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Monthly Archives: April 2021
Growing up, when I heard the verse, “Be ye holy as I am holy,” I interpreted that as, “Be ye perfect as I am perfect.” It didn’t take long for me to realize perfection was impossible. I would fail, beat myself up for not being holy, feel shame, repent and repeat. I stayed in that cycle for a while because I didn’t understand that verse, I didn’t understand grace and I didn’t understand know how to trust what had been done for me on the cross. I’m not saying I understand them fully now, but I do have a better grasp of them. I haven’t even figured out how not fail, but I have figured out how to trust God more when I do. I’ve learned He’s not up there waiting for me to fail so He can banish me to Hell forever. Instead, like a father, He’s cheering me on, picking me up when I fall, dusting me off and encouraging me to try again.
One of the things that helped me break the cycle was having a teacher break down Romans 7 and 8 for me. He had me circle all the I’s, me’s, myself’s and my’s in Romans 7. When I did, the page was covered in circles. Then he had me read verse 24. It said, “What an agonizing situation I am in! So who has the power to rescue this miserable man from the unwelcome intruder of sin and death?” (TPT) He then had me do the same thing in chapter 8, except I circled all the spirit’s, God’s, Christ’s and Jesus’. Again, the page was covered in circles. He then had me read verse 4. It said, “So now every righteous requirement of the law can be fulfilled through the Anointed One living his life in us. And we are free to live, not according to our flesh, but by the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit!” He then said, “It’s not up to you. Quit trying to live this life on your own. Trust God’s grace and let His Spirit lead you.”
All my favorite people in the Bible failed miserably, and sometimes often. The psalmist wrote, “Lord, so many times I fail; I fall into disgrace. But when I trust in you, I have a strong and glorious presence protecting and anointing me. Forever you’re all I need! (Psalms 73:26)” Being a Christian isn’t about being perfect. It’s about learning to trust God’s grace and being Spirit led. He’s given us the tools we need to follow where He leads, we just need to use them. When we fail and fall into disgrace, know that He’s not angry with you. He’s there ready to help you up, to forgive you and to surround you with His presence. Keep trusting in Him, learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and quit listening to the voice of condemnation. Romans 8:1 reminds us that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. That’s a reminder for you as a Christian when you fail. This life isn’t about achieving perfection. It’s about learning to trust a perfect and holy God.
I have a friend with a Jeep and one of the things he likes to do is to take it off road. There are trails around the country that Jeep enthusiasts go to. These trails are rated by the package on your Jeep. To go on certain ones, you have to have a certain package or another with upgrades or you won’t make it. There’s one in the High Sierra’s near Lake Tahoe called the Rubicon Trail. It’s a grueling 22 mile off road trail that challenges even the most seasoned off road drivers. I’ve watched several videos of people doing some amazing driving on this trail. These drivers move forward on this trail confidently and help others along the way. It’s pretty cool to watch them navigate, learn and maneuver some rugged terrain.
When talking about our spiritual walk, we often refer to the good times as “mountaintop experiences” and dark times as “being in the valley”. However, like the Rubicon Trail, sometimes the challenging times of life are high on the mountain or on your way up. You may get some bumps and scratches on the way through the rugged terrain. Some of the toughest times in David’s life were after the high of being anointed king. He had to navigate through some rough terrain, but in the process, God was preparing him for the responsibility of what was coming. There were some emotional set backs on his Rubicon Trail to the throne, but he kept moving forward with the confidence of his calling.
I’m reminded of Habakkuk 3:19. It says, “The Lord GOD is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility]” (AMP). I don’t know what your Rubicon Trail is, but I do know that God is your source of courage and your navigator through rough terrain. He will help you to keep moving forward towards your goal with confidence even when the roadway is seemingly blocked and you can’t see the end. He uses these times as part of His process to prepare you for the promise. Look around you to see who He has placed in your life to help get you through. Don’t travel this terrain alone. Find a strong believer to help guide you and pray you through.
One of the things that my parents taught me early on was that God is our source. Everything we have comes from Him. Our jobs are simply tools He uses, and we need to be careful not to think that they are our source. When we get the two confused, our life gets out of balance. We can start to think that we are the reason we have the things we have and that it belongs to us. When we understand that God is our source, we understand that everything we have not only comes from Him, but it belongs to Him as well. Our money, our house, our car, our food and all that we possess belong to Him. When we think that way, how we use money changes too. We’re more careful with something that belongs to someone else.
In Matthew 25, Jesus told the Parable of the Talents. There was a man who was leaving on a trip. He gave each of his servants money according to their abilities. One received five talents, one received two talents and the other one. He would then come back to see what these servants did with the money. The money that the servants had always belonged to the man who went on a trip. It was simply their responsibility to manage it well. We know that some did and one did not. The ones who managed his money were rewarded with more. He told them if they could be faithful with what they were given, he could then trust them with more. There were so many lessons to learn in this parable including the idea that all we have belongs to God and we need to treat it as such.
David understood this concept too. In Psalm 16:5 he wrote, “You, Lord, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands” (GNT). Knowing this and living it don’t take all the stress off of things, but it should help us to keep things in perspective. God knows your situation right now. He will give you all you need and your future, which belongs to Him, is in His capable hands. Whether you have a little or a lot, what we do with what we have is what’s important. Understanding that it all belongs to Him and one day He will ask us to give an account of what we did with what He trusted us with should guide us. He is all we have. He is all we need. He gives us all we need. Ask Him for wisdom and guidance in caring for and growing what He’s entrusted to you.
My son is very interested in bells. He loves learning about them and watching them ring. When we went on vacation, he found a porcelain bell and wanted to get it. I tried to talk him into one of the metallic bells, but they weren’t as pretty. When we got home, my fears were confirmed as I unwrapped the porcelain bell. It was broken. I didn’t have the heart to tell him what had happened and I hoped he wouldn’t ask for it.
I went to the store and bought some gorilla glue. Before we left for school, I ran back into my room and glued it back together. When I got home, I went to check on it. The glue left a white streak all the way around it. When I tried to make it ring, it didn’t sound like it had. I was disappointed in my ability to try to put it back together. In my effort to fix it, I was hoping to make it as good as new, but I couldn’t.
Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, you and I are born broken. We spend a lifetime trying to compensate for our brokenness, and we do everything that we can to fix or cover up our brokenness. The problem with fixing things like brokenness is that we never return to our initial potential. We think we need to be fixed, but the truth is that we need to be healed. We need to be made whole, and only God can do that.
Isaiah 9:6 contains one of the most famous prophesies of Jesus. It says, “For a child has been born—for us! the gift of a son—for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings” (MSG). I love that God’s desire wasn’t to fix us. It was to make us whole. He knows that each of us are broken, and He sent His Son to bring the healing that we desperately need.
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.
I recently used a program to lose weight. After one day of following the rules and eating healthy, I stepped on the scale to see my progress. No change. The first thought to come to mind is, “This stuff doesn’t work!” It’s funny because I didn’t gain weight over night, but somehow my mind thinks that if I eat right for one day, I should have dramatic improvement. My coach encouraged me to continue following the process and to stock with it. Each day, I stepped on the scale to check my progress though. Some days I lost weight, others I stayed the same. The coach reminded me that weight loss shows up in more than the scale. Even though it didn’t show it, my measurements were shrinking. He encouraged me to continue to be patient and to follow the process. After following the process for a couple of months, I saw the progress I was looking for.
God has processes too. In 1 Samuel 16, David was anointed as king of Israel, but he wasn’t ready to be king. God had a process for him to follow first. For much of that process, David was on the run from the current king, Saul. There were several times that David had the opportunity to skirt the process and to kill Saul. David didn’t listen to the voices around him trying to get him to kill Saul though. One instance was in 1 Samuel 26. Abishai and David snuck up on Saul while he was sleeping, and his spear was right beside him. Abishai thought God had delivered Saul to David. In verse 10 David replied, “I know that the Lord himself will kill Saul, either when his time comes to die a natural death or when he dies in battle” (GNT). David wasn’t willing to skip the process no matter how long it took. He was willing to wait for Saul to die naturally.
I’ve learned that the greater the calling you have, the longer the process is. David had to wait 15 years to be king. Just like David, we must be patient in the process and trust it. Philippians 1:6 says, “And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.” What God has started in you will be completed. It may seem like things are going slow or there’s no progress, and at times that you’re going backwards, but God is working. A lot of what God does in the process can’t be measured. Like David, we need to be patient. If God called you to it, He will fulfill it in His time. Be faithful in what seems like the little things (Luke 16:10). Don’t despise small beginnings either (Zechariah 4:10). God will be faithful to complete what He began in you. Just take the process one step and one day at a time.
Each day at recess, my son’s fourth grade class heads to the playground. There’s a group of boys in the class who head straight for the basketball court. All these boys are under five feet tall, and most dribble the basketball while looking at it. They’re in the beginning stages of learning the game. Imagine if one day my son asked me to play on his team. I’m a foot taller than all the kids and my skills are better than all of theirs combined. It wouldn’t be fair. It would look like that Geico commercial where they had Jerome Bettis playing flag football. It’s a funny to watch, and fun if you were the team who had him. Each play they just handed him the ball while he dragged the other team down the field.
You and I fight battles all the time, but we keep our star player on the sidelines trying to fight them ourselves. Many times we’re overcome and even overtaken in our battles. We go back to God in tears asking why would He allow us to be defeated. Sometimes we even blame Him for the things going on in our lives, but the thing we fail to do in a lot of those situations is to call on Him to come fight our battles for us. We’ve got the, “I can do this” mentality, which is what God tried to move Israel away from in the Old Testament. God whittled down Gideon’s army down to 300 men to fight against over 100,000. He was showing that the battle is the Lord’s, not ours, and when we invite Him to fight on our behalf, it doesn’t matter what the odds are, we will win.
Psalm 56:9 says, “The very moment I call to you for a father’s help the tide of battle turns and my enemies flee. This one thing I know: God is on my side!” (TPT) The tide of your battle will turn when you call for God’s help. He will fight for you, and if God is for you, who can be against you (Romans 8:31)? Yes, inviting God into your battle creates an unfair advantage, but it’s something we are offered as His children. Don’t wait until the battle is over, call on Him today to come and fight on your behalf. Victory may not look like you think it should, but we are assured of victory when God is on our side. Don’t give up in your battle. Keep fighting the good fight, and invite God to come fight for you. Don’t keep Him on the sidelines.
One of the first talents I realized I had was the ability to memorize. It was pretty cool as a young kid. By the time I was in high school, I could study for a test from my locker to the classroom and ace the test. I began to hear words like, “No fair, I hate you for that and not cool.” When I started working, I again used it to gain a competitive advantage in sales. In one role, I had to take certifications. We would all fly to one city on a Sunday night for the test on Monday morning. Anything less than 95% was considered failing and there was a lot of pressure on these tests. I began to pretend to be stressed like everyone else. No one would go out to eat because they’d be up all night studying. I used to pretend to go to my room too to study. I’d wait about ten minutes then head out to a nice dinner. I allowed the people around me to make me feel like I had to minimize my gift.
I love Romans 12 because it talks about the different gifts God gives us. Verse 6 says, “God’s marvelous grace imparts to each one of us varying gifts” (TPT). I also love that it says the He gives each one of us gifts. That includes you. Don’t believe me? It’s repeated in Ephesians 4:7. It says, “However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ” (NLT). The problem most of us face is that we’ve spent a lifetime minimizing our gifts because of what other people think. For some, we’ve suppressed them so long, we may have even forgotten we had them. However, it is still in you, a more than likely just needs to be stirred up to be reactivated (2 Timothy 1:6). Because of your gifts, God has specific purposes and plans for you.
Timothy must have been facing the same pressure as a young minister. In 1 Timothy 4:12, he reminded him to not let anyone look down on him because of his age. He went on to say in verse 14, “Don’t minimize the powerful gift that operates in your life” (TPT). Timothy like us was tempted to minimize his gifts because of what other people thought or said. Just like Timothy, you and I need to not let others look down on us or minimize the gifts. Choose to worry about what God think rather than others. Use the gifts God has given you to make a difference where you are. When we minimize the gifts we’ve been given, we’re like the man who buried his talent in the sand. Instead, be like the ones who took their talents, invested in them, used them and doubled them. The more you utilize them, the greater impact you will have.