Monthly Archives: March 2022

Running To Win

I went to a pretty small high school where if you were athletic, you pretty much played every sport. If you ran track, you didn’t just run one race, you ran several which meant several heats for each race. We had to be in great shape. I remember my running coach teaching me to breathe a certain way so that I wouldn’t get that pain in my side. She also taught me aerodynamics so that my body would channel the wind. Then there was the conditioning to get my body in shape to survive so many races. I put a lot of miles on my shoes so that I could win the races I ran. After high school, I decided had ran enough miles for a lifetime, but in the course of it, I had won many races.

Running takes discipline and mental strength to push through when your body wants to quit. It’s a lot like living out your faith. It takes being dedicated, being mentally focused and being disciplined. Your flesh is always fighting against you and is trying to slow you down so you have to be prepared mentally to push back. It tries to play against your sympathies to get you to stumble and fall. You have to be disciplined enough to catch it early so you can stop that line of thinking. You also have to keep your eyes on what’s at stake in your life and in the lives of others. It’s not a 5k Fun Run. This is more like a marathon or an Iron Man. Every part of you must be disciplined so that you’re making determined progress and are be becoming more like Christ every day.

1 Corinthians 9:24 says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours!” (AMP) Each of us are running the race God has called us to. No one can run your race for you. It’s up to you to run your race in a manner that you’re not just providing traffic for the other runners, but that you’re running in order to win. When you’re running to win, you push yourself to stay in the front of the race. You lean on lessons you’ve learned from the past and ensure that you’re spiritually fit. You use the discipline of reading and applying God’s Word to keep you on track. You continually seek God and His presence so you can endure. You invite the Holy Spirit into your life to encourage you daily to keep going. If you’re going to live a life of faith, be 100% committed and give it your all.

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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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The Heart Of A Servant

God put something inside of us that makes us feel good when we’re treated as an important person. Have you ever been the guest of honor before? Or been the most important person in the room? Or treated like royalty when you’ve visited somewhere? When something like that happens, we often say, “I could get used to this!” It’s a natural response to feel that way. What isn’t natural is to be in a moment or place like that, then excuse yourself from being the center of attention to plunging toilets. Most of us would ask someone else to do it so we wouldn’t mess up our clothes or stop the doting on us. However, that’s the example Jesus gave us to follow.

On the night before the Passover, which was a foreshadowing of what Jesus was about to do, He and the disciples were having dinner. John 13:3 says, “Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God” (NLT). He had all authority in the universe in this moment. He knew He was heading back home, yet He noticed no one had washed their feet as was the custom. Instead of telling someone to call a servant or instead of asking a disciple to wash the feet, He did it. Verses 4-5 say, “So He got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel He had around him.”

Doug Stringer, a ministry friend at Somebody Cares, says, “While men reach for thrones to build their own kingdom, Jesus reached for a towel to wash men’s feet.” When Jesus reached the moment His whole life had been pointing to, and had been given all authority, He showed us what to reach for. He denied the pride that lives within all of us and reached for the towel of humility. He served those He was about to die for, including Judas. The example Jesus gives is what He said over and over. If you want to be great in His kingdom, you must reach for a towel and serve. While it feels good to be the center of attention, and to have our ego stroked, it’s eternally better to have the heart of a servant.

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Disagreeing Believers

As I was walking into a store the other day, I heard a man in the parking lot talking on the phone by his car. I don’t know who he was talking to, but I heard him say, “I’ve got the Holy Ghost. He’s got the Holy Ghost, but we just can’t get along.” I almost stopped, but it was none of my business. As I walked through the store, I kept thinking about what he said. There are people all of us come into contact with that we’re not going to get along with. That’s ok. However, how you handle it is very important when you’re a Christian, and especially when you’re both Christians.

In Acts 15, two of the greatest missionaries of the Early Church had a disagreement. Mark went on the first trip, but shortly thereafter decided he wanted to go home. When it came time for the second trip, Mark wanted to go again. Paul opposed it, but Barnabas felt he deserved a second chance. Their difference of opinion was very strong and irreconcilable. Instead of destroying each other in the process, the decided to split up and go separate ways. Because they handled it the right way, both were able to do incredible ministry and even more people came to know Jesus. Years later, Paul asked for Mark to be brought to him because he was useful in the ministry.

Ephesians 4:3 says, “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace” (NLT). As Paul, Barnabas and Mark worked together trying to stay united in the Spirit, so should we. It’s not ok to devalue another believer when we have a disagreement. We are united in the Spirit and are a part of the same body. The Bible included this disagreement to show us that we can part ways without destroying each other in the process and to be able to lead effective ministries. Do your part in these circumstances to keep the harmony and to not allow your flesh to get in the way or take over. Instead, let God’s love seek the best for each other and the situation understanding that both sides are valued by God and are useful to Him.

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The Comparison Trap

Comparing ourselves to one another is something we all do. It’s especially dangerous when we do it as Christians though. We say, “Ifi didn’t have to go through the things I went through, I would be as close to God as they are.if I had their kind of time, I would pray more. If I had their kind of money, I would give extravagantly.” The list goes on, but the comparison trap begins with the word “if”. It’s the biggest little word out there. When we use it to compare ourselves, what we’re really doing is creating an excuse for not doing something we should be doing now.

When we find ourselves falling into this trap, it’s important to ask ourselves some questions to keep ourselves in check. We need to ask, “What’s my motivation for saying that? What’s driving this statement? What am I doing in this area right now with what I have?” In most cases, were not really doing much in that area, if anything at all. We’re delaying following a spiritual discipline we don’t care to follow, by comparing ourselves to others who only do it because they have what we don’t. The problem is that Jesus said in Luke 16:10, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones” (NLT).

There’s a reason why God said in Zachariah 4:10, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” If you don’t do it when you have a little, you won’t do it when you have a lot. It’s when we’re faithful in the small beginnings that God will know we will be faithful in larger things. So whatever comparison trap you find yourself in, break the lie by calling it out. Then start doing whatever it is with what you have right now. You will stop the excuse making and turn on the fountain of blessings from God by following what He asks you to do.

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Heart Choices

Some phrases you might have said are, “Put your heart into it. They were heartbroken. Invite Jesus into your heart.” We’re not referring to your physical heart that pumps blood. We’re talking about the seat of your spiritual life. That heart is just as important as your physical one. It’s what controls our actions and guides our decisions. That’s why the Bible refers to this heart so much. God gave us this seat of power and the free will to choose who sits there and controls it. Whats decided in our heart is reflected in our life. The Bible tells us several things we need to make sure we choose to do with our heart so that we will serve God with our whole life.

Here are some Bible verses on the heart.

1. Let the inner movement of your heart always be to love one another, and never play the role of an actor wearing a mask. Despise evil and embrace everything that is good and virtuous.

Romans 12:9 TPT

2. You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God.

Colossians 3:1 GNT

3. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.

Matthew 12:35 NLT

4. Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.

Proverbs 4:23 AMP

5. Move your heart closer and closer to God, and he will come even closer to you. But make sure you cleanse your life, you sinners, and keep your heart pure and stop doubting.

James (Jacob) 4:8 TPT

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Greater Things Ahead

Have you ever looked at someone and thought, “Man, they have it all. I wish I had their…”? So many times we look at what people have and identify with the end result without stopping to think about what they went through to get there. We want the reward without the work or the struggle. There’s a saying, “The greatest overnight successes were twenty years in the making.” Most of us face our battles and struggles in obscurity. Others don’t see that part of our story. They see us years later after we’ve endured and are enjoying the fruits of our labor. What we forget is that without the struggle, there is no success.

God wanted to promote David from shepherd boy to king, but he wasn’t ready. David faced years of struggles between being anointed king and taking the throne. He was chased by the current king. There were people he knew that betrayed him. He lived in a cave in an inhospitable desert. He fought several battles with very little rest. He had a lot of struggles because God uses them to prepare us for our future. We can choose to complain about the things we face or we can lay them at the feet of Jesus and push through them knowing there is something more ahead.

In Psalm 55:22 David wrote, “So here’s what I’ve learned through it all: Leave all your cares and anxieties at the feet of the Lord, and measureless grace will strengthen you” (TPT). Our struggles are meant to strengthen our faith in God so we are prepared for what’s next. We can either get lost in the pain, bitter in the disappointment or we can find strength to keep going by giving it to God knowing He’s with us through each battle. The greater things God has for you, the greater the struggle you will go through, The great news is you’re not alone and you don’t have to do it in your strength. Lay down your worries and trust that God is at work and in control.

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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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Distracted Lives

We live in the age of the distracted driver. Because I’m a nosy person, and I’ve spent a lot of time in traffic, I’ve seen a lot of distracted people. I’ve seen someone reading a book while driving on a highway. I’ve also seen a lady applying mascara while traveling at least 70 mph. It seems theres a new video or story each week of Tesla drivers who are asleep while the car drives. Most of us are guilty of eating while driving, and there’s probably just as many who are on their phones while cruising at a high rate of speed. These distractions take our eyes off the road, and often causes us to veer out of our lane, which is very dangerous.

The Bible is full of people just like that, except they weren’t driving. They were living their life with the right intentions, but got distracted from the truth. Adam and Eve kicked off the human race by turning their eyes from God to the forbidden fruit. David was supposed to be on the war path, but ended up getting distracted on his balcony. Judas followed Jesus wherever He went, but got distracted by greed. Temptation happened to all of them, just like it does for us. It’s goal is to get us to take our eyes off of where we’re headed so that we will veer. Once we start veering, the road can get pretty rough and bumpy.

Solomon, who also got distracted, gave us this advice in Proverbs 4:26. He said, “Watch where you’re going! Stick to the path of truth, and the road will be safe and smooth before you” (TPT). It’s important for us to keep our eyes on Jesus each day. Temptation is lurking at every corner trying to get us to leave the path God set out for us. Like Jesus, we need to know the Word of God so we can use the truth of it to combat the lies. We can’t afford to live distracted lives. Commit each day to following the paths of truth. When you find yourself getting distracted, and notice the road is getting bumpy, refocus your attention on the One who laid out a path before you. There’s no better way to get back on that path than seeking forgiveness and repenting. Look to Jesus and live distraction free.

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Making Better Choices

If I needed to lose weight, without buying what you’re selling, what two things would I need to do? In almost every instance, you would tell me to eat right and to exercise. If I would do that, I would lose weight, but the benefits don’t stop there. Doing those two things would change so much more. I would begin to have more energy, feel better, have lower blood sugar, lower cholesterol and so many more things. By doing two simple things, I can affect many areas of my life. The problem is that there are so many options out there that I and so many others choose daily not to do those two things. Then we wonder why we have all these other problems.

In our spiritual life, we have the same choices that we have to make daily. Many of us struggle with poor discipline that results in the inability to hear God’s voice, no resistance to temptation, low faith, poor prayer life and many other things. We wonder why some people make living the Christian life look easy while we struggle. A lot of it boils down to choices we make daily where we choose other things over the spiritual disciplines God has called us to. The New Testament has many of these disciplines that we must follow. Dif you try to employ all of them at once, you can easily get overwhelmed. So start with a couple and add more as you grow.

Three disciplines that you can choose daily are found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. It says, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). Choose joy every day. It’s not based on your circumstances. It is rooted in trusting God, and it’s the source of your strength. Being in a continual mindset of prayer will keep you connected to God throughout your day. It will increase your faith and increase your ability to hear His voice. Being thankful in all circumstances will create an attitude of gratitude. It will help you to see God’s hand in whatever you go through, helping you to trust that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord. Doing these three things daily will have a major impact on your life, your attitude and your relationship with God. Start choosing to do them today.

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Jesus’ Gate Keepers

If you’ve ever done cold calling, you know how tough it can be. Whenever you call a business to try to get an appointment to pitch your product, the person who answers the phone is the gate keeper. They stand between you and the decision maker. Their job is to make sure only relevant people get through to the decision maker so that their time isn’t wasted. Some gate keepers are easy to bypass. You just need you to be nice to them in order to get through. Some are more difficult than others. No matter which method you use to try to get through them, they won’t let you pass.

In Matthew 19, Jesus’ ministry was in full swing. People knew who He was wherever He went. Little old ladies would try to press through the crowd to touch His garment. The sick would line up for hours in hopes that He would heal them. Religious leaders would come to see Him to try to discredit Him. In verse 13, a group of parents tried to bring their kids to Him, but the disciples denied them. They were His gate keepers and wanted to make sure only relevant people got close to Him. Kids, blind guys outside cities and other outcasts were not on their list. However, in this situation, and the others, Jesus would say, “I want little children to come to me, so never interfere with them when they want to come, for heaven’s kingdom realm is composed of beloved ones like these!” (TPT)

In today’s world, somehow you and I have taken on the responsibility of being His gate keepers. We’ve decided in our minds who’s worthy of His grace and who isn’t. We can be willing to let some people know about Jesus, but we don’t want to show His love to others because of how we feel about them. However, we need to remember 2 Peter 3:9 that reminds us, “This means that, contrary to man’s perspective, the Lord is not late with his promise to return, as some measure lateness. But rather, his “delay” simply reveals his loving patience toward you, because he does not want any to perish but all to come to repentance.” God doesn’t want anyone to perish. That means you and I need to open the gates and let everyone through to Him. Even the people you don’t think deserve forgiveness.

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Be A Blessing

I was talking with someone recently about how incomes have fluctuated during the pandemic. Some people’s income increased and many’s decreased. They were saying how theirs decreased, but they wanted to maintain their giving level through their season of having less money. They were following a Biblical principle of giving. No matter how much or how little we have, we are to give to God and others. I cant help but think of the widow’s mites. We don’t get to see the blessing side of her story, just the obedience side. I believe God opened the windows of Heaven and blessed her because she continued to give and bless others no matter how little she had.

Here are some Bible verses on blessing others through giving.

1. Do not neglect to do good, to contribute [to the needy of the church as an expression of fellowship], for such sacrifices are always pleasing to God.

Hebrews 13:16 AMP

2. The generous man [is a source of blessing and] shall be prosperous and enriched, And he who waters will himself be watered [reaping the generosity he has sown].

Proverbs 11:25 AMP

3. For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy, and to your poor in your land.”

Deuteronomy 15:11 AMP

4. When you are generous to the poor, you are enriched with blessings in return.

Proverbs 22:9 TPT

5. Take advantage of every opportunity to be a blessing to others, especially to our brothers and sisters in the family of faith!

Galatians 6:10 TPT

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