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Looking For God

Last night we went outside to see the Neowise comet. After waiting until it was dark enough to see it, I decided to go get my barely used telescope. I struggled to bring it into view. So I decided on an easier target to find in space: the moon. After checking out some of the craters, we started looking for meteors since there’s a meteor shower peaking this week. As we looked east, we saw Jupiter and Saturn. I decided to try to get them in my telescope expecting to see little dots. Instead, we were able to see 3 moons around Jupiter and even a few bands of gas. When I then moved it to Saturn and we could see the rings, my son flipped out. He started crying saying how beautiful it was and how it was better than he ever imagined. I had him read Psalm 19:1. After he read it, through his sobs, he said, “Now I believe in God more!”

God reveals Himself to every one of us through different things. Ravi Zacharias once said that God put enough of Himself in creation for you to find Him, yet He hid enough of Himself in it that you could miss Him if you weren’t looking. Most of us go through our daily lives so focused on our tasks or problems that we rarely look for how God is revealing Himself to us. He uses different means to make Himself known to us, but we must be looking with intentionality. John 1 tells of how all of creation was made through Jesus. Then in verse 10 it says that when He came into the world to reveal Himself, we didn’t even notice and were unaware. We can’t be caught unaware of what God is trying to reveal today.

Here are some Bible verses on how God reveals Himself to us.

1. How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory! How plainly it shows what he has done! Each day announces it to the following day; each night repeats it to the next.

Psalm 19:1-2 GNT

2. So he said, “When you pray, say, Father, Reveal who you are. Set the world right. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.”

Luke 11:2-4 MSG

3. So then, let us [who minister] be regarded as servants of Christ and stewards (trustees, administrators) of the mysteries of God [that He chooses to reveal].

1 Corinthians 4:1 AMP

4. He said, “Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surrounded by light. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors, for you have given me wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of you and revealed to us what the king demanded.”

Daniel 2:20-23 NLT

5. Pour out even more of your love on us! Reveal more of your kindness and restore us back to you!

Psalms 85:7 TPT

Thanks to @grakozy for making this photo available freely on @unsplash

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Living In Grace

Have you ever failed God by sinning? Did you feel like you let Him and yourself down? If you’re human, then the answer is yes. When we sin, we feel that same shame that Adam and Eve felt in the Garden of Eden. We want to hide ourselves, and cut ourselves off from God for a while. We tend to punish ourselves and beat ourselves up when we mess up. I know that i do all of these things when I sin. Then, a voice reminds me about grace.

Grace is one of those things that the human brain has a hard time understanding. Our whole lives we’ve been conditioned to get punished when we do something wrong. When someone else doesn’t punish us for doing wrong, we tend to punish ourselves mentally. But grace doesn’t do that. It comes and offers God’s unmerited favor of salvation and the covering of sin for free. It’s foreign to how our mind works, but we are called to live by grace through faith.

When Paul was on one of his missionary journeys, a town asked him to speak in the synagogue. Some accepted this grace, and others rejected it. They were used to having to pay for their own sins, and couldn’t accept that someone else had. To those who did accept it, Paul encouraged them. In Acts 13:43 it says, “The apostles spoke to them and encouraged them to keep on living in the grace of God” (GNT). That’s a great word for you and I today too. Keep on living in the grace of God.

The next time you sin or fail God, seek forgiveness, ask Him to help you to turn from it and thank God for His grace,. No matter how many times you fail God, His grace will always be sufficient. No matter how bad you sin, the blood of Jesus is strong enough to wash it white as snow. Quit beating yourself up and cutting yourself off from God. Accept what Jesus did for you and keep on living in the grace of God.

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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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Our Daily Declaration

To me, one of the most important declarations in the Bible was made on Joshua 24:15. Joshua, who was the leader of Israel, was reminding the people of all God had done for them. He told them of the blessings that were promised to those who followed God’s ways. He also spoke of the consequences of choosing to disobey His commands. After that he said, “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord” (NLT).

Joshua couldn’t speak for everyone just because he was their leader. Each person had to make their own decision on how they would live. There’s only two ways really. One is in obedience to God’s ways and the other is disobedience. There’s not a half and half. No one else can choose it for you either. Each one of us have to come to the point in our lives when we declare our independence from our sinful nature and pledge our allegiance to God.

Galatians 5:17 says, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.” Joshua understood this war that goes on in each one of us. He knew that he was susceptible to failing, that’s why he made the declaration.

Today, you and I fight the same battle. Some days we win. Some days we lose. When I lose, I fall back on Romans 8:1-2. It says, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” We have been freed from the power of sin, but not from our sinful nature. We must keep declaring, no matter how bad or how many times we fail, that we will serve the Lord.

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Being Persistent

What’s one characteristic that you have that makes you successful? Have you ever thought about that? Each of us have natural giftings and characteristics that God gave us that help us to be successful. I like to ask that question because I get a lot of different answers. My answer is usually determination or consistency. Consistency is what dug the Grand Canyon and determination can keep you focused to accomplish anything. I try to be consistent in every area of my life. What you see is what you get. I’ve also learned that there are characteristics that I can learn and implement into my life in order to be more successful. I don’t have to just rely on and use my natural giftings.

In Luke 11, the disciples were talking privately with Jesus and they asked Him to teach them to pray. He taught them what we refer to as The Lord’s Prayer. As soon as He finished, He gave an illustration to help them understand how to pray better. He gave the example of a person who had a friend show up unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Instead of putting them to bed, he needed to serve them some food, but didn’t have any. He then went to his neighbor and knocked on the door to ask for food. The neighbor was in bed and didn’t want to give the food, but the person kept knocking and wouldn’t go away. Because they wouldn’t stop, the neighbor will get out of bed and give him what he needs. Jesus then said our prayers should be like that instead of one and done or asking timidly.

In verse 11, Jesus gave a characteristic that we can al, learn and implement. He said, “Every persistent person will get what he asks for. Every persistent seeker will discover what he needs. And everyone who knocks persistently will one day find an open door” (TPT). Persistency. How many times have we been persistent with God like a kid in the grocery store wanting something? We tell ourselves that we don’t want to bother God with our problem or believe the lie that God doesn’t care about our issue. Those lies are meant to rob you of your blessing and to keep you from communicating with your Heavenly Father. Don’t listen to them. Instead, pound on Heaven’s door and let God know you’re not going away until you get what you need. Jesus said every persistent person will get what they ask for. Don’t quit asking. Don’t quit seeking. Don’t quit knocking.

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Making Choices

Making financial decisions or long term decisions can be difficult. There are some people who have no issues making a decision and living with it, but there are other personality types that struggle because they’re thinking of all the ramifications. They study up on the subject, they weigh the consequences and don’t want to make a mistake. What usually happens is that they feel they can never get enough information to feel comfortable making the decision or they get paralysis through analysis. They are so afraid of making the wrong choice that they end up making no choice at all. It’s a tough spot to be in. Because they can’t feel peace inside, they hold off on the decision until it is often made for them by circumstances.

When this happens to my wife and I, we usually take one or two different approaches. The first one is usually to lay fleeces before the Lord like Gideon did. We ask God to do an impossible thing to show us we’re to make that decision. Gideon did two fleeces, but we usually do three. If two out of three happens, we walk away, even if the third is 99.9% there. If God had desired for us to make that decision, it would have been 100% there. He is able. I don’t always like Hid decision, but in the end, if we have prayed then I know we’re in His will and His decision is better than mine. When disappointment or bitterness try to creep in, I remind myself that God sees the future, and I can’t. He knows what is best, and my peace returns.

The second thing is that we pray for peace regarding the situation. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]” (AMP). If it’s not God’s will, we ask Him to take away our peace, cause us to be stressed over it and to lose sleep. If we lose our peace, we make the decision to not do whatever it is and His peace that passes understanding returns. You and I can’t live in a state of fear or of paralysis through analysis. The Bible shows us many ways to make decisions, but these are the two we have found to be most helpful for us. Decisions can be difficult, but when we have the peace of Christ, we can make them and no that we’re in His will one way or the other.

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Speaking Over The Storm

One of the most incredible stories of the Gospels happened on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had just fed the 5,000 after mourning the death of John the Baptist. He put the disciples in a boat and told them to go to the other side. Matthew, who was not a fisherman, said that a storm came up and the boat tossed all night. He even said the wind was against them as if it had a problem with them. They fought the storm for every inch hours on end in the dark of night. Sometime after 3 AM, they saw someone walking on water towards them in the middle of this madness. Exhausted from serving others all day and fighting the storm all night, they let fear set in. They became terrified of the ghost walking on the water towards them. Mark wrote that they all screamed in terror. But then Jesus spoke over the wind, over the waves crashing against the boat, over their high pitched screams, over the thunder, over the darkness, and calmed them with a few words.

It’s easy to sit here in my house on dry land, protected from the elements and after a good night’s sleep to judge their fear. Didn’t Jesus send them across the lake? Where was their faith? Didn’t they know He wouldn’t let them drown? But when you’re in the thick of battle and you’re exhausted fear has an open door. When you’ve tried a thousand times, when you don’t know what else to do, when you followed God’s voice and you feel alone, when you’ve done all you can do and nothing is working out, it’s only natural to be afraid and to doubt. I believe that just like He didn’t abandon the disciples, He won’t abandon you. His words back then still speak to us today. Courage! Don’t be afraid! Your redeemer sees you struggling, fighting for every inch, pushing forward when everything seems to be against you, and He’s there in the storm with you speaking peace to you over it all.

Here are some Bible verses to remind you not to be afraid.

1. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told them, “it is I!”

John 6:20 GNT

2. Do not fear [anything], for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you; I will certainly take hold of you with My righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].’

Isaiah 41:10 AMP

3. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

Luke 12:7 NLT

4. Even though dark powers prowl around me, I won’t be afraid.

Psalms 3:6 TPT

5. When I am afraid, I will put my trust and faith in You.

Psalms 56:3 AMP

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Walking Freely In The Fire

To me, one of the coolest stories in the Bible is the one where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace. As you know, they refused to bow to the god King Nebuchadnezzar built and set up. When the king confronted them, they didn’t back down from their beliefs knowing it would mean their death. In Daniel 3:17-18, they said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (NLT).

Their response visibly angered the king. He ordered that the furnace be heated up seven times hotter than normal. He then had the boys bound up, hand and feet, dragged to the furnace, and thrown in. It was so hot that the men who dragged them there died. The king then noticed something odd. In verse 25, he said, “Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” He then called them out of the fire and promoted them to higher positions.

When you look back on your life, when was God most evident? Where can you see Him most clearly? For me, it’s in the hardest times. You could say it was when I was walking through the fires of life. When we are cast in the fire, we don’t always know if we will survive. We know God is able, but there is no guarantee He will get us out of the fire. Even still, we are required to endure and to be willing to be subjected to the fires of life.

Remember, it was in the fire that they were freed from the ropes that bound them. But even before that, God was with them. He’s not always visible leading up to the fire, but I know He was standing there with them as they refused to bow. It was only in the fire that He was revealed. God is most evident in the hardest times of our lives because those are the times we trust Him the most. When we walk through the fire, our faith is deepened, our character is strengthened, and God’s love for us is proven.

You and I don’t have to fear the flames. We can walk freely in them with the Son of God beside us. I don’t know if the three Hebrew boys saw the Son of God in the fire with them or not, but He was there. We don’t always see God walking in the fire with us until we look back on it. So if you’re in the furnace now, look around. God has not abandoned you. He is there walking with you. He may not be visible now, but He’s there growing you, preparing you, and making you more like Him. Don’t give up in the furnace. Walk freely in the fire.

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

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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Seeing Someone’s Worth

Worthless. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used that word to describe someone. It comes out of my mouth and into my head too often to be honest. There was even a time when that word would come into my head as I looked into the mirror. Rejection and pain have a way of doing that to you. The problem is that when you say it about someone or yourself enough, you start to believe it. When you think or say those things about yourself or someone else, you’re capable of doing anything to that person simply because you don’t see any value. It’s hard to live in harmony or to be at peace with someone, especially yourself, if you don’t value them.

One of the things I love about Jesus is how He valued people. When I read the Gospels, that’s something that always jumps off the page at me. When Jesus looked at people, the Bible said He had compassion on them. Because He valued them, He poured God’s Word into them, fed them and healed them. Think of the disciples He called. The world said they were uneducated and worthless, but Jesus saw more than that. He didn’t see a wispy washy man. He saw a rock in Peter. He didn’t see a doubter in Thomas. He saw a person that carry His message outside the Roman Empire. With Matthew, He didn’t see a worthless, traitorous person, He saw someone who could reach the rejected.

What do you see in others or in the mirror? Can you see beyond the present? Do you see value? Romans 12:16 says, “Live happily together in a spirit of harmony, and be as mindful of another’s worth as you are your own” (TPT). How can you love someone if you don’t value them? We’re to be known for our love. We’re to carry out the Great Commission, but we can’t if we don’t value people. Worthless shouldn’t be in our vocabulary when it comes to ourselves or others. Christ loved and valued each of us enough to die for us so that we could spend eternity with Him. God created each one of us in His image as well. If we value God, and Jesus’ work on the cross, then we must value ourselves and everyone else. When we value them, we can love them. When we love them, we will see them as Jesus does.

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Risking Failure

Taking risks and being open to failure are a couple of things I try to teach my nieces and nephews. Those who aren’t afraid to fail and take risks are some of the most successful people on the planet. The greater the risk, the greater reward. However, when you fail, fail fast. Don’t keep going in that direction just because you’ve risked a bunch and you’ve committed. There are times to cut bait and run. At that point, figure out why it didn’t work and where it went wrong, then take another risk. If you can have the courage to push through a few seconds of fear, you can do just about anything. All of these things hold true for money and God’s blessings in our lives. Hoarding them does no good and stunts their growth.

In Matthew 25, Jesus told a parable we’re all familiar with. A man was going to take a long journey and decided to entrust some of his property to some of his servants. He gave one five talents, one two talents and one talent to another. The one who had five talents invested it and was able to get a return of ten talents. The one who was given two talents also invested his and doubled it. Then the person who only had one dug a hole and buried. He let fear keep him from taking risks with what was given to him. In the end, his fear cost him everything. If he had done something risk free like putting it in the bank just to get a little interest, it would have been better than succumbing to fear.

In verse 29, the master said to him (and the Master says to us), “For to everyone who has [and values his blessings and gifts from God, and has used them wisely], more will be given, and [he will be richly supplied so that] he will have an abundance” (AMP). Part of valuing the gifts and blessings of God is being willing to risk failure with them. God invests different gifts in each one of us, but He’s watching to see what we do with them. We will have to give an account for our actions (or inactions) one day. If you’ve been letting fear of failure dictate your decision in risking them, it’s time to get enough courage to push past that fear and to do something with them. Start that blog, sign up for that course, ask for the microphone, stand on stage, send that letter or whatever it is that fear is keeping you from doing. God is counting on you to value your blessings enough to risk failure with them.

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Imitators Of God

Recently I had to take my son with me on a sales call. He stood beside me as I asked the person questions and took notes on my iPad. When we got home, he brought me his iPad and wanted to show me something. He had written out some nonsensical measurements using words he heard me and the customer using. A few days later, I needed to run out to a job site and I asked if he wanted to go. He ran to the car and beat me to it. When we got there, he pulled out his iPad and said he was ready. I told him to leave it in the car, but he wanted to take it. We went back and forth until I realized he thought we were on a sales call and he wanted to take notes on it real time. He was wanting to do the things he saw me doing.

Ephesians 5:1 says, “Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]” (AMP). You and I are to be no different than him in following the example Jesus set. In John 5:19, Jesus said that the works He did were only the works He saw the father doing. He was a well-beloved son imitating His father giving us an example of how to live our lives. The problem is that most of us are like Philip in John 14 asking Jesus to show us the Father. We use the excuse that we can’t see God, therefore we can’t imitate Him or do the things we see Him doing. However, we have seen His work and the effects of His work.

On one of the mission trips I took, at the end of each day, we would ask the question, “Where did you see Jesus today?” Each person had to share where they saw Him at work in the lives of others. That activity is something each of need to engage in daily. Where have you seen the Father at work lately? Train your eyes to look for God and you will see what He’s doing. Once you see that, begin to do it. The Bible helps us to understand the character of God. It also tells us the things Jesus did such as: having compassion on the lost and hurting, caring for their needs, teaching people to see God, going to where the people were and so much more. If you’re having trouble seeing God at work, read the Gospels and then look around you. Who needs compassion? Who needs encouragement? Who needs godly wisdom? Look for them and get busy being about the Father’s business.

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