I’m taking the day off. Enjoy this previous devotion in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. See you tomorrow.
Whatever you do, do well.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 NLT
I’m taking the day off. Enjoy this previous devotion in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. See you tomorrow.
Whatever you do, do well.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 NLT
Any time we are faced with the prospect of doing something that we’re afraid of, we typically resort to a coping mechanism that is designed to get you out of the situation. They don’t always appear in ways that you may think. Sometimes you feel like you have to go to the restroom, or feel thirsty and need a drink. Other people all of a sudden think of something else to do that feels like it’s more important at the moment. The typical route our brains take is to hesitate, then procrastinate and then to make an excuse as to why we can’t do it. Almost every time you make an excuse to avoid doing something, it’s linked to fear. While people may accept our excuses, God doesn’t. He has a rebuttal for each one.
Some time after Moses fled Egypt, he had made a new life for himself and tried to forget about his past. The only problem was God had made a promise to bring the Israelites out of Egypt and moses had been spared to do the job. When God appeared to him in the burning bush, Moses was intrigued. However, when God asked him to go back to Egypt, fear showed up. Moses began to make excuses as to why he couldn’t do what God was asking. In Exodus 4:10 he gave this excuse, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled” (NLT). I love God’s response to that in the next verse. He asked, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord?”
God is not interested in our excuses. He’s interested in our obedience. It’s easy to look at Moses and think he shouldn’t have made all those excuses, but we’re not so different. What excuses have you been giving to God? Have you told Him you’re not ready? You don’t have the funds? No one else is interested? There’s a pandemic going on? All these are excuses from doing what God is calling you to do. He created you for this moment and is aware of the things you have brought up, but He is also the one who has prepared you, will fund you, bring people to you and make a way where there seems to be no way. Is He not able? Most of the time, He’s waiting on us to get over our fears, to quit making excuses and to step out in faith before He meets those needs. Faith isn’t about taking a calculated risk or knowing everything is going to work out. It’s about obedience even when you can’t see what’s going to happen. Let your faith be stronger than your fear long enough to take that next step instead of making an excuse.
Since it’s Christmas time, I have a question for you. What’s the best gift you ever received? Some of you might say a ring, or a car, or a bike, or a child. Each of us will have different answers depending on where we are in life, but I’m pretty sure that none of you said that going through difficult times was the greatest gift you ever got. However, looking back on your life, and seeing how that dark time made you into who you are today, you might want to reconsider. Yes, I’m suggesting your darkest days could be the greatest gift you’ve ever received,
Most of us think of those times, and try to put them behind us, or pretend that they never existed. But I believe God uses those times to move us into position for our future, to develop in us the qualities of character necessary for the future He has for us, and to grow our faith in Him. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (MSG).
Those final sentences are tough for us to hear. When we are in a trial or test, we want them to end quickly. We pray and beg God to get us out of them. When we do get out of them early, the work is unfinished that He was trying to do. In Max Lucado’s book “The Anvil”, he writes that of God has you in these times, rejoice. It means He still thinks you’re worth reshaping. He hasn’t discarded you as useless and put you with the other tools the He no longer uses.
If you happen to be going through one of these times right now, I’d like you to look at the next verse in James. It says, “If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it.” God will be there to help you through instead of out of it. Pray for His help, but also pray to ask Him to develop in you what He needs to during this time. Right now it may not seem like a gift, but what God does in us during the hardest times is often one of He greatest gifts He gives.
Remember that song, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy down in my heart”? If you just said, “Where,” and responded, “Down in my heart,” then you’re going to have this song stuck in your head today. I truly hope you do too. Joy is something God gives us that’s based on what He’s done for you and not what you’re going through. Circumstances steal happiness, but they can’t touch joy. The Bible says that we will be led with joy and that the joy of the Lord is our strength (you’ll be singing this one too!). Joy is what helps us endure whatever comes our way. Even in the hardest of times, we can ask God to give us joy so we can push through when our mind tells us we can’t.
While every one of us go through hard times at some point, others live hard lives where it seems to be one thing after the other. Joy helps us to keep our eyes on Jesus through it all knowing that He has a plan and that all those hard times are producing His qualities in our life. When we lose sight of that, it’s good to pray what David did in Psalm 51 even though his words were from repentance. Pray, “Lord, restore to me the joy of your salvation.” I’ve had to pray that prayer many times and God has always given me His joy so that I could have the strength to keep going. I believe that God will restore your joy too.
Here are some Bible verses on joy.
1. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
Psalms 51:12 NLT
2. You love him, although you have not seen him, and you believe in him, although you do not now see him. So you rejoice with a great and glorious joy which words cannot express, because you are receiving the salvation of your souls, which is the purpose of your faith in him.
1 Peter 1:8-9 GNT
3. So you’ll go out in joy, you’ll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause. No more thistles, but giant sequoias, no more thorn bushes, but stately pines— Monuments to me, to GOD, living and lasting evidence of GOD.
Isaiah 55:12-13 MSG
4. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For this day in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (the Messiah).
Luke 2:10-11 AMP
5. If you keep my commands, you will live in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands, for I continually live nourished and empowered by his love. My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness!
John 15:10-11 TPT
One of the things I like to collect is autographs. I don’t like to buy them unless the person has passed or doesn’t do public signings. I prefer buying a ticket, getting in line and then meeting the person I’m getting the autograph from. When Jeff Bagwell was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame, I went to get his autograph. He was very introverted, which doesn’t work around me. I noticed he never looked up at anyone he was signing for. So when it was my turn, I put the ball on the table, got down on my knees and looked up at him from the floor. We made eye contact and he laughed. He asked what I was doing and I told him I just wanted to see him and say hello. We chatted for a few seconds and I was ushered away. I got a different experience than everyone else that day because I got in from of his face.
I believe approaching God is very similar. Many of us pray or go to church. We’re in His presence, but we don’t get in front of His face. We’re content to be in the same room, but we’re missing the personal encounter with Him. When the Bible uses the word presence referring to God, it’s talking about face time with Him. He’s omnipresent meaning He’s everywhere. You’re always in His presence, but we’re rarely in front of His face. That takes us getting on our knees, humbling ourselves, pressing in, being intentional or blocking everything else out to do. Being in His presence, seeking face time with Him, is something we should strive for each and every day. Don’t just be aware of God’s presence, be in it today and let it change you.
Here are some Bible verses on being in God’s presence.
1. Seek and deeply long for the LORD and His strength [His power, His might]; Seek and deeply long for His face and His presence continually.
Psalms 105:4 AMP
2. Because you are close to me and always available, my confidence will never be shaken, for I experience your wrap-around presence every moment.
Psalms 16:8 TPT
3. And so I walk in the presence of the Lord in the world of the living.
Psalm 116:9 GNT
4. Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually [longing to be in His presence].
1 Chronicles 16:11 AMP
5. When You said, “Seek My face [in prayer, require My presence as your greatest need],” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I will seek [on the authority of Your word].”
Psalms 27:8 AMP
If you’ve ever been to Jerusalem, you’ve probably visited the Western Wall. It is what’s left of a retaining wall built on the Temple Mount to create a flat area to add more buildings around the Temple. I’ve been to the wall a few times to pray. On my last couple of trips over there, I’ve been able to go underground where the foundation of the Temple is. There’s a long corridor running beside it. As we moved down that hall, we came to a place where these women were praying. Our guide informed us that this was the closest spot to where the Holy of Holies was, and that these women come there to pray instead of praying above ground at the wall. In the Jewish culture, God’s presence is found in the Holy of Holies and the closer you are to that point, the closer you are to God. In the Old Testament, all of Israel would come to Jerusalem for the feasts and to pray so that they could be close to God and be heard.
In Ephesians 2, Paul is addressing people with this mindset. In verse 13, he wrote, “Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ” (NLT). The phrase “far from God” in that culture had a two fold meaning. People that lived outside of Jerusalem were considered far from God which is why they visited Jerusalem so often. They wanted to be close to God. There are times that you and I feel like we’re far from God. It’s like He can’t hear our prayers. We can’t feel His presence. We feel isolated and alone. We all go through these feelings of being far from God, but the truth is that God never leaves us. In fact, He’s made His home in our lives so that He will be with us always.
Paul makes more analogies about us and the Temple as the chapter continues. He then ends it with, “God is transforming each one of you into the Holy of Holies, his dwelling place, through the power of the Holy Spirit living in you!” (TPT) You and I have become the Holy of Holies because He dwells in us. When those feelings come that we are far from God and He doesn’t hear us, declare this verse over your life. Your feelings will lie, but God’s Word never will. You are never far from God because you are the host of His presence. You don’t have to go anywhere special for Him to hear your prayers. He hears ever prayer, spoken or silent, and knows how you feel. God is close to you today, listening to your prayers, walking with you and working things out for your good despite what your feelings are telling you. Push past your feelings and enter the presence of God. You are closer to Him than you think.
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
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
I have the privilege of talking with pastors from different denominations and church sizes. One of the consistent things that come up in my conversations with them is how to grow their church in a healthy way. In order to grow in a healthy way, we do a health check of their current congregation. We look at the spiritual disciplines of the people who attend. Are they self sufficient Christians or are they solely dependent on the church? Are people being taught how to grow in Christ and given the tools they need to accomplish that? Giving of tithes comes up too, and I’m always shocked at how few Christians give their tithe (10% of their income). It’s a spiritual discipline that speaks to where our heart truly is.
There’s very few things in life as important to us as money. I often explain to sales reps that money represents freedom. It’s the freedom for people to live where they want, go where they want, do what they want and buy what they want. When you, as a sales rep, ask for someone’s money, you’re asking them to give up some of their freedom in exchange for what you have to offer. That same freedom mentality goes with people into the church and they’re not willing to give up what they think is freedom. What we forget is that freedom and income come from God. It’s a way of appreciating God for the blessings and freedom He has given us. If our mentality is that it’s ours, then we have a harder time giving it to Him. When we don’t give it to Him, Malachi quotes God as saying we are robbing Him and ourselves.
Giving our tithe results in more freedom for us. In Malachi 3:10 God says, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do, I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” (NLT) Giving of our tithe opens the windows of heaven over our lives and provides more blessings and freedom than we can contain. It also recognizes that God is our source and that everything we have is His. By not giving it, we are telling Him what we have is ours and we only need Him for moral guidance. Jesus said you can’t serve God and money. The best way to find out who you’re serving is if you’re tithing or not. Don’t rob God or yourself by not giving it. Tithing is as much an act of faith as anything else and shows God where our heart is. When we give it, we open ourselves to the blessings God has in store for us.