Clarity

I’m taking my annual sabbatical this week. I want to keep encouraging you with God’s Word while I’m away though. Here’s a devotional from one of the sites I follow B Is For Blessed.

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;
Ephesians 4:17-18 NKJV

 The ice pictured here was photographed a few years ago in Alaska. It was so clean and clear because it lacked the impurities found elsewhere. Likewise, we need to get away to obtain that same sense of clarity in our mind and spirit. The chatter of people, things, and social media can cause us to forget our purpose and pull us away from the very things God tasks us to do.

There are several references in the Bible where Jesus left the crowds (and his disciples) to be alone and pray. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus stepped away from those closest to him to be alone. What’s interesting is that the disciples Jesus asked to stay up with him failed him three times that night.

Those closest to us can fail to meet our expectations as well. When we face trials, we may instinctively call other people to draw them into our troubles.

Yet, what if we choose not to solicit the sympathy and opinions of others in trying times and, instead, seek the God who sees the end from the beginning? What would change if we habitually went away—accessible to God’s ministering angels— to be strengthened for the crosses we must bear?

If Jesus had to be alone to gain peace and perspective, how much more necessary is it for us to remove ourselves and eliminate the noise of doubt and fear?

It doesn’t require a grand vacation to gain the clarity we need. Sitting alone and embracing the silence a few moments a day may be all it takes to organize our priorities. Praying in a closet or the solitude of a car can produce calm over chaos.

What could be more important than the ability to hear God and visualize His plans for our lives? What opportunities can we unlock by learning to shut out the things (or people) that steal our time and energy?

I challenge you to break away and create new routines in 2020. Put yourself in positions and places where you can abide with God. Do whatever it takes to gain the peace and perspective that will give you confidence to walk the path He has for you.

We receive salvation by grace. Yet, I’ve learned that peace of mind and clarity of purpose require effort on my part. Solitude renews my mind. Silence allows me to hear God. I’ve finally learned to sit down and be still which generates a fruitfulness that running around like crazy never produced.

Seek and hear God like never before.

What you focus on will inevitably determine what you see…

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Praying In Troubled Times

I was watching the Grow Leadership conference this week, and the last session was “Thriving In Storms”. There was a lot of talk during that session of how pastors can lead and grow during difficult times. However, it’s not just pastors who go through difficult times. We all do, and several of the things he talked about translate to you and me including his final point. In times of trouble, you and I need to be looking up instead of around. When there’s chaos in our life, the tendency is to be looking around at all of it in disbelief. Our brains are made for order, not chaos, and when it happens to us, we lose sight of our focus. John Maxwell often says, “What you think about grows.” Are you thinking about the troubles you’re going through or the one who can help you through them?

Chris Hodges also said something that we all need to be reminded of. He said, “Prayer is not just communicating with God. It’s also waging war against the enemy.” When we’re going through a troubled time, we send up a few 911 prayers, but after that, our prayer life tends to drop off. We can’t afford to get off our knees when we’re going through troubled times. We need the communication with the Father who will lead us through the valley, and we also need to be waging war against the one who is attacking us. Instead of letting troubles disrupt your communication with God, make a conscious effort to increase your prayer time. It will have a twofold effect: 1. Your faith will increase as your communication and focus on God increase. 2. You will pull down strongholds that are trying to keep you from thriving.

Here are some Bible verses on praying in troubled times.

1. Leave your troubles with the Lord, and he will defend you; he never lets honest people be defeated.

Psalm 55:22 GNT

2. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him And saved him from all his troubles.

Psalms 34:6 AMP

3. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV

4. The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.

Psalms 9:9 NLT

5. Let this hope burst forth within you, releasing a continual joy. Don’t give up in a time of trouble, but commune with God at all times.

Romans 12:12 TPT

Photo by Ana-Maria Berbec on Unsplash

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The Apron Of Humility

Several years ago, our area was hit by Hurricane Ike. Our electricity was out for over two weeks. Because of the work I do, I had to go to work anyway to help customers. A couple of days after the storm hit, the CEO of this Fortune 15 company flew down here. Each day, he put aside his tie, put on our uniform, and got behind a computer to help customers at one of our stores. When regular customers didn’t recognize him, they’d ask who he was. When he told them, no one believed him. He had to pull out his business card to prove it. Even then, there were skeptics.

To me, that’s a lot like what Jesus did. When the world was dark and powerless, Jesus left Heaven to come to earth to help us. He put aside His Heavenly body to take on the form of a man. He walked among us to help us. Many did not recognize Him nor believe He was who He said He was. When He proved it by doing things only God could do, they were still skeptical. Even though there were doubters, He continued to do the work that He was sent to do

Philippians 2:5-8 tells us exactly that, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (NLT). What it says first is very important. We should have that same attitude.

We should never be above doing any work in the Kingdom. There is no position high enough or level of spiritualness that you can attain where you don’t have to get down in the trenches and serve like everyone else. Jesus was still exhibiting the qualities of a servant the night before He completed His mission on earth. He made it clear He was the Messiah, the Son of God, and yet He served others. John 13:4 says, “So He got up from the supper table, set aside His robe, and put on an apron” (MSG). He took off the robe that signified His greatness and position, to put on what the lowest ranking person wears in order to serve.

Christianity is not about becoming a great and powerful leader. It’s about becoming an humble servant. It’s following the example of the One who gave up all authority in Heaven and earth to wash the feet of others. It’s about meeting people where they are so they can see what God’s love is like. If the CEO of Heaven took off His robe to put on an apron and serve, we should put aside our pride and follow His example of serving others. Wearing the apron was an outward example of the position of His heart. If you feel you’re above putting on the apron of humility, pray that God would give you the same attitude Christ Jesus had.

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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A Breath Of Fresh Air

When I was a senior in high school, I was given the gift of the trip of a lifetime to go camping in the Canadian Rockies. I went with a small group of other high school students who had completed the same milestone in this scouting program. As we pulled up to our first camping spot somewhere near Banff, Alberta, i remember the view was incredible. One of the trip leaders got out of the van and said, “Boys, get out here and take a deep breath of this fresh, mountain air!” I remember taking that breath. The air was crisp and cool. I think one of us even coughed from taking such a deep breath. The leader said, “That’s right! Get that city air out of your lungs. You’re breathing fresh air up here.”

When You read the creation account in Genesis, you will read that God formed man out of the dust of the ground. He shaped him, gave him fingers and toes, arms and legs, a brain, a heart and even lungs. Man has everything he needed to live, but was still laying lifeless on the ground until God bent down and blew the breath of life into his nostrils. His lungs filled with air and man became a living being. I believe that every one of us have that breath of life in us, but it gets covered up by the polluted air we breathe in this world. One way to replace that polluted air is to read the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “Every Scripture has been inspired by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God” (TPT). When we breathe in the Word of God, we breathe in what God exhaled and our lungs are filled with fresh air.

What will we do with that fresh air? Will we let it become polluted again or will we use it to allow others to breath in fresh air? In 2 Timothy 1:16, Paul wrote, “So many times Onesiphorus was like a breath of fresh air to me and never seemed to be ashamed of my chains.” Even Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament needed someone to be a breath of fresh air to him encouraging him with the Words of God. If he needed it, how much more do the people around you? The problem is that we can only breathe out what we breathe in. What have you been breathing in? Is what you’re breathing out life giving? Is it fresh air to those around you? If not, spend more time in God’s Word asking Him to fill, your lungs with His breath of life so that you can be someone who is a breath of fresh air wherever you go.

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

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Unity Through Prayer

Our world is more polarized and divided now than ever in my lifetime. We’re divided politically, socially, on masks, on justice issues and just about anything you can think of. I’m a person who loves to read comments on social media because I love how creative and funny people are. However, lately, I see a lot of arguments in the comments with hateful attacks toward each other over the littlest things. I watched a video by a comedian recently and then went to the comments. People were attacking him, his humor, his lack of humor, people who thought it was funny and people who didn’t. It’s easy to think that the division of people is something new, but it’s been around since the beginning. It’s one of the most effective tools in our enemy’s belt.

Satan used his divisive techniques on Adam and Eve to get them separated from God. He used it on Cain to kill Abel. Moses and the Israelites dealt with it over and over in the wilderness. You can’t read something in the Bible hardly without seeing the conflict. When Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy, Nero was the ruler and he was decapitating Christians and using their heads as torches to light the city. There were people named at the end of chapter 1 who were opposed to the message of Christ that Paul said that he handed over to Satan to be rid of them. Interestingly though, immediately after that verse, chapter two starts and Paul takes a different tone towards those who were polar opposites from him and the faith.

1 Timothy 2:1 says, “Most of all, I’m writing to encourage you to pray with gratitude to God. Pray for all men with all forms of prayers and requests as you intercede with intense passion” (TPT). The next verse says to pray for political leaders, even those opposed to your way of thinking, referring to Nero. You and I have a responsibility right now, in today’s climate to bring unity through prayer. It’s hard to hate someone you pray and intensely intercede for. Are we so busy arguing our side of things that we’ve forgotten to pray for those opposed to us? Romans 12:20 said if our enemy was hungry, we should buy them lunch. Where is that kind of love today? I’m praying that God would give me, and Christians everywhere, that kind of heart instead of an argumentative one. I think there’s a time and place to defend our way of life, but they shouldn’t know us by our arguments or eloquent defense. They should know us by our love.

Photo by Benjamin Suter on Unsplash

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Salt Or Pepper

Recently we had a friend, who is a chef, come to the house to prepare a meal for us and to teach us how to prepare steaks. We had three different petite steaks prepared three different ways. One was reverse seared, one was sous vide and one was dry brined. On the dry brine, he told us to cover the steak with salt and allow it to sit for at least an hour before washing off and cooking. The salt will pull the moisture to the surface of the steak creating a juicy, flavorful steak with a caramelized outside. The salt worked well before and during the cooking process. He then told us it’s best not to use pepper until after you’ve cooked your steak. Whereas salt interacts well with the fire, pepper actually adopts a bitter taste that we’ve all become used to.

As I was reading Mark 9:49-50, I thought about this dinner. Jesus said, “Everyone will be purified by fire as a sacrifice is purified by salt. Salt is good; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have the salt of friendship among yourselves, and live in peace with one another” (GNT). Every one of us will go through the fire in this life. Will we dry up and get burned during that time or will we become more flavorful? I love how The Message puts Jesus’ word of Matthew 5. It says, “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.”

Our lives should be bring out God flavors in this world especially when we’re going through hard times. We shouldn’t be like those with pepper on them producing bitterness. Just like those steaks, it helps if we’re covered in salt before we go through the fire. We must continually be in prayer and in God’s Word so that when the fire comes, that’s what comes out of us. The world is going through a tough time right now. People are afraid, bitter and arguing. What better time for us to be salt and light than now? We have an opportunity like never before to bring out the God-flavors of the world. Let’s not squander it by being bitter. Let your salt be flavorful and leave a good taste in people’s mouth as you point them to God.

Photo by Edson Saldaña on Unsplash

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Looking For God

Last night we went outside to see the Neowise comet. After waiting until it was dark enough to see it, I decided to go get my barely used telescope. I struggled to bring it into view. So I decided on an easier target to find in space: the moon. After checking out some of the craters, we started looking for meteors since there’s a meteor shower peaking this week. As we looked east, we saw Jupiter and Saturn. I decided to try to get them in my telescope expecting to see little dots. Instead, we were able to see 3 moons around Jupiter and even a few bands of gas. When I then moved it to Saturn and we could see the rings, my son flipped out. He started crying saying how beautiful it was and how it was better than he ever imagined. I had him read Psalm 19:1. After he read it, through his sobs, he said, “Now I believe in God more!”

God reveals Himself to every one of us through different things. Ravi Zacharias once said that God put enough of Himself in creation for you to find Him, yet He hid enough of Himself in it that you could miss Him if you weren’t looking. Most of us go through our daily lives so focused on our tasks or problems that we rarely look for how God is revealing Himself to us. He uses different means to make Himself known to us, but we must be looking with intentionality. John 1 tells of how all of creation was made through Jesus. Then in verse 10 it says that when He came into the world to reveal Himself, we didn’t even notice and were unaware. We can’t be caught unaware of what God is trying to reveal today.

Here are some Bible verses on how God reveals Himself to us.

1. How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory! How plainly it shows what he has done! Each day announces it to the following day; each night repeats it to the next.

Psalm 19:1-2 GNT

2. So he said, “When you pray, say, Father, Reveal who you are. Set the world right. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.”

Luke 11:2-4 MSG

3. So then, let us [who minister] be regarded as servants of Christ and stewards (trustees, administrators) of the mysteries of God [that He chooses to reveal].

1 Corinthians 4:1 AMP

4. He said, “Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surrounded by light. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors, for you have given me wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of you and revealed to us what the king demanded.”

Daniel 2:20-23 NLT

5. Pour out even more of your love on us! Reveal more of your kindness and restore us back to you!

Psalms 85:7 TPT

Thanks to @grakozy for making this photo available freely on @unsplash

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Living In Grace

Have you ever failed God by sinning? Did you feel like you let Him and yourself down? If you’re human, then the answer is yes. When we sin, we feel that same shame that Adam and Eve felt in the Garden of Eden. We want to hide ourselves, and cut ourselves off from God for a while. We tend to punish ourselves and beat ourselves up when we mess up. I know that i do all of these things when I sin. Then, a voice reminds me about grace.

Grace is one of those things that the human brain has a hard time understanding. Our whole lives we’ve been conditioned to get punished when we do something wrong. When someone else doesn’t punish us for doing wrong, we tend to punish ourselves mentally. But grace doesn’t do that. It comes and offers God’s unmerited favor of salvation and the covering of sin for free. It’s foreign to how our mind works, but we are called to live by grace through faith.

When Paul was on one of his missionary journeys, a town asked him to speak in the synagogue. Some accepted this grace, and others rejected it. They were used to having to pay for their own sins, and couldn’t accept that someone else had. To those who did accept it, Paul encouraged them. In Acts 13:43 it says, “The apostles spoke to them and encouraged them to keep on living in the grace of God” (GNT). That’s a great word for you and I today too. Keep on living in the grace of God.

The next time you sin or fail God, seek forgiveness, ask Him to help you to turn from it and thank God for His grace,. No matter how many times you fail God, His grace will always be sufficient. No matter how bad you sin, the blood of Jesus is strong enough to wash it white as snow. Quit beating yourself up and cutting yourself off from God. Accept what Jesus did for you and keep on living in the grace of God.

Photo by ABEL MARQUEZ 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.

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Our Daily Declaration

To me, one of the most important declarations in the Bible was made on Joshua 24:15. Joshua, who was the leader of Israel, was reminding the people of all God had done for them. He told them of the blessings that were promised to those who followed God’s ways. He also spoke of the consequences of choosing to disobey His commands. After that he said, “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord” (NLT).

Joshua couldn’t speak for everyone just because he was their leader. Each person had to make their own decision on how they would live. There’s only two ways really. One is in obedience to God’s ways and the other is disobedience. There’s not a half and half. No one else can choose it for you either. Each one of us have to come to the point in our lives when we declare our independence from our sinful nature and pledge our allegiance to God.

Galatians 5:17 says, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.” Joshua understood this war that goes on in each one of us. He knew that he was susceptible to failing, that’s why he made the declaration.

Today, you and I fight the same battle. Some days we win. Some days we lose. When I lose, I fall back on Romans 8:1-2. It says, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” We have been freed from the power of sin, but not from our sinful nature. We must keep declaring, no matter how bad or how many times we fail, that we will serve the Lord.

Photo by Matthias Wagner on Unsplash

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Being Persistent

What’s one characteristic that you have that makes you successful? Have you ever thought about that? Each of us have natural giftings and characteristics that God gave us that help us to be successful. I like to ask that question because I get a lot of different answers. My answer is usually determination or consistency. Consistency is what dug the Grand Canyon and determination can keep you focused to accomplish anything. I try to be consistent in every area of my life. What you see is what you get. I’ve also learned that there are characteristics that I can learn and implement into my life in order to be more successful. I don’t have to just rely on and use my natural giftings.

In Luke 11, the disciples were talking privately with Jesus and they asked Him to teach them to pray. He taught them what we refer to as The Lord’s Prayer. As soon as He finished, He gave an illustration to help them understand how to pray better. He gave the example of a person who had a friend show up unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Instead of putting them to bed, he needed to serve them some food, but didn’t have any. He then went to his neighbor and knocked on the door to ask for food. The neighbor was in bed and didn’t want to give the food, but the person kept knocking and wouldn’t go away. Because they wouldn’t stop, the neighbor will get out of bed and give him what he needs. Jesus then said our prayers should be like that instead of one and done or asking timidly.

In verse 11, Jesus gave a characteristic that we can al, learn and implement. He said, “Every persistent person will get what he asks for. Every persistent seeker will discover what he needs. And everyone who knocks persistently will one day find an open door” (TPT). Persistency. How many times have we been persistent with God like a kid in the grocery store wanting something? We tell ourselves that we don’t want to bother God with our problem or believe the lie that God doesn’t care about our issue. Those lies are meant to rob you of your blessing and to keep you from communicating with your Heavenly Father. Don’t listen to them. Instead, pound on Heaven’s door and let God know you’re not going away until you get what you need. Jesus said every persistent person will get what they ask for. Don’t quit asking. Don’t quit seeking. Don’t quit knocking.

Photo by Daniel von Appen on Unsplash

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