Monthly Archives: January 2018

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, thank God for His grace, seek forgiveness and ask Him to help you to turn from it. 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.

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Why God?

A friend of mine told me a story about how when he was a young man, his boss came to him and told him the company had been bought out. He said the new company was going to lay off most of the old employees, but not to worry because he would protect him. When the layoffs came, everything happened just as the boss said. Then a few days later, the boss came back and apologized. He had to let him go. It turns out his boss let go of the new owner’s nephew and was forced to hire him back.My friend was upset. He didn’t have a degree, and his wife was pregnant with their first child.

In moments like these, we normally cry out to God, “What are you doing?” Have you ever had one of those times? Everything points to God allowing you to be crushed, broken and ruined. We wonder where God is and why we have to go through it. The ten sons of Jacob who went to Egypt for food had one of those moments. They had gone to purchase food, but didn’t recognize their own brother they had sold into slavery. They bowed to him just as Joseph had dreamed years earlier.

Joseph didn’t let on that he was their brother. He held one in prison to make sure they came back. Then he had their money returned to them in their bags of grain. When they were a day away, one noticed it. Genesis 42:28 says, “‘Look!’ he exclaimed to his brothers. ‘My money has been returned; it’s here in my sack!’ Then their hearts sank. Trembling, they said to each other, ‘What has God done to us?’” (NLT) They couldn’t see that God was actually blessing them.

That brings me back to my friend. Because he got fired, he found a job with a major company. He then got a degree and moved up in the company. He was able to provide for his family more than he would have at his old job. What looked like an end was really a beginning. What looked like a curse was really a blessing. If you’re going through something you don’t understand, don’t be quick to judge God. Give Him time to work things out for your good. He has a pretty good record of blessing His people.

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Forgetting The Past

When Joseph was finally set free in Egypt, he was placed second in command. He was given a wife and an Egyptian name that means “Treasury of the glorious rest”. When his firstborn came into the world, he named him Manasseh, which means “God has made me forget my suffering”. For over 13 years he was a slave or prisoner, yet when God had finished preparing him for his calling, and placed him in it, he forgot how bad it was.

When we go through suffering, it’s hard to think of anything else. It’s difficult to imagine that we would ever forget that time, but that’s what God does. He takes our difficult times, and what seems like misfortune, and turns it into opportunities for greatness. If we are trusting in His plan, when that opportunity presents itself, we won’t be too bitter to capitalize on it. When we are then fulfilling our purpose, the years of suffering and doubt seem to be forgotten.

Here are some Bible verses on forgetting the past.

1. Before the years of famine came, Joseph had two sons by Asenath. He said, “God has made me forget all my sufferings and all my father’s family”; so he named his first son Manasseh. He also said, “God has given me children in the land of my trouble”; so he named his second son Ephraim.

Genesis 41:50-52 GNT

2. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14 HCSB

3. But the Lord says, “Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already—you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there.”

Isaiah 43:18-19 GNT

4. Be kind to me, GOD; I’ve been kicked around long enough. Once you’ve pulled me back from the gates of death, I’ll write the book on Hallelujahs; on the corner of Main and First I’ll hold a street meeting; I’ll be the song leader; we’ll fill the air with salvation songs.

Psalm 9:13-14 MSG

5. You will forget your misery; it will be like water flowing away. Your life will be brighter than the noonday. Even darkness will be as bright as morning. Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety.

Job 11:16-18 NLT

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Fear Not

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.

I rarely watch the news, but this week, the hotel I was staying at had it on during breakfast. As I watched each day, I remembered why I don’t watch the news. It seemed like all they were doing was making people afraid. Every story created new fear. Fear over election fallout. Fear over a fiscal cliff. Fear over a divided government and country. In the age of 24 hour news channels, it’s easy to get addicted to the news. It’s also easy to let it control your emotions.

Fear is the author of inactivity. It paralyzes. It causes your imagination to run wild and can create hysteria. I think maybe that’s why throughout the Bible, God’s message to us is “fear not”. God spoke to him in Genesis 15:1 and said, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you.” Fear had caused Abraham to start doubting. That doubt lead to questioning God. When we question God’s promise, we fail to act on them and rob ourselves of the blessings He has for us.

For many of us, we know what God has called us to, but the vision is so large that we are afraid of it. That fear will keep you from acting on what God has called you to do. He has a plan for each one of us. To some He reveals far in advance where they are going. To others He gives them one step at a time. For both, the course of action is the same: take that first step of faith. Do not let fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of insecurity, fear of what your calling might be or fear of unworthiness keep you from your calling.

What God has called you to is for you alone. Everything in your life is preparation for your future. Your past victories, failures, storms, hurts, loss and gains are all there as preparation to equip you to take that next step. If you need the courage to take that next step of faith, turn around and look back. See how far you have come by faith. You are further along than you ever thought. You didn’t arrive to where you are without His help. If He has brought you this far, trust Him to carry you the rest of the way.

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Period Of Preparation

“One time Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him even more.”

‭‭Genesis‬ ‭37:5‬ ‭GNT‬‬

Joseph is one of those people in the Bible that no matter how many times I read his story, I always learn more. He was disliked by his own brothers, sold as a slave, lied about, put in prison, I pressed the pharaoh, got promoted to second in command and saved his family. One of the catalysts for this series of events in his life was a dream that God gave him. I’m sure he was excited about what God showed him and he just wanted to share it.

Has that ever happened to you? It has to me. God gave me a vision of the ministry He was calling me to. At first I was terrified and ran from it. When I finally embraced it and gave in, things began happening quickly in my life. People of influence in my life asked what was going on. When I shared with them what was happening, they said, “Well, don’t get too carried away. I don’t know that God will keep doing it like that. Slow down and be patient.” Just like that, the air was let out of my ballon. I lost my momentum and faith in what God called me to.

Another friend recently asked about my calling. After a few minutes of beating around the bush, i finally told him. His response was, “A calling like that requires preparation and that’s what God is doing right now in your life.” It breathed new life into me. Just like Joseph had to go through these years of slavery and imprisonment to prepare him to fulfill the dream God gave him, you and I have to go through preparations too.

If you feel like God has forgotten the dream He gave you or you shared that dream and were made fun of, keep holding on. God isn’t finished working out His plan in your life. It’s not too late. You’re not too far gone. Just like blowing on some embers can rekindle a fire, God can easily move in your life and complete that which He called you to. Look at this time as your period of preparation. It may feel like you’ve been forgotten in a prison in Egypt, but God is placing you where He needs you and giving you the tools to be successful.

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Unshaken

Yeas ago, I lived in Cairo, Egypt. About once a month or so, I would take a train to the Lillian Trasher Orphanage in Asyut. That part of Egypt is pretty radicalized and is unsafe for Americans to travel to. I would always have to buy my tickets in advance so they would know I was coming and could be prepared. On my first trip, I didn’t understand what was really happening, but I noticed two guys in my section of the train that stood out.

Their clothes weren’t thin, worn out or dirty. They also had a bulge at their right hip. Everyone in that section felt their presence. I was a little uncomfortable so I switched cars. They followed me. I made sure they were aware that I knew they were there, but it didn’t phase them. It turns out that they were secret police who were there to protect me. When we arrived, they ushered me off the train and guarded me until the local police arrived and escorted me to my destination.

It’s not every day that you and I get to experience having body guards, but you’ve probably seen someone who had them. Those guards make their presence known, and intimidate anyone thinking of messing with that person. I believe God does that for us. When we live in His presence, He walks beside us guarding us against spiritual attacks. Does that mean we won’t be attacked? No. It means He’s there to fight for us so we won’t be moved.

In Psalm 16:8, the writer puts it this way, “I am always aware of the Lord ‘s presence; he is near, and nothing can shake me” (GNT). Knowing we have God near us should give us the courage to do the things He’s called us too. Many times we feel insecure or unsure about doing those things. It’s time we become aware of God’s presence in our lives and become bold as lions. You may come under attack, but when God is with you, you will remain unshaken.

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Wrestling With God

When Jacob and Esau were born, the Bible says that Jacob was holding onto Esau’s heel. His mom then gave him the name Jacob which meant “heel” or “deceiver”. People have asked, “What’s in a name?” Well, Jacob lived up to his. He was a heel to his brother and got him to trade his birthright for some food. Later, he deceived his own father in order to steal his brother’s blessing.

He was so afraid his brother was going to kill him over that last deception that he fled to the country of his ancestors. There he met his wives and stayed for twenty years. God spoke to him to return to the land He had given Abraham. He knew he had wronged his brother and was still afraid of him. On the night before they met, he was alone. An angel appeared and began to wrestle with him. Jacob held onto him the way he hung onto his brother’s heel. Finally, the angel gave up and blessed him, changing his name to Israel.

In Genesis 32:28 says, “‘Your name will no longer be Jacob,’ the man told him. ‘From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won’” (NLT). When his name changed, so did he. No longer was he the deceiver he had been. He was now a person that knew God and prayed to him often. He quit relying on his own wisdom and started trusting the God of his fathers.

Some of us wrestle with God trying to find out if He’s real. Some of us wrestle with Him in prayer over our loved ones. I love that it says, “He won.” If you’ve got something pressing in you, don’t let go of God until He answers. The more we wrestle with God, the more we are changed. God is not afraid to come to where you are. He wants to help you get to where you’re going and to become the person He’s called you to be. Don’t let go. Don’t give up in the struggle. Your blessing is waiting on the other side of the wrestling match.

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