLT). We must hold onto the eternal truth of God’s Word. While the world is trying to move the boundary markers of truth, we must hold fast to what is real truth. The fundamentals of faith are what we must hold tightly too and implement into our lives. Romans 12:2 reminds us not to conform to the culture of the world, but to continuously renew our minds. How do we renew our mind? By putting the truth of God’s Word into it daily so we can combat what the world is throwing at us. We are not to change God’s Word to fit into our culture. Instead, we are to be changed by God’s Word so that we stand out in this culture in order to lead people to Christ. We have a great opportunity to remain faith to God’s fundamentals.
One of my favorite shows is Alone. They take ten people, put them in a hostile environment with ten items and have them survive until everyone taps out. It appeals to me for many reasons, but one of my favorite parts is when the contestants have been alone and hungry for about 30 days. There is a huge psychological battle every contestant faces as they document themselves on this journey. Some grow to hate the location, the hunger, the isolation and the constant struggle for food and water. Then there are others who are in a similar location a few miles away that get ahold of the negative thoughts and begin speaking positive words instead. In every case, the ones who continue to speak negatively tap out of the contest. The one who can continue to find positive things through the struggle is the one who wins.
I’m not sure there’s another person in the Bible besides Jesus who suffered more than Paul. He was imprisoned multiple times in jails that were dark, nasty and had no humanitarian standards for prisoners. He was shipwrecked, beaten to a pulp many times, dragged out of cities, lied about, stoned, robbed, left for dead and abandoned. The things he went through, many of us couldn’t survive. However, Paul kept preaching the Gospel, writing letters and encouraging others through it all. My favorite story is when he was in a dungeon of a prison, bleeding and hungry, and he starts singing praises to God for all to hear. No matter how bad things were, he found a way to praise and refocus his attention on God instead of his circumstances.
David was a lot like him too. In Psalm 34:1-2 David penned, “I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart” (NLT). He didn’t say, “I want to praise the Lord at all times.” He was saying, “I will,” as in he’s not going to give his mind the choice to do anything else. Do you have have an “I will praise the Lord at all times” attitude? You need to decide that attitude ahead of your circumstances, but even if you’re in the middle of hard times now, you can choose it. Praising God doesn’t change your circumstances, it changes you in the middle of them. It strengthens you and puts your focus on the One who is greater than what you’re facing. If you haven’t chosen to praise the Lord at all times, do it today and put it into practice. He deserves to be praised in the good times and the bad.