Tag Archives: Christianity

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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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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Embracing Your Brokenness

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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.

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Purposing To Trust

In February of 1998, my mom went into the hospital with some crazy symptoms. She thought it was a reaction to the chemo, but it wasn’t. The cancer had spread. On March 1st, she slipped into a coma of sorts. After a week or two of that, they took us into a side room to let us know they were sending her home and hospice would be assisting us for her final days. Our heads were spinning. We had fasted and prayed for healing, and it looked like our prayers were going unanswered. After the doctor left the room, we stayed behind still in shock. My dad spoke up and said, “We will keep believing and praying for a miracle, but be prepared in case He doesn’t answer the way we want Him to. I want each of you to purpose in your heart right now that you won’t be bitter at God if He chooses not to heal her.” She passed away on April 17th that year. Even though it hurt, because we had purposed in our hearts beforehand, we remained faithful to God.

The Early Church believers suffered more than most throughout the centuries of the Church. Each of the 12 disciples were martyred for their faith. Rome fed Christians to the lions for public sport. Nero used the heads of Christians as torches throughout the city. Yet somehow, these believers stayed faithful to God and encouraged each other with words of faith. The New Testament is full of Paul’s letters to these believers facing these issues. Many of them were written from jail. I’m sure that fear was doing its best to silence believers and to question their faith. However, because of their determination and they purposed in their hearts to follow God no matter what, our spiritual ancestors endured, stayed faithful and passed down a heritage of rock solid faith to you and I.

Psalms 116:10-11 says, “Even when it seems I’m surrounded by many liars and my own fears, and though I’m hurting in my suffering and trauma, I still stay faithful to God and speak words of faith” (TPT). This is the determination that each of us must make in our hearts. Our faith can not be dependent on our circumstances. Our trust in God’s goodness cannot be eroded by prayers that aren’t answered the way we think they should. Our suffering and trauma is not a reflection of His love. It’s a result of sin in the world. We must determine in our hearts and minds that no matter what happens in this life, we will stay faithful to Him. We will still speak in faith. We will still trust in Him. Even when things are happening here that we don’t like or understand, God has a plan and is able to work it out for our good. Don’t stop trusting in Him during the hard times. This earth and these sufferings are only temporary.

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Having Your Reigns Pulled

If you’ve ever ridden a horse, you know they’re fairly easy to control with the reigns. A slight tug on the right makes them go right. A slight tug on the left and they go left. Pull your feet into their side just a little and off you go. I used to ride horses in the Sahara Desert near the Saqqara pyramid in Egypt. This horse was fast and fun to ride. I’d ride her over dunes and through small valleys, up and over as fast as she could go. All was good until I went over one dune and she could see the pyramid. Immediately, she would go into memory mode and start walking toward the pyramid. No matter how hard I pulled the reigns, she wouldn’t turn. I would have to dismount, cover her eyes and lead her to where she couldn’t see them so I could ride some more.

You’re probably familiar with the story of Jonah and the whale. He was told by God to go to Nineveh and preach, but he didn’t want to go. Instead he boarded a ship and went the other direction. A bad storm came to try to get him to change directions, but he stayed the course. The storm got worse to the point they started throwing things overboard as God tugged on Jonah’s reigns. Finally he admitted he was the culprit and asked to be tossed overboard. He’d rather die than to go to Nineveh. God prepared a great fish to swallow him until He could lead Jonah to where He wanted him to go. Even there, Jonah had to have his reigns pulled a few times and even felt some spurs to the side to encourage him to move. We like to point at Jonah without looking at how we disobey God’s leading, but God has to pull on our reigns too.

God has a plan for you and for me. We were created with purpose, and God is constantly revealing it to us if we’re looking and listening. He’s constantly pulling on our reigns to keep us on track. In Psalm 32:9, God says, “Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule that needs bit and bridle to stay on track” (MSG). We get distracted like my horse in Egypt and become fixated on things of the flesh rather than the tasks God has for us. God pulls and pulls on us to go where He’s trying to lead, He will do whatever it takes to get our attention (just ask Jonah). You’re probably not in danger of being swallowed by a fish, but thankfully God will use people and things to guide us back to our purpose. Take it from me as someone who’s had their reigns pulled a few times, it’s better to obey and to stay on track. Follow the tugging of the Holy Spirit today and go where He leads.

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Becoming More Compassionate

If you have social media, you’ve probably noticed a couple of different types of people. One airs all their laundry on there for the whole world to see. Another type uses the platform to boast about the bad things they’ve done as if they were a badge of honor. Yet another doesn’t put any of that out there, but you hear the gossip about their life in other ways. I have a confession to make. I tend to judge these people in my heart (and sometimes out loud) based on their behavior. I forget that these things are a result of their brokenness and need for healing, and I steer clear of them or block their posts. I initially don’t see them as a cry for help or grace, and I have to be reminded of that fact often. Hopefully you don’t suffer from this as well.

When I read the story of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well, I can’t help but think how Jesus knew her dirty laundry and still offered her grace. In John 10:4 Jesus said, “If you only knew what God gives and who it is that is asking you for a drink, you would ask him, and he would give you life-giving water” (GNT). He didn’t make fun of her for having been married five times or shame her because she was living with a man who wasn’t her husband. Instead He offered her forgiveness and healing through His living waters. She went and brought everyone from her town out to meet Jesus. As they approached, Jesus tells his disciples, “You have a saying, ‘Four more months and then the harvest.’ But I tell you, take a good look at the fields; the crops are now ripe and ready to be harvested!”

How many times have you and I looked at the harvest and saw their brokenness as an excuse to withhold grace? We think they’re either too far gone, not ready yet or we don’t feel comfortable sharing with them. We need to remember Jude 1:22-23 when we begin to have these thoughts. It says, “Keep being compassionate to those who still have doubts, and snatch others out of the fire to save them. Be merciful over and over to them, but always couple your mercy with the fear of God. Be extremely careful to keep yourselves free from the pollutions of the flesh” (TPT). What the broken people around us need is the compassion and mercy of Christ. They don’t need our jokes or the names we call them.

Lord, open my eyes to see the brokenness of others and to have compassion. Give me the courage to share your grace with them the way you showed it to the woman at the well. Open my eyes to see the harvest that’s around me today. Use me as an instrument of your grace to save those who are perishing. Forgive me for failing to do this in the past. Amen.

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Asking For Help

No matter who you are, you’ll need help at some point in your life. You will face things that you can’t do on your own. If you’re like me, you try to do it alone anyway. My pride says, “You don’t need anyone’s help. You got into this by yourself, you can get out of it by yourself.” I try to project strength instead of admitting my weakness. What inevitability happens is that I end up wearing myself out in the process. One time, I collapsed on the floor and cried out to God, “I can’t do this anymore! Help me.” He replied, “Finally.”

God was waiting on me to look to Him for help, but my pride kept me from it. I had to endure a lot more pain than necessary because I wasn’t willing to admit I needed help. Since that time, I’ve learned to look to Him first when I need help. It doesn’t take long to pray, “God, I can’t do this on my own. I need your help.” It does take humility though, but God honors that. He wants to help us with our daily issues.

David learned this lesson as well. After being anointed king, he was constantly in danger and was running for his life. He learned to quit trying to go at it alone, and to go to God. In Psalm 25:15, he wrote, “I look to the Lord for help at all times.” He didn’t just go to God with some things. He went to Him with all his issues, and God came to His rescue. It wasn’t because David was any different that us. It was because David was humble enough to recognize he needed help from God daily.

Whatever you’re facing today, God stands ready to help. He’s waiting for us to trust His all sufficient grace to help us get through life. Don’t wait until you’re mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted before you cry out for help. Let go of your pride, and look to God for help at all times. It’s not a weakness to admit you need help. It takes strength to overcome your pride and admit it. Once you do, you’ll find that God is willing and able to step in and do what needs to be done.

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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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Fighting The Unseen

When I was around 16 years old, I had invited a kid I barely knew over to hang out for the day. My parents were gone, but had the foresight to have a family friend stay with us. We were in my room playing video games when his eyes rolled into the back of his head and they came back down looking different. He looked at me and said, “Fight me!” I wasn’t sure what he meant, but I knew if we got into an altercation, I wasn’t going to make it. I responded in a whisper that I wouldn’t fight him. He got angry and began repeatedly asking me to fight him. Our family friend sensed something, opened the door, noticed I was upset and got me out of the room. I began praying for about 15 minutes while I was locked in the bathroom. When I came back out, he had changed back to normal.

Spiritual battles present themselves in the physical realm all the time. In 1 Samuel 17, Goliath was dressed for battle and called out to the Israelites to come fight him. They were terrified. How could anyone beat such a man? Saul offered money, his daughter, no taxes and more, but no one was willing to fight Goliath until David came around. He recognized it as a spiritual battle immediately. They tried to dress him up in Saul’s armor, give him a sword and instructions, but David knew better. In verses 45 and 47 David called out to Goliath, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted…And that this entire assembly may know that the LORD does not save with the sword or with the spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will hand you over to us” (AMP). David won the physical battle because he had won the spiritual battle first.

In your life, there may appear to be people who are attacking you, your character, your work, your calling or something else. Understand that it is more than likely a spiritual attack to produce fear, anger or doubt in you. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places.” If you fight a spiritual battle in the physical, you will lose the battle that matters. Spend time in prayer, put on the full armor of God and fight on your knees praying against the spirit that is guiding the other person. The enemy will use whomever he can to immobilize you and to keep you from living the life God created you to live. Stay strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

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Does Prayer Work?

When I was a child, I went to vacation Bible school with my friend. On one day, the pastor came in and asked, “Can we change God’s mind?” In my eight year old mind, I had already figured God out, so I raised my hand. When he called on me, I gave an emphatic. “No!” He then asked me, “Then why do we pray for people and situations?” I didn’t have an answer. “Maybe we can change the mind of God,” I thought. That conversation changed how I viewed God and how I pray.

In Exodus 32, Moses went up Mount Sinai to get instructions from the Lord. He was gone 40 days, and the people began to wonder if he was coming back. They decided to create their own god out of gold from their earrings and other jewelry. They built a golden calf, then built an altar and worshiped it. God became angry and told Moses what was happening. He then told Moses that he was just going to destroy them all and start over. He was through with these stubborn people.

Moses quickly came to their defense. He reminded God of all the things He did to bring them out of Egypt. He didn’t want the Egyptians to take credit for their deaths. He then reminded God of the covenants He made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Then in verse 14, the Bible says, “So the LORD changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people” (NLT). There it is! Right in the Bible in black and white. Moses changed God’s mind.

Whatever you’re facing today, your prayers can make a difference. They can change your situation and even the mind of God about what’s happening. Your prayers matter to God and He’s listening to them. Moses reminded God of the promises He made, and we can too. Don’t be afraid to ask God to change His mind. Who knows what He will do? What we do know is that prayer changes things, including God’s mind.

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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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