Tag Archives: christian living

Becoming Heirs

Not long ago, we visited the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. It is America’s largest home at over 178,000 square feet and sits on 8,000 acres. We took the tour to learn all about its construction and owner. George Washington Vanderbilt was the man who had it built. He was the youngest of three sons whose father inherited the Vanderbilt fortune. George’s father inherited 100 million dollars and turned it into 200 million before he died. George’s two brothers inherited the bulk of the money. With part of his inheritance, he built this magnificent home that still belongs to the family.

The Bible talks a lot about first born children and inheritances. The first born received a double portion since they were to care for the estate and father’s wife. Abraham blessed Isaac and left him the double portion. Jacob tricked Esau into giving him the first born inheritance and then stole the blessing too. As generations went on, they referred to themselves as heirs of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That carried over into New Testament times as well. The people identified as heirs of Abraham, but Jesus wanted to change that so that we would become heirs of God through Him.

Romans 8:16-17 says, “The Spirit Himself testifies and confirms together with our spirit [assuring us] that we [believers] are children of God. And if [we are His] children, [then we are His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His spiritual blessing and inheritance], if indeed we share in His suffering so that we may also share in His glory” (AMP). Just like George Vanderbilt, you and I are heirs to an incredible inheritance. When we accept Christ, we go from death to life and become royalty in the Kingdom of God. It’s time you and I began to see ourselves in this light and live like sons and daughters of the King. You’ve received spiritual blessings and will inherit all He has.

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Planting God’s Word

I try to grow a small garden each spring. Some years the garden does well, and others not so much. This year it didn’t produce anything. My radishes came up empty. My carrots were tiny. The squash took forever to even bloom. Then the corn stalks dried up and died. It was a sad site to behold for sure. It started out with such promise, but it never delivered even though we watered it and did our best to keep the weeds out.

There are years though where every time I walk over to it, there is food. We then take that food, cook it, and eat it. Afterwards, we are able to take the seeds and replant them so that a new crop is produced. That’s the way a garden should be, but it’s also the way that God’s Word is. It produces fruit in our lives which feeds us. It also produces seeds that regenerate a new crop of faith in our lives.

Isaiah 55:11 says, “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (NLT). God’s Word doesn’t have off years like my garden. It always produces and always prospers no matter what ground it’s planted in. That’s the key though. If we want God’s Word to produce and prosper in our lives, we first have to plant it in our hearts.

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Our Motivation Matters

Do you ever stop to think about who benefits from your actions? In a lot of cases, the things we do are designed to help us benefit from our actions. If we benefit from our actions, is it also fair to say, we do things to get recognition as well? Since we were babies, we have been conditioned to try to do things for applause. When you clap for a baby, their face lights up. When they start talking, they say, “Look at me,” and then they do something to try to get praise. Unfortunately, when this transitions into adulthood, it becomes something that can inflate our pride. When that happens, we begin to be controlled by what other people think.

Pride is very dangerous. Look at King Saul. He started off very humble. When Samuel found him, he referred to himself as a man from the smallest tribe and the least important family. After he became king, that humility left him and pride took its place. He made decisions that benefited himself rather than God or others. It got the the point that God was sad that he ever made Saul king. When Samuel went to Saul to break the news that God was going to take the kingdom away from him in 1 Samuel 15, Saul was setting up a monument to himself. Pride had taken over Saul’s life to the point he only cared about what God wanted when he got caught or was in a bind.

Romans 8:5 says, “Those who are motivated by the flesh only pursue what benefits themselves. But those who live by the impulses of the Holy Spirit are motivated to pursue spiritual realities” (TPT). When pride is in the driver’s seat of our life, we do things that benefit ourselves and bring us glory. 1 Peter 5:5 tells us that God is opposed to the proud. We must learn to seek God rather than the praise of men. Romans 8 draws a line between those who are Spirit minded and fleshly minded. The fruit of our lives will show which mind we have. Our motivation matters and is the difference between being humble or filled with pride.

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Seeking Jesus

As a kid, one of my favorite Bible stories and songs was about Zacchaeus from Luke 19. As you may recall, he wasn’t very tall and was struggling to see Jesus over the crowd. After trying several things, he climbed up a tree in order to see Jesus. I love that when He saw Jesus, Jesus saw him and rewarded his tenacity by meeting with him in his home. Zacchaeus became a changed man because he sought Jesus until He could find Him. The same should be true of us. We should be continually seeking Him, looking for Him and meeting with Him. Zacchaeus isn’t a children’s story. It’s a reminder for us to tenaciously seek Jesus.

Here are some Bible verses on seeking Jesus.

1. I love those who love me; whoever looks for me can find me.

Proverbs 8:17 GNT

2. “[Looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].

Hebrews 12:2 AMP

3. Yahweh looks down in love, looking over all of Adam’s sons and daughters. He’s looking to see if there is anyone who acts wisely, any who are searching for God and wanting to please him.

Psalms 14:2 TPT

4. “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree. “I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you”—God’s Decree—“bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it.”

Jeremiah 29:13-14 MSG

5. There you will look for the Lord your God, and if you search for him with all your heart, you will find him.

Deuteronomy 4:29 GNT

Are you still seeking Him like Zacchaeus? Is He still making a difference in your life?

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Practicing Greatness

Who is the greatest person you know personally? Who do you think is the greatest person alive right now? I’m not looking for the Sunday School answer of Jesus either. What makes those people great in your eyes? I’m sure every person reading this would probably have a different answer. Some people are raised with greatness as the goal and standard for living. Others feel it’s not right to seek greatness. I’m of the persuasion that each of us should seek greatness in our lives. One of the first lines in the book “Good to Great” is a quote I remind myself of often. The author, Jim Collins wrote, “Good is the enemy of great.”

One day, as the disciples were all sitting around, a discussion broke out about who was the greatest and who would be the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. When they couldn’t resolve it, they asked Jesus. I love that He didn’t rebuke them for wanting to be great. He simply redefined for them what greatness meant. In Matthew 18:3-4 Jesus said, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you repent [that is, change your inner self—your old way of thinking, live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (AMP).

Going back to my first question, is the greatest person you know humble? Heaven’s definition of greatness begins with humility and includes trusting God and being able to forgive others. That kind of greatness is something we should all be striving for in our lives. It’s not easy. Being great never is. That why you may have struggled to come up with names at the beginning. There are very few people whom we consider great, yet we need to strive for greatness by God’s definition more than the world’s. You were created with greatness in you. It starts with trusting God’s plan for your life, receiving His grace and forgiving those who have wronged you. Go practice greatness today.

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Cultivating God’s Word

If you go back to Genesis and read the account of creation, you’ll notice that God spoke almost everything into existence. However, there were two things He made by hand. One was man and the other was the Garden of Eden. It says that God planted the trees and plants in the garden. Then in Genesis 2:15 it says, “Then the Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it” (GNT). It was man’s responsibility to tend to the things God planted and to guard them well. I believe we still have the responsibility today to cultivate and guard what God plants.

Let’s fast forward to the New Testament. In Luke 8:5-8, Jesus told the parable of the farmer who went out to plant some seeds. So,e seeds fell on the path where it was stepped on and birds ate it. Some fell on rocky ground, but the plants died because there was no moisture. Some fell among the thorns and they choked out what grew. Finally, some fell on good soil and produced a crop. The disciples didn’t really understand the parable, so Jesus explained that the farmer was God and the seed was His Word. Then in verse 15 He said, “The seeds that fell in good soil stand for those who hear the message and retain it in a good and obedient heart, and they persist until they bear fruit.”

God is always trying to plant His Word in our hearts, but it’s up to us to guard it and cultivate it. What was true in the garden is still true today. If we want to see a harvest in our lives, we need to protect what God plants from the enemy who will try to eat it by discrediting it and crushing it. We must remove the rocky parts of our heart to keep the soil fertile so that we continue to hold onto it during hard times. Finally, we need to guard against the cares of this world that will try to take priority over God’s Word. Remember, it’s God who does the planting, but we are the ones who must care for, tend and protect what He plants.

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Spiritual Resolutions

As we close the door on one year and open the door to another, I think it’s good to have a spiritual resolution for the new year as well. I believe Philippians 4:4-8 provides us with some great things we should resolve to do not just in the coming year, but throughout our life. Verse 4 says, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (NLT) In 2022, don’t let anything steal your joy. Joy shouldn’t be based on your circumstances, and it’s where you get your strength from. Trust in what God is doing and stay joyful.

Verse 6 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Refuse to let worry have a foothold in your life. It uses today’s strength for tomorrow’s problems. Turn your worry into prayer. Let the The things you can’t control push you closer to the One who can control them. Prayer changes our perspective and helps us to let go of the burdens that are too heavy for us to bear. Put them in God’s hands and take His burden which is light.

Verse 7 says, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Having peace in your heart, your mind and in your life is a wonderful thing. We were not created to live in turmoil. When we learn to trust a God with our decisions and with the things in our life that we can’t control, we can have God’s peace. Let His peace guide you in the coming year so that you operate in His will for your life.

Finally verse 8 says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Choose what to think about. Your thoughts are powerful and determine the direction of your life. Don’t dwell on what could be, but focus on what is true. One true thing I focus on is that God is in control, and nothing that happens in my life is a surprise to Him. 2019 is already history to God. Resolve to make it the year that you trust Him completely and you will experience joy, peace and faith.

Thanks to Stefan Kunze for making this photo available freely on http://www.Unsplash.com

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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Practice Matters

I can’t hear the word “practice” without thinking of Allen Iverson and his famous meltdown. It was in 2002 in response to a reporters question right after he and the Philadelphia 76ers exited the playoffs in the first round. They were expected to make it to the finals. There had been reports, and even hints from his coach, that he wasn’t committed to being a team player in practice. The rant was the result of not meeting his own expectations, the early exit and the loss of his best friend. In his outburst, he said “practice”22 times. My favorite quote of it was, “We talking about practice. Not a game. Not the game I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game. We talking about practice, man.”

When I was in high school, I played basketball. Each game was four eight minute quarters. We would spend two hours a day in practice five days a week preparing for games. The difference between winning and losing a game came down to how well you practiced. Coach understood that. We practiced shooting, our plays, our press, our passing and scenarios in order to be flawless when it mattered. Yet most people don’t take practice seriously. As believers, our “practice” is often on a Sunday. It’s where we get coached up, learn about God’s way of living and have the opportunity to show love to fellow Christians.

Philippians 4:9 says, “Put into practice the example of all that you have heard from me or seen in my life and the God of peace will be with you in all things” (TPT). We can’t be like Allen Iverson when it comes to putting into practice godly things. If we can’t show love to each other as believers, how can we show it to the world when we leave? If we can’t worship because we don’t like the songs or the volume, how can we worship during the week? We spend a lot of time complaining about personal preferences on Sunday when we have the greatest opportunity to practice godly traits. We are to be known for our love for one another. Each week we get the opportunity to practice what we preach. Don’t waste your practice time or forsaking the assembling of the brethren. Use each service to put into practice all you’ve learned.

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Seeing Beyond The Horizon

I used to work for a company who wanted to always be forward thinking. They adapted the word horizon into their name as a constant reminder to always be looking ahead. They figured that if they were always looking to the horizon, they would see what’s coming and be able to adapt and change in order to embrace it. The horizon has always represented the edge of man’s vision. Most people on,y look at what’s just in front of them rather than off into the distance. If we could see beyond the horizon, we would know the future. As Christians, faith is trusting God for what’s out of our ability to see.

If you’ve ever read Hebrews 11, you know it’s a list of people in the Bible who had strong faith. I always heard it called “The Hall of Faith” as I was growing up. The people listed are ordinary men and women who simply trusted God for things they couldn’t yet see. They looked beyond their current situation and had faith that what was unseen was greater than what was seen. Verse 13 says, “These heroes all died still clinging to their faith, not even receiving all that had been promised them. But they saw beyond the horizon the fulfillment of their promises and gladly embraced it from afar. They all lived their lives on earth as those who belonged to another realm” (TPT).

How many times do you get frustrated with God because the things He promised have yet to come through? It’s tough to stand in today’s problems knowing that tomorrow’s promises could solve them. However, God knows the best time to make good on His promises. Will you still trust Him even if He doesn’t come through right now when you think it matters most? Faith is seeing beyond your current circumstances, even beyond the horizon, and knowing that God will do what He says. It’s embracing His promises even when it looks like they’re never going to come. God only knows what the future brings. As Corrie Ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

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Protecting Our Relationship With God

I get the opportunity to talk to different people all the time. Inevitably someone wants to ask me relationship questions. I’m not a trained counselor or anything like that, but as I listen to these stories, there’s a constant thread through all of them. The problems they’re experiencing are a result of a lot of little things that have crept in and gone unchecked. Also, they haven’t done things to protect the relationship. When that happens, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back ends up happening and it gets the blame. The truth is it was several small, basic things that added up.

Just like any relationship, we have to make sure that we do the small, basic things in our relationship with Christ. We need to set parameters and protect it. We live in a connected world where everything seems to be vying for your attention. If we allow little things to distract us and keep us from praying or reading our Bible or going to church, it will become difficult to have that relationship that God wants to have with us. We must protect that time. We must make it sacred so that nothing and no one comes between us and God.

I’m reading the Book of Song of Songs (Solomon) in the Passion translation. They’ve taken it and put in red letters the parts that are allegorically from God. Chapter 2:15 says this to us from God, “You must catch the troubling foxes, those sly little foxes that hinder our relationship. For they raid our budding vineyard of love to ruin what I’ve planted within you. Will you catch them and remove them for me? We will do it together” (TPT). God is asking us to protect our relationship with Him. I also love that just like any other relationship, it’s not just one side’s responsibility. We need to work together with God to remove the obstacles in our relationship so it can grow.

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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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