Monthly Archives: May 2014

Free Heart Transplant

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I don’t know why, but when I’m flipping channels and see “The Green Mile” being replayed on TV, I stop and watch for a while. It’s a sad movie, but there are a lot of parts that I like to watch. There’s one scene toward the end of the movie that caught my attention the last time I saw it. John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) is talking to Paul (Tom Hanks) about said, “You can’t hide what’s in the heart.” There’s truth in that statement. Several scriptures came to mind as soon as I heard him say it.

The first one I thought of was what Jesus said Luke 6:45. He said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” You can hide who you are for a little while, but sooner or later, your mouth let’s others know what’s on the inside. Most of us have filters we use when we speak, but even with them on, we let out some of what we really think. You can’t hide what’s in your heart when you do a lot of talking. Proverbs 12:23 says that a wise man keeps his mouth shut, but a fool utters everything in his mind. What comes out of our mouths says a lot about who we are.

The next scripture I thought of was Proverbs 23:7. It says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” We are what we think about. We become like the thoughts that dominate our minds. Our thoughts create our feelings. Our feelings create our behaviors. Our behaviors create our actions. Our actions show what’s on the inside. You can’t hide what’s in the heart. Not only will your words give you away, but your life will too. What you do on the outside is a reflection of who you really are.

Jesus told a parable in Matthew 21 about a father who had two sons. He asked the first one to go work in the vineyard for the day. He said, “I don’t want to,” but later thought better of it and went to work. The father asked the second one the same thing. He responded, “I’d be glad to!” The problem is that he never went. Jesus asked, “Which of these two did what the father asked?” They replied the first one because his actions spoke louder than his words. He spoke what he felt, but he also knew to respect his father so he went to work. The other just gave ill service to his father, but never had the intention of doing anything.

What’s in your heart? Only you and God really know. Your words and actions are good indicators. You might be able to fool some people, but you’ll never fool God because he doesn’t look at the outward expressions of it. He looks directly into your heart. He knows what you think and who you are when no one else is around. He loves you no matter what and if your heart isn’t pure before Him, He offers to do a heart transplant free of charge. He’ll take out your heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh. All you have to do is ask. That heart transplant will change how you talk and act because you can’t hide what’s in your heart. If you have Jesus in there, He’s going to come out through your words and actions.

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Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

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Have you ever purchased something that had to be assembled? How did you put it together? Did you read the instructions first and then try to do it? Did you have someone else read them to you and then you tried to build it? Or did you look at the picture and try to do it from that? I confess that I’ve been the latter more often than not. I’m getting better at looking at the instructions though. I’ve found that it’s quicker. As I age, it’s becoming more important to me to take a little longer and get it right the first time than to have the pride of building it on my own without instructions and having parts left over.

The same way we approach an assembly project is the same way many approach being a Christian. Some people want to read the directions (Bible) to find out how to do it right while they build their faith. Others prefer to have a pastor read the instructions to them and then they try to figure it out from there. Still there are those who feel they have no need to read the Scriptures. They feel like that they can figure it out as they go. They try and fail over and over again until they get it or until they give up. Either way, they either have missing parts or there are parts left that they don’t know what to do with.

I’ve tried all three approaches to God at different stages of my life. When I was a teen, I tried to get by just by listening to my pastor and teachers. I got a decent understanding of what Christianity was about, but because I didn’t have the instructions in my hands, I didn’t have a clear picture to go by. In college and the years that followed, I tried the “who needs instructions” approach. I failed miserably. Things in my life kept breaking, parts were falling off and I was missing a lot things that I needed in order to be successful. The outside of my life resembled the picture on the box, but the inside infrastructure was missing. When I had weight applied to my life, it fell apart.

I’m a try, try again kind of person. I don’t easily give up. I may not have gotten it right in the first few tries, but I’m on the path to getting it right now. I’m spending more time reading the instructions and less time looking at the picture on the box. If I spend my life trying to create the picture on the box, I’ll never be the picture of who God wants me to be. We all have different gifts and talents which create different pictures, but our infrastructure has to come from God’s Word. We have to build ourselves up in the most holy faith as Jude 1:20 put it. We each are a work in progress guided by the Holy Spirit. If you’ve found your method isn’t working, try the original plan God had for you. Read His Word and follow the instructions He has for living this life of faith. Don’t ignore the instructions that are right in front of you.

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A Prayer To Help With Decisions

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Lord,

I confess that I don’t seek you near enough when it comes to making decisions on a daily basis. I somehow think that you are not concerned with the trivial things in my life and that you only care about the big things. I make small decisions every day in my own wisdom rather than seeking yours. I forget that big problems are created from a series of small decisions. I need your help to remember to seek you for even the little things in my life. You are a God who is concerned with even the minute details of my life.

It’s hard for me to accept that the creator of the universe wants to be involved in the details of my life. Who am I that you should be concerned with my life? Who am I that you should even care? My mind goes to Matthew 10:29-30 when you said, “Not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are numbered.” If you know me in such detail that you know the number of hairs on my head, then surely you care about the little things in my life.

Help me to make the right choice in each decision I make today. Give me wisdom beyond my years to make good choices. Give me your wisdom so that I’ll make decisions that honor you. I want my life to be pleasing in your sight. I want the things that I say and do to matter for your Kingdom. I realize that so much of what I do doesn’t seem like it matters for eternity, but each choice I make is a reflection of you that others see. Each thing I choose to say or do can push someone else closer to you or further away. I want to be someone who pushes others toward you.

Let that start in my home with my family. Help me to be a person who says and does things draws my family closer to you. I want to be the leader in my home that you’ve called me to be. Then let my influence extend to my friends. Help me to be someone whose relationship with you challenges them to want to do more for you. Push me to live my life and to make decisions in such a way that any stranger who sees me recognizes your hand on my life. Let them see your wisdom in me. Let them see your love in me. Through my actions, help them to see how much concern you have for them as well.

Yes, I need help with some big decisions right now, but I also need help with the little ones. Show me which path to take. I don’t want to make a mistake, but I also don’t want to be paralyzed to the point of inaction by that fear. I trust that even if I make the wrong choice or decision that you will catch me and put me back on the path you have for me. Give me faith to step out and act, even when it doesn’t make sense to me. Give me courage to move when everyone but you says to stand still. Let your Word be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Order my steps and reveal those steps to me as you see fit.

Thank you for all you have done and all you’re going to do in my life.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

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Let It Go

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The other night, my nephew and I went for a late night Wal-Mart run. We just needed to get one thing. As we entered the store, he asked, “Do you want a basket?” I told him we didn’t because we only needed this one item. As we walked past the aisles on the way, I spotted something my wife would love. I said, “Let’s get a box of these for your aunt!” As we went down the aisle, I spotted something else. The further into the store we went, the more I grabbed. He asked, “Are you sure we don’t need a basket?” I declined again. By the time we got to the item we were after, our hands were full.

I limited myself to what I could have because I refused to let go and to put them in a basket. God has great things in store for each of us, but we rarely want to let go of what’s in our hands in order to get more. When you think about it, that’s the underlying theme in so many stories in the Bible. Abraham had to let go of the place he called home in order to receive the Promised Land. What of he had tried to hold onto it? What would have happened if he refused to let go and to trust God?

Moses’ mom had to let go of him so that he could lead his people out of slavery. Moses had to let go of the riches of Egypt and his title of being the grandson of Pharaoh. He could have lived a life of luxury and had it easy. Hebrews 11:26 says, “He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ rather than to own the treasures of Egypt.” When he let go of what was in his hands, God was able to use him for a greater purpose. Would we even know Moses’ name if he hadn’t let go?

Think about David. He had to let go of His sheep in order to rule a nation. He let go of what was comfortable to him. He let go of the job he had known since he was a boy in order to be king. He could have looked at the greatness God had in store for him and chosen to watch sheep instead. It would have been less stressful. It would have been easier and required less faith, but he chose to let go of what he had in order to embrace what God had in store. I wonder if we would have the Psalms today had he not chosen to let go.

I could go on and on with example after example in the Bible. Paul let go of his life of persecuting to be persecuted, the disciples gave up family and income, Joseph gave up bitterness to save his family and the future nation of Israel, Jesus gave up all of Heaven to walk among us so that we could be with Him one day. The story of the Bible is all about giving up what’s in your hand so that you can accept more from God. Don’t be selfish with what The Lord has given you. Give it back to Him and He will open the windows of Heaven and pout out blessings you can’t even contain. That’s a promise He made and it doesn’t just apply to money.

What are you holding on to that God has asked you to let go of?

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Honor The Fallen

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If you ever get the chance to go to Washington, DC, you have to make time to go to Arlington National Cemetery. The fields are full of white crosses lined perfectly in rows across beautiful hills. You can walk for hours around the cemetery and still not see every cross. It’s a sobering reminder of so many who gave their life in service of this country. When you walk around the cemetery, you also notice the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, in every kind of weather, men and women guard the unknown soldiers who gave their all.

There’s also a wall in DC that has the names of those who died in Vietnam. It is over 246 feet long and contains over 58,000 names of soldiers who died in that war or went musing in action. As you walk along beside it, there are people with paper and pencils who find the name of a loved one and create a rubbing of it to take as a souvenir. It’s their way of remembering the person who sacrificed so much for this country. I remember tearing up as I read the names and watched people visit this wall. I didn’t know a name on it, but God knows every one.

On Memorial Day, we set aside time as a nation to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our way of life. Whether you agree with war or not, whether you agree with the politicians who sent these soldiers over seas or not, take moment today to honor those soldiers who died giving you the right to express that opinion. So many places in this world, so many “free” countries don’t give their citizens the right to have a dissenting opinion of the government or it’s officials. Our military members stand guard each day to protect our borders, our way of life and our freedoms.

As the saying goes, “All gave some. Some gave all.” Today, we say thank you to those who gave all. We pray for families who lost a mother, father, son, daughter, husband, wife, brother or sister. While we light up the grill and lay by the pool, they grieve over a family that is forever changed. It’s not just the soldier who paid a high price, the family did as well. If you know a family who has paid that price, send them a text or Facebook message to say thank you. Let them know their sacrifice isn’t forgotten and it wasn’t in vain. Honor them today by showing your appreciation.

Romans 13:7 in the ESV says to pay “respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” Today, amid all the fun and sun, find your own way to pay respect and honor to the fallen soldiers. Find a way to say thank you. If you see an active duty military person, shake their hand, say thank you, teach your children to respect them and to honor their service. One day they may be called up on pay the ultimate price for you and they will willingly go and pay it whether you agree with them or not because that’s what they do. They honor us with their lives, we honor them with our appreciation.

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Digging Deeper

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It’s Free Friday! Today is the day you let go of the things in your life that keep you down or hold you back from all God has for you. To celebrate, I’m giving away a copy of “Dug Down Deep: Unearthing What I Believe and Why It Matters” by Joshua Harris. Keep reading to find out how to enter.

Let me ask you a few questions. Who is the President of the United States? What is their spouse’s name? How many kids do they have? What are their names? Do they have any pets? What are their names? Where do they live? What did they do before becoming president? Do you personally know the president? If you answered no to that last one, but were able to answer the others, you know about the president, but you don’t really know them. It’s the same thing with Christianity. So many of us can answer a lot of questions about God and the Bible, but so few really know Him in comparison.

Think of your best friend. What makes them your best friend? I would imagine that you have been through a lot together. They have stood with you through thick and thin. When others abandoned you in the hard times, they stuck with you. They don’t just show up in your good times. You’ve built a relationship with them through good times and bad. You know more than the surface level things about them. You know the intimate details, their struggles, their fears, their hopes and the dreams they’ve never told anyone else. That’s the difference in knowing about someone and knowing them.

When you look at the image of the tree above, that’s what happens in our relationship with God when storms come and our relationship is only surface level. When we haven’t taken the time to really get to know Him, His Word, His thoughts, His dreams and His plans, our roots are only surface level. We can look big and mighty, but the truth is, it wouldn’t take a whole lot to knock us over. How do I know? I’ve lived it. I’ve been that oak tree that looked strong, but the truth was that everything was surface level. Nothing was really deep.

As I lay on my side like that oak, I had a decision to make: I could lay there like that, rot away and die or I could get back up and grow my roots down deep into what I already believed and knew so much about. I chose the later. I decided my meeting with a God wouldn’t be just on Sundays. I chose to read His Word for myself rather than just listening to someone else telling me what it said. I decided to be honest with God in my prayers rather than giving shallow platitudes. I needed Him to be my rock in the bad times and not just someone I blessed in the good times. I had to dig my roots down deep in Him, like Colossians 2:7 says, so that my life began to be built on Him.

In the process, I had to give up some relationships that distracted from that goal. I had to make hard choices about what thoughts I let enter my mind. I had to choose to walk away from distractions in my life. I knew I didn’t want to be blown over again in another storm. That’s still my motivating factor in digging down deeper in Him. I know that the deeper my relationship is with God, the deeper my roots will be. The deeper my roots, the stronger I am. I won’t just appear to be strong, I’ll really be strong. You have the ability to make the same choice. Get free of the things in your life that hold you to a surface level relationship with God. When you do, your roots will begin to grow down instead of out.

If you would like to win a copy of “Dug Down Deep” by Joshua Harris, all you have to do is sign up to receive my devotions in your email. There is a box on the right hand side of my web page where you can enter it. I will randomly pick one person tomorrow (May 24, 2014) who has liked my page today. If you have already signed up to receive these devotions by email, thank you. If you enjoy reading them, please forward them to your friends and invite them to subscribe as well.

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Grab Your Sword!

Have you ever been so angry with someone you sat there and plotted ways to pay them back? I have. I’ve plotted ways where I wouldn’t get caught, ways that would hurt them worse than they hurt me and ways that were they would know to never do something to me again. I used to say, “I don’t get even, I get ahead!” It’s crazy how clouded our mind gets when we’ve been hurt by someone. Reason goes out the window and we have a laser focus (tunnel vision) on hurting them back. We don’t care who gets caught in the wake as long as that person suffers.

I know I can’t be the only one who has ever felt this way. Maybe you’ve experienced it too. I know David did in I Samuel 25. He had protected a man’s property while running from Saul and living in the wilderness. He was hungry so he sent servants to ask for food as repayment. The man whose property he protected replied, “Do you think I’m going to take good bread and wine and meat freshly butchered for my sheep shearers and give it to men I’ve never laid eyes on?” David took that as a slap in the face for all he had done for him. Without hesitation, David said, “Get your swords!”

His first instinct was to repay this man evil for evil. Eye for an eye. Tit for tat. His anger blinded him. He got 400 of his strongest men and headed for that man. If he wasn’t going to give it freely, David was going to kill him and take it. We act the same way when we’re angry. Only around here, we don’t say, “Get your swords,” we say, “Grab your gun!” Violence seems to be our answer when someone has made us mad. We hit a wall, stomp our feet into the ground, punch something, scream out loud and display our displeasure any way we can. We want people to know we’re really mad.

That’s opposite of what God wants us to do. God says, in Deuteronomy 32:35, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will over take them.” The problem is we want them to have pay back now. We want to be the ones delivering it, but that’s not God’s way. That’s not God’s timing. In the New Testament, God reaffirms this message through Paul. Romans 12:17-18 says, “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”

God doesn’t want us grabbing our swords (or guns) to pay back what someone did to us. He wants us to calm down, breathe and trust that He will handle it “in due time.” Proverbs 22:1 says that a good reputation is more important than riches. We lose our reputation when we go around paying people back. In turn, we tarnish God’s name. By the way, that man’s wife stopped David from killing her husband and everyone else. The next day, the man had a stroke and died. Instead of having murder on his hands, he maintained a pure heart before God. Instead of reaching for your sword next time someone hurts you, reach for patience instead. Let God have it.

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