When I was a teenager in the late 80’s, our youth pastor showed us a movie called “Without Reservation”. It started with some high schoolers at a party, but then several of them left together. The ones who left had an accident and were killed. They woke up in the car with a large TV screen in front of them that revealed they had died, and then it began showing video of a line of people. Some were asked to go to the left if they didn’t have a reservation, and the ones who did were sent to the right. One kid in the car was a Christian and began explaining what was happening. One kid was in disbelief, another agreed with him because she had heard about it, but never accepted Jesus. A third looked at the Christian and asked, “If you knew about this, why didn’t you ever tell me?”
That movie made an impact on me as a teen, especially that question. Evangelism and sharing our faith is one of the hardest things to do for most Christians. We are afraid of rejection, afraid we don’t know what to say or afraid of what they’ll think of us. Sharing our faith isn’t easy, but in most cases, it isn’t going to cost you your life. We’ve grown comfortable with letting our fear dictate our actions as we prevent people from having the opportunity to accept Jesus. In essence, we’re keeping people out of Heaven by not asking them to make a decision. Can you imagine a friend or family member looking at you after you’ve passed away asking you why you never gave them the opportunity? “I was afraid of what you would think of me,” isn’t a great answer at that point.
Mark 10:13 says, “The parents kept bringing their little children to Jesus so that he would lay his hands on them and bless them. But the disciples kept rebuking and scolding the people for doing it” (TPT). The disciples were guilty of preventing people from coming to Jesus too. When Jesus saw that they were keeping these parents and children away from Him, He rebuked them. Each of us are keeping people from Jesus like the disciples did that day when we keep our faith private and don’t share it. We can’t afford to do that. I pray we all will receive boldness to push past our fear and be willing to share our faith to those around us. Paul’s prayer in Philemon 1:6 says, “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective and powerful because of your accurate knowledge of every good thing which is ours in Christ” (AMP). Let’s be effective and powerful in the sharing of our faith rather than quietly keeping it to ourselves.
Eternity is one of the things we have to force ourselves to think about. We get so busy down here that we forget this life is not all there is. We allow ourselves to be stressed over things that won’t matter in five years, much less eternity. Life is more than our jobs, our coming and going, what we eat or the things we own. Jesus came to give us an abundant, eternal life. That was His purpose in coming. While this time of year can be stressful, don’t forget the real reason we celebrate is that Jesus came to give us real life that goes beyond the years on this planet. Remind yourself daily to keep an eternal perspective when it comes to life.
Here are some Bible verses on the life God gives.
1. It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh conveys no benefit [it is of no account]. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life [providing eternal life].
John 6:63 AMP
2. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.
Colossians 3:3-4 MSG
3. The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness.
John 10:10 GNT
4. Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].
2 Corinthians 5:17 AMP
5. My old identity has been co-crucified with Messiah and no longer lives; for the nails of his cross crucified me with him. And now the essence of this new life is no longer mine, for the Anointed One lives his life through me— we live in union as one! My new life is empowered by the faith of the Son of God who loves me so much that he gave himself for me, and dispenses his life into mine!
A while back, there was a concert my wife and I wanted to go to. On the day the tickets went on sale, I had two phones, an iPad and a laptop out trying to get tickets. After sitting in their digital waiting room for an hour, a message popped up saying they were sold out. As we got closer to the concert date I began looking at all the resale sites, but the ticket prices were outrageous. As we were driving down the road discussing it, my wife closed her eyes and said, “Lord, it would be awesome if you could give us free tickets to this concert. Amen.” I laughed internally and thought, “No one is going to give up their tickets, but ok God.” The day before the concert she got a message offering her free tickets to the concert. We were both blown away.
In 2 Kings 6, Elisha was the prophet of Israel, and the group of prophets who were with him decided the place where they were staying was too small. They wanted to build a bigger place, but Elisha didn’t think they needed to. After begging him to come, they went to the river to cut down trees to build a bigger place. Verse 5 says, “But as one of them was cutting a tree, his ax head fell into the river. ‘Oh, sir!’ he cried. ‘It was a borrowed ax!’” (NLT) Elisha had him point to the place where the ax head went into the water. He then threw in a stick and the ax head floated to the surface. The man grabbed it and went back to work.
Both stories remind me that God is concerned about the little things in our lives. Going to the concert didn’t change our lives, but God knew it was something we would appreciate. Sometimes we forget that like a parent, God just wants to bless His kids. We don’t need to feel like we’re bothering Him with the little things. He’s just as able to take care of the “little” requests in our lives as the “big” ones. God simply wants to be involved in our day to day lives instead of being our spiritual 9-1-1 call. He’s looking for relationship with us. If we’re going to have one with Him, then we need to let Him into all areas of our lives including the little ones.
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.
Recently we were driving somewhere and our son said he had a question for us. I turned down the radio and asked what it was. He asked, “Which are y’all: Mary or Martha?” I laughed that such a question would come from a 9 year old. His question is in reference to Luke 10 where Martha is busy serving Jesus while Mary just sits at His feet listening. My wife responded, “Sorry, son. You were born into a family of Martha’s!” He asked if that was a bad thing. I explained that it wasn’t because we need both Mary’s and Martha’s. The Martha’s of the world simply need to learn to not be so anxious when things don’t get done perfectly and they also need to take time to sit at the feet of Jesus and recharge. Both types are important to the Church.
We see Martha and Mary two more times in Scripture. The next time we see them is in John 11 after their brother Lazarus had died. When Jesus showed up four days later, it was Martha who ran out to meet Jesus while Mary stayed in the house. Martha expressed that if Jesus had been there, her brother wouldn’t have died. She also expressed that He was the Messiah and could raise him up. After their conversation she went to get Mary to take her to Jesus. Mary expressed the same things. It was the other people who doubted and accused when they implied that Jesus gave sight to the blind, but couldn’t keep Lazarus from dying. After that, we read that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
The last time we meet them is in John 12, about two months later, just before Jesus is crucified. Martha was back to serving everyone while Lazarus ate. Verse 3 says, “Then Mary took a whole pint of a very expensive perfume made of pure nard, poured it on Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The sweet smell of the perfume filled the whole house” (GNT). Immediately Judas saw this as a waste of money and criticized her act of worship. In these stories, there are three types of people: one who worships with service, one who worships at His feet and those who criticize. I’ll ask my son’s question to you. Which are you? It’s all right to be a Martha as long as you’re not so busy you miss hearing Jesus. It’s all right being a Mary as long as you share what you learn at the feet of Jesus. It’s not ok to stand back from afar and criticize the way other people worship while never drawing near yourself. Each of us must worship in our own extravagant way and take time to hear what Jesus is saying to us.
Several years ago, before I did Bible verses on Friday’s, I did “Free Friday”. I had attended a conference and heard people discuss all kinds of fears and self limiting behaviors they had. My idea was to write each Friday about getting free from the things that hold us back or slow us down when trying to move forward. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to lay aside anything that hinders us, slows us down or ensnares us. The understood emphasis in the sentence is that it’s up to us to do it. The only way I have the power to lay aside any sin that’s holding me back is if I’m still holding onto it after I’ve been forgiven of it. Every one of us are holding onto things that hold us back and are keeping ourselves imprisoned because of guilt or shame. It’s a trap of the enemy to hinder our growth and freedom.
Remember that Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. That means once Christ has forgiven you, He no longer condemns you for that sin. If you’re feeling it, it’s usually self induced and needs to be later aside. Remember that according to Galatians 5:1, it was for freedom that Christ set you free. He freed you so you could live and walk in freedom from your past. Yet, so many of us rarely walk in that freedom because we allow shame to hold us back. We allow ourselves to be ensnared in a mind game that tells us we must live the rest of our lives paying for our past. Paul, who wrote those verses, called himself the chief among sinners. He killed Christians for a living. If he was able to live in that freedom, you’re allowed to as well.
In John 8:36, Jesus reminds us that we are God’s children who are no longer enslaved to our sin or our past. He said, “So if the Son sets you free from sin, then become a true son and be unquestionably free!” (TPT) If Christ has forgiven your sins, you are unquestionably free from the eternal effects of them. You don’t have to live this life paying penance for your past. Every time those thoughts come in, chase them out with these words of Jesus. Every time guilt creeps in, chase it out with Romans 8:1. You are no longer a slave to your past. The blood of Jesus is stronger than anything you’ve ever done. It has the power to forgive and to set you free. Begin today to live unquestionably free and let God use your life to accomplish the purposes He created you for.
When I started writing devotions back in 2012, it didn’t take long before I started to have a problem with fear. Each day I was afraid that I wouldn’t have something to write about. I started to keep a list of topics that I could write on in case I couldn’t think of anything. Still, each night and morning I had trouble wrestling with the fear of not having something to write about. I expressed this fear to another writer and asked them how they dealt with it. He replied, “You’re looking at God wrong. You’re approaching Him as if He is a well, and they run dry. God is a River always flowing and always fresh. He is the all creative One. If you will take your bucket to Him each day, ask Him to fill it with fresh, living water, He will fill it.” I have done that for over 8 years now, and God has never failed to meet with me and fill my bucket.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites has left Egypt and were headed to the Promised Land. It was about a month and a half into their journey when a similar fear came over them. In Exodus 16:3, they complained to Moses that they didn’t have any meat. They wished God had just left them in Egypt where they were slaves, but at least they had food. God replied, “Now I am going to cause food to rain down from the sky for all of you. The people must go out every day and gather enough for that day” (GNT). God provided fresh manna each day, but the people had to gather it and only get enough for that day. God continued to meet their need each and every day until they entered the Promised Land.
Fast forward to the New Testament in John 6. Jesus fed 5,000 people with a few pieces of bread and some fish. The people ate, were filled and had leftovers. The next day they were asking for more food and a miracle again to prove that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus referred to God providing the manna, and the people asked Jesus to do the same for them. In verse 35 He replied, “I am the Bread of Life. Come every day to me and you will never be hungry. Believe in me and you will never be thirsty” (TPT). Jesus reiterated to them, and to us, that if we will come to Him each and every day, He will supply our need with more than enough. However, each of us must seek Him daily, spend time alone in prayer, hold out our buckets and ask Him to fill it. He’s providing fresh manna for us every day. We just have to go get it.
Worship is one of those Christianese words that we use, but struggle to define. You can look it up in the Hebrew, the Greek or in the Webster’s dictionary, but it won’t quite define what true worship is. In the Bible times, the Jews believed God resided in Jerusalem, so they would come to Jerusalem to worship and go through the motions of worship. Worship became a ritual and an act rather than a response to God’s presence. Many times the God rejected their worship because it was hollow or meaningless. They didn’t understand the worship He desires from us. I’m not so sure we’re that different these days. We’ve contained worship to a set of songs we sing on Sunday at church. We’ve made it about a certain place and practice as well.
The woman at the well asked Jesus who was right about where to worship God. Jesus told her that it wasn’t about the place or the act, but the heart. Our worship is expressed in many ways when we have a holy reverence for who God is. It can be expressed in bowing down, singing, crying, serving others or sitting silent in His presence. Worship is an attitude as much as it is an action. Remember that God looks at our heart- our intent- rather than our actions. He’s not interested in worship that is merely going through motions. He wants us to respond to His majesty, His goodness, His kindness, His might, His sovereignty and His presence. When we see God for who He is, we will worship Him in Spirit and Truth from a heart that honors Him.
Here are some Bible verses on true worship.
1. From here on, worshiping the Father will not be a matter of the right place but with the right heart. For God is a Spirit, and he longs to have sincere worshipers who worship and adore him in the realm of the Spirit and in truth.
John 4:23-24 TPT
2. Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; Tremble [in submissive wonder] before Him, all the earth.
Psalms 96:9 AMP
3. Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.
Hebrews 13:16 MSG
4. And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
Romans 12:1 NLT
5. Let us be thankful, then, because we receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Let us be grateful and worship God in a way that will please him, with reverence and awe.
When I was a teenager, the scouting program I was a part of gave us a code to live by. Today, we would call them values statements or core values. One of the eight values was courageous: he is brave in spite of danger, criticism or threats. I didn’t realize then how important that particular one was as a teenager, and even more so as an adult. It taught me to be strong in the face of things when they weren’t going my way or even against me. Being courageous means you don’t run away in those moments. You do what’s right no matter what going on around you.
In the last several chapters of John, Jesus was talking to the disciples on the night before His crucifixion. He was telling them what was about to happen to Him, and also what would happen to them going forward. He wanted them to have peace in the chaos, and to let them know that He was going to send the Holy Spirit as a helper who would live inside of them to combat the outside pressures against them. Then, just before He prayed and went to the Garden of Gethsemane, He said, “For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33 TPT)
He reminded them, and us, that we are going to experience times when the world is against us. We are going to have troubles and things not go our way, but we are to be courageous. He said these things because He wanted us to look past our current problems knowing that He has already won. We can be brave because whatever we’re facing is not the end and it won’t conquer us because He is in us. We have to keep reminding ourselves of this verse when things look bad or like there’s no tomorrow. We can be courageous in spite of what we’re facing by trusting His promises.
Have you ever noticed how we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions? We give ourselves a lot more grace than we give someone else. Whenever I accidentally change lanes, but don’t see the car in that lane, I sheepishly duck my head, wave and mouth “sorry” hoping they understand. However, when someone does that to me, I see it as an attack of a negligent driver who is intentionally trying to kill me. I got from zero to angry in .5 seconds, honk my horn, shake my fist and scream at them. Now that I realize I’m judging them differently than I’m asking them to judge me, I’ve had to learn to give more grace in these situations. Chances are high, they simply made a mistake, like I do sometimes, and they’re not intentionally trying to run me off the road.
It’s scary how quickly I can go from singing along with the radio to straight up anger when that happens. The problem is, that’s not the only time or place I have a tendency to do that. We even do that when someone is talking to us. We judge ourselves by the intention of our meaning and others by their words and our interpretation. We can easily get angry without listening to everything they’re saying or the intent of their heart. Once anger comes into play, listening goes out the window and words usually come out of our mouth. Even when they try to explain, our anger has shut out reason and withdrawn any grace we had to give. These things happen to all of us, and if we can understand the hypocrisy of our own thinking, it can help us tone down how quickly we jump to anger.
Another way to slow down the anger train is to keep our mouth shut long enough to listen to their heart. James 1:19-20 says, “My dearest brothers and sisters, take this to heart: Be quick to listen, but slow to speak. And be slow to become angry, for human anger is never a legitimate tool to promote God’s righteous purpose” (TPT). That last sentence should give each of us pause. Anger is never a tool to promote God’s purposes. When we’re angry, we’re usually out of control and saying thing to hurt the other person. Anger is a legitimate emotion God gave us, but He also told us not to sin while we’re angry (Ephesians 4:26). We’re either promoting or destroying God’s purpose with our lives. Anger has a tendency to destroy it. When we change how we judge others actions and words, we can begin to control those flare ups.
Not long after a baby is born, we begin to condition them to do things for someone else. When they eat from a spoon, we clap and cheer them on. When they roll over, we cheer. We record their first steps as we applaud their efforts. The list goes on and on with each milestone. I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate these things or that we shouldn’t encourage our kids. People need both of those things. However, from the moment we’re born, we’re taught to do things for applause. When we don’t get it, we think we’ve done something wrong or maybe they didn’t notice what we did. So we try to get someone’s attention and do it again so we will be recognized for what we’ve done.
Paul recognized this need for approval and how it can affect our work if we don’t get it. In Colossians 3:23 he penned, “Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men” (AMP). Sometimes, if we’re doing something we know we won’t get recognized for or think that no one is watching, we don’t give it our best effort. Paul reminds us here that no matter what we do, we shouldn’t be doing it for man’s approval or recognition. It should be done as if we were doing it for the Lord because ultimately it is. Anything man rewards us with is temporary.
When Jesus was in the Temple watching people give, there were those who made a big show of their giving. There was also a widow who quietly gave all she had. In Luke 18, Jesus told a parable about a person who prayed louder than others thanking God they weren’t like those other people. He pointed out that they were seeking the recognition of man, and while they got it, they wouldn’t be getting God’s recognition because they weren’t after it. He pointed out the sinner who wouldn’t lift their head and praised them. In both of these cases, Jesus was pointing out that we should be seeking God’s approval and doing things for Him instead of men. Remember, man looks at our outward appearance, but God is looking at our heart. Whatever, you have to do today, whether big or small, do it well and do it for God’s approval and you will be fulfilled.