Safety And Security

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The Door Of Hope

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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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Uncomfortable Moments

One of the things my wife and I feel is our duty as parents is to help to help our son become a mature adult one day who is equipped to handle life. To do that, we often give him the opportunity to make tough decisions. We help him think through rewards and consequences of those decisions to help him build a foundation of decision making principles. Instead of being grateful, he complains. He asks, “Why do you always make me have hard choices?” We answer, “Because life is full of hard choices. The sooner you learn how to make them, the better your life will be.” He is too young to understand that right now, but as parents, we want our child to have the tools necessary for maturity. We don’t mind putting him in tough positions that make him uncomfortable because we know that he will need those skills down the road.

Because you and I are full functioning adults on this planet, we forget that we are in a similar relationship with our Heavenly Father. You and I are His children, and His goal for us is spiritual maturity. Just like a good parent, He will often force us out of our comfort zone to teach us dependence on Him, to produce character or to prepare us for the future. It’s never convenient, sometimes painful, but always productive. His concern is for our growth more than our comfort. He will do whatever is necessary to help us become more like Him. We can complain asking, “Why,” or we can endure and grow.

Isaiah 30:20 says, “The Lord will make you go through hard times, but he himself will be there to teach you, and you will not have to search for him any more” (GNT). God doesn’t abandon you when the going gets tough. He’s right there with you teaching you if you’re listening. The more difficult the situation is, the more of His grace you get to experience. It is always sufficient for your circumstances. I’ve found that going through the hard times have drawn me closer to Him rather than farther away. As C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.” He loves us enough to do what it takes to help us hear Him, to know Him and to grow in Him. Don’t discount the hard times. God may just be using them to help you know Him more.

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Work Diligently

One of the moments I remember most from high school was being in a locker room in Waco, Texas before the basketball state championship. Everyone was nervous feeling the weight of the game we were about to play. Coach walked in with The Dallas Morning News newspaper folded up. He said, “I want y’all to hear this article. It says, ‘The State Championship is a mere formality for (our opponent). (Our school) lacks the height and the talent to keep up.’” Something happened in that moment. He said, “Go prove them wrong!” We started banging on the lockers and screaming. We came out of that locker room a force to be reckoned with and won the game. We were all of a sudden motivated to win, but it was the discipline we learned in practice that gave us the victory.

Motivation is a good thing, but it doesn’t keep you going. When we first accept Jesus, find our calling or discover our God given purpose, our motivation is high. When it comes down to working it out, getting things moving or bumping into roadblocks on the way, motivation does very little to keep us on the path. It’s the daily disciplines that do that. Motivation is emotional and depends on success to stick around. Discipline is willpower and depends on determination to move despite how you’re feeling. God gives us the mountain top, emotional experiences because we need the motivation from time to time, but He expects us to be disciplined to continue through the valleys of not being able to hear Him or sense His direction for our lives.

Proverbs 30:25 says, “The feeble ant has little strength, yet look how it diligently gathers its food in the summer to last throughout the winter” (TPT). He keeps working for the future despite the present, and is a good example for us. You may have lost your motivation along the way to doing what God called you to, but let me encourage you to begin small, disciplined steps to move you towards it. Find five things you can do daily that will keep you moving towards the place where God is calling you, and do them no matter what. The ant is considered wise and a hard worker in this Scripture because he does the necessary work before the winter arrives. So you and I need to be working while we can towards the place God is leading us. Motivation may give you momentum, but discipline will keep you going when you’re not feeling it.

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The Treadmill Of Worry

In one of the classes I train, the participants take an assessment that pinpoints areas of unproductivity in their job. One of the big one that shows up often is Goal Diffusion. This occurs when a person has several smaller goals that distract them from their big goals. What happens is that they spend and focus their energy on things that don’t move them forward. They may feel somewhat accomplished because they are doing things, but they find that they aren’t advancing. It’s like being on a treadmill. They’re putting out a lot of energy, but they’re not moving. Instead of being laser focused on one goal, they’re dispersing their energy in a lot of different directions. The correction is to refocus on what matters, to choose a large goal that will move them forward and then to channel that all their energy in one direction.

The same thing can happen to us as believers. Many times we feel like we are busy for the Lord, but we’re going no where. We have our energy diffused by all the little things we’re doing or are worried about. Our enemy is pretty good at using worry and smaller goals to keep us distracted and unproductive. Worry takes up a lot of energy and strength. It also takes our eyes off of what matters and refocuses it on things that seem big, but in reality are not. When we spend time thinking about those things, we waste precious energy that could be laser focused somewhere else. The end result is that we are mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted. We also feel like we’re doing a lot, but we don’t feel like we are accomplishing anything with all of our efforts. Just like I mentioned before, the correction is to refocus on what matters and channel our energy in one direction.

Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude” (TPT). It goes on to tell us that when we do that, we will have the peace that passes understanding and that we need to keep our thoughts focused on what matters (verse 8). What are the things that are pulling you in different directions? What are the things that are creating worry in your life and changing your focus? The correction that all of us need to make is to become more saturated in prayer in our lives. Prayer not only helps us give our worries to God, it helps us refocus on what matters, put our problems in perspective and channel our energy in a direction that moves us forward. Stay focused on the things that matter, stay in prayer, seek God’s Kingdom first (Matthew 6:31) and then you will find you’ve gotten off the treadmill of worry and are moving forward.

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Experiences Matter

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Workaholics Anonymous

Do you know any workaholics? You know, people who constantly work. Their hours are 9-5, but they stay up late working constantly. It’s a badge of honor to them to be the first person to the office each day, and the last one to leave. Many of them live very stressful lives. They worry that they won’t complete their job on time. They stress about income. They’re so busy making a living that they forget to make a life. Many end up sacrificing family for work.

Psalm 127:2 says, “It is useless to work so hard for a living, getting up early and going to bed late. For the Lord provides for those he loves, while they are asleep” (GNT). In our fast paced world, where technology has allowed us to work 24/7 from anywhere on the globe, becoming a workaholic is easier than ever. But God says that being a workaholic is useless. In fact, it becomes a question of the heart.

The biggest question is: do you trust God to be your provider? So many times when we make a habit out of working non-stop, we do it because we forget who our source is. Because we go to work and work rewards us with a paycheck, we begin to think we are our own source or our job is. If we believe God is our source, it relieves the pressure of having to become a workaholic so we can provide for ourselves.

I believe in hard work, and I believe that if a man doesn’t work, he shouldn’t eat. But I also believe that God is my provider. If I trust Him with my finances, and I give Him His part of my income as recognition of being my provider, then I don’t have to stress about where the next job comes from and I don’t have to stress and work constantly. I’ve learned that God is not a well that can run dry. He is a never ending river who supplies all of my needs according to His riches (Phil 4:19). Become a member of workaholics anonymous and trust God to be your provider.

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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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Giving Honor

At our church we like to say, “Honor up. Honor down. Honor all around.” It’s a simple way to remember the importance of giving honor to people. The easy thing to do is to honor up. We’re used to honoring pastors, leaders and people up the ladder. Can you honor down though? Can you find ways to give honor to people who you are leading or are not as high on the ladder as you? There are people who are faithful, who anticipate needs and do things behind the scenes that never gets noticed until it’s not done. They need to be appreciated and honored even though they can’t do anything to help you climb the ladder. Honoring someone is hard sometimes because it takes the spotlight off of ourselves and gives it to someone else. If you have a hard time honoring others, it may be a pride issue.

In Philippians 2:25-30, Paul gives honor to a man named Epaphroditus, who he says has been a friend, brother and a fellow soldier in the work of the ministry. Paul had been going through a difficult season and was discouraged. The church at Philippi sent Epiphroditus to encourage him. While he was with Paul, he got sick and nearly died. The people in Philippi heard about it and were worried, so Paul was sending him back to the church there to let them know he was all right. In verse 29 he wrote, “Welcome him home in the Lord with great joy, and appreciate and honor men like him” (AMP). It wasn’t just Epiphroditus that they needed to honor. It’s all people like him who serve God and others.

You can honor people using the Five Love Languages. Some people just need a pat on the back (physical touch). Some need to be told how much you appreciate them (words of affirmation). Some could use a token of your appreciation (gifts). Others need something special done for them (acts of service). While others would appreciate you spending time with them one on one (quality time). However you choose to honor people, it’s important that we as believers give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7). We need to be the models of being selfless and pointing the spotlight on others, especially when it’s something we crave. A simple encouragement from you will fill their tank and keep them going. The only thing you need to do is figure out who to honor and how best to do it.

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Finishing The Race

In my opinion, one of the greatest moments in sports happened in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Derek Redmond had won his heat in the 400 meter dash and was racing in the semifinals. About halfway through the race, he tore his hamstring and grabbed the back of his right thigh. He could hardly move as he knelt to the ground. The other runners crossed the line to cheers, but then Derek stood back up and began hobbling towards the finish line himself. As he kind of skipped along, his dad ran out of the stands, put his arm around him and helped him finish the race. Derek had prepared his whole life for this moment. He was determined to finish the race, and he did.

Paul referred to the Christian life as a race in 2 Timothy 4:7. He said he had finished his course with all his might. He had been fought mentally his entire race as he had been one who had killed Christians for their faith. He had been fought physically as he had been beaten for preaching the Gospel. He had been fought emotionally as jealous people opposed him and the message he preached. Despite all these roadblocks, he continued to run his race. He didn’t let anything stand in his way. Instead, he kept his eyes on the finished line and pressed toward the mark for the high calling in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:13). The way he ran his race of faith is how we are to run ours.

In Philippians 1:27, he encouraged other believers by writing, “Whatever happens, keep living your lives based on the reality of the gospel of Christ” (TPT). Like Paul and Derek, we must not let the things that happen to us keep us from reaching our goal. We must press on despite the roadblocks that stand in our way or the circumstances that trip us up. There have been times in my life when I was hobbling in my faith and others came along side me to help me along when I couldn’t advance on my own. If you’re hobbling or struggling, ask a friend to help you along and pray that God will strengthen you to help you finish the race. We all go through those times. The important thing is to keep living your life of faith no matter what comes your way, and you will receive the crown of righteousness. Don’t stop. Keep pressing on. Finish your race.

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If you’d like to see Derek Redmond run his race, click here.

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Get More Jars

In John Maxwell’s “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,” he talks about the Law of the Lid. It states that your abilities determine your effectiveness. The lower or fewer your abilities are, the lower your lid is on your potential to make a difference. The more abilities you have, the greater your potential to impact others is. We each have a lid on our lives that is determined by the abilities we’ve been given. However, we have not been given equal abilities or the same ones. If you remember the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), you will remember that the master gave out a different number of talents based on their abilities. Just like in the parable, you and I are not capped with what we’ve been given. We have the potential to increase our abilities and raise our lid, thereby increasing our potential to make a difference.

In 2 Kings 4, there’s the story of a widow whose husband left her with a lot of debt when he died. He owed so much that the person who loaned it to him was going to take his two sons as payment for the debt leaving this widow without any protection or income potential. She asked Elisha for help her. He asked what she had and she told him that she only had a little bit of oil (a very low lid). He told her to go get jars from her all neighbors. Once she did, she was to take what little oil she had and begin filling those jars. That’s what she and her sons did. Verse 6 says, “When they had filled the jars, she asked if there were any more. ‘That was the last one,” one of her sons answered. And the olive oil stopped flowing” (GNT). She went back to Elisha who told her to sell the oil, pay off her husband’s debt and then live off the rest of the money.

Notice how the oil stopped when she ran out of jars. God gave to her according to what she had. If she had more jars, He would have given her more oil. God always gives in proportion to what we have. If you are going to raise your lid, you’re going to have to get more jars. You need to increase your abilities. It’s not someone else’s responsibility to increase them for you. Remember, the widow had to go get the jars and she had to fill them. You will need to do something to increase your abilities like take a step of faith before you see the next step or change the people that you are around. The people around you may be placing a lid on your potential. We are each a product of the process we have in our lives. Those processes are giving you the results you have right now. You can’t change your effectiveness until you change your abilities. To do that, you’re going to have to get more jars. You’re going to have to make some changes and do some things you’ve never done that are beyond your current abilities. If you don’t, you won’t be much different than the servant who buried his talent in the sand.

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