The Blessings Of Trust

I’ve learned that there are some people who give trust up front to everyone they meet and there are people who make everyone earn trust before they give it. Trust is something that can easily be lost and difficult to gain. Think of someone you don’t trust. What would they have to do to earn it from you? You probably just thought of a nearly impossible bar. When you do trust someone, like a doctor or other professional, you take their opinion seriously and follow it. They have a proven track record of being right and that’s why you trust them. That kind of trust is defined by Merriam Webster as, “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” I love that definition of trust, especially when we apply it to God.

Peter trusted Jesus enough to get out of the boat to walk on the water. Some other people trusted Him enough to tear open a roof and to lower their friend down for healing. Moses trusted God enough to go back to Egypt and set the Israelites free. How much do you trust Him? To answer that, look at how much and what parts of your life you’ve given to Him. There are parts we all hold back from Him implying we trust ourselves more than Him in those areas. We can rely on the character, ability, strength and truth of who God is. He’s proven it since the beginning of time, yet we each hold back. It’s time we let go and trust Him with each of the areas of our lives. The more we trust Him, the greater our life becomes.

Here are some Bible verses on trusting God.

1. He who leans on and trusts in and is confident in his riches will fall, But the righteous [who trust in God’s provision] will flourish like a green leaf.

Proverbs 11:28 AMP

2. You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.

Isaiah 26:3 GNT

3. But blessed is the man who trusts me, GOD, the woman who sticks with GOD. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers— Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 MSG

4. Give God the right to direct your life, and as you trust him along the way you’ll find he pulled it off perfectly!

Psalms 37:5 TPT

5. Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

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O Little Town Of Bethlehem

A few years ago, we were preparing for Christmas. I was putting gifts in boxes, then sliding them to my wife who was wrapping them. After she would wrap, she would ask who the gift was for. On one such gift, she looked at me with pen in hand expectantly. I looked at the box, smiled, and said, “That one is for you!” She had been so busy wrapping that she couldn’t remember what was on the box.

That’s kind of how God snuck the gift of our savior into the world. It wasn’t a big showy presentation. It was delivered in a barn through a humble girl who was barely known. The world would expect the King of Kings to get around the clock coverage, tweets wondering what His name would be, and hashtags so everyone could follow. But that’s not how God did it. He did it opposite from the way we would have done it.

The lyrics of “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” described it like this:

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;

So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.

No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

God silently sent us His gift of redemption. The path to Heaven was illuminated by a star instead of spotlights. It was announced to shepherds instead of socialites and influencers. Those who were looking and listening found a baby lying in a manger in the small town of Bethlehem, which wasn’t even the capital. God entered this world silently so that those who are seeking Him will find Him. Those who find Him and receive Him will have His peace live in their heart and their sins forgiven. Oh what a gift that was given in the little town of Bethlehem.

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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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Applied Christianity

It’s starting to be that time of year with all the commercials for gyms and exercise equipment. Whether it’s the Bowflex, Mirror, Tonal or something else, they’re great at speaking to something deep within us that wants to improve. They show images of people who are very fit and strong using the equipment. They promise that we can look like that too if only we will commit to a few minutes a day. We identify with the end result of how the person on the screen looks, so we purchase them. We start out with great intentions of using it, but by a month or two in, it becomes a very expensive clothes hanger. We loved the end result, but struggle with the daily application.

One of the scariest Bible verses to me is Matthew 7:22-23. Jesus said, “On the day of judgment many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, don’t you remember us? Didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we cast out demons and do many miracles for the sake of your name?’ But I will have to say to them, ‘Go away from me, you lawless rebels! I’ve never been joined to you!’” (TPT) My immediate thought when I read that is, “Lord, I don’t want that to be me.” He describes someone who acts like a Christian and does things for Jesus, but in the end, they missed something. He then goes on to tell the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders to illustrate this point, and it all comes down to application.

Jesus said in verse 24, “Everyone who hears my teaching and applies it to his life can be compared to a wise man who built his house on an unshakable foundation.” just like the exercise equipment there’s a big difference between the person who identifying with the end result and the person who applies the exercise daily to their life. Those who identify with Christianity (the morals, good living, etc.) but never apply the Word of God to how they live are like the foolish builder and are the ones whom Jesus will tell that He never knew. The ones who don’t just have a form of Christianity, but have the relationship with Christ through prayer and spiritual disciplines will be like the wise builder with an unshakable foundation whom Jesus knows and recognizes. Each of us have the daily chose of identification or application. Choose wisely.

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Loving Like Jesus

In Matthew 22, the Sadducees had tried to trap Jesus with a question and failed. The Pharisees then decided to give it a try. They asked Him which one out of all the commandments was the greatest. In verses 37-40, Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (NLT). They agreed with Him on that answer. If you love others the way you love yourself, you won’t break any of the other ones.

During the Last Supper, Jesus got up from the table, put on an apron and washed the disciples’ feet. Of course Peter objected and was then corrected. Afterwards, in John 13:34 Jesus said, “So I give you now a new commandment: Love each other just as much as I have loved you” (TPT). I find it interesting that He gave a new commandment that was slightly different than the first one. Instead of loving others the way we love ourselves, we should love others the way He loves us. Jesus was saying His love for us was greater than our own love for ourselves. He was also pointing out how He demonstrated that love. In all three commandments mentioned here, the love produces behaviors in the individual.

Think of His behavior that night. Knowing that Judas was about to betray Him, Peter was about to deny Him and the others were going to run away in His darkest hour, His love for them still reached for a towel. More than that, His love gave Him the strength to endure a night of torture and ultimately dying for each of their sins. Even after the resurrection, He went to all of them with the purpose of restoring the relationship. Loving others the way Jesus loved us is definitely more than we love ourselves. It’s a love that fulfills your end of the relationship, pushes through in even the hardest time and reaches out to restore others. It’s when we demonstrate this kind of love, the one greater than self love, that others will know that we are truly His disciples.

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Sharing Our Faith

When I was a teenager in the late 80’s, our youth pastor showed us a movie called “Without Reservation”. It started with some high schoolers at a party, but then several of them left together. The ones who left had an accident and were killed. They woke up in the car with a large TV screen in front of them that revealed they had died, and then it began showing video of a line of people. Some were asked to go to the left if they didn’t have a reservation, and the ones who did were sent to the right. One kid in the car was a Christian and began explaining what was happening. One kid was in disbelief, another agreed with him because she had heard about it, but never accepted Jesus. A third looked at the Christian and asked, “If you knew about this, why didn’t you ever tell me?”

That movie made an impact on me as a teen, especially that question. Evangelism and sharing our faith is one of the hardest things to do for most Christians. We are afraid of rejection, afraid we don’t know what to say or afraid of what they’ll think of us. Sharing our faith isn’t easy, but in most cases, it isn’t going to cost you your life. We’ve grown comfortable with letting our fear dictate our actions as we prevent people from having the opportunity to accept Jesus. In essence, we’re keeping people out of Heaven by not asking them to make a decision. Can you imagine a friend or family member looking at you after you’ve passed away asking you why you never gave them the opportunity? “I was afraid of what you would think of me,” isn’t a great answer at that point.

Mark 10:13 says, “The parents kept bringing their little children to Jesus so that he would lay his hands on them and bless them. But the disciples kept rebuking and scolding the people for doing it” (TPT). The disciples were guilty of preventing people from coming to Jesus too. When Jesus saw that they were keeping these parents and children away from Him, He rebuked them. Each of us are keeping people from Jesus like the disciples did that day when we keep our faith private and don’t share it. We can’t afford to do that. I pray we all will receive boldness to push past our fear and be willing to share our faith to those around us. Paul’s prayer in Philemon 1:6 says, “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective and powerful because of your accurate knowledge of every good thing which is ours in Christ” (AMP). Let’s be effective and powerful in the sharing of our faith rather than quietly keeping it to ourselves.

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New Life

Eternity is one of the things we have to force ourselves to think about. We get so busy down here that we forget this life is not all there is. We allow ourselves to be stressed over things that won’t matter in five years, much less eternity. Life is more than our jobs, our coming and going, what we eat or the things we own. Jesus came to give us an abundant, eternal life. That was His purpose in coming. While this time of year can be stressful, don’t forget the real reason we celebrate is that Jesus came to give us real life that goes beyond the years on this planet. Remind yourself daily to keep an eternal perspective when it comes to life.

Here are some Bible verses on the life God gives.

1. It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh conveys no benefit [it is of no account]. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life [providing eternal life].

John 6:63 AMP

2. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

Colossians 3:3-4 MSG

3. The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness.

John 10:10 GNT

4. Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].

2 Corinthians 5:17 AMP

5. My old identity has been co-crucified with Messiah and no longer lives; for the nails of his cross crucified me with him. And now the essence of this new life is no longer mine, for the Anointed One lives his life through me— we live in union as one! My new life is empowered by the faith of the Son of God who loves me so much that he gave himself for me, and dispenses his life into mine!

Galatians 2:20 TPT

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The Little Things

A while back, there was a concert my wife and I wanted to go to. On the day the tickets went on sale, I had two phones, an iPad and a laptop out trying to get tickets. After sitting in their digital waiting room for an hour, a message popped up saying they were sold out. As we got closer to the concert date I began looking at all the resale sites, but the ticket prices were outrageous. As we were driving down the road discussing it, my wife closed her eyes and said, “Lord, it would be awesome if you could give us free tickets to this concert. Amen.” I laughed internally and thought, “No one is going to give up their tickets, but ok God.” The day before the concert she got a message offering her free tickets to the concert. We were both blown away.

In 2 Kings 6, Elisha was the prophet of Israel, and the group of prophets who were with him decided the place where they were staying was too small. They wanted to build a bigger place, but Elisha didn’t think they needed to. After begging him to come, they went to the river to cut down trees to build a bigger place. Verse 5 says, “But as one of them was cutting a tree, his ax head fell into the river. ‘Oh, sir!’ he cried. ‘It was a borrowed ax!’” (NLT) Elisha had him point to the place where the ax head went into the water. He then threw in a stick and the ax head floated to the surface. The man grabbed it and went back to work.

Both stories remind me that God is concerned about the little things in our lives. Going to the concert didn’t change our lives, but God knew it was something we would appreciate. Sometimes we forget that like a parent, God just wants to bless His kids. We don’t need to feel like we’re bothering Him with the little things. He’s just as able to take care of the “little” requests in our lives as the “big” ones. God simply wants to be involved in our day to day lives instead of being our spiritual 9-1-1 call. He’s looking for relationship with us. If we’re going to have one with Him, then we need to let Him into all areas of our lives including the little ones.

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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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Mary, Martha And Judas

Recently we were driving somewhere and our son said he had a question for us. I turned down the radio and asked what it was. He asked, “Which are y’all: Mary or Martha?” I laughed that such a question would come from a 9 year old. His question is in reference to Luke 10 where Martha is busy serving Jesus while Mary just sits at His feet listening. My wife responded, “Sorry, son. You were born into a family of Martha’s!” He asked if that was a bad thing. I explained that it wasn’t because we need both Mary’s and Martha’s. The Martha’s of the world simply need to learn to not be so anxious when things don’t get done perfectly and they also need to take time to sit at the feet of Jesus and recharge. Both types are important to the Church.

We see Martha and Mary two more times in Scripture. The next time we see them is in John 11 after their brother Lazarus had died. When Jesus showed up four days later, it was Martha who ran out to meet Jesus while Mary stayed in the house. Martha expressed that if Jesus had been there, her brother wouldn’t have died. She also expressed that He was the Messiah and could raise him up. After their conversation she went to get Mary to take her to Jesus. Mary expressed the same things. It was the other people who doubted and accused when they implied that Jesus gave sight to the blind, but couldn’t keep Lazarus from dying. After that, we read that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

The last time we meet them is in John 12, about two months later, just before Jesus is crucified. Martha was back to serving everyone while Lazarus ate. Verse 3 says, “Then Mary took a whole pint of a very expensive perfume made of pure nard, poured it on Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The sweet smell of the perfume filled the whole house” (GNT). Immediately Judas saw this as a waste of money and criticized her act of worship. In these stories, there are three types of people: one who worships with service, one who worships at His feet and those who criticize. I’ll ask my son’s question to you. Which are you? It’s all right to be a Martha as long as you’re not so busy you miss hearing Jesus. It’s all right being a Mary as long as you share what you learn at the feet of Jesus. It’s not ok to stand back from afar and criticize the way other people worship while never drawing near yourself. Each of us must worship in our own extravagant way and take time to hear what Jesus is saying to us.

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Unquestionably Free

Several years ago, before I did Bible verses on Friday’s, I did “Free Friday”. I had attended a conference and heard people discuss all kinds of fears and self limiting behaviors they had. My idea was to write each Friday about getting free from the things that hold us back or slow us down when trying to move forward. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to lay aside anything that hinders us, slows us down or ensnares us. The understood emphasis in the sentence is that it’s up to us to do it. The only way I have the power to lay aside any sin that’s holding me back is if I’m still holding onto it after I’ve been forgiven of it. Every one of us are holding onto things that hold us back and are keeping ourselves imprisoned because of guilt or shame. It’s a trap of the enemy to hinder our growth and freedom.

Remember that Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. That means once Christ has forgiven you, He no longer condemns you for that sin. If you’re feeling it, it’s usually self induced and needs to be later aside. Remember that according to Galatians 5:1, it was for freedom that Christ set you free. He freed you so you could live and walk in freedom from your past. Yet, so many of us rarely walk in that freedom because we allow shame to hold us back. We allow ourselves to be ensnared in a mind game that tells us we must live the rest of our lives paying for our past. Paul, who wrote those verses, called himself the chief among sinners. He killed Christians for a living. If he was able to live in that freedom, you’re allowed to as well.

In John 8:36, Jesus reminds us that we are God’s children who are no longer enslaved to our sin or our past. He said, “So if the Son sets you free from sin, then become a true son and be unquestionably free!” (TPT) If Christ has forgiven your sins, you are unquestionably free from the eternal effects of them. You don’t have to live this life paying penance for your past. Every time those thoughts come in, chase them out with these words of Jesus. Every time guilt creeps in, chase it out with Romans 8:1. You are no longer a slave to your past. The blood of Jesus is stronger than anything you’ve ever done. It has the power to forgive and to set you free. Begin today to live unquestionably free and let God use your life to accomplish the purposes He created you for.

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Getting Daily Manna

When I started writing devotions back in 2012, it didn’t take long before I started to have a problem with fear. Each day I was afraid that I wouldn’t have something to write about. I started to keep a list of topics that I could write on in case I couldn’t think of anything. Still, each night and morning I had trouble wrestling with the fear of not having something to write about. I expressed this fear to another writer and asked them how they dealt with it. He replied, “You’re looking at God wrong. You’re approaching Him as if He is a well, and they run dry. God is a River always flowing and always fresh. He is the all creative One. If you will take your bucket to Him each day, ask Him to fill it with fresh, living water, He will fill it.” I have done that for over 8 years now, and God has never failed to meet with me and fill my bucket.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites has left Egypt and were headed to the Promised Land. It was about a month and a half into their journey when a similar fear came over them. In Exodus 16:3, they complained to Moses that they didn’t have any meat. They wished God had just left them in Egypt where they were slaves, but at least they had food. God replied, “Now I am going to cause food to rain down from the sky for all of you. The people must go out every day and gather enough for that day” (GNT). God provided fresh manna each day, but the people had to gather it and only get enough for that day. God continued to meet their need each and every day until they entered the Promised Land.

Fast forward to the New Testament in John 6. Jesus fed 5,000 people with a few pieces of bread and some fish. The people ate, were filled and had leftovers. The next day they were asking for more food and a miracle again to prove that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus referred to God providing the manna, and the people asked Jesus to do the same for them. In verse 35 He replied, “I am the Bread of Life. Come every day to me and you will never be hungry. Believe in me and you will never be thirsty” (TPT). Jesus reiterated to them, and to us, that if we will come to Him each and every day, He will supply our need with more than enough. However, each of us must seek Him daily, spend time alone in prayer, hold out our buckets and ask Him to fill it. He’s providing fresh manna for us every day. We just have to go get it.

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