Tag Archives: Christianity

Debt Forgiveness

“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back.” “You fly, I’ll buy.” “Quid pro quo.” “You buy this time, I’ll buy next time.” Ever used any of these expressions? Of course you have. We all do favors for favors. It’s an offer to help in exchange for help. You’ll give them what they want if they’ll give you what you want. Everybody wins. We all play the game, but what we forget is that Jesus changed the rules on it. He expects us to do for others who have no ability to pay us back.

You see, there’s no reward in doing something for others who can pay you back. It’s not really a blessing if you get a favor in return. Part of our Christian DNA should be to do for others who are unable to pay us back. It should be a part of who we are and be a regular thing we do. When Jesus was describing who got into Heaven, this is what He said in Matthew 25-35-36, “For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you brought Me together with yourselves and welcomed and entertained and lodged Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me with help and ministering care, I was in prison and you came to see Me” (AMPC).

In all of these examples, it was about helping someone out who couldn’t return the favor. He mentioned several times in the Gospels that we were to give without expecting anything in return. When you think about it, Jesus did that for us. He set the example of giving at a high cost for those who couldn’t pay Him back. If you’ve accepted Him as your savior, then He paid your debt for sin in full. There’s no way to repay Him for that. The best thing we can do is to follow His example. Give to those who can’t repay you, and don’t hold it over their head.

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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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Remain In Christ

I was helping my son study for his science test this week. They’re studying flowers, plants and tree systems right now. He had to know about photosynthesis, chlorophyll, and all the parts of the plant. As I’m quizzing him, I kept thinking, “Why does an 11 year old need to know this? Why do any of us need to know this?” However, I kept asking him the questions. What do roots do? They supply water and nutrients to the plant. What is the process by which plants receive pollen so they can produce fruit? Pollination. Somewhere in the questioning, I began to see us as the plants with our need for deep roots and being pollinated by other believers.

In John 15, Jesus was giving His final instructions to the disciples before He was arrested. He had just told them that He was going away to prepare a place for us. Then He promised to send the Holy Spirit. He followed that up by telling them that He is the vine, we are the branches and God is the gardener. In verse 4 He 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). The vine is the main channel those roots give the nutrients to and unless the branches are attached to it, they can’t receive their nutrients, produce fruit or live.

God expects you and I to remain attached to Christ. He expects fruit from our lives. We can’t allow ourselves to become detached from our source. Colossians 2:7 reminds us to let our roots grow deep in Christ. We need to get our nutrients from Him and our water from His Word. We need to be around other believers in Life Groups breaking down Scriptures so we understand them better and produce fruit in our lives. If you’re not producing fruit right now, take a look at your roots. Make sure you’re grounded in Him and feeding your soul the proper nutrients. In His final sermon before His death, Jesus wanted us to know that trouble will come, distractions will arise, but we must remain in Him no matter what.

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

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A Life Of Love

Several years ago I was attending the Catalyst conference. Bob Goff was one of the speakers. When he finished his part, he gave each of us a copy of his book “Love Does”. It’s a collection of stories from his life where he decided to love people and say yes to their requests. It turns out when you look at each interaction as God opening a door for you, you’ll live an adventurous life. Because God loves people, Bob loves people. In this book he shares some incredible ways he has shown love to others and the impact it has had on them. I laughed out loud throughout the book. I also was brought to tears several times. Most importantly, it challenged me to dig deeper to find ways to show love.

If you’ve ever been to a wedding, you’ve probably heard 1 Corinthians 13 read. However, Paul didn’t write that chapter for married couples. He wrote it to believers on the importance of loving your neighbor in the context of spiritual gifts. Verse 1 reads, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love [for others growing out of God’s love for me], then I have become only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal [just an annoying distraction]” (AMP). God has given each of us spiritual gifts to edify and to love. Our world needs us to love them the way God loves them. Instead we’re guilty of seeing our differences and allowing those to divide us. We need to remember verse 5. It says, “It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured.” Loving others God’s way looks like this.

In John 13:34, Jesus says, “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another.” The word for love that Jesus and Paul used in these is agape. This word isn’t referring to a love based out of emotion. It a love that does things for the benefit of another person while seeking the best for them regardless of you you feel. That’s the kind of love God calls you and I to. If we can’t or won’t love others extraordinarily with that kind of love, Paul said our lives will sound like a clanging cymbal causing a distraction rather than a sweet sound that brings music to people’s ears. Jesus didn’t ask us to live this way. He commanded it. There’s a difference there, and if we want to make a difference, it starts with living a life of love.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

If you’d like to read my thoughts on “Love Does”, I wrote about it here.

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Open The Flow

During the drought this summer, my yard started to die. I began using the sprinkler in the evenings, and I moved it around every so often. Wherever I placed it, I would turn the water faucet on full blast in order to cover the most ground possible. Little by little, the grass began to turn green again. When I looked at my neighbor’s yards, many of them had started doing the same thing. I can honestly say that i didn’t see anyone watering their yards with the water barely turned on. Can you imagine how ineffective that would be? Yet some of us only open the flow of Jesus into our lives a little, and we wonder why we’re not growing.

When you accept Jesus as your savior, you are saved and begin your relationship with Him. However, you and I control the valve on how much we allow Him to influence our life. If we restrict the flow of Him into our life, not much is going to change in how we talk, act or live. We will remain in spiritual immaturity. Those who open the flow, will grow and be changed. The more of our life that we give Him access to, the more we become like Him. The more we move toward spiritual maturity. Our lives will bear the fruits of the Spirit as well. There are clear differences between those who restrict Jesus in their lives and those who don’t. Your spiritual life will always grow in proportion to the amount of influence you allow Jesus to have in it.

Colossians 1:10 says, “We pray that you would walk in the ways of true righteousness, pleasing God in every good thing you do. Then you’ll become fruit-bearing branches, yielding to his life, and maturing in the rich experience of knowing God in his fullness!” (TPT) God desires that each of us would yield all of our life to Him. When we do, we open ourselves up to His fullness. How much of your life have you yielded to Him? If you’re not bearing much fruit in your life or are not experiencing all He offers, surrender everything to Him. You’ve trusted Him with your eternity. Why wouldn’t you trust Him with this life? How He sees you has to become more important than how others see you. Open up the flow of His presence in your life and watch the growth take place.

Photo by Patrick Pahlke on Unsplash

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No Compromise

In the late 1850’s, Abraham Lincoln was running for president against Senator Stephen Douglas. The American public knew something had to be done about slavery as the country teetered on the edge of a civil war. Stephen Douglas was offering a compromise. With his plan, slavery could remain in place, but wouldn’t be permitted to expand as states joined the Union. Lincoln began saying that there could be no compromise, and painted himself on the side of freedom with Douglas on the side of slavery. Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.” He was right.

In the first chapter of Haggai, the Lord spoke to and through Haggai. He said that the people were saying that the Lord’s Temple shouldn’t be rebuilt at that time. It had been taken apart and looted by Nebuchadnezzar and taken to Babylon. Then God asked if it was ok for the people to live in nice houses while the Lord’s house lay in ruins. God saw that they were divided on which house was more important: theirs or His. He told them that He had withheld blessings from them and to consider their conduct. Their loyalties were divided between their desires and God’s just like ours can be. We struggle between living and doing what we want to do versus what God wants us to do. Only one side can win.

It was Jesus, in Mark 3:25, who initially said, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (AMP). You and I must choose. There can be no compromise between living in the desires of our flesh and living according to what the Holy Spirit says. We can spend our lives building ourselves a house out of things we want or out the things God wants. What are you building? Are you living a divided life right now? Just like in Haggai, God is calling us to choose. We can’t go on doing what our flesh wants while starving the Holy Spirit within us. A divided life will fall apart. Let God stir up your spirit today to begin building your life the way God wants. You don’t have to try to fix things first. As my pastor say, “You get to start right where you are.” Live a life of no compromise.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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Accepting God’s Burden

After speaking to a group, a young lady came up to speak to me. She asked, “How do I know what God’s burden is in my life?” It’s a great question that many of us want to know. I asked her if there was an injustice in the world or problem that she saw that breaks her heart or causes her to lose sleep. If there’s a burning desire to remedy it, that’s usually God laying His burden on our heart. It could be an un reached people group that needs the Gospel or the hungry needing food. When we start losing sleep over it and being consumed with it, that’s God wanting to use you in that area to make a difference.

Nehemiah was a man who was minding his own business and doing his job when God gave him a burden. In Nehemiah 1:3-4 he wrote, “They said to me, ‘Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.’ When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven” (NLT). He didn’t ignore that desire. He went to Jerusalem and rebuilt its walls so that those who lived there would have protection. It wasn’t easy, and he faced opposition, but he kept at it until it was done.

In Matthew 11:30, Jesus said, “For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light” (AMP ). God’s burdens are different from the ones we put on ourselves. The ones we place on ourselves look inward, but God’s look outward to help others. For some, they come suddenly like Nehemiah. For others, you may have been carrying it for years. God’s desire is to partner with each of us to do His work in this world, to make a difference in the lives of someone. What has God been showing you that needs to be repaired or corrected. It may be large or small, but either way, it needs you. I don’t know that you’ll feel qualified or ready to do it, but don’t let that stop you. Accept His burden and get started making a difference.

Photo by Christopher Sardegna on Unsplash

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Get Back Up

I’m high school, I played basketball, but our school was very small. One night we were playing a much larger school and we were down by 20 at the half. Coach threw the door open coming into the locker room. He screamed, “Are y’all scared of them because they’re taller than you? Are you scared because they’re more athletic? It must be something because you’ve quit. You’re a bunch of quitters! If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a quitter…If you quit, I quit!” He stormed out as loudly as he came in. Our captain said, “Let’s Open with the starting five in a Black Diamond defense. Lets get out there and win!” Coach returned halfway into the third and we won that game that night because we got back out there and played hard.

Not long after the Israelites defeated Jericho, they went to fight a small town. They only sent 10% of their warriors. The other city beat them, chased them down and embarrassed them. Joshua returned to the camp and fell on his face before the Lord. He laid there all day giving up. In Joshua 7:10 the Lord said to him, “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this?” (NLT) God told him to get back up, fix the problem, get back out there and fight. After finding and removing sin in the camp, they went back to that town and soundly defeated them.

How do you deal with defeat? Do you quit, hide or get depressed? One defeat doesn’t not define you. Ax God told Joshua, you need to get back up, make adjustments and get back out there. Your life is not over. There is still a lot of fight in you, plus you’re not fighting alone. God is with you. Proverbs 24:16 says, “For the lovers of God may suffer adversity and stumble seven times, but they will continue to rise over and over again” (TPT). No matter how many times you’re defeated or fall flat on you’re face, get back up and fight. Don’t quit. You’re victory is ahead.

Photo by Joshua Earle 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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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.

Photo by Gadiel Lazcano 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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Turn On The Light

Have you ever been afraid at night? Think back to when you were a kid in your room, and the lights turned off. As you looked around the room while your eyes were adjusting, your brain made up some scary figures and imagined crazy things. That’s usually when fear enters and people get scared. That’s also when you yell for your parents to come back to turn on a light. There’s something comforting about having light when you’re scared. It helps you feel at peace, it illuminates those shadowy figures and let’s you rest. The problem sometimes is that fear often paralyzes and keeps us from turning on the light or asking for it.

In 2 Samuel 11, David was walking on his rooftop when he saw a beautiful woman taking a bath. He summonsed her to his castle and slept with her. When she sent word that she got pregnant, fear came in and he tried to cover it up. He brought her husband back from war, but he refused to go home to be with his wife. Fear then escalated David’s behavior to the point he had her husband killed at war so he could marry her. It was then that the prophet Nathan came to bring to light what David had done. He repented and wrote Psalm 51 in the process.

John 1:4-5 says, “The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out” (GNT). When we sin, fear wants to push us away from God and His Word, but that’s exactly what we need. He is the Light that shines in the darkest corners of our lives. His light drives out fear, brings peace and illuminates things that need to go. Fear tells you that you need to keep those things in the dark, but fear also complicates our lives like it did for David. If that fear has been controlling you, call out to your Heavenly Father to come turn on the light through His Word and find forgiveness and rest for your soul.

Photo by Cole Ankney on Unsplash

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God Knows You

Since I was a kid, I have loved all things space. I remember watching the first space shuttle take off and the Hubble Telescope launch. I used to write to NASA and ask them to mail me pictures, and they sent them. So when NASA launched the James Webb Space Telescope, i paid attention. I was excited to see the first images come out. The telescope is looking further into space than ever before. Images, like the one above are awe inspiring as I think about all those galaxies and how many stars are in each one. I can’t help but think of Psalm 147:4 that says, “He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by their names” (AMP).

In 2 Kings 4, a widow came to the prophet Elisha with a problem. Her husband owed a lot of debts when he died and the creditors were calling on her to pay off the loans. Since she couldn’t pay, they were demanding her sons as payment. Elisha asked her what she had in her house, and all she had was a little oil. He told her to find every jar she could and fill them with the oil. After doing that, she returned for her next instructions. He told her to sell the oil, pay off the debts and live off the rest of it for the rest of her life. She must have because we don’t read about her again.

I love that God took care of the needs of a nameless widow in the Bible. The same God knows every star by name and took care of the needs of this widow, knows how many hairs are on your head. He knows you and your needs today. Like the widow, you need to call on Him for your answer. It may require something of you, like it did of her. Faith is stepping out in action when it doesn’t make sense and you don’t understand or see what God is up to. It was the Faith of the widow that collected as many jars as she could and kept her pouring until they were all full. It’s also your faith in action that brings about God’s answer. He knows your need as well as He knows each star. Trust Him to do His part when you do yours.

Photo credit NASA James Webb Space Telescope

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