Monthly Archives: April 2018

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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Praise Break

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 don’t know about you, but there are times I just want to spend hours praising God while listening to praise and worship music. I set my Pandora to Jesus Culture, and then let it play. I love how so many songs put words to how I feel and what I want to say to God. Right now, one of my favorites is “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons and Daughters. The part that resonates with me says, “It’s your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only.” I find myself repeating just that phrase over and over.

I learned a long time ago how important it is to be in God’s presence, especially when I’m under attack. I can find peace and clarity in times of chaos by praising God. Psalm 22 tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people. I’ve found that God shows up when I praise Him. I find that if I sing to Him, He gives me strength when I’m mentally and physically exhausted. I know i don’t sing in tune, but thankfully, He hears my heart over my pitch. He just enjoys it when we take the time to invite Him into our busy day and to praise Him.

Sometimes I feel like the psalmist in Psalm 106:2. He wrote, “Who can tell all the great things he has done? Who can praise him enough?” (GNT) Several years ago, Sonicflood sang a song called, “I Could Sing of your Love Forever”. I believe we could do that and still not be able to praise Him for all He’s done. I don’t know that we can praise Him enough. I do know that He is worthy of whatever praise we give Him because if He never did another thing for any one of us, He’s already done more for us than we deserve.

Today, I challenge you to think of things God has done for you and to praise Him for them. Make a list and watch it grow. We get so good at asking Him for things, but we rarely stop to thank Him when He does. Take time to praise God from your heart. If you don’t know what to say, search for your favorite worship song, play it, and sing along. Don’t worry if you don’t sound good to human ears. You aren’t signing for their approval. You are worshiping the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. When you do this, watch how your day changes. It’s amazing how praising God shifts our perspective and how His presence gives us peace.

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Earning Heaven

In Mark 10, there’s a man who runs up to Jesus and asks, “What do I need to do to receive eternal life?” Jesus knew his heart, so He listed off the Ten Commandments and said to obey them. The man replies back, “I’ve kept those my whole life!” Then jesus changed things up in verse 21 and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me” (GNT). The man left upset because he wasn’t willing to do that.

I’m sure you’ve heard this story a hundred times, but I want us to look at it a little differently today. One of the things I notice is that this man wanted to know what he could do to receive eternal life. We have to be careful not to think our salvation is based on anything we do. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it.” This Man was trying to figure out what boxes needed to be checked off to get to Heaven because he wanted man’s approval and not God’s.

We live in a performance based society. If you do certain things, you get promoted and make more money. We have to be very careful to not let that infect our faith. Jesus’ response to the man was reminding him, and us, that God looks at our heart, not at our works. We cannot earn salvation or favor with God By doing certain things. He loves us because of who we are. There’s nothing you or I can do to make Him love us more or less. If you are truly thankful in your heart for what Jesus did on the cross, it will show up in how you live your life.

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