Monthly Archives: February 2020

Guarding What’s Important

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Hurricane Harvey took out around 500 homes in my neighborhood. While we had warnings of its potential, the waters rose faster than anyone anticipated. Many of the people in my neighborhood and surrounding areas fled at the last minute leaving behind their valuables. That became attractive to looters. They began to break into houses and steal what little these people had left. The police were preoccupied with keeping the city moving during the disaster, so our neighborhood organized a group of people on golf cars to guard the houses. I don’t remember how many they caught, but I do remember them holding looters at gun point. They put up a sign at the entrance saying the houses were being guarded, and the looting stopped.

1 Peter 5:8 tells us that our enemy, Satan, roams around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Jesus said in John 10:10 that he also comes to steal, kill and destroy. I heard it said that he wants to steal your joy, kill your joy and destroy your destiny. Knowing he’s out there trying to loot you of what’s valuable to you, it’s important that we are on guard against him. We must protect our mind, our heart and our words. James tells us that if we resist him (think of someone resisting arrest), he will flee. Our enemy is not passive, therefore we can’t afford to be.

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

1. Guard your words and you’ll guard your life, but if you don’t control your tongue, it will ruin everything.

Proverbs 13:3 TPT

2. Guard against turning back from the grace of God. Let no one become like a bitter plant that grows up and causes many troubles with its poison.

Hebrews 12:15 GNT

3. So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood —over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders.

Acts of the Apostles 20:28 NLT

4. When a strong man, with all his weapons ready, guards his own house, all his belongings are safe.

Luke 11:21 GNT

5. So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.

Proverbs 4:23 TPT

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Immediate Obedience

One of the things my wife and I decided after we had a kid was that we weren’t going to use the Three Count Rule. We wanted our son to obey the first time we said something, and not for him to think he had until the count of three to obey. Our reasoning was that if a car was coming and he was running towards the road, we wanted him to obey immediately. Kids are often distracted and unaware of their surroundings. As parents, we are constantly looking out for his safety and need him to obey without understanding why.

You and I are not so different as God’s children. We get distracted by the things of this world and our lives. We have a Heavenly Father who watches out for us and asks for our obedience without our understanding why. Instead of obeying, we often argue or don’t do what He asks because we don’t understand the why behind it or because it just doesn’t make sense. We could all learn a lesson from Peter who obeyed without understanding.

In Luke 5, Jesus was teaching near the Sea of Galilee. The crowds kept pressing in until he had no more room to stand. Peter and his fishing buddies were there mending and cleaning their nets from an all night fishing trip. Jesus asked to get in the boat and to then have him push off land a bit so He could teach the crowd. After He taught them, Jesus asked Peter to go out a little further and then cast His nets. It didn’t make sense to Him because the prime fishing time had already passed plus he had already cleaned his nets. He was tired and wanted to go home.

In verse 5, Peter said, “Master, we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again” (NLT). He didn’t argue even though he didn’t understand. He simply obeyed. The result of his obedience was the catch of a lifetime. That trust he had in obeying Jesus, no matter what, also led him to be able to walk on water. He understood that God knows better than we do. He sees things we can’t see. We may not understand the why behind what He’s asking, but we still need to obey or we will miss out on some of His greatest blessings.

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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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Who Deserves What

“Deserve” is a funny word we like to use. We also like to determine who does or does not deserve something. He didn’t complete what he was supposed to do, so he doesn’t deserve a reward. She worked really hard. She deserves a raise. That city has been through a lot. They deserve to win. Whether or not we feel we, or someone else, deserves something, we base it off of something done or qualities we deem necessary of the reward or punishment. We tend to give ourselves the grace necessary for the rewards while being more strict on others and their worthiness. We like to sit in the judgement seat rather than in the defendant’s seat when it comes to deserving something.

Many times I go to God and pray, “Lord, I don’t deserve forgiveness, but I need it. I don’t deserve your grace, but I have to have it. Will you wrap me in the righteousness of Jesus?” When I sin, it’s hard to ask for forgiveness because I know in my heart that I don’t deserve it, but that’s really the point. God offers us forgiveness when we least deserve it because of His love for us. It was while we were far from God in sin that Jesus died for us. We didn’t deserve the sacrifice, but He did it anyway because of His desire to have a relationship with you and me. There’s nothing we could ever do to deserve what He’s done.

Psalm 103:8 says, “Lord, you’re so kind and tenderhearted to those who don’t deserve it and so patient with people who fail you! Your love is like a flooding river overflowing its banks with kindness” (TPT). God is not out to get you when you sin. He’s not up there with lightning bolts ready to give you what you deserve. He’s a loving and kind God who gives you what you don’t deserve which is grace. He understands our weaknesses and has patience with us when we fail. If you’re trying to do good after you do something wrong in order to get in God’s favor and good graces again, you’re doing it wrong. He extends forgiveness, not because you are worthy, but because He is.

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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.

Photo by Diana Simumpande on Unsplash

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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