If you’ve ever smoked meat, getting a fire going and maintaining it is critical. Because it’s been a colder than normal winter for us, dried out wood has become difficult to find. The wood I purchased was still somewhat green, which made it difficult to keep burning. I found myself blowing on it, stoking it and doing everything possible to keep it going. It reminded me of one of my pastor’s recent sermons using 2 Timothy 1:6. Paul told Timothy to fan into flames the gifts that were given to him. As I’ve been fanning my gifts into flame, God has been reawakening gifts and promises that I thought were dead.
In Ezekiel 37, God takes Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones of people who had been dead a long time. In verse 3 God asked, “Can these bones become living people again?” (NLT) I’m sure Ezekiel was bewildered by the question knowing the answer, but also wondering why God was asking. Wisely he responded, “You alone know the answer to that.” God then told him to prophesy to those bones of what God was going to do. Ezekiel did it and the bones, sinews, muscles and flesh came back together. God wasn’t asking Ezekiel to bring them to life though. He was simply asking him to have enough faith to speak to them to come alive.
Romans 11:29 says, “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.” That means that the gifts He’s given you are still yours. They may look dry and feel dead, but God has not taken them from you no matter what you’ve done. In an act of faith, you need to speak to them, stir them up and fan them into flame once again. God is wanting us to be prepared for the coming of His Son. He is looking for a Church that is ready. It’s time to revisit those promises and gifts. It’s time to start operating in them and using them. Don’t look at them with your human eyes. Look at them with the faith of Ezekiel and call them back to life. What looks dead and gone is ready to come alive.
I’ve been thinking of an old poem by Myra Brooks Welch turned into song and sung by Wayne Watson. It’s called, “The Old Violin: The Touch Of The Master’s Hand”. It starts off, “’Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it hardly worth his while, to waste his time on the old violin, but he held it up with a smile.” He asked for a dollar for it, maybe two. Then an old man came up, tuned it and played a beautiful melody. The auctioneer then asked for $1,000. It then switches and says, “And many a man with life out of tune, all battered and bruised with hardship, is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd, much like that old violin…But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can understand, the worth of a soul and the change that is wrought by the touch of the Master’s hand.”
In Matthew 14, Jesus is grieving John the Baptist’s death and just wants to be alone. He gets in a boat and sails to the middle of the Sea of Galilee, but the crowds follow His every move from the shore. He goes to the shore and heals the sick all day long. By late afternoon, the disciples catch up and presume to tell Jesus what to do. “You should send the crowds away to the nearby villages to buy themselves some food.” But Jesus has other plans and told them to feed the crowd. They answered in verse 17, “But all we have is five barley loaves and two fish.” “Let me have them,” Jesus replied” (TPT). He then fed the 5,000+ crowd with so little.
If you’re like me, you look at your life and say, “God, how can use you me? I have so little to offer.” But going back to the poem and the story in the Bible, value is measured based on whose hands something is in. You and I can only do so much with what I have to maximize our potential. The exponential change and growth happens when we surrender our lives to Him and place them in His hands. Your background, past and brokenness limit you in your own hands, but becomes limitless in His. Where you disqualify yourself, He tunes up and plays a beautiful melody that touches others. Submitting our life to Him is the greatest thing any one of us can do because that’s when we place it in the Master’s Hands.
I was listening to Tullian Tchividjian speak about the disciples that Jesus chose. He mentioned that Jesus didn’t choose religious or wealthy men. He chose men who had nothing to bring to the table. He also said that God doesn’t need perfect vessels to carry out His will, He needs broken ones. There’s a lot in just those few statements that speaks to me. I think that the 12 men whom He chose to give His life changing message to says a lot about who God is and what He sees in people.
When Jesus chose the disciples, He pretty much walked up to them and said, “Come follow me.” They didn’t ask Him who He was. They didn’t say, “Let me finish doing this task.” They didn’t ask to go say goodbye to family and friends. They dropped what they were doing, left family and friends to follow Jesus. They were chosen because their attitudes were the type that was willing to do whatever God asked without worrying about everything else that typically stops us from doing His will.
These men were not perfect either. Peter had a big mouth. Thomas was a skeptic. Judas was self righteous. Matthew was a tax collector who had cheated people. The list goes on. God does not choose people to carry out His will based on what they offer. He chooses people based on their inabilities. If we could do everything He asked on our own, where would faith come in? If we were confident enough to say what He tells us to say, we would think we were doing it in our own strength. If we had the credentials and expertise, pride would swell up in us. Instead, He finds broken and chipped vessels to put together to do His will so He can get the glory.
Have you limited yourself in what you feel God has called you to do because you don’t have the skills or ability? Have you thought God wanted you to do something that was over your head but turned Him down because you couldn’t do that on your own? You don’t have to have a degree in Public Speaking to share what God has done for you. You don’t have to have a Masters in Anthropology to help the needy. You don’t have to have a Doctorate in Theology to discuss with others what you found in God’s Word. You simply have to be a vessel that’s been broken and ready to use by Him for His purpose and His glory. He will give you all you need to be successful in your calling.
Throwback Thursday is a new 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.
There’s a scripture I’ve read over many times and haven’t given much thought to until today. It’s 1 Peter 2:5 that says, “And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple” (NLT). If you think about what stones are and how they are used, a lot jumps out at you. Stones are movable, shapable, polishable and usable. These are all things God wants to do in our lives so that He can use us for His purposes. We all have a role to play in building His church of living stones. I don’t think it was by accident Peter used the term stone. In fact, it was divinely inspired.
Think about what David picked up and used to slay the giant. It was a stone, five smooth ones to be exact. What did the Israelites take out of the Jordan river to build an altar to God so people would remember what He did? Stones. What was the Temple in the Old Testament built out of? You guessed it, stones. The Bible uses stones for many things. If you think about them as people, we’ll that’s the same things God wants to do with us as living stones. We are to be giant slayers, reminding people of all God has done and we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
The thing that all these stones had in common is that they were able to be used and given a purpose. Sometimes God has to shape us before He can place us exactly where we’ll be the most effective. Sometimes that means parts of our lives will be knocked off so we’ll fit. Sometimes we will have our rough edges sanded off so we’re smooth. No matter what, we must submit to God and His purposes so we can reach our potential. Otherwise we will be stuck in the ground going nowhere. Today, ask God how He wants to use you as a living stone and see what He does.
I’m working out of town this week so I thought it would be fun to watch the World Series in a group environment. I left my hotel and went to Buffalo Wild Wings knowing they would have the game. When the hostess was starting to seat me, I requested a seat where I could see the game. She replied, “What game?” I let her know I was referring to the World Series. She went and asked her manager about it and he informed me they would have it on a TV or two, but wouldn’t be playing the sound. I looked at him puzzled and he replied, “This is a football town. People don’t care about baseball.”
I thought it was strange that he just declared the whole city as a football town. Then I started to think how many times I label myself as something. I’m not good at that. I can’t learn that because I’m not good at math. I have OCD. I’m quirky. I’m an introvert. I don’t do well around other people. Whatever the label, we put them on ourselves and give ourselves an excuse not to do something. We’ve said things about ourselves so much that we can’t see any other options. We believe it so it’s true.
God does not define you by your limitations or labels. When He looks at you, He doesn’t see what you can’t do. He looks at who He created you to be. He sees the potential to rise above the labels you’ve anchored yourself with and desires that you cut free of them. The limitations you have in your life are self imposed. I know people who have physical disabilities who don’t allow themselves to be defined by them. They accomplish more than people without disabilities because that’s not how they see themselves.
If you allow the label you place on yourself, you will never be able to do what you dream of. You will never reach the potential of all that God created you to be. When He made you, He didn’t call you fat, stupid, lazy, disabled, impaired, OCD, tired or anything else negative. When He made you, according to Psalm 139, He said you were “fearfully and wonderfully made.” It goes on to say, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!” If God thinks about you that much about you and they are precious thoughts, then it’s time you changed how you thought about yourself too.
Are you smarter than God? Do you somehow know things about yourself that He doesn’t? It’s time to have the mind of Christ and see yourself in the same light that He does. Quit looking at what you think are liabilities and see how He can use those for His glory. Quit giving yourself excuses not to try something or to follow His will by labeling yourself with negative things. You are more than your self imposed limitations. When you get that, truly get that, you will be free and you will open the door for God to use you like never before.