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It’s Time To Praise

I remember being in children’s church as a kid. The boys sat on one side and the girls on the other. One of my favorite songs to sing was “Praise Ye The Lord”. We sang it in the rounds, and they made it a competition which made me sing my heart out. The girls would sing, “Hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah,” then the boy side would belt out, “Praise ye the Lord!” The girls would sing out, “Hallelujah,” only louder this time. We would respond with, “Praise ye the Lord,” trying to be louder than them. They responded, we responded and then we all were yelling at this point together, “Praise ye the Lord!” Each time the children’s church pastors would pick a winner who sang the loudest, but looking back I can see we both won as we learned to praise the Lord.

Praising the Lord is one of the recurring themes throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, I think of when Israel would go to battle they would have a group of people who would sing praises go out in front of the army knowing their praise would honor God and bring victory. I also think of King Saul who was tormented by evil spirits. He would bring young David in to play praise songs, and he would get relief. In the New Testament, Paul and Silas had been thrown in prison for preaching the Gospel. In the darkest part of that prison in the darkest time of the night, they began to sing praises to God. In a moment, the ground shook and their chains fell off. Their praise brought freedom to them and salvation to another.

Genesis 2:7 tells us that in the Garden of Eden, God breathed the breathe of life into man and he came alive. Psalm 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath and every breath of life praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!)” (AMP) As people, we’ve been given the breath by God in order to praise Him. We aren’t just supposed to praise Him on Sunday mornings though. When we’re in the thick of a difficult time where we can’t see the way out, it’s time to praise. When we’re on the edge of a breakthrough, it’s time to praise. When we need healing, it’s time to praise. When life is going great, it’s time to praise. Psalm 34:1 tells us to bless the Lord at all times and to let His praise be continually in our mouths. So right now is a great time for you to praise the Lord. No matter what you’re facing, it’s time to praise the Lord.

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Being Careful With Words

When I was a kid, there were commercials for EF Hutton. Two people would usually be at a restaurant or somewhere busy discussing investments. One person would say that his broker told him something about investing, then he would ask, “What does your broker say?” In every commercial, the other person would say, “Well, I use EF Hutton and he says…” At that point, the camera would zoom out, and everyone around them had stopped what they were doing and were leaning in to listen. The voice over would then say, “When EF Hutton talks, people listen.” It was a simple, effective way to show that not everyone talks just to be heard. Some people only speak when they have something to say, and it’s usually good.

In 2 Kings 20, King Hezekiah had been deathly sick. Isaiah prayed for him and God extended his life. The king of Babylon heard about his illness and sent messengers with a gift. Verse 13 says, “Hezekiah welcomed the messengers and showed them his wealth—his silver and gold, his spices and perfumes, and all his military equipment. There was nothing in his storerooms or anywhere in his kingdom that he did not show them” (GNT). He went on and on about all he had to them. That’s when God sent Isaiah back to the king to ask about the messengers. God was displeased with how Hezekiah told them everything. Then Isaiah prophesied that everything those men saw would soon be carried off to Babylon including members of his own household. He talked too much.

Proverbs 17:27 says, “He who has knowledge restrains and is careful with his words, And a man of understanding and wisdom has a cool spirit (self-control, an even temper)” (AMP). It goes on to say that even a fool is considered wise when he keeps his mouth shut. How careful are you with your words? Do you just say whatever comes to your mind or do you think about it, filter it and determine whether something needs to be said? We need to learn that not everything needs to be said, nor do we need to comment on everything. It’s good to choose your words wisely and to stay quiet at times. Wise people listen, learn, assess and then choose to speak with an end result in mind. Before speaking today, ask yourself, “Does that need to be said? Will it help the situation? Is it grounded in God’s Word?” If not, don’t speak. Choose to be quiet, speak only when you have something to say and people will listen.

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The Lion Tamer

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Pushing Through To Victory

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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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Using Healing Words

On November 19, 1863, Edward Everett, the former dean of Harvard, gave a two hour speech at the dedication of a piece of land in Pennsylvania. When his speech was over, they invited President Lincoln to offer a message as well. His speech was two minutes long, and became one of the most recognized speeches in American history known as the Gettysburg Address. He could have used this opportunity to gloat and talk big about the victory the North had just won over the South in the Civil War. Instead, he took the opportunity to try to heal the nation. The words he spoke are remembered because their purpose was to bridge the divide, to honor the fallen and to call the nation to a new birth of freedom.

In 2 Samuel, King Saul had been killed in battle and Israel was divided between those loyal to the house of Saul and those loyal to David. Saul’s son Ishbosheth had been ruling Israel while David ruled Judah. Once Ishbosheth was killed in a battle, David became king over all Israel. It had been 15 years since he had been anointed King over Israel. He had fled for his life and lived in the wilderness running from Saul all that time. Instead of disparaging Saul, David honored him with his words and deeds. Because David didn’t alienate those who had been loyal to Saul, he was able to unify the nation and rule for 33 years as Israel’s most famous king. David understood the power of his words and taught that to his son Solomon who became king next.

In Proverbs 12:18, Solomon wrote, “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” (TPT). Do your words cut and maim or soothe and heal? Do they bring people together or push them further apart? What about what you post on social media? It’s in our nature to use words to hurt others, especially those who disagree with us or have even been against us in the past. Paul reminded in Colossians 4:6 to always let our speech be full of grace. We have the choice each day with the words we use and how they’re used. We have a choice in what we put out on social media as well. Choose to let your speech, and posts, bring healing in an already divided world. Let them be filled with the love and kindness of Christ that will lead them to Him rather than to push them further away from Him. In the end, it’s eternity that matters.

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Are You Listening?

When I was around 9 years old, I had been going to Sunday School all my life. I noticed that curriculums started to repeat, and I wasn’t having it. I had heard this story before several times from previous Sunday School lessons, children’s church and Vacation Bible School. So during the Bible lesson, I began to talk and cut up. Sister Belva, who had known me all my life, wasn’t afraid to call me out or to make an example out of me in front of the other children. She said, “Chris, if you think you know so much, why don’t you get up here and teach this lesson.” Instead of being embarrassed and quieting down, I got up and told the story I had heard so many times before. After class, she told my parents what had happened. Even though she told them I did a good job teaching the lesson, I still got in trouble. I didn’t understand it at the time, but my parents were trying to drive out a prideful spirit that won’t listen when I think I know something. I still struggle with that today, but I’m getting better at catching myself.

My parents introduced me to James 1:19 that says, “My dearest brothers and sisters, take this to heart: Be quick to listen, but slow to speak” (TPT). They would also say, “God gave you two ears and one mouth. You should listen twice as much as you speak.” I always thought that was impossible since I was such a talker, but it’s true. If you can’t listen, how can you learn? If you can’t listen, how can you empathize? Listening is a skill required to follow Jesus closely. He said, “My sheep hear my voice (John 10:27),” but how can you hear it if you’re never quiet. The psalmist wrote, “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).” When we are quiet and still, we can listen, learn and know. It’s time that we ask ourselves when is the last time we just sat and listened to God or others. I can assure you that it’s probably been too long. I’ve learned that when I sit and listen, God will often give me instructions I’ve been needing.

Proverbs 10:8 says, “The heart of the wise will easily accept instruction. But those who do all the talking are too busy to listen and learn. They’ll just keep stumbling ahead into the mess they created” (TPT). Do you consider yourself a talker or a listener? If it’s a talker, how easily do you accept instruction? Chances are it’s a hard thing for you to do. It could be pride causing it or fear or something else. Dig down deep to find out why you have difficulty listening and learning. God is always speaking to you, but you can’t hear it if you’re too busy talking. He also places people in our lives to guide us along the paths He is trying to take us down, but we will miss the instructions if we’re too busy trying to talk over them. If you want to be wise and grow in your faith, learn to listen and accept instruction. It’s time we stopped stumbling from one mess to another and took the time to hear what God is saying. He knows where all the pitfalls in our path are. So focus on listening for a change and you just might graduate from the school of hard knocks.

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Calling Fouls

When I was in college, I used to go to the local park all the time to play pick up basketball games. There was always a game going on. Once a game had started, someone would yell out, “I got next.” That meant they picked the team for the next game to face the winner of the current game. The only problem in pick up games was there was no referee. Each person had to call their own foul. If you fouled someone and didn’t call it, the person who was fouled would usually make a comment like, “I guess no blood no foul huh?” It never failed that arguments would always break out over whether a foul was called or whether something was a foul. When it started getting ugly and fists started flying, it was time to grab my basketball and go.

In the Old Testament, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and later The Law to be a referee. Up until then, there really wasn’t anything other than each person determining what was right and wrong. God knew that we needed a referee to show us those things, but He also knew that we had to know The Law in order for it to work. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, God told them to commit wholeheartedly to what He was telling them. He then told them to talk about them everywhere they went, to tie them to their arm and forehead and to post them on the doors of their houses as reminders of what He said. Yet even still people did what was right in their own eyes because it hadn’t moved from their head to their heart.

In the New Testament, Paul wrote in Colossians 3:16, “Let the [spoken] word of Christ have its home within you [dwelling in your heart and mind—permeating every aspect of your being] as you teach [spiritual things] and admonish and train one another with all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (AMP). The word in the original language of the New Testament mean, “To act as an umpire.” Once His word dwells in us richly and permeates our entire being, then it can help us know how God wants us to live. We weren’t created to call our own fouls determining what’s right and wrong. God has given us His Word and the Holy Spirit to do that. Allow both to rule and reign in your life so that He can call the fouls that lead us to repentance and an abundant life.

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Walking In Freedom

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Building 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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Listening To The Wise

Have you ever heard anyone speak that just blew your mind? For me, it was John Maxwell. I remember the first time I heard him speak. I was at a conference where he was one of the keynote speakers. When he started speaking, it was one wisdom bomb after another. I was furiously taking notes trying to capture it all. My friend and I kept looking at each other’s iPads to see what we missed. For an hour and a half, I did my best to try to keep up knowing that there was no way I could absorb everything he was saying. My only hope was to capture what he was saying in my notes and read it all again and again to try to understand it all. I later heard someone describe that hour and a half as trying to drink wisdom from a firehose. I thought it was the perfect analogy.

In 1 Kings 3, Solomon was visited by God in a dream and asked him what he would like to be given. Solomon recognized his youth and inexperience, as well as the gravity of trying to be the ruler of God’s chosen people. He asked for wisdom to rule well. God was pleased with that answer and gave him more wisdom and understanding than anyone else. It was quickly shown off by his decision to split the baby in half to determine who its real mother was. When word got out about that, people took notice. He began to compose proverbs, songs, and openly discussed many topics. Then, in 1 Kings 4:34, it says, “Kings all over the world heard of his wisdom and sent people to listen to him” (GNT). It got me to thinking, “Who am I listening to? Who are the wise people in my life that have been blessed by God to speak wisdom? Am I taking time to seek them out in order to listen and learn from them?” What about you? Have you answered these thought about these questions yet?

Proverbs 13:20 says, “If you want to grow in wisdom, spend time with the wise. Walk with the wicked and you’ll eventually become like them” (TPT). Your parents were right. You will become like those you are around. I would hear, “If you want to fly with eagles, you can’t spend your time on the ground walking around with turkeys.” It’s time for you to identify the eagles that God has placed in your life, take the initiative and fly up to where they are. One thing I’ve learned about the wise, they don’t hoard the gift they’ve been given. They freely give it out to those who seek to be around them. What they won’t do is seek you out to give it to you. It’s up to each one of us to make time to have godly wisdom poured into our life. If you can’t identify anyone, or you’re too shy to seek them out and ask for it, then read books by wise people. People of uncommon wisdom are a fountain of information and understanding. Are you thirsty enough to take a drink, even if it feels like it coming from a firehose?

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