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Working In Obscurity

We live in a world where social media is driving people’s decisions. They count their worth by the number of likes they get. There’s such a burning desire and pressure to go viral that people will do anything to get noticed. As a society we’ve forgotten how to live in obscurity. We’ve forgotten that we can do things without having to record it for the rest of the world with a short video or picture. I’m not knocking social media. I use it too. I’m worried that we’re losing the abi,it’s to do things for God, others or ourselves without feeling the need to tell everyone about it. There are many great things done in secret that God rewards in secret, and many great things that have been done in public where we’ve received our reward. There are many people in the Bible who started in obscurity who went on to be famous, and some who remained in obscurity.

Gideon was trying to remain in obscurity. He was threshing wheat in the bottom of a wine press trying not to get noticed when the angel of the Lord showed up. After the angel called him a mighty man of valor, he to,d him that the Lord was with him and that he needed to go fight the Midianites. In Judges 6:15, Gideon replied, “But Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least important member of my family” (GNT). He was asking how could he do something so great since he was still in obscurity. The angel simply replied, “You can do it because I will help you.” He didn’t need to be famous or to go viral in order to do something amazing for God. He ended up going viral for following God’s plan for the battle, but it was born out of obedience and not a need to be famous.

Other people like the woman at the well did an amazing work for Jesus. She was able to tell her entire village about Jesus and to lead them to Him. The Bible doesn’t record her name. She remains in obscurity, but her work was no less valid or impactful. God doesn’t need us to go viral. He needs us to be obedient right where we are. When we’re ok with being obedient even if it means we won’t get “likes” or views or clicks, we open the door to God’s blessings (Matthew 6:1-4). When we are able to remain faithful in doing small things no matter what, He is able to trust us with greater things. We don’t have to go viral to make a significant impact on God’s Kingdom. In fact, most of the work done for God’s Kingdom is done in obscurity and unknown to others, but it is known by God and He blesses it and them. Ask God what you can be doing right now, right where you are, with what you have. Ask Him to help you make an impact even if it means no one will know.

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Your Ransom Was Paid

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The Power Of Resurrection

Several years ago, I had the incredible privilege to celebrate Good Friday at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. As I attended the sunrise service, I kept staring over at the door to the tomb. I imagined the size of the rock that once covered that entrance. I pictured Mary weeping just a few feet away. I wondered what direction Peter and John came running from. It was surreal to be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus by the tomb that once held Him. As the sun came up, my mind turned its attention to the Angels who were there and the message they gave to all who came to that place.

Mark 16:6 records them as saying, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!” All of christianity hinges on that last statement. 1 Corinthians 15:14 says, “If Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. (NLT)” Jesus didn’t come just to die. He came to rise again. He wasn’t just going to be crucified for our sins, He was going to be raised from the dead to give us life. His resurrection brought life where Adam’s sin brought death. Jesus defeated the power of death the moment He burst out of that tomb.

In Luke 24:5, the Angels asked the women, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?” Jesus had told them He would be raised on the third day, so why were they visiting the borrowed tomb with spices to embalm Him? They were looking for a crucified Jesus instead of a resurrected Jesus. Their message goes out to us today. Quit looking for the right thing in the wrong place. Our Lord was crucified, but He rose from the dead. You don’t have to go to a tomb to find Him. He left the place of the dead so that He could walk with you today among the living.

The final thing I thought about as I sat there came from Mark 16:7. The angel said, “Now go tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.” My favorite part is where he said, “including Peter”. After Peter denied Jesus, I’m sure he no longer felt like a disciple. I’m sure he was beating himself up for the mistake he made. The Angels wanted to make sure he knew that he was still loved and considered by God as a disciple. They sent him a clear message that he was forgiven no matter what he did.

Too many times we beat ourselves up over sins we have committed. We keep ourselves from the grace that has been given to us. While Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for your sin, His resurrection gives you new life after it. You can put your name in that message where Peter’s name is. The Angels are speaking to you too, they are saying you are loved, you are forgiven and Jesus is waiting for you. All He’s asking is that you trust the power of the resurrection, that you leave the cemetery of your past and that you move ahead to the new life where He is leading you.

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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Foundation Of Faith

One of the ways that my wife and I define success as parents is if our son grows up to follow Jesus. Each of us were given a heritage of faith. Like. A baton in a race, it’s been handed down from one generation to the next. I was in my twenties when I first recognized that godly heritage for what it is. I remember reaching out to my parents and grandparents to thank them for investing in my foundation of faith. I was taken to church every time the doors were opened whether I wanted to go or not. I was given the gift of a Christian school education as well where teachers poured into that foundation. Now, we are doing the same thing for our son. We explain to him why we believe what we believe and partner with family, friends, church and teachers to build a foundation of faith in him so that it doesn’t stop with us.

Throughout the first few books of the Bible, as God gives Moses and His people the Law and the Commandments, he reminds him that these are not just for them. God specifically asks them to teach them to their children. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “Never forget these commands that I am giving you today. Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working” (GNT). He didn’t just tell them to let them learn about them at church or school. It was the parents responsibility to daily pour into the children’s foundation of faith. It was up to them to talk about them all the time and to explain to their kids the great things God has done for them in their life and throughout history.

In one of my last conversations with my mom before she died, she recounted every time God answered her prayers from the time she was a little girl until that day. After what seemed like hours, she looked at me and said, “God has been faithful all my life. Whether He chooses to heal me or not, I have peace because I trust Him.” It was one of the most impactful conversations we ever had. As she was dying, she was continuing to pour into my foundation so that I would continue the family’s legacy of faith. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first generation Christian or fifth, our responsibility is to pass the baton of faith to the next generation. I once heard someone say that Christianity is only one generation from extinction. Don’t let it end with you. Give your kids the gift of a foundation of faith.

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Faithful To The Fundamentals

Watching the March Madness college basketball tournament reminds me of the days when I played basketball. There was always excitement on game day, and a bit of nervousness too. When we would play in the opponent’s gym, sometimes they would have a rowdy crowd. When you’re shooting free throws, and the crowd is doing everything they can to disrupt you to make you miss, you rely on muscle memory to make the shot. Muscle memory is developed in practice when the fundamentals are poured into you and repeated over and over. You do the same routine over and over so your brain isn’t distracted by the craziness on game day. So, when you’re standing there on that line, you remember what you’ve been taught and practiced and make the shot.

In 2 Timothy 3, Paul let’s Timothy know that crazy, difficult days are ahead. He said, “People will be selfish, greedy, boastful, and conceited; they will be insulting, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, and irreligious; they will be unkind, merciless, slanderers, violent, and fierce; they will hate the good; they will be treacherous, reckless, and swollen with pride; they will love pleasure rather than God; they will hold to the outward form of our religion, but reject its real power. Keep away from such people” (2 Timothy 3:2-5 GNT). That sounds an awful lot like world we are living in now. There are so many distractions around us, and so many things trying to divide the Church. There’s pressure to leave the fundamentals of Christianity because it is opposed to all these things listed, which have been normalized. With all of this going on, it would be easy for us to miss the shot right in front of us. That’s why Paul told us what to do during these times.

In verse 14, he wrote, “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you” (NLT). We must hold onto the eternal truth of God’s Word. While the world is trying to move the boundary markers of truth, we must hold fast to what is real truth. The fundamentals of faith are what we must hold tightly too and implement into our lives. Romans 12:2 reminds us not to conform to the culture of the world, but to continuously renew our minds. How do we renew our mind? By putting the truth of God’s Word into it daily so we can combat what the world is throwing at us. We are not to change God’s Word to fit into our culture. Instead, we are to be changed by God’s Word so that we stand out in this culture in order to lead people to Christ. We have a great opportunity to remain faith to God’s fundamentals.

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An “I Will” Attitude

One of my favorite shows is Alone. They take ten people, put them in a hostile environment with ten items and have them survive until everyone taps out. It appeals to me for many reasons, but one of my favorite parts is when the contestants have been alone and hungry for about 30 days. There is a huge psychological battle every contestant faces as they document themselves on this journey. Some grow to hate the location, the hunger, the isolation and the constant struggle for food and water. Then there are others who are in a similar location a few miles away that get ahold of the negative thoughts and begin speaking positive words instead. In every case, the ones who continue to speak negatively tap out of the contest. The one who can continue to find positive things through the struggle is the one who wins.

I’m not sure there’s another person in the Bible besides Jesus who suffered more than Paul. He was imprisoned multiple times in jails that were dark, nasty and had no humanitarian standards for prisoners. He was shipwrecked, beaten to a pulp many times, dragged out of cities, lied about, stoned, robbed, left for dead and abandoned. The things he went through, many of us couldn’t survive. However, Paul kept preaching the Gospel, writing letters and encouraging others through it all. My favorite story is when he was in a dungeon of a prison, bleeding and hungry, and he starts singing praises to God for all to hear. No matter how bad things were, he found a way to praise and refocus his attention on God instead of his circumstances.

David was a lot like him too. In Psalm 34:1-2 David penned, “I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart” (NLT). He didn’t say, “I want to praise the Lord at all times.” He was saying, “I will,” as in he’s not going to give his mind the choice to do anything else. Do you have have an “I will praise the Lord at all times” attitude? You need to decide that attitude ahead of your circumstances, but even if you’re in the middle of hard times now, you can choose it. Praising God doesn’t change your circumstances, it changes you in the middle of them. It strengthens you and puts your focus on the One who is greater than what you’re facing. If you haven’t chosen to praise the Lord at all times, do it today and put it into practice. He deserves to be praised in the good times and the bad.

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Your Actions Matter

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Embracing Your Brokenness

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Spiritual Investing

I’ve been reading a lot of news on the stock market lately. There was the rise and fall of Game Stop stock where a group of people decided to invest in it to drive the price up in order to stick it to some Wall Street people. Bitcoin has surged after taking a nose dive a couple of years ago. Investors have been on a wild ride lately. Some keep predicting that this is a bubble and it will pop at some point. Others who have never invested are jumping in trying to get rich quick by taking advantage of buying a low stock in hopes that it will have explosive growth. Others are in it for the long haul knowing their investments will increase slowly and steadily over time. The one constant is that if you don’t invest, you won’t have the opportunity to grow your money in that system.

Sometimes we get wrapped up in this world’s economy trying to make our lives better that we forget God has an economy too. We all have the opportunity to invest in it as well. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus said, “Don’t keep hoarding for yourselves earthly treasures that can be stolen by thieves. Material wealth eventually rusts, decays, and loses its value. Instead, stockpile heavenly treasures for yourselves that cannot be stolen and will never rust, decay, or lose their value. For your heart will always pursue what you esteem as your treasure” (TPT). It doesn’t say don’t seek or make money. It says don’t hoard it or store it up. You can invest those treasures in the heavenly economy by putting them to use for Kingdom purposes.

1 Timothy 6:18-19 says, “Remind the wealthy to be rich in remarkable works of extravagant generosity, willing to share with others. These spiritual investments will provide a beautiful foundation for their lives and secure for them a great future, as they lay their hands upon the meaning of true life.” Giving is a spiritual investment in the heavenly economy. I realize this verse is talking to the rich, but each of us have the opportunity to invest in heavenly treasures. God’s principle of giving works whether you invest a little or a lot. When you give, it will be given unto you. Giving is simply showing God that you don’t value the earthly economy over the heavenly one. It’s a way to show Him you can be faithful over a little so He can trust you with a lot. There are lots of ways to give and invest in His economy. This life is a vapor, but heaven will be for eternity. Invest wisely.

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The Welcoming Committee

Several years ago I was traveling for work. I had been working in this town back to back for a few weeks when I remembered that one of my friends said he would often visit different churches on Wednesday nights when he traveled. I had heard a pastor on the radio and decided to visit his church that Wednesday. I pulled into the parking lot and parked in the visitor space. For some reason, I was a bit nervous, but I got out of the car and started following where people were headed. I chickened out at the doors. I stood there for about ten minutes watching people walk past, but none greeted me. After no one else was coming, I slipped into the empty lobby and looked into the sanctuary. Everyone was seated at round tables of eight. As I debated whether to go in, more people opened the doors and went in without acknowledging me. After a few minutes, I got back in my car and went to my hotel.

If you know me, this doesn’t sound like me at all. I’ve never met a stranger, but that night I felt invisible and unwelcome. For 15-20 minutes people walked past me, saw me and ignored me. It was clear to my mind that they weren’t ready to receive me or any other visitors. It bothers me when people aren’t acknowledged or welcome at a church. If there is anywhere in the world where anyone should feel comfortable, it’s at church. Anyone who attends church is a representative of God and who He is. When people feel invisible to us, they feel invisible to God. When they feel unwelcomed by us, they feel unwelcomed by God. How many people walk in and out of our church each week feeling unwelcomed, unloved and invisible? It’s not just the usher’s and greeter’s responsibility. It’s all of ours.

Psalm 100:5 in The Passion Translation says, “For Yahweh is always good and ready to receive you. He’s so loving that it will amaze you— so kind that it will astound you!” If God is ready to receive us, we should be ready to receive others. There are people who come to church with the fear that if they go inside, the walls are going to cave in because of the life they live. The truth is, the Church was built to rescue them. It’s God’s kindness that leads people to repentance, and each week, we have the opportunity to show that kindness to people who attend our churches. It may not feel comfortable to you to show that kindness, or to show them we’re ready to receive them, but as people who bear His name, it’s each of our responsibility to do it. Do something different this Sunday. Look for someone who feels out of place and nervous, say hello and welcome them in. Your kindness could make an eternal difference. You are God’s welcome committee.

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