Monthly Archives: October 2020

You’re Surrounded

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in 2 Kings 6. The Arameans were at war with Israel. Supernaturally the Lord told Elisha where the king of Aram was and what his plan of attack would be. Elisha warned the king of Israel and the attack was thwarted. It happened a couple of times and the king of Aram found out it was Elisha. He decided to bring the full force of his army against Elisha to kill him. One morning Elisha’s assistant went outside, saw the great army surrounding them, and became afraid. Elisha came outside, saw the army and said, “Don’t be afraid! For there are more on our side than on theirs!” (NLT) God opened the assistant”s eyes to see the Lord’s army surrounding the Aramean army.

More times than not, we’re like Elisha’s assistant. We’re so focused on what we see that we panic. I don’t know what you’re seeing around you today. You may feel surrounded by death, stress, sickness, relationship problems, money problems or something else. It may feel like there’s no way out and that this is going to destroy you. My prayer today is that God open your eyes to see that He is surrounding whatever it is, and that you remember that He is greater and that He is able. No matter what you’re facing, you are not alone. God never leaves, forsakes us or leaves His children alone. You are supernaturally surrounded by the army of God and will not be destroyed.

Here are some Bible verses on God surrounding His people.

1. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.

Psalms 33:22 NLT

2. And the God of peace will swiftly pound Satan to a pulp under your feet! And the wonderful favor of our Lord Jesus will surround you.

Romans 16:20 TPT

3. You are my hiding place; You, LORD, protect me from trouble; You surround me with songs and shouts of deliverance. Selah.

Psalms 32:7 AMP

4. So now I’ll lie down and sleep like a baby— then I’ll awake in safety, for you surround me with your glory.

Psalms 3:5 TPT

5. For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love.

Psalms 5:12 NLT

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Proven Promises

A friend of mine was in a wreck recently. As he went through an intersection, an On coming car didn’t stop. They broadsided his truck, pushed it about 15 feet into the median and caused him to roll over. As he got his bearings, he checked on his girls in the back seat. They were dangling in their car seat because the truck same to a stop on the passenger side. He got out of his seatbelt, dropped to the bottom, got his girls out of their seats and out of the truck through the back window.

After telling me all of this, he said, “The body of the truck did what it was supposed to do. It protected my family.” Before the first truck in that line was ever rolled out of Detroit, Ford tested the body style over and over in crash tests. They made adjustments to the design so that it could withstand a heavy impact like that. They thoroughly tested it so that the public could buy it with confidence that if they ever were in a wreck, it would hold up and protect like it did.

Psalm 119:140 says, “Your promises have been thoroughly tested; that is why I love them so much” (NLT). God’s Word is filled with His promises to you and I. Those promises have been put to the test for generations all over the world. They have withstood the test of time and every situation, and that have proven to be true and reliable. When God says something, you can rely on it more than anything else in this world.

I did a Google search of “God’s promises,” and page after page listed thousands of promises found in God’s Word. Every one of them is something you can rely on. If you’re willing to step out in faith and put them to the test, you will find what billions of others have found out – they are true. Most of what God promises require you to step out in faith and activate it. You have to believe that they work before you see the result. That’s what faith is. Whatever you’re facing today, trust in God’s promise to you and not what your eyes and mind are telling you.

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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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Being Shepherd Led

One of the things in the Bible that has lost context over the years are the constant metaphors to sheep and shepherds. The Old and New Testament talk about sheep a lot. We know Psalm 23 starts out that the Lord is our shepherd. In Mark 6:34, Jesus had compassion on the crowd because they were sheep without a shepherd. Ezekiel 34:31 says that we are the sheep of God’s pasture. Isaiah 53 says that we are like sheep who have gone astray. Over and over there’s this comparison to sheep, but shepherding sheep isn’t as common as it used to be. I don’t know a lot about them, but I do know that they are defenseless, like to flock together and prefer to be led from the front rather than pushed from behind.

As a person who teaches leadership, I can tell you that people need a want a leader worth following. As John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.” By that definition, we all have leaders in our life who influence or lead our decisions. 2 Peter 3:17 warns us about who we allow to lead or influence us. It says, “As for you, divinely loved ones, since you are forewarned of these things, be careful that you are not led astray by the error of the lawless and lose your firm grip on the truth” (TPT). We must be careful in who we allow to lead us because there are those who would lead us astray. Even Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 to only follow Him as he followed Christ. It’s important to know who’s leading the people that are leading us.

Leaders and pastors will be held to a higher standard on judgement day (James3:1), but you will still be held liable for your actions. That’s why it’s important for each of us to not just follow a person. We must also be led by the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (NLT). We must know our shepherd’s voice for ourselves without relying on another leader to hear it for us. If we don’t learn to hear it ourselves, we can easily be led astray. Each of us must take time to listen to what God says through His Word and to our hearts. Anyone who gives contradictory advice to what God says will lead you astray. We are to be Spirit led more than people led, but our sheepish nature simply wants to follow the sheep right in front of us. We must fight against that and listen to the Shepherd ourselves.

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Checklist Christianity

I’ve studied and taught DISC for years. When you see a DISC logo, it’s usually in a circle. It’s broken up with lines going north and south, as well as east and west. The letters on the top of it represent outgoing personalities and the letters on the bottom are indicative of people who are introverted. On the left side, the letters are personality types that are task focused, and on the right represent people focused individuals. My letter falls on the top right. I’m an extrovert who is people focused. I get my energy from being around people and enjoy working with a team rather than individually. What my wife has found is that I will sacrifice tasks if given the opportunity. If she needs something done, she makes a to-do list and I’m pretty good at knocking it out. Tasks are easy for all of us to relate to. We have a set of things to do. It’s defined, clear and appeals to our goal oriented nature.

In the Garden of Eden, God had a relationship with Adam and Eve. They walked in the garden and talked, but when they sinned, it hurt the relationship. Fast forward to when the Israelites left Egypt and were in the desert. When God met with them on Mount Sinai, they preferred not to have a relationship with God even though He had just rescued them. Exodus 20:19 says, “They pulled back and stood at a distance. They said to Moses, ‘You speak to us and we’ll listen, but don’t have God speak to us or we’ll die’” (MSG). They were afraid of relationship. Moses went up to talk with God and came back down with the Ten Commandments. It was a task list of how to behave. We, like them, tend to gravitate to a check list approach to Christianity instead of the relationship God wants to have. We often pull back from Him and try to make it into Heaven by following the checklist of behaviors we’re to exhibit forgetting that the work has been done and a relationship is all God wants.

I wish I had space to incorporate all of Galatians 3:11-12, but here’s a portion of it. “The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way…Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith, but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping.” Task oriented Christianity does not lead to relationship. You can’t sustain any relationship by following a check list. You must know the other party in the relationship, know their heart, understand their motives and be vulnerable if a relationship is going to be healthy. For these reasons, many of us allow our fear to have us pull back and stand at a distance from God, but He’s still there waiting for you to enter in. He’s waiting for you to draw close. He tore the veil when Jesus was crucified so that you could enter in and know Him yourself. Spend time in prayer today building that relationship rather than offering God a checklist of things you want. He prefers relationships to tasks.

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Staying Spiritually Alert

When I was growing up and going through my teenage years, I was part of a scouting program at church. It laid the foundation for a lot of things in my life and taught me how to do things I would have otherwise never learned. One of the foundational things it gave me was a code to live by. I can still recite all eight points of the code and their definitions 30 years later. The first point in the code is, “Alert: he is mentally, physically and spiritually alert.” Being mentally alert is to be present in conversations, in life and in preparedness to give an answer for the hope in you. Physically alert is all about paying attention to your surroundings and anticipating what might happen. Spiritually alert is the most important one of all. It’s recognizing that we’re in a constant battle within ourselves between our human nature and the Holy Spirit as well as being alert to our enemy who wants to devour us.

I’m afraid we all get caught up in the daily grind of things that we lose our spiritual alertness. We’ve all been a distracted driver at times when we’ve failed to be alert to the things around us. We’ve had to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident while everything in our car has flown forward. It happens usually when we’re not alert. Just like it is dangerous to drive distracted, it’s dangerous to live out your faith being distracted. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (NLT). You and I must recognize that our enemy seeks to destroy us. We need to stay alert in order to keep him from sneaking up on us. Remember though that being is alert is different than being fearful. Fear is not from God. He gives us a spirit of power, love and a sound (alert) mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

Staying spiritually alert was something Paul wrote to the believers as well. 1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Remember to stay alert and hold firmly to all that you believe. Be mighty and full of courage” (TPT). You don’t have to fear the enemy. Greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world and is trying to devour you. Stand firm in your faith with courage, resist the enemy and he will flee. Remember that you are a child of God and have the authority Jesus gave you to overcome. You don’t have to be afraid of the enemy, but you do need to stay alert. Pay attention to what’s going on around you spiritually. What work is God doing in the lives of people you’re around? What work does God have you doing? Satan wants to disrupt progress in both cases. Pray over your family, your friends, your pastors and the work you’re doing. Ask God for courage to stand up against the enemy and to help you resist his advances. Your spiritual alertness may be the difference in eternal life for someone.

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Choosing Your Words

According to reference.com, a University of Arizona study found that most people speak about 16,000 words a day. Just as a side note, women did not speak more than men. I can tell you that I would never have guessed that I use that many words in a day, and I talk a lot. My next thought is, “How many of those words are well thought out? How many edify others? How many put others down?” Then I started to wonder how many words do we think in a day since we hold back on a lot of things we wish we could say, but there’s no research on that. As I began to think about that more, I wondered how many of those words we address to ourselves in a negative way. We’re pretty good at not tearing down others (out loud), but how many times do we put ourselves down out loud and internally?

Words are some of the most powerful things on the planet. Even though we said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” we knew it was a lie. Inside we were dying because of something someone else told us. How much more do we hurt by replaying those words or even repeating them over ourselves in agreement? As Christians, we must be careful with the words we say to others and ourselves. We have to change our internal words before we can change the 16,000 words we speak. Just because no person can tame the tongue, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t control it. With God’s help, you can change the words you speak and agree with in order to change your life and someone else’s. Use your 16,000 words wisely each day.

Here are some Bible verses on the words we say.

1. But no one has ever been able to tame the tongue. It is evil and uncontrollable, full of deadly poison. We use it to give thanks to our Lord and Father and also to curse other people, who are created in the likeness of God. Words of thanksgiving and cursing pour out from the same mouth. My friends, this should not happen!

James 3:8-10 GNT

2. Reckless words are like the thrusts of a sword, cutting remarks meant to stab and to hurt. But the words of the wise soothe and heal.

Proverbs 12:18 TPT

3. A soothing tongue [speaking words that build up and encourage] is a tree of life, But a perversive tongue [speaking words that overwhelm and depress] crushes the spirit.

Proverbs 15:4 AMP

4. Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.

Proverbs 18:21 MSG

5. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

Ephesians 4:29 NLT

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Trusting Grace

My six year old son has been asking me a lot of questions about sin lately. He asked me if I sin. When I told him that I do, he wanted to know why. I explained that I don’t want to, but sometimes I do. It’s just part of being human and having sin live inside us. Then he wanted to know if it upsets God when I sin. I told him that it does, but God is faithful to forgive us of our sins when we confess them to Him and are sorry for doing them. Then he wanted to know if he sins and the circle continued.

I love that he’s already concerning himself with wanting to live a life that pleases God. I also want him to understand that sin is an ongoing problem in all of our lives. There is no one who is perfect and can keep from sinning. This problem is outlined perfectly in Romans 7. Verses 17-20 say, “I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway” (MSG). It’s the struggle we all face.

No matter how much anyone of us want to live a sinless life, we eventually fall short and sin. Paul is very clear in this chapter that the problem is not us, but the sin that is inside of us. We are all dependent on God’s grace instead of our ability to live sinless lives. I love how Romans 8:4 puts it. “The law always ended up being a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it.” Trying to live a sinless life doesn’t fix the problem; it only covers it up. Living a perfect life is not our goal. Learning to trust God’s grace is.

God’s grace and the Holy Spirit working in us is the remedy to our sin problem. When we try to put a Band-Aid on our sin and do things on our own, pride comes in. The answer is to quit trying to live a sinless life out of sheer will power because we can’t. God’s Spirit is living in us and working in us. We must learn to live Spirit led lives, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide us in the life that He wants us to live. The Spirit wants to lead us into a life of freedom instead of constant condemnation because we fail constantly. Rip off the Band-Aid and let God heal you from the inside out.

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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Stored Up Blessings

I have the privilege of talking with pastors from different denominations and church sizes. One of the consistent things that come up in my conversations with them is how to grow their church in a healthy way. In order to grow in a healthy way, we do a health check of their current congregation. We look at the spiritual disciplines of the people who attend. Are they self sufficient Christians or are they solely dependent on the church? Are people being taught how to grow in Christ and given the tools they need to accomplish that? Giving of tithes comes up too, and I’m always shocked at how few Christians give their tithe (10% of their income). It’s a spiritual discipline that speaks to where our heart truly is.

There’s very few things in life as important to us as money. I often explain to sales reps that money represents freedom. It’s the freedom for people to live where they want, go where they want, do what they want and buy what they want. When you, as a sales rep, ask for someone’s money, you’re asking them to give up some of their freedom in exchange for what you have to offer. That same freedom mentality goes with people into the church and they’re not willing to give up what they think is freedom. What we forget is that freedom and income come from God. It’s a way of appreciating God for the blessings and freedom He has given us. If our mentality is that it’s ours, then we have a harder time giving it to Him. When we don’t give it to Him, Malachi quotes God as saying we are robbing Him and ourselves.

Giving our tithe results in more freedom for us. In Malachi 3:10 God says, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do, I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” (NLT) Giving of our tithe opens the windows of heaven over our lives and provides more blessings and freedom than we can contain. It also recognizes that God is our source and that everything we have is His. By not giving it, we are telling Him what we have is ours and we only need Him for moral guidance. Jesus said you can’t serve God and money. The best way to find out who you’re serving is if you’re tithing or not. Don’t rob God or yourself by not giving it. Tithing is as much an act of faith as anything else and shows God where our heart is. When we give it, we open ourselves to the blessings God has in store for us.

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Yet I Will Praise Him

If you’ve ever read the book of Job, you may have found yourself feeling sorry for him. There may have been times in your life when you’ve even related to him too. I know I have had those moments. When you go through periods of loss or continuous disappointment, Job is a great book to read. You will find that there’s always someone who has it worse than you, there is purpose in pain and that you can endure anything. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the book, but I can tell you that I’m still amazed when I come to the end of the first chapter. After Job has lost all his livestock, his riches and his children, he doesn’t curse God. He doesn’t cry out, “Why me?” Instead, it says he fell to his knees and worshipped God. He recognized that everything he had came from God, and if God took it all back, he was good with it.

I can honestly say that during my times of great disappointment and loss, that was not my attitude. To stand on rock bottom in life, look up from the hole you’re in and bless God seems unfathomable, yet Job was able to. If he was able to, you and I are to. He made the choice to worship instead of to whine. He chose to bless God instead of to curse Him. He made the choice to recognize everything he had belonged to God and wasn’t a result of His own work. The perspective he had challenges me to readjust and calibrate how I see God and how I react in the bad times. It’s easy to worship when things are going well, but can we worship when everything seems to be going wrong? Can we praise Him when our prayers are unanswered? Can we thank Him when we don’t see a way forward? Can you say, “Even though I’m broken, yet will I praise you”?

Habakkuk 3:17-18 says, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (NLT) There’s a very similar picture here to the attitude Job had and that we are to have. Joy is not something that is circumstantial. It doesn’t rely on what’s going on around you. Joy looks at where your strength comes from. It looks at who your hope is in. It is defiant in the face of any circumstance you may face, and it says, “My hope is not in al, these things. My hope is in God. No matter what comes my way, I know that my God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than I can ask or pray for. Even though things look bad now, yet will I praise God! He is my rock, my fortress and my salvation.” You and I have that same spirit of joy within us. In tough times, activate it and worship. Remind yourself that God is in control, He has a plan and that no matter what happens you will continue to trust and to praise Him.

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Breaking Spiritual Dormancy

I was helping my son prepare for a science test recently. His class was learning about seeds, germination, the parts of a flower and roots. I was going down the study guide asking him questions and he was doing pretty good. I then read a question that said, “What is dormant?” He replied word for word what the study guide said. It was, “Alive, but not growing.” I kept reading the other questions on the guide, but my mind kept going back to that definition. I asked him to define it again. I started thinking how so many of us live dormant Christian lives. We’re alive in Christ, but we’re not growing. Then I started to think about areas in my life that are dormant according to that definition. I believe God wants to wake us up from dormancy and begin the germination process in each of us where our roots grow.

I researched how to wake a seed up from dormancy. I found that the process is called breaking dormancy. I believe it’s pretty similar to how we break out of spiritual dormancy too. The first thing you have to do is soak the seed in water. The water has to penetrate the seed coat that is keeping the seed dormant. For you and i that means we need to saturate ourselves in the water of God’s Word. We have to let it penetrate into every area of our lives removing the things that so easily beset us. We can’t just read the Bible for content. We have to read it to connect with a God, to hear what He has to say and to declare it over the dormant parts of our lives. God is faithful to complete the work He began in you (Philippians 1:6).

In order to break dormancy, a seed also needs oxygen. I can’t help but think of Adam, having been fully formed laying on the ground. He had everything he needed to sustain life, but was laying there. It was then that God breathed the breath of life in him and man came alive. I believe God wants to breathe His breath of life into the parts of our lives that are dormant and bring them to life. Like Ezekiel had to prophesy to the valley of dry bones for breath to come in them, you may need to speak to those dormant areas of your life and speak life back into them. Once we do that, the germination process can begin and the primary root will come out and begin the growth process. Colossians 2:7 says, “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (NLT). Growth is around the corner. You can break out of spiritual dormancy.

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