Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Chair

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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 “Faith: Back To The Basics” by Tracy M. Sumner. Keep reading to find out how to enter.

I had a friend who took a philosophy class in college. For her final, the professor put a wooden chair on a table and said, “Prove this chair exists.” She sat there wondering what to write. She could see the chair with her eyes, but that wasn’t good enough. She could hear it as it slide onto the table, but that wouldn’t prove it. She could touch it, but he wanted verifiable data. She got close enough to smell the pine wood that it was made from, but that still didn’t prove anything. If she had licked it, she could have tasted the varnish on it, but even that wouldn’t do it. She finally wrote on her paper, “What chair?”

My friend couldn’t prove that chair existed because she went about it the wrong way. I would have sat in it. If I had fallen, it wouldn’t have existed. If it had held me up, it would have been proof of its existence. There are people in this world who try to prove God exists by means of their five senses. You can’t do that. You have to trust in Him and act in faith, just like sitting in that chair before you can really know He exists. You have to put Him to the test.

Faith requires more than your five senses. It requires trust and belief. It requires that you act on it. When you start your car, you are acting in faith that all the moving parts under the hood will simultaneously work together to provide power to move you from point A to point B. Your faith gets exercised and strengthened each time you go to turn it on. Our faith in God is very similar. We can’t use our five senses to prove He exists, but we trust and believe it as much as we believe that car will start because He’s proven Himself to us in the past.

Hebrews 11:1 in the Amplified version says, “NOW FAITH is the assurance, the confirmation, the title deed of the things we hope for, being the proof of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality, faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses.” God is not revealed to our senses. He reveals His Spirit to our spirit. He calls out to the deepest part of us. We can choose to ignore it because it can’t be scientifically verified or we can choose to have faith in something we can’t see, but have experienced internally and know to be true.

If God was visible as a being, it wouldn’t require faith to believe He exists. But He isn’t, so it requires faith and that’s what God requires of us. Hebrews 11:6 says, “It is impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who seek Him.” One version says that he rewards those who seek Him. You can only prove God exists when you put your trust in Him. You will only believe when you let go of your five senses and put your trust in what you can not perceive through them. How do I know? One day I quit asking, “What chair,” and I sat down.

If you’d like to win “Faith: Back To The Basics” by Tracy M. Sumner, then leave a comment on this post of how you’ve found God to be real in your life. Tomorrow, August 30th, 2014, I will randomly choose a winner from one of the people who comments today. If you haven’t done so, be sure to sign up to receive these devotions by email and like my Facebook page here.

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The Signet Ring

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I’ve come across a few places in the Bible were a signet ring was used. One of the first places was in Genesis when the Pharaoh took off his signet ring and gave it to Joseph. He made him second in command, and gave him all the authority of Pharaoh through that ring. In Esther, the King gave Haman to give him authority to destroy the Jews. The King later took it back and gave it to Mordecai. In the New Testament, we see the father give the ring to the prodigal son when he returned. It was symbolic in saying, “This is still my son. He has my authority to do things in my name.”

In Haggai 2:23, God said to Zerubbabel that He would set him as a signet ring. He said, “I will set you as a signet ring, the sign of my sovereign presence and authority.” The King of Kings basically gave Zerubbabel all His authority. Instead of giving him a ring, He told him, “You are my ring. You are my authority. You are my presence on earth. You bear my mark and will leave my imprint on everything you touch.” It was very significant that God did this.

A signet ring was important. It had the seal of the king engraved on it. With it, he sealed or stamped letters to prove it was his word. It also represented authority. Anyone that the King would give that ring to had his authority. Whatever they said or did, it was as if the King himself had declared it. The ring had executive authority and power. It was not to be taken lightly by anyone who wore it. So I find it interesting that instead of giving Zerubbabel a ring, God said he would be as one.

Let’s fast forward to when Jesus was on earth. He spoke to His disciples in Luke 10:19 and gave them all authority. He in essence gave them His signet ring. Then, just before He ascended in Matthew 28, He reminded them, “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me.” It wasn’t just some of it or most of it. He has all of it. He then sent them out with what’s known as the Great Commission giving them the authority to use His name as their authority.

You and I have been given that authority as followers of Christ. We are His signet ring on this planet. We have the authority of the King, but we don’t always act like it. I believe it’s time we did. If the enemy has come against you, invoke the authority of the name of Jesus. If you need something to accomplish His will, use your God given authority through Jesus. You are a child of the King of Kings. Start acting like it. You shouldn’t live your life with a defeated mindset. You should have a victorious, over coming mindset because that’s what you’ve been given. Go and use your authority wisely today.

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A Lover Of God’s Presence

On my last trip to Haiti, our group sang a song by Jesus Culture called “I’m a lover of your presence”. The part in the song that stands out to me says, “I’m a lover of your presence and it’s all I wanna be.” I can still hear our voices calling out into the night sky to God how much we love His presence. It became my prayer then and I still pray it today. I don’t want to live a day without walking in God’s presence. I know it’s possible and that God wants that relationship with us too.

Adam walked in God’s presence each night in the garden. Abraham lived in God’s presence according to genesis 24:40. Enoch also walked daily with God. Moses spent so much time in God’s presence that his face became bright. He had to wear a veil because it was too bright for the people to look at him. David loved God’s presence so much they he wanted to build a house for Him to dwell in. Peter spoke of the times of refreshment that come from the presence of The Lord. The Bible is full of examples of people who spent time in God’s presence.

If they can do it, you and I can do it. You may be thinking, “Yeah, but those were saints and holy men in the Bible. I’m just me.” Each of the people I listed above and the many more that you will find in the Bible who spent time in God’s presence were ordinary, flawed people just like you and me. The difference was that they took time to be in God’s presence each day. They knew they were unworthy of it, but they trusted God’s grace enough to enter His presence.

They knew that when they stood before God, in His presence, even their hidden sins would be exposed. Yet they entered it anyway. Why? Because they knew that the only way to get sin out of their life is to expose it to God. They knew that it was a good thing to get it out. But somehow, our minds think that we shouldn’t enter His presence because of our sins. We use that as an excuse to stay away from His presence. We cannot buy into that lie!

That’s just like people I know who won’t go to the doctor. I ask them why they won’t and they answer, “Because every time I go, they find something wrong.” They see it as a negative thing when a doctor finds something wrong. I see it as a good thing. If there’s something wrong in me, I want to find it quickly and have it dealt with. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Dealing with it does. Being in God’s presence forces us to deal with what’s wrong in our lives. We should want to have Him find what’s wrong so we can get forgiveness and move into a closer relationship with Him. Find time today to spend in His presence.

If you’d like to listen to the song on YouTube, you can click here.

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God’s Hands

I love hidden camera shows. I enjoy watching different people’s reaction to the same event. I think people are more themselves when they don’t know a camera is rolling. Usually when I think of hidden camera shows, it involves doing something funny or messes with the mind of the unsuspecting person. But I saw one recently where a guy used a hidden camera to capture how people treated him disguised as a homeless man asking for money. As you would expect, he was mainly ignored. Some told him to get a job. Then there were those who gave.

What they didn’t know was that he wasn’t homeless and that he had a surprise for them. When they gave, he thanked them, then gave them their money back and then a $20 bill on top of it. It was touching to watch their reactions when he blessed them back. One lady asked, “Why?” He looked at her, smiled and said, “Because you deserve it.” She quickly replied, “No I don’t.” He insisted she take it because he wanted to help out the givers.

It reminded me of Proverbs 3:27. It says, “Never walk away from someone who needs help; your hand is God’s hand for that person (MSG).” I couldn’t help but to think of not just homeless people who have needed my help, but others who have and I walked away with the ability to help, but not the will. So many times God places people in our path to see how we will react when we think no one is watching. We forget that He always watches us and that all we have is his anyway. He’s just looking to see if we are willing to let go of what’s not even ours to give to someone who needs it more than we do.

I’ve learned to ask God each day to show me the people He puts in path that need my help. I’ve started to carry a little cash that I can give if called upon by God. I want to be prepared to be the hand of God to those people God instructs me to give to. If I never plan or prepare to give, it will never happen. If it never happens, I not only miss out on blessings, but the people who were counting on God to meet their needs can begin to lose faith. Our obedience (or disobedience) always has consequences. We can be the reason for hope in the lives of others if only we were willing to look past how things appear on the surface.

In your prayer time today, ask God to show you who needs your help. Ask Him to let you be His hands to someone in need. You may say, “But I’m one of those people in need.” There’s always someone whom you can help. There’s always someone who is worse off than you are. Be willing to be obedient and to help them and watch how God blesses you. When we give sacrificially, God is bound by a promise to open up the windows of Heaven and pour out blessings you can’t contain. Whether you have a little or a lot, it belongs to God anyway. Go be His hands today.

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The Land Of Promise

My three year old son surprised me the other day. We were sitting down talking and he wanted to get my attention so used both hands to grab my face to look at him. He said, “Joshua 1:9, Dada.” It took me a minute to figure out what he was talking about, but then I remembered it was his memory verse a few weeks back. I thought for a second how they had taught him, then I recited it to him, “Do not be afraid. God is with you.” He smiled and said, “Yeah. God is with you. Joshua 1:9.”

What a great promise to us to hold on to. The full verse says, “This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” This was God speaking to Joshua before he entered a land of giants and walled cities that he was to conquer. It was 40 years earlier that he had been there as a spy and was outvoted 10-2 because the people were afraid of what they saw. I’m sure the ones who were scared told their kids what the Promised Land had in it. They might have been afraid of what their future held.

Like them, you may be looking at your future and are starting to feel scared. There are uncertainties, giants even huge walls up around the things you feel like God has called you to. When you look at those things, you may be wondering, “How can I accomplish that?” The path to it may be unclear. There may be huge obstacles in your way. But if God has called you to do it, there are no walls high enough that He can’t push down. There are no walls thick enough that He can’t break. There is no enemy strong enough to keep you away from all He has promised. He just needs you to step out in faith.

That’s the hard part. The scary part. When that fear arises that wants to keep you from doing what God called you to, go back to Joshua 1:9. God commanded us to be strong and courageous. He didn’t merely suggest it. He told us not to be afraid or discouraged by the obstacles in our way because He is with us. He doesn’t expect us to do these things in our own strength or abilities. He will do the work as long as we are willing to cross the Jordan and enter the Land of Promise. Our step of faith pushes back fear and activates God’s strength. Don’t hold back because of fear. Go and conquer all that God has for you.

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Right Words At The Right Time

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On January 5, 2014, a twelve year old girl died from complications with pneumonia. As her devastated parents went through her belongings, they found she had written several letters to friends. In those letters, she had written one to herself. The envelope said, “To be opened by Taylor Smith on: April 13, 2023 ONLY!” They opened it and shared it with others. I won’t tell you everything it said, but if you’d like to read it all, I’ll post a link at the bottom of this devotion.

The paragraph that caught my attention from this tween talking to her 22 year old self said, “I was in Cranks, Kentucky for my first mission trip. I’ve only been back for 6 days! Speaking of, how’s your relationship with God? Have you prayed, worshipped, read the bible, or gone to serve The Lord recently? If not, get up and do so NOW! I don’t care what point in our life we’re in right now, do it! He was mocked, beaten, tortured, and crucified for you! A sinless man, who never did you or any other person wrong!”

She finished the letter with, “But remember, it’s been 10 years since I wrote this. Stuff has happened, good and bad. That’s just how life works, and you have to go with it.” I was moved by the whole letter, but these parts in particular. Her words to herself were meant to be read in private, but I’m glad they’re in the open now. Who knows what her life might have been like? She didn’t know, but she knew that life had it’s ups and it’s downs and that she would face them. She also knew what was most important in life: a relationship with God.

Words are powerful. We have so many opportunities to speak life into others. We can build them up by just offering a few words of kindness and encouragement. You never know what someone else is truly facing and how impactful your words can be. Proverbs 25:11 says, “The right word at the right time is like a custom made piece of jewelry.” One version says they’re like “apples of gold in settings of silver.” They’re beautiful. They’re life changing. You have the ability and opportunity to speak into your own life or of others each day. Let the words you choose be the right ones.

The link to the full letter is here.

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Little Things Make Big Messes

I always thought I was a person who had been faithful in the little things until I read the final chapter in “Good to Great in God’s Eyes” by Chip Ingram. The last chapter is about developing great habits and in it he lists six great habits to adopt. One of which is “Do your own dishes – The principle of responsibility”. He wrote about putting up your folded clothes instead of leaving them out, washing your dishes instead of putting them in the sink and putting your dirty clothes in the hamper instead of on the floor. Each one hit home because I’m guilty of all of them.

If that wasn’t enough, he then wrote, “We usually don’t make a conscious decision to expect others to clean up our messes. It’s a habit. But behind that habit is an assumption that it’s up to someone else to make our life work.” Subconsciously we leave things out, put dishes in the sink and throw our clothes on the floor in hopes that someone else will do it. When they don’t do it, we get exasperated and huff and puff while we have to do it. Am I the only one like this?

These small examples are part of a bigger problem. The attitude of expecting others to make our life work bleeds into our spiritual life too. We expect our pastor to be in charge of our spiritual growth. We expect them to read the scripture to us instead of looking it up ourselves. We get upset when we don’t get anything out of the service, yet we put nothing into it. All of these are “little” things, but they prove to God that He can’t trust us with the big things. We can’t grow because we don’t have any roots.

Zig Ziegler once said, “If you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.” There are so many little things in our lives that we’ve left undone. When they become big things, we wonder where God is in our mess. We expect Him or someone else to come save us because we’ve come to expect others to clean up our messes. We are the ones who made them, yet we feel it is God’s responsibility to clean them up. Then, when it’s not cleaned up immediately, we get upset with God for not answering.

Our messes are our own responsibility. We create them because we haven’t learned to be faithful in the little things. Today, look at your life to see what little things need your attention. If you’re in a big mess, trace it back and you will see that it started with something little. Once we learn to do the menial tasks, God can trust us with more important tasks. I know I still have lots to work on in this area myself. I can’t expect God to do more through me than He’s doing right now until I learn to take care of the tasks I thought didn’t matter.

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Spiritual Improvement

We’ve been doing some home improvement projects lately. Some are small and some are large. In either case, I’ve found that it costs money, time and effort. In some cases it requires the help of others to get the job done right. I look at what it takes to do the improvements sometimes and I try to convince my wife that everything is fine. She looks at them and wants to make them better. I’m learning that we will never be done improving and changing things because as time goes on, we have to keep updating to keep it from falling apart.

Our spiritual life is very similar. We must constantly be working on improving it. There is always room for improvement and growth. None of us are where we want to stay, but many of us don’t want to do the things necessary to improve. We make excuses as to why we can’t find time to go to church, read the Bible or pray. We know we need to, but we lack the drive to make those things happen. In doing nothing, we run the risk of falling apart. I’ve heard it said that a Bible that’s falling apart typically belongs to someone whose life isn’t.

Spiritual growth will cost you. It’s not cheap to improve. You’re going to have to invest in books and seminars. You’re going to have to get up earlier. Stay up later. You’re going to have to do things differently than you’ve always done them. If you want a different result in your spiritual life than you’ve been getting, you’re going to have to do things you’ve never done. You’re going to have to force yourself to get up early to pray and read the Bible. You’re going to have to turn off your phone in order to give God 100% of your attention. Growth always costs something. It just depends on how much your willing to improve.

Next, it requires time. Each of us only get 24 hours in a day, 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds in a day depending on how you look at it. How you invest your time says a lot about what’s important to you and also determines your future. How much time do you spend playing games, watching TV, following the lives of others, reading the Bible, praying, spending time with family and friends or surfing the internet? Just like anything else in life, where you invest (sow) your time determines what your return will be (reap). If you want a deeper, more meaningful time with God, invest more time in the relationship.

Growth will also require the help of others. You do not have to walk this road alone. There are others around you who have the skills you need for improving your spiritual life. They know the scriptures that will point you in the right direction. They know how to overcome the situation you’re facing because they’ve been there. It takes you being humble enough to say, “I’m struggling with this and I can’t do it. Can you help?” For some of us, that’s easy. For others, that’s the hardest thing in the world to do and accept. If we are going to grow, we are going to need the help of others.

Where do you fall in all of this? Are you content with where you are? Do you feel like you need to grow or improve, but aren’t willing to put in the work? Maybe you want to, but just aren’t sure where to start or who to ask. Start with getting up an hour earlier each day just to spend time with God. Look around at the people God has placed in your life. Who is it that is further along than you? Ask them to help hold you accountable as well as to help you grow. Ask them what works for them. Growth and improvement isn’t easy or cheap, but the rewards are incredible. Ask God for direction and He will show you.

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Free In The Fire

One of my favorite Bible stories when I was a kid had to be of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The King ordered that everyone bow down to his golden statue when they heard the music played. Of course the three Hebrew boys refused to do it. The king summonsed them and ordered them to bow or to be thrown into a furnace. They told him to his face that they wouldn’t do it. He got so angry, he heated up the furnace seven times hotter than normal, bound their hands and feet and had them thrown into it,

The fire was so hot that the men who were throwing them into it died. When the men didn’t return right away, the King went to look. He turned and asked the people around him, “Didn’t we throw three into the fire?” The people around him said, “That’s right.” He replied, “But look! I see four men walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed. And the fourth one looks like the son of the gods!” He then called out to them to come out of the fire. When he examined them, not a hair was singed nor did they smell like fire.

Many times in this life you and I will feel like we are bound up. There are times when we feel like we are in prison. Our hands and feet are shackled. We feel like we aren’t going anywhere and we can’t do anything. Being physically tied up is bad enough, but to be mentally or spiritually tied up is worse. It’s a real feeling of helplessness. When you couple that with walking through the fires of life, it can make things feel hopeless. Even in those times, we are to trust in God and His plan.

These three guys were not alone in the fire. In fact, it was in the fire that they were set free from their bondage. The scripture says they were walking around freely in the fire. God did not abandon them in the worst of times. He was standing there with them. It reminds me of the promise He makes to you and I in Isaiah 43:2. He said, “When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end – because I am your God, your personal God.”

That’s a promise you can hold into when you’re walking through deep waters, between a rock and a hard place or in the fire of oppression as the New Living Translation puts it. That version says, “You’ll not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” It goes on to say He won’t let any of these things destroy you because you are precious to Him. He gave His all for you. He loves you and will not let these present circumstances destroy you. He says you can walk freely in the fire. Trust in Him. He will not let you down. When you come out on the other side, you won’t be burned.

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Esau’s Hidden Blessing

Genesis 27 contains a story many of us are familiar with. It’s where Jacob steals Esau’s blessing. I remember hearing this story as a child and wondering why Isaac couldn’t give Esau a blessing too. To tell the truth, I still don’t understand why he couldn’t do something. In verse 38, Esau pleaded, “But do you have only one blessing? Oh my father, bless me too!” Isaac began to tell him what all he had given to his brother. I’m sure each blessing was a dagger to the heart since they were meant for him.

Isaac then spoke the opposite of the blessing of Jacob to Esau. He told him that he would live far away from the riches of the earth and away from Heaven’s dew. He told him he would live by the sword and would serve his brother. The way he ended it was curious to me though. He said, “But when you decide to break free, you will shake his yoke from your neck.” To me, that was a blessing hidden in there. He would only serve his brother until he decided not to. I think that his anger was so blinding that he missed it though.

Instead of breaking free, he allowed anger to rule his life and his decisions. He started doing the opposite of what he had been taught. In fact, he went out and married a woman from Canaan because he knew his father didn’t like them. When we are hurt by someone, all we want to do is hurt them back. We say things and do things that we think will stick it to them the way they stuck it to us. Esau was no exception. He decided to let anger rule his decision making and ultimately his way of life.

When we live like that, we are letting the other person rule us. We quit making decisions based on our good and instead make them on what we think will do the most harm. We quit trying to find ways to help ourselves advance and only find ways to make them retreat. We put ourselves in a prison, lock the doors and throw away the keys. I understand that even less than why Isaac couldn’t bless Esau too. I’ve been angry and hurt enough to want to act that way, but not to the point where it controlled every decision for a long period of time. I didn’t want to give anyone that kind of power over me.

If you’re in that position now, the blessing given to Esau is a blessing for you. “When you decide to break free, you will shake his yoke from your neck.” The choice is yours to let it go. Quit wondering if they ever regret doing that to you. Quit wishing their life was horrible. Stop getting excited when you hear about bad things that happen to them. Those thoughts keep you locked in prison. Decide to let it go. I know that easier said than done. I’ve had to do it myself. The only way you break free from that life is to let go. When you do, the yoke will fall off and your life will begin to have a greater purpose. Your life will flourish again.

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