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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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Hoping In The Lord

My father in law loves watching Animal Planet and other shows about nature. There’s something fascinating to him about the shows where they narrate a lion stalking it’s prey. The animals travel in heards as they search for water, but are unknowingly being followed. When the lion shows itself, fear breaks out. Most animals stay together as they run in fear, but several scatter and peel off from the heard. One thing I’ve noticed about these shows is that the lion never goes after those that stay with the heard. He always goes after those who let fear cause them to be alone. I find myself rooting for the underdog in those situations hoping they find their way back to the heard. Unfortunately the lion almost always wins because fear causes the prey to make the wrong decisions.

1 Peter 5:8 tells us that the devil roams the earth like a lion seeking people to devour. He uses the same tactics real lions use: stalking, fear, intimidation and loneliness. I see this pandemic as a way of trying to separate people from the heard and to instill fear in people causing them to make poor choices. Fear does not come from God. Hope does. He has plans for us that give us hope and a future, but we can’t be ruled by fear. Even though this looks never ending, we must continually put our hope in the Lord and stay closely connected to the Body of Believers. The enemy wants to sift us the way he wanted to separate Peter. God is faithful and He’s working everything out for our good, so we must continue to hope and trust in Him.

Here are some Bible verses on placing our hope in the Lord.

1. Be strong, be courageous, all you that hope in the Lord.

Psalm 31:24 GNT

2. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.

Lamentations 3:21-22 NLT

3. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.

Romans 12:12 GNT

4. So then, my soul, why would you be depressed? Why would you sink into despair? Just keep hoping and waiting on God, your Savior. For no matter what, I will still sing with praise, for living before his face is my saving grace!

Psalms 42:5 TPT

5. So it is impossible for God to lie for we know that his promise and his vow will never change! And now we have run into his heart to hide ourselves in his faithfulness. This is where we find his strength and comfort, for he empowers us to seize what has already been established ahead of time—an unshakeable hope! We have this certain hope like a strong, unbreakable anchor holding our souls to God himself. Our anchor of hope is fastened to the mercy seat which sits in the heavenly realm beyond the sacred threshold, and where Jesus, our forerunner, has gone in before us. He is now and forever our royal Priest like Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6:18-20 TPT

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God’s Image

One day, there was a religious leader who wanted to trap Jesus. He asked Him which of the commandments was the most important. Jesus knew what was in his heart and replied that we must love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. What the leader wasn’t prepared for was what Jesus said next. He said, “A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself” (NLT). He knew if we could do these two things, we could fulfill the law.

The first one seems easy enough. We are to love a perfect God with everything in us. The second one, that’s equally important, is the tough one because people are imperfect. People do things that make us mad, offend us, hurt us and drive us nuts. Yet Jesus is telling us to love them with everything in us as much as we love God. Why would He put that pressure on us? Why can’t we just love God and go to Heaven?

I believe God wanted us to learn to look past each other’s faults to see what He sees in them. Genesis 1:27 tells us what to look for. “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Each of us are made in God’s image, even the people you can’t stand. God put His likeness in each one of us and it’s up to us to learn to see it the way He does.

If you look for the best in others, they will look for the best in you. If you can see God’s image in them, you can learn to love them because we can easily love God. It’s tough sometimes to dig through their layers to find it deep inside them, but His image is in there. When we learn to see Him in others, and to help them see His image in themselves, we begin to see the world through different lenses. We begin to know as we are known and also to fulfill that second, but equally important commandment. Look deeper into to others today to find God’s image and fulfill the law of Christ.

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Your Potential Growth

To me, one of the coolest miracles is the miracle of a seed. I have packets of them sitting around. Some are for flowers, some are for vegetables and some are for trees. They can sit inside their packet for years and nothing will happen. However, when I plant them at the right time of year, the miracle begins. In the dark, wet earth, something in the seed wakes up and it begins to come apart as a small shoot makes its way out of it. That shoot pushes back the ground all around it and somehow knows to go upward in search for light. It continues growing in the proper conditions until it replicates in some form the plant or tree that produced it. Then, it produces its own seeds so that another generation can grow.

When I look at an acorn next to an oak, I can’t help but look up and ask God, “How do you fit an entire tree in this little nut?” When I think about it, He does the same thing with us. Each of us have an incredible potential inside of us waiting for the right conditions in order to grow and develop into something incredible. We all have hidden potential that is waiting to be discovered, but it needs the right conditions in order to start growing. Those conditions are usually dark times in our lives where we’re in over our heads and aren’t quite sure which way is up. The world around us seems to be pressing in on ever side, yet out of that, God births things in us that we didn’t know were there.

2 Peter 1:3 says, “Everything we could ever need for life and godliness has already been deposited in us by his divine power” (TPT). Just like every sin lives in you waiting for the right conditions to come out, every good thing lives in you waiting on the right conditions to come out. Don’t run from the pressures of hard times in your life because those are the places where God grows these deposits in your life. You have an incredible potential beyond what you can imagine. Just like a giant tree begins with a small seed, there is a giant in you waiting to come out. As you mature and grow, you will begin to reproduce other people in the faith. You will provide shade for them to grow in, when you have roots that go down deep into God’s Word. Isaiah 61:3 says, “In their righteousness, they (you) will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory” (NLT). There is a tree inside of you waiting to grow.
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Perfect Peace

After months of social distancing, my 9 year old has had enough. He was frustrated last week and asked, “Why is everyone obsessed with COVID-19?” I explained that this is something new to the world and is affecting everyone. It’s causing some stores to close, and the ones that remain open have shorter hours. Businesses have shut down, people have lost their jobs and don’t know how to support their family. I also explained that no one knows how long this will last, and that the unknown causes fear. When people are afraid, they try to consume knowledge, but no one knows what information to trust because there’s a lot of misinformation out there. I said, “Because of all of those things, it appears to you that they’re obsessed with COVID, but really it’s just fear causing confusion and it shows up in people in different ways.”

Fear has been at work since the beginning. Adam and Eve were afraid that God was lying to them about the tree. Fear robs us of peace and does it’s best to distract us with the mindset that we can beat it with information. 24-hour news stations try to meet that need for people to have the most up to date information and often report things before they’re vetted. It’s easy to get addicted to the news and not realize that you’re feeding fear as it’s compelling you to keep watching. Internal peace is hard to find in an uncertain world, but it is possible. You won’t find it in the news, on the internet or from your favorite podcast. The only peace that overcomes the fear of the unknown is the kind that Jesus promised us.

John 14:27 says, “I leave the gift of peace with you—my peace. Not the kind of fragile peace given by the world, but my perfect peace. Don’t yield to fear or be troubled in your hearts—instead, be courageous!” (TPT) Perfect peace is what we as believers have been given, but many of us have allowed ourselves to be robbed of it. We have yielded to fear and allowed ourselves to be troubled in this uncertain time. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take precautions or follow guidelines, but don’t let fear dictate our every move. The world is full of fear and we have the antidote with the Good News. God is still in control. He is still on His throne and has not abandoned us. Trust in Him, be courageous and yield to the Prince of Peace. I don’t need to know everything about COVID-19. I only need to know the One who holds my tomorrow in His hands and put my trust in Him to find peace in this troubled time.

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

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The Power Of Praise

When I was a child, I started to learn the power of praise and worship. My earliest recollection of it was hearing the story of King Saul who was tormented by an evil spirit. David would come in, play his harp singing songs of praise to God, and the spirit would leave the king. I remember then hearing the story of Paul and Silas in prison. They had been beaten and were in the deepest, darkest part of the dungeon. In the middle of the night, they began to sing praises to God. The prison shook, the chains fell off and they were free. Then I memorized Ephesians 5:19 where Paul emphasizes to believers that we need to be, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melodies in your heart to the Lord” (KJV).

I know when I’ve had major events in my life, I’ve turned on praise and worship music to help me get through. When I’m stressed out and under emotional pressure, I find a praise and worship station on Pandora. All of a sudden, the atmosphere around me begins to change. My mind shifts from my problems to my savior. There is a powerful thing that happens in those moments as I invite God’s presence into our situation. The thought chains that held my mind captive begin to fall off. The way I see and approach the problems changes as I shift my focus from them to the One who is greater than anything I face. I go from being the victim in the situation to the victor because I take up the weapon of the Word of God and began to fight the unseen battle.

Psalm 71:14 says, “No matter what, I’ll trust in you to help me. Nothing will stop me from praising you to magnify your glory!” (TPT). The writer knew that there will be things that happen to you to try to take your focus off of God. There will be lies spoken and heard internally that tell you God has abandoned you and forgotten you. However, he purposed in his heart that nothing (no lie, no circumstance, no situation or pressure) would keep him from praising God. When we focus our hearts on praise, our faith and trust in God rises. We quit listening to our circumstances and begin to speak into them with the Word of God. Don’t underestimate the power of praise in your life. God isn’t listening to see if you can carry a tune in a bucket, He’s listening to the intent in your heart. Don’t stop praising God no matter what is happening in your life because it will carry you through and break the chains trying to hold you down.

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Godly Confidence

Almost every time I get on stage for work or church, I get nervous. What if I mess up? What if I don’t say things just right? I begin to doubt and my palms start to get sweaty. What if I drop the microphone? I’ve learned to step outside the room by myself to give myself a pep talk. I answer those questions with positive statements about myself and my abilities. I do it until I’m either out of time or until I’m full of confidence. I then march into the room with my head held high, ready to take on the challenge. Confidence is what gives me the strength to push through the doubts and questions in order to trust what I’ve done hundreds of times.

Stepping out in faith feels very similar. No matter how many times we do it, those questions echo in our mind. What if God doesn’t show up this time? What if He leaves you out here by yourself? What if this fails? The best thing to do is to go to God’s Word for a pep talk. Look at His character since the beginning. See how He delivered ordinary people extraordinarily. The Word of God should give each of us confidence to overcome our doubts, to get our game face on and to push past fear. I’ve found that you just need enough confidence to push past the initial fear. After that, momentum and faith can carry you to the finish line.

Here are some Bible verses on God giving confidence.

1. You will not be subject to terror, for it will not terrify you. Nor will the disrespectful be able to push you aside, because God is your confidence in times of crisis, keeping your heart at rest in every situation.

Proverbs 3:25-26 TPT

2. Lord, never forget the promises you’ve made to me, for they are my hope and confidence.

Psalms 119:49 TPT

3. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust [with great confidence, and on whom I rely]!”

Psalms 91:2 AMP

4. But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.

Jeremiah 17:7 NLT

5. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.

Romans 15:13 AMP

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Rock Of Help

When I get overwhelmed by circumstances and things going on in my life, I do an exercise in faith. Before I panic, I force myself to remember times when God has come through for me. I try to think of all the times before when things have been hopeless and at the last minute, He answered. Doing that reminds me that God answers at just the right time, that He sees my situation and that He’s been faithful in the past. When I begin to take my focus off of how impossible my situation is and remind myself of how capable my God is, my attitude starts to change.

The Israelites were at Mizpah offering sacrifices to God for their sin. I Samuel 7 tells us that all of Israel was there repenting. While they were gathered for offerings, the Philistines decided to attack them. The Israelites were scared, confused and began to panic. Samuel cried out to God on their behalf as he made a sacrifice. Verse 10 says that as he was making the sacrifice, the Philistines showed up for battle. God spoke from Heaven in loud claps of thunder that threw the enemy into confusion. After Israel routed the Philistines that day, Samuel set up a rock and named it “Ebenezer” which means rock of help.

Anytime that Israel was in distress, they simply had to look at that rock and remember that God came through in an impossible situation. It was a reminder that if He did it before, He’ll do it again. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. David knew that too. I wonder how many times he passed by Ebenezer and called out to God. In Psalm 61:2, he wrote, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” He wanted to be led to God, but also to that memory that God saves us just in time.

When we get overwhelmed, our prayer shouldn’t be one of panic. It should be that we are led to the rock that is higher than we are. When the enemy comes in like a flood, we need to run to that rock for safety. When we can’t see tomorrow because of all the trouble today holds, we need to remember the God we serve. We need to call to mind the great things He has done in the past and remind ourselves that we are not forgotten. We have not been abandoned. He will come just in the nick of time as He always has.

Don’t make your decisions based on fear. Make them based on the faith that God hears us. Make them based on how He has responded in your life in the past. Your situation may seem hopeless. You may be outnumbered, out gunned and surrounded, but you serve a God who is able. He is able yo deliver you from whatever you are facing today. It’s not too late. You’re not too engulfed. You’re not finished. When you’re overwhelmed, run to the Rock of Help. He’s there for you in your time of need.

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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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My Will Be Done

I have a friend who has a favorite quote that he has to use often. He plans out his week, prioritizes things and works his plan. All week long people come to him and ask him to stop what he’s doing in order to help them. They give excuses and sob stories to try to get him to stop what he’s doing so he can work on their project. Some will even invoke the boss’ name to try to get him to work on their stuff. “The boss says you need to work on this right away.” He’s learned that rarely has the boss ever asked him to stop what he’s doing in order to do an immediate request. So his normal response is, “A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.” He then adds them to his list and gets to them later.

Being around him and watching people beg, barter and demand he do their project now always gets me to thinking how often I treat God that way. “God, if you get me out of this, I’ll do better next time.” “God, please! I need you to do this right now! Hurry!” “God, your Word says you have to do this and you can’t be untrue to your Word, so do it in Jesus name!” Sound familiar? I’ve prayed every one of those prayers in the last couple of weeks. I try to paint God into a corner in order to get Him to give me what I want. If that’s the on,y time we’re talking and that’s how I’m treating Him, there’s a spiritual maturity problem on my end. The phrase, “Thy will be done,” often comes to mind in those moment when I want it to be, “My will be done.”

In Psalm 69, David starts his prayer off, “Save me, O God! The water is up to my neck; I am sinking in deep mud, and there is no solid ground; I am out in deep water, and the waves are about to drown me” (GNT). He’s clearly in an emergency situation as he describes throughout this Psalm. However, in verse 13, his tone changes and he prays, “But as for me, I will pray to you, Lord; answer me, God, at a time you choose.” Instead or telling God when to help or even how to help, a sign of maturity is asking God to help in His time and in His way. I often wonder how many of my prayers go unanswered or that I don’t recognize the answer because I tell God how and when to answer, but those aren’t what His plans are. Jesus started the Lord’s Prayer giving God permission to have His will be done. Since He was teaching us to pray, let’s focus on the words we use in our prayers to make sure we’re asking according to His will and not ours.

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Defeating Hidden Sins

Nearly twenty years ago, I found myself sitting on the edge of my bed with a shotgun on my lap. Thoughts were racing through my head. I had been hurt badly and wanted revenge. I knew that the people were meeting at Target in about an hour. My heart was racing as I played out the scenario in my head. I thought about where I could run to or where I could hide out. Then I started thinking about what it would be like to spend the rest of my life in prison. I started to put the gun back up, but all those thoughts of pain came rushing back. “They deserve it,” I reasoned with myself. The argument went back and forth. In a split second, I put the gun in the closet, ran to my car and drove an hour away. I called a friend to meet me, gave him my keys and told him not to give them back no matter what I said.

That night scared me to death. It’s the night I realized that every sin lies within me dormant waiting for the right circumstances to bring it out. I never thought I was capable of such a thing, but that mental battle was real and it was all I could do to keep from committing it. That night I began to pay more attention to my thoughts and where I let them go. I also started to keep myself from certain situations that I thought I was immune to. Guarding my heart became something I did rather than just something I read about in the Bible. If every sin was hiding in my heart, waiting for the right moment and circumstances to align, I needed to be more cautious.

David must have had one of those moments too. In Psalm 19:12, he prayed, “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults” (NLT). He found out that every one of us are capable of any sin, but he also knew that the remedy was knowing God’s Word and seeking Him for help. In verse 11, referencing God’s Word, he wrote, “They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.” The Bible is a lamp and a light (Psalm 119:105). It exposes hidden sins, faults and thoughts, as well as it shows you what to do. Jesus used the Word of God to keep from sinning as He was tempted. It’s a powerful weapon in our arsenal against sin, but you can only be equipped with it if you know it. Don’t fall prey to the hidden sins in your heart. Be proactive by putting God’s Word in your heart so that you won’t sin against Him (Psalm 119:11).

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