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No Ice Please

When my son was three, he started noticing that my wife orders her Coke at the restaurant with no ice. He asked her why she didn’t want ice and she said, “When you get ice, over time, it dilutes the drink. Plus, with ice, you get less of a drink because of displacement.” He then asked me, “Are you ‘No ice’ or ‘Yes ice’?” I told him, “‘Yes ice’ because I would rather my drink be cold than to have a lot of it.” That seemed to satisfy him, though I’m sure he didn’t understand.

If we imagine our lives as those cups, ourself as the ice, and Jesus as the drink, we can learn a spiritual concept. The more we have of ourselves inside of us, the less we can have of Jesus. If we want more of Him, we have to empty ourselves of selfish desires. The problem is that we prefer the cold, watered down version of Jesus because it’s comfortable to us. All the while, Jesus is asking us to get rid of the ice of self so we can be more like Him.

John the Baptist is one of the greatest examples in the Bible of a ‘No ice’ person. In John 3, his disciples came to Him and said, “Hey, that guy you baptized the other day, and testified that He was the Messiah, is baptizing people down the river and our people are going to Him!” In verse 30, John replied, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (ESV). He understood that his comfort wasn’t the most important thing. Letting Jesus increase was.

The question to each of us is, “Are you ‘No ice’ or ”Yes ice’?” Do you want to be full of Jesus or of yourself? If you want to be full of Jesus, then you must decrease so He can increase in your life. You’ve got to put His desires above your own. You must daily deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him in order to truly be a ‘No ice’ person. That’s struggle each of us face daily. We could all use a little less ice and a lot more Jesus.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska:

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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Rekindle Your Fire

One of my favorite things to do is to sit around a campfire and talk. I could do it for hours. People instinctively know to put another log on the fire. No one has to say it. Stories and conversations flow, and aren’t interrupted by putting more logs on it. When it’s time to go to bed, we just let the fire burn down to a bed of coals. In the morning, I’m usually the first one up. I’ll grab a log and a couple of smaller sticks and head over to the ashes. Buried deep beneath the ash, there’s usually a couple of embers left. I put the smaller sticks on top of them, get my face close to the ground, take a deep breath and blow as much air as I can onto those embers. In a matter of moments, the fire is back to going strong and the conversations continue.

We know that David was a man after God’s own heart. He fully trusted in Him and loved His Word. Because of his faith in God he slew a giant, he took on large numbers of the enemy and waited until God was ready for him to be king. His fire for God was unmatched, but at some point he quit putting new logs on the fire. 2 Samuel 11 starts off by telling us that when it was time for the kings to go to war, David stayed home and outsourced his position. He quit doing what he was supposed to. That’s when temptation struck and he sinned with Bathsheba. When God confronted him through the prophet, David chose to rekindle his fire and wrote Psalm 51. He continued to tend his fire after that and it burned bright until he died.

2 Timothy 1:6 says, “This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you” (NLT). It’s natural for us to seasons when we’re on fire for God and season where we’re just not feeling. We may go through the motions or just turn a cold shoulder to God. Either way, God is calling us to tend our fire and to return to our first love. We don’t have to go through what David did to return. We simply need to recognize that we need to have the Holy Spirit reignite our heart and passion for God. Those embers are still there and can be reignited. The gifts that have been lying dormant are ready to be rekindled and blaze for God’s glory. Don’t let another day pass. Read Psalm 51 as a prayer to fan the flames of your heart toward God.

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Psychological Warfare

Psychological warfare has been used for thousands of years to help win wars. If you remember the first night of Desert Storm, we used shock and awe to overwhelm the Iraqi army. It was a show of strength to win the battle of the mind. I’ve seen army’s drop pamphlets behind enemy lines to disrupt their belief of what they think the truth is. If they can get the people to believe their own government is lying, they’ll fold. I’ve also seen where they used speakers to blast messages 24 hours a day trying to get into their minds. Psychological warfare is real, and it’s intended to influence emotions, thinking, attitudes and behaviors. If those are manipulated, victory is easier.

In Isaiah 36, Jerusalem was surrounded by Assyria. They were the toughest army of the day and they were undefeated. When they showed up in full force, their psychological ware fare was to make their enemies lose heart. Not only that, they would address the people instead of just the king. They understood psychological warfare. In verse 15, their emperor was talking with Jerusalem’s leaders where all could hear. He tried to undermine King Hezekiah and their faith. He said, “And don’t let him (Hezekiah) persuade you to rely on the Lord. Don’t think that the Lord will save you and that he will stop our Assyrian army from capturing your city” (GNT). He then encouraged them to surrender. Thankfully they continued to trust the Lord and God sent the Assyrian army home.

Our enemy comes against you and I the same way. He speaks lies into our minds to get us to doubt God. He’s done it since the Garden of Eden. James 4:7 says, “So then, submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will run away from you.” The key to victory against his mind games and lies that try to get you to quit relying on the Lord begins with submitting to God. Trust that He will not fail you, abandon you or leave you to fight alone. Trust His plan and know that He will work everything out for your good. Then resist the devil’s lies. Combat them with God’s Word the way Jesus did in the desert. When we do that, he has to flee. He has to stop the attack on your life and your mind. Don’t surrender or succumb to the psychological warfare of the devil. God has given you the Helmet of Salvation and the Shield of Faith to resist.

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Investing In Prayer

A few years ago I left corporate America to be self employed. My 401k money was sitting there and I needed to roll it into an IRA. I did it in January of 2020. They put everything into a money market account until I chose what funds to invest in. After a few weeks, I made my choices and moved the money into them. The next week the markets began crashing due to Covid. My money was shrinking at an alarming rate. I called my advisor in a panic wondering if I should put what was left into the money market. He reminded me that I was in it for the long haul. Then he encouraged me to keep investing even when times were bad. In facet, I’ll get the best return on my investment when I buy funds at their lowest.

Jesus was a person who invested. No, he didn’t invest in a stock market. He invested time in prayer. You’ll constantly read in the Gospels where Jesus withdrew to a quiet place to invest in prayer. Almost every time you read that statement, major miracles occurred. You can also read how on the night He was betrayed, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He was constantly making deposits in prayer. He understood that no matter what was going on in His life, He needed to be investing time in prayer. He didn’t panic or even look for some to blame. He looked for God’s presence instead.

Ephesians 6:18 says, “With all prayer and petition, pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people” (AMP). It’s always a good time for us to invest in prayer. Nothing in your life will pay greater dividends than spending time in God’s presence. If you’re facing adversity, invest more time in prayer. If you want to do greater ministry, invest more time in prayer. If things are going well, invest in prayer. You will on,y receive dividends according to what and where you invest. Prayer is something that pays dividends now and throughout eternity.

Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

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Teach Me

When I read that God said David was a man after His own heart, it inspires me to be more like that. I think there are a lot of ways that David fit that description, but to me, one of the most important ways was that he was teachable. A great characteristic for any of us to have is to be humble enough to realize God knows better than we do. David trusted what God said more than what his feelings or situations were telling him. He was constantly asking God to teach him so that he could better know God and understand His plan. Instead of trying to teach God how He should do something in your life, change your prayer to, “Lord, teach me what you want me to know.” I believe having a heart after God’s starts with being teachable.

Here are some Bible verses on asking God to teach you.

1. I’ve chosen to obey your truth and walk in the splendor-light of all that you teach me.

Psalms 119:30 TPT

2. I believe in your commands; now teach me good judgment and knowledge.

Psalms 119:66 NLT

3. Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For I trust in You. Teach me the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.

Psalms 143:8 AMP

4. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!

Psalm 143:10 ESV

5. Now teach me, Yahweh, all about your ways and tell me what to do. Make it clear for me to understand, for I am surrounded by waiting enemies.

Psalms 27:11 TPT

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What God Wants

I’m doing a 40 day prayer challenge with a friend. We both made visual lists of the things we want to pray over daily. As we were discussing them, he mentioned that he wants to pray God’s will into his life. I thought it was a great idea, and I added a blank page to my visual. I pray over the things that are near and dear to my heart, but then I pray, “God, these are the things I desire for my life. What do you desire to do in me? What do you want to write into my life? I give you permission to do what you want.”

I’ll be honest, that’s a dangerous prayer, but I believe it’s a necessary one. We all have our own ideas about what’s important to us, and we have things we pray over. At the same time, there are things God is trying to do, and we need to submit to His will. I feel that many times the things we pray for are more our will than His. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus taught us how to pray in these instances. In Matthew 26:39 Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what you want”(GNT).

We can ask God for the things we want, but I believe it’s import to turn around and give God permission to do what He wants. It’s not so much about giving Him permission as it is that we are submitting to His will. God answers the prayers we pray that are in accordance with His will. He also has great plans for your life, but we have to learn to submit to them instead of insisting we get help accomplishing our own. Prayer shouldn’t be just about what we want. It needs to be about what God wants too.

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

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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Making Allowances

After spending a weekend in New York City, it felt like everyone was on edge and angry at each other. A light would turn green, and if the car in front didn’t move within a second, the other drivers would honk and yell. On one occasion, we were riding bikes and stopped at the light so we could turn. We were at the back of the crowd waiting when another bike rider flew past us yelling obscenities at us. My first thought was to roll my bike back into his to shut his foul mouth up. I’m human! I don’t know why he was angry or upset. Maybe he was late. Maybe something happened in his life. I don’t know. After the initial anger at him flared up, I got control of my feelings and crossed the street with neither of us physically or mentally hurt.

In 2 Samuel 16, King David’s son Absalom was coming to Jerusalem to take over the throne. Instead of fighting his son, David and a small army left town. As he crossed over the Mount of Olives, a descendant of King Saul followed along side them. He began to yell at King David and throwing stones at him. After a few minutes of name calling, one of David’s bodyguards requested permission to decapitate the man. David, had control of his feelings wouldn’t let him. He reminded him that the man had cause for being upset with him and said, “Perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today” (NLT). Instead of lashing out, he chose to not let it bother him.

Colossians 3:13 says, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” We need to give grace to people as we have received it. Offenses occur when we allow our feelings to get hurt or become angry at something an imperfect person has done. If you’re going to be around people, you’re going to get multiple opportunities to be offended by someone else’s faults. When we make allowances for people to be imperfect, we open ourselves up to show them undeserved grace. God is able to use that act to win them over. Remember that it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). God can use our kindness and grace as well. Instead of allowing ourselves to get riled up over our feelings, we should look for ways to offer grace. Remember we are to do unto others first as we would like them to do unto us.

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Leading With Heart

I read article once where psychologists divide people into two categories. One where people lead with their brain and the other who lead with their heart. Neither side is wrong. It just shows how we process information and make decisions. Some of us take a thoughtful, logical approach to things, and other take am emotional, or gut feeling, approach. The brain people tend to be better at school, while the heart people tend to be better at being compassionate and empathetic. Again, they say that neither is wrong, but I can’t help but think of these different ways of processing through the lens of God’s Word.

In John 3, we meet a Pharisee named Nicodemus. He was a very learned and respected man among the Biblical scholars of that time. Jesus tried to get him to switch his thinking from his head to his heart. He told him that unless a person is born again, he couldn’t enter God’s Kingdom. Leading with logic, Nicodemus couldn’t understand. How could an adult go back into their mother’s womb? Jesus tried to explain it was a spiritual rebirth, but the concept was too hard for him to grasp at the time. It wasn’t until years later that he finally got it I believe. He was one of the two people who went to ask for Jesus’ body so he could give Him a proper burial. He let his head lead in that moment having followed the ministry of Jesus.

Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (NLT). Notice we don’t hide God’s Word in our mind. When it gets into our heart, we don’t just know it’s true. We feel it’s true, and it gets inside of who we are. We do need to logically look at God’s Word and be prepared to give an answer to those who ask about the hope within you, but we also need to let it get into our spirit. God’s Word is powerful. Sharper than any two edged sword. It rightly divides between the soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). We need to make sure we let it get into our hearts so it can transform our thinking and our lives (Romans 12:1-2).

Photo by Mayur Gala on Unsplash

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Helping Someone

When you see or know of someone who needs help, do you feel bad for them, and then go about your day? Or do you allow your schedule to be disrupted? I always think of two stories when I’m faced with that scenario. First I think of the Good Samaritan who disrupted his day to render aid while everyone else passed by. The other is in Matthew 25 when Jesus was telling the people about judgement day. He separated people into two groups. One group visited the sick, clothed the naked and ministered to prisoners, the others did not. He said that when we help the least, we’re helping Him. I can’t help but wonder what His response will be to me if I say I was too busy, too distracted or too apathetic to help someone in need. Who knows if God changes our path or someone else’s some days so that He can express His love through our help.

Here are some Bible verses on helping others.

1. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Acts of the Apostles 20:35 NLT

2. And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

Titus 3:14 ESV

3. Help carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2 GNT

4. If you think you are somebody too important to stoop down to help another (when really you are not), you are living in deception.

Galatians 6:3 TPT

5. Do not forget to do good and to help one another, because these are the sacrifices that please God.

Hebrews 13:16 GNT

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