God’s Empathy

One of the greatest pet peeves of parents is when someone who doesn’t have kids tries to tell them how to parent. Usually their response is, “Come back and talk to me after you’ve had your own.” Why? Because how can a person without kids truly understand the struggles of raising a child? They haven’t had to sit up all night with a sick child. They haven’t been asked a hundred times for the same toy. They haven’t felt the embarrassment of their own flesh and blood throwing a holy fit in public. Without them going through those things, parents are less likely to take any advice from them.

One of the purposes of Jesus becoming flesh and blood, beyond dying on the cross, was so that He could understand the human condition. The almighty God took on our frailty so that He could better understand what it is like when we are sick. What it feels like to lose a family member. How hard it is to fight temptation when it comes our way. He went through the entire human experience so He could better empathize with us when we struggle and call out to Him in prayer. He’s not up there telling us to just deal with it. He understands what you and I are going through.

Hebrews 4:15 says, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin” (NLT). Think about that. He understands what you’re going through because He took the time to leave the role of creator to become the created. You and I can now go to Him with confidence in prayer asking for advice, seeking wisdom and looking for answers because He knows what you’re talking about. He’s experienced it and can now empathize with us. Whatever His answer is to our prayers, it’s based on His experiences and on what is best for our future.

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Trusting His Plan

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my son to get ready, and then, before he gets ready, he asks, “Where are we going?” I usually tell him, “It doesn’t matter. I said to get ready, so get ready.” Instead of quickly obeying, he constantly wants to know all the info before doing anything. As a parent, it can be frustrating. There are things he needs to know, and there are things he doesn’t need to know. I simply want him to obey when asked to do something instead of questioning everything I tell him to do.

Even though I know these frustrations as a parent, when the shoe is on the other foot, I act the same way. How many times had God told me to get ready or to go somewhere, and I want to know all the details before I do anything? There’s also those times where I know where He’s leading me, but I want to know all the steps first. It’s like I’m my own child when God is the father telling me to do things. I wonder how frustrated He gets at our questioning and inactivity while He’s waiting for our obedience.

Proverbs 20:24 says, “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” (NLT) As children of God, we need to understand there are things we need to know, and things we don’t. God knows everything we are about to do, and how He wants it done. Since the beginning of time, all He has asked is that we would simply trust Him. He’s looking for our obedience without having to understand everything. We need to have enough faith to trust His will, His plan and His directions without questioning them. Simple obedience yields eternal benefits. Just like the old song says, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way.”

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Looking Within

A couple of years ago I went to become a certified John Maxwell trainer, speaker and coach. During the coaching certification, one of the exercises was to coach someone to be able to juggle. As many of us were failing at helping someone juggle (because we didn’t know the first thing about juggling), the certified got up and said, “It is within you, but you have to learn to draw it out.” Before you knew it, people were juggling all over the room. All of us had to put aside our self limiting thoughts, and believe that God had placed everything we need within us.

I’ll never forget that moment because it taught me that God has put so much inside of me, but it was up to me to draw it out. Our mind functions on knowledge, but our spirit has a connection to the all knowing creator. He has given each of us all we need, but we as individuals must learn to draw it out like water from a deep well. We must trust that our creator has equipped us for every good work. We just have to look inside to find it.

Here are some Bible verses about things God has put in us.

1. Though good advice lies deep within the heart, a person with understanding will draw it out.

Proverbs 20:5 NLT

2. “No one will say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’; because the Kingdom of God is within you.”

Luke 17:21 GNT

3. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My ordinances and do them.

EZEKIEL 36:27 AMP

4. What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

Philippians 2:12-13 MSG

5. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, [that special endowment] which was intentionally bestowed on you [by the Holy Spirit] through prophetic utterance when the elders laid their hands on you [at your ordination].

1 TIMOTHY 4:14 AMP

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The Prince Of Wholeness

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing 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 names of God that I love is Jehovah Shalom. I began to dig deeper into the word “Shalom” to see what all it means. I know it means “peace” and that it is often used as a greeting in Israel, but one of the other meanings for the word is “completeness” or “whole”. I found that very interesting. So I went back to Isaiah 9:6 where it says Jesus will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. I switched to the Message version of the Bible and there it called Him the Prince of Wholeness.

My mind raced, “How had I missed that?” I’m not sure how I’ve read that a hundred times and have heard the word shalom over and over and never saw that He is the Prince of Wholeness. We all need peace in our lives so much that we focus on that part of “shalom”, but rarely go deeper into its meaning. We don’t look beyond the surface, but we need to. We need to dig deeper to find something like this because we all need it.

I’ve had my life shattered and broken. When I look back at that period in my life, I see myself laying on a foundation in the pouring rain. There is debris of what was my life laying all around. There is nothing that is salvageable. That is there is nothing I can salvage. But here, in this scripture, I see a God who can take the broken pieces of my life and make me whole again. I see a Prince who is not content with leaving me broken and unprotected. He wants me to be whole.

He wants you to be whole too. When you’re broken like that, you think that all is lost. You feel that no one cares and the world is dark all around you. You can’t see the future because you can’t imagine a future you’d want to be in. There is no light of hope to guide you. You take each breath as it comes. Each second of the clock ticks in slow motion, and survival is your only instinct. You aren’t worried about tomorrow because you’re focused on surviving today. Yes, even in that moment of your life, He is the Prince of Wholeness.

God is able to take you from that broken place in your life to a place of Wholeness. Completeness. Rebuilding. Becoming stronger and better. He is the God of creation and He can create a new beginning for you. It’s not something that happens over night. A masterpiece is not painted in a day. A mansion is not built over night. Your life is more complex and worth more to Him than anything else in all of creation. You may struggle with feelings of unworthiness or worthlessness, but you are worthy and you are priceless. You are worth rebuilding to Him. You are worth being made whole. Don’t give up. Invite the Prince of Wholeness to come in today and to complete the work which He began in you.

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Taking Ownership

Have you ever made a dumb decision in life? If you’re human, you have. The next question is, did you take ownership of it or did you blame someone else? Be honest. A lot of the time, we blame others for our own mistakes. I think that’s part of our human nature. When you think of the Garden of Eden, God asked Adam if he ate the fruit. His reply was, “The woman you gave me made me do it.” He shifted the blame back onto God and onto Eve. He refused to own up to his mistake and they were kicked out of the garden.

It’s one thing to blame some else, but many times we blame God for our mistakes. When we excuse our mistakes by saying, “That’s just the way I am,” what we are saying is, “I only did it because God made me this way.” Proverbs 19:3 says, “People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord” (NLT). We can’t be angry at God for our own decisions. As long as we shift the blame and our anger, we will continue to live lives that are short of successful.

A true sign of spiritual maturity is being able to admit that we are where we are in life as a result of the decisions we have made ourselves. It’s about taking ownership of our mistakes. When we shift the blame, we aren’t truly repentant for our wrongs. If you find yourself angry at God or others because of things that are going on in your life, trace your situation back. You’ll find that it’s a result of your past decisions. Take ownership, ask God for wisdom in your future decisions and start moving forward. You’ll find that you’ll be happier in life and you’ll have better relationships with God and others.

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Critic’s Math

Several years ago I attended a conference for ministers. One of the speakers was Jon Acuff, and he spoke on critic’s math. The way critics math works is 1 insult + 1,000 complements = 1 insult. We can be praised by everyone for our work, but if one person didn’t like it, we allow that one negative comment to erase all the positive feedback we’ve received. It can be like we never even heard the compliments because our mind spends all its time focusing on the one negative comment rather than our feedback as a whole. Critic’s math is a dangerous thing for us to fall into.

An example is in the Book of Esther. Haman was the King’s prime minister. He had been put in such a high position, that the king declared everyone should bow to him as he passed by. Everyone bowed down except one. Mordecai refused. In the fifth chapter, Esther had prepared a banquet for he and the king. When he left, everyone bowed except Mordecai. In verses 12-13, he told his wife and friends, “What is more, Queen Esther gave a banquet for no one but the king and me, and we are invited back tomorrow. But none of this means a thing to me as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the entrance of the palace” (GNT). He allowed critic’s math to cloud his thinking, and it ultimately cost him everything.

You and I need to accept that we can’t please everyone, and that pleasing people is not our goal. Pleasing God is. Ecclesiastes 7:10 warns, “Don’t pay attention to everything people say.” When you receive negative feedback, take it constructively, but don’t give it so much weight that it distracts you from what God has called you to. What He has to say is far more important than what any person has to say. Keep focusing on what God wants to do in your life and through you, and don’t let one person’s negativity keep you from reaching your potential or from finishing your race.

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A Significant Life

I’ve never met anyone who said, “I don’t care if my life doesn’t matter.” Each of us in some way want our lives to matter. We want to live significant lives. We want to make a difference. When we die, we want the world to be different because we were here. I believe that’s how most of us, if not all of us think about our lives. When we feel like we are making a difference, we are riding high. We feel most insignificant when we don’t think anyone notices us or that we aren’t making a difference. We can begin to feel worthless when we aren’t appreciated. Our feelings are tied to how significant we think our lives are.

If we want to live significant lives, we should see what God says about it. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves (feeling very insignificant) in the sight of The Lord, and He will exalt you (He will lift you up and make your lives significant) (AMP).” So the way to really live a significant life is to feel insignificant in the sight of The Lord. It’s when we humble ourselves before God that He can begin to do something significant with us. Until then, we are out seeking to live a significant life to get the glory ourselves.

When we humble ourselves, we let God know that we understand we are nothing without Him. We show Him that we recognize that all we have is given to us by Him. Being humble in His sight is understanding that our talents, our jobs, our income, our skills are all a gift from Him. It’s not because of anything we’ve done. It’s not because we are self made people. Our lives can only become eternally significant when we stop and recognize that He is the source of everything we have. When we recognize that, we won’t be out seeking glory for ourselves. We’ll be doing things for His glory.

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