One of the things we’ve done with our son since he was little is try to teach him decision making skills. We took him to Disney World several years ago with the plan that he could build a Star Wars R2 or BB unit at the end of the day. As we went through the park, he would see things he wanted. We would tell him that he could choose that or the robot. On one such an occasion, he found something he struggled with choosing. We then let him know the price difference. He still struggled. We gave him the pros and cons of choosing one now versus waiting until later. He started crying. It was too difficult, but we told him the choice was his. He finally asked what we would do. We said we would wait for what he wanted. That’s what he did and he loves his BB unit.
In 1 Samuel 8, Israel demanded a king from Samuel. When he went to the Lord about it, God reminded him that they were rejecting Him and not Samuel as their leader. Then God told Samuel to go back to the elders who came to him and let them know the cons of having a king. The leaders listened, but their minds had already been made up. They didn’t care what the consequences were, they wanted to be like every other nation. They wanted a king to judge them and lead them into battle. God, being who He is, didn’t force them to keep Him as their king and leader. He told Samuel to do as they say and give them a king. They decided they wanted to be in charge rather than God.
Proverbs 19:21 says, “A person may have many ideas concerning God’s plan for his life, but only the designs of God’s purpose will succeed in the end” (TPT). God allows us to make our own choices in life. He doesn’t force us to follow Him or accept His plans, but we do have to accept the consequences. Like the Israelites, we often think we know better than Him or we simply want our way. Understand that true success comes from choosing and following God’s plan for your life. Rarely is there immediate satisfaction because God’s plans for you are long range with eternity in mind. The things we trade His plans for are mostly for immediate and temporary satisfaction. We must learn to be patient and accept that He has our best interest at heart and His plans for us will bring the most success in the end.
I saw a friend of mine wearing a hat the other day that said, “Jesus took naps. Be like Jesus.” I laughed and thought of Jesus sleeping in the boat knowing the storm was coming. I also thought of myself because I don’t take naps. I’ve got too much going on in my mind and in my life to take a nap. I began thinking of Jesus again and how He would often draw away from the crowds to be alone. Whether He was napping, praying or just being alone, Jesus was creating space to rest. The Gospels include this attribute of Jesus as a reminder to us that we need to take a break often. The very first ordinance that God instituted for us was the Sabbath. The words means to stop and rest. God did it. Jesus did it. You need to do it.
Here are some Bible verses on resting.
1. You shall work for six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; [even] in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest [on the Sabbath].
Exodus 34:21 AMP
2. He (Jesus) said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while”—for there were many [people who were continually] coming and going, and they could not even find time to eat.
Mark 6:31 AMP
3. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.
Psalms 127:2 NLT
4. Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest.
Matthew 11:28-29 GNT
5. He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love. His tracks take me to an oasis of peace near the quiet brook of bliss.
How do you respond when your plans get disrupted? How do you feel when things don’t go according to the way you thought they were? At times, we follow God’s leading in our life, thinking it’s going to go one way, when things happen and they go another. It drives me nuts when that happens. I’ve already played everything out based on the information I have from the Holy Spirit, but then I find out that I don’t have all the information. He often has a different plan than the one I have. He has other motives that I don’t know about. So when He disrupts what I think is the plan, I often don’t recognize that it’s Him. Instead of rolling with the changes, I often push back.
In Acts 8, the Early Church was growing rapidly until Saul came on the scene and started persecuting Christians. People had to move away from their homes to escape. One person that did that was Philip. He went to Samaria where Jews were hated. He preached the Gospel and revival broke out. So many people were getting saved and healed that Peter and John went there and took over Philip’s ministry. An angel then told him to go down the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. There he encountered an Ethiopian reading Scripture. He explained it to him and he got saved. After baptizing him, the Spirit caught Philip away and transported him to Ashdod instead of Gaza where he thought he was supposed to go. That was a seven hour walk away.
In each of these cases, the plans Philip had were disrupted or changed. Because of the persecution, the Gospel spread around the world. Because he followed God’s leading after his ministry was taken from him, aN Ethiopian took the Gospel to Africa and established the Church there. Romans 8:28 says, “So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together for good, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose” (TPT). Whatever disruption you’re facing right now could be from God. Even if it’s not, God can work it out for good and for His purposes. Instead of throwing a pity party, ask God what He needs from you in this time. Who knows the ripple effect of what God can do through you when you submit to His will instead of your plans.
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.
One of the jobs I’ve had was in a think tank for a large company. They would fly several of us in, present a problem the company was facing and we would go to work to solve. It usually took a week to figure out the cause and how it presented itself. We would then spend the next couple of months creating the solution. We could talk about the solution for days, but until we put it into practice, we didn’t know if it would work. So we flew to where the problem was the worst and implemented the solution. We then watched the results, gathered feedback, refined the solution and retested it over and over until we got the results we were looking for.
In Matthew 7:24 Jesus said, “So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man [a far-sighted, practical, and sensible man] who built his house on the rock” (AMP). He said that when the storms of life came and beat against this house, it stood firm because their faith had been tested, refined and proven. Then He contrasted it with a person who just heard His words, but didn’t live them or act on them. When the storms came in that person’s life, their faith crumbled because it was only an idea they were holding onto. This person lacked a strong foundation built on faith that had been lived out.
James 1:22 says, “But prove yourselves doers of the word [actively and continually obeying God’s precepts], and not merely listeners [who hear the word but fail to internalize its meaning], deluding yourselves [by unsound reasoning contrary to the truth].” Faith is just a concept you talk about until you put it into practice in your life. It’s what you live out Monday through Saturday when you’re in the world. It’s walking and trusting God when you can’t see the next step, but moving forward anyway. It’s trusting His promises when others say there is no hope. God never intended for Faith to be something we identify with. He intended it to be something we lived, grew and built our lives on. That’s a foundation that can withstand even the strongest storms. I know because I’ve proven it in my life over and over.
I read something a while back that shocked me. It said the average person only reads one book after they leave school. One book for the rest of their life! That’s crazy to me, and I’m not a person who devours books. That means that the average person will mature physically once they’re out of school, but not intellectually. They do very little to grow their mind, improve their understanding of the world or learn something new. I realize we have a ton of information at our fingertips with the internet, but articles aren’t books. They give you the Cliff Notes, not the full tools that will truly help you improve. It should be worrisome to us that the average person peaks intellectually between 18-24 years old.
Paul spent most of his entire adulthood traveling to young churches and writing them letters on the importance of growing and maturing in their faith. He was constantly telling them and Timothy, his understudy, to grow their roots down deep, mature their faith and produce fruit. He understood that we’re not supposed to stop once we’ve accepted Jesus and are baptized. There’s a lifetime of growth and learning ahead of you. Yet, somehow, the same mentality that affects our learning growth, infects our spiritual growth. It tries to remove our drive to learn more about Jesus, change how we live and mature in our faith. When that happens, we miss out on the abundant life God has for us. We become like the Israelites who wandered in the desert for 40 years. We’re out of the bondage of sin, but we fail to reach the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey.
Ephesians 4:13-14 says, “This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth” (NLT). Maturity in Christ perfects the Body of Christ from false teachers, builds unity in the Body and makes us more Christlike. Take time to read this full chapter today. God has so much more for us. We can’t be satisfied with milk when He has meat waiting for us. We must be intentional about our spiritual growth and maturity. It requires us to learn more about Him and to live out our faith more than one day a week. It requires us digging into God Word ourselves and relentlessly pursuing Him. God has more to this life for you. Don’t be satisfied with where you are.
Have you ever been sure you were right until you found out you were missing information? I’ve had that happen on more than one occasion. Some told me an injustice that happened to them, so I stood up for them and argued their case. The other person, whom I was going after, said, “Did you know this?” I didn’t. It was a handy piece of information to have. Had I known that, I would have kept my mouth shut. Now I’m standing there with my foot in my mouth feeling kind of small. I had to apologize because I acted on the information I had rather than making sure I had all the information.
Almost all of the book of Job is about him pleading his case with his friends. They’re convinced he’s sinned and God is punishing him. He defends himself, and round and round they go for over 30 chapters. Then he switches his attention to God. He demands God show up so He can be confronted about his injustice. Well, God shows up and asks Job a bunch of questions he doesn’t have the answer to. God’s questions reveal to Job that he doesn’t have all the information. In Job 40:4-5 he answers God, “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say” (NLT). In that moment Job realized God sees the bigger picture and He was wise enough to be quiet and trust Him.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’” I don’t know what you’re going through today. Maybe you feel like Job where everything is being taken away from you unjustly. Maybe you’re blaming God or pleading your case to Him about how you’re being targeted. I want to remind you that in Job 1, it was the devil who requested permission to attack Job. God trusted Job to stay faithful no matter how bad things got. Because he did stay true, God rewarded him. We don’t know why things happen, but we do know God is in control and He has a plan. He sees the whole picture of your life and is working everything out for your good, even when it doesn’t seem good or feel good. Trust His long term plan rather than your current situation. He’s not missing information. We are.
One of the things that I’ve taught for years is that habits, behaviors and attitude are all learned behaviors. You have the ability to change them with enough dedication and thought process changes. In the late 1980’s, Stephen Covey wrote a book called, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. It sold so many copies in the first 11 years that it was named the most influential book of the 20th century. It taught people principles they could change personally to move from dependence to independence, and it also taught how to become a better team player as well. Many people attribute their success in business and in life to this self help book.
Unfortunately, many people approach the Bible as a self help book. They look at it as a book of do’s and don’t’s that will make you a better Christian in order to get into Heaven. We’ve been conditioned to think that if we will just act right, say the right things and spread love then we will be good Christians. The problem with that thinking is that it’s all behavior based Christianity. Romans 7 address that. If we try to live our Christian lives based on behaviors, then we’re going to be miserable. Jesus didn’t die to make you a better person. He died to give you new life. The changes in our life are a result of our love for Him, not our will power. The root of behavior based Christianity is that we are trying to integrate Christ into our lives instead of integrating our lives into Him.
In John 15:4, Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me” (NLT). Fruit isn’t produced on your own trying to be a good Christian. Fruit is produced through the new life Jesus gives us when we are fully grafted into Him. When we surrender our lives to Him, we are letting Him integrate us as branches into Himself as the Vine. Life changing power comes from that surrender and integration. It doesn’t come through will power. You are saved by grace, through faith, not by your good behavior or works (Ephesians 2:8). It’s not your habits that make you a Christian, it’s your heart. Man looks on the outward things, but God looks at your heart. Romans 8 addresses living surrendered to Christ in contrast to trying to do things on your own in Romans 7. We each need to make sure our lives are grafted into Christ where true life and fruitful living are.
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.
Years ago I had a corporate job where I stood in front of groups to train soft skills and also processes. Every once in a while, someone would come up and tell me that they wanted to be in a position like mine. They would ask if they could shadow me for a day. I would usually agree to it, and then they would ask what training they could shadow. I’d laugh and say, “I’m not going to have you shadow me on a teaching day. I want you to come up here during my preparation time.” They would look puzzled and ask why. I always responded, “Because what you see in the classroom is the result of my work. I’ve spent hours preparing to stand here and deliver this content. If you want to do this job, you need to see the amount of preparation it takes to stand here for 8 hours.” Not many people wanted the job after that.
When we read the Gospels, we’re looking at 3 years of Jesus’ ministry. It was the result of 30 years of preparation. We don’t really get a glimpse of the years He prepared. We know as a twelve year old, He was in the Temple preparing. He knew He needed to be about His father’s business even then. We know that His earthly father was a carpenter. He would have learned His father’s trade of looking at the details, measuring twice, cutting once and using tools to create masterpieces from wood that had been cut. All of His life was preparation for ministry. We even read how He took time away from the disciples and people to get alone with God as preparation for the ministry He would do the next day.
2 Timothy 2:21 says, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things [which are dishonorable—disobedient, sinful], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified [set apart for a special purpose and], useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (AMP). God wants to use each of us somewhere in His Kingdom, but we each must take the time to prepare for it. We must be willing to be alone with God in prayer. We have to be willing to be taught skills that God can use. We must be open to learning more about who He is. We also have to make choices to be set apart, live pure lives and to be ready when God wants to use us. Most of us will touch one or two lives at a time rather than the masses. That will still require you to spend time in prayer and preparation. Every person who wants to be used by God must take the time to be prepared for every good work God wants to do through them. Ask God today what He wants you to do to prepare for what He’s calling you to do.
Have you ever been told, “If you’re going to complain about a problem, bring a solution”? There are usually at least two types of bosses who will say that. The first knows there are tons of problems, but is either tired of hearing about them or has no clue how to solve them. They use that line to keep people from constantly bringing up issues. The other type wants your input on the situation and will often empower you to enact your solution whether it’s the right one or not. They want to help you take ownership of the organization and also want to help you grow. One of these bosses are healthy, and the other is not.
In Judges 6, we find the story of Gideon. He was threshing his wheat in a wine pit so that he couldn’t be seen by the Midianites. At harvest time, they would come through Israel and steal their harvest while they were threshing it. While he was hiding, the Angel of the Lord showed up to talk to him. That’s when Gideon told him that ever since they left Egypt and took over their land, the Lord had abandoned them and allowed Midian to overtake them. In verse 14, the Angel responded, “The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this strength of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” (AMP) God empowered him to set Israel free. God could have wiped out the Midianites, but chose to partner with Gideon to accomplish it.
As Jesus was preparing to die on the cross, He prayed over the disciples and believers which includes us. In John 17:18 He prayed, “Just as You commissioned and sent Me into the world, I also have commissioned and sent them (believers) into the world.” Jesus had been on a mission to preach the Gospel, to set the captives free and to release the oppressed. Here, He handed that job to you and me. We are God’s solution to a broken world. Are we still complaining about it to God or are we going in the strength we have because He sent us? Like Gideon, we may be timid or even doubt, but also like him, we must step out of hiding and walk in faith to accomplish all God wants go through us. You are anointed. You are commissioned. You are called. Go set people free today by the power of the Gospel wherever you go. You are empowered to solve this world’s problems with God’s solution.
Praising God is something we’re going to be doing for eternity. The word “praise” in the Bible according to the Strong’s concordance means to boast, to rave about, to commend, to speak well of, to laud. What I’ve learned from people in the Bible like David is that it’s always a good time to praise God. It’s even more so appropriate when you’re down or simply don’t feel like it. When we praise, we give honor where it’s due, we magnify Him and we turn our attention from our problem to our solution. Praise takes the breath God placed inside us and gives it back to Him as an offering. When we do that, something shifts in our attitude, our situation and in the spiritual realm. It invites God into our space, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were preaching and a slave girl, who was demon possessed, started taunting them. She did it for days until Paul had enough and cast the demon out. Her owners were furious because their money stream dried up. They had Paul and Silas beaten and cast into the innermost part of the prison. With their open wounds and feet shackled in an uncomfortable position, they felt it was a good time to praise God. Verse 25 says, “Paul and Silas, undaunted, prayed in the middle of the night and sang songs of praise to God, while all the other prisoners listened to their worship” (TPT). They didn’t allow their circumstances to discrete their ability to praise. Because they praised, God showed up, caused an earthquake, loosened their shackles and set them free. That night, the head of the prison and his family gave their lives to Jesus.
Psalm 34:1 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (AMP). No matter what we’re going through, how dark our situation is or how bad things seem, His praise should continually be coming out of us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this and God has shown up. When I’m unable to get the words out of my mouth, I turn on a YouTube channel, a Pandora station or Air1 radio to bring praise into the room where I am. We have a need for the presence of God at all times in our life. However, when we need Him most, praise is one of the things we forget to do. Make a change today to bless the Lord at all times whether you feel like it or not. Start and end your day with it. You will see a difference in your attitude, your circumstances and your life if you do.