Tag Archives: christian living

A Matter Of The Heart

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Mercy And Healing

Have you ever done something wrong and then tried to cover it up? Of course you have. You’re human. There’s something inside of us that think if we cover it up, no one will know and it will go away. I’ve been trying it since I was a kid. In fact, my friends and I once started a fire when we were young. When it started smoking a lot, we tried to cover it up…with dried up pine needles. The fire roared even bigger. Instead of asking an adult for help, we went to my friend’s brother who was only two years older. By the time he realized he couldn’t put it out either, a neighbor saw the blaze and called the fire department who came and prevented a huge forest fire. By then, there was still significant damage we could have avoided had we confessed sooner.

I’ve found that people are more willing to forgive your shortcomings when you’re open and honest about them. But there’s this voice in our heads that creates doubts and insecurities in us. It tells us, “If they knew this about you, they would never talk to you.” When we listen to that voice, we choose to cover up our sins, failures and shortcomings which compounds the problem. We know it doesn’t work, but we try anyway thinking we might get away with it this time. The temptation to cover things up is such a challenge that it’s often more tempting than the temptation to sin. The problem is that sin covered up is unconfessed sin.

Proverbs 28:13 says, “If you cover up your sin you’ll never do well. But if you confess your sins and forsake them, you will be kissed by mercy” (TPT). We confess our sins to God for forgiveness. We confess them to others for healing. We need to get better at showing people mercy for their confessed sins. That’s the only way to break this cycle of covering up sins. We all sin, and we all need mercy and grace from each other. Jesus said it was the merciful who will obtain mercy. Let mercy start with you today.

Photo by Jamie Hagan on Unsplash

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People Of Restoration

Have you ever made a mistake or messed up? Ever have anyone not let you forget it? It’s bad enough that we all make mistakes, but it’s worse when it’s public and we can’t live it down. Sometimes it makes you the butt of other people’s jokes, and sometimes it’s what keeps you from getting ahead. Each time you try to advance, there’s someone holding that over your head reminding you of that one time you messed up and that’s why they can’t trust you. It can be frustrating to be in that position, but I think it’s worse to be the person who is holding another person’s mistake against them. Grace is something we all expect from others, but rarely give someone else. We judge others by their mistakes, but want them to judge our mistakes by our intentions. It’s time we implemented the Golden Rule when it comes to mistakes people make.

Can you imagine how Peter felt when he publicly denied Jesus a couple of hours after saying he would never do that? Luke 22:61 says that when Peter denied Jesus a third time, Jesus turned and looked at him. How do you come back from that? It’s no wonder Peter wanted to go back to his old life after Jesus was crucified. He was so used to people holding his mistakes against him that he thought being the Rock of the Church was out the window. I love that Jesus introduced him to grace and asked him three times if he loved Him. It took a while for Jesus to get through to him that his mistake had been overlooked and that Jesus wouldn’t dwell on it. He restored the friendship in that conversation and reinstated Peter’s future. Jesus didn’t just do that for Peter’s benefit. He was giving us a model to emulate.

Proverbs 17:9 says, “Love overlooks the mistakes of others, but dwelling on the failures of others devastates friendships” (TPT). Who do you need to release today? Who’s failure have you been dwelling on and holding it against them? If Jesus hasn’t held your past mistakes against you, how can you hold someone’s against them? We are people of restoration. We are people of forgiveness. It’s time we began to live like that instead of the way our flesh wants us to live. Holding someone’s past against them makes you the warden and them your prisoner, but love overlooks the mistakes of others. If we’re to be known for our love, we’re to be known for letting go of people’s past mistakes.

Side note: We’re also to be people who are wise as serpents and harmless as doves. It doesn’t mean we give them full access and carte blanche. Use wisdom in providing a way forward to rebuild trust and to help them advance rather than to hold them in one place forever. We are Biblically called to forgive everyone, but not necessarily to reconcile with everyone. There’s a difference. Forgiveness frees them and you from the mistake. Reconciliation restores the relationship. Sometimes forgiveness is all you can do, and that’s ok.

Thanks to Jachan DeVol @jachan_devol for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

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A Teachable Heart

Sometimes before I train a class, a boss will reach out to me to warn me of someone that will be in class. I can usually spot them when they walk in. They typically sit in a place where they can be seen and heard. They make noises and sigh loudly. They have their arms crossed and will even challenge me in front of the others. People like this feel like training is a waste of their time. They know it all already. Their arms are folded because they’re closed off to anything you try to teach them. They won’t be ignored either. If they’re miserable being their, they make it their goal to make everyone else in the room miserable. Having an unteachable spirit is a sad thing to me. The moment we fail to be open to learning is the moment our growth stops.

The Bible has its share of know it alls, but there are more examples of people who are humble enough to admit they don’t know everything. They’re the ones whom God used in some pretty incredible ways. David was one such person. He was constantly open to learning and hearing from God. I wonder if that’s what made him a person after God’s own heart. He was humble enough to admit he didn’t know it all and that he didn’t have the proper education in the scriptures since he was raised as a shepherd. He was constantly praying, “Teach me your ways, show me your ways or lead me into your truths.” He knew that being teachable and having an understanding of God’s Word were the keys to his success as a leader.

Psalm 199 happens to be the longest chapter in the Bible. It also happens to be full of these prayers. One such prayer is found in verse 125. It says, “I am Your servant; give me understanding [the ability to learn and a teachable heart] That I may know Your testimonies” (AMP). He recognized his place as God’s servant first. Then he asked for the ability to understand and learn, along with having a teachable heart. These are the things that each of us need. I’m constantly praying a prayer like this. I daily ask God to open up my understanding of His Word and to show me things I’ve never seen before. When we approach God in this manner, and with this attitude, the Bible becomes alive and God reveals it to us like never before.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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Exposing Your Weakness

Last week, a mentor of mine posted a video of himself working out. He held a barbell above his head and squatted multiple times. He then moved over to a chin up bar and did several chin ups. After that he went back to the barbells. He repeated the process until he couldn’t go on. I watched as he began to struggle. His arms twitched. He had to refocus and retry a few times as he got wore out. Finally, he stopped and walked off the mat. His caption said, “One thing Crossfit does, it exposes weakness in areas you might have thought you were strong in. But I love it!”

That phrase stuck out to me. Most of us want nothing to do with having our weaknesses exposed. We like to keep them hidden from others and pretend they don’t exist. We like to focus on areas where we’re strong and show that side to the world. We like to put our best foot forward and rarely let others see who we completely are. We’re afraid others won’t like us as much or will look down on us. Fear plays a big role in keeping our weaknesses covered up. Unfortunately, that fear is what keeps us from being more of the person God wants us to be.

Knowing what your weaknesses are and putting them in the open has a lot of benefits. First, knowing your weaknesses gives you direction and focus. It shows you exactly what you need to work on. Just because you are weak in an area of your life, it doesn’t mean you can’t get strong there. Don’t fall for the lie that it’s just who you are or it’s just in your nature. You are only weak in areas of your life to the extent that you allow yourself to be. You have the power to get strong in those areas if only you will push yourself. When you do, you will find other areas of weakness. Simply repeat the process.

Another benefit to exposing weakness is that it opens you up to accountability. As long as you hide your weakness, it will eat away at you and hold you hostage. The moment you expose it and ask others to help, you set yourself free. You are free from the mind games it has played with you and used to keep you down. You are free to work on that area and to get help. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to say to someone else, “Here’s where I’m weak. I need you to hold me accountable and to help me beat it,” you begin to turn that weakness into a strength. You begin to take control over it instead of letting it have control over you.

In Psalm 139:23-24, David prayed, “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; cross-examine me and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about… then guide me on the road to eternal life” (GNT). David understood this principle. He asked God to test him and to expose his weaknesses so that he could be guided on the road to eternal life. Each one of us have areas of weakness. Each one of us fail God in our lives. But not each one of us dare to ask God to expose it and then to guide us to a deeper walk with Him. Take that first step today and ask God to expose your weaknesses. Then find an accountability partner to help you strengthen that area. You’ll be glad you did.

Photo by Karsten Winegeart 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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Turning Fear Into Action

How many times has fear kept you from doing something? All of a sudden those “What if” thoughts flood in, your tongue swells up, you get that acids taste in the back of your throat and then your body won’t move. Your mind says you want to, or you should, but your body doesn’t cooperate. It happens to all of us, especially when we’re called to do something by faith. You feel the nudge to tell someone God loves them or to share your faith, but nothing cooperates and they walk away. Something inside says to give them money, but by the time you convince yourself to grab your wallet, you look up and they’re gone. You hear about going on a mission trip, but you’re waiting to “hear from God” and the deadline passes. We like to say, “Faith over fear,” but the reality is that fear stops us from acting in faith pretty often.

I can’t help but think of the woman with the issue of blood in Mark 5. I can imagine the fear she must have had, the thoughts that told her it was a silly idea or the what if doubts that could have kept her from touching Jesus. But in verse 28, she overcame those fears with another thought, “If i could just touch the hem of His garment, I’ll be healed.” Her need for healing became greater than her fear and propelled her to action, and now she’s forever enshrined in the Bible as a lesson of pushing past fear. She’s an example to each of us in turning fear into action and a reminder that we’re often one step away from receiving what God has for us. She pushed through a crowd and her fears, and we can too.

Hebrews 10:39 reminds us, “But we are certainly not those who are held back by fear and perish; we are among those who have faith and experience true life!” (TPT) Your identity in Christ is rooted in actionable faith, not paralytic fear. To beat that fear, you need to act quickly when the Holy Spirit prompts you to do something. Decide now so there won’t be a debate in your head later. Everything inside you may feel like it’s on fire, but press through and act on the prompting. Have a phrase ready like, “God loves you, “ say it and walk away. If they call out, stick around. You may end up blessing them more. Whatever it is that fear keeps you from, and whenever it starts to paralyze you, remind yourself that as a Christian, you are not held back by fear. We act on faith and experience God’s blessings and true, abundant life because of it.

Photo by Sammie Chaffin on Unsplash

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Inwardly Strengthened

When I was around six years old, my parents put me in sports at the YMCA. Even though I had been raised in church, that is the first place I remember seeing or hearing the phrase, “spirit, mind and body”. We either used to recite their mission statement at practice or I saw it often. I had to look it up now, but it says, “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.” That’s still a pretty good thing that each of us need to work on. Sometimes we’re concerned about our physical health, but we starve our spiritual health. Other times we focus on our mental health while we neglect our physical health. To be whole and healthy though, we really need to make sure we’re keeping all three healthy and strong.

In Ephesians 3, Paul writes an incredible prayer for the believers in Ephesus, but I believe it’s for us too as he expected his letters to be passed between the churches. In verse 16, he starts this prayer saying, “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit” (NLT). Here he’s praying for spiritual and mental strength for us. According to the next couple of verses, it’s so that Christ will dwell in our hearts as we trust in Him, our roots will grow down into God’s love to keep us strong and that we will be able to understand how wide, long and high God’s love is. Receiving those things begins with us being empowered in our spirit and mind through the Holy Spirit. No wonder he told Timothy that physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise has so much more (1 Timothy 4:8).

A healthier, stronger, more whole you begins with being empowered inwardly by God’s Spirit. We need to pray this prayer over our own lives often, and also make sure that we’re doing things that will strengthen our inner being. We spend a lot of time and money making sure our physical body is in shape, but we can’t do that at the cost of neglecting our spirit and mind. It’s our spirit that will live forever, not our physical body. As Paul said, both are important and have value, but one is more valuable. Bible studies, devotionals, prayer groups, church services all contribute to being inwardly strengthened, but if you only do it once a week, it will have the same value as going to the gym once a week. It’s time that each of us are empowered inwardly by the Holy Spirit. Once we understand God’s love in a greater way through that empowerment, we can make God’s love known and love others better.

Photo by Dingzeyu Li on Unsplash

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Calling All Workers

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but around here construction has been booming since Covid started. New homes are being built as fast as they can, existing homes sell the day they go on the market and remodels are happening everywhere. That’s created a couple of problems. The first is that supply and demand has driven the cost of materials sky high. The second is that there is a shortage of workers to do the work. Construction companies are begging for workers. With the lack of workers, jobs aren’t getting done as quickly as they should and people have to wait for months to get their projects done. Every day people are praying for workers so they can complete their jobs.

Not long after Jesus started His ministry, crowds started showing up. They would search for Him early in the morning and stay until late in the evening. He could barely get any rest or time alone. Some days He was so busy He didn’t get to eat. Instead of being overwhelmed at the crowds, He had pity on them. His heart was filled with compassion because of their great need for salvation as well as physical healing. In Matthew 9:38, as He looked at the crowd, He turned to His disciples and said, “Pray to the owner of the harvest that he will send out workers to gather in his harvest” (GNT). He and His 12 disciples were busy every day with the work of God’s Kingdom so much so that John said if all the miracles Jesus did had been recorded, all the books in the world couldn’t contain their stories.

This is where you and I come in. We have two parts in this. One, we are to pray for workers to gather in the harvest as Jesus commanded us to. The other is to recognize we are the workers. Ephesians 2:10 says, “He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing” (MSG). Each of us were created to work in His Kingdom, but few of us are doing the work. He didn’t mean that we should all work at the church. He meant that everywhere you go, and especially at your job, there is a harvest that needs to be brought in. Instead of just praying for workers, we should be like Isaiah and say, “Here am I send me.” There is a harvest ready to be brought in right now, and God is looking for us to step up and do the work He’s called us to.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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Being Continually Renewed

One of the things I like to tell people is to choose your attitude or your day will choose it for you. I used to commute to work. Some days it was an hour, and others it would take nearly three. I drove a stick shift and would be sitting in traffic laying on and off the clutch. It was easy to get worked up and upset constantly riding the bumper of someone else while some person (not what I called them 😉) would be trying to weave through stop and go traffic. I then read where people who sit in traffic like that are susceptible to heart attacks. I decided I couldn’t allow myself to get worked up and call people names. I started choosing my attitude no matter how bad traffic was, even if it caused me to be late to a class I was training. I put on soft music and sang along in order to distract my mind. I also reminded myself that there was nothing I could do about the traffic. Some days, I just had to keep reminding myself over and over.

As a believer, there’s often a battle of the mind that has to be won over and over. It’s easy to let my past creep up on me to change my focus from what God’s grace has done to the things I’ve done in my past. That condemning mindset wants to try to tell me I’m not forgiven , I’ve used up too much grace, God could never use me, I’ve done too much, and so on. If i dwell on those thoughts, it would be easy to be unproductive, stagnant in my growth and cold to Christ in our relationship. I realize I’m unworthy of His grace, but I also remind myself that His grace is sufficient and the work has already been done. I have to choose my attitude and renew my way of thinking daily in order to keep growing and receiving God’s grace. I remind myself it’s not about what I’ve done, but what He’s done and is doing in me.

Ephesians 4:23-24 says, “And be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], and put on the new self [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image, [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation]” (AMP). When I’m feeling unworthy or those thoughts creep up, I remind myself of these verses to renew my way of thinking, to remember I’m made in God’s image and to thank Jesus for what He did for me. We all have choose our attitude, how we think and what we dwell on or we can go down some dark rabbit holes that will hold us back from the life we were created to live. If you’re struggling with those thoughts, ask God to help you continually renew your mind so you can be transformed from the inside out.

Photo by Luis Fernandes from Pexels

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Internalizing God’s Word

Several years ago I had a boss that I didn’t see eye to eye with. They had their way of doing things and I had mine, but they had a “my way or the highway” mentality. They thought their way was the best way to do the job. I voiced my disagreement and explained why my way was better. They listened politely then told me to do it their way. At that point, I developed a forced compliance mentality. I would do the job my way, unless they came around. Sometimes I would do it their way out of spite, but over emphasize certain aspects of it and say, “This is what you said you wanted.” It didn’t create a good relationship. I kept thinking my way was better the whole time and never truly gave their way a chance. We were both miserable the whole time I worked for them.

Sometimes we approach Christianity that way. We read God’s Word and disagree with how it tells us to live. We think we have a better way so we live one way on Sunday when we think God is watching, and live a completely different way the rest of the week. We argue with pastors and teachers about what God really meant or we look for someone online who will agree with us. We simply want the benefits of Christianity without changing how we live. Jesus described this mentality in Luke 6:46-47 when He said, “Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on” (MSG). Jesus isn’t offering good morals to live by. He’s offering a different way to live completely and a compliance mindset won’t work.

Instead, we need to truly internalize His words if we’re going to integrate them into our lives and change how we live. They have to move from our head to our heart. Jesus continued in verses 48-49, “If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.” We can’t just pick and choose what we believe in the Bible or just talk about Christianity. To internalize His words, read them asking Him to help you understand how to apply them. Meditate on them to think deeply about them so you can work them into your life. Christianity isn’t a list of rules to follow, it’s a way of life to live.

Photo by William Wendling on Unsplash

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