Monthly Archives: January 2020

Be Alert

When I was a teenager, I was part of a scouting program at church. One of the things that was taught to us each week was the code of core values that each one of us were to adopt into our lives. To this day, I can recite all eight, and still try to live by them. The very first one was, “Alert – He is mentally, physically and spiritually alert.” I believe there is deep significance in this one for everyone, and that we should all live by it. To be mentally alert is to pay attention and to guard our mind. We have to be careful what we all into it. To be physically alert is to pay attention to our surroundings so we can keep ourselves and others out of danger. Spiritually alert is very similar. Instead of looking into the physical realm, we need to be alert to things happening in the spiritual realm.

Jesus and several authors of the New Testament warm us to be alert, to pay attention and to be vigilant. Each one of us must be aware of danger and opportunities around us. We’re not mean to drift along life being carried by its current. We must live intentional lives paying attention. We are to fight the enemy when he shows up, rescue the lost when our paths cross and ready to give an answer for the hope that lives within us. We cannot let our guard down ever. When we do, our enemy will strike or we may miss an opportunity to lead someone to salvation. Being alert is a core value that every Christian must have and incorporate into their lives.

Here are some Bible verses on being alert.

1. Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8 AMP

2. But since we belong to the day, we must stay alert and clearheaded by placing the breastplate of faith and love over our hearts, and a helmet of the hope of salvation over our thoughts.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 TPT

3. Remember to stay alert and hold firmly to all that you believe. Be mighty and full of courage.

1 Corinthians 16:13 TPT

4. Just make sure you stay alert. Keep close watch over yourselves. Don’t forget anything of what you’ve seen. Don’t let your heart wander off. Stay vigilant as long as you live. Teach what you’ve seen and heard to your children and grandchildren.

Deuteronomy 4:9 MSG

5. Do all this in prayer, asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God’s people.

Ephesians 6:18 GNT

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A Change Of Clothes

I can easily recall several times in my life when my clothes were so filthy I couldn’t wear them inside. I was playing in the woods as a kid once, and I found a bucket of tar. I popped the lid off and had a lot of fun…until I got home! When I was 16, I got a job washing garbage trucks. Yes, they wash them each night like you wash your car. My clothes were so nasty, I had to ride in the back of the truck and change out of them in the garage. Also, when I was 20 years old, I visited a church in Garbage City, Cairo, Egypt. My clothes smelled so putrid that it made people sick to smell them.

Why am I telling you this? It’s because spiritually we wear clothes very similar to each of those situations. Isaiah 64:6 says, “We’re all sin-infected, sin contaminated. Our best efforts are grease-stained rags” (MSG). The Amplified Version calls them “polluted garments”. Our efforts to be good in order to get to Heaven look and smell like the clothes I was wearing on those days. Our efforts will never change our spiritual clothes. That’s something only God can do.

Zechariah had a vision of Joshua, the priest and leader of Israel. He was standing in Heaven before God and Satan was there to accuse him. Zechariah describes it this way in chapter 3 verses 3 and 4, “Joshua was standing there, wearing filthy clothes. The angel said to his heavenly attendants, ‘Take away the filthy clothes this man is wearing.’ Then he said to Joshua, ‘I have taken away your sin and will give you new clothes to wear’” (GNT). Where our works create filthy rags, God’s work clothes us in righteousness.

Isaiah 61:10 says, “I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels” (NLT). It is God who dresses us. It is God who does the work of salvation. We simply need to present ourselves to Him, recognizing our clothes are filthy, and ask Him to change our spiritual clothes. God can take our putrid, sin stained clothes and exchange them for His righteousness. We will then be able to approach His throne of grace with all boldness clothed in righteousness.

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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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Owning Your Maturity

When my son was a new born, my wife and I decided we didn’t want him to learn the behavior of crying for what he wanted. That started with the very first thing that babies learn to cry for – milk. We began to pay attention to his movements and sounds around feeding times so we could anticipate when he was hungry. As we noticed them, we would begin to warm up some milk and feed him. However, there were times when we were busy and missed his cues. In those moments, he would let us know he was hungry and ready for milk through his only means of communication- crying. The best part was when he began to hold his own bottle. Later, we was able to crawl to the bottle when he was hungry and began the maturation process of feeding himself.

As Christians, we go through a maturity process as well. When we first accept Jesus as our savior, we are merely spiritual infants. We need the milk of God’s Word to help us grow. We need to learn simple concepts that are easily digestible. As we mature, we should graduate to more difficult concepts and spiritual disciplines. Just like a baby, there is a transformation that takes place in our lives. Our inner faith should grow as we mature and learn how to reconcile our inward faith with our public life. As we drink the milk of God’s Word, it begins to change how we live so that our lives become more Christ like.

1 Peter 2:2 says, “In the same way that nursing infants cry for milk, you must intensely crave the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word. For this “milk” will cause you to grow into maturity, fully nourished and strong for life” (TPT). Each of us need to own our own maturation process. It’s not the responsibility of the church to grow us. We must intensely crave spiritual food Monday through Saturday and learn to feed ourselves. Reading God’s Word daily puts food into our spirit. Meditating on verses is like the chewing process. It breaks it down and releases nutrients that are vital to your growth. Wherever you are in your maturation process, there’s always room for more growth that fully nourishes your soul and leads you into a stronger spiritual life.

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Yielding To God

One of the questions I like to ask groups is, “What motivates you more, pain or pleasure?” Honestly, the rooms are usually split on the question until I probe deeper. To those who say pleasure, I ask, “Why are you not on a beach somewhere right now?” It’s because the have to work right now. Then why not leave? It’s because the pain of losing their job keeps them from walking out and going to something pleasurable. Pain, or the threat of pain, is a far greater motivator than pleasure in our lives. That’s why since the beginning of time parents have used it to motivate their kids to obey through pain or threat of pain. Even God, our Heavenly Father, uses pain to motivate us and develop character in us.

Years ago I took an about face in my faith. I professed Jesus with my mouth, but my life was anything but living for Him. God tried the gentle whisper and conviction of the Holy Spirit to warn me to turn back around, but I failed to listen. As time went on, I started going through painful experiences, one after another, as God was trying to get my attention. He kept going until I couldn’t take it anymore and finally said, “Ok, God, you win. I give up.” Even though I turned back around, I still lived with the consequences of that period of my life, but God used them to develop character in me that was missing. He fundamentally reshaped me through the pain of that time. Like a good parent, He didn’t give up. His love kept coming after me and doing whatever it took to bring me back.

Hebrews 12:11 says, “Now all discipline seems to be more pain than pleasure at the time, yet later it will produce a transformation of character, bringing a harvest of righteousness and peace to those who yield to it” (TPT). It’s only when we yield that He can create the transformation in us. As long as we’re fighting and running from His purpose or calling on our life, He will do whatever it takes to bring us home so we can fulfill our purpose. Thank God He doesn’t stop chasing after us no matter how far we go. It’s a good thing, though it doesn’t seem like it at the time, that He will do whatever it takes to get your attention. I was pretty stubborn, but I’ve learned that the sooner we yield, the faster we see the harvest of His work in our lives.

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Faith Over Fear

Several years ago I was in charge of a fundraiser for a mission trip at our church. We had someone volunteer to make brisket for us, so we sold tickets ahead of the event. After we got the final number of tickets in, the man cooking the brisket gave me the shopping list including how much brisket. As I was buying the brisket, I believed we would sell more brisket than we had sold tickets for. When I got to the counter to order the briskets, I asked for an additional case. If you’re unfamiliar with that, it’s about 60 lbs of more meat that we would need to sell. Many people who bought tickets failed to show up for their meat though. We had a ton left over so I asked the pastor if we could sell after church. My wife looked at all the meat and said, “I hope God honors your faith because I don’t see how we can sell all of this.”

As Christians, we must daily choose whether we’re going to let fear hold us back or let faith guide us. There are so many decisions we have to make, some with long lasting effects. We can shrink back in fear of the unknown or we can step out in trust of what God will do. Hebrews 10:38 says that God is not happy with those who let fear hold them back. I don’t want to live a life that doesn’t make my Heavenly Father happy so I choose to live and walk by faith even though it isn’t easy. When you live by faith, you never know for certain if or when God will jump in to help. There are a lot of “God, where are you? Now would be a good time to show up” moments. But, as the psalmist said, “I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging for bread (Psalm 37:25).”

I like how Hebrews 10:39 describes the life we’re to live. It says, “But we are certainly not those who are held back by fear and perish; we are among those who have faith and experience true life!” (TPT) You and I cannot be people who are held back by fear. We are people who advance by faith. Either we believe what we say or we don’t. Our actions will always be consistent with what we truly believe. I’ve chosen to move forward despite fear. Living by faith doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. It means you chose not to let it hold you back from your God given purpose. Faith takes a deep breath and makes the decision to go forward in spite of the fear in your belly, and God honors that kind of faith.

By the way, all that brisket sold out in a matter of minutes after church and doubled what we had raised through ticket sales.

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Receiving Mercy And Grace

Mercy and grace are two words we use a lot whenever we are speaking Christianese. Do we really know what they are though? To me, mercy is not getting what we deserve when we’ve done something wrong, while grace is getting God’s favor that we don’t deserve. To receive mercy, we have to understand we’ve done wrong, own up to it and ask for it from the person whom we’ve offended. So many times we want mercy, but don’t want to own up to our mistake or admit it was our fault. To receive grace, we have to understand our shortcomings and our weaknesses. We have to know that we simply can’t do everything on our own and that we need divine assistance.

To receive both mercy and grace, we have to make an admittance so we can get the things we need, but don’t deserve. Pride will keep us from receiving both. That’s why God resists the proud, but accepts those who are humble enough to know and admit that they need Him. God is rich in mercy and full of grace that He wants to give us. We must go to Him and ask for both because every one of us need them. It’s when we recognize our weakness and go to Him that His grace is sufficient for us. We must quit trying to do everything on our own and in our own strength and learn to receive and trust in His mercy and grace.

Here are some Bible verses on mercy and grace.

1. So now we come freely and boldly to where love is enthroned, to receive mercy’s kiss and discover the grace we urgently need to strengthen us in our time of weakness.

Hebrews 4:16 TPT

2. GOD is all mercy and grace— not quick to anger, is rich in love.

Psalm 145:8 MSG

3. But God’s mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace that you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:4-5 GNT

4. But He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me.

2 Corinthians 12:9 AMP

5. When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.

Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.

Titus 3:4-5, 7 NLT

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Habitual Fellowship

A phrase that stands out to me, when reading about great men of faith in the Bible, is they “walked in habitual fellowship with God.” Each time I read that phrase, it calls out to me and dares me to do the same. To walk in habitual fellowship with God is to be in constant communication with Him and to live in a manner that is pleasing to Him. The men in the Bible who did this, found great favor with God.

Noah was one such man. The time period he lived in was like no other. There was no one else on earth who feared God or lived righteously. He had no church to find shelter in. He had no Christian friends who could encourage him and pray for him. He was the lone believer in a sinful world. Imagine your life without the help from your church or Christian friends. Imagine having no one you could go to for prayer when you needed it. How long would you last?

This was Noah’s situation and instead of throwing in the towel, he doubled down on his relationship with God. Genesis 6:9 says, “Noah was a righteous man [one who was just and had right standing with God], blameless in his [evil] generation; Noah walked (lived) [in habitual fellowship] with God” (AMP). If he was the only blameless person and he could walk in habitual fellowship with God, then you and I can too. We can find the strength within ourselves to be in constant communion with God. We can find time to pray and read His Word each day.

Merriam Webster defines “habitual” as, “Doing something regularly or repeatedly.” These men of faith regularly and repeatedly met with God and He rewarded them with favor and by making covenants with them. The God who made covenants with them still wants to make covenants with us. He’s simply waiting for those of us who will dare to enter into a habitual fellowship with Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (NLT). If you will fully commit to Him in habitual fellowship, He will give you the strength you need to live for Him every day.

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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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