Continue Growing

Every new year we begin to think of new habits we want to adopt in our lives. We’re encouraged to think this way from ads and people. However, let’s think a little differently this year. Don’t just focus on what new habit or goal you want to add. Think of, and identify, things you need to continue doing. There are plants of things you’re doing well right now. Don’t neglect those things or overlook them. Growth happens when we build on a foundation we already have. Be careful not to drop something productive that you’re already doing when you try to introduce something new.

Here are some Bible verses on things we should continue doing.

1. In the same way you received Jesus our Lord and Messiah by faith, continue your journey of faith, progressing further into your union with him!

Colossians 2:6 TPT

2. But as for you, continue in the truths that you were taught and firmly believe.

2 Timothy 3:14 GNT

3. But we will [continue to] devote ourselves [steadfastly] to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

Acts 6:4 AMP

4. Don’t envy sinners, but always continue to fear the Lord.

Proverbs 23:17 NLT

5. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8 NLT

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Spiritual Resolutions

As we close the door on one year and open the door to another, I think it’s good to have a spiritual resolution for the new year as well. I believe Philippians 4:4-8 provides us with some great things we should resolve to do not just in the coming year, but throughout our life. Verse 4 says, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (NLT) In 2022, don’t let anything steal your joy. Joy shouldn’t be based on your circumstances, and it’s where you get your strength from. Trust in what God is doing and stay joyful.

Verse 6 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Refuse to let worry have a foothold in your life. It uses today’s strength for tomorrow’s problems. Turn your worry into prayer. Let the The things you can’t control push you closer to the One who can control them. Prayer changes our perspective and helps us to let go of the burdens that are too heavy for us to bear. Put them in God’s hands and take His burden which is light.

Verse 7 says, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Having peace in your heart, your mind and in your life is a wonderful thing. We were not created to live in turmoil. When we learn to trust a God with our decisions and with the things in our life that we can’t control, we can have God’s peace. Let His peace guide you in the coming year so that you operate in His will for your life.

Finally verse 8 says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Choose what to think about. Your thoughts are powerful and determine the direction of your life. Don’t dwell on what could be, but focus on what is true. One true thing I focus on is that God is in control, and nothing that happens in my life is a surprise to Him. 2019 is already history to God. Resolve to make it the year that you trust Him completely and you will experience joy, peace and faith.

Thanks to Stefan Kunze for making this photo available freely on http://www.Unsplash.com

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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Practice Matters

I can’t hear the word “practice” without thinking of Allen Iverson and his famous meltdown. It was in 2002 in response to a reporters question right after he and the Philadelphia 76ers exited the playoffs in the first round. They were expected to make it to the finals. There had been reports, and even hints from his coach, that he wasn’t committed to being a team player in practice. The rant was the result of not meeting his own expectations, the early exit and the loss of his best friend. In his outburst, he said “practice”22 times. My favorite quote of it was, “We talking about practice. Not a game. Not the game I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game. We talking about practice, man.”

When I was in high school, I played basketball. Each game was four eight minute quarters. We would spend two hours a day in practice five days a week preparing for games. The difference between winning and losing a game came down to how well you practiced. Coach understood that. We practiced shooting, our plays, our press, our passing and scenarios in order to be flawless when it mattered. Yet most people don’t take practice seriously. As believers, our “practice” is often on a Sunday. It’s where we get coached up, learn about God’s way of living and have the opportunity to show love to fellow Christians.

Philippians 4:9 says, “Put into practice the example of all that you have heard from me or seen in my life and the God of peace will be with you in all things” (TPT). We can’t be like Allen Iverson when it comes to putting into practice godly things. If we can’t show love to each other as believers, how can we show it to the world when we leave? If we can’t worship because we don’t like the songs or the volume, how can we worship during the week? We spend a lot of time complaining about personal preferences on Sunday when we have the greatest opportunity to practice godly traits. We are to be known for our love for one another. Each week we get the opportunity to practice what we preach. Don’t waste your practice time or forsaking the assembling of the brethren. Use each service to put into practice all you’ve learned.

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We Need To Worship

In Job 1. we read one of the most devastating stories a person could ever go through. In one day, Job lost all his possessions, his servants, his shepherds, his livestock and his children. One bad report came right after the other. In under a minute, he had lost everything. His knees buckled and he fell under the weight of everything. Verse 20 says. “Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship” (NLT). I imagine him face down with his hands raised up in surrender. He didn’t understand why everything was happening, but he did understand that God would care for him. The final verse in the first chapter says he didn’t sin by blaming God.

Every one of us are going to experience hardship that we don’t understand. Every one of us are going to unexpectedly lose things and people that we love with no answer as to why. Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 that God causes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust just like He causes it to rain on both. We are not exempt from pain, disappointment or loss. Instead, we have an anchor to hold on to when all seems lost. We have hope that others do not have. We can still worship in the middle of a storm we don’t understand. We can still trust God’s plan when our plans are torn from us. We can still look ahead when we’re too weak to move.

Hebrews 12:12-13 says, “So be made strong even in your weakness by lifting up your tired hands in prayer and worship. And strengthen your weak knees, for as you keep walking forward on God’s paths all your stumbling ways will be healed!” (TPT) When we are at our lowest, we need to worship. When we are out of options, we need to worship. When all seems lost, we need to worship. When we are too tired and feel like giving up, we need to worship. Worship regains our perspective. Worship renews our strength. Worship gives us hope. Worship keeps us moving forward when we can’t see the path. We don’t have to understand what God is doing, or even why. Like Job, we have to trust that He sees the bigger picture and knows what He’s doing. When nothing makes sense and you can’t do anything else, worship. He inhabits the praises of His people. He will not abandon you in your greatest time of need.

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Seeing Beyond The Horizon

I used to work for a company who wanted to always be forward thinking. They adapted the word horizon into their name as a constant reminder to always be looking ahead. They figured that if they were always looking to the horizon, they would see what’s coming and be able to adapt and change in order to embrace it. The horizon has always represented the edge of man’s vision. Most people on,y look at what’s just in front of them rather than off into the distance. If we could see beyond the horizon, we would know the future. As Christians, faith is trusting God for what’s out of our ability to see.

If you’ve ever read Hebrews 11, you know it’s a list of people in the Bible who had strong faith. I always heard it called “The Hall of Faith” as I was growing up. The people listed are ordinary men and women who simply trusted God for things they couldn’t yet see. They looked beyond their current situation and had faith that what was unseen was greater than what was seen. Verse 13 says, “These heroes all died still clinging to their faith, not even receiving all that had been promised them. But they saw beyond the horizon the fulfillment of their promises and gladly embraced it from afar. They all lived their lives on earth as those who belonged to another realm” (TPT).

How many times do you get frustrated with God because the things He promised have yet to come through? It’s tough to stand in today’s problems knowing that tomorrow’s promises could solve them. However, God knows the best time to make good on His promises. Will you still trust Him even if He doesn’t come through right now when you think it matters most? Faith is seeing beyond your current circumstances, even beyond the horizon, and knowing that God will do what He says. It’s embracing His promises even when it looks like they’re never going to come. God only knows what the future brings. As Corrie Ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

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The Gift Of Restoration

As we celebrate Christmas and follow our family traditions, it’s important to pause and remember that night in Bethlehem. Jesus’ birth was God’s answer to restore a fallen world. Since the Garden of Eden, God had promised that a woman would give birth to a child that would bruise the serpent’s head. This child was sent as a sign of God’s love for us. His goal was not to condemn us or to point out our failures. Rather He came to fulfill the part of our covenant with God that we are unable to keep. This incredible gift of restoration is worth celebrating every day, not just on Christmas.

Here are some Bible verses that show God’s plan for restoration..

1. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

Romans 3:23 NLT

2. Well then, the Lord himself will give you a sign: a young woman who is pregnant will have a son and will name him ‘Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 GNT

3. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matthew 1:21 NLT

4. For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 NLT

5. For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior.

John 3:16-17 GNT

Merry Christmas!

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Protecting Our Relationship With God

I get the opportunity to talk to different people all the time. Inevitably someone wants to ask me relationship questions. I’m not a trained counselor or anything like that, but as I listen to these stories, there’s a constant thread through all of them. The problems they’re experiencing are a result of a lot of little things that have crept in and gone unchecked. Also, they haven’t done things to protect the relationship. When that happens, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back ends up happening and it gets the blame. The truth is it was several small, basic things that added up.

Just like any relationship, we have to make sure that we do the small, basic things in our relationship with Christ. We need to set parameters and protect it. We live in a connected world where everything seems to be vying for your attention. If we allow little things to distract us and keep us from praying or reading our Bible or going to church, it will become difficult to have that relationship that God wants to have with us. We must protect that time. We must make it sacred so that nothing and no one comes between us and God.

I’m reading the Book of Song of Songs (Solomon) in the Passion translation. They’ve taken it and put in red letters the parts that are allegorically from God. Chapter 2:15 says this to us from God, “You must catch the troubling foxes, those sly little foxes that hinder our relationship. For they raid our budding vineyard of love to ruin what I’ve planted within you. Will you catch them and remove them for me? We will do it together” (TPT). God is asking us to protect our relationship with Him. I also love that just like any other relationship, it’s not just one side’s responsibility. We need to work together with God to remove the obstacles in our relationship so it can grow.

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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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Doing Your Work

Several years ago I worked in early childhood education. One of the first things I learned (and had to keep learning) was to never do for a child what a child can do for themselves. I like things to move along quickly. Watching a child do a task they were new at was painstakingly slow. It was a lot quicker for me to step in and do it for them, but in doing so, I was robbing them of increasing their ability to do the task. I had to learn to coach them through the process rather than to just sit back and watch them struggle. Some kids wanted me to do everything, liked the help, some ignored me and others insisted they didn’t want my input. Ultimately i embraced my role to empower them.

As Christians we’re not much different than the kids I used to work with. We’re slow moving on the tasks God asks us to do. When He sends help, we may push back because of our pride. Many times we just want God to do all the hard work while we sit back and enjoy the fruits of His labor. There are also times where we simply ignore what He’s asking us to do. He write it off telling ourselves that the voice isn’t God. Ultimately we need God’s help in completing and fulfilling our purpose. He gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us and to help us as we accomplish His will.

Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure” (AMP). One of the notes in my Bible for this verse says that while God supports us, it is our responsibility to do the work He called us to. No one else is going to do what you’re called to do. It is your part to play in the story God is writing. He’s there to guide, help and support you through it, but He’s not going to do for you what you can do and are called to do. Listen for His voice as He guides you, strengthens and energized you to fulfill His purposes for your life.

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Strength Training

I’m not a person who goes to the gym a lot, but I’ve got plenty of friends who do. I know some people who enter into body building competitions as well. It turns out that there’s a difference between muscle building and strength training. I always assumed very muscular people were super strong, but strength isn’t what they’re going for. Muscle building works to induce bulging muscles and increase muscle size. However, in strength training you’re trying to increase the functionality of your muscles. I love the idea of that. It’s not just about looks, but ability. Many people who go to the gym hope to get toned, but what they need to be doing is strength training instead.

Consider that understanding as we look at Ephesians 6:10. Paul wrote, “Finally, build up your strength in union with the Lord and by means of his mighty power” (GNT). Paul didn’t ask us to build up our spiritual muscles so we look good. He told us to build up our strength so we can have endurance and increased functionality in the Body of Christ. So many of us spend so much effort trying to look good by doing things that get noticed, but that’s the equivalent of body building. We need to be in strength training instead ready to fight spiritual battles, to carry other believers who need help and to endure hardships. Spiritual strength is what we need most.

Just like someone who is in physical strength training, spiritual strength training requires consistency. You must consistently pray, read the Bible and apply God’s principles to your life. Stepping out in faith in areas where God leads you is another way. You gain strength when you keep trusting in God during difficult times when your mind and others tell you that you should be cursing Him instead. You must push yourself beyond your current abilities and situations to the point it challenges you. Until you do that consistently, you’re not building your strength. If we’re not willing to stretch our faith through application of God’s principles, it’s no different than going to the gym, sitting on the equipment and never using it. You can know how to do it, but you only build your strength when you actually apply what you know.

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Kindness Matters

There was a single lady named Anna Schoiberin who got pregnant and gave birth to a boy named Josef in the late 1700’s. The man who got her pregnant was a mercenary soldier. He took off and abandoned them leaving them with the shame. The town’s executioner agreed to be the boy’s godfather. That didn’t help their reputation. After a couple of years, she couldn’t afford to live and support them both, so she decided to give up her son. The local church decided to take him in because no one else would. They noticed he had a proclivity towards music and began to foster it.

When he grew up, he decided to go into ministry. After school, he was assigned a church. After being there a couple of years, he was assigned the task of introducing a new song to celebrate the Christmas season. He took a poem he had written to a friend who arranged it to be played on the church organ. However, when Christmas time came, the organ had fallen into disrepair. His friend quickly changed the arrangement to be played acoustically. That night, “Silent Night” was sung publicly for the first time. The church loved it! It has gone on to be the most popular Christmas carol being translated into over 300 languages and even briefly stopped World War I.

Colossians 3:12 says, “You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (GNT). There are people all around us who, like Josef, have been rejected and need kindness. They’re seeking refuge, love and healing for their brokenness. We as Christians can either compound their hurt or silence their pain through our kindness and compassion. I love that it was the Church who took Josef Mohr in, loved him and fostered his gifts. There’s no telling what your act of kindness will do in someone’s life. Because that church was clothed with all these traits listed, history was changed. Kindness matters.

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