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Remembering God’s Benefits

I used to work for a very large company, and change was part of the daily narrative. I would tell employees on their first day that if they didn’t like change, they weren’t going to like it there. Most of the changes they made were good, but there were times when the changes weren’t met with enthusiasm. Employee morale would dip during those times so I would do an exercise with groups. I would take an easel chart and ask the group, “What are some benefits you enjoy with this company?” One after the other the benefits would be called out and my chart would be full. I would remind them there there are still a lot of benefits available to them. Then I would ask for examples of changes that the company had made that turned out to be the right choice later. I reminded them that the leaders are looking at the big picture, and while we don’t understand the change, we can know that they’ve done well in the past and still offer a lot of benefits.

We’re living in a time of change right now. The old normal has gone and morale is getting low. It’s a good time for us to stop and reflect on the benefits God gives us as Christians. I can think of a few like: peace, comfort, hope, life abundant, power, love and a sound mind. Take a moment right now and think about what you would add to this list. What benefits has God promised us? Also, think back over your life. Look for how the hand of God has been on you and guided you through the toughest times. In those moments you probably couldn’t see Him, but looking back, you can now see that He has never forsaken you, nor abandoned you. He’s not going to start today. You are blessed beyond measure and serve the God who is our anchor of hope in troubled times.

Here are some Bible verses on God’s benefits.

1. If the only benefit of our hope in Christ is limited to this life on earth, we deserve to be pitied more than all others! But the truth is, Christ is risen from the dead, as the firstfruit of a great resurrection harvest of those who have died. For since death came through a man, Adam, it is fitting that the resurrection of the dead has also come through a man, Christ. Even as all who are in Adam die, so also all who are in Christ will be made alive. But each one in his proper order: Christ, the firstfruits, then those who belong to Christ in his presence.

1 Corinthians 15:19-23 TPT

2. But now, as God’s loving servants, you live in joyous freedom from the power of sin. So consider the benefits you now enjoy—you are brought deeper into the experience of true holiness that ends with eternal life!

Romans 6:22 TPT

3. Each believer is given continuous revelation by the Holy Spirit to benefit not just himself but all.

1 Corinthians 12:7 TPT

4. God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.

1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT

5. Bless and affectionately praise the LORD, O my soul, And do not forget any of His benefits; Who forgives all your sins, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you [lavishly] with lovingkindness and tender mercy; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the [soaring] eagle.

Psalms 103:2-5 AMP

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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Incomplete Masterpieces

Impatient. That’s a word that can often be used to describe me. Even though I know that something like an oil painting requires a lengthy process, I want it done quickly. But you can’t do that with oils. You paint a color at a time in an area and let it dry for a few days. You then add some more. Oil paintings require time and patience if you want an excellent piece. I always want it to look like a Rembrandt, but I’m not willing to go through the process. As I look at his work, I imagine the time it took him to create those masterpieces and am in awe of the finished product.

Our lives are not much different than his masterpieces. To become the complex work of art that God has planned for each of us, we must go through a lengthy process. We can easily get impatient wondering if God will ever finish what He started. Sometimes He adds color to our life, then puts the paintbrush down while it cures. We want the whole picture quickly, but masterpieces aren’t created in a day. They must submit to the process.

David could have easily been as impatient as I am. Imagine this: he had been anointed king, yet he had to go back to tending sheep. He had slayed a giant, but he still had to do his chores at home. Even though God had called and anointed him as king, he still had to submit to the process to become the masterpiece that God wanted him to become. He could have killed Saul several times, but he understood that would have interfered with the process, so he trusted God.

In Psalm 138:8 he wrote, “The Lord will work out His plans for my life” (NLT). He understood what we need to understand. God is the one working things out in our lives, not us. When we get impatient and interfere, we mess with the masterpiece He’s creating. He is the artist and we are the canvas. If you’re in the process of waiting right now, don’t become impatient. God is still working out His plan. The brush may be set down right now, but He’s not finished with you. He will be faithful to complete it.

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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Trying To Be Right

Do you know anyone who loves to argue? How about someone who always has to be right? When you get two people together who love to argue and have to be right, things can get heated. I once saw a meme where a number was drawn on a paper between to people who were sitting across from each other. When one person looked at it, the number was a six. On the other side of the table, the number was a nine. Both sat there arguing over who was right. Neither was willing to get up from their seat to see the number from the other’s perspective because they were sure they were right. I think that’s the way a lot of arguments are. We’re so concerned about being right, that we fail to be concerned about the other person.

Each person who has accepted Jesus as their Lord, has begun a journey into spiritual maturity. Each one of us grow at different paces and are at different levels of maturity. From where we sit, and through the eyes of our past, we can interpret things differently. I used to get into arguments with people, trying to correct their misguided (in my opinion) ways. We would argue until we were blue in the face, but neither of us would give in. I’ve found that’s a way to lose friends and to stunt someone’s spiritual growth (including my own). Again, when I’m arguing and my focus is on being right, then it’s not on growth (mine or theirs). That’s a sign of spiritual immaturity and not what we’re called to do.

Romans 14:1-4 has a lot to say about this and how we’re to treat others. It says, “Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval” (NLT). Accepting others where they are, and understanding that we’re all at different levels of maturity, should help us to understand that our job is to promote growth in others instead of stunting it. How we treat other believers matters. When we are more concerned with growth and maturity instead of being right or trying to prove someone is wrong, we’re moving in the right direction. Quit trying to be right, and start trying to love instead.

Photo by Papaioannou Kostas on Unsplash

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Changing Your Heart

As a high I in DISC, I tend to get along well with everyone. However, there are a few people that I’ve come across, that I clash with. There’s something about them that I don’t like and they bring out the worst in me. Because I don’t like them and they don’t like me, we have an antagonistic relationship where we tend to fight, put each other down and try to harm the other person psychologically, emotionally or socially. Can you think of someone or people who bring this out in you? It’s probably not hard to do in today’s world. We’ve allowed ourselves to become divided over everything, and for whatever reason, people who see the situation differently than we do, bring out the worst in us. So many of us are walking time bombs just waiting for the right person to rub us the wrong way and boom! We go off unleashing a tirade of words and actions we’ll regret later.

In Matthew 5, Jesus was giving the Sermon On The Mount. It’s most famous for the Beatitudes that He started off with, but as He kept going, He began to challenge the way we think and live, especially our self righteous attitudes. In verses 43-45, He said, “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves” (MSG). Love your enemies? Your political ones? Your religious ones? Your social ones? Yes. And the word “love” here is the agape love. This isn’t an emotional love like you would have for a spouse or family member. This love is one where you do things for the benefit of another person, have concern for their well being and seek the best for them. He’s talking about doing that for the ones who disagree with you on every level.

I know this is hard, but it’s the lesson Jesus has been trying to get us to adopt for 2,000 years at least. Why? Because when we act in anger, we’re identifying with the fingerprint of Adam in our life instead of God’s fingerprint. He said that when we respond in love, we’re working out our true selves that were made in the image of God. Remember, it was while we were enemies of God that He gave His one and only Son. He gave us His best when we were at odds with Him and didn’t deserve it. When we look past the differences we see in those we don’t agree with or we feel are out to harm us, we will see the image, or fingerprint, of God in them. Start by praying for them, not to see things the way you do, but for their brokenness to be healed. Pray for God’s blessings on their life. As you pray for them, and seek the best for them unselfishly, you will notice a change in you and them, most notably in your heart.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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Broadcasting Seeds

If you’re like me, you’ve probably planted a small garden somewhere on your property. In the spring, we till a few rows in a box beside our house. We usually plant a few things like tomatoes, cucumbers and green beans. The garden is small and takes just a few minutes to plant the seeds. My son enjoys checking on them to see how they’re growing. After watering it for weeks and pulling weeds, we get to go pick the vegetables and eat them. The garden is so small we can usually put our daily harvests in one bowl. We then try to share it between three people so all we get is a taste. My son is always super proud of it, but each time we split the vegetables, I can’t help but be reminded of how small the garden is.

When I think about the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4, verse 4 always catches my attention. It says that he cast his seeds. That’s different than planting them one by one like we do. I looked up how farmers plant large fields, and that’s what they do. They have a mechanism that broadcasts seeds and then they cover them up. In my mind, I always thought farmers planted each individual seed with the love and tender care that we do in our garden. It’s no wonder that in the parable some fell on the path where the birds ate it, and others fell on rocky soil and some even fell among the thorn bushes. However, you have to know that a majority of those seeds fell into the good soil he had tilled. Those are the ones that produced the harvest yielding 30, 60 and 100 times more than was planted.

It’s got me to thinking about how I sow seeds in life. Am I only planting a few within a confined space or am I broadcasting them everywhere. You can’t expect a large harvest when you only plant a few seeds. Are you broadcasting seeds? Will you need the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers for the seeds you’re planting? We’re reaping small harvests because we’re planting so few seeds. Freely we have been given, so freely we must broadcast or give. There will be seeds sown in rocky places, but we can’t let that stop us from broadcasting everywhere we go. Jesus finished that parable in verse 9 by saying, “If you understand this, then you need to respond” (TPT). Now that we understand what it means to broadcast, it’s time for us to respond.

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God Has Everything

I’m taking my annual sabbatical this week, but I want to continue encouraging you through God’s Word. Here’s a devotional from Timeout With Jesus.

Everyone was having fun and amazing things happening all around us when a beautiful little rainbow appeared in the clouds. It stopped me in my tracks and I thought “WoW” everyone needs to see this awesome 🌈 that appeared in thin air! I told everyone who walked by! To my surprise, it grew stretching out over the river. It was breathtaking! When we least expect something Awesome to happen, It does! It reminds me how we need to be awake and sober minded! We need to keep our lamp full and encourage and support everyone around us.

We can trust God completely because he loves us so deeply! His power holds everything and everyone together! Genesis 1 “Let there be light” And there was light! God parted the Red Sea, Exodus 14:21 and so many more! God took down the wall of Jericho without a single hit! Joshua 6:20. He raised Lazarus from the dead after he had been buried for 4 days! The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us, whoever believes in Jesus and accepts his free gift is a child of God! We can trust God completely because he loves us so deeply!In Isaiah 40:12, (NIV) “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Proverbs 30:4, (NIV)”Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind?Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak?Who has established all the ends of the earth?What is his name, and what is the name of his son?Surely you know!

Isaiah 40:22, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” Isaiah explained in words about God’s awesome power! It is beyond our human understanding! We think we are in control but really God has everything under control! God is the same yesterday today and forever! Malachi 3:6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” In Hebrews 13:8, (NIV) “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” We can have confidence when things like the world shuts down and who knew schools would ever close down too! Yet, God opens the door for so many wonderful opportunities that only he could make possible! We can hear Him in the quiet but very loud everywhere in creation and through our sisters and brothers in Christ! He is in control and moving in a mighty way. Isaiah 40:28-29, (NIV) “Do you not know? Have you not heard?The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”I’m so thankful for everything God does for me and my family and the strength he gives me, because I cannot do anything without Him! It is only His strength in me that I can go and do what he has me do!

We can fully depend on God for our strength because He gives us everything we need to accomplish what plans he has for us! The world might not understand how it’s possible but through God everything is possible! Stand firm on Jesus and trust him even when it’s hard and confusing! As the pressures in life sneak in, keep going because through pressure, we grow as he pour into us! I’m not sure if I will see a harvest from my garden we planted, but I will keep planting and watering because I’m confident that God has only good in store for everyone including me and my family. He loves and cares for all of us deeply! I love praying scripture, Ephesians 1:17-21, (NIV) “17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” How high and how deep will we go in Jesus name to be the hands and feet we are called to be for His glory! It’s not easy to step out into the unknown but when you know God has already worked it out, peace comes in like a flood. As we live out what we believe, supporting and encouraging each other to keep going, we are living out the gospel by reaching all people. When leader come together working together as one body, our young generation will do the same! They will be drawn in by our Unity in Jesus! They are our future generation! When we all work together like Jesus taught, doors will be opened when the world tries to shut them! We are loving everyone the way Jesus loves. When we listen to the broken hearts who need to be loved! I’m so thankful! 😊 💗

Isaiah 40:28-29, “Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”
Isaiah 40:22, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.”

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Valuing The Imperishable

I’m taking my annual sabbatical this week, but want to make sure you stay encouraged by God’s Word while I’m away. Here’s a Throwback Thursday post from 2015 I wrote.

I recently went with our church’s youth group to serve an inner city mission. This ministry doesn’t just serve the needs of those who live on premises, but they also serve the community around them. We were there to help them organize, clean, do yard work, and to serve lunch. About an hour and a half before lunch, people began arriving in the lobby to wait for the food to be served. Some were individuals and some were families who needed a little help. They come each day for a meal that won’t cost them anything.

In John 6, Jesus fed 5,000 with only five loaves of bread and two fish. The people were ecstatic about the free meal, but also realized they were a part of a miracle. The next day, they went looking for Jesus, who had gone to the other side after walking on water to the boat. When they got there, Jesus called them out. In verse 26, Jesus said, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free” (MSG). People were looking for a free meal, but Jesus was wanting them to be hungry for spiritual food.

In verse 27, He said, “Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last” (MSG). The people at the mission waited a couple of hours for food that would only satisfy their hunger for a few hours. Don’t get me wrong, they needed the food and there was lots of ministry going on during the lunch, but the people went for the physical food rather than the spiritual food.

Our human nature seems to crave the perishable things of this world instead of the imperishable. You and I have to teach our minds to expend our energy and time on the things that matter for eternity. We have to re-teach our minds to value the things of God. You’ll know that you’re valuing the imperishable when you make time for things like spending time in prayer, reading God’s Word, and serving your neighbor. That’s the food that satisfies more than a few hours, and that’s worth waiting for.

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Measure Once, Cuss Twice

I’m taking my annual sabbatical this week. To keep encouraging you, I’m sharing some devotions I follow. Here’s one from David’s Daily Dose.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)

“Measure once, cuss twice,” it’s a favorite saying of Ben Napier, from the HGTV show Home Town. On the show, Ben and his wife Erin renovate properties in Laurel, Mississippi. One of the latest episodes features the Napier’s taking their old Airstream to Sunny Campers, a business that restores vintage travel trailers. It was fascinating to watch, as they described the process to Ben and Erin.

Two Airstream trailers awaiting restoration.

First, they completely clear out the inside of the trailer–all the way back to the shiny aluminum skin. As it turns out, many older Airstreams have moisture issues. They leak. A ‘full gut’ makes these clearly visible. The company then moves to the outside of the trailer, where they pull EVERY rivet, clean out seams, reseal and re-revit to make the trailer better than new.

Once everything is replaced and triple checked, it’s time for the ultimate test– the water chamber. The chamber resembles a car wash, with high press jets soaking the trailer from every direction. Everything must be leak-proof. Only after passing the water test, can the empty shell become a camper again.

Sunny Campers says the biggest mistake people make is to take an older Airstream and fix it up on the inside, without considering that it probably leaks.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7b NIV)

When it comes to dealing with the old David, I’d be satisfied with a surface remodel. God, on the other hand, prefers a frame-up restoration.

This was the story in the third chapter of John, when Nicodemus came to Jesus. He was a respected religious leader (undoubtedly a good man) but Jesus told him, “You must be born again.” (John 3:3)

Nic wanted a superficial remodel, but Christ called for a complete re-do.

Today, and everyday, may we allow the Holy Spirit to restore and test our hearts. He’ll go farther than we ever could on our own.

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart. (Proverbs 17:3 NIV)

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Rejoicing At All Times

I’m taking a sabbatical this week, but I want to continue encouraging you through God’s Word. Here’s a devotion from Devotional Treasure.

“Joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5.

And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.                                         Acts 13:52

In this morning’s reading I read about Paul and Barnabas who had travelled north from Cyprus into Pamphylia Region, they were now in Pisidian Antioch. They were well received having been invited to address the synagogue on the Sabbath. Paul preached the Good News beginning with the Old Testament; Egypt to Canaan, King Saul to King David and his descendant Jesus Christ. It was a powerful message which left the listeners wanting more. The effect on the city and surrounding region was profound, causing much jealousy from the Jewish leaders. These individuals raised a furore and drove the disciples out of town. The disciples didn’t leave grumbling though… they went rejoicing, full of the Holy Spirit.

They had seen great results from sharing the Good News of Christ, experienced opposition and been driven out of town. Yet they did not let mere circumstances dictate how they felt, their confidence came from God the Holy Spirit. Knowledge of this reassured them, filling them with joy. Paul later in his letter to the church at Philippi says “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philppians 4:4-7). 

Rejoicing is not always easy, often the trials of life drag us down. Be it personal, financial, social, health or even persecution, they all can cause real pain. The key to conquering in these circumstances is found in keeping close contact with God in prayer, seeking the Holy Spirit. Through this He will give us peace and reassurance, blowing away the dark clouds. Seeking Him brings joy in all circumstances, like a serene sunrise after the storm.

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Clarity

I’m taking my annual sabbatical this week. I want to keep encouraging you with God’s Word while I’m away though. Here’s a devotional from one of the sites I follow B Is For Blessed.

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;
Ephesians 4:17-18 NKJV

 The ice pictured here was photographed a few years ago in Alaska. It was so clean and clear because it lacked the impurities found elsewhere. Likewise, we need to get away to obtain that same sense of clarity in our mind and spirit. The chatter of people, things, and social media can cause us to forget our purpose and pull us away from the very things God tasks us to do.

There are several references in the Bible where Jesus left the crowds (and his disciples) to be alone and pray. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus stepped away from those closest to him to be alone. What’s interesting is that the disciples Jesus asked to stay up with him failed him three times that night.

Those closest to us can fail to meet our expectations as well. When we face trials, we may instinctively call other people to draw them into our troubles.

Yet, what if we choose not to solicit the sympathy and opinions of others in trying times and, instead, seek the God who sees the end from the beginning? What would change if we habitually went away—accessible to God’s ministering angels— to be strengthened for the crosses we must bear?

If Jesus had to be alone to gain peace and perspective, how much more necessary is it for us to remove ourselves and eliminate the noise of doubt and fear?

It doesn’t require a grand vacation to gain the clarity we need. Sitting alone and embracing the silence a few moments a day may be all it takes to organize our priorities. Praying in a closet or the solitude of a car can produce calm over chaos.

What could be more important than the ability to hear God and visualize His plans for our lives? What opportunities can we unlock by learning to shut out the things (or people) that steal our time and energy?

I challenge you to break away and create new routines in 2020. Put yourself in positions and places where you can abide with God. Do whatever it takes to gain the peace and perspective that will give you confidence to walk the path He has for you.

We receive salvation by grace. Yet, I’ve learned that peace of mind and clarity of purpose require effort on my part. Solitude renews my mind. Silence allows me to hear God. I’ve finally learned to sit down and be still which generates a fruitfulness that running around like crazy never produced.

Seek and hear God like never before.

What you focus on will inevitably determine what you see…

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