Monthly Archives: April 2018

The Giftings Trap

I’m often guilty of wishing I had someone else’s giftings. Have you ever felt that way? I can hear someone preach, and wish I could explain things the way they do. I’ve read other authors and thought, “If only I could write that well.” I’ve heard people give some wise advice and wondered why I can’t think of things like that. It’s a dangerous trap to fall into because I’m failing to be appreciative of the gifts God has given me. In those moments, I discount the very things God wants me to use for His glory.

If you look back across the years of your life, you will see a lot of ups and downs, mountains and valleys. In the low moments, God is smoothing off your rough edges and is sharpening the gifts He placed in you. It hurts to go through those times, but it’s in those valleys that God prepares you for your calling and destiny. Coming out of the valley, it’s natural to think you have nothing left, but even the little you have, used for God will be enough to fulfill your purpose.

2 Corinthians 8:12 says, “If you are eager to give, God will accept your gift on the basis of what you have to give, not on what you don’t have” (GNT). In other words, God isn’t expecting you to give Him someone else’s gifts. He’s expecting you to give Him what you have matter how small you think it might be. It’s time we quit comparing ourselves to each other when it comes to gifts. God didn’t give you their gifts because He didn’t call you to reach the same people they are called to reach. Give what you have and God will use it in ways you can’t imagine.

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Be An Encourager

Several years ago, my sister in law ran a half marathon. I drove her to the race well before it began. When we got there, I told her, “You got this!” Then, when the race started there were lots of cheers as the runners left. My wife and i drove to a place down the path where we could cheer her on as she went by in the middle of her race. All along the route, people had signs and words of encouragement for all the runners. Then, at the finish line, we cheered as loud as we could for that final push as she completed her race.

So many times we say, “Life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.” It’s a long journey with ups and downs, and there’s times where we feel like quitting. We all need people in our life to cheer us on and to encourage us to keep going. The same is true of our walk with God. Today, look for someone whom you can encourage, even if you need encouragement too. Cheer them on in their race. Express confidence in them, and you’ll be encouraged too. It gives us strength when we help others on their journey.

Here are some Bible verses on encouraging others.

1. Give strength to hands that are tired and to knees that tremble with weakness. Tell everyone who is discouraged, “Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue, coming to punish your enemies.”

Isaiah 35:3-4 GNT

2. Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 AMPC

3. The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.

Proverbs 10:21 NLT

4. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Romans 12:8 NLT

5. Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word]; and let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.

HEBREWS 10:23-25 AMP

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Overwhelming Victory

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 saw a poster recently with a picture of Michael Jordan on it. It caught my attention because it’s been over ten years since he played. Underneath his photo, in big letters, it said “Victory”. Then it wrote out the definition of victory. As I thought about it, he became synonymous with winning and victory, but that’s not his full story. Before he became a star, he couldn’t make his high school team. After he became a star, he failed at gambling, marriage and baseball. He failed in more areas than he succeeded in, but he did not let those failures define him.

You and I are the same. Our failures outnumber our successes. I get caught up sometimes just thinking about my failures. I wonder why I still try. I beat myself down because my failures seem so stupid. I think I should be able to beat them, but each time I fail, I get down on myself. I saw a friend on Facebook ask the other day, “Is it a true portrait of a man to see him when he is tempted?” I thought a lot about that. My first inclination was to say yes. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I thought that because I allow my failures to define me.

You and I are more than who we are when we are tempted and when we fail. We are also the person who knows where to seek forgiveness after a failure. We are the person who stands on mountain tops with our arms outstretched looking up to Heaven when we’ve succeeded. We are the person who pushes through when we don’t feel like it and no one seems to care. We are complex and should never allow ourselves to be defined or think that an accurate portrait of ourselves is who we are when we fail.

In Romans 8, Paul listed all kinds of things that could define us. At the end of that list, he said, “Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ.” It’s time we started to see ourselves as God sees us. We are not all the mistakes, failures or temptations that we face. You and I are victors. We are the very definition of victory if we are willing to get back up, seek forgiveness and to try again. We may not be considered synonymous with victory in the world’s eyes, but we are in God’s. When He looks at you, He doesn’t see a failure. He sees someone made in His image with the power to win.

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Your New Life

One of the questions I ask young adults is, “How do you personally define a successful life?” If they struggle with the answer, we fast forward until their 80 and look at their life. Then I ask, “If you had a successful life in your eyes, what would you see?” Many times I hear people say, “Lots of kids or grandkids,” or “A full bank account,” or “Lots of property.” If they know where they want to end up, they can start working towards getting there. Now let’s flip the question, “At the end of your life, how will Jesus know you lived a successful life?”

I don’t mean that question as a Jesus Juke. I want you to think about whether you’re living for yourself or for Him. Do your goals match up with the goals He has for you? 2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them” (NLT). If at the end of your life, you attained your measure of success, but not His, you’ve failed. In Mark 8:36, Jesus said, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”

2 Corinthians 5 goes on to tell us that when we are in Christ, we receive a new life. With a new life comes new purpose. We no longer are to live for ourselves (old life). We are to now live for Christ (new life). This new life produces different fruit than the old one. The definition of success changes because your purpose changes. If you’re still working under your old definition of success in your new life, spend time asking God what His definition of success is for your life. It’s not too late to begin fulfilling your purpose in your new life.

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Periods Of Pressing

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had several phone calls, texts, messages and conversations with people who are going through some seriously dark moments in life. Their situations are causing stress, sadness, worry, anxiety, depression, confusion and lack of direction. More than that, it’s causing them to seek out God more than they were. We often can’t see it ourselves when we are walking through a difficult period in our life, but those times draw us closer to God. When we draw closer to God, He draws closer to us.

In these times where we are pressed, God brings out of us things that can’t come out any other way. He uses them to grow us and go help us reach the potential He sees in us. He doesn’t allow us to go through these periods without a purpose. The struggle may seem more than you can bear in the moment, but the reward of what God is doing in us when we endure it is immeasurable. If you’re walking through one of these times, it means God still sees more potential in you and is pushing you into a new season.

When I’m walking through a time like that, i hold onto what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. It says, “We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed” (GNT). These times feel like we are going to be crushed and destroyed, but God inside of you is stronger than any force outside of you trying to crush you. Keep your focus on Him and not on the thing trying to crush you. Great is God’s faithfulness in these times. You may not always get the outcome you desire, but you will not be abandoned by God in these periods of pressing.

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A New Heart

I go through phases on the music I listen to. Recently, I was on an old school, Christian music kick and was listening to Keith Green. On the live version of “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful”, he told the story of how he wrote it. He wrote God a letter asking God for a soft, spiritual heart. He wanted baby skin on his heart because his heart was getting old and calloused. He said, “It’s not because of anything I’m doing. It’s because of a lot of things I’m not doing.” Those words resonated within me. I began to pray for a new heart too.

Keith is right. The longer we are Christians, the more our heart gets calloused within us. It’s such a slow process that we often don’t realize it. We quit praying for certain things because we “know He won’t answer that.” We see the excitement in a new believer and think, “That’ll wear off soon.” Over time, we lose our childlike faith, but I believe God wants us to keep that. Praying for a new or soft heart is a great way to rekindle the fire that once burned bright.

When Samuel met Saul, he told Saul he was going to be king of Israel. He then gave him three signs of things he would encounter on his way home to prove it. I Samuel 10:9 says, “As Saul turned and started to leave, God gave him a new heart, and all Samuel’s signs were fulfilled that day” (NLT). We know that over time Saul’s heart hardened again, but there at the beginning, God gave him a new heart. I believe God wants all of us to have a new heart with childlike faith. If it’s been a while since God gave you a new heart, pray today that He will. I know He’ll answer that prayer.

Click here for a YouTube video of the Keith Green song.

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The Rescue Mission

Twice this week, I’ve heard stories about people who are on a rescue mission from God. One group is trying to rescue the homeless in Houston and their babies. The other person is on a joint drug task force who is taking the Love of Christ to some of the darkest places imaginable. Both of these people have a Holy Calling from God to rescue people from the gates of Hell. It’s incredible and encouraging to hear the stories of the lives their changing. As I listened, God reminded me that we as Christians should all be in the habit of rescuing people.

I live in Houston where hurricane Harvey flooded so many parts of our city. The world watched as people jumped in boats and went house to house rescuing those who were stranded. What we witnessed was God’s heart in action. Every one of us were made in God’s image, so every one of us are worth rescuing. Every person has value. That’s why the Great Commission is really a rescue mission to go into all the world. Will you do your part?

Here are some Bible verses on how God rescues and we are to be rescuing.

1. But God will rescue me; he will save me from the power of death.

Psalm 49:15 GNT

2. It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: “The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.”

Romans 1:16-17 MSG

3. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

Jude 1:23 NLT

4. He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘ Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. ‘Give us each day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us [who has offended or wronged us]. And lead us not into temptation [ but rescue us from evil].’”

LUKE 11:2-4 AMP

5. Rescue those who are being taken away to death, And those who stagger to the slaughter, Oh hold them back [from their doom]!

PROVERBS 24:11 AMP

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