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Losing Sight Of Jesus

On any trip to Israel, visiting Galilee is a must. One of the places I enjoy most is the Mount of Beatitudes. As I was sitting up there, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, I watched boats crossing back and forth. I couldn’t help but think of when Jesus sent the disciples to the other side while he went up the mountain to pray. While they were making their way across, a fierce storm overwhelmed them. Their focus was on surviving the storm, and not on Jesus who sent them across the sea by themselves. From where Jesus was sitting, He never lost sight of them. So when He walked on water, He knew right where to go.

It’s not hard to lose sight of Jesus in our lives. Life gets hard and rarely goes as planned. We can get rocked by a diagnosis, our spouse walking out or something happening to one of our kids. In those moments, life often becomes a battle for survival. We can lose sight of Jesus and wonder where He is in the middle of our chaos. I can tell you that He’s never taken His eye off of you. If He doesn’t come walking on water to save you, keep rowing, but also make sure you take the time to find Him. We know that if you seek Him, you will find Him. I’ve found that the times I’m most overwhelmed by the things happening in my life are the times my relationship with Him is strengthened because I realize I can’t do it without Him.

Song of Songs is an allegory of Jesus and us. In Song of Songs 1:8, Jesus calls out to us, “Listen, my radiant one— if you ever lose sight of me, just follow in my footsteps where I lead my lovers. Come with your burdens and cares. Come to the place near the sanctuary of my shepherds” (TPT). The beautiful thing about Him is that He’s waiting for us, chaos and all, to find Him. He loves us no matter how crazy our life is or how far away from Him we’ve gone. It’s always a shorter journey back to Him than it was leaving Him, and He’s never taken His eye off of you. If you’re burdened down today, or blinded by your worries, take them to Him and rest in the fact that you are loved and His strength is made perfect in your weakness.

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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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Don’t Fight Alone

Overwhelmed. Outnumbered. Stressed. When looking at situations we face, it doesn’t take much for these feelings to pop up and dominate our thoughts. When we feel this way, we tend to have tunnel vision. We concentrate on the issue at hand and lose track of other things that are going on. Fear and worry use it as an opportunity to move into our thoughts. All the what if’s begin to pop up, and we forget who truly is in control. That’s why it’s good to have a godly friend you can reach out to when you go into this tailspin. They can encourage you, pray for you and help you get your mind right. They help put things back in perspective.

In 2 Chronicles 32, the Assyrian army was destroying everyone in their path. Jerusalem was on their hit list and they were coming for it. King Hezekiah shored up the city’s water supply by building an underground tunnel to channel water in. He built up their defenses and then gathered every man in the city in front of the city gate. The men were overwhelmed, outnumbered and stressed. They knew they were going to be defeated. The king gathered them in order to encourage them and help them get their minds right. All they could focus on was the impending doom on its way. Worry and fear had taken over.

Then in verses 7-8, the king said, “‘Be determined and confident, and don’t be afraid of the Assyrian emperor or of the army he is leading. We have more power on our side than he has on his. He has human power, but we have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.’ The people were encouraged by these words of their king” (GNT). You may need to read that last statement of his again. You have more power on your side than the situation you’re facing has on its. You have the power, protection and promises of God on your side. You don’t fight your battles alone, and He who is in you is greater than he who is against you (1John 4:4). Be encouraged today, pray and get your mind focused on God. You can pull out of the self destructive tail spin and be victorious no matter what you’re facing.

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Quit Fighting God

God doesn’t mind doing whatever it takes to get our attention. I’ve seen it in my life and in the lives of others. If we choose to ignore Him and do our own thing, He will make sure to correct our course. The more we refuse to listen, the more difficult things can get or the more spectacular God shows off to change our mind. I personally took the road of pain and loss until I finally gave in. Every time I thought I had hit rock bottom, the bottom would fall out from under me. That kept happening until I decided to stop doing what I wanted in my life and instead chose what He wanted. It was painful then, but looking back I’m glad He didn’t give up on me and that He kept pursuing me.

Jonah was a man who was called by God to get an entire city to repent and change their ways. Most preachers would salivate at that opportunity, but not Jonah. He didn’t like the city or its people. He didn’t mind if God destroyed them, so he headed in the opposite direction on a ship. They were soon met with a storm so great that the boat was going to come apart and everyone on board would die. Jonah confessed he was the reason and asked them to throw him overboard. He was probably thinking death was better than preaching in Nineveh. However, God’s plan would still prevail. He sent a large fish to swallow Jonah. As he sat in the darkness contemplating his choices, he decided to repent and agree to do what God had asked. The whole city of Nineveh repented.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “A person may have many ideas concerning God’s plan for his life, but only the designs of God’s purpose will succeed in the end” (TPT). What ways has God used to get your attention? Are you still trying to do it your way? There are many times when our will for our life conflicts with God’s, but in the end, His will will prevail. The Bible is full of people and nations who have tried to do things their way instead of God’s. We can choose to learn from their lives or from however God chooses to bring us back around to His will. You were created with a purpose and a plan. If you’re not sure what that is yet, ask God to reveal it to you. If you know it and have been stalling or running from it, expect God to help you get back on course using any means necessary.

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Worship In The Valley

Two of the biggest lies we hear when we’re going through a difficult time is that no one else understands and that God doesn’t care. I remember hearing both and believing them. The first one tries to get you on a technicality because there is no one else with your exact situation. I’ve found that while our situations may be unique, the pain and the process we go through is very similar. While someone may not be able to fully understand my exact situation, they can identify with the pain. That leads us to the second lie that God doesn’t care. The lie wants you to think that if God cared, you wouldn’t be going through so much. The truth is that even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He’s there with you to guide you and comfort you. He makes all things work together for our good.

I don’t know anyone who went through as much as Paul or Job. Job lost everything including his wealth, his kids and property. He still was able to worship God in that moment. In Job 2:9, when his wife told him to curse God and die, he responded, “Shall we accept good from God and not the trouble?” (NIV) When Paul was thrown in prison with Silas after having been beat, he invited God’s presence into the deepest, darkest part of that prison in the middle of the night by singing praises. When both of these men felt abandoned by people and God, they worshipped knowing that God dwells in the praises of His people. They held to the truth that God cares for us no matter how bad things may seem.

Psalm 31:7 says, “I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul” (NLT). In the darkest nights of my life, the most painful times, I turned on praise and worship music to help me worship when I didn’t feel it. God is worthy of our praise no matter what it is we’re going through. He sees the anguish in our soul and He cares deeply for us. He knows that the pain, the hurt, the sadness and the darkness will only last for a little while. He never leaves us in those times though He may feel far away. He’s there leading us into a greater joy and life that often goes through the darkest valley. Don’t listen to the lies and despair. Listen to the truth and worship.

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Trust Is A Verb

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Focusing On Heavenly Things

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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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The Road Of Adversity

Several years ago I attended a Catalyst Conference for pastors and ministers. One of the keynote speakers was Andy Stanley who pastors at North Point Ministries, a multi location church in Atlanta. In his address he said, “Some of you may be wondering why you’re not up here speaking. More than likely it’s because you haven’t been through enough adversity.” He went on to share some of the adversity his family had been through. He also talked about some of the things the other speakers had been through. His dad once said, “If you want God’s best for your life and desire to be used by Him, at some point you’re going to have to travel the road of adversity. God designed adversity to be a turning point from which you take your greatest leaps forward in spiritual growth.”

After David had been anointed king, he was chased by King Saul. In one of those instances he had to flee the country and live with the Philistines. David had agreed to fight Israel with the Philistines and other armies, but the other kings were afraid David would turn on them. They sent him home to Ziklag where he had been living. When he approached the city, they saw smoke. The Amalekites knew it would be unprotected so they attacked it, burned down all their homes and possessions and took their wives and kids. David and his men wept until they couldn’t weep anymore. His men were bitter and began to talk openly about stoning him. 1 Samuel 30:6 says, “But David found strength in the Lord his God” (NLT). He consulted the Lord, found out their wives and kids were still alive, tracked them down, attacked the Amalekites and set them free.

Psalm 34:19 says, “The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.” This verse reminds us that we are going to face a lot of trouble in our lives, but it also gives hope that God will rescue us each time. God will use adversity for your good. He also won’t let it last longer than it needs to once it has produced in you what He needs accomplished. He uses it to birth character, strength, endurance and so much more in us. It’s hard to see that as you’re walking through it, but when you look back on the times you’ve walked down the road of adversity, you can see God’s hand in it, how He delivered you from it and the good things He produced in you. It can still be painful to look back on, and you might not have all the answers as to why, but you can know that God never abandoned you on the road of adversity and He used it to get you to a place you never could have been without it.

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Love And Restoration

I grew up in the age of televangelists. I was a teenager when Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker fell from grace as we called it. I remember them being all over the news for their failures. I also remember the Church joining in with the world in taking them down. Days before the news broke, these men and their ministries were held in high esteem by many. Then immediately they were cast out. The same thing happened to singers Marabeth Jordan from First Call and Michael English. They were pulled from the radio, their CD’s taken out of stores and they were shunned. I remember thinking, “What if King David had been treated this way? We forgive him, but not these people.” Michael felt the reaction so heavily that he ended up homeless and on drugs. I’m not sure what the exact response is, but rejection isn’t it.

In John 8:1-11, the religious leaders paraded a woman into the Temple area where Jesus was sitting. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. In our Law Moses commanded that such a woman must be stoned to death. Now, what do you say?” (GNT) If this had been in our time, we would have started throwing the stones, but Jesus wasn’t so quick to pick up a stone. Instead, He drew in the dirt as He considered His response. He straightened up and said to them, “Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her.” One by one they dropped their stones and walked away. He drew in the dirt some more, then looked up at her and asked if anyone was left to condemn her. “No one, sir,” she answered. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.”

Jesus provided a great example of love and restoration. Galatians 6:1 says, “My friends, if someone is caught in any kind of wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should set him right; but you must do it in a gentle way. And keep an eye on yourselves, so that you will not be tempted, too.” Instead of walking around with stones in our hands looking to take out brothers and sisters who fail, we need to be looking for ways to use those stones to repair their foundations. We forget that we’re in the restoration business and not the demolition one. Demolition is fun because it’s quick and easy. The work of restoration is long and tedious, but that’s what we’re called to do. Who have you been withholding restoration from? Who have you thrown rocks at? We’re all guilty of it, but it’s not too late to change. If Jesus is able to forgive them, we must be willing to as well. We are His vehicle for restoration of their lives. Let’s act like it.

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Being Teachable

One of the things I’ve learned is that if you’re going to grow, you must be teachable. People who think they know it all have placed a lid on their growth. The ones who are humble enough to realize they don’t know what they don’t know are often the people who ask questions that seek understanding. They want to learn more so they can get better at something. They seek out people who know more than they do in the area they want to grow in, ask questions and then apply what they’ve learned. Application is a huge part of growth. It’s what takes the knowledge you’ve been given and does something with it. If you’ve been taught something new and don’t do anything with it or change how you do things, then you may not be as teachable as you thought.

Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, was a serious scholar. He had one of the brightest teachers who poured everything into his students. Even though he had all that knowledge and was very strict in obeying the Law, he was missing the point. Jesus met him on the way to Damascus to show him His will for him. Paul spent the next several years relearning everything in the Scriptures with his new perspective. Once he understood what God wanted him to do, he did it faithfully until he died. He served God with complete devotion, and wrote letters to the churches of that day explaining the Scriptures and helping them follow Jesus with the same devotion.

In Psalm 86:11 David prayed, “Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do, and I will obey you faithfully; teach me to serve you with complete devotion” (GNT). It’s a prayer each of us should pray as we seek to grow and follow Jesus more closely. Like Paul, God will reveal to us His will and give us understanding of Scriptures. He wants us to know His will for our lives so we can obey Him and fulfill our purpose. It starts with us being teachable and asking Him to show us. Just like before, knowledge is great, but growth happens in the application and obedience. Both David and Paul were people like you and me. They had flaws and failures, but what sets them apart from most is that they were always seeking to know more of what they didn’t know about God and how to serve Him more faithfully. I believe their teachability is why God revealed so much to them and why God used them to write so much of the Bible. Imagine what God could do through you if you were that teachable.

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Planting Seeds

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