Tag Archives: christian living

Keep The Fire Burning

Ever since I was young, I have loved building fires. I remember when I was taught how to build one. They taught me that there are three things needed: fuel, oxygen and heat. To start it, you have to have some tinder, which is tiny sticks. As they get consumed by the fire, you have to add in pieces that are a little bit bigger called kindling. When the fire gets large, you add in the big pieces of firewood referred to as fuel. Before starting a fire though, you need to make sure you have plenty to get it going and to keep it going. If you start it and have to run around looking for any of these, it will burn out. A fire has to be constantly fed if you want to keep it burning.

Fire has been used in the Bible as a symbol of God’s presence. He’s known as an all consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). When Elijah called the people back to repentance, he called fire down from heaven and it consumed the sacrifice (1 Kings 18). When Israel left Egypt, the Shekinah Glory of God led them through the desert as a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21). In the New Testament, God sent His Holy Spirit to live inside of those who believe on Jesus. In the Upper Room, to signify this, there was a flame above each believer (Acts 2:3) telling them that the presence of God now lived in them. You and I have that same fiery presence of God living in us, consuming us. Just like a real fire, there is fuel we can add to keep it burning strong in us.

1 John 2:24 says, “So you must be sure to keep the message burning in your hearts; that is, the message of life you heard from the beginning. If you do, you will always be living in close fellowship with the Son and with the Father” (TPT). In Revelation 2, Jesus was upset with the Church at Ephesus because they left their first love, and He threatened to remove their fire from its place of influence unless they repented. We need to keep the flame burning in our hearts by keeping God’s Word fresh in our lives and keeping our love for Him strong. In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to fan the flame within you (2 Timothy 1:6). Return to the message of God that ignited your love for Him and keep it burning strong. We are called to be light in this dark world (Matthew 5:16) and it needs us the light of God in our lives to see.

Photo by Colter Olmstead on Unsplash

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Get In The Wheelbarrow

I like to tell people that you will always act on what you truly believe, especially when you’re under pressure. It’s easy to say you believe something, but the proof comes when stress is applied. There’s a story of a man named Charles Blonden who famously put out a tightrope across Niagara Falls. He crossed it several times using different methods like stilts, backwards, blindfolded, carrying a stove and cooking on it. One time he pushed a wheelbarrow across it. When he arrived on the other side, the crowd applauded. He then asked who believed he could push someone in that wheelbarrow across the tightrope. Everyone cheered agreeing that he could. He then asked for a volunteer from the cheering crowd. The crowd fell silent and no one volunteered. Later his manager Harry Colcord did ride across on his back.

It’s easy to say we believe something until we have to get I to the wheelbarrow. In the Old Testament, God asked Abraham to take his only son to the land of Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice (Genesis 22). This was a faith testing moment. God had already told him that through Isaac he would have many descendants. He took Isaac to the mountain anyway because He truly believed God. David’s faith was tested too. He had been anointed king, but God delayed in that promise. He had several opportunities to kill Saul, the current king, but he trusted God’s timing instead. Many opportunities presented themselves, but he passed on them all as he waited for God’s perfect timing.

Testing is part of God’s means of proving our faith just like He did for those in the Bible. If He tested them, He’ll test us. 1 Peter 1:7 says, “Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you will receive praise and glory and honor on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed” (GNT). Testing purifies and solidifies our faith. Don’t back down from what you believe when hard times come or when you’re called out on it. Get in the wheelbarrow and trust God to carry you across Niagara’s Falls. He’s proven time and time again He’s able to, but it’s up to us to trust Him enough to get in.

Thanks to Sandra Grünewald @elmuff for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

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A Credit To Christ

John Maxwell, one of the world’s leading experts on leadership, almost always brings up the importance of being intentional in your life through words and actions. He challenges people to make deliberate decisions daily to use their everyday life to bring about positive change in the lives of others. He encourages people to be in a relentless pursuit of a life of significance. One of the things he says is, “You are either a plus or a minus in your relationships. You are either adding value to people’s lives on a daily basis, and they can hardly wait to be around you, or you are subtracting and pulling value out of people.” I constantly think about that. I want to be a credit in people’s lives adding value to them.

I also take it a step further. Am I a credit to Christianity and the cause of Christ or am I subtracting from it? Do my words, my actions and my life point people to Jesus? I run everything I do through this lens from my social media posts to my conversations. Will it add value to what they think of Jesus or subtract? I think of Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. He was a credit to God, but his sons were not and that reflected on him. It didn’t take long before God removed all three from their priestly roles. God uses people who are intentional about how they represent Him and His name. If you call yourself a Christian, you bear His name and represent Him wherever you go. Are you a credit to His message by your actions?

In Philippians 1:27, Paul wrote, “Live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ” (MSG). He was asking them to think about how they were living in front of others and to contend for people’s trust in the Good News. People will decide whether they put their trust in God by how you live and act. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to be intentional, especially when things aren’t going your way. Can you still live out your faith when things are difficult, when God feels far away or when nothing is going your way? Faith is trusting when you can’t see. It’s easy to be a credit to the Gospel when everything is good. People really pay attention when your life is falling apart. Are you still trusting? Are you still living like you believe it? That’s being a credit to the Message of Christ.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

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Water Into Wine

A few years ago I was able to visit Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine (John 2). In the church there, they have a giant stone jar similar to what would have been used in that day. They hold about 20 gallons of water. Our guide, who was a Jewish rabbi, told us that it was important that these jars were made of stone because if it had been any other material, the wine would have been ritually unclean for the Jews attending the wedding. The day before, we had been to Nazareth and heard that the word carpenter didn’t just mean He worked with wood as it does today. Back then, it could have also meant He worked with stone. As I have thought about these two things, my mind can’t help but go to 1 Peter 2:5 where we are called “living stones”. I believe that Jesus’ first miracle was a representation of what He wants to do in us. He wants to supernaturally transform our lives on the inside.

Ephesians 4:23-24 says, “Now it’s time to be made new by every revelation that’s been given to you. And to be transformed as you embrace the glorious Christ-within as your new life and live in union with him! For God has re-created you all over again in his perfect righteousness, and you now belong to him in the realm of true holiness” (TPT). When we embrace Christ within us, the transformation happens just like the water was turned to wine when the servants embraced what Jesus said by taking a pitcher of the water from the stones to the master of ceremonies. The inward transformation takes place instantly when we receive Christ. Becoming a new creation is a process for most of us. People may see our rough, stoney exterior still, but God is changing that too starting from the inside out.

Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you]” (AMP). Your life is being progressively changed through Christ. If God’s still working on you helping your outside to match what’s inside, you’re not alone. We’re all being made new day by day as we embrace what God has done in us and allow Him to transform us from the inside out. Jesus has turned your water into wine. Now let Him, as the stone carpenter, continue to transform you into who He created you to be.

Photo by Jasper Oversteyns on Unsplash

These stone jars from Cana held about 20 gallons

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Studying The Textbook

When I was in school, I tried to get the best grade with the least amount of effort. I developed a system where I didn’t have to truly study for tests. I took notes in class on what the professor said. The day before the test, I simply read my notes and got a good grade. It worked so well that I quit buying textbooks at college and saved a ton. Then i had one professor who lectured and lectured every class, but when the test came, none of what he lectured was on it. I asked him where the material came from on the test, he simply replied, “From the textbook. Haven’t you been doing the daily readings?” I had a choice to make, I could drop the class and lose that money or I could buy the textbook and read. That was one of the few textbooks i bought.

There’s a lot of people who approach Christianity the way I did college. They show up for a Sunday lecture, but never open the textbook between Sunday’s. I’ve tried that too and it doesn’t work. You can never know if what’s being taught is true or not unless you know what the Bible says. In Acts 17, Paul and Silas were preaching in Berea. Their message was intriguing, but different than they had ever heard. They didn’t just accept it because they were good speakers or spoke with authority. Verse 11 says, “And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth” (NLT).

As believers, you and I must learn to search and study the Scriptures ourselves. Then use the tools that are available today to understand the context of them. After that we must meditate on them and learn how to apply them to our lives. Hearing and reading other people’s interpretation of them is good, but nothing replaces your study of the Scripture. Psalm 119:27 says, “Help me understand the meaning of your commandments, and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds.” If you struggle to understand the Bible, ask God to reveal it to you in a way you can understand. God doesn’t want you to be in the dark about what He says. Remember it is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Psalm 119:105), and you are to hide it in your heart to keep you from sin (Psalm 119:11). God gave us this textbook to help us. Make sure you read it.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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Selfless Love

Several years ago, I took my first trip to Haiti with coreluv.org. One of the things we did was to go to a very poor part of town to feed some children whose parents didn’t have enough money to feed them. I’ll never forget this little girl who couldn’t have been more than five years old. She had her baby brother with her who was around a year old. She took her food and began to feed him. This plate, with a small mixture of rice, beans, and pasta, was all she would get to eat until the next day. Instead of scarfing it down, she took care of her baby brother first.

I have worked with kids my whole life, and I can’t think of any other kid who acted so selflessly. Her mom wasn’t standing there telling her what to do. She did it out of love while starving. I was broken in that moment. I grabbed another plate, put a couple of spoons of rice on it, and grabbed her brother to feed him so she could eat as much as she wanted. After her brother ate, he fell asleep in my arms, and I began to reflect on what I witnessed.

In Philippians 2, Paul starts out asking if God’s love has made a difference in our lives. He then says, in verses 3-4, that if it has, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (NLT). This little girl in Haiti exemplified who we are supposed to be as Christians.

If you and I could act as selflessly as this little girl, the world would stop and take notice. I’ve read many stories where Christians have acted selflessly and won entire villages and towns to Christ. If we are going to be called by His name, we should be trying to have His attitude in our lives. Do something today that puts someone else’s needs above your own. Bless them selflessly, putting their needs ahead of yours, and then tell them God loves them. We become more like Jesus one selfless act of love at a time.

Me with the baby boy as he fell asleep

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 Disciples

For more than a decade I have been a corporate trainer. Companies hire me to help change behaviors, change results, increase productivity, to understand new concepts and to change culture. Training has that ability because it addresses the behaviors that change results. Studies have shown that untrained employees take six times longer to understand and perform a task than ones who receive training. During that time, an employee can get frustrated and leave. Also, if a company doesn’t train en employee, the employees don’t feel valued. If the co any isn’t willing to invest in their future and their success, why should they stay? Training is a very important part in helping people reach their potential.

I tell you all of that because I read the Great Commission with new eyes. Look carefully at what it says. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (AMP). He didn’t say, “Go therefore and make Christians.” He didn’t even say, “Go therefore and make Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Charismatics or whichever denomination you belong to.” He said, “Go therefore and make disciples.” A disciple is a student that needs to be trained. Jesus asked us to make disciples instead of Christians because you and I have the ability to teach and to train, but we do not have the ability to save. Only He does.

He asked us to help them to learn of Him. In order to do this, you must know about Jesus and read the Bible yourself. A teacher or trainer has to know and understand the material before they teach the pupil. Jesus next told us to teach people how to believe in Him. Your testimony is vital in this part of making a disciple. If you’ve accepted Jesus, your life has been changed. Share with others how it has changed so they can believe. Finally, He said train them on how to obey His words. Application is key to any training. Disciples need to understand how to apply God’s Word. Showing someone how to apply a principle changes behaviors that in turn change results. We’re called to change this world through making disciples who can then repeat this process. Who are you discipling right now? We’re all part of the Great Commission and have a responsibility to make disciples.

Photo by Sarah Noltner on Unsplash

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Defeating Your Past

Do you ever feel like your faults, failures and past sins disqualify you from being used by God? Sometimes those voices that tell me those things get so overpowering that I start to believe it. My past comes back to remind me to stay grounded while God has called me to fly. They weigh me down like I’m attached to an anchor. They tell me, “Because you did this, God can never do that in your life.” It’s hard to hear anything else sometimes.

When those voices get too loud in my mind, there’s two verses I go back to. The first one is Psalm 65:3. It says, “Our faults defeat us, but you forgive them” (GNT). I use this verse to remind me that my past has been forgiven, and that there is no condemnation for those in Christ. The voices that tell me what God can’t do are not from God. When He forgives, He forgets. He uses those faults and failures as my qualifications to do what He called me to do.

The other verse I go to is Romans 11:29. It says, “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (NLT). No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, God still has a plan for your life. He still has a calling that only you can fulfill. He knew your future when He called you. He understood that you wouldn’t be able to live a perfect life so He built it into the plan for you. He doesn’t withdrawal His calling because of our past.

It’s easy to look at someone else and think, “They’re better qualified to do what I’m called to do,” but that’s not how God works. He created you with a purpose and a calling that only you can fulfill. It’s time to quit listening to the voices that tell us we can’t, and start listening to the only voice that matters. It’s not too late. You haven’t gone too far. God’s calling is still valid and you have work to do. Push out the voices that tell you why you can’t, and tell God, “Here am I. Use me.” God hasn’t withdrawn His calling it purpose from your life.

Photo by Ivan Pergasi 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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Finding Shelter

Growing up on the Gulf Coast, you’re taught what to do in case of tornados or hurricanes. When they’re approaching, the news will tell everyone to find shelter. The shelter you choose matters. Is it strong enough to withstand high winds? Is it high enough that it won’t flood? Does it have interior rooms with no windows? When a storm is bearing down on you, your safety depends on where you shelter. No matter what though, there are always those who choose to run into the storm rather than to shelter. The news will show people at the beach trying to surf in the waves or who want to wait as long as they possibly can before the full force of the storm arrives. Most people evacuate and look for shelter though.

Where do you go when the storms of life come? I’ve tried to weather them without help and have lost everything. I’ve also learned to find my shelter in God who is unmovable. When you have an emergency in the US, you dial 9-1-1 to get help. When you’re facing one of life’s storms, I recommend Psalm 91:1. It says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand]” (AMP). God offers us shelter from our storms. Merriam Webster defines shelter as something that covers or affords protection. That’s what God offers us, but we must choose to run to Him in those times.

He also says we can rest in His shadow. Have you ever been in someone’s shadow literally? In order to do that, you have to be pretty close to them. God is inviting us to not just run to Him when we need protection. He’s asking us to draw near to Him and to dwell, or live, in the shelter He provides. Does that mean you won’t face storms or feel their effects? No, but it does mean you will have protection that won’t fail when you need it most. God will be your 9-1-1, but He desires for each one of us to live in His presence and to talk with Him daily. He’s not just our emergency relief. He’s our daily bread if we will choose to draw close to Him. When we do that, we can proclaim, p “He is my refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust [with great confidence, and on whom I rely]!” (Psalm 91:2)

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

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Productive Preparation

I’m normally a person who goes above and beyond what’s asked of me. I like to say, “If it has my name on it, it has to be excellent because I represent more than myself.” However, sometimes i don’t give my best effort if I don’t understand the purpose of what’s being asked of me or feel like it’s not a productive use of my time. Several years ago my wife asked me to take the remote control to the cable company to exchange it. I had never noticed a problem with it, but i went anyway. When I arrived, I grabbed the remote to go in and it lit up. I thought, “What am i going to tell these people as to why i need a new one? It looks like it works.” So I took it back home. A few days later when it acted up on me, I had to admit I didn’t return it.

There are a lot of things we do in life that may feel pointless. There’s times when God puts in on our heart to do something for others that doesn’t make sense. In fact, a lot of what it takes to live out our faith daily can be exhausting or feel unproductive. We don’t always see the point. That should never stop us from being obedient to what God asks. In 2 Kings 3, the two kings of Israel and Judah decided to attack Moab. They took the desert road to remain undetected. The men were thirsty and about to die. They called on Elisha who told them to dig trenches all night. He then said, “For thus says the LORD, ‘You will not see wind or rain, yet that valley will be filled with water, so you and your cattle and your other animals may drink” (AMP). The next morning they woke up to water in the trenches and were victorious in battle.

They didn’t understand God’s reasons. They were exhausted, yet they did what was asked and God rewarded them. That principle holds true for us. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord [always doing your best and doing more than is needed], being continually aware that your labor [even to the point of exhaustion] in the Lord is not futile nor wasted [it is never without purpose].” You may not understand why God wants you to do something, but do it anyway. You may feel exhausted and not up to it, but do it anyway. You may feel like it’s a waste of time, effort and energy, but do it anyway. Nothing you do for God is wasted or unproductive. God is working behind the scenes on your behalf and your blind obedience is often the preparation for a miracle.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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