Tag Archives: christian living

Love And Restoration

I grew up in the age of televangelists. I was a teenager when Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker fell from grace as we called it. I remember them being all over the news for their failures. I also remember the Church joining in with the world in taking them down. Days before the news broke, these men and their ministries were held in high esteem by many. Then immediately they were cast out. The same thing happened to singers Marabeth Jordan from First Call and Michael English. They were pulled from the radio, their CD’s taken out of stores and they were shunned. I remember thinking, “What if King David had been treated this way? We forgive him, but not these people.” Michael felt the reaction so heavily that he ended up homeless and on drugs. I’m not sure what the exact response is, but rejection isn’t it.

In John 8:1-11, the religious leaders paraded a woman into the Temple area where Jesus was sitting. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. In our Law Moses commanded that such a woman must be stoned to death. Now, what do you say?” (GNT) If this had been in our time, we would have started throwing the stones, but Jesus wasn’t so quick to pick up a stone. Instead, He drew in the dirt as He considered His response. He straightened up and said to them, “Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her.” One by one they dropped their stones and walked away. He drew in the dirt some more, then looked up at her and asked if anyone was left to condemn her. “No one, sir,” she answered. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.”

Jesus provided a great example of love and restoration. Galatians 6:1 says, “My friends, if someone is caught in any kind of wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should set him right; but you must do it in a gentle way. And keep an eye on yourselves, so that you will not be tempted, too.” Instead of walking around with stones in our hands looking to take out brothers and sisters who fail, we need to be looking for ways to use those stones to repair their foundations. We forget that we’re in the restoration business and not the demolition one. Demolition is fun because it’s quick and easy. The work of restoration is long and tedious, but that’s what we’re called to do. Who have you been withholding restoration from? Who have you thrown rocks at? We’re all guilty of it, but it’s not too late to change. If Jesus is able to forgive them, we must be willing to as well. We are His vehicle for restoration of their lives. Let’s act like it.

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Being Teachable

One of the things I’ve learned is that if you’re going to grow, you must be teachable. People who think they know it all have placed a lid on their growth. The ones who are humble enough to realize they don’t know what they don’t know are often the people who ask questions that seek understanding. They want to learn more so they can get better at something. They seek out people who know more than they do in the area they want to grow in, ask questions and then apply what they’ve learned. Application is a huge part of growth. It’s what takes the knowledge you’ve been given and does something with it. If you’ve been taught something new and don’t do anything with it or change how you do things, then you may not be as teachable as you thought.

Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, was a serious scholar. He had one of the brightest teachers who poured everything into his students. Even though he had all that knowledge and was very strict in obeying the Law, he was missing the point. Jesus met him on the way to Damascus to show him His will for him. Paul spent the next several years relearning everything in the Scriptures with his new perspective. Once he understood what God wanted him to do, he did it faithfully until he died. He served God with complete devotion, and wrote letters to the churches of that day explaining the Scriptures and helping them follow Jesus with the same devotion.

In Psalm 86:11 David prayed, “Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do, and I will obey you faithfully; teach me to serve you with complete devotion” (GNT). It’s a prayer each of us should pray as we seek to grow and follow Jesus more closely. Like Paul, God will reveal to us His will and give us understanding of Scriptures. He wants us to know His will for our lives so we can obey Him and fulfill our purpose. It starts with us being teachable and asking Him to show us. Just like before, knowledge is great, but growth happens in the application and obedience. Both David and Paul were people like you and me. They had flaws and failures, but what sets them apart from most is that they were always seeking to know more of what they didn’t know about God and how to serve Him more faithfully. I believe their teachability is why God revealed so much to them and why God used them to write so much of the Bible. Imagine what God could do through you if you were that teachable.

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The Keys To Life

When it comes to keys on a key ring, I’m a minimalist. I’ve got my car key and a key to an office. I don’t even have a house key on there. I’ve got friends though who have lots of keys on their key chain. They’ve got a key for every door in their life on their key ring. I’m not quite sure how they remember what key goes to what, but they know. Every key on their ring has a purpose. What’s great about keys is that they open locked doors. So when I read that there is a key to life, I immediately paid attention.

Deuteronomy 30:20 says, “You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life” (NLT). The first key to opening the locked doors in your life is loving God. Jesus said that this is the greatest commandment of them all. It’s the master key if you will. When we love God with all our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength, our purpose in life becomes clear and doors open.

The second key is often the toughest for us. It’s to obey God in whatever He tells you to do. I believe in simple obedience. I expect it from my son and God expects it from us. It’s the faith to simply act on what God says without always understanding why. We have to trust that God sees the bigger picture of not just our life, but all lives and how they’re connected. Our obedience never just affects us. It has a ripple effect across His Kingdom.

Finally, is to commit ourselves firmly to Him. We’ve got to get past our commitment issues and cling to God through thick and thin. Just like we make a vow at our wedding, we need to make a similar vow to God. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, until death unites us. We can’t allow ourselves to be seduced by the things of this world causing us to break that vow. We must fully commit to Him. When we do these three things, I promise you that locked doors will open because these are the keys to life and blessings.

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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 God’s Voice

If you’re like a lot of people, you have this voice in your head that can be quote negative. Whether it’s your own voice, someone else’s or the enemy’s, it can be loud and obnoxious at times. It tries to drown out all other voices of reason and even the truth. It tells you that you’re not good enough, not smart enough, not appealing enough, will never amount to anything, that you’re going to fail, that God is mad at you, etc. You know the voice I’m talking about and what it says to you. It may have been speaking to you for so long that you’ve begun to believe it and doubt what the truth of what God says. It’s much more difficult to hear His whisper over this voice, but it’s there speaking the truth to you.

In 2 Kings 18, Hezekiah had been king of Judah for about 14 years. He had done everything God asked of him when the Assyrians attacked and captured al, the fortified cities of Judah except Jerusalem. The king of Assyria sent his highest officials to King Hezekiah to take all the go,d and silver. When they arrived, the stood outside the walls and taunted them. He assured them that no one was coming to help. He told them that God had told him to come attack them because God had abandoned them, so trusting in Him was pointless. If they would just surrender, life would be better. The officials begged them to speak in a language the people didn’t understand, but they instead spoke Hebrew to try to get them to not listen to their own king. When they left, Hezekiah went into the Temple to seek God’s voice on the matter. He knew God had the final say.

In 2 Kings 19:6 Isaiah spoke God’s words and said, “Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled (blasphemed) Me” (AMP). He went on to say that the Assyrian army wouldn’t shoot a single arrow against them, but this first part is what we need to remember. Do not be afraid of the words you’re hearing from that voice in your head. They may make sense, sound logical and be believable, but it’s the voice of God you need to be listening to. His voice does not bring fear or shame. Declare Psalm 85:8 today. It says, “I will hear [with expectant hope] what God the Lord will say, For He will speak peace to His people, to His godly ones.” Choose to listen and believe what God says over the other voices in your head. He’s the one speaking the truth and peace to you.

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More Faith

There are times when I feel like I have the type of faith that can move mountains. There are also times when I feel like my faith is much smaller than a mustard seed. Sometimes I read verses like John 14:13 where Jesus tells us to ask for whatever we need in His name and He’ll give it to us, and I think, “What if I ask and you don’t answer?” Hen I think, “What if I don’t ask at all? What happens then?” Having the faith to believe sometimes feels like the gas gauge on my car. Sometimes it’s full, and other times it feel empty. Either way, I believe God honors the faith we do have, but He’s also encouraging us to have more.

In Mark 9, Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration to find his disciples arguing with some teachers of the Law. When he asked them what they were arguing about, a man pushed forward and said he had brought his son to be freed from demons, but the disciples couldn’t do it. Jesus asked for the boy, and Ashe approached, the demons threw him into a fit. The man begged Jesus to help them if He possibly could. Jesus responded, “Yes, if you yourself can! Everything is possible for the person who has faith” (GNT). To that, the father answered, “I do have faith, but not enough. Help me have more!” Jesus cast the spirit out and the boy was healed.

Faith is a partnership between us and God built on trust and communication. Jesus wanted to partner with this father’s faith for his boy, but the man felt he needed more. He is a lot like several of us doubting our faith isn’t enough. Jesus was able to use what faith he did have to free his son. Later, when the disciples asked why they couldn’t cast it out, Jesus told them, “Only prayer can drive this kind out. Nothing else can.” It’s a reminder to us to look at our prayer life when our faith feels small. How much quality time are we spending with our Heavenly Father? I’ve found that the more time I spend with Him in prayer, the greater my faith is. You and I can have more faith, but it comes through prayer and reading the Bible.

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Safety And Security

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Work Diligently

One of the moments I remember most from high school was being in a locker room in Waco, Texas before the basketball state championship. Everyone was nervous feeling the weight of the game we were about to play. Coach walked in with The Dallas Morning News newspaper folded up. He said, “I want y’all to hear this article. It says, ‘The State Championship is a mere formality for (our opponent). (Our school) lacks the height and the talent to keep up.’” Something happened in that moment. He said, “Go prove them wrong!” We started banging on the lockers and screaming. We came out of that locker room a force to be reckoned with and won the game. We were all of a sudden motivated to win, but it was the discipline we learned in practice that gave us the victory.

Motivation is a good thing, but it doesn’t keep you going. When we first accept Jesus, find our calling or discover our God given purpose, our motivation is high. When it comes down to working it out, getting things moving or bumping into roadblocks on the way, motivation does very little to keep us on the path. It’s the daily disciplines that do that. Motivation is emotional and depends on success to stick around. Discipline is willpower and depends on determination to move despite how you’re feeling. God gives us the mountain top, emotional experiences because we need the motivation from time to time, but He expects us to be disciplined to continue through the valleys of not being able to hear Him or sense His direction for our lives.

Proverbs 30:25 says, “The feeble ant has little strength, yet look how it diligently gathers its food in the summer to last throughout the winter” (TPT). He keeps working for the future despite the present, and is a good example for us. You may have lost your motivation along the way to doing what God called you to, but let me encourage you to begin small, disciplined steps to move you towards it. Find five things you can do daily that will keep you moving towards the place where God is calling you, and do them no matter what. The ant is considered wise and a hard worker in this Scripture because he does the necessary work before the winter arrives. So you and I need to be working while we can towards the place God is leading us. Motivation may give you momentum, but discipline will keep you going when you’re not feeling it.

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The Treadmill Of Worry

In one of the classes I train, the participants take an assessment that pinpoints areas of unproductivity in their job. One of the big one that shows up often is Goal Diffusion. This occurs when a person has several smaller goals that distract them from their big goals. What happens is that they spend and focus their energy on things that don’t move them forward. They may feel somewhat accomplished because they are doing things, but they find that they aren’t advancing. It’s like being on a treadmill. They’re putting out a lot of energy, but they’re not moving. Instead of being laser focused on one goal, they’re dispersing their energy in a lot of different directions. The correction is to refocus on what matters, to choose a large goal that will move them forward and then to channel that all their energy in one direction.

The same thing can happen to us as believers. Many times we feel like we are busy for the Lord, but we’re going no where. We have our energy diffused by all the little things we’re doing or are worried about. Our enemy is pretty good at using worry and smaller goals to keep us distracted and unproductive. Worry takes up a lot of energy and strength. It also takes our eyes off of what matters and refocuses it on things that seem big, but in reality are not. When we spend time thinking about those things, we waste precious energy that could be laser focused somewhere else. The end result is that we are mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted. We also feel like we’re doing a lot, but we don’t feel like we are accomplishing anything with all of our efforts. Just like I mentioned before, the correction is to refocus on what matters and channel our energy in one direction.

Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude” (TPT). It goes on to tell us that when we do that, we will have the peace that passes understanding and that we need to keep our thoughts focused on what matters (verse 8). What are the things that are pulling you in different directions? What are the things that are creating worry in your life and changing your focus? The correction that all of us need to make is to become more saturated in prayer in our lives. Prayer not only helps us give our worries to God, it helps us refocus on what matters, put our problems in perspective and channel our energy in a direction that moves us forward. Stay focused on the things that matter, stay in prayer, seek God’s Kingdom first (Matthew 6:31) and then you will find you’ve gotten off the treadmill of worry and are moving forward.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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Finishing The Race

In my opinion, one of the greatest moments in sports happened in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Derek Redmond had won his heat in the 400 meter dash and was racing in the semifinals. About halfway through the race, he tore his hamstring and grabbed the back of his right thigh. He could hardly move as he knelt to the ground. The other runners crossed the line to cheers, but then Derek stood back up and began hobbling towards the finish line himself. As he kind of skipped along, his dad ran out of the stands, put his arm around him and helped him finish the race. Derek had prepared his whole life for this moment. He was determined to finish the race, and he did.

Paul referred to the Christian life as a race in 2 Timothy 4:7. He said he had finished his course with all his might. He had been fought mentally his entire race as he had been one who had killed Christians for their faith. He had been fought physically as he had been beaten for preaching the Gospel. He had been fought emotionally as jealous people opposed him and the message he preached. Despite all these roadblocks, he continued to run his race. He didn’t let anything stand in his way. Instead, he kept his eyes on the finished line and pressed toward the mark for the high calling in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:13). The way he ran his race of faith is how we are to run ours.

In Philippians 1:27, he encouraged other believers by writing, “Whatever happens, keep living your lives based on the reality of the gospel of Christ” (TPT). Like Paul and Derek, we must not let the things that happen to us keep us from reaching our goal. We must press on despite the roadblocks that stand in our way or the circumstances that trip us up. There have been times in my life when I was hobbling in my faith and others came along side me to help me along when I couldn’t advance on my own. If you’re hobbling or struggling, ask a friend to help you along and pray that God will strengthen you to help you finish the race. We all go through those times. The important thing is to keep living your life of faith no matter what comes your way, and you will receive the crown of righteousness. Don’t stop. Keep pressing on. Finish your race.

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If you’d like to see Derek Redmond run his race, click here.

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Empowered For Victory

Fear. Worry. Addiction. Self destructive thoughts and patterns. Insurmountable odds. Our past. These are things that many of us battle on a daily basis. They are mentally and physically taxing. It’s hard to sleep when these battles loom over us because they’re all we think about. The idea of getting free of them rarely enters our mind anymore because we’ve given up hope of overcoming them. They are powerful and make us feel powerless against them. We yield to them because we know it’s useless. So we live under their cloud in a defeated life without hope of winning victory over them.

If you struggle with these things, you’re not alone. Millions of people live just like that believing they’re the only ones going through it because the enemy of their soul has lied to them. He knows if he wins these battles, he can sideline you for a lifetime. But God has not given you a spirit of fear, nor has He abandoned you. He has given you the strength and the tools to break every chain and every stronghold that tries to hold you down and keep you from the life He created you to live. Remember that our weapons are not carnal, but are mighty through God (2 Cor 10:4)!

Psalm 18:35 puts it this way, “You empower me for victory with your wrap-around presence. Your power within makes me strong to subdue, and by stooping down in gentleness you strengthened me and made me great!” (TPT) Yes, you were made to be great and victorious through God. When we spend time in His presence through prayer, reading His Word and in praise and worship, He envelops us with the power we need to overcome. You don’t have to be a prisoner to these other things because you’ve been empowered for victory. Capture the thoughts that are not from God, and change them to what God’s Word says.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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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