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A Grateful Heart

As we were headed somewhere, my son, who was in the backseat, out of the blue asks, “Dada, who is your favorite leper?” I said, “You know, I haven’t given it that much thought. Who is yours?” He replied, “The one who praised God and went back to thank Jesus.” Then he asked, “Why didn’t the other nine who were healed go back and to thank Jesus for healing them?” I replied, “That’s the same question Jesus had, but we weren’t given the answer to.” He thought for a second then said, “We should always thank God when He answers prayers.”

He’s right, but many times, we forget. For many of us, what is urgent right now is what gets all of our energy and attention. Once it’s taken care of, we move to the next most urgent thing. For those 10 lepers, the most urgent thing was to be healed before the leprosy claimed their lives. Because it was considered “unclean” and contagious, the people who had it were cut off from family, friends and society. It was a lonely disease where everyone avoided you. So once these people got Jesus’ attention and their healing, they were ready to rejoin their families. Only one felt his most urgent need was to go back and give thanks.

Luke 17:15 says, “One of them, a foreigner from Samaria, when he discovered that he was completely healed, turned back to find Jesus, shouting out joyous praises and glorifying God” (TPT). The Bible records many healings Jesus performed, but this story records someone giving thanks for their answered prayer. Gratitude is a godly quality we could all get better at. When we look back at our life, we can see many times God has answered our prayers. Can we also see moments of gratitude like this leper’s? Take time today to thank God for all He’s done for you. You’ll find that the more you grateful you are, the more you’ll have to be grateful for.

Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash

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Your Access Privileges

Because of my status with a certain hotel chain, whenever I travel, I get access to a concierge lounge. Every morning they serve a free hot breakfast that other guests can’t get. In the evenings, they serve hors d’oeuvres and desserts. Many times this lounge is in full view of other guests, but it’s behind a locked door that only certain guests’ keys can access. I’m often asked what you have to do to get access to that room. I let them know that it’s reserved for those who are loyal to that brand and stay a ton of nights a year with that hotel chain. While this lounge is great, there are many times when I’m so busy that I don’t take advantage of it.

As Christians, you and I have access to so much that God has to offer. He has given us privileges and rights that can only be accessed by those who have faith and rely on the grace of His Son Jesus. Sadly, many of us struggle through life without taking advantage of these benefits reserved for us. Sometimes it’s because we don’t spend time in prayer, other times it’s because we haven’t read the Bible enough to know what’s available and sometimes we don’t see ourselves as worthy of these gifts. Today, begin to seek God for these benefits that He has promised us access to. There’s more that God has for you if you’ll believe.

Here are some Bible verses on things we have access to.

1. Now we’re no longer living like slaves under the law, but we enjoy being God’s very own sons and daughters! And because we’re his, we can access everything our Father has—for we are heirs of God through Jesus, the Messiah!

Galatians 4:7 TPT

2. Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.

1 Corinthians 1:4-6 MSG

3. And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.

Matthew 16:19 MSG

4. This is in accordance with [the terms of] the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him [that is, our faith gives us sufficient courage to freely and openly approach God through Christ].

EPHESIANS 3:11-12 AMP

5. Our faith guarantees us permanent access into this marvelous kindness that has given us a perfect relationship with God. What incredible joy bursts forth within us as we keep on celebrating our hope of experiencing God’s glory!

Romans 5:2 TPT

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Standing Out

Have you ever felt out of place? I did earlier this week. Some co-workers and I went to eat lunch at a place on the beach. After lunch, we decided to walk down a long fishing pier. The beach below was crowded with people swimming and sun tanning. The pier was full of people dressed similarly, but had fishing poles in their hands. The four of us walked down the pier in our dress shirts, ties, slacks and dress shoes. To say people took double takes would be an understatement.

It was hot. We were sweating. We kept walking all the way to the end of the pier though. As people stared, we politely smiled and acted as though we belonged. No matter how much we pretended, we just didn’t. We didn’t have the right attire on for the beach. We didn’t have the right mindset for the beach. We were business minded men in a crowd full of vacationers.

As a Christian, that’s how we’re supposed to be in this world. We are to stand out and to be different. I love how the Message phrases Romans 12:2. It says, “Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” At the beach, the culture is dress down, relax and have a good time. We were not well adjusted to that culture. Our presence was noticed by everyone.

Living for Christ in this world is like wearing a suit at the beach. You’re going to stand out. You’re supposed to stand out. In the same passage in Matthew 5 where Jesus calls us to be salt and light, He says, “Let your good deeds shine for all to see, so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father.” We’re not different just to be different. There’s a purpose to it. That purpose is to draw other to the cross. They should see a difference in our lives versus the lives that live according to the culture of the world so we can reach them.

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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.

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Stronger Faith

When life gets tough, do you let it push you closer to God or farther away from Him? I’ve had it do both. There have been times in my life where I desperately wanted God to show up and answer prayers, and to me it felt like He remained silent. I became upset with Him and decided I wasn’t going to ask Him for anything again. Another time, I was far away from Him, and when things got bad, I turned to Him to survive. My faith became the foundation on which I rebuilt my life. In both incidents, events in my life were more than I could handle.

Each of us go through difficulties. Each of go through times where our faith is all we have left. How do you respond in those moments? Do you tell God you’ll never ask Him for anything again because He didn’t answer? Do you have faith God will see you through when there’s no visible path forward? Faith is all about trusting God in life’s most difficult moments. It’s easy to have faith when you don’t have to use it. But what about those moments when it’s all you have left?

James 1:12 gives us a promise from God that says, “If your faith remains strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God!” (TPT) When we hold onto our faith in those periods where it’s all we have left, we experience a depth of God’s grace we’ve never known existed. We also get to know a God more intimately because our relationship deepens in those times. When God is all you have left, your faith has the ability to grow. These times are not designed to crush you or push you away from God. Rather let them do the work of deepening your faith and relationship with God.

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Useful Service

When I first started working for my boss, he asked me, “What do I need to know about you to be an effective leader for you?” I replied, “I hate busy work. I don’t like doing things for the sake of doing them. I’m happy to do anything productive if there’s a reason for it. I don’t want to put my effort and energy into something only to be told later, ‘Thanks for doing that. We don’t really need this right now, but one day we might.’” I tend to think that all of want to do something that has purpose and meaning.

When you think about the work you do for the Lord, do you see it as meaningful or busy work? As a person who leads volunteers at a church, I sometimes get people who want the spotlight jobs. Holding a sign for people walking by, or opening a door or picking up trash around the parking lot can seem insignificant to them. To me, nothing you do for the Lord is insignificant. All of us have a role to fill. All of us joined together doing our part, no matter how small it feels, is what makes the Body of Christ work. Preaching can only be effective if there are people in the seats listening. The rest of the teams who serve are the ones that make sure people are parked, feel welcomed and find the sanctuary effortlessly.

1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Keep busy always in your work for the Lord, since you know that nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless” (GNT). No matter how big or small you feel your work for the Lord is, it is never useless. Don’t do it for the spotlight or so that others will praise you. Do it as work for the Lord because that’s what it is. God has called each of us to play a role in building His Kingdom. The approval of others is not what makes your work significant. The fact that you keep doing it for the Lord, even when no one seems to notice, is what matters. Don’t give up. Your Father in Heaven sees and will reward you when the time is right.

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Expect Great Things

A few years ago, a video went viral of a man who was terrified to touch a teddy bear. They had blindfolded him and made him think he was on a show like Fear Factor. When he got the courage to put his hand in the plexiglass box, his fingers brushed up against the teddy bear. He squealed and yanked his hand out. For about two minutes he kept trying to reach in, but his fear was overwhelming. When he finally takes the blindfold off, he realizes it’s just a teddy bear, laughed, then grabbed it and spiked it on the ground. Everyone around him was laughing because he was too afraid to pick up a teddy bear.

It was easy for us to laugh at that because we weren’t the one blindfolded. Everyone else could see and knew he wasn’t in any danger. That’s kind of how Faith works. We’re blindfolded and can’t see. God is asking us to trust Him, but too often we are terrified. Our minds psych us out and we start freaking out. When we take a tiny step of faith and we experience something we aren’t anticipating, we squeal and pull back. All the while, God is saying, “Would you just trust me?”

In Matthew 9, two blind men were following Jesus calling out to Him for healing. Jesus asked if they believed He could heal blind eyes, and they said yes. Verse 29 says, “Then Jesus put His hands over their eyes and said, ‘You will have what your faith expects!’” (TPT) I believe He is still saying that to us today. Don’t let your mind expect the worse and create fear of what God is going to do. Expect God, who is good, to give you what you need. You don’t have to be terrified of what He has for you. Expect great things from Him because He gives good gifts.

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The Waiting Process

To be honest, I’ve always wanted God to operate on my time instead of His. Wouldn’t life be much easier if He did? There would be no waiting for the answer, no stress of things coming down to the last minute and no panicking that it might not happen this time. If only God would answer my prayers when I want Him to, that would be amazing, but it wouldn’t involve faith. Without the pressure of getting to the point that if God doesn’t answer things will go badly, there’s no growth in who we are as people. We are refined in the waiting process and our strength is increased. God doesn’t make us wait for the sake of waiting, He’s growing our faith.

David, who was a man after God’s own heart, was good at waiting. He understood that God knows better than we do and His timing is perfect. He didn’t try to make things happen when God slowed them down. He simply went through the process, trusted God and he was rewarded for it. Admittedly it’s no fun to be in the place of waiting. David had to live in caves and be on the run before he could live in the palace. God used that time to grow him into the best king he could be. Imagine what God is doing in you as you wait.

Here are some Bible verses David wrote about waiting on God.

1. My strength is found when I wait upon you. Watch over me, God, for you are my mountain fortress; you set me on high!

Psalms 59:9 TPT

2. Listen to my cry for help, my God and king! I pray to you, O Lord; you hear my voice in the morning; at sunrise I offer my prayer and wait for your answer.

Psalm 5:2-3 GNT

3. I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.

Psalms 40:1 NLT

4. Wait passionately for GOD, don’t leave the path. He’ll give you your place in the sun while you watch the wicked lose it.

Psalm 37:34 MSG

5. Wait for and confidently expect the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for and confidently expect the LORD.

PSALM 27:14 AMP

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