Tag Archives: christian living

The Baton Of Freedom

When I was in high school, I ran track. One of the races I ran was a relay race. We would constantly practice handing off the baton. In the race, you could look back while you were standing still, but when the person handing you the baton said, “Run,” you took off and waited to hear, “Hand!” At that point, you opened your hand behind you and they would smack it on your hand to ensure you got it. The rule was you never looked back. If you looked back, you were likely to slow down, trip or even fault by stepping out of your lane. The person receiving the baton was blind to the exchange and had to trust the one handing it off. Their job was to keep their eyes ahead and run like crazy once they got the baton.

Paul used a similar story in Philippians 3:12-14. He wrote, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (NLT). One of the hardest things for us to do is to forget the past and to look forward. When we’re constantly looking backwards, we can’t give our full attention to what lies ahead. We’re likely to go slower, trip again or step out of our lane.

Proverbs 4:25-27 says, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” Where are you looking? Are you being sidetracked by your past? Remember that the things that happened in your past often qualify you for the future work God wants to do through you. If we’re wallowing in pity or shame, it’s hard to focus on handing the baton of freedom to others. God has ordered your steps, but it’s up to you to walk in them. Quit looking backwards and look straight ahead. There are some amazing things yet to be done, but you can’t accomplish them by looking backwards. Learn from your past, find freedom in Christ and run like crazy toward the goals and freedom God sets in front of you.

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Good Advice

What’s the best advice you never took? People are always giving us advice, but most of it we don’t listen to or follow through with it. Remember when someone told you to buy Bitcoin when it was $.17? I do. Another person told me to purchase some real estate that was cheap. It’s now worth hundreds of thousands. I didn’t buy it back then. One person told me to be careful about who I choose to hang around because I’ll become like them. I thought I could change them. I couldn’t and spent several years in unproductive relationships. I could go on and on about advice I never took from people and the consequences of not listening or following through. I’m sure you could too.

In 1 Kings 12, Solomon had just died and Israel had crowned his son Rehoboam as king. The people told him that if he would lighten the load that his father had on them, they would serve him and follow him forever. He went to his father’s advisors who were older and they concurred with the people. Then verse 8 says, “But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers” (NLT). They told him to be harder on the people than his father to prove he was better than his father. When he told the people his answer, they revolted and Israel was split into two. Rehoboam was the king of the smaller territory and missed out on being a prosperous king.

Who is speaking into your life? Who’s opinions do you value? The quality of their advice will dictate the quality of the rest of your life. Proverbs 13:13-14 says, “If you refuse good advice, you are asking for trouble; follow it and you are safe. The teachings of the wise are a fountain of life” (GNT). So many of us miss out on the fountains of life that God places in our life because we refuse their advice or don’t value it. Take time to think about who you’re listening to. Do they give you Godly, Biblical counsel or do they tell you what you want to hear and do? It’s not too late to start refusing the bad advice that you’ve been receiving. Invite someone who is wise and knows God’s Word to begin giving you advice. Follow it and you won’t look back years from now with the regrets of what could have been.

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Keeping A Clear Mind

I’m bad about losing my cool when things don’t go the way I planned. I like to look at a goal, see the steps that need to take place and then take those steps. When something unplanned happens along that journey, I start to stress out, think of the worst case scenario and complain. On the other side of the coin, when I come to my senses and have a clear mind, I have a great ability to improvise. I can make connections where there don’t seem to be any and get things back on track no matter how far off they are. It’s really a matter of self control in those times when my plans go awry. My wife usually has to remind me that it’s not the end of the world and to step back, clear my mind and reassess.

Joseph, who was Jacob’s son, had a dream that went awry too. After expressing his dream that one day his mom, dad and brothers would all bow to him, he was sold as a slave where no one would bow to him. Instead of panicking, he held onto the dream. When he was accused of trying to rape his master’s wife, he was thrown in prison, even farther away from the realization of his dream. We never read where Joseph panicked or complained. We simply read of a person who did what was required of him in whatever situation he was in. He kept a clear mind no matter how crazy life got, and God’s plan still prevailed no matter what his circumstances were telling him.

In 2 Timothy 4, Paul reminded Timothy that no matter what, he should hold true to his calling to preach the Word. Then he gave him insight that things will get messy and people won’t listen to his message. In verse 5, he wrote, “But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you” (NLT). He was reminding him and us to do the work we were called to do no matter what things look like or how bad they get. Each of us have a ministry that God has given us. If we get distracted by the things going on around us, we will fail to do it. However, if we keep a clear mind, stay the course and continue working, we will carry out all God has created us to do.

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Come To The Table

My son is an extrovert much like I am. Every day when I pick him up from school, he either wants to go to someone’s house or he wants someone to come to ours. Most days, i have to tell him, “No.” Then on the way home we have to have another conversation. “Why can’t we just go to their house and have dinner tonight,” he asks. “Because you can’t invite yourself to someone else’s house,” I’ll tell him. Back and forth we go. I have to explain they’re not expecting us. They haven’t prepared enough food. They may be eating out. They may have other friends coming over. They may just want to be alone, which is a foreign concept to him. Although we have this conversation several times a week, he doesn’t stop wanting to show up at friend’s houses uninvited.

In 2 Samuel 9, David remembered his promise to Jonathan to always show kindness to the house of Saul. He asked if there was anyone left alive and they told him Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth was still alive, but he was crippled. David immediately sent an invitation to him to come over. When he arrived, Mephibosheth was nervous and scared wondering if he was going to be killed. In verse 7 David said, “Don’t be afraid, I will be kind to you for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will give you back all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always be welcome at my table” (GNT). The chapter ends saying that Mephibosheth ate all his meals at the king’s table just like one of the king’s sons.

Mephibosheth is a representation of you and I. We’ve been crippled by our sins, yet God invites us to sit at His table. So many times we feel unworthy to sit there, but we have been invited to sit there every day to dine with Him. While on our own, we would never be worthy to sit there, Jesus became our righteousness and made us sons of God. Romans 8:16 gives us this powerful promise, “God’s Spirit joins himself to our spirits to declare that we are God’s children.” That makes us the King’s sons and daughters and creates an open invitation to join Him daily. Even when you don’t feel like you deserve it, come to the table. You are a child of God and belong at His table where your mental, physical and spiritual needs are met daily.

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Becoming People Of Prayer

How much time do you spend in prayer each day? I once read that D.L. Moody spent up to 8 hours a day in prayer. That has always challenged me. I’ve been on church trips where the men would take a two day trip to spend them in fasting and prayer. There would be times when you would see people nod off. When they woke up, they would snap their head back up and say, “Amen!” On those trips I learned how hard it was to spend a lot of time in prayer, even with prayer a focus each hour. It’s also where I learned that prayer was a conversation with God. Can you imagine an 8 hour one way conversation? It was then that I learned to tune into God’s voice by giving Him time to speak in my prayer time.

You can’t read the Gospels without seeing how much time Jesus devoted to prayer. Sometimes He would spend an entire night in prayer, alone with God. The disciples were intrigued by how much time He prayed and even asked Him to teach them how to pray. They saw that prayer was important to Jesus and were challenged to pray more. Prayer became a cornerstone of the Early Church. It actually was birthed from a ten day prayer meeting. Can you imagine praying for ten days straight? I’m convinced that that kind of prayer is the missing element in today’s Church. We must return to being people of prayer. We have to make spending time with God a priority bot privately and corporately if we want to become effective in this world.

Colossians 4:2 says, “Be persistent and devoted to prayer, being alert and focused in your prayer life with an attitude of thanksgiving” (AMP). Have we lost our persistence in prayer? Have we made prayer a priority? It’s not too late to return to this foundational principle of our faith. I don’t know if God is asking you to give Him 8 hours, but you can start with at least 8 minutes. We need to have time set aside each day where we spend it in prayer without being interrupted. We need a place to meet with God where we won’t fall asleep or have distractions that will cause our mind to wander. I believe God is calling you and I back to being people of prayer. Not just rote prayers over meals and bedtime, but real conversations with God. He’s waiting for us. Will we make spending time with Him a priority? Only you can answer that.

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Going Through The Valley

I’ll never forget the first time I climbed up the side of a mountain. I was somewhere in Washington State a month or two after my mom passed away. I remember the climb up was more difficult than I imagined. When I got halfway up, I sat down to take break. As I looked down on the valley, I was struck by its beauty and lush vegetation. I remember thinking that while I couldn’t stay in the valley, I could at least grow while I was in it. What had seemed dark and dry from below, now looked like fertile soil from higher up. God used that climb to speak to me and to bring healing. I wasn’t meant to stay in the valley, but just because I was walking through one, it didn’t mean God couldn’t grow me through it. What seemed like a dry time in my life was really God planting seeds in fertile soil.

When we go through some of the darkest times in our life, we refer to it as going through a valley. David famously wrote in the 23rd Psalm, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me” (NLT). God doesn’t leave us when we go through the valleys of life. He’s close to you even when you can’t feel Him, and He’s given you tools for protection and comfort. He then prepares a table for you there representing that you will be taken care of and that you can thrive even in the darkest times of your life.

I like the promise given in Psalm 84:6-7. It says, “As they pass through the dry valley of Baca, it becomes a place of springs; the autumn rain fills it with pools. They grow stronger as they go; they will see the God of gods on Zion” (GNT). Your dry, dark times will become a place of life that you will look back on the rest of your life to draw strength from. It doesn’t feel like it in the moment, but when you get more perspective as you move forward up the mountains in your life, you will see that God never left you and He uses these times to make us stronger. Keep pushing forward through what seems like a dark and dry time, trust the promises in God’s Word and know that what you’re walking through is preparing you to make a difference in the lives of others. What seems like an end is truly a new beginning.

Thanks to Sohaib Ghyasi @sohaibghyasi for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

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Perfectly Peaceful

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Failing God

Growing up, when I heard the verse, “Be ye holy as I am holy,” I interpreted that as, “Be ye perfect as I am perfect.” It didn’t take long for me to realize perfection was impossible. I would fail, beat myself up for not being holy, feel shame, repent and repeat. I stayed in that cycle for a while because I didn’t understand that verse, I didn’t understand grace and I didn’t understand know how to trust what had been done for me on the cross. I’m not saying I understand them fully now, but I do have a better grasp of them. I haven’t even figured out how not fail, but I have figured out how to trust God more when I do. I’ve learned He’s not up there waiting for me to fail so He can banish me to Hell forever. Instead, like a father, He’s cheering me on, picking me up when I fall, dusting me off and encouraging me to try again.

One of the things that helped me break the cycle was having a teacher break down Romans 7 and 8 for me. He had me circle all the I’s, me’s, myself’s and my’s in Romans 7. When I did, the page was covered in circles. Then he had me read verse 24. It said, “What an agonizing situation I am in! So who has the power to rescue this miserable man from the unwelcome intruder of sin and death?” (TPT) He then had me do the same thing in chapter 8, except I circled all the spirit’s, God’s, Christ’s and Jesus’. Again, the page was covered in circles. He then had me read verse 4. It said, “So now every righteous requirement of the law can be fulfilled through the Anointed One living his life in us. And we are free to live, not according to our flesh, but by the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit!” He then said, “It’s not up to you. Quit trying to live this life on your own. Trust God’s grace and let His Spirit lead you.”

All my favorite people in the Bible failed miserably, and sometimes often. The psalmist wrote, “Lord, so many times I fail; I fall into disgrace. But when I trust in you, I have a strong and glorious presence protecting and anointing me. Forever you’re all I need! (Psalms 73:26)” Being a Christian isn’t about being perfect. It’s about learning to trust God’s grace and being Spirit led. He’s given us the tools we need to follow where He leads, we just need to use them. When we fail and fall into disgrace, know that He’s not angry with you. He’s there ready to help you up, to forgive you and to surround you with His presence. Keep trusting in Him, learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and quit listening to the voice of condemnation. Romans 8:1 reminds us that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. That’s a reminder for you as a Christian when you fail. This life isn’t about achieving perfection. It’s about learning to trust a perfect and holy God.

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Fixing Our Brokenness

My son is very interested in bells. He loves learning about them and watching them ring. When we went on vacation, he found a porcelain bell and wanted to get it. I tried to talk him into one of the metallic bells, but they weren’t as pretty. When we got home, my fears were confirmed as I unwrapped the porcelain bell. It was broken. I didn’t have the heart to tell him what had happened and I hoped he wouldn’t ask for it.

I went to the store and bought some gorilla glue. Before we left for school, I ran back into my room and glued it back together. When I got home, I went to check on it. The glue left a white streak all the way around it. When I tried to make it ring, it didn’t sound like it had. I was disappointed in my ability to try to put it back together. In my effort to fix it, I was hoping to make it as good as new, but I couldn’t.

Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, you and I are born broken. We spend a lifetime trying to compensate for our brokenness, and we do everything that we can to fix or cover up our brokenness. The problem with fixing things like brokenness is that we never return to our initial potential. We think we need to be fixed, but the truth is that we need to be healed. We need to be made whole, and only God can do that.

Isaiah 9:6 contains one of the most famous prophesies of Jesus. It says, “For a child has been born—for us! the gift of a son—for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings” (MSG). I love that God’s desire wasn’t to fix us. It was to make us whole. He knows that each of us are broken, and He sent His Son to bring the healing that we desperately need.

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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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Inviting God To Fight

Each day at recess, my son’s fourth grade class heads to the playground. There’s a group of boys in the class who head straight for the basketball court. All these boys are under five feet tall, and most dribble the basketball while looking at it. They’re in the beginning stages of learning the game. Imagine if one day my son asked me to play on his team. I’m a foot taller than all the kids and my skills are better than all of theirs combined. It wouldn’t be fair. It would look like that Geico commercial where they had Jerome Bettis playing flag football. It’s a funny to watch, and fun if you were the team who had him. Each play they just handed him the ball while he dragged the other team down the field.

You and I fight battles all the time, but we keep our star player on the sidelines trying to fight them ourselves. Many times we’re overcome and even overtaken in our battles. We go back to God in tears asking why would He allow us to be defeated. Sometimes we even blame Him for the things going on in our lives, but the thing we fail to do in a lot of those situations is to call on Him to come fight our battles for us. We’ve got the, “I can do this” mentality, which is what God tried to move Israel away from in the Old Testament. God whittled down Gideon’s army down to 300 men to fight against over 100,000. He was showing that the battle is the Lord’s, not ours, and when we invite Him to fight on our behalf, it doesn’t matter what the odds are, we will win.

Psalm 56:9 says, “The very moment I call to you for a father’s help the tide of battle turns and my enemies flee. This one thing I know: God is on my side!” (TPT) The tide of your battle will turn when you call for God’s help. He will fight for you, and if God is for you, who can be against you (Romans 8:31)? Yes, inviting God into your battle creates an unfair advantage, but it’s something we are offered as His children. Don’t wait until the battle is over, call on Him today to come and fight on your behalf. Victory may not look like you think it should, but we are assured of victory when God is on our side. Don’t give up in your battle. Keep fighting the good fight, and invite God to come fight for you. Don’t keep Him on the sidelines.

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