Monthly Archives: June 2020

Defeating Hidden Sins

Nearly twenty years ago, I found myself sitting on the edge of my bed with a shotgun on my lap. Thoughts were racing through my head. I had been hurt badly and wanted revenge. I knew that the people were meeting at Target in about an hour. My heart was racing as I played out the scenario in my head. I thought about where I could run to or where I could hide out. Then I started thinking about what it would be like to spend the rest of my life in prison. I started to put the gun back up, but all those thoughts of pain came rushing back. “They deserve it,” I reasoned with myself. The argument went back and forth. In a split second, I put the gun in the closet, ran to my car and drove an hour away. I called a friend to meet me, gave him my keys and told him not to give them back no matter what I said.

That night scared me to death. It’s the night I realized that every sin lies within me dormant waiting for the right circumstances to bring it out. I never thought I was capable of such a thing, but that mental battle was real and it was all I could do to keep from committing it. That night I began to pay more attention to my thoughts and where I let them go. I also started to keep myself from certain situations that I thought I was immune to. Guarding my heart became something I did rather than just something I read about in the Bible. If every sin was hiding in my heart, waiting for the right moment and circumstances to align, I needed to be more cautious.

David must have had one of those moments too. In Psalm 19:12, he prayed, “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults” (NLT). He found out that every one of us are capable of any sin, but he also knew that the remedy was knowing God’s Word and seeking Him for help. In verse 11, referencing God’s Word, he wrote, “They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.” The Bible is a lamp and a light (Psalm 119:105). It exposes hidden sins, faults and thoughts, as well as it shows you what to do. Jesus used the Word of God to keep from sinning as He was tempted. It’s a powerful weapon in our arsenal against sin, but you can only be equipped with it if you know it. Don’t fall prey to the hidden sins in your heart. Be proactive by putting God’s Word in your heart so that you won’t sin against Him (Psalm 119:11).

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God Hears And Sees

One of the things that happens when we’re going through a tough time is that we get tunnel vision as the world seems to close in on us. We tend to hunker down and shut people out. We feel like running away to escape our problems, but know we can’t. If you’re like me, the problems weigh heavy on your mind and make you feel fatigued. It’s a lonely place, and it feels like it’s you versus the world. Many times, it can feel like your prayers are going unheard. You even start to wonder, “Where is God? Doesn’t He care?” Your prayers seem to feel flat and it’s like they aren’t being heard. Going through times like this are tough, especially when you feel like you’re doing what God told you to do.

I’m sure Hagar felt all these things. She was Sarai’s handmaiden and had been given to Abram as a second wife so that God would fulfill His promise to give Abram children. When she got pregnant, Sarai began to hate her and verbally abused her to the point that she did run away taking what they thought was the fulfillment of God’s promise. I love verse 7 of Genesis 16. It says the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring and said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where did you come from and where are you going?” (AMP) He knew the answer, and even called her by name. He blessed her and told her to name her son Ishmael which means “God hears”. “Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are God Who Sees’” (verse 13).

Even in the wilderness and under attack, God spoke to her and proved to her that He hears and sees us in our most desperate times. Matthew 10:29 says that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing. You are worth more to Him than a sparrow, and He knows the very number of hairs on your head. While it may seem, and even feel, that you are all alone and that God doesn’t see you or know what you’re going through, He does. He sent Hagar back to Sarai from that well, and He may leave you in your situation, but it doesn’t mean that He doesn’t care. Being under pressure and in difficult situations often produces a faith in us that we can’t get any other way. It opens our eyes to see that God is there with us in those times guiding us, listening to us and blessing us even when it doesn’t feel like it.

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Looking For Blessings

A couple of months ago I saw a Toyota Tundra for sale that got my attention. I had never been in the market for one, but this particular one made me want one. I did a little research on them and then suddenly I started noticing Tundras everywhere. Everywhere. It’s not uncommon for your brain to do this to you. It’s called the Baader-Meinhof effect. Once your brain learns something new or becomes interested in something, it subconsciously creates selective attention. You begin noticing the thing that was there all along, but now your brain is looking for it, and you then start agreeing with your brain that you’re seeing it more which perpetuates the process.

Life can be tough sometimes. Bad things happen and problems compound. In those times, the Baader-Meinhof effect can cause your brain to point out all the bad things happening around you. It can seriously bring you low. Knowing that this phenomenon exists, you can actually turn it around. Think of the blessings God has given you despite your current circumstances. If you start looking for them when everything starts to fall apart, your subconscious brain will begin to search for them and change your focus. When we focus on God’s blessings in our lives instead of our present troubles, we renew our strength, keep God in focus and maintain a good attitude. What blessings are in your life right now?

Here are some Bible verses on God’s blessings.

1. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.

Psalms 139:5 NLT

2. I said to myself, “Relax and rest. GOD has showered you with blessings. Soul, you’ve been rescued from death; Eye, you’ve been rescued from tears; And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling.”

Psalm 116:7-8 MSG

3. Blessing after blessing comes to those who love and trust the Lord. They will not fall away, for they refuse to listen to the lies of the proud.

Psalms 40:4 TPT

4. Out of the fullness of his grace he has blessed us all, giving us one blessing after another.

John 1:16 GNT

5. For to everyone who has [and values his blessings and gifts from God, and has used them wisely], more will be given, and [he will be richly supplied so that] he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have [because he has ignored or disregarded his blessings and gifts from God], even what he does have will be taken away.

Matthew 25:29 AMP

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The Valley Of Blessing

In 2 Chronicles 20, several armies declared war against King Jehoshaphat at the same time. It says he was terrified when he heard the news. He immediately began to beg The Lord for guidance and asked everyone to fast and pray with him. The people came to Jerusalem to pray with him and to be ready to fight this vast army that had risen up against them. While they were praying, a man spoke up and said, “Don’t be afraid! The battle is not yours, but God’s.” He also told the people they were to march out to the battlefield, but that they wouldn’t even have to fight.

When they showed up to the battlefield, the other armies had been fighting each other and not one was left alive. The Israelites walked through the valley and gathered up all the spoils. It took them three days to collect it all. On the fourth day, they decided to call that place the Valley of Blessing. After that, no other armies wanted to face Israel and the story ends with, “Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.” Not only had God fought his battle and given him the spoils, He gave him peace and rest.

When I think of valleys, I don’t think of blessings. I think of difficult times, dark times, hard times, wandering aimlessly, and pain. What I see in this story is that God can take our valleys and turn them into blessings. We don’t have to be terrified of them because the battles that we face there are not ours, but God’s. He is the one who goes before us. He’s the one who fights on our behalf. We look at the odds and think, “There’s no way.” God looks at the odds and think, “Nothing is impossible for me.”

I like that King Jehoshaphat had the people meet him in Jerusalem. The very name of that city means “God will see to it”. They were reminded of that while they were praying and fasting about what to do in the valley. They knew they were out numbered. They knew there was no way for them to win the battle. Fear had taken over. In the middle of all that anxiety, God reminded them that He would see to it. All they had to do was show up ready to fight. When they acted in obedience to the Word of God, their enemies were defeated and they gathered the spoils. What should have been a valley of defeat turned into a valley of blessing.

You don’t have to be afraid of whatever valley you’re facing today. God sees that the odds are against you. He sees the impossibility of your situation. He wants you to turn to Him in prayer so He can remind you that He will see to it. He will be the one who goes before you. He will be the one who says, “This is my battle not yours. Show up for the fight and watch what I do.” As verse 20 says, “Believe in The Lord your God and you will be able to stand firm.” No matter what enemy rises up against you, God will see to it that the place you are afraid of will be turned into a valley of blessing.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other 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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Stop Procrastinating

Several years ago, I was in a meeting with my boss, his boss and a regional president along with the other managers in my district. It was the start of a new quarter and we had to come in, defend our numbers from the past quarter and project what we were going to produce next quarter. The big boss was known for how hard on people she was. The guy right before me, got to his slide about next quarter’s numbers and she stopped him. She asked, “What are you doing to get these numbers?” He said, “What we’re going to do is,” and she interrupted him. “I didn’t ask what you were going to do. I asked what you were doing.” He started the same way again. She interrupted again and said, “If you were going to get these results, you wouldn’t be waiting to do anything. You’d be doing it now.” She told him to sit down, looked at me and said, “Let’s jump to this slide on yours and talk about what you’re doing today.”

As hard as that meeting was, I learned a valuable truth. We talk about tomorrow a lot and the things we’re going to do, but the truth is that we’re not guaranteed tomorrow. How can we put off doing something worthwhile that will be impactful to a time period we’re not guaranteed? James wanted to know this too. In James 4, he talked about taking advantage of the moment you’re given: today. In verse 17 he penned some tough words like that president in the meeting. He wrote, “So if you know of an opportunity to do the right thing today, yet you refrain from doing it, you’re guilty of sin” (TPT). Ouch. To not take advantage of an opportunity to do the right thing right now is sin.

My middle initial is “P”. People always ask what it stands for. I like to tell them, “Procrastinator!” James doesn’t leave us any room for procrastination though. Every one of us are presented with opportunities to help people and to make a difference, but we second guess ourselves and procrastinate. Procrastination leads to excuses on why you didn’t accomplish something. I don’t want to stand before God one day with a list of excuses why I didn’t do something when given the opportunity. It’s time that you and I start taking advantage of the opportunities God gives us to make a difference each day. It may not have the global impact we want or get the attention of others that we crave, but it will get results for the person or people you help and will be noticed by God.

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The Donkey In The Well

When I was a senior in high school, I went on my first mission trip. We drove deep into the heart of Mexico. At one point, we turned off the road into a dry creek bed. We drove down that creek bed for about twenty minutes and then we arrived in a small village to build a church. The people seemed to come out of nowhere to greet us. At one point, they took us to a deep well and told us about how a donkey had fallen in there and died. It took them several days to get it out, but by then the water had been polluted. They had to empty the well so they could get fresh, clean water again. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that story.

Proverbs 20:5 tells us that wisdom and counsel are deep within us like a well and that people of understanding will be able to draw them out. Then in Luke 6:45, Jesus said that we speak out of the abundance of our heart, meaning the things that are deep inside us come out of our mouth. Then in James 3:12, the author writes, “Is it possible that fresh and bitter water can flow out of the same spring? So neither can a bitter spring produce fresh water” (TPT). He’s talking about our words and how we speak. How can we speak words of healing if we are full of bitterness inside? How can we speak life if there our inner well is polluted?

Each one of us have donkeys that fall into our well and die causing our heart to be polluted. The words we speak to others reveal whether we’ve taken it out and refreshed our well or not. I’ve learned that we empty our polluted well by confessing our sins, faults and inner struggles to God and to others (James 5:16). We confess them to God for forgiveness and to people for healing. When’s the last time you looked deep into the well that you’re drawing out of? What kind of water are you giving other people? Take some time today to get alone with God, do some self examination and get healed so that you can produce fresh, clean water that others can drink from.

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His Signet Ring

I’ve come across a few places in the Bible were a signet ring was used. One of the first places was in Genesis when the Pharaoh took off his signet ring and gave it to Joseph. He made him second in command, and gave him all the authority of Pharaoh through that ring. In Esther, the King gave Haman his signet ring to give him authority to destroy the Jews. The King later took it back and gave it to Mordecai. In the New Testament, we see the father give the ring to the prodigal son when he returned. It was symbolic in saying, “This is still my son. He has my authority to do things in my name.”

A signet ring was important. It had the seal of the king engraved on it. With it, he sealed or stamped letters to prove it was his word. It also represented authority. Anyone that the King would give that ring to had his authority. Whatever they said or did, it was as if the King himself had declared it. The ring had executive authority and power. It was not to be taken lightly by anyone who wore it.

In Haggai 2:23, God said to Zerubbabel that He would set him as a signet ring. He said, “I will set you as a signet ring, the sign of my sovereign presence and authority.” The King of Kings basically gave Zerubbabel all His authority. Instead of giving him a ring, He told him, “You are my ring. You are my authority. You are my presence on earth. You bear my mark and will leave my imprint on everything you touch.” It was very significant that God did this.

Let’s fast forward to when Jesus was on earth. He spoke to His disciples in Luke 10:19 and gave them all authority. He in essence gave them His signet ring. Then, just before He ascended in Matthew 28, He reminded them, “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me.” It wasn’t just some of it or most of it. He has all of it. He then sent them out with what’s known as the Great Commission giving them the authority to use His name as their authority.

You and I have been given that authority as followers of Christ. We are His signet ring on this planet. We have the authority of the King, but we don’t always act like it. I believe it’s time we did. If the enemy has come against you, invoke the authority of the name of Jesus. If you need something to accomplish His will, use your God given authority through Jesus. You are a child of the King of Kings. Start acting like it. You shouldn’t live your life with a defeated mindset. You should have a victorious, overcoming mindset because that’s what you’ve been given. Go and use your authority wisely today.

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Test Time

In high school I had a teacher who seemed to relish giving tests. He wore his “test tie”, which was the ugliest, most distracting tie you can think of, and it clashed with his outfit usually. He also would wear a red contact lens in one eye. As he passed out the test, he would close the other eye and give each person a hard gaze with the red one. During the test, he would often each chips when the room was quietest. When people would look up, he would say, “Oh! Is this bothering you?” Every once in a while he would also let out a random sinister laugh. To be honest, I looked forward to test days because I thought it was hilarious. He also was always good about preparing us for the tests. If you had taken the time to prepare, you would have been able to pass despite the distractions.

While some people cracked under his antics, most of us did well. Those that cracked were always given the opportunity to make it up by correcting their mistakes or asking for help during the test. I don’t know that God relishes having us go through tests as much as that teacher did, but He knows they are necessary to our growth and development. He prepares us for them and gives us every opportunity to pass them. When we fail in them, He’s always there to guide us and to help us endure them. He knows what your limits are better than you do, and He uses times of testing to stretch us beyond what we think we know or can handle. He also gives us enough grace in those times to sustain us as we learn to lean on His strength.

Here are some Bible verses on testing.

1. We all experience times of testing, which is normal for every human being. But God will be faithful to you. He will screen and filter the severity, nature, and timing of every test or trial you face so that you can bear it. And each test is an opportunity to trust him more, for along with every trial God has provided for you a way of escape that will bring you out of it victoriously.

1 Corinthians 10:13 TPT

2. Blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] is the man who is steadfast under trial and perseveres when tempted; for when he has passed the test and been approved, he will receive the [victor’s] crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

James 1:12 AMP

3. My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

James 1:2-4 GNT

4. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

Hebrews 2:18 NLT

5. There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Romans 5:3-5 MSG

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Esau’s Hidden Blessing

Genesis 27 contains a story many of us are familiar with. It’s where Jacob steals Esau’s blessing. I remember hearing this story as a child and wondering why Isaac couldn’t give Esau a blessing too. To tell the truth, I still don’t understand why he couldn’t do something. In verse 38, Esau pleaded, “But do you have only one blessing? Oh my father, bless me too!” Isaac began to tell him what all he had given to his brother. I’m sure each blessing was a dagger to the heart since they were meant for him.

Isaac then spoke the opposite of the blessing of Jacob to Esau. He told him that he would live far away from the riches of the earth and away from Heaven’s dew. He told him he would live by the sword and would serve his brother. The way he ended it was curious to me though. He said, “However it shall come to pass when you break loose [from your anger and hatred], That you will tear his yoke off your neck [and you will be free of him]” (AMP) To me, that was a blessing hidden in there. He would only serve his brother until he decided not to. I think that his anger was so blinding that he missed it though.

Instead of breaking free, he allowed anger to rule his life and his decisions. He started doing the opposite of what he had been taught. In fact, he went out and married a woman from Canaan because he knew his father didn’t like them. When we are hurt by someone, all we want to do is hurt them back. We say things and do things that we think will stick it to them the way they stuck it to us. Esau was no exception. He decided to let anger rule his decision making and ultimately his way of life.

When we act like that, we are letting the other person rule us. We quit making decisions based on our good and instead make them on what we think will do the most harm to another. We quit trying to find ways to help ourselves advance and only find ways to make the other person retreat. We put ourselves in a prison, lock the doors and hand the keys to the person that hurt us. I understand that even less than why Isaac couldn’t bless Esau as well. I’ve been angry and hurt enough to want to act that way, but not to the point where it controlled every decision for a long period of time. I didn’t want to give anyone that kind of power over me.

If you’re in that position now, the blessing given to Esau is a blessing for you. “When you break loose [from your anger and hatred], That you will tear his yoke off your neck [and you will be free of him].” The choice is yours to let it go. Quit wondering if they ever regret doing that to you. Quit wishing their life was horrible. Stop getting excited when you hear about bad things that happen to them. Those thoughts keep you locked in prison. Decide to let it go. I know that easier said than done. I’ve had to do it myself. The only way you break free from that life is to let go. When you do, the yoke will fall off, your life will begin to have a greater purpose and will flourish again.

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Becoming Christlike

A book on spiritual growth that I’m reading discusses the different stages we go through as believers. There are two different places that mature believers fall into. Both look very similar on paper and in actions, but there is a huge gap between them. In both stages the believer has the spiritual disciplines of reading the Bible, praying, fasting, sharing their faith, serving others, seeking God and hearing His voice. However, the thing that creates the biggest gap between a person who is close to Christ and Christlike is how they run their life. A person who is close to Christ seeks God for direction in their life, but is still at the steering wheel determining to obey or not. The person who is Christ-like gets out of the driver’s seat and fully trusts God to guide their life. On paper it looks like a minimal difference, but in reality, it’s a huge gap.

In Mark 8:34 Jesus said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am” (MSG). It’s a pretty serious statement He made to us, but it’s what He desires from each of us. He’s not going to come in and wreck your life, but He is going to want full control of it. He made this statement immediately after having to rebuke Peter. A few verses before, Peter famously declared that he understood Jesus was the Messiah and savior. He was a believer, but then when Jesus talked about being killed, Peter took Him aside and reprimanded Jesus because that’s not the way he thought things should go. Peter is representative of those who are close to Christ in this incident. We argue with Jesus when His plan doesn’t make sense and then choose to do our own thing. Think about that. He knew Jesus was God the Messiah, yet he reprimanded Him.

Just like a Peter, you and I must get to the place where we quit trying to call the shots for our lives. We can’t be the ones who reprimand and argue with a God when we don’t like what He’s asking of us. If we find ourselves in that position, we haven’t fully let Jesus get in the driver’s seat. It doesn’t mean we’re not moving in that direction or we’re bad people. It just means there’s room for growth. Each one of us are called to continue moving and growing into a person that fully trusts God with our lives. It’s a hard thing to do, but it’s also what He’s asking of us. Don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from knowing God more. When we accept Jesus, we begin the process of letting go of what’s important to us and begin to embrace what’s important to God. Just like Peter, we’re going to experience some bumps along the road, but if we keep moving closer to Jesus, we will become more and more Christlike.

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