Monthly Archives: February 2020

Playing Your Part

Have you ever stubbed your toe or hurt a finger? Several years ago I had a hatchback on my car. I was getting something out of it when someone honked at me. I turned around to see who it was. Just then, it closed on my hand and my thumb got trapped. I had to get the keys out of my pocket with my other hand, unlock it and lift it up to get it out. For the next couple of weeks, I thought about my thumb a lot. I had never paid much attention to how much I used it until I couldn’t anymore. The same holds true for your toe and really any body part. They all have purpose and functions that you use without thinking about it until you can’t use them.

In Romans 12:4-5, Paul wrote, “In the human body there are many parts and organs, each with a unique function. And so it is in the body of Christ. For though we are many, we’ve all been mingled into one body in Christ. This means that we are all vitally joined to one another, with each contributing to the others” (TPT). This verse first became real to me when I worked at a church in Egypt that had over 20 denominations and people from over 50 countries present all operating under one pastor. We functioned the way the Body of Christ was supposed to. We didn’t allow our doctrinal differences to separate us. Instead, we saw the beauty in those differences, recognized how each one is used and worked under the banner of what unites us. We used to say that church was a microcosm of Heaven.

The Body of Christ is more than denominations. It’s made up of people like you and me. When we look at that verse above and think of it on an individual level, it becomes even more real. You have a unique function in the Body of Christ and are vital to its success. There are no insignificant members of His body. The rest of us need you to contribute your part for us to function the way we are supposed to. The part you play may not get you famous or even noticed by your pastor, but don’t let that stop you. The calling you have is between you and God. It’s His voice that you want to hear one day saying, “Well done.” You are vital to the Church and the part you play is important to the overall functionality of the Body.

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Place And Position

God has placed in each one of us a feeling that lets us know we were meant for more. It’s a holy calling that reminds us to keep moving forward and that the place where we are now is only temporary. He uses places in our lives to prepare us for positions He wants to give us. However, when we become discontent in the place we’re in, the enemy plays to our sympathies telling us we deserve a higher position. His plan is two fold. First, he wants to get you out of the place you’re in prematurely before God has finished His work. Secondly, he wants to make you desire a position that is different than the one God has for you in order to slow you down in your progress towards God’s plan.

David’s place was a pasture. The position he was preparing for was king. He had to remain in the pasture watching sheep facing lions and bears in preparation for being king. He had to go into a valley to face a giant, and he lived in caves running from King Saul. I’m sure his mind was telling him he deserved his position in the palace while he lived in those caves, but he didn’t give into the voice. He trusted God’s plan and timing for him to receive the position. Each time the position presented itself to him to take, he stayed in his place waiting for God to open the door. Because of that, God honored him in the position of king more than any other king.

In Mark 10, James and John wanted the position of Jesus’ right and left in the new kingdom. Jesus asked if they were able to endure the suffering that comes with those positions. Ignorantly they said yes. In verses 39-40 Jesus said, “You will certainly drink from the cup of my sufferings and be immersed into my death, but to have you sit in the position of highest honor is not mine to decide. It is reserved for those whom grace has prepared them to have it” (TPT). They wanted a position before they were prepared in their place. The beautiful thing Jesus illustrated here is that grace prepares us in the place we are in now for the position He has for us. His grace is sufficient to guide you and strengthen you in the place you’re in right now so He can give you the positions He’s planned for you. Be patient and trust His plan and ignore the sympathetic lies of the enemy.

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Be Quiet And Listen

Have you ever been talking with someone and your thoughts took over to wear you quit listening to them? I mean, you can be looking them dead in the eye and not hear a word they say. It’s one of the things I have to constantly fight against. Staying engaged in a conversation can be hard work sometimes. When my mind wanders off, and I tune them out, I have to tell myself, “Stop! Listen! Pay attention. You can figure this out later.” In order to pay attention and to listen, I have to work on it at times. Hearing is passive, but listening requires action.

You and i are to listen to God’s voice. He’s always speaking to us, but we aren’t always listening. That’s why having a quiet time is so important. A quiet time is where you get alone, calm your thoughts and listen for God’s voice. It takes discipline because we are constantly on the go and have a culture that ranks busyness with godliness. However, even Jesus took time to go be alone with God so He could listen to what the Father was saying to Him. If Jesus needed to take time to listen to the Father, how much more do we? If you’re not in the habit of listening for God’s voice, start with a five minute quiet time and then work your way up. When you start listening to what God says and start applying it, your life will change.

Here are some Bible verses on listening to God.

1. “O that my people would once and for all listen to me and walk faithfully in my footsteps, following my ways. Then and only then will I conquer your every foe and tell every one of them, ‘You must go!’”

Psalms 81:13-14 TPT

2. Don’t just listen to the Word of Truth and not respond to it, for that is the essence of self-deception. So always let his Word become like poetry written and fulfilled by your life!

James 1:22 TPT

3. God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.

Hebrews 4:12-13 MSG

4. Everyone who comes to Me and listens to My words and obeys them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a [far-sighted, practical, and sensible] man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and yet could not shake it, because it had been securely built and founded on the rock.

Luke 6:47-48 AMP

5. Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God.

John 8:47 NLT

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When God Answers Prayers

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One of the stories on the Bible that speaks to me every time is in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah wasn’t able to have a child so she was ridiculed, taunted, bullied and shamed. Year after year this went on. One year she had enough. Instead of attacking her bully, she went into the Sanctuary to pray. She wept bitterly before God, crying out in prayer for a long time. As she prayed, her lips were moving, but the words were coming from her heart. She wasn’t leaving until God answered her prayer for a son.

Verse 10 says, “Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord” (NLT). One of the first questions that comes to my mind is, “When is the last time I prayed with that kind of desperation?” Most of our prayers are simple ones with little emotion. I believe one of the reasons God answered Hannah’s prayer, and will answer ours, is because it was fervent and came from deep within her soul, not just her mind.

Verse 12 says, “Hannah continued to pray to the Lord for a long time” (GNT). I’ve heard the saying, “Don’t pray until you’re through. Pray until you’ve prayed through.” This is where it is applied. Too many times, we ask God for something and when He doesn’t answer right away, we quit praying. Hannah didn’t just pray for a long time, she prayed a long time for years. God uses her internal torment to develop a life of prayer. She wasn’t going to stop until she got her answer. One of the reasons God answered her prayer, and will answer ours, is because of persistence.

After the Eli, the priest, had told her God would answer her prayer, verse 18 says, “Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad” (NLT). Hannah believed God would answer and acted accordingly. She didn’t let the years of God not answering prayer create doubt. She held onto the promise and acted in faith before God answered. She quit believing the words of the bully and held onto God’s Word instead. One of the reasons God answered her prayer, and will answer ours, is when we act in faith.

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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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Trusting The Master Artisan

In the mid 1990’s, I lived in Cairo, Egypt. One of the things I did pretty often was to visit the Lillian Trasher Orphanage in the middle of the country. One of the trade skills they taught kids was using a loom to create rugs. I remember seeing the loom for the first time. I was amazed at how these kids were able to use the shuttle to weave threads in and out of the warp (vertical, tight threads). More than that, they were able to see what i couldn’t – the overall design and plan for the rug. They created these perfectly symmetrical designs by weaving the different colors in and out of the warp. It was incredible to watch the artisans at work.

Our lives are not much different than that loom. God is at work in our lives creating something beautiful, but too often we can’t or don’t see what He’s doing. Many times we question the threads He uses or placement of them. We don’t know the design He’s creating so we feel incomplete or unfinished while He is weaving people, circumstances and situations in and out of our lives. It’s easy to question what you don’t see or don’t understand, but God is the greatest artisan of all. He knew you before you were born (Jeremiah 1:5), and had created His master design for your life.

Romans 8:28 says, “So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose” (TPT). Your life may seem random at times, even chaotic, but God is at work in every detail. You may not understand why he wove a certain thread in until He has completed His work, but don’t let that stop you from trusting Him. He works everything out for our good according to His plan for each of us. Remember that we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art] (Ephesians 2:10 AMP) that He will continue to work on until His plan is complete in our lives. We must learn to trust the artisan of our lives completely.

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God’s True Path For You

A recent news headline that caught my attention said, “Magnetic North Shifting By 30 Miles A Year”. As a person who grew up learning how to orienteer using a compass and maps, that’s a significant shift. It creates a greater difference between where compasses point and the North Pole (geographic north). It also creates significant problems for airplanes, your phone’s GPS navigation and migratory animals who use magnetic north to orient themselves. It has created such a problem that scientists are having to update the World Magnetic Model, the system that calibrates all GPS, a year early. If they hadn’t done that, the GPS in your phone, car and on airplanes could take you to a place that would be different by several miles depending on the length of the trip. In short, you would think you were on the right track, but miss your destination.

In today’s world, what the world considers “north” and what God considers “north” are separating at faster rate than ever. The world tells us that each of us have our own truth, but Jesus said He is the Truth. He is our geographic north if you will. The more we rely on our own truth or follow the truth of this world, the farther we will be from our destination when we arrive. This is not a new phenomenon. It’s been going on since the Garden of Eden when the serpent got Eve to switch from God’s north to her own. Today, he is still trying to get each one of us to make that shift and is blurring the lines between where each of us believe north in our lives is. We must be grounded in God’s infallible Word if we’re going to stay on the paths God has for us.

In Psalm 86:11, David realized the pull on his heart to switch from true north to a worldly magnetic north. He prayed, “Train me, GOD, to walk straight; then I’ll follow your true path” (MSG). That is a prayer that each one of us needs to pray daily along with reading and meditating on the Bible if we’re going to stay on God’s true path for our life. The great news is that if we have veered from His path, there’s time to make adjustments and get back onto His path. We simply need to recognize that we’ve made the shift, ask for forgiveness and then pray for guidance to get back on His path. He has given us to Holy Spirit to be our guide and to lead us into all truth (John 16:13). God has given us everything we need to follow His true path for our life. We just need to make sure we’re headed for His destination guided by His truth.

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Inputs Matter

Almost every measure of success has to do what some type of key performance indicator. People judge your success by how much money you make or how many items you sell. We brag about how many hours we work each week too. Somewhere along the way, we have also made busyness an indicator of success. The more busy you are, the more successful you must be. We’ve just about made busyness equal to godliness. Our constant for us is on what are we producing today. Because people measure us by our outputs, we focus solely on those, but how are your inputs?

Jesus was a busy person by all accounts. Thousands would come to Him to hear Him preach and to be healed. The Bible often says that He had compassion on them and healed them all. The output of His ministry was strong, but that is because He focused so much energy on His inputs. You constantly read where Jesus went alone to pray. He knew that if all He did was focus on His outputs, He would burn out and have nothing left to give. If He needed to replenish His innermost being, how much more do we? You can’t keep giving without putting anything back inside. Inputs matter.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life” (TPT). Your wellspring of life depends on you focusing on your inputs. Every one of us have different ways of recharging. For some, it’s solitude. For some, it’s going for a walk. Think of the times you feel most energized. What we’re you doing? Those are things that keep you going and need to be scheduled into your life regularly. Life drains everyone. We all must pay attention to our inner health if we’re going to be able to accomplish all God has for us. Jesus found the balance between being about His father’s business and recharging. So can you.

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