Monthly Archives: July 2019

Seeking Sharpness

Do you know someone that just rubs you the wrong way? Every time you meet, you clash. It seems like every time you’re around each other, they bring out the worst in you. Then there are others you come into contact with who seem to make you want to be a better person. You have long, deep, conversations about things. They ask questions that keep you thinking for days. You can’t wait to be near them because they bring out the best side of you. I think it’s good to have both types in your life. I know it sounds crazy, but even the people who seem to bring out the worst in you can help you be a better person.

The people who bring out the worst in me reveal my rough edges. They show me the side of me that I work hard at covering up. When that side of me flares up, it’s a reminder that it’s still there and that I still have work to do. We all have rough edges in our lives that need smoothing out. When a piece of wood is rough, we don’t hold back the sandpaper. We apply it because we know that wherever it is applied will even be smooth. When a knife is dull, we don’t throw it away. We apply it to a whetstone or a grinding stone in order to make the edges sharp. Relationships, the good ones and the difficult ones, can have that same affect on you.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “It takes a grinding wheel to sharpen a blade, and so one person sharpens the character of another” (TPT). One of the things I pray often is, “God, put the right relationships in my life who will help me to be who you’ve called me to be, and take out the ones who don’t.” God is able to use relationships to smooth out our edges and to make us sharper people so we can fulfill our purpose. If you’re around people who seem to bring out the worst in you, ask God to use them to make you better or to help you break away from that relationship. We all have room for improvement in becoming more like Christ. Some relationships require you to end them so you can improve, and others will be used to smooth out your rough edges. Seek God’s wisdom for what to do in those relationships in your life and keep seeking to be sharp.

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Planning And Preparing

Several years ago the Lord spoke a simple word to me while I was praying. He said, “Prepare.” I replied, “Prepare for what?” Again, all I heard was, “Prepare.” I said, “Lord, if I’m going to prepare, I need to know what to prepare for.” For the third time, He said, “Prepare.” I had breakfast coming up with a pastor friend. I couldn’t wait to discuss what I heard. After our pleasantries, he said, “You know what I heard God say to me the other night? Prepare.” I told him I had heard the same thing. We began to discuss what it meant, but agreed we needed to each spend more time in prayer, in reading the Bible and in holding each other accountable to it.

Preparing is a necessary process in almost everything in life that’s worth anything. The greater the task, the greater the preparation. Think about taking a test. The more significant the test, the greater amount of time you spent preparing for it. Most of the time you had an idea of what could be on the test, but you weren’t sure what the questions were going to be. You needed to prepare for them to ask you anything. Life with God is a lot like that. We need to be prepared to be used in whatever situation He chooses to use us in. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. The on,y way to constantly be ready is to prepare ahead of time what you will say.

Proverbs 24:27 says, “Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house” (NLT). Too often we try to get the cart before the horse. We want the payoff without going through the process, but God’s plan is that you and I prepare for the greater things He has for us by being faithful in the small things. If you’re looking ahead to where God has promised to take you, take time each day to do the little things that will prepare you for that place. This proverb us to plan and prepare how we will be sustained once we get there rather than to focus on how we will stay there. God’s process always involves sowing first and then reaping later. If He’s being slow in keeping His promises, ask Him to tell you what He wants you to do today to prepare for your future.

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Bouncing Back

One of the things I love to do is to go to the beach. To me there’s something fun about going in up to my waist where the waves are crashing and leaning into them. I start off feeling like I could fight them all day, but after a while, they just keep coming and I get wore out. I’ve had it happen before where I’ve lost my footing. When I would try to get up, a wave would knock me back. Then I get into this cycle of not being able to get back up, and I have to switch into survival mode. The good news is that I’m close to shore and if I can time it right, I can get back up and breathe because it’s not very deep.

We all like to think we are resilient with the ability to bounce back. Life sometimes looks at that determination and says, “Challenge accepted!” None of us are exempt from tragedy, death, sickness, loss of a job, emotional pain, disappointment or devastation. We sometimes get hit over and over with things and have to switch into survival mode. There are times when it feels easier to stay down than to try to get back up, but we can’t stay down. Life is about getting back up. Christianity is about doing it with God’s strength rather than your own. He is our firm foothold in our time of desperation. He is the One who helps us get our head above water.

Proverbs 24:16 says, “For the lovers of God may suffer adversity and stumble seven times, but they will continue to rise over and over again” (TPT). God creates purpose in our suffering and has a way of working it out for our good. When we get back up from being knocked down, we show that our faith is stronger than what gets thrown at us. People also find hope and healing from their situations when they see that someone else survived disaster. By being resilient and getting back up, we show our faith isn’t based on circumstances. The same God who makes you lie down in green pastures and leads you beside the still waters, is the same God who walks with you through the valley of the shadow of death. Don’t stay knocked down by what you’re going through. God is your firm footing and will help you bounce back.

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No Excuses

One of the things I’m really good at is making excuses. I can come up with them quickly and effortlessly. We all make excuses for why we did something we shouldn’t have. They are used to deflect responsibility for the wrong we’ve done. In the Garden of Eden, Adam made the excuse that it was Eve’s fault, and she made the excuse that the snake tricked her. God wasn’t happy with creating excuses back then, and He still isn’t today. Part of repentance is owning up to our mistakes and taking responsibility for our actions. If we can’t do that, how can we truly be sorry for our actions?

We need to determine to live our lives with no excuses. It’s a habit that is hard to break because our brain doesn’t like to be in uncomfortable situations where we take full responsibility for our actions or inactions. We must choose not to make excuses to justify our actions. I like to say, “If you have to justify it, you shouldn’t be doing it.” Justifying is just an excuse with wrapping paper on it. When we cut out excuses in our lives, we will see tremendous growth in every area. Our inaction turns into action, and our actions turn into right actions. Think about the excuses you’ve been giving to God and yourself, then make a conscious effort to live a life with no excuses.

Here are some Bible verses on living with no excuses.

1. By making excuses you’ll learn what it means to go without. Poverty will pounce on you like a bandit and move in as your roommate for life.

Proverbs 6:11 TPT

2. And now, children, stay with Christ. Live deeply in Christ. Then we’ll be ready for him when he appears, ready to receive him with open arms, with no cause for red-faced guilt or lame excuses when he arrives.

1 John 2:28 MSG

3. Now we know that everything in the Law applies to those who live under the Law, in order to stop all human excuses and bring the whole world under God’s judgment. For no one is put right in God’s sight by doing what the Law requires; what the Law does is to make us know that we have sinned.

‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:19-20‬ ‭GNT

4. For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through His workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made], so that they [who fail to believe and trust in Him] are without excuse and without defense.

ROMANS 1:20 AMP

5. As for you, my friends, you were called to be free. But do not let this freedom become an excuse for letting your physical desires control you. Instead, let love make you serve one another.

Galatians 5:13 GNT

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Having Integrity

I’ve always heard it said that integrity isn’t what you do in front of others, it’s what you do when no one else is around. Many times we are one person at work, another person at church, another person with our friends, and another person at home. In fact, when doing a DISC personality assessment, we tell people to pick their environment. Some more comprehensive ones actually show you the differences in your personality type between the environments.

When it comes to being a Christian, it’s important that we always live with integrity no matter what environment we are in. We don’t have to pretend that we aren’t human and that we are perfect because we’re not. We can live real lives, admit our struggles, show our brokenness and still live with integrity. It’s by our love that they will know we are His disciples, not by our pretending to be perfect.

I love the book of Psalms because David, who was a man after God’s own heart, is vulnerable enough to share and show his true self. He was a man of doubts, sins, fears, and worries. I think that’s why so many of us soak up the Psalms and why they resonate with us. David was a man of integrity and didn’t pretend to be anyone other than who he was. He was honest in his prayers and his praise. He was the same man in public and in private.

In Psalm 101:2, he vowed to God, “I will lead a life of integrity in my own home” (NLT). He understood the importance of integrity and knew that it started at home when no one was looking. Each of us can learn from his example. Being a person after God’s own heart isn’t about being perfect. It’s about having integrity, being able to admit when we’ve sinned and following after God matter what. If we have integrity at home, it’ll bleed into all the other areas of our lives.

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Throwback Thursday is a 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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Helping The Poor

For the second half of my childhood, my family’s economic situation changed for the worse. For a while, we had to move out of our home and into a trailer that a lady at church owned. Instead of getting to go to the store for new clothes, I got to go through bags of hand-me-downs. We went to the store’s clearance section for canned goods that were missing labels. Mom would make what she called “supper surprise” because no one knew what we were going to eat until we opened the can. Through the years, we never went without though. People brought us groceries, furniture and cars when we needed them. God always provided.

I often think of Matthew 25:34-40 when I think of that period in my life. Jesus was talking about Heaven and He told the righteous people that they were welcome in because when He was hungry, they fed Him. When He was thirsty, they gave Him something to drink. When He was naked, they clothed Him. They didn’t understand that when they helped someone in need, they were doing to Him. I often pray that God would continue to open the windows of Heaven and bless the people who helped us during that period. Whether they knew it or not, they were giving to the Lord.

Proverbs 19:17 puts it this way, “Every time you give to the poor you make a loan to the Lord. Don’t worry—you’ll be repaid in full for all the good you’ve done” (TPT). Whether God repays you in this life or the next, He will bless you for giving to those who need your help. Part of being a Christian is having a heart full of compassion on the least of these. We often make excuses why we can’t give to people in need or we look away, but the truth is you’re not giving to that person or family. You’re doing it to the Lord. He repays us for caring for the poor, the underprivileged, the homeless and the prisoner. He didn’t ask if we thought it was their fault or not they were in that situation. He simply said, “When you’ve done it to the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.”

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Hungry For More

One of my regular prayers is, “Lord, help me to hunger and thirst for you and your righteousness. Open my eyes as I read your word. Give me understanding beyond my abilities, and help me to see the connections throughout Scripture.” I don’t ever want to be satisfied with where I am in my relationship with Him. I want to have a hunger to know Him more. I also don’t ever want to think I know enough about the Bible. Each time I read through it, I see things that never stood out before. I know that it’s God answering that prayer. He’s willing to reveal Himself to us if we are willing to take the time to know Him more.

I recently heard of someone who said they hadn’t opened their Bible in years. They had read through it once, then they put it on the shelf with their other books. They lost their hunger to know God more and treated the Bible as if it were a regular book. It was worrisome to me to hear of someone who thought that they knew all they would ever know about God and the Bible after reading it once. God is not a box to be checked in order to cover yourself for eternity. He is a being who wants to be known, sought after and hungered after.

Proverbs 18:15 says, “The spiritually hungry are always ready to learn more, for their hearts are eager to discover new truths” (TPT). When we lose our hunger for God, we lose the ability to know truth. Without knowing Truth, we’re condemned to live a life shackled by things that don’t matter for eternity. It’s the Truth that sets us free. Freedom from so many of the things that weigh us down can only be found in knowing more of who God is. With the hunger to know Him more, comes the desire to be more like Him. None of us should ever be satisfied with how much we know Him or how well we know the Bible. There’s always more for you. It’s time we were hungry for more.

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