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Be Generous

Over twenty years ago, I started paying attention to the people around me that had the most money. I was looking for similarities to see if there was anything I could replicate. They all worked in different fields with different positions. Some were very educated and some were not. One of the things I noticed that was similar between all of them was that they were generous. They didn’t hoard their money. They gave, they sponsored and they helped others. I thought, “Could it be that the secret to having more was giving more?” When you look at Scripture, it fits. Give and it shall be given. When you’re faithful over a little, God will make you faithful over a lot. You reap what you sow. I began to pray them, “God, if you can get it to me, you can get it through me.” I wanted to be generous with God’s blessings.

One of the antonyms of generous is selfish. We seem to be bent toward selfishness. I’ve also observed that a lot of the problems in the world and in our lives are the result of selfishness. As believers, we’re to be known for our love for others, not self. God asks us to break away from selfishness and even offers blessings if we’ll be generous. It doesn’t matter if you have a little or a lot, we have the ability to be generous. Generosity is a matter of the heart. When we look at the things and money we have as God’s, then it’s easier to give them away. If I look at myself as the provider and the things I have as a result of my own work, it’s harder to give away. If we get that perspective right, giving comes naturally. Look around you today for opportunities to be generous. Pray for wisdom and ask God to show you where He wants you to be generous with His love and blessings, then you will know where to make a difference.

Here are some Bible verses on being generous.

1. Generous hands are blessed hands because they give bread to the poor.

Proverbs 22:9 MSG

2. Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.

2 Corinthians 9:6 NLT

3. Life is good for the one who is generous and charitable, conducting affairs with honesty and truth.

Psalms 112:5 TPT

4. You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous, and this [generosity, administered] through us is producing thanksgiving to God [from those who benefit].

2 Corinthians 9:11 AMP

5. Be generous, and you will be prosperous. Help others, and you will be helped.

Proverbs 11:25 GNT

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You’re Surrounded

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in 2 Kings 6. The Arameans were at war with Israel. Supernaturally the Lord told Elisha where the king of Aram was and what his plan of attack would be. Elisha warned the king of Israel and the attack was thwarted. It happened a couple of times and the king of Aram found out it was Elisha. He decided to bring the full force of his army against Elisha to kill him. One morning Elisha’s assistant went outside, saw the great army surrounding them, and became afraid. Elisha came outside, saw the army and said, “Don’t be afraid! For there are more on our side than on theirs!” (NLT) God opened the assistant”s eyes to see the Lord’s army surrounding the Aramean army.

More times than not, we’re like Elisha’s assistant. We’re so focused on what we see that we panic. I don’t know what you’re seeing around you today. You may feel surrounded by death, stress, sickness, relationship problems, money problems or something else. It may feel like there’s no way out and that this is going to destroy you. My prayer today is that God open your eyes to see that He is surrounding whatever it is, and that you remember that He is greater and that He is able. No matter what you’re facing, you are not alone. God never leaves, forsakes us or leaves His children alone. You are supernaturally surrounded by the army of God and will not be destroyed.

Here are some Bible verses on God surrounding His people.

1. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.

Psalms 33:22 NLT

2. And the God of peace will swiftly pound Satan to a pulp under your feet! And the wonderful favor of our Lord Jesus will surround you.

Romans 16:20 TPT

3. You are my hiding place; You, LORD, protect me from trouble; You surround me with songs and shouts of deliverance. Selah.

Psalms 32:7 AMP

4. So now I’ll lie down and sleep like a baby— then I’ll awake in safety, for you surround me with your glory.

Psalms 3:5 TPT

5. For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love.

Psalms 5:12 NLT

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Choosing Your Words

According to reference.com, a University of Arizona study found that most people speak about 16,000 words a day. Just as a side note, women did not speak more than men. I can tell you that I would never have guessed that I use that many words in a day, and I talk a lot. My next thought is, “How many of those words are well thought out? How many edify others? How many put others down?” Then I started to wonder how many words do we think in a day since we hold back on a lot of things we wish we could say, but there’s no research on that. As I began to think about that more, I wondered how many of those words we address to ourselves in a negative way. We’re pretty good at not tearing down others (out loud), but how many times do we put ourselves down out loud and internally?

Words are some of the most powerful things on the planet. Even though we said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” we knew it was a lie. Inside we were dying because of something someone else told us. How much more do we hurt by replaying those words or even repeating them over ourselves in agreement? As Christians, we must be careful with the words we say to others and ourselves. We have to change our internal words before we can change the 16,000 words we speak. Just because no person can tame the tongue, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t control it. With God’s help, you can change the words you speak and agree with in order to change your life and someone else’s. Use your 16,000 words wisely each day.

Here are some Bible verses on the words we say.

1. But no one has ever been able to tame the tongue. It is evil and uncontrollable, full of deadly poison. We use it to give thanks to our Lord and Father and also to curse other people, who are created in the likeness of God. Words of thanksgiving and cursing pour out from the same mouth. My friends, this should not happen!

James 3:8-10 GNT

2. Reckless words are like the thrusts of a sword, cutting remarks meant to stab and to hurt. But the words of the wise soothe and heal.

Proverbs 12:18 TPT

3. A soothing tongue [speaking words that build up and encourage] is a tree of life, But a perversive tongue [speaking words that overwhelm and depress] crushes the spirit.

Proverbs 15:4 AMP

4. Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.

Proverbs 18:21 MSG

5. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

Ephesians 4:29 NLT

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Control Yourself

When we get stressed, there is something in us that tries to start taking control of everything. Our brains don’t like chaos. When those times arise, our need to try to control everything around us kicks in to try to bring order. Some of us feel that need all the time. We want to have as much control of the things around us as possible. The problem with both is that it gives a false sense of security. I used to have a boss that would say, “Control the controllables.” They we’re talking about external things, but what I’ve realized is that the main thing I need to learn to control is my self.

The fruit of the Spirit in your life is not control. It’s self control, yet somehow we try to pervert that into trying to control everything but ourselves in order to control ourselves. There will always be chaos around us. There will always be things out of order. We can’t control those things. We can only control how we react. The Holy Spirit living in us helps us to have self control in those situations. It’s not just about saying no to temptation. It’s about how I react to the affects of sin around me. Instead of trying to control everything else around us to give us peace, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to take over and to produce the fruit of self control in your life.

Here are some Bible verses on self control.

1. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Galatians 5:22-23 NLT

2. For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7 GNT

3. For this very reason, applying your diligence [to the divine promises, make every effort] in [exercising] your faith to, develop moral excellence, and in moral excellence, knowledge (insight, understanding), and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, steadfastness, and in your steadfastness, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly affection, and in your brotherly affection, [develop Christian] love [that is, learn to unselfishly seek the best for others and to do things for their benefit]. For as these qualities are yours and are increasing [in you as you grow toward spiritual maturity], they will keep you from being useless and unproductive in regard to the true knowledge and greater understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:5-8 AMP

4. A person without self-control is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out.

Proverbs 25:28 MSG

5. A [shortsighted] fool always loses his temper and displays his anger, But a wise man [uses self-control and] holds it back.

Proverbs 29:11 AMP

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3 Ways To Victory

In 2 Chronicles 20, a huge army was headed to Jerusalem to destroy Israel. Jehoshaphat, who was king, was terrified and didn’t know what to do. They were unprepared to face an army this large. He did three things we need to do when we’re under attack or overwhelmed by what’s going on. He decided to seek God’s help first. He asked the people around him to start fasting and called a prayer meeting like he had read about from the kings of old. In verse 12 he prayed, “O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help” (NLT). When you feel powerless and don’t know what else to do, pray, seek God’s guidance and get some close friends to pray with you.

As they were praying, the Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there and he began to prophesy. In verse 15 he said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” He then encouraged the people to show up for the battle and then God would fight for them. God always expects us to act first. Our acts of faith activate His provision. These men had to go out dressed for battle against an army that was larger, and trust that God would do His part. God expects the same thing out of us. We have to step out in faith, do what God asks of us and He will do His part. Remember, the battle is not yours, but you still must show up.

Finally, the king consulted people around him and they suggested that the army sing praises to God. They put worshippers out front who led them in singing as they headed for the battlefield. Verse 22 says, “At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves.” The very moment you begin to praise, God begins to move. Praise invites God’s presence into your present situation. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve fought battles through praise. Praising God in the middle of your battle is a way of confirming that the battle is the Lord’s. If praise can set Paul and Silas free in a dungeon, it can set you free in the battle you’re going through. Remember , our battles are not against flesh and blood, though they present themselves that way. Fight on your knees and with your praise. Battles are first won in the spiritual realm before they are won in the physical realm.

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A Messy Life

Sometimes it’s easy to know what the right thing to do is, but it’s very difficult to do it. In my own life, I’ve found that I’ve passed on doing the right thing because my pride got in the way. Other times I didn’t do the right thing because my flesh wanted it and I gave in. In any of those cases, I can tell you that it’s created a mess. I’ve found that when I get into a habit of choosing the wrong thing, my life becomes a mess and it takes a while to make things right.

One of things I like to tell my son is, “You know the great thing about a mess? They can always be cleaned up.” No matter how much of a mess our life can be, it can always be cleaned up. It can take years sometimes, but once we determine to add God to the equation, miracles happen. I believe that miracles are the incubators for miracles. When things look so bad that there’s no way out, He can make a way.

The person who wrote Psalm 119 was a person who made some messes in his life and didn’t want to make any more. In verse 31 they prayed, “Lord, don’t allow me to make a mess of my life, for I cling to your commands and follow them as closely as I can” (TPT). They understood that it takes prayer, knowing God’s Word and following it no matter what to keep from creating messes. If you’ve made a mess already, it can be cleaned up with God’s help and choosing to do the right thing going forward. If you want to prevent future messes, continue to follow God’s Word. It has all the instructions you 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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Times Of Conditioning

I always loved it when basketball season was starting in high school. What I hated was going through conditioning for it. Coach would have us start off with stretches. We would then have to run about a mile. Once everyone was back in the gym, we began to do exercises that strengthened our core. Our legs would get wobbly around that time, but then we had to start doing drills. If you messed up, you had to take a lap around the three acre property. To wrap up practice we would run the lines, or horses as we called them. The next day, we would do it all again. Our bones ached. It hurt our muscles to go upstairs for classes. Coach would remind us, “We may not be the tallest or the fastest team, but we will be the best conditioned team.” He was right. We ran the legs off every other team straight to the State Championship.

Conditioning has a purpose with the end in mind. It hurt going through those times, especially not knowing if it was going to pay off. In 1 Samuel 30, David and his men were on the run from Saul. They were considered fugitives. They had to move out of the country and live with one of Israel’s enemies. When Israel rose up to fight that country, David and his men went to fight on behalf of the enemy. They weren’t trusted, so they were sent back to the town of Ziklag where they had been staying. As they arrived, they saw smoke rising into the sky. Another enemy came in while they were at the battle front, burned their town and captured their wives and kids. David’s men began to talk of killing him. It was a dark day for David, but it was all part of God’s conditioning for him to become king.

David kept his eyes on God instead of his circumstances. Verses 6-7 say, “David strengthened himself with trust in his GOD. He ordered Abiathar the priest, son of Ahimelech, “Bring me the Ephod so I can consult God” (MSG). David understood that sometimes God’s plan takes us through painful circumstances. It often leads us to places we don’t understand. Like David, it’s important in those seasons when everything seems to be falling apart and our closest friends are turning on us, that we strengthen ourselves in our relationship with God, and that we consult with Him. Conditioning is often very painful, but there’s a reason and a season for it. We must go through that period in order to be prepared to endure what’s ahead. God’s plan and purpose for you are good. Don’t quit when things look bleak. Trust Him more and those times of conditioning will pay off.

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A Cry For Love

Several years ago I read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. It caused me to realize that I was terrible at loving my spouse the way she needed to be shown love. However, it also taught me how to and gave us language to help us communicate better when we were feeling unloved. I was reminded of this book when I read a friend’s post on social media. She wrote that she, like many girls, has insecurities and wanted to be put on a pedestal by her man. She wanted to be told that he loves her and to be communicated with constantly. She completed the post by saying that sometimes we are too damaged from previous relationships and need reassurance and love more than anything. From reading that, it’s clear what her love languages are, but more than anything it’s a cry for love.

One of our greatest needs is to be loved. God put inside each of us the need to be loved, to know love and to love. Genesis says that we are made in God’s image, and 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. Part of that image that we’re made in is a love shaped hole in our life. He created us in a way that only He can fill that void and need in our life, but if we don’t look to Him to fill it, we will search elsewhere. We expect other humans to fill that void and unfortunately it’s not enough. We will always be searching for that missing part and feel like something is missing. I’ve talked to person after person who has searched in unconventional ways to try to stop that feeling of something missing only to feel like there’s something wrong with them or that they must be unlovable. Their cry for love is often silent and unseen by us.

I believe our highest priority in life is to find intimacy with God and that it will determine the course and impact of our life. We cannot truly love others or receive true love until we have received love from God. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love each other because he loved us first” (NLT). Once we know what love is, we’re more capable of loving others more fully because we have experienced true love. We know that God’s love is selfless because He loved this world so much that He gave us His one and only Son. He went to great lengths to demonstrate His love for us when we least deserved it. He heard our cry for love and responded. That void you feel, no matter how you express your cry for love and need for intimacy, is first found in Jesus. No person or thing will ever fill it. You were created to know God and find your wholeness in Him. No matter what you’ve done or what lengths you’ve gone to to fill that void, God still loves you a desires intimacy with you. He’s only a prayer away.

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Maturing In The Faith

When my wife and I first got married, I didn’t trust her intuition. She would say, “I don’t think we should go there.” When I asked her why we shouldn’t, she couldn’t give an answer and would just say she had a feeling. If I really wanted to, then I would make the decision and we would go anyway. Something would happen, and she would be right. Other times, she would come home, talk about an issue she had somewhere, and I would tell her how to solve it. It turned out that most of the time, she just needed to vent or process the situation and didn’t need me to solve it. Over time, I’ve learned to be a better husband in these two areas. I’ve learned to trust her intuition and stay quiet (sometimes). We’re both thankful I’m not the same as when we first got married. I’ve matured in several areas and I’ve still got room to grow.

If growth and maturity are expected in spousal relationships, why would we think it would be any different in our relationship with Jesus? You shouldn’t be in the same place you were when you first believed. Growth and maturity are expected. As you spend time in prayer and reading the Bible, your faith and trust in God should grow. With that growth comes behavioral change on your part. Maturity shows up in different ways in us. Instead of complaining or asking God to remove us from His growth and character development processes, we begin to ask Him for the grace to endure them and for Him to create well developed fruit in our lives through them.instead of ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit to say something to someone, we push past the fear and trust what He says. Each of us have room to grow, and that maturity happens when we trust God more tomorrow than we do today.

Here are some Bible verses on maturing in our faith.

1. So I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above. All of us who are spiritually mature should have this same attitude. But if some of you have a different attitude, God will make this clear to you.

Philippians 3:14-15 GNT

2. So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God.

Hebrews 6:1 NLT

3. So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.

2 Peter 1:5-9 MSG

4. But the spiritual man [the spiritually mature Christian] judges all things [questions, examines and applies what the Holy Spirit reveals], yet is himself judged by no one [the unbeliever cannot judge and understand the believer’s spiritual nature].

1 Corinthians 2:15 AMP

5. When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father!

John 15:8 TPT

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Being Accountable

Accountability is a word we use a lot in church. We like to ask people if they have an accountability partner. Each of us should have someone who holds us accountable to help us keep from stumbling. The military uses accountability too. The leader needs to know where all their soldiers are at any given moment. For them, accountability isn’t just a top down approach, it’s also bottom up. If a soldier is not in their designated place of duty, they are failing in their duty to the chain of command. They could create chaos on the battlefield if they’re not where they’re supposed to be and doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Each individual soldier has assigned duties that must be done so that the whole achieves their goals. It’s important that soldiers are accountable up, down and horizontally in their chain of command.

When Cain killed Able and God called out to him about his brother’s whereabouts, he asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” In reality, we are. You and I are to be each other’s keeper in the Church. We’re to help each other man our stations, reach our potential, fulfill our calling and encourage each other to keep going when we get ready to give up. You are not just responsible for yourself as a Christian. Like a soldier, you’re to help your brother or sister when they need help, carry them when they need carrying and fight alongside them when they’re under attack. We must be vocal when we need help, get discouraged or feel like walking away from our duties. We each need to have someone we trust and are accountable to so that we help each other. Let’s not forget we are in a battle.

1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 says, “Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out” (MSG). You are not just responsible for yourself. God has placed other believers around you for you to help and for them to help you. Accountability is what makes the Body of Christ function to its potential. Each of us need to do our own part and we need to be helping our fellow brothers and sisters stay on task to do theirs.

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