Tag Archives: christian living

Extravagant Love

A lot of Christians are skeptical of Kanye West’s conversion. If I’m honest, I put myself into that category. He has been hosting Sunday Services where people have been giving their life to Christ, he put out an album called “Jesus is King”, took the Gospel to the Harris County jail and held service at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood church. On all accounts, we question his motives and keep waiting for the moment where he lets us know he’s been trolling us. We all remember his crazy antics (like taking the mic from Taylor Swift. We know the family he’s married into. His sinful past is also well documented. Are we doubting the power of the blood of Jesus or are we holding someone’s past against them? Would we feel the same way towards a local sinner’s conversion in our own church?

In Luke 7, Jesus was invited to eat at the home of a Pharisee. While Jesus was eating dinner, verse 37 says, “There was an immoral woman of the streets, known to all to be a prostitute” who walked into the house and knelt at the feet of Jesus (TPT). She wept as she knelt. Her tears fell on His feet, and she began to dry them off with her hair as if she were apologetic that she was getting them wet. She then brought out an alabaster box of perfume and “anointed his feet with her costly perfume as an act of worship.” Then the Pharisee said, “If He were really a prophet, He would know what kind of sinful woman is touching Him.” He did. He then shared a story of two men who were forgiven large debts, but one was so much more than the other. He then asked, “Which of the two would be most thankful? Which one would love the banker more?” Then in verse 47, Jesus said, “She has been forgiven of all her many sins. This is why she has shown me such extravagant love. But those who assume they have very little to be forgiven will love me very little.”

When we see prominent sinners give acts of worship, are we jealous because of their greater love for the Savior? I still don’t know Kanye’s intentions, but what I see are the acts of someone who has been forgiven much and is expressing that gratitude. I’m learning to worry less about what He’s doing and questioning my own actions. What am I doing to continue to show my appreciation for the salvation that was freely given. Was my sin as public and as “shameful” as Kanye’s? No, but the end result would have been the same without the blood of Jesus. For that, I am grateful and should be remembering what was done for me often. It’s easy to get into the rut of Christianity. It’s easy to question someone else’s heart when I should be questioning my own. Today, it’s time to worry less about someone else’s response to salvation and look at how I’m expressing my love to Christ for paying my debt too.

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Childlike Faith

If you’ve ever had young children, you know that the younger they are, the more innocent they are. They never compare themselves to other children. They don’t worry about food and clothing. They get along well with other kids from the moment they meet. They’re moldable and are always learning. They don’t question their parent’s motives. They trust their parents enough to jump from just about anywhere. As they get older and around other kids, they begin to lose a lot of these qualities. Different things happen, fear creeps in and they begin to lose the trust in people. It’s a sad transformation in a way. My wife and I have tried hard to protect our son’s innocence as long as we can because we know how important these qualities are for even adults to have.

Think of how many times Jesus told us to have childlike faith. These are the qualities He wants us to have. We need to trust our Heavenly Father without doubt or worry. We need to be open to being shaped by Him so that we can become the people He intended for us to become. It’s hard to have faith when you’re fearful and jaded. All these qualities that we gain through the years are often the things that hold us back from having the relationship with Him that He seeks to have with us. Even though life has happened to us and we aren’t the same as we were when we were children, we can still have childlike faith and trust in Him. It requires us to let go of past pain, disappointment and failures of authority figures in our life. We can’t compare or project other people’s qualities onto God. Childlike faith trusts Him no matter what.

Here are some Bible verses on childlike faith.

1. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

MATTHEW 18:4 AMP

2. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God [with faith and humility] like a child will not enter it at all.

LUKE 18:17 AMP

3. This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.

Romans 8:15-16 MSG

4. So I’ve learned from my experience that God protects the childlike and humble ones. For I was broken and brought low, but he answered me and came to my rescue!

Psalms 116:6 TPT

5. At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.

Matthew 11:25 NLT

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Dreams And Goals

I like to ask people, “What’s the difference between a dream and a goal?” A lot of people struggle with this question at first because it’s hard to articulate on the spot. But think about it for a second. They’re very similar with one exception. A goal is something you have a plan for in order to accomplish it. Dreams are usually large goals without a plan. The problem is most of us think we have set goals when really all we have done is created a bunch of dreams without a plan to accomplish them.

The people I know who are goal oriented aren’t easily swayed into doing things that don’t align with their goals. They know exactly what they need to do in order to accomplish them and they are pretty disciplined. Dreamers aren’t as disciplined. They live with their heads in the clouds and are easily knocked off course by distractions. Unfortunately that’s the way many of us live our lives and it bleeds into our faith as well. We’re living for Christ without a purpose, and that’s dangerous.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24, Paul mentions that in a race, everyone runs, but only one wins. He then tells us to run to win. Verse 26 says, “Therefore I do not run without a definite goal” (AMP). Not only are we to run to win the ultimate prize, we are to run with purpose. We are to run with goals. To keep from being easily distracted by all this world has to offer, and to keep our head out of the clouds, we need to have spiritual goals. There’s no other way for us to have the impact on this world that we’re called to have. God has a purpose and a plan for you that only you can fulfill. Don’t go through life without accomplishing all God has planned for you. Set goals, make a plan and start doing things today that move you towards fulfilling your purpose.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing 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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No More Micromanagement

I’ve had some very different bosses throughout my working life. Some of my bosses could be referred to as micromanagers. They would give me an assignment, then breathe down my neck the whole time. They wanted it done their way or I would get in trouble. It was stressful and not very fun to work for them. Contrast them with some other bosses I’ve had that were overseers. They would hand me an assignment then back up and let me work. If I needed anything, they were always available to answer questions or give me feedback. I always felt like I thrived in that environment. I knew what was expected of me and I was able to do the work in a way that made going to work fun.

When Jesus walked on the earth, the religious leaders had made following God a lot like those micromanagers. They had a set of rules you couldn’t deviate from or they would call you out and embarrass you. They had their interpretation of living for God and forced everyone else to try to live that way too. It was burdensome and difficult. Contrast that with Jesus who took all their regulations and said they could be summed up by loving God and loving people. If they did those two things well, the rest came pretty easily. He removed the burdensome yoke of the law from our necks. In Matthew 11:28-30 He said, “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me. For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear” (TPT).

God is not a micromanager giving you a heavy load of regulations that’s impossible to bear. Christianity is not a bunch of “Thou shalt not’s”. Instead it is a spiritual oasis where we join our life to His and learn to love Him and others. He forgives your past and has given you permission to heal from it. You don’t have to live under the constant condemnation of you you were. In Him, you are a new creation. The old life is gone and He has created a new life in you. I love that He said in these verses that He’s easy to please. You don’t have to live under the stress of constantly fighting for His approval. He loves you, approves of you and has lifted your old burden that was weighing you down. It’s time to live in that approval and enjoy the relationship with Him that He offers.

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Giving Off Light

Our cell phones are becoming like Swiss Army knives. You can talk, text, search for answers, use as your Bible, play music, take pictures and record videos. They do all of that, yet one of the things I’m most thankful for is that someone figured out that you can turn the camera’s flash into a flashlight. I’m getting to the age where I have to use my phone’s flashlight to read the menu in a nice restaurant or walk through a dimly lit place. I never thought I would use the flashlight as much as I do, but having a readily accessible light whenever I need it comes in quite handy. There’s more times than I can count that I’ve needed it’s light to help me see a message or to help me get where I’m going.

I don’t know if Jesus would have used a cell phone as His example if He were to give the Sermon on the Mount today, but it’s possible. As He stood on a hill beside the Sea of Galilee teaching the people, I’m sure He looked out across it and saw little towns on the sides of the other hills as He said, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15 NLT). Are you and I lighting the way for others to find God? Do our lives give enough light for them to see His message written on our hearts?

When Jesus gave this sermon, the lights in these cities He was pointing at came from lamps that held oil. I was given one on my last trip to Israel. I came home, put oil in it and lit the wick. They give off decent light, but I’ve found that you have to keep filling it with oil if you want it to keep working. You and i can’t be the light He’s called us to be unless we are continually refilling our lives with the oil of His presence and His Word. The power of the light doesn’t come from the clay lamp, but the oil. In the same way, our flesh is simply the holder of the oil, but we must be on fire for Him and continually do the things that puts oil in our lamps. There is a world full of people stumbling around in the darkness who are depending on you and me to be the light God has called us to be. Make sure you’re living for Him in the open where all can see.

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Resisting Temptation

Every one of us are tempted to sin. Because we are unique, we are tempted with different things, but often it’s in the same way. Temptation starts by causing us to doubt what God said and tries to make us think that there is something better than what God has already blessed us with. If we don’t stop those thoughts immediately, we start moving towards sinning. We try to justify why we deserve whatever it is. We then convince ourselves that what we have is not enough. We continue down this road until we give into the temptation and sin. Deep down we know it’s wrong, and so many times the actual sin is anticlimactic because we’ve built it up in our mind so much. The problem then is that we have to deal with the consequences of that sin. Temptation is not a sin. What we do with it could be.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had all they could ever hope for. They were surrounded by God’s beautiful creation and provision, yet they were convinced that what God had given them was not enough. They wanted more. Genesis 3:6 says, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was delightful to look at, and a tree to be desired in order to make one wise and insightful, she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband with her, and he ate” (AMP). They entertained the thoughts of temptation that led them to sin. They bought into the lies that God was withholding something good from them and that they deserved to have more than what God gave them.

Fast forward a couple thousand years to Matthew 4, and as Jesus comes up out of the waters of baptism, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness. He was in a barren place deprived of God’s provision, food and beauty. The same enemy came to Him to create doubt about who He was and what God had promised Him. The difference was that Jesus didn’t entertain those thoughts. He immediately went to what God said as truth, and He trusted the character of a God to not withhold any good thing from Him. He saw temptation for what it is, an attempt to break our relationship with God. He fought back with God’s Word and didn’t try to justify the sin based on where He was in life, what He was going through or what He felt like He deserved.

You and I have a promise we can hold onto during times of temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].” You don’t have to give into temptation. You have the ability to resist. You are able to endure it and can overcome it. Trust that what God has given to you is enough. If you don’t feel like it is, then be like the two people in the Parable of the Talents who took what the Master gave them and multiplied it. Your future is based on your choices and thought life. Don’t give in to the lies the enemy brings. Trust God and speak His promises, resist the devil and he will flee.

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The Value Of Grace

I work in an industry where for years we gave our customers free equipment in exchange for a contract. The problem that arose was that our customers didn’t treat the equipment very well. After losing it or breaking it, they would come back and say, “Can you give me another one?” When I would tell them this time they had to purchase it, they would get upset and say, “Just give me another free one.”

I learned during that period that people rarely value what they get for free. I remember valuing my first pair of shoes I paid for. I worked for weeks to earn enough to buy them. I was at an out of town tournament playing basketball with them. One night, someone decided to pull the fire alarm at the hotel. The first thing I grabbed to take with me outside was my shoes. I didn’t care if I lost everything else, I didn’t want to lose those.

Because of this tendency of our human nature, it’s difficult for us to value God’s grace. It is a free gift that affords us salvation. Our minds can’t comprehend how something so valuable could be free, so we often try to earn our salvation by doing things instead of trusting God’s grace. In several of his letters, Paul warns against this kind of thinking. He also warns of the mentality that says, “Since its free, I’ll just do what I want and ask for more.”

I love how in Galatians 2:21, Paul strongly says, “I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless” (NLT). I believe you and I have to fight every day against our minds to not treat God’s grace as meaningless. It’s something we should value highly. The cost was high even though you and I didn’t have to pay it. To treat it as meaningless or to try to earn our salvation is to devalue what Jesus did on the cross. May we ever be grateful for God’s amazing grace and treat it with the value it is worth.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing 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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