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Holy, Flawless and Restored

We are own worst critics. Like me, you can probably point to everything that’s wrong with you.we know our own faults and failures. We know why God should never use us. To demonstrate this, I used to do a lesson with a group of teenagers I taught at church. I would take a piece of plain white paper, scribble in the middle of it and ask what they saw. Like clockwork, they treated it like a blob test. They called out everything under the sun of what they thought they saw. I then asked why no one said, “A paper,” or “A lot of unused space.” We tend to focus on the mess ups instead of the whole, then we disqualify ourselves. In fact, you probably just thought, “But you don’t know how bad I’ve messed up.” You’re right, I don’t, but then again, it doesn’t matter when it’s been forgiven.

When I read the Bible, I love to look at the heroes of faith. There are many people I’ve idolized in the Bible and wished I was more like them. I wish I had the same heart as David, and his courage too. I wish I had the boldness of Paul along with his tenacity. I look at Peter and wonder if I would have had the faith to get out of the boat. On and on it goes, but when I really examine their lives, I find that the heroes of the faith have messed up more than I ever have so far. David committed adultery and killed her husband to cover it up, yet God still kept him on the throne and used him. Paul spent a lifetime killing Christians before he became one. Jesus once called Peter, “Satan” because of his attitude. The list goes on as you look at all these great leaders. If they weren’t disqualified, then neither are we.

The reason is that when God looks at us, He doesn’t see our past sins like we do. Instead, He sees His Son. Colossians 1:22 says, “And now there is nothing between you and Father God, for he sees you as holy, flawless, and restored” (TPT). When God has forgiven you, He restores you. He makes you holy even though you don’t feel holy. In His eyes, you are flawless because you are covered by the righteousness of His Son. There is no sin you’ve ever committed that is stronger than His blood, so there is nothing you have done that will ever make Him see you other than holy, flawless and restored. It’s time we began to change the focus of how we see ourselves so that we begin to see what God sees when we look in the mirror. Look at yourself and say, “Through Jesus, I am holy, flawless and restored.” Say it over and over until you believe it because God already does.

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Change Your Expectations

From the time my son was born, he has been allergic to milk, gluten and eggs. The problem was that we didn’t know it. For years he would hold his ears in the bathroom because a flushing toilet made him scream. At restaurants, we had to eat while watching for if the servers were gathering to sing happy birthday because that would make him cry and scream. Then a couple of years ago, my wife’s uncle asked if we liked living that way. Assuring him we didn’t, he asked for our son, laid hands on him and prayed for healing. After the prayer, my son asked if he was healed. We asked him if he thought he was. He said yes. We then asked for a glass of milk. He drank the milk and proclaimed he was healed. Either we expected God to heal him or we didn’t. Giving him milk said we trusted God for the healing.

Faith is about expectations. What do you expect God to do? Do you expect to hear from God? Are you expecting the miracle you need? I’ve always heard that expectations determine outcomes. When Jesus healed people, He would ask them to go show themselves to the priest. When Namaan needed healing, he had to dip seven times. On the sixth he still had leprosy, but he dipped the seventh. We need to pray with expectation. We need to read God’s Word with expectation. We need to go to church with expectation. Our faith produces little because we’re expecting little. Change your expectations and you will change your life.

By the way, we had my son get an allergy test that showed he was off the charts allergic to milk, gluten and eggs. After we prayed and gave him milk, we took him to be tested again. All three showed up at zero allergies.

Here are some Bible verses on expecting from God.

1. Be strong and let your hearts take courage, All you who wait for and confidently expect the LORD.

Psalms 31:24 AMP

2. Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up. Expect GOD to get here soon.

Psalm 31:24 MSG

3. Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see.

Hebrews 11:1 GW

4. Wait for and confidently expect the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for and confidently expect the LORD.

Psalms 27:14 AMP

5. Then Jesus put his hands over their eyes and said, “You will have what your faith expects!”

Matthew 9:29 TPT

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Defeating Your Past

Do you ever feel like your faults, failures and past sins disqualify you from being used by God? Sometimes those voices that tell me those things get so overpowering that I start to believe it. My past comes back to remind me to stay grounded while God has called me to fly. They weigh me down like I’m attached to an anchor. They tell me, “Because you did this, God can never do that in your life.” It’s hard to hear anything else sometimes.

When those voices get too loud in my mind, there’s two verses I go back to. The first one is Psalm 65:3. It says, “Our faults defeat us, but you forgive them” (GNT). I use this verse to remind me that my past has been forgiven, and that there is no condemnation for those in Christ. The voices that tell me what God can’t do are not from God. When He forgives, He forgets. He uses those faults and failures as my qualifications to do what He called me to do.

The other verse I go to is Romans 11:29. It says, “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (NLT). No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, God still has a plan for your life. He still has a calling that only you can fulfill. He knew your future when He called you. He understood that you wouldn’t be able to live a perfect life so He built it into the plan for you. He doesn’t withdrawal His calling because of our past.

It’s easy to look at someone else and think, “They’re better qualified to do what I’m called to do,” but that’s not how God works. He created you with a purpose and a calling that only you can fulfill. It’s time to quit listening to the voices that tell us we can’t, and start listening to the only voice that matters. It’s not too late. You haven’t gone too far. God’s calling is still valid and you have work to do. Push out the voices that tell you why you can’t, and tell God, “Here am I. Use me.” God hasn’t withdrawn His calling it purpose from your life.

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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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Finding Shelter

Growing up on the Gulf Coast, you’re taught what to do in case of tornados or hurricanes. When they’re approaching, the news will tell everyone to find shelter. The shelter you choose matters. Is it strong enough to withstand high winds? Is it high enough that it won’t flood? Does it have interior rooms with no windows? When a storm is bearing down on you, your safety depends on where you shelter. No matter what though, there are always those who choose to run into the storm rather than to shelter. The news will show people at the beach trying to surf in the waves or who want to wait as long as they possibly can before the full force of the storm arrives. Most people evacuate and look for shelter though.

Where do you go when the storms of life come? I’ve tried to weather them without help and have lost everything. I’ve also learned to find my shelter in God who is unmovable. When you have an emergency in the US, you dial 9-1-1 to get help. When you’re facing one of life’s storms, I recommend Psalm 91:1. It says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand]” (AMP). God offers us shelter from our storms. Merriam Webster defines shelter as something that covers or affords protection. That’s what God offers us, but we must choose to run to Him in those times.

He also says we can rest in His shadow. Have you ever been in someone’s shadow literally? In order to do that, you have to be pretty close to them. God is inviting us to not just run to Him when we need protection. He’s asking us to draw near to Him and to dwell, or live, in the shelter He provides. Does that mean you won’t face storms or feel their effects? No, but it does mean you will have protection that won’t fail when you need it most. God will be your 9-1-1, but He desires for each one of us to live in His presence and to talk with Him daily. He’s not just our emergency relief. He’s our daily bread if we will choose to draw close to Him. When we do that, we can proclaim, p “He is my refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust [with great confidence, and on whom I rely]!” (Psalm 91:2)

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Productive Preparation

I’m normally a person who goes above and beyond what’s asked of me. I like to say, “If it has my name on it, it has to be excellent because I represent more than myself.” However, sometimes i don’t give my best effort if I don’t understand the purpose of what’s being asked of me or feel like it’s not a productive use of my time. Several years ago my wife asked me to take the remote control to the cable company to exchange it. I had never noticed a problem with it, but i went anyway. When I arrived, I grabbed the remote to go in and it lit up. I thought, “What am i going to tell these people as to why i need a new one? It looks like it works.” So I took it back home. A few days later when it acted up on me, I had to admit I didn’t return it.

There are a lot of things we do in life that may feel pointless. There’s times when God puts in on our heart to do something for others that doesn’t make sense. In fact, a lot of what it takes to live out our faith daily can be exhausting or feel unproductive. We don’t always see the point. That should never stop us from being obedient to what God asks. In 2 Kings 3, the two kings of Israel and Judah decided to attack Moab. They took the desert road to remain undetected. The men were thirsty and about to die. They called on Elisha who told them to dig trenches all night. He then said, “For thus says the LORD, ‘You will not see wind or rain, yet that valley will be filled with water, so you and your cattle and your other animals may drink” (AMP). The next morning they woke up to water in the trenches and were victorious in battle.

They didn’t understand God’s reasons. They were exhausted, yet they did what was asked and God rewarded them. That principle holds true for us. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord [always doing your best and doing more than is needed], being continually aware that your labor [even to the point of exhaustion] in the Lord is not futile nor wasted [it is never without purpose].” You may not understand why God wants you to do something, but do it anyway. You may feel exhausted and not up to it, but do it anyway. You may feel like it’s a waste of time, effort and energy, but do it anyway. Nothing you do for God is wasted or unproductive. God is working behind the scenes on your behalf and your blind obedience is often the preparation for a miracle.

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Focusing On Eternity

We recently cleaned out our garage. I threw a lot of things away that I had held onto for years. I kept thinking, “At some point, I valued these things enough to spend money on them. Then later, I valued them enough to store them.” The next week, my mother in law did the same thing. I helped her throw away a couple of truck loads. On the road, she said, “It’s better for me to do this now. I don’t want my kids having to go through all this one day when I die.” We spend a lifetime working so we can buy things, most of which devalue over time. Then what? Someone has to go through them and determine whether to keep them, donate them or throw them away. Did what we mattered to us in this lifetime matter for eternity?

The psalmist who wrote Psalm 39 started thinking about the end of their life. In verse 6, they wrote, “We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it” (NLT). They stated wondering if what they had been pursuing had been worth it. If you back up a couple of verses, they prayed, “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is.” What a great prayer. We forget that this life isn’t all there is. We spend so much time in this life preparing for it, trying to live well and live as comfortably as possible that we forget to think about eternity. It’s like the couple getting married spending all their time preparing for a wedding when they should be preparing for a marriage.

What are you preparing for in this life? Are you keeping eternity in focus? I admit that it’s hard to do. The pressures of this life are so real and present that I spend a lot of time thinking about them. It was the daily pressures that got this psalmist to turn their attention to eternity though. Are we allowing the pressures of the temporary things to take our mind off of the eternal? Are we spending too much time and money on things that others will throw away or donate? I used to have a small poem up that said, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” It was my daily reminder to pursue the eternal things and to not get so caught up in the affairs of this life that I fail to prepare for the next. Where is your focus today? What’s distracting you from looking at eternity? It’s good to ask God to remind you how brief this life is.

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Study Time

One of the things I don’t like to reveal about myself is how little I need to study in order to memorize things. In school, I didn’t have to stay up all night before a test. I simply needed to read my notes once and I was good. Sometimes I could go to someone in my class, ask for the flash cards they made and read them from my locker to the class in order to do well on the test. The ones who have to sit, read and pore over facts hated that studying came easy to me so I began to hide it. I still have to study things if I’m going to put them in my brain, but it just requires a lot less effort than it does for other people. The other thing is that once I’ve memorized it, I usually don’t forget it.

Part of our Christian growth is to study God’s Word. Each one of us must take time to dig in, memorize it, break it down and learn it. The methods you used in school will be helpful to you in studying what God has said. You have to look at things in context, understand the culture, know the writer and look at the different ways the words were used in their original language. Studying takes effort and time no matter who you are. Over and over in Scripture we are told to study the Bible so we will have better understanding, be better teachers, be more mature in our faith, experience growth and ultimately have success in life. How much studying have you been doing lately? We live in the Information Age. So much is available to us to study God’s Word. Don’t just read God’s Word, study it to show yourself approved who can rightly divide the word of truth.

Here are some Bible verses on studying God’s Word.

1. I’m asking GOD for one thing, only one thing: To live with him in his house my whole life long. I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet.

Psalm 27:4 MSG

2. If you point out these instructions to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished [through study] on the words of the faith and of the good [Christian] doctrine which you have closely followed.

1 Timothy 4:6 AMP

3. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

Joshua 1:8 NLT

4. “Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 AMP

5. I study your instructions; I examine your teachings.

Psalm 119:15 GNT

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A Spiritual Examination

I’ve got a friend who doesn’t like to go to the doctor. He says, “Every time I go, they find something wrong.” Isn’t that the point? If there’s something wrong, wouldn’t you want to know about it? For some people, if the problem isn’t exposed, it doesn’t exist. So if they don’t go to doctor and have the tests run, they aren’t really sick. That’s the wrong way to think about things. If you have a sickness and there’s a cure, wouldn’t you want that sickness exposed so the disease doesn’t run its course?

To some of you, what I just described sounds crazy. Others of you can identify with it. Whichever side you’re on, the truth is that many of us think the way my friend does when it comes to sin in our lives. We don’t want to shed light on it or expose it, much less have a test run to prove it exists in our body. If there’s something wrong spiritually with you, wouldn’t you want to know about it? Wouldn’t you want to get it cured?

David fell into the group that wanted to go to the doctor often and have tests run to make sure nothing was wrong. In Psalm 26:2 he prayed, “Examine me, GOD, from head to foot, order your battery of tests. Make sure I’m fit inside and out” (MSG). He wasn’t afraid to have God shine His light into every dark corner of his life. He knew that sin likes to lay hidden in our lives unexposed. It tells us to pretend we are perfect and nothing is wrong. The truth is that all of us are infected with sin, and the way we rid ourselves of it is to expose it to the light of God’s Word.

If we truly want to live the lives God has called us to, we can’t be afraid to go to The Doctor and have Him test our lives. God will not condemn us for having Him expose our sins. Instead, He will be faithful to forgive us and to lead us down His paths. We can’t be afraid that He will find something wrong with us or what others will think. There’s a cure for the sin that’s holding us back and it’s free. Jesus already paid the price for our sin and has written out the prescription. Ask God today to examine you so you can be fit inside and out.

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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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Trusting The Truth

I have a friend who is both a pilot and a flight instructor. Being a trainer myself, I asked him about ways he helps people to remember things. He shared that two things he tries to teach pilots are to trust the instruments and also to go to the manual when there’s a problem. He said that many pilots have died because they trusted what they thought they saw instead of the instruments. They have special visors that block the pilots view of everything except the instruments to teach them to trust them. To teach them to go to the manual, he distracts them mid flight, then he shuts off the engines when their not looking. He lets them panic until they remember to go to the manual. Once they do that, they go through their checklist, find the problem and restart the engines. It’s a lesson they never forget.

Both of those are great lessons for us to remember as well. We can’t trust what we feel or even see with our eyes. Feelings lie to us and manipulate us. They’re there as warning signs, but if we constantly live by our feelings, we’ll have a miserable life. We live in an age where people believe truth is relative to the individual. What’s true for me may not be true for you. Living like that is like flying by what you see and not by the instruments. It’s dangerous. Jesus said He was the way, the truth and the life. He is the absolute truth that we must use to guide our lives with beyond our feelings. He told us that we’re going to have trouble and face things that will cause us to want to lose faith, but He also said that He has overcome the world and will give us peace. We get that peace when we trust Him more than what we feel or see.

We’ve also been given an instruction manual in the Bible. It is also absolute truth. When the engines of our life shut off and we start to nose dive, go to the manual God gave us. I love how Philippians 4:8 starts. It says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true” (NLT). Don’t let fear dictate your thoughts and actions. Compare everything to what is true. If it’s not true, don’t give it space in your head. What God says is more true than your situational feelings. Fix your mind on God’s absolute truth and not on your feelings. Fix your mind on the truth of God’s Word and not what others tell you is true. This takes discipline, but it gives you peace when everything seems to be falling apart. Jesus has not abandoned you or forgotten you. He’s right there in the cockpit of life with you reminding you to trust His instruments and His Word to get you through.

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Serving Others Better

Imagine this scene. You’re in the kitchen trying to cook dinner. You have one child asking you for help with homework. Another child is in the high chair crying wanting something to eat because they just dumped their bowl of food on the floor. The TV is on and it’s turned up loud. Your phone then starts ringing. Just then you have a friend walk in. They survey all that’s going on, give a chuckle, sit down on the couch and ask when dinner is going to be ready. Can you imagine how that would make you feel? How would that change if your friend walked in, surveyed the situation and started helping? What if they picked up the spilled dinner and started to feed the baby to stop the crying? Even though they are a guest, you would be grateful to have them jump in and help.

Unfortunately, many of us are like the friend who comes in, sees everything going on at your church and sits down. Why would you help? You’re a guest, not a staff member. You can see there are things that need to be done, but it’s not your job. You’re there to get fed. The disciples had a similar mentality on the night of the Last Supper. A couple went ahead to prepare everything while the rest showed up expecting to just eat. However, they forgot one important detail. They forgot to get someone to wash everyone’s feet. Everyone was aware of the mistake, but no one did anything. They were arguing over who was the greatest instead. It was at that time that Jesus took off his outer garment, put on an apron and grabbed a towel. He saw what needed to be done, even though He had a lot on His mind that He needed to say, He washed their feet.

Having been at that dinner, Peter wrote 1 Peter 5:5 that says, “And all of you must put on the apron of humility, to serve one another; for the scripture says, ‘God resists the proud, but shows favor to the humble’” (GNT). Peter makes no exceptions in this verse. “All of you must put on the apron of humility.” None of us are above serving or helping others at home, at church or wherever you go. People all around us need help, but we have to lose the me first mentality if we’re going to serve others like Jesus. He knew that Judas would betray Him that night, yet He washed his feet and served Him dinner anyway. That is our example of putting on the apron of humility. It’s not about us or how uncomfortable we feel. It’s about showing the love of Christ to those who least deserve it because it was shown to us when we least deserved it. We must learn to serve others better if we’re going to be more Christlike.

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