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Becoming Spiritually Hungry

When I was in my early twenties, I lived in Cairo, Egypt. After being there a few months, I began to get hungry for some home cooking. I reached out to my mom and she sent me some recipes so I could have a taste of what I was missing. On other occasions, a few of us would sit around and talk about what we were hungry for. Then there were rumors that a Taco Bell was opening up in a certain part of the city. I would ask around to see if it was true. I even went down there a few times to look for it. I was hungry for more than what the country offered. In the process, I found some really great places to eat, but that hunger in me grew so much that I began to plan my first meal back in the States.

Being spiritually hungry is pretty similar. It’s a desire that’s inside of you that needs to be fostered. It starts with a thought, “I wish I could experience God like that person.” It could even be the desire to know God like you once did or to feel His presence when you’re missing it. That stirring should push you to move and do something different in order to experience it. Those thoughts should challenge you to seek others who are experiencing God in a way that you never have to find out what they’re doing, how they’re studying and what they’re reading. Spiritual hunger should motivate you to fill it much like hunger in your belly does. You don’t just sit around thinking, “I’m hungry.” Chances are, you get up, go to the pantry and start digging around for something to meet that need. God wants us to dig through His Word looking for sustenance.

Proverbs 18:15 says, “The spiritually hungry are always ready to learn more, for their hearts are eager to discover new truths” (TPT). There are depths of God that you and I have yet to experience and discover. The amount we will learn and know about God is in direct proportion to how much we hunger for Him. Are you satisfied with only a snack? Are you content to stay where you are? Do you feel like you know Him enough? Challenge yourself in these areas. Stir up that hunger within you to know and experience more of Him. That’s how you grow and mature in your faith. You feed the desire to know Him more and by praying for Him to reveal more of Himself to you. It requires effort on your part to get up earlier, to stay up later, to block out distractions, to read more, to listen more and to seek more than you have. God is willing and able to satisfy your spiritual hunger, but you must be ready to learn and discover more.

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A Credible Faith

Have you ever had a boss who had no idea how to do what you do, and then tried to tell you how to do your job? I’ve had my fair share of those. Early in my career, I determined that when I rose to the rank of manager I would take it upon myself to learn each job in the store so I could better lead them and understand them. I spent a week at each position, which didn’t make me an expert, but went a long way towards being empathetic to what each team member went through. It also helped me to be able to teach them and new employees going forward. I’ve always believed credibility was a key component of leadership, and I wanted to have it.

Credibility is also a key component of faith. Think of the seven sons of Sceva. These men tried to cast out demons “in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches.” One of the demons retorted, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” (Acts 19:13-15 NIV) Those men wanted to power of Jesus name without taking time to sit at His feet. They’re not so different from so many people today. They want to bear the name of Christ without reading His Word, spending time in prayer or applying Scripture to their lives. Faith is not something you talk about, it something you must live in order to be credible talking about it.

Ezra was a good example of a credible leader. Ezra 7:10 says, “For Ezra had set his heart (resolved) to study and interpret the Law of the LORD, and to practice it and teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel” (AMP). He didn’t just read Scripture, he studied it, interpreted it and applied it. So when it came time to teach it, he was credible. God honors our faith when we take the time to study, interpret and apply what He’s told us to do. He then puts us in position to teach others and to help them grow. Your credibility comes when you move past the knowledge piece of His Word and start applying it. When you do that, you can speak with confidence and authority.

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A Worthy Life

One of the most iconic scenes from the movie “Saving Private Ryan” comes when Tom Hanks character is dying. He looks at Private Ryan and whispers with his dying breath, “Earn this.” It’s a powerful scene that leaves an indelible mark on Private Ryan’s life. The movie fast forwards to the end of Ryan’s life where’s he’s in Arlington National Cemetery and he’s reminiscing. He looks at his wife, with desperation in his voice, he tells his wife, “Tell me I’ve led a great life. Tell me I’m a good man.” His sole desire in life was to live a life worthy of the sacrifice of the men who died to save him.

You and I are called to live a life that is worthy of the sacrifice that’s been made for us. We’re to constantly keep in mind what Jesus did for us so that we live in a manner that is fitting of His name. We don’t have to do it alone though. God has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us. He has also given us a robe of righteousness through Christ so that we don’t try to earn our salvation or think our actions make us right with God. To live a worthy life is to live in a manner consistent with what’s been done for us in appreciation. We take the elements of the last supper in remembrance so that we will keep in mind the sacrifice that was made and to lead us into lives worthy of His name through God’s enabling.

Here are some Bible verses on living a worthy life.

1. So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 NLT

2. Therefore, we speak of you with pride among the churches of God for your steadfastness [your unflinching endurance, and patience] and your firm faith in the midst of all the persecution and [crushing] distress which you endure. This is a positive proof of the righteous judgment of God [a sign of His fair verdict], so that you will be considered worthy of His kingdom, for which indeed you are suffering.

2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 AMP

3. Your hearts can soar with joyful gratitude when you think of how God made you worthy to receive the glorious inheritance freely given to us by living in the light.

Colossians 1:12 TPT

4. Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.

Ephesians 4:1 NLT

5. Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

Philippians 1:27 NLT

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Good Advice

I remember the first piece of advice I ever got as a kid. It was, “Don’t take any wooden nickels.” I wasn’t sure what a wooden nickel was, but I knew not to take one. Ever since then, people have been giving me advice, whether solicited or not. Some of it has been good, and some of it has been terrible. I discovered it was terrible because I followed it not knowing better. Over time, I’ve learned (mostly) what is good advice and what is not.

Since we don’t know everything, it’s important to seek advice in matters where we are unsure of what to do. When seeking advice, we should look for people who have wisdom, experience and are grounded in God’s Word. It’s also good to get advice from multiple people if you can. If they all give the same advice, you can bet it’s the right thing to do. If they give different advice, go with the one who has experienced what you’re going through.

Seeking advice is one thing. Following the advice is another. Proverbs 13:13 says, “If you refuse good advice, you are asking for trouble; follow it and you are safe” (GNT). There have been times when I’ve received great advice, but I refused to follow it. I either didn’t like it or I didn’t like the cost of following it. It turns out, the cost of not following it was even greater. Not following good advice has its consequences.

I love the Proverbs because they bring to light simple truths like this one. When I was a teen, I received some other advice. It was to read one chapter of Proverbs a day. There are 31 chapters so it will take you a month. Reading it throughout the years has helped to increase my wisdom because I’m learning from the wisest person who ever lived. There’s a lot of great advice in this book of the Bible. In fact, my advice to you is the same. If you want to grow in wisdom, read a chapter of Proverbs a day.

I’m curious, what’s the best advice someone has ever given you?

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Throwback Thursday is a 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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Controlling Anxious Thoughts

How do you react to stress? I know we all handle it differently. One of the times i was stressed out, i couldn’t sleep. I had so many things going on that i couldn’t control. Those problems started causing other problems and things started to compound. The things I couldn’t control became all I could think about. I couldn’t sleep or eat much because i was so worried about all these things. Then my eye started to twitch, which drove me nuts. I figured I could control that so I went to the eye doctor. After checking out my eyes, he said, “There’s nothing wrong. This is usually a sign of stress. You’re not stressed are you?” I laughed and said, “Just a little.” I loved under that stress for a while because i kept letting my thoughts run wild about all the things I couldn’t control.

I eventually learned that worrying about things I couldn’t control was robbing me of so many things. I realized that i had to focus on what i could control which was my thoughts and spending time with the one who is able to control the things I can’t. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive. That means to stop them in their tracks, interrupt them and get them out. I had to train myself to quit letting them go wherever they wanted and force them into obedience to Christ. They don’t have a right to control me. I have been given authority to control them. Once I realized that, I began to use the Bible as my benchmark of truth against the thoughts. When I held them up to the Bible in comparison to what God says, if they didn’t line up, they had to go.

King David reacted to stress the same way. He let his thoughts get out of control until he was stressed out. He wrote Psalm 94:19 showing he learned to quiet them. He wrote, “Whenever my busy thoughts were out of control, the soothing comfort of your presence calmed me down and overwhelmed me with delight” (TPT). Many times, we simply need to get out of the present and into His presence to regain control. I like to turn the tide by turning on praise and worship to get in His presence and to start realigning my thoughts. I can then cast my burdens on the Lord and quit trying to do things in my strength. There are many things He created us to do, but carrying burdens that we can’t control isn’t one of them. We rob ourselves of the peace He offers and rob Him of things that should be on His plate instead of ours. If you’re anxious and overwhelmed today, make time to get into His presence and challenge those anxious thoughts. He offers you peace, calmness and His burdens instead.

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Becoming A Person After God’s Heart

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Fake it until you make it.” We like to act like we know something without letting everyone know we don’t know it. Most of the time it’s a pride thing where we can’t admit we don’t know something. We can pretend for a while, but the longer and farther it goes, the greater the chance we’ll be exposed. That’s why it’s important that we’re always willing to learn. It’s an act of humility to admit we don’t know something. We have to put ourselves in the care of someone else who knows more than us about something and be open to being wrong. That’s an uncomfortable position for so many people, so we’d rather fake it until we make it. The problem is that a person who isn’t willing to learn, isn’t willing to grow, and at that point, they’ve reached the peak of their growth.

When the Bible says that David was a man after God’s own heart, I believe part of that was from his ability to constantly lift God up, thereby recognizing his place. He didn’t think more of himself than he should. For the most part, he kept pride at bay and lived a life where he was dependent on God. In Psalm 23 he wrote that the Lord was his shepherd admitting he needed to be led. In so many of his psalms, he was crying out to God for help admitting his weakness. I love Psalm 86:11 though. He prayed, “Teach me more about you, how you work and how you move, so that I can walk onward in your truth until everything within me brings honor to your name” (TPT).

David understood that there’s more to God than he would ever know. He also knew that the more he knew about who God was, the more his life would bring honor to Him. He took the time to read about God so he would understand the characteristics of God through the generations, but more than that, he got to know God and wanted to know more about Him. There’s a difference in knowing about someone and knowing them. God is asking you and I to know Him and to learn from Him. He’s wanting us to draw closer to Him, and when we do, He draws closer to us. That relationship keeps us humble and turns us into people after God’s own heart. David wasn’t the only one who was supposed to have that title. God wants to give it to you as well, but you have to be willing to be led like a sheep and open to learning more about who He is and how He moves.

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Finding Strength In The Lord

One of the Bible Verses I memorized as a kid in song form has helped me through some pretty tough times. If you grew up in church, you probably know this little song too from Nehemiah 8:10. In some of my most painful, sleepless nights, I’ve laid in bed singing, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” When I’m too mentally tired to fight any more or begin to feel defeated or overwhelmed, I sing this little song to remind myself that I can’t win the battles I’m facing in my own strength. I need God’s help and His strength in the toughest of times. I can have tears streaming down my face and begin to look for God’s joy that’s not circumstantial. He gives strength in our weakness and helps us to rise up like eagles, to keep running and not grow weary and to walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).

Another promise to us who find our strength in the Lord comes from Psalm 84:5-6. It says, “How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord; within their hearts are the highways of holiness! Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain. He gives to them a brook of blessing filled from the rain of an outpouring” (TPT). Each of go through the valley of tears in our lives. Some of us spend longer times in that valley, but we’re encouraged to keep looking to the Lord for strength during these times to stay renewed and to keep us moving forward, especially when we feel we have nothing left in the tank. God wants us to dig deeper inside to find those pools of refreshing through our pain and sorrow.

The brook of blessing refreshes us in the valley. It gives us hope that God still sees us and hasn’t forgotten us in those dark times. He reminds us that we are His and He’s giving us the chance to experience the depths of grace most people will never know because they only see the pain. But we have a peace that passes understanding knowing that our trials produce endurance, character, and a hope that will not leave us disappointed (Romans 5:3-5). We also know that His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), but we have to look past the pain to see that He is doing something in us that can’t be done any other way. He’s showing us we are capable of enduring anything when we find our strength, hope and joy in Him.

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