Monthly Archives: December 2018

Comfort and Hope

Christmas time and the overall holiday season can be a difficult time for those who have ever lost a loved one. When families come together, it’s another reminder of the gapping hole that person once filled. Many times families won’t decorate or truly celebrate the season if they lost that loved one that year. It’s understandable and we have to remember that each person grieves in their own way. There are no rules or timelines on how a person is to grieve or how long. I understand their are stages of grief, but each person follows them in their own way.

As Christians, it’s ok for us to grieve as well, but we do so with the hope of seeing that person again one day. For us, it’s not goodbye. It’s see you later. The pain is still there. We still go through the stages of grief, but we have hope. We can be comforted in knowing that death is not the end because we serve a savior who holds the keys to death, hell, and the grave. As I Corinthians 15:55 put it, “Where, Death, is your victory? Where, Death, is your power to hurt?” (GNT)

For those who have accepted Jesus as their savior, death is no longer defeat. Death is not the end of life, but rather the beginning of eternal life. With that knowledge, Paul wrote this in I Thessalonians 4:13, “Our friends, we want you to know the truth about those who have died, so that you will not be sad, as are those who have no hope.” Death doesn’t make us grieve uncontrollably and hopelessly because it is not final for a believer. We can still grieve and we can still feel the loss because of their absence though.

In the final verse of that chapter, Paul wrote, “Therefore comfort and encourage one another with these words.” He knew that we would need encouragement and comfort in our time of grief. So, if you’re grieving and hurting this holiday season over your loved one, it’s ok to do it in your own way, but don’t do it as one who is hopeless. Take comfort in knowing that the same reason we celebrate Christmas is the same reason we have hope.

Photo by Tom Skarbek-Wazynski on Unsplash

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.

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Pursuing Peace

Years ago “The Lion King” was a huge box office hit. The main character, Simba, was tricked into believing that his father’s death was his fault. Rather than face the consequences, he let fear drive him far away from home. That’s where he ran into Timon and Pumbaa who taught him their life motto: Hakunah Matata. It means no worries. Simba adopted it as His life motto as well until he had to face his past and find peace. It wasn’t until he adopted that philosophy that he became who he was born to be.

What’s your life motto? Is it helping you to become who you were created to be? Or is it keeping you away from it? Every one of us have two fingerprints on our lives. We have the fingerprint of Adam that pulls us toward sin and away from God’s presence. We also have the fingerprint of God which holds our true identity. Each one of us allow one of those fingerprints to define our motto and how we live.

Psalm 34:14 says, “Keep turning your back on every sin, and make ‘peace’ your life motto. Practice being at peace with everyone” (TPT). God desires for every one of us to identify with His fingerprint on our life and to adopt His motto of peace. He is the Prince of Peace after all. This is a great time to put the past behind you and forgive those who have wronged you. Doing that will help you find peace internally and then you can begin pursuing peace with others. It’s not too late to adopt a new motto.

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Stay The Course

The phrase, “Stay the course,” has been used by military commanders to muster their army in the face of obstacles. It is meant to give them courage to keep going and to keep pursuing victory no matter how the battle appears at that moment. Rarely is any victory won without several twists and turns with ups and downs. If warriors quit at the first sign of struggle, they could never win a battle. They must learn to persevere and push forward with their eye on the prize while listening to their commander’s orders. Staying the course is often difficult, but a necessary step in achieving victory.

When you accept Jesus, you are put on course for Heaven. There will be many ups and downs, as well as battles. The road to victory is not easy, but we must persevere. There have been times when I’ve felt like giving up and accepting defeat. There have been times where I’ve been pushed backwards as well, but I’ve had to remind myself to stay the course, fight the battles and keep moving. There’s a reason that Paul told us to take up the full armor of God. We need it because we are pressed on every side in the midst of a lifelong battle to pursue all that God has for us.

Hebrews 6:12 encourages us, “Don’t drag your feet. Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to them” (MSG). If you and I will keep persevering, keep fighting and keep moving towards victory, we will get all that God has for us. Remember that greater is He that is in you than he that is against you. Now is not the time to stop and rest. Now is not the time to accept defeat. Now is the time to pick up your feet, to stay the course you were given and to fight until victory is won.

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A Grateful Heart

As we were headed somewhere, my son, who was in the backseat, out of the blue asks, “Dada, who is your favorite leper?” I said, “You know, I haven’t given it that much thought. Who is yours?” He replied, “The one who praised God and went back to thank Jesus.” Then he asked, “Why didn’t the other nine who were healed go back and to thank Jesus for healing them?” I replied, “That’s the same question Jesus had, but we weren’t given the answer to.” He thought for a second then said, “We should always thank God when He answers prayers.”

He’s right, but many times, we forget. For many of us, what is urgent right now is what gets all of our energy and attention. Once it’s taken care of, we move to the next most urgent thing. For those 10 lepers, the most urgent thing was to be healed before the leprosy claimed their lives. Because it was considered “unclean” and contagious, the people who had it were cut off from family, friends and society. It was a lonely disease where everyone avoided you. So once these people got Jesus’ attention and their healing, they were ready to rejoin their families. Only one felt his most urgent need was to go back and give thanks.

Luke 17:15 says, “One of them, a foreigner from Samaria, when he discovered that he was completely healed, turned back to find Jesus, shouting out joyous praises and glorifying God” (TPT). The Bible records many healings Jesus performed, but this story records someone giving thanks for their answered prayer. Gratitude is a godly quality we could all get better at. When we look back at our life, we can see many times God has answered our prayers. Can we also see moments of gratitude like this leper’s? Take time today to thank God for all He’s done for you. You’ll find that the more you grateful you are, the more you’ll have to be grateful for.

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Your Access Privileges

Because of my status with a certain hotel chain, whenever I travel, I get access to a concierge lounge. Every morning they serve a free hot breakfast that other guests can’t get. In the evenings, they serve hors d’oeuvres and desserts. Many times this lounge is in full view of other guests, but it’s behind a locked door that only certain guests’ keys can access. I’m often asked what you have to do to get access to that room. I let them know that it’s reserved for those who are loyal to that brand and stay a ton of nights a year with that hotel chain. While this lounge is great, there are many times when I’m so busy that I don’t take advantage of it.

As Christians, you and I have access to so much that God has to offer. He has given us privileges and rights that can only be accessed by those who have faith and rely on the grace of His Son Jesus. Sadly, many of us struggle through life without taking advantage of these benefits reserved for us. Sometimes it’s because we don’t spend time in prayer, other times it’s because we haven’t read the Bible enough to know what’s available and sometimes we don’t see ourselves as worthy of these gifts. Today, begin to seek God for these benefits that He has promised us access to. There’s more that God has for you if you’ll believe.

Here are some Bible verses on things we have access to.

1. Now we’re no longer living like slaves under the law, but we enjoy being God’s very own sons and daughters! And because we’re his, we can access everything our Father has—for we are heirs of God through Jesus, the Messiah!

Galatians 4:7 TPT

2. Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.

1 Corinthians 1:4-6 MSG

3. And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.

Matthew 16:19 MSG

4. This is in accordance with [the terms of] the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him [that is, our faith gives us sufficient courage to freely and openly approach God through Christ].

EPHESIANS 3:11-12 AMP

5. Our faith guarantees us permanent access into this marvelous kindness that has given us a perfect relationship with God. What incredible joy bursts forth within us as we keep on celebrating our hope of experiencing God’s glory!

Romans 5:2 TPT

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Standing Out

Have you ever felt out of place? I did earlier this week. Some co-workers and I went to eat lunch at a place on the beach. After lunch, we decided to walk down a long fishing pier. The beach below was crowded with people swimming and sun tanning. The pier was full of people dressed similarly, but had fishing poles in their hands. The four of us walked down the pier in our dress shirts, ties, slacks and dress shoes. To say people took double takes would be an understatement.

It was hot. We were sweating. We kept walking all the way to the end of the pier though. As people stared, we politely smiled and acted as though we belonged. No matter how much we pretended, we just didn’t. We didn’t have the right attire on for the beach. We didn’t have the right mindset for the beach. We were business minded men in a crowd full of vacationers.

As a Christian, that’s how we’re supposed to be in this world. We are to stand out and to be different. I love how the Message phrases Romans 12:2. It says, “Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” At the beach, the culture is dress down, relax and have a good time. We were not well adjusted to that culture. Our presence was noticed by everyone.

Living for Christ in this world is like wearing a suit at the beach. You’re going to stand out. You’re supposed to stand out. In the same passage in Matthew 5 where Jesus calls us to be salt and light, He says, “Let your good deeds shine for all to see, so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father.” We’re not different just to be different. There’s a purpose to it. That purpose is to draw other to the cross. They should see a difference in our lives versus the lives that live according to the culture of the world so we can reach them.

Photo by Rupert Britton on Unsplash

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.

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Stronger Faith

When life gets tough, do you let it push you closer to God or farther away from Him? I’ve had it do both. There have been times in my life where I desperately wanted God to show up and answer prayers, and to me it felt like He remained silent. I became upset with Him and decided I wasn’t going to ask Him for anything again. Another time, I was far away from Him, and when things got bad, I turned to Him to survive. My faith became the foundation on which I rebuilt my life. In both incidents, events in my life were more than I could handle.

Each of us go through difficulties. Each of go through times where our faith is all we have left. How do you respond in those moments? Do you tell God you’ll never ask Him for anything again because He didn’t answer? Do you have faith God will see you through when there’s no visible path forward? Faith is all about trusting God in life’s most difficult moments. It’s easy to have faith when you don’t have to use it. But what about those moments when it’s all you have left?

James 1:12 gives us a promise from God that says, “If your faith remains strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God!” (TPT) When we hold onto our faith in those periods where it’s all we have left, we experience a depth of God’s grace we’ve never known existed. We also get to know a God more intimately because our relationship deepens in those times. When God is all you have left, your faith has the ability to grow. These times are not designed to crush you or push you away from God. Rather let them do the work of deepening your faith and relationship with God.

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