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Control Yourself

When we get stressed, there is something in us that tries to start taking control of everything. Our brains don’t like chaos. When those times arise, our need to try to control everything around us kicks in to try to bring order. Some of us feel that need all the time. We want to have as much control of the things around us as possible. The problem with both is that it gives a false sense of security. I used to have a boss that would say, “Control the controllables.” They we’re talking about external things, but what I’ve realized is that the main thing I need to learn to control is my self.

The fruit of the Spirit in your life is not control. It’s self control, yet somehow we try to pervert that into trying to control everything but ourselves in order to control ourselves. There will always be chaos around us. There will always be things out of order. We can’t control those things. We can only control how we react. The Holy Spirit living in us helps us to have self control in those situations. It’s not just about saying no to temptation. It’s about how I react to the affects of sin around me. Instead of trying to control everything else around us to give us peace, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to take over and to produce the fruit of self control in your life.

Here are some Bible verses on self control.

1. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Galatians 5:22-23 NLT

2. For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7 GNT

3. For this very reason, applying your diligence [to the divine promises, make every effort] in [exercising] your faith to, develop moral excellence, and in moral excellence, knowledge (insight, understanding), and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, steadfastness, and in your steadfastness, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly affection, and in your brotherly affection, [develop Christian] love [that is, learn to unselfishly seek the best for others and to do things for their benefit]. For as these qualities are yours and are increasing [in you as you grow toward spiritual maturity], they will keep you from being useless and unproductive in regard to the true knowledge and greater understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:5-8 AMP

4. A person without self-control is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out.

Proverbs 25:28 MSG

5. A [shortsighted] fool always loses his temper and displays his anger, But a wise man [uses self-control and] holds it back.

Proverbs 29:11 AMP

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Simple Obedience

Do you remember when you were told to clean your room? What did you do? You probably went in there and thought of ways to not do it. After a long time contemplating, you decided to either shove everything under the bed or put it in the closet. When your room is checked, you didn’t fool anyone. The shelves and boxes where your things should have been are still bare. Your closet gets opened and your sheets pulled back exposing your lack of obedience.

Sure the floor is free of clutter, but you didn’t do what was asked. You didn’t clean your room. You merely rearranged it without putting things where they belonged. In your mind, you think you obeyed, but deep down you know what you did was an act of defiance. You try to argue your case by using technicalities, but you don’t get very far. What you’ve done is caused more work for yourself and lost more time because you have to do it over the right way.

Saul was like that. He got specific instructions from God on what to do, but somehow put the toys in the closet every time. He obeyed, but didn’t. Each time he had an excuse for doing what he did. God finally had enough and Samuel called him out on it. In I Samuel 15:22-23 Samuel said to Saul, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as king” (NLT).

Each of us struggle with simple obedience for some reason. God gives us simple instructions, but somehow we complicate them. God is looking for us to simply obey what He’s asked us to do. Anything other than obeying His call on your life is an act of rebellion in His eyes. Whatever He’s called you to do, you need to do. Wherever He’s called you to go, you need to go. Whatever He’s called you to say, you need to say. Don’t find ways to put they toys in the closet. Do what He’s asked willingly and with a good attitude and your life will be fulfilled like never before.

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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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Embracing Limitations

I remember first hearing about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” when I was young. There was debate on whether it was a physical handicap that happened to him or a person who heckled him everywhere he went or something else. I don’t God told us what it was because we don’t need to know. I know it’s fun to speculate, but whatever it was it humbled him and limited his effectiveness in his mind. We know that he was surprised that after asking God three times to remove whatever it was that God didn’t remove it. God allowed whatever it was to bother him or limit him to continue so that Paul would be humble and learn to rely on God’s strength and wisdom instead of his own.

Think of something in your life that is happening or has happened that bothers you or feels like it’s limiting you. It probably consumes a lot of your thinking of how to get rid of it or to escape it. Has it caused an increase in your prayer life? Has it caused you to depend on and seek God more? If it has, then what looks like a curse, may actually be a blessing in disguise. I know it’s hard to look at something annoying or painful in our life and to see that as a blessing, but anything that draws us into a closer relationship and dependence on God is a blessing though it may not seem like it at the time. We like having an easy life and smooth sailing, but those things don’t produce mature believers. They produce overconfidence in our own abilities. One of my favorite quotes is that smooth seas never produced a skilled sailor.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says, “then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become” (MSG). Learning to take our limitations in stride is hard, but necessary in our maturity. Difficult things happen to everyone. How we respond matters. We can get angry and depressed or we can let them push us into greater dependence on God and His grace.

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Listening For God

Each year on President’s Day, the pastor of the Church I grew up in would take the men on a day of prayer and fasting. I remember when I was finally old enough to go and got to go on my first trip. Several men from the church had a deer lease not far from town, and that’s where we went. Our day was very structured. There were times of teaching, we would go get alone in the woods, return to discuss and then hear another teaching. On this particular trip, the teachings were about hearing God’s voice. On one of the prayer times, we were instructed to go into the woods, speak a few words of prayer and then listen. That was the first time I heard God speak. I wasn’t sure it was Him until we came back to share and several others had heard the same thing.

I like how my current pastor describes hearing God’s voice. The next time you’re in an auditorium, listen for the air conditioner. When it gets quiet in there, you can hear it. The sound is there all the time, but it’s only when you’re quiet enough and listening for it that you hear it. Too many times, we miss hearing God’s voice because we’re too loud and our lives are filled with peripheral noise. There’s a reason God said in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” When are we ever still anymore? When do we ever go to where it’s quiet and there aren’t any distractions? We’ve grown accustomed to noise so much that our minds crave it. We turn on the radio when we get in the car. We turn on the TV when we walk in the house. We create our own noise without even thinking, and we’re doing it at the expense of hearing God’s voice.

Psalm 81:13-14 says, “O that my people would once and for all listen to me and walk faithfully in my footsteps, following my ways. Then and only then will I conquer your every foe and tell every one of them, ‘You must go!’” (TPT) God is constantly speaking to each of us. He’s not silent, but He is quiet. He’s begging us to once and for all stop and listen so we can go where He’s called us and to follow where He’s leading. In John 10:27 Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (NLT). How can you know His voice or even follow it if you aren’t listening? It’s time to find a place away from the noise in our lives, to put down our phones and to listen to what God is saying. He’s speaking to you this very moment. Are you listening?

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3 Ways To Victory

In 2 Chronicles 20, a huge army was headed to Jerusalem to destroy Israel. Jehoshaphat, who was king, was terrified and didn’t know what to do. They were unprepared to face an army this large. He did three things we need to do when we’re under attack or overwhelmed by what’s going on. He decided to seek God’s help first. He asked the people around him to start fasting and called a prayer meeting like he had read about from the kings of old. In verse 12 he prayed, “O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help” (NLT). When you feel powerless and don’t know what else to do, pray, seek God’s guidance and get some close friends to pray with you.

As they were praying, the Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there and he began to prophesy. In verse 15 he said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” He then encouraged the people to show up for the battle and then God would fight for them. God always expects us to act first. Our acts of faith activate His provision. These men had to go out dressed for battle against an army that was larger, and trust that God would do His part. God expects the same thing out of us. We have to step out in faith, do what God asks of us and He will do His part. Remember, the battle is not yours, but you still must show up.

Finally, the king consulted people around him and they suggested that the army sing praises to God. They put worshippers out front who led them in singing as they headed for the battlefield. Verse 22 says, “At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves.” The very moment you begin to praise, God begins to move. Praise invites God’s presence into your present situation. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve fought battles through praise. Praising God in the middle of your battle is a way of confirming that the battle is the Lord’s. If praise can set Paul and Silas free in a dungeon, it can set you free in the battle you’re going through. Remember , our battles are not against flesh and blood, though they present themselves that way. Fight on your knees and with your praise. Battles are first won in the spiritual realm before they are won in the physical realm.

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Meditating On Scripture

When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I was told meditating was bad. New age philosophies had become the new rage as people centered themselves through thoughts. It took me a while before I understood that meditating on God’s Word was a good thing. At that time, I was still reading the Bible to check a Christian box that God wanted me to check. Reading a chapter a day was more like a chore than anything else. As I got older, I changed how I approached the Bible. I pray before and during my time of reading to open my heart and my understanding. I also read until I hear God speaking to me through it. Sometimes it’s the first verse, and other times it may be an hour or more. I don’t stop until I feel like God speaks to me through it.

Once that happens, I then begin meditating on it. Personally, I use the WORD method. I ask myself, “What is God saying in this verse to me or to others?” I meditate on that question and go through multiple scenarios. Then I Observe the keys and context of the verse. Why did God put that in the Bible? Why is it important? I then meditate on the Relevance and application of it. How do I apply it? What happens if I do? How can I help others apply it? Finally, I Declare it over my life and pray that God would help me live it out. Taking this approach to meditating on Scripture has propelled me forward in my relationship with God. When God tells us to meditate, it’s not about opening our palm and connecting our thumb with our index finger while we sit with our legs crossed. It’s about reflecting on His Word and finding out what He’s saying so we can draw closer to Him.

Here are some Bible verses on meditating.

1. Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So that I will meditate (focus my thoughts) on Your wonderful works.

Psalms 119:27 AMP

2. I will remember your great deeds, Lord; I will recall the wonders you did in the past. I will think about all that you have done; I will meditate on all your mighty acts.

Psalm 77:11-12 GNT

3. Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example], Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of scoffers (ridiculers). But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night.

Psalms 1:1-2 AMP

4. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

Joshua 1:8 NLT

5. I long for more revelation of your truth, for I love the light of your word as I meditate on your decrees.

Psalms 119:48 TPT

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A Messy Life

Sometimes it’s easy to know what the right thing to do is, but it’s very difficult to do it. In my own life, I’ve found that I’ve passed on doing the right thing because my pride got in the way. Other times I didn’t do the right thing because my flesh wanted it and I gave in. In any of those cases, I can tell you that it’s created a mess. I’ve found that when I get into a habit of choosing the wrong thing, my life becomes a mess and it takes a while to make things right.

One of things I like to tell my son is, “You know the great thing about a mess? They can always be cleaned up.” No matter how much of a mess our life can be, it can always be cleaned up. It can take years sometimes, but once we determine to add God to the equation, miracles happen. I believe that miracles are the incubators for miracles. When things look so bad that there’s no way out, He can make a way.

The person who wrote Psalm 119 was a person who made some messes in his life and didn’t want to make any more. In verse 31 they prayed, “Lord, don’t allow me to make a mess of my life, for I cling to your commands and follow them as closely as I can” (TPT). They understood that it takes prayer, knowing God’s Word and following it no matter what to keep from creating messes. If you’ve made a mess already, it can be cleaned up with God’s help and choosing to do the right thing going forward. If you want to prevent future messes, continue to follow God’s Word. It has all the instructions you need.

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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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Times Of Conditioning

I always loved it when basketball season was starting in high school. What I hated was going through conditioning for it. Coach would have us start off with stretches. We would then have to run about a mile. Once everyone was back in the gym, we began to do exercises that strengthened our core. Our legs would get wobbly around that time, but then we had to start doing drills. If you messed up, you had to take a lap around the three acre property. To wrap up practice we would run the lines, or horses as we called them. The next day, we would do it all again. Our bones ached. It hurt our muscles to go upstairs for classes. Coach would remind us, “We may not be the tallest or the fastest team, but we will be the best conditioned team.” He was right. We ran the legs off every other team straight to the State Championship.

Conditioning has a purpose with the end in mind. It hurt going through those times, especially not knowing if it was going to pay off. In 1 Samuel 30, David and his men were on the run from Saul. They were considered fugitives. They had to move out of the country and live with one of Israel’s enemies. When Israel rose up to fight that country, David and his men went to fight on behalf of the enemy. They weren’t trusted, so they were sent back to the town of Ziklag where they had been staying. As they arrived, they saw smoke rising into the sky. Another enemy came in while they were at the battle front, burned their town and captured their wives and kids. David’s men began to talk of killing him. It was a dark day for David, but it was all part of God’s conditioning for him to become king.

David kept his eyes on God instead of his circumstances. Verses 6-7 say, “David strengthened himself with trust in his GOD. He ordered Abiathar the priest, son of Ahimelech, “Bring me the Ephod so I can consult God” (MSG). David understood that sometimes God’s plan takes us through painful circumstances. It often leads us to places we don’t understand. Like David, it’s important in those seasons when everything seems to be falling apart and our closest friends are turning on us, that we strengthen ourselves in our relationship with God, and that we consult with Him. Conditioning is often very painful, but there’s a reason and a season for it. We must go through that period in order to be prepared to endure what’s ahead. God’s plan and purpose for you are good. Don’t quit when things look bleak. Trust Him more and those times of conditioning will pay off.

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Focusing On Heavenly Things

One of the things I talk to people about pretty often is dreams versus goals. All of us have dreams whether it’s a nicer house, car, job, vacation, etc. We love to dream because it’s easy. It requires nothing of us to think of what could be. What we don’t like doing is setting a goal, planning, sacrificing and working towards it. That requires focus and determination through distractions and disappointments, but it’s the only way to turn dreams into reality. I have several highly motivated friends who are wired to be goal oriented. They write them down, put them where they can see them, talk about those goals and think of ways to accomplish them. It’s hard to have a conversation with them without their goals coming up. They’re always on their mind. They don’t just dream. They do.

When I read Colossians 3:2, it reminds me of my goal oriented friends. It says, “Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value]” (AMP). When we have our mind set on something and we habitually think about it, we can’t help but move towards it. God is wanting us to not just have our mind set on things here, but to also be consumed with heavenly things. How often do you think of heavenly things throughout your day? How often do you consider what it would look like if His Kingdom were to come and His will were to be done on earth as it is in Heaven? We need to be thinking of those heavenly things first and seeking them for our world constantly.

We quote Matthew 6:31, but do we really hear what it’s saying? Read it again. Jesus said, “But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.” We need to be thinking of His Kingdom first instead of our own. It is the most important thing. We like the last part of that verse where all these things will be given to us, but the price for that is to be constantly keeping our mind habitually focused on the things above (His Kingdom). God has no problem with us working on our own goals and living the life He created us to live. However, that needs to come secondary to His Kingdom. We need to be living and thinking with eternity in mind and focused on the things God desires.

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A Cry For Love

Several years ago I read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. It caused me to realize that I was terrible at loving my spouse the way she needed to be shown love. However, it also taught me how to and gave us language to help us communicate better when we were feeling unloved. I was reminded of this book when I read a friend’s post on social media. She wrote that she, like many girls, has insecurities and wanted to be put on a pedestal by her man. She wanted to be told that he loves her and to be communicated with constantly. She completed the post by saying that sometimes we are too damaged from previous relationships and need reassurance and love more than anything. From reading that, it’s clear what her love languages are, but more than anything it’s a cry for love.

One of our greatest needs is to be loved. God put inside each of us the need to be loved, to know love and to love. Genesis says that we are made in God’s image, and 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. Part of that image that we’re made in is a love shaped hole in our life. He created us in a way that only He can fill that void and need in our life, but if we don’t look to Him to fill it, we will search elsewhere. We expect other humans to fill that void and unfortunately it’s not enough. We will always be searching for that missing part and feel like something is missing. I’ve talked to person after person who has searched in unconventional ways to try to stop that feeling of something missing only to feel like there’s something wrong with them or that they must be unlovable. Their cry for love is often silent and unseen by us.

I believe our highest priority in life is to find intimacy with God and that it will determine the course and impact of our life. We cannot truly love others or receive true love until we have received love from God. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love each other because he loved us first” (NLT). Once we know what love is, we’re more capable of loving others more fully because we have experienced true love. We know that God’s love is selfless because He loved this world so much that He gave us His one and only Son. He went to great lengths to demonstrate His love for us when we least deserved it. He heard our cry for love and responded. That void you feel, no matter how you express your cry for love and need for intimacy, is first found in Jesus. No person or thing will ever fill it. You were created to know God and find your wholeness in Him. No matter what you’ve done or what lengths you’ve gone to to fill that void, God still loves you a desires intimacy with you. He’s only a prayer away.

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