When today draws to a close, the whole world will celebrate another year gone. But this isn’t just a year passing, it’s also a decade (and a score as my son will tell you). It’s a time for looking back as well as ahead. Where were you in 2010? What was happening in your life? Are you better off now than then? Are you where you thought you’d be? Had you given any thought to where you wanted to be ten years later? A lot can change in a decade that is out of our control, but there’s also a lot that you and I can control. Looking forward and dreaming about what God wants to do through you is one of those things.
We know Jeremiah 29:11 says that God knows the plans He has for us, but do we know the plans we have for ourselves? As a Christian, it’s important to be proactive with our lives. We can’t afford to just go with the flow. You were created with purpose on purpose. Unless you set goals, make a plan, create practical steps to achieve and measure your progress in that plan, you may find yourself in 2030 no where near where you want to be having lost a decade. Where do you want to be 10 years from now? What are some major things you want to accomplish? What would you like God to do through you in that time?
The Golden Rule In Matthew 7:12 tells us to treat others the way we want to be treated. Do you have a goal for how you want to treat others going forward? Romans 15:2 says, “Our goal must be to empower others to do what is right and good for them, and to bring them into spiritual maturity” (TPT). Think of ways you can empower others in your life, and do something daily to do it. You don’t have to do something big, but through your consistent, small actions, you can make a world of difference in the lives of people around you. Seek God on what He would like to do through you to empower others each day so that you can help them reach their goals and spiritual maturity. In ten years, you can change countless lives, but it starts with a choice, a plan and an action.
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I grew up as the middle child of three boys. Like most siblings we fought over insignificant things and argued over just about anything. We often tried to get each other in trouble by tattling. Many times we would instigate arguments between the other two just to watch them fight. Like most siblings, we were competitive and were always trying to outdo each other. We had the same parents, but we had three very distinct personalities. As we matured, the fighting and arguing stopped. We learned to get along and how to help each other out. Even though we sometimes have disagreements, we don’t allow those to be reasons to separate us. We recognize those are personal choices and don’t try to force each other to live by each other’s personal rules.
Romans 14 has a lot to say about similar things. We as individuals and corporate bodies of churches often fight with each other over things like siblings. We find reasons to argue with each other even though we serve the same God. Instead of working together, the way a body should, we find problems with each other’s choices and doctrines that don’t line up with our own. Paul says those are signs of immaturity. Why are we fighting with each other trying to prove who’s right or better? We’re on the same side. When we look for differences, we’ll find them and be divided. We know that a house divided can’t stand, nor can it accomplish its great commission.
Paul encourages us in verse 19 by saying, “So then, make it your top priority to live a life of peace with harmony in your relationships, eagerly seeking to strengthen and encourage one another” (TPT). The foot is not more right than a hand because it walks instead of grabs. An eye is not greater than an ear because it sees rather than hears. We have differences because there are strengths in our differences. Let’s quit firing our weapons at each other, look for each other’s strengths and work together so that all may know Him. We must live in peace and harmony with each other as believers. The best way to do that is to seek to help, strengthen and encourage each other in the work God has called each of us to.
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On my most recent trip to Israel, we walked from the top of the Mount of Olives to its base. As we arrived in the Garden of Gethsemane, I looked at the grove of olive trees. I began to wonder where Jesus prayed and where the disciples slept. I went into the church that was built there to commemorate the event. I walked down to the altar area and began reading the story on the plaques they have. When I came to the part where Jesus walked up on the disciples asleep, it read that Jesus said, “Wake up!” Those words reverberated in my spirit and I kept reading it over and over. Jesus wasn’t just telling the disciples to wake up, He was talking to us as well.
We need to pray that God will wake us up too. We cant afford to be sleeping spiritually in this day and age. We need to understand the moment we are in in history. God has placed us specifically at this time and place for a reason. If we’re sleeping, we’ll miss the moment. We. Just wake up to see what God is doing and wants to do. We must be about our Father’s business, but we can’t do it if we are asleep. The disciples slept in their final hours with Jesus despite His directive to watch and pray. We can’t let that happen to us in the final days before He returns.
Here are some Bible verses to remind us to wake up.
1. He said to them, “Why are you asleep? Wake up and pray that you won’t be tested.”
Luke 22:46 CEV
2. Wake up from your sleep, Climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light! So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!
Ephesians 5:15-16 MSG
3. To live like this is all the more urgent, for time is running out and you know it is a strategic hour in human history. It is time for us to wake up! For our full salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
Romans 13:11 TPT
4. So wake up, and strengthen what you still have before it dies completely. For I find that what you have done is not yet perfect in the sight of my God.
Revelation 3:2 GNT
5. Be sober-minded [be sensible, wake up from your spiritual stupor] as you ought, and stop sinning; for some [of you] have no knowledge of God [you are disgracefully ignorant of Him, and ignore His truths]. I say this to your shame.
1 Corinthians 15:34 AMP
The day after Christmas is one of the busiest days of the year in the retail world. Everyone is out returning what they got for Christmas. Either it didn’t fit or they didn’t like it, so they returned it. Today, you and I have the same opportunity in our lives. We have the choice to send back the things that we don’t like in our lives and exchange them for the things we want. It boils down to a choice that you make. You can hold onto the things you don’t want in your life and accumulate a bunch of junk that weighs you down or you can return it.
Each of us have picked up things in our lives this year that we don’t want. Each of us have had things happen that we didn’t see coming. Each of us have held onto something too long and it’s keeping us back. In order to make 2020 the year we want it to be, we have to let go of the things that are holding us down. You can’t pick up the good things that will come your way if your hands are full of the things you’d rather return. You can’t be free unless you let go of the things that are keeping you in a self imposed prison. You make the choice to stay locked up in the past or to be free to receive what the future holds.
Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on The Lord releasing the weight of it and He will sustain you (AMP).” He doesn’t mind you returning the things that weigh you down or hold you back. He wants you to release the weight of those things that are holding you back and He will strengthen and support you. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus tells us to go to Him when we’re weary from carrying the things that hold us back. Give them to Him and take His yoke. In The Message, Jesus says, “I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.” What He gives fits and is perfect for you. Get Free today by exchanging the things in your life that you don’t want for the things He wants you to have.
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.
From the time you’re a child, there’s something special about receiving gifts. The anticipation of Christmas was sometimes overwhelming as you waited to open the gifts. I remember wanting to peek to see if I got what I really wanted. Some years I did, and other years I got what I needed. While gifts are always for the receiver, the giver gets something special out of it too. As an adult, there’s nothing better than to see my child’s reaction when he gets just the right gift. The excitement. The smile. The raised voice. The desire to take it out of the box even when there’s more under the tree. The right gift at the right time is priceless.
Christmas is the time we celebrate how some 2,000 years ago God gave us the perfect gift at just the right time. The sky was lit up by a special star. The gift was wrapped in a stable and placed in a manger. The angels announced a His birth. The right time had come to give the world the greatest treasure it would ever know. With the birth of the baby Jesus, God gave us the gift of a right relationship with a Him. There was (and is) nothing we could ever give Him that is so great a gift, but what we can give Him is our heart and life in return with gratitude for giving us His Son.
Romans 8:32 says, “For God has proved his love by giving us his greatest treasure, the gift of his Son. And since God freely offered him up as the sacrifice for us all, he certainly won’t withhold from us anything else he has to give” (TPT). God loved you and I so much that He gave everything He had to restore a relationship we never could. As you open gifts and spend time with those you love this Christmas, don’t forget why we celebrate. You’ve been given a greater gift than you can ever purchase or receive. The gift you have received from Him though is one that can be shared with others. It is the true gift of Christmas.
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Earlier this year, one of our local radio DJ’s decided to see what it was like to be homeless. He created a backstory in case anyone asked him how he got there. He also had a police officer go undercover with him to protect him. Each morning he would slip away to call the radio station to report his findings. I looked forward to his calls each day just so I could gain more insight into how we as Christians can help these people who have been displaced from their homes and our society. The experience changed him and the listeners. Even though it was only for a week, his experience allowed him to identify with the homeless population in a way that he never had before. From not being able to get into the shelter on a cold night, to not being able to eat, to having people pretend he was invisible changed his perspective and how he would help going forward.
As we begin celebrating Christmas, I can’t help but think that this man was mirroring what God did a couple of millenniums ago. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, God walked with them daily. After they sinned, they were cast out of the garden and became wanders on the earth. Their sin also separated us and created a fallen world of people far from God. We became guilty of breaking God’s laws and fell under the power of sin. God gave us the Law through Moses, but we were unable to live up to it. We continuously fell short of the desires God had for us. Our sin created a barrier that kept us from being able to cross over to Him. However, when we couldn’t go to Him, He came to us to set us right with Him. He was able to bridge the divide from our side.
Romans 8:3 says, “Yet God sent us his Son in human form to identify with human weakness. Clothed with humanity, God’s Son gave his body to be the sin-offering so that God could once and for all condemn the guilt and power of sin” (TPT). Because He took on flesh and lived among us, He is able to identify with you. He was tempted like you are, hurt like you do and felt the separation from God. He also broke the power of sin over your life and removed the guilt from your name. Christmas is much more than the birth of Jesus. It’s God coming into the world so He could relate to us, be with us and save us. As you celebrate and share gifts, don’t forget to celebrate your freedom through Him and the new life He has given you.
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Every spring there are big displays in home improvement stores selling seeds. I like to look through them to see if there’s anything we would like to try to grow. One one side of the packet you have a picture of what the seeds inside will produce. On the other side you have a map of the US, a color coded map that tells you where these seeds grow the best and them some instructions that tell you how deep to plant them, how far apart, when the best time of year to plant them is and how long it will take them to produce. The more closely you follow those directions, the more likely that your garden will produce something from the packet.
Most of the seeds we plant in life can’t be seen and aren’t physically put in the ground. There’s no packet that you can read to tell you where they will grow best, how long until they produce or when the best time to plant them is. When I was a kid, a popular saying in the church world was, “You’ll real what you sow.” To me, it always seemed to have a negative connotation. They only brought it up when you weren’t doing the right thing. While it’s true that it works for those behaviors, it also works for the behaviors God wants to reinforce in our lives. The law of sowing and reaping was instituted in during creation when the Bible tells us that God planted a garden in the east. He didn’t speak the Garden of Eden into existence like most everything else.
As Christians, we need to pay attention to the things we are planting in our lives, the lives of others and into the world. We don’t have to worry about timing, location or season. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “We know that we prosper and excel in every season by serving the Lord, because we are assured that our union with the Lord makes our labor productive with fruit that endures” (TPT). The seeds you’re sowing today are not in vain. They will produce whether you think it’s the right season to plant them or not. The law of sowing and reaping can only come into affect when you plan seeds. God is the one who makes them grow, not you. Don’t hold back in planting where God tells you to or when. Your planting will be productive through Him.
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