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Praise Break

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

I don’t know about you, but there are times I just want to spend hours praising God while listening to praise and worship music. I set my Pandora to Jesus Culture, and then let it play. I love how so many songs put words to how I feel and what I want to say to God. Right now, one of my favorites is “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons and Daughters. The part that resonates with me says, “It’s your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only.” I find myself repeating just that phrase over and over.

I learned a long time ago how important it is to be in God’s presence, especially when I’m under attack. I can find peace and clarity in times of chaos by praising God. Psalm 22 tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people. I’ve found that God shows up when I praise Him. I find that if I sing to Him, He gives me strength when I’m mentally and physically exhausted. I know i don’t sing in tune, but thankfully, He hears my heart over my pitch. He just enjoys it when we take the time to invite Him into our busy day and to praise Him.

Sometimes I feel like the psalmist in Psalm 106:2. He wrote, “Who can tell all the great things he has done? Who can praise him enough?” (GNT) Several years ago, Sonicflood sang a song called, “I Could Sing of your Love Forever”. I believe we could do that and still not be able to praise Him for all He’s done. I don’t know that we can praise Him enough. I do know that He is worthy of whatever praise we give Him because if He never did another thing for any one of us, He’s already done more for us than we deserve.

Today, I challenge you to think of things God has done for you and to praise Him for them. Make a list and watch it grow. We get so good at asking Him for things, but we rarely stop to thank Him when He does. Take time to praise God from your heart. If you don’t know what to say, search for your favorite worship song, play it, and sing along. Don’t worry if you don’t sound good to human ears. You aren’t signing for their approval. You are worshiping the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. When you do this, watch how your day changes. It’s amazing how praising God shifts our perspective and how His presence gives us peace.

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Earning Heaven

In Mark 10, there’s a man who runs up to Jesus and asks, “What do I need to do to receive eternal life?” Jesus knew his heart, so He listed off the Ten Commandments and said to obey them. The man replies back, “I’ve kept those my whole life!” Then jesus changed things up in verse 21 and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me” (GNT). The man left upset because he wasn’t willing to do that.

I’m sure you’ve heard this story a hundred times, but I want us to look at it a little differently today. One of the things I notice is that this man wanted to know what he could do to receive eternal life. We have to be careful not to think our salvation is based on anything we do. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it.” This Man was trying to figure out what boxes needed to be checked off to get to Heaven because he wanted man’s approval and not God’s.

We live in a performance based society. If you do certain things, you get promoted and make more money. We have to be very careful to not let that infect our faith. Jesus’ response to the man was reminding him, and us, that God looks at our heart, not at our works. We cannot earn salvation or favor with God By doing certain things. He loves us because of who we are. There’s nothing you or I can do to make Him love us more or less. If you are truly thankful in your heart for what Jesus did on the cross, it will show up in how you live your life.

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Listening To God

One of my daily prayers is, “Lord, help us to hear your voice more clearly, and give us the courage to do what you say.” That prayer prompted my son to say, “I’ve never heard God’s voice before. Is He speaking?” I told him that God is always speaking. It’s up to us to find a quiet place and listen. I then explained that God rarely speaks to us audibly. He usually speaks to us through the Bible or He whispers in our heart.

One of the times God spoke audibly was in 1 Samuel 3. Samuel was just a boy and lived in the Temple with Eli the priest. In the middle of the night, God called to Samuel. He thought Eli had called him, so he went into the room where Eli was sleeping to ask what he wanted. Eli told him that he hadn’t called him and sent him back to bed. This happened three times before Eli figured out what was going on. He then sent him back with instructions should he hear the voice again.

Verse 10 says, “And the Lord came and called as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel replied, ‘Speak, your servant is listening.’” As I told my son, I believe that God is always speaking to us. It’s up to each one of us to listen. Just like you have to learn to actively listen to someone, we have to purposefully listen for God’s voice. When you open the Bible, pray, “Speak, your servant is listening.” Do it when you pray as well, then give God Time to speak.

We live in such a busy world that we rarely take the time to slow down and listen. The same voice that spoke billions of galaxies into existence wants to speak to you today. Any relationship requires two way communication. God isn’t looking for someone who will follow a bunch of rules. He’s looking for someone to speak with. That’s why christianity isn’t about a bunch of regulations, even thought we’ve made it that. It’s about having a relationship. All relationships rise and fall on communication. Yours and God’s is no different.

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When God Answers Prayers

One of the stories on the Bible that speaks to me every time is in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah wasn’t able to have a child so she was ridiculed, taunted, bullied and shamed. Year after year this went on. One year she had enough. Instead of attacking her bully, she went into the Sanctuary to pray. She wept bitterly before God, crying out in prayer for a long time. As she prayed, her lips were moving, but the words were coming from her heart. She wasn’t leaving until God answered her prayer for a son.

Verse 10 says, “Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord” (NLT). One of the first questions that comes to my mind is, “When is the last time I prayed with that kind of desperation?” Most of our prayers are simple ones with little emotion. I believe one of the reasons God answered Hannah’s prayer, and will answer ours, is because it was fervent and came from deep within her soul, not just her mind.

Verse 12 says, “Hannah continued to pray to the Lord for a long time” (GNT). I’ve heard the saying, “Don’t pray until you’re through. Pray until you’ve prayed through.” This is where it is applied. Too many times, we ask God for something and when He doesn’t answer right away, we quit praying. Hannah didn’t just pray for a long time, she prayed a long time for years. God uses her internal torment to develop a life of prayer. She wasn’t going to stop until she got her answer. One of the reasons God answered her prayer, and will answer ours, is because of persistence.

After the Eli, the priest, had told her God would answer her prayer, verse 18 says, “Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad” (NLT). Hannah believed God would answer and acted accordingly. She didn’t let the years of God not answering prayer create doubt. She held onto the promise and acted in faith before God answered. She quit believing the words of the bully and held onto God’s Word instead. One of the reasons God answered her prayer, and will answer ours, is when we act in faith.

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Humble Leadership

I’ve seen a few different types of leaders. One type of leader is too good to do anything. They’ve risen through the ranks and paid their dues, so they feel there are certain things they shouldn’t have to do any more. Another leader feels that no matter how high up the totem pole they get, there is no job beneath them. They feel like it’s their duty to know the way, show the way and go the way. If they’re going to ask someone to do something, they should be willing to do it as well.

We read in the Bible where the disciples argued over who was the greatest. What they were asking was, “Besides Jesus, who’s the leader of this group?” Jesus didn’t get onto them for asking the question. He simply stated God’s idea of what leadership is in His Kingdom. You can be a leader and be humble at the same time. Humility is not saying others are better than you, it’s saying that nothing is beneath you. If you want to be a great leader, especially in God’s Kingdom, then learn to be humble.

Here’s some verses on humble leadership.

1. Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.”

Luke 22:25-26 NLT

2. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Philippians 2:5-8 MSG

3. So when He had washed their feet and put on His [outer] robe and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you are right in doing so, for that is who I am. So if I, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet as well. For I gave you [this as] an example, so that you should do [in turn] as I did to you. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”

JOHN 13:12-16 AMP

4. In the same way you younger people must submit yourselves to your elders. And all of you must put on the apron of humility, to serve one another; for the scripture says, “God resists the proud, but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time.

1 Peter 5:5-6 GNT

5. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

1 Peter 4:10 NLT

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The Law Of Grace

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

One of the things I like to tell people is that the deeper the sorrow or harder the trial, the greater amount of God’s grace you will experience. God gives us grace sufficient for our trials. When Paul was faced with a trial that God wouldn’t remove after much prayer, God spoke to him in II Corinthians 12:9. He said, “My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]” (AMP).

God gives grace, favor, strength, and mercy according to our need. He knows what we are facing and what we need in order to bear the weight of our situation. You’ve heard of Newton’s Third Law, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” To me, it is the Law of God’s Grace. For every force or trial that comes against you, there is an equal amount of Grace to support you. God gives you enough grace to enable you to stand in times of sorrow and tests.

Paul wrote about this Law of God’s Grace in Ephesians 4:7. He said, “Yet grace (God’s unmerited favor) was given to each of us individually [not indiscriminately, but in different ways] in proportion to the measure of Christ’s [rich and bounteous] gift.” Each of us receive a different portion and type of God’s grace according to our need. It is proportionate to our circumstance and is given as a free gift to us. That grace that God gives is tailor made for us because He knows what we are facing and cares for us.

The greater the trial, the greater the grace. I’ve hit rock bottom in my life, but I’ve never found the bottom of God’s grace. It is deeper than anything you or I will ever face. It will always be sufficient to your need. When you go through deep struggles, you get a glimpse of the depths of God’s grace that few people ever do. The longer you endure hardship, the longer you can remain in the crucible, the deeper your knowledge of God will be and the firmer your trust in Him will be. The Law of God’s Grace proves He will not fail you when you need Him most.

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Unselfish Love

To me, one of the scriptures taken out of context the most is 1 Corinthians 13, also known as “The Love Chapter”. It’s been used in nearly every Christian wedding, hung on the walls of our homes and quoted to people in Love about how they should love their spouse. The truth is that it has nothing to do with loving our spouse. It’s about loving people with God’s love that’s in us in order to point them to him. We can do all sorts of things for people that bring us glory, but if we don’t love them in a way that points to Him, it’s pointless.

The last verse in the chapter is probably the most recognized one, but I want to look at it in the Amplified version which adds context to the original meaning. It says, “And now there remain: faith [abiding trust in God and His promises], hope [confident expectation of eternal salvation], love [unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me], these three [the choicest graces]; but the greatest of these is love.” I believe love, in this context, is the greatest because love of this sort offers God’s grace and makes us more like Him.

The first verse in the next chapter continues Paul’s thoughts on the matter. It says, “Pursue [this] love [with eagerness, make it your goal].” That kind of love isn’t natural for most of us. It’s something we’re going to have to desire to have, and we’re going to have to pursue it. It’s going to require us to pray for it and to put it into practice in our lives until it becomes a part of who we are. To have unselfish love for others should be the goal of every one of us, especially since Jesus said we would be known for our love for one another.

Today, think about what that love likes like coming from you. What can you do to show someone God’s love? It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture that goes viral on social media. It can be a simple word of encouragement, a prayer for a friend in need, a purchased cup of coffee for the person in line behind you, a warm meal for a homeless person, or a call to someone feeling lonely. These unselfish acts of love don’t have to change the world, but if we do enough of them out of God’s love for us, it just might.

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