Monthly Archives: August 2018

Leading With Love

We’ve all heard the saying that actions speak louder than words. We can probably all think of someone who is all talk and no action too. We have very little confidence in people who rarely do what they say. You never know when to believe them. I’ve had friends, coworkers and acquaintances who are like this. It’s no fun to be associated with them because it creates a lack of trust in you as a person. I don’t ever want to be known as a person like that. I want to be known as a person who does what they say or can at least own up to it when I can’t deliver on what I promised.

As Christians, we need to be concerned about our reputation because we don’t just carry our name with us. We also bear the name of Jesus Christ. It’s not just our reputation we’re tarnishing, it’s His. Knowing that, our lives should reflect the work He’s done and is doing in our lives. The love He’s shown us should be something we give out each day. 1 John 3:18 says, “My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality“ (MSG).

A life lead by love is one that doesn’t just talk about loving others, it does it. It shows up in the smallest ways throughout our day. Too many times we try to think of doing great things to the point that it keeps us from doing anything. I love the quote by Mother Teresa that says, “We can’t all do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.” If you and I will focus on doing small things today, showing God’s great love, we will make a difference in the lives of others. Doing great things isn’t what makes the difference in life. It’s doing the small things consistently. Today, look for something small you can do with great love, and bless someone.

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Keeping Bitterness Away

I’ve combed through the book of Jeremiah looking for things to learn and grow from. What I found was a man who obeyed God, said what he was supposed to say and was rejected because of it. He was beaten, thrown into a public prison, dumped into a cistern to die, dragged off against his will and called a liar when people didn’t like the messages God gave him. Before he even gave the messages, he knew that the people were going to reject the messages. He even tried to keep quiet at one point, but he said the word of God felt like a fire trapped in his bones until he spoke it.

I can only imagine what he felt. In Lamentations 3:16-19, he described some of it for us. He wrote, “He has made me chew on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust. Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, ‘My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!’ The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss” (NLT). Powerful words describing a bitter time.

Even though this period of life was bitter for him, he didn’t become bitter. For me, that’s been one of my goals in life. When times get tough and all hope is lost, find a way to not get bitter through the process. When we have to endure bitter times in our lives, we have a choice. We can dwell on our losses, our disappointments, our failures and our suffering or we can choose to dwell on God’s faithfulness through it all. One choice will make you as bitter as your circumstances and one will give you strength to endure.

Jeremiah chose the latter. In the next few verses he wrote, “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” No matter what you’re having to go through, God has been faithful to you and He loves you. Today, concentrate on who He is and what He’s done for you throughout your life instead of your present situation. A smooth life isn’t guaranteed to any of us, but the faithfulness of the Lord has been.

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Releasing Stress

The unofficial motto of Generation X is, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” We were the first generation to be latch key kids meaning both parents worked. We became self sufficient and took on responsibilities at an early age. We tend to look at situations and jump in if no one else is. We see a job that needs to be done, and we do it. We often take pride in doing things ourselves and in making things happen. That line of thinking extends to when we are stressed or worried too. We try to handle it ourselves because we’ve learned to do everything else alone.

In 1 Peter 5, the author writes about how God resists the proud. Then in verse 7 he writes, “Pour out all your worries and stress upon him and leave them there, for he always tenderly cares for you” (TPT). I was a little confused as I looked for a transition between the two statements and couldn’t find one. That’s when I realized that pride is usually what keeps us from giving our worries, our cares and our stresses to the Lord. We feel like we don’t need any help because we can do it. When we think we don’t need God’s help, that’s a bad thing. When we think we can do it on our own, that’s pride and God resists the proud.

God’s desire is that we live balanced lives. In order to do that, we have to be humble enough to hand things off to Him and leave them with Him. Many of us tell Him about our stresses, but we pick them back up after our prayer and carry them with us. That’s not good for our mind, our body or our spirit. We must trust God enough that we hand off our problems to Him, and we must be willing to not pick them back up. God cares for you enough that He doesn’t want you weighed down by worry or slowed by stress. He’s willing to take those things off of our hands and give us His burden which is light. We just have to be humble enough to make the trade.

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Retaliation, Revenge and Relationships

One of the hardest things for any of us is to not retaliate when someone wrongs us. Everything in us wants to hurt them as badly or worse than they hurt us. Consider any argument you’ve had, especially with someone you love. If we don’t like what they said (or how they said it), we take it as a personal attack, whether it was intended that way or not. Instead of defending our position, we retaliate with a personal attack. Very quickly the argument can escalate to something that is not even what the original comment was about. When our first response is to retaliate, we risk relationships. I think that’s why God wants us to do the opposite of what our natural inclination is.

If a relationship with Him is what He seeks, and we are to be known for our love (relationships), then we shouldn’t retaliate. Instead, God asks us to do the opposite of retaliation. He asks us to bless the person who attacks us. God understands that when we bless others back instead of retaliating, we preserve the relationship. I’m not saying this is easy to do, but if we understand God’s reasoning, maybe it will cause us to pause the next time we want to retaliate. When in doubt, bless others. How you respond could help change how they view Christians and ultimately God.

Here are some verses on not retaliating.

1. Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.

1 Peter 3:8-9 NLT

2. Resist revenge, and make sure that no one pays back evil in place of evil but always pursue doing what is beautiful to one another and to all the unbelievers.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 TPT

3. Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God’s anger do it. For the scripture says, “I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord.”

Romans 12:19 GNT

4. Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for his deed.”

PROVERBS 24:29 AMP

5. Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.

Romans 12:17 NLT

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Bitter To Blessed

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.

Each of us have things go wrong in life. Each of us have those periods where it seems nothing can go right. It can get to the point of ridiculousness that all you can do is laugh at how bad things have gotten. There’s also that temptation to just give up because no matter what you do, you fail. In those periods of life our response matters. They can create good things in you like perseverance, patience, endurance, strength or they can bring out the worst like selfishness, resentfulness, anger or bitterness. Our reaction is our choice.

In the book of Ruth, we see the story of Naomi who was Ruth’s mother in law. She had been going through a rough time. Due to circumstances, she had to move her family away from their home. Some time after they arrived in their new country, her husband died and left her to raise two boys.They grew up and married. After ten years of marriage, neither of her sons were able to produce an heir and both of them died. She was left with two daughters in law to care for and no means to do it. She decided to return to her homeland, but knew there wasn’t enough to sustain all of them. She encouraged her daughters in law to stay behind in their land and to remarry. One stayed and one clung to her side and wouldn’t leave.

When they arrived back in her hometown, the people were excited to see her. They asked, “Is that really you, Naomi?” Her response was, “Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter… I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t.” She allowed her circumstances to make her bitter. She was so bitter that she asked them to call her “Bitter” as her name. She felt like God had abandoned her and that He didn’t even know her name. She felt alone and hurt. I wonder what would have happened to her if Ruth hadn’t made the trip back with her.

The good news is that Ruth saw the bitterness and struggles in her mother in law and refused to leave her. She became a support person for her. It wasn’t long after they arrived back in Naomi’s hometown that Ruth met Boaz. After they were married, God gave them a son. Chapter 4:14 of Ruth says, “The town women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be God! He didn’t leave you without family to carry on your life.” Naomi loved that baby so much that the neighborhood women started calling him “Naomi’s boy”. His real name was Obed. He would become the grandfather of King David and also part of the lineage of Jesus.

Whatever your circumstances are today, you have a choice to make. Will people call you “Bitter” or will they call you “Blessed”? While Naomi went through a time of bitterness, ultimately everything had to happen that way so that a line of future kings could be born and ultimately our savior. I don’t know what difficulties you’re facing in the present, but I know that God can use them to create an amazing future. Difficult times and periods of life are not without purpose. God has a plan for you and the future of your family. This rough patch is simply getting you into position to change you from bitter to blessed.

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Priceless

Have you ever felt like you were valued at work, home or church? It’s a great feeling to know that people see your worth. It gives you a pep in your step and makes you feel ten feet tall. Conversely, when you are undervalued, it can be demoralizing. It’s like you’re invisible and that no one cares. That’s a dangerous place to be. You feel like you could quit, give up or walk away and no one would care or notice. When you’re undervalued, you feel like your contributions don’t matter.

As Christians, we’re commanded to value everyone because every person is made in the image of God. 1 Peter 2:17 says, “Recognize the value of every person and continually show love to every believer” (TPT). That means that every person we come across has value whether we like them or not. If we can’t value them enough to share the Gospel with them, what hope do they have? Romans said that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. That means that even when our lives were an offense to Him, He valued each one of us enough to give all of Himself for our benefit.

You don’t value someone by what they can give you. Valuing someone starts with understanding that Jesus died for them as much as He did for you. When we begin to look at people the way God does, we immediately begin to see their worth. Once we have those eyes, we should be ambassadors of hope going around showing people their worth. There are plenty of people in this world who feel they have no value Because of what people have told them or how they’ve been treated. Look around today and see who needs you to show them value. It could be the person in the mirror, across the room, down the hall or on the street. Whoever it is, recognize their worth and do something or say something to let them know they’re priceless.

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Living Stones

There’s a scripture I’ve read over many times and haven’t given much thought to until today. It’s 1 Peter 2:5 that says, “And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple” (NLT). If you think about what stones are and how they are used, a lot jumps out at you. Stones are movable, shapable, polishable and usable. These are all things God wants to do in our lives so that He can use us for His purposes. We all have a role to play in building His church of living stones. I don’t think it was by accident Peter used the term stone. In fact, it was divinely inspired.

Think about what David picked up and used to slay the giant. It was a stone, five smooth ones to be exact. What did the Israelites take out of the Jordan river to build an altar to God so people would remember what He did? Stones. What was the Temple in the Old Testament built out of? You guessed it, stones. The Bible uses stones for many things. If you think about them as people, we’ll that’s the same things God wants to do with us as living stones. We are to be giant slayers, reminding people of all God has done and we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

The thing that all these stones had in common is that they were able to be used and given a purpose. Sometimes God has to shape us before He can place us exactly where we’ll be the most effective. Sometimes that means parts of our lives will be knocked off so we’ll fit. Sometimes we will have our rough edges sanded off so we’re smooth. No matter what, we must submit to God and His purposes so we can reach our potential. Otherwise we will be stuck in the ground going nowhere. Today, ask God how He wants to use you as a living stone and see what He does.

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