Monthly Archives: November 2019

Knowing What’s Important

One of the things we all do is to try to prioritize what is important in our lives. Whether we know it or not, we make time for the things that are important to us. Knowing what is the most important thing helps guide our decision making process. Because we want our lives to matter, we seek to do things that are important to us and others. As I pray and think about what to write in these devotionals each day, I ask the question, “What is the most important thing I want anyone who reads this to walk away with?” I want to bring value to lives that place a high importance on their relationship with God.

The Bible has a lot to say about what is important and what is not. Oddly enough, God’s definition of what is important is usually different than ours. We usually look at value from an external point of view and God looks at it from an eternal one. A good question to ask as we prioritize is, “What difference will this make on eternity?” The greater the difference, the greater importance we should place on it. I understand that not everything we do has an impact on eternity, but when we frame our decisions that way, it helps us bring things that we do into perspective so we can know what is truly important.

Here are some Bible verses on knowing what’s important.

1. The Lord answered her, “Martha, my beloved Martha. Why are you upset and troubled, pulled away by all these many distractions? Are they really that important? Mary has discovered the one thing most important by choosing to sit at my feet. She is undistracted, and I won’t take this privilege from her.”

Luke 10:41-42 TPT

2. “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Matthew 22:36-39 NLT

3. All I’m doing right now, friends, is showing how these things pertain to Apollos and me so that you will learn restraint and not rush into making judgments without knowing all the facts. It’s important to look at things from God’s point of view. I would rather not see you inflating or deflating reputations based on mere hearsay.

1 Corinthians 4:6 MSG

4. But this is not how it is among you; instead, whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant.

Mark 10:43 AMP

5. He must become more important while I become less important.

John 3:30 GNT

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Choosing Thankfulness

As Paul is wrapping up his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, he quits expounding on things and starts rapid firing commands. Pray for and honor your spiritual leaders. Be joyful always. Test all things. Avoid evil. He puts one right in the middle that to me is one of the hardest commands. He says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT). What? How can I be thankful in all circumstances? Why doesn’t he expound on this and tell us how? I’ve wrestled with these questions and this verse my whole life.

As I was pondering this recently, I remembered the words of a British Bible scholar from the 1600’s, Matthew Henry, when someone stole his wallet. He said, “Let me be thankful, first, because he never robbed me before; second, because although he took my purse, he did not take my life; third, because although he took all I possessed, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.“ Wow! That’s someone who chose to be thankful in all circumstances. He understood that you don’t have to be thankful for your circumstances, but you can find ways to be thankful in them.

It comes down to a matter of our heart. Are we choosing to blame God for our problems or are we finding ways to be thankful despite them? God’s desire for each of us is to learn thankfulness because it changes our perspective. When circumstances arise in our life, we can choose to become bitter or better. That outcome is dependent on what we focus on when we don’t like our present situation. Choosing to be thankful in all circumstances is definitely the more difficult choice, but it produces much better results in our life.

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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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Dropping Stones

One of the shows we like to watch as a family is “Nailed It”. The show brings on people who barely cook and has them try to replicate a master chef’s creations in small amounts of time. The failures keep us and the judges laughing while the contestants take it in stride. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s something in all of us that somehow gets joy when others fail. Whether it’s someone at the office, a sports team that’s doing well or a well known leader. I’ve read several articles about the psychology behind it, but no one can nail it down as to why. Ultimately, it either means we get ahead or they were not as great as we made them out to be and it makes us feel good about our own shortcomings.

In John 8, a group of religious leaders were trying to make Jesus fail while exposing a woman’s failure. They brought her into the temple getting everyone’s attention and took her straight to Jesus. They reminded Him that the Law of Moses said that they should stone this woman for adultery. With stones in their hands, they asked Him what He thought. Instead of jumping in with the rest of the crowd being excited about taking down this woman who had failed, Jesus simply started writing in the dirt. They demanded He answer. They were ready to kill her. Jesus stood up in verse 7 and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (NLT) One by one, they dropped their stones as Jesus went back to writing in the dirt. The on,y one who had the ability to throw the stone, didn’t.

Instead of throwing stones and making fun of people who have failed, we should help them find forgiveness. Instead of laughing that they got caught and were exposed, think about how you would feel if your private sins were exposed in such a manner. Galatians 6:1 tells us, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” Instead of trying to make them feel worse or to push them further away from God, we have a responsibility to help them the way Jesus helped this woman. All of us have sinned and fall short. None of us deserve grace, yet Jesus set the example we should follow by giving it. We’re in the restoration business as Christians. Let’s act like it.

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Surrendering The Driver’s Seat

Have you ever been driving and had someone in the vehicle comment constantly on your driving telling you what to do and how to do it? Did you like it? I’ve never met anyone who likes a backseat driver. According to Miriam-Webster online, a backseat driver is a passenger in a vehicle who is not controlling the vehicle but who excessively comments on the driver’s actions and decisions in an attempt to control the vehicle. We’ve all experienced it from someone in our lives. They make comments about your driving, especially when they feel like you’re taking a risk that they wouldn’t take. What they don’t realize is that backseat driving increases the risk of having a crash because of the added stress and distraction.

When you and I accept Jesus as our savior, we put Him in the driver’s seat of our lives. We, in effect, step out of that role and become a passenger. The church phrase is, “surrendering your life to Christ”. Yet how many of us have truly surrendered our lives to Him? We don’t mind surrendering the parts of our life we struggle with, but being a Christian is about surrendering everything. Remember the old hymn “I Surrender All”? Somewhere we have lost what it means to surrender our entire life to Him. When we are both trying to control the outcome of our life, we become a backseat driver to Jesus and increase the risk of messing things up. We start telling Him what we think He should do when we don’t have all the information He has as the one in control.

Jesus said it best in Matthew 16:24, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am” (MSG). You and I have to surrender the driving seat to Him. One way I do this is each morning before my feet hit the floor is to pray, “Lord, I open myself up to you. Fill me with your Spirit until I’m overflowing. Speak through me, love through me and live through me today. Let my words and actions be reflections of who you are. Use me in anyway you see fit. I surrender to your will.” Surrendering the driver’s seat isn’t natural. It has to be a daily and sometimes hourly. God is good and has a plan for your life that is greater than your own plan. Getting out of the driver’s seat and allowing Him to take over is the best thing you can do for your life.

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The Right Hands

My eight year old son tries to be fiercely independent. He wants to do things himself without my help. I can see him sometimes working on something he can’t quite figure out. I watch his frustration begin to rise, and I say, “Bring it here. Let me try.” Of course he keeps trying getting more upset. I make my offer again. Nope, he wants to keep trying. That’s usually when frustration starts turning into anger. He then has the choice to make – he can walk away from it or he can bring it to me. Once he puts it in my hands, I’m able to do with it what he cannot. Many times I’ll set it up so that he can participate in finishing it. When that happens, both of us smile and are happy.

In Matthew 14, King Herod has John the Baptist beheaded at the request of his step daughter. Jesus was sad over the loss of his cousin and went into a remote area to mourn. While he was there, someone spotted him and started telling people where He was. Soon thousands of people made their way to Him for healing. As it was getting dark, the disciples asked Him to send the crowds away so they could get dinner in nearby villages. In verse 16, Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary – you feed them” (NLT). I’m sure the disciples panicked and got frustrated trying to figure out how they could do it. They found five loaves and two fish and told Jesus that was all they had and they couldn’t do it. That’s when Jesus said, “Bring them here.”

The difference in both of these stories is whose hands things were in. How long do we try to do things while Jesus is telling us, “Bring them here”? You can keep trying to do the impossible on your own or you can trust Jesus with it. You can get frustrated trying over and over or you can put it in His hands. The feeding of the 5,000 was a miracle because the disciples were able to say, “We can’t do it,” and then handed over what they had to Jesus. One of the most difficult things about faith is letting go. We are fiercely independent people who want to do things ourselves. At the end of the day we have to choose whether we allow that frustration to turn to anger or put action to our faith and trust God with it. He is able to do above and beyond what we are able to. If we will trust Him, He will often allow us to participate in the miracle.

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Being Workers In God’s Kingdom

I’ve been in the workforce for almost 30 years now and have worked for several companies. No matter where I’ve worked there have been some hard workers who go above and beyond. There have also been some workers who were doing the bare minimum just to collect a check. Then there were those who did their job and nothing more. I’ve heard of an 80/20 Rule that states 80% of the work is done by 20% of the workers. I don’t know how accurate that is, but I’d have to say it’s pretty close based on what I’ve seen. Most workers find excuses not to work hard. They don’t like their boss. They don’t believe in the company’s mission. They’re on,y doing this until something better comes along. Those attitudes are reflected in their work.

There are several times in the Bible that you and I are referred to as workers in God’s Kingdom. I wonder if we allow those same attitudes to affect how we work for the Lord. Are we doing the bare minimum of what’s required of us? Do we care about the souls of other people? Are we doing things that impact the lives of those around us or just our own life? Have we as Christians succumbed to the 80/20 Rule? In one Parable, Jesus spoke of the need to keep going out and getting workers all throughout the day. There is much work to be done for His Kingdom, but the workers are few. We each need to be asking Him to show us what needs to be done, and to offer ourselves to His service.

Here are some Bible verses on being a worker.

1. Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 NLT

2. Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

1 Timothy 5:17-18 MSG

3. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, heal those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases, and drive out demons. You have received without paying, so give without being paid. Do not carry any gold, silver, or copper money in your pockets; do not carry a beggar’s bag for the trip or an extra shirt or shoes or a walking stick. Workers should be given what they need.

Matthew 10:8-10 GNT

4. For we are God’s fellow workers [His servants working together]; you are God’s cultivated field [His garden, His vineyard], God’s building.

1 Corinthians 3:9 AMP

5. He released them with these instructions: “The harvest is huge and ripe. But there are not enough harvesters to bring it all in. As you go, plead with the Owner of the Harvest to drive out into his harvest fields many more workers.”

Luke 10:2 TPT

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Open The Hood Of Prayer

Prayer to me is like a car engine. I don’t know everything about it, but I know it works. Sure I can point out some parts under the hood and tell you what they do, but I don’t understand fully how they work. I’ve replaced a couple of parts that were easy to do, but for the harder stuff, I go to someone who understands it more fully. They are able to replace anything under the hood and make it run as intended. I take it to them because they know and understand every part of an engine. They also know how to tweak it to get the most out of it.

Every one of us can pray. Every one of us can make it work. We may not understand how it works or what to do to get the most out of it, but we can push the gas and make it go. I know people have broken down “The Lord’s Prayer” and taught me how to pray that way. I’ve been given methods like “ACTS” (Adoration, Confession, Thankfulness, Supplication) to give structure to my prayers. I’ve been shown how to pray intensely so that my prayers have more power. There are so many things we can learn about prayer, but most of us leave the hood closed.

If you’re going to pray more effectively, you’re going to have to spend some time under the hood tinkering. Powerful, effective prayers come out of spending time with the one we’re talking to. They come from intimately knowing the One to whom we pray. They come from understanding what His will is and what His Word says. The more we know what His Word says, the more we pray in accordance with it. The more we pray in accordance with it, the more He answers. The more He answers, the more faith and confident we get. The more faith and confident we get, the more effective our prayers become. James 5:16 says, “For tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer!” (TPT)

Don’t be afraid to look under the hood of prayer. Learn what you can. Take time tweaking this and that to make it comfortable for you. Understand there are different types and ways to pray. Your prayers get an audience with the One who created everything you see. It’s worth investing time and energy to make them as effective as possible. Hang around others who get their prayers answered. Learn from them how to pray. Each one of us have room for growth in our prayers. To get better, we just have to open the hood

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Quit Panicking

One of the most common Christian myths many of us believe is that when I do what God asks me to, there won’t be any issues and things will go smoothly. For me, it seems like when I step out in faith and do what God asks, things often start going wrong. There are times it feels like I’ve jumped out of an airplane, but I’m not the one who gets to pull the cord on the parachute. The ground starts getting closer and I start to panic. I cry out, “God, where are you? Did you tell me to do this? Why haven’t you worked on my behalf yet? Don’t you care about my reputation? My family? I thought you were going to work out everything for my good.” At that point, it’s easy to start questioning if I really heard God or if I’m really in His will because I’m looking at external factors and I’m believing the myth that everything should be smooth sailing when I’m in His will through obedience.

In Mark 4, after a long day of teaching, night was falling and Jesus said, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake” (TPT). They all piled in a boat, and several people from the crowd got in boats to follow them across the lake. Being tired from teaching, Jesus decided to call it a night. He laid down and fell asleep. That’s when a ferocious storm came rolling in with violent winds that were rocking the boat and causing it to take on so much water that they were afraid of sinking. In verse 39, they had a similar prayer to mine. They woke Jesus up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re all about to die?” Jesus, once He was fully awake, steps out, rebukes the wind and calms the sea. I’m sure He gave them a disappointed look as He said, “Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?”

Those words are ringing in my ears today as I shift my focus from my circumstances to who He is. When things don’t go the way we thought they should after our obedience, fear creeps in. Fear of failure. Fear of being embarrassed. Fear of going broke. Fear of our own ship going down. The storm you’re in may be great, but He is greater. It may feel like He’s asleep, but He knows what you’re going through. Push through the fear and panic, and trust that if He’s called you to it, He’ll get you through it. A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor, and easy times never stretch our faith. Yes, it might have been a big leap you took, but your faith has so much more room to grow. Now is not the time for panic. It’s the time for prayer and faith. He hasn’t ever failed you, and He won’t start failing you today.

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Being Permeated By God’s Word

One of the artisan things that has been mostly lost is the art of making bread. It’s so easy to go to the store to buy a loaf that few of us have time to make it unless we have specific dietary needs. My father in law though still makes tortillas. While it’s not a loaf of bread, the process is similar. He always heats water on the stovetop while he mixes the dry ingredients. He then adds a little water at a time until the mixture is just right. He then separates it out into smaller balls of dough, then he takes a wet paper towel, covers them and waits. He gives the yeast time to activate and interact with the dough. Once it has permeated the whole ball of dough, it time to roll them out and cook them. It’s a process that can’t be rushed or you change the end result.

Meditating on God’s Word is a lot like that process. We have to take the water of God’s Word and add it to the dry mixture of our lives. It then has to be kneaded into every area so that the dryness is gone. This means that we can’t just read the Bible for the sake of reading it. We must look at it and consider how we apply it and live it out. After that, it’s time to stop and think about it on a deeper level. What is the context? Why did God put this in the Bible? What all is He trying to say? You then look at it from the angle of every person in that passage thinking about its implications to them. By asking these questions and really chewing on the verse or passage before applying it, you allow it to permeate your entire being and gain deeper understanding of it. Then, when you’re crushed or walk through fiery trials and the heat of life is applied, you will produce the life you’re called to live.

In Matthew 13:33 Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and worked into three measures of flour until all of it was leavened” (AMP). Each of our lives must allow the Word of God to be worked into our lives through meditating on it. There are promises of being successful if we do (Joshua 1:8) as well as having a life that produces fruit in every season of life (Psalm 1:2-3). We are also told in James 1:22 to not just be hearers of God’s Word, but to also be doers of it. To do that, we must pray for insight and direction as we read, then spend time asking the question and meditating on it. God’s Word, like yeast, is alive and active and is wanting to permeate every ares of our life if we will slow down the process and allow it to do its work. Don’t read it to check off a Christian box. Read it to transform your life, to guide you and to lead you into His promises.

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Extravagant Love

A lot of Christians are skeptical of Kanye West’s conversion. If I’m honest, I put myself into that category. He has been hosting Sunday Services where people have been giving their life to Christ, he put out an album called “Jesus is King”, took the Gospel to the Harris County jail and held service at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood church. On all accounts, we question his motives and keep waiting for the moment where he lets us know he’s been trolling us. We all remember his crazy antics (like taking the mic from Taylor Swift. We know the family he’s married into. His sinful past is also well documented. Are we doubting the power of the blood of Jesus or are we holding someone’s past against them? Would we feel the same way towards a local sinner’s conversion in our own church?

In Luke 7, Jesus was invited to eat at the home of a Pharisee. While Jesus was eating dinner, verse 37 says, “There was an immoral woman of the streets, known to all to be a prostitute” who walked into the house and knelt at the feet of Jesus (TPT). She wept as she knelt. Her tears fell on His feet, and she began to dry them off with her hair as if she were apologetic that she was getting them wet. She then brought out an alabaster box of perfume and “anointed his feet with her costly perfume as an act of worship.” Then the Pharisee said, “If He were really a prophet, He would know what kind of sinful woman is touching Him.” He did. He then shared a story of two men who were forgiven large debts, but one was so much more than the other. He then asked, “Which of the two would be most thankful? Which one would love the banker more?” Then in verse 47, Jesus said, “She has been forgiven of all her many sins. This is why she has shown me such extravagant love. But those who assume they have very little to be forgiven will love me very little.”

When we see prominent sinners give acts of worship, are we jealous because of their greater love for the Savior? I still don’t know Kanye’s intentions, but what I see are the acts of someone who has been forgiven much and is expressing that gratitude. I’m learning to worry less about what He’s doing and questioning my own actions. What am I doing to continue to show my appreciation for the salvation that was freely given. Was my sin as public and as “shameful” as Kanye’s? No, but the end result would have been the same without the blood of Jesus. For that, I am grateful and should be remembering what was done for me often. It’s easy to get into the rut of Christianity. It’s easy to question someone else’s heart when I should be questioning my own. Today, it’s time to worry less about someone else’s response to salvation and look at how I’m expressing my love to Christ for paying my debt too.

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