Tag Archives: Christianity

Fresh Oil

“Your anointing has made me strong and mighty. You’ve empowered my life for triumph by pouring fresh oil over me.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭92:10‬ ‭TPT‬‬

As I wait for my oil to get changed in my car, I can’t help but think of all the correlations between the routine maintenance work on my car and the need for routine maintenance of our walk with Christ. Someone was recently telling me a story about a guy who was never taught that his oil needed to be changed. He got a new car when he started college, but by the time he graduated, the engine broke down. His car wasn’t designed to go on forever with the original oil. It, like us, needed fresh oil.

Too many Christians try to live the life we are called to live without ever getting fresh oil. We try to survive our whole lives on the emotions of our initial salvation experience. When we try to do that, we break down, get tired and run out of energy. It gets hard to move when God says move because we haven’t done anything to grow the relationship. It becomes difficult to walk by faith because we haven’t done anything to improve our sight. We couldn’t stay in a romantic relationship based off of our initial feeling so why would we try to do that with God?

Imagine your first date with someone you love. There were butterflies in your stomach. Your palms were sweaty. Your voice might have even cracked. You were so enamored with the person across from you that you could just stare into their eyes forever. Now, many years later, life has happened. That initial feeling is gone. You’ve learned that to make that relationship work, you’ve got to do routine maintenance to the relationship. You can’t count on those initial feelings to keep the relationship going when times get tough. You’ve had to put fresh oil in the relationship if it’s going to survive.

For a Christian, we get fresh oil by spending time in prayer with God. I’m not talking about a one way prayer. I’m talking about dialogue where you sit and wait to hear back from God. You have to spend time reading and pouring through the Bible. Fresh oil doesn’t come from reading a chapter a day. It comes from digging through it, listening to the tone and finding how it applies to your life. You also get fresh oil from being around other believers. You can’t get that kind of oil just sitting in a pew next to someone for a few hours on Sunday. You have to break bread with them, hang out with them and have a relationship that stirs up each other’s gifts.

Fresh oil doesn’t come on its own. It’s something you have to take time out of your schedule for and will cost you something. If you’ve been trying to keep your relationship with God going on that initial feeling, you probably aren’t far from a break down. Spend time today getting back into your prayer closet. Take time to look deeper into His word than just the normal cursory look. I will also encourage you to connect with other believers who will challenge your faith and will push you beyond your comfort zone. When you do that, you’ll find a renewed love for God and an excitement that is deeper than your initial salvation experience.

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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Keep The Fire Burning

Ever since I was young, I have loved building fires. I remember when I was taught how to build one. They taught me that there are three things needed: fuel, oxygen and heat. To start it, you have to have some tinder, which is tiny sticks. As they get consumed by the fire, you have to add in pieces that are a little bit bigger called kindling. When the fire gets large, you add in the big pieces of firewood referred to as fuel. Before starting a fire though, you need to make sure you have plenty to get it going and to keep it going. If you start it and have to run around looking for any of these, it will burn out. A fire has to be constantly fed if you want to keep it burning.

Fire has been used in the Bible as a symbol of God’s presence. He’s known as an all consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). When Elijah called the people back to repentance, he called fire down from heaven and it consumed the sacrifice (1 Kings 18). When Israel left Egypt, the Shekinah Glory of God led them through the desert as a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21). In the New Testament, God sent His Holy Spirit to live inside of those who believe on Jesus. In the Upper Room, to signify this, there was a flame above each believer (Acts 2:3) telling them that the presence of God now lived in them. You and I have that same fiery presence of God living in us, consuming us. Just like a real fire, there is fuel we can add to keep it burning strong in us.

1 John 2:24 says, “So you must be sure to keep the message burning in your hearts; that is, the message of life you heard from the beginning. If you do, you will always be living in close fellowship with the Son and with the Father” (TPT). In Revelation 2, Jesus was upset with the Church at Ephesus because they left their first love, and He threatened to remove their fire from its place of influence unless they repented. We need to keep the flame burning in our hearts by keeping God’s Word fresh in our lives and keeping our love for Him strong. In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to fan the flame within you (2 Timothy 1:6). Return to the message of God that ignited your love for Him and keep it burning strong. We are called to be light in this dark world (Matthew 5:16) and it needs us the light of God in our lives to see.

Photo by Colter Olmstead on Unsplash

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A Credit To Christ

John Maxwell, one of the world’s leading experts on leadership, almost always brings up the importance of being intentional in your life through words and actions. He challenges people to make deliberate decisions daily to use their everyday life to bring about positive change in the lives of others. He encourages people to be in a relentless pursuit of a life of significance. One of the things he says is, “You are either a plus or a minus in your relationships. You are either adding value to people’s lives on a daily basis, and they can hardly wait to be around you, or you are subtracting and pulling value out of people.” I constantly think about that. I want to be a credit in people’s lives adding value to them.

I also take it a step further. Am I a credit to Christianity and the cause of Christ or am I subtracting from it? Do my words, my actions and my life point people to Jesus? I run everything I do through this lens from my social media posts to my conversations. Will it add value to what they think of Jesus or subtract? I think of Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. He was a credit to God, but his sons were not and that reflected on him. It didn’t take long before God removed all three from their priestly roles. God uses people who are intentional about how they represent Him and His name. If you call yourself a Christian, you bear His name and represent Him wherever you go. Are you a credit to His message by your actions?

In Philippians 1:27, Paul wrote, “Live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ” (MSG). He was asking them to think about how they were living in front of others and to contend for people’s trust in the Good News. People will decide whether they put their trust in God by how you live and act. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to be intentional, especially when things aren’t going your way. Can you still live out your faith when things are difficult, when God feels far away or when nothing is going your way? Faith is trusting when you can’t see. It’s easy to be a credit to the Gospel when everything is good. People really pay attention when your life is falling apart. Are you still trusting? Are you still living like you believe it? That’s being a credit to the Message of Christ.

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Water Into Wine

A few years ago I was able to visit Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine (John 2). In the church there, they have a giant stone jar similar to what would have been used in that day. They hold about 20 gallons of water. Our guide, who was a Jewish rabbi, told us that it was important that these jars were made of stone because if it had been any other material, the wine would have been ritually unclean for the Jews attending the wedding. The day before, we had been to Nazareth and heard that the word carpenter didn’t just mean He worked with wood as it does today. Back then, it could have also meant He worked with stone. As I have thought about these two things, my mind can’t help but go to 1 Peter 2:5 where we are called “living stones”. I believe that Jesus’ first miracle was a representation of what He wants to do in us. He wants to supernaturally transform our lives on the inside.

Ephesians 4:23-24 says, “Now it’s time to be made new by every revelation that’s been given to you. And to be transformed as you embrace the glorious Christ-within as your new life and live in union with him! For God has re-created you all over again in his perfect righteousness, and you now belong to him in the realm of true holiness” (TPT). When we embrace Christ within us, the transformation happens just like the water was turned to wine when the servants embraced what Jesus said by taking a pitcher of the water from the stones to the master of ceremonies. The inward transformation takes place instantly when we receive Christ. Becoming a new creation is a process for most of us. People may see our rough, stoney exterior still, but God is changing that too starting from the inside out.

Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you]” (AMP). Your life is being progressively changed through Christ. If God’s still working on you helping your outside to match what’s inside, you’re not alone. We’re all being made new day by day as we embrace what God has done in us and allow Him to transform us from the inside out. Jesus has turned your water into wine. Now let Him, as the stone carpenter, continue to transform you into who He created you to be.

Photo by Jasper Oversteyns on Unsplash

These stone jars from Cana held about 20 gallons

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Defeating Your Past

Do you ever feel like your faults, failures and past sins disqualify you from being used by God? Sometimes those voices that tell me those things get so overpowering that I start to believe it. My past comes back to remind me to stay grounded while God has called me to fly. They weigh me down like I’m attached to an anchor. They tell me, “Because you did this, God can never do that in your life.” It’s hard to hear anything else sometimes.

When those voices get too loud in my mind, there’s two verses I go back to. The first one is Psalm 65:3. It says, “Our faults defeat us, but you forgive them” (GNT). I use this verse to remind me that my past has been forgiven, and that there is no condemnation for those in Christ. The voices that tell me what God can’t do are not from God. When He forgives, He forgets. He uses those faults and failures as my qualifications to do what He called me to do.

The other verse I go to is Romans 11:29. It says, “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (NLT). No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, God still has a plan for your life. He still has a calling that only you can fulfill. He knew your future when He called you. He understood that you wouldn’t be able to live a perfect life so He built it into the plan for you. He doesn’t withdrawal His calling because of our past.

It’s easy to look at someone else and think, “They’re better qualified to do what I’m called to do,” but that’s not how God works. He created you with a purpose and a calling that only you can fulfill. It’s time to quit listening to the voices that tell us we can’t, and start listening to the only voice that matters. It’s not too late. You haven’t gone too far. God’s calling is still valid and you have work to do. Push out the voices that tell you why you can’t, and tell God, “Here am I. Use me.” God hasn’t withdrawn His calling it purpose from your life.

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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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A Spiritual Examination

I’ve got a friend who doesn’t like to go to the doctor. He says, “Every time I go, they find something wrong.” Isn’t that the point? If there’s something wrong, wouldn’t you want to know about it? For some people, if the problem isn’t exposed, it doesn’t exist. So if they don’t go to doctor and have the tests run, they aren’t really sick. That’s the wrong way to think about things. If you have a sickness and there’s a cure, wouldn’t you want that sickness exposed so the disease doesn’t run its course?

To some of you, what I just described sounds crazy. Others of you can identify with it. Whichever side you’re on, the truth is that many of us think the way my friend does when it comes to sin in our lives. We don’t want to shed light on it or expose it, much less have a test run to prove it exists in our body. If there’s something wrong spiritually with you, wouldn’t you want to know about it? Wouldn’t you want to get it cured?

David fell into the group that wanted to go to the doctor often and have tests run to make sure nothing was wrong. In Psalm 26:2 he prayed, “Examine me, GOD, from head to foot, order your battery of tests. Make sure I’m fit inside and out” (MSG). He wasn’t afraid to have God shine His light into every dark corner of his life. He knew that sin likes to lay hidden in our lives unexposed. It tells us to pretend we are perfect and nothing is wrong. The truth is that all of us are infected with sin, and the way we rid ourselves of it is to expose it to the light of God’s Word.

If we truly want to live the lives God has called us to, we can’t be afraid to go to The Doctor and have Him test our lives. God will not condemn us for having Him expose our sins. Instead, He will be faithful to forgive us and to lead us down His paths. We can’t be afraid that He will find something wrong with us or what others will think. There’s a cure for the sin that’s holding us back and it’s free. Jesus already paid the price for our sin and has written out the prescription. Ask God today to examine you so you can be fit inside and out.

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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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Trusting The Truth

I have a friend who is both a pilot and a flight instructor. Being a trainer myself, I asked him about ways he helps people to remember things. He shared that two things he tries to teach pilots are to trust the instruments and also to go to the manual when there’s a problem. He said that many pilots have died because they trusted what they thought they saw instead of the instruments. They have special visors that block the pilots view of everything except the instruments to teach them to trust them. To teach them to go to the manual, he distracts them mid flight, then he shuts off the engines when their not looking. He lets them panic until they remember to go to the manual. Once they do that, they go through their checklist, find the problem and restart the engines. It’s a lesson they never forget.

Both of those are great lessons for us to remember as well. We can’t trust what we feel or even see with our eyes. Feelings lie to us and manipulate us. They’re there as warning signs, but if we constantly live by our feelings, we’ll have a miserable life. We live in an age where people believe truth is relative to the individual. What’s true for me may not be true for you. Living like that is like flying by what you see and not by the instruments. It’s dangerous. Jesus said He was the way, the truth and the life. He is the absolute truth that we must use to guide our lives with beyond our feelings. He told us that we’re going to have trouble and face things that will cause us to want to lose faith, but He also said that He has overcome the world and will give us peace. We get that peace when we trust Him more than what we feel or see.

We’ve also been given an instruction manual in the Bible. It is also absolute truth. When the engines of our life shut off and we start to nose dive, go to the manual God gave us. I love how Philippians 4:8 starts. It says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true” (NLT). Don’t let fear dictate your thoughts and actions. Compare everything to what is true. If it’s not true, don’t give it space in your head. What God says is more true than your situational feelings. Fix your mind on God’s absolute truth and not on your feelings. Fix your mind on the truth of God’s Word and not what others tell you is true. This takes discipline, but it gives you peace when everything seems to be falling apart. Jesus has not abandoned you or forgotten you. He’s right there in the cockpit of life with you reminding you to trust His instruments and His Word to get you through.

Photo by Oskar Kadaksoo on Unsplash

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Serving Others Better

Imagine this scene. You’re in the kitchen trying to cook dinner. You have one child asking you for help with homework. Another child is in the high chair crying wanting something to eat because they just dumped their bowl of food on the floor. The TV is on and it’s turned up loud. Your phone then starts ringing. Just then you have a friend walk in. They survey all that’s going on, give a chuckle, sit down on the couch and ask when dinner is going to be ready. Can you imagine how that would make you feel? How would that change if your friend walked in, surveyed the situation and started helping? What if they picked up the spilled dinner and started to feed the baby to stop the crying? Even though they are a guest, you would be grateful to have them jump in and help.

Unfortunately, many of us are like the friend who comes in, sees everything going on at your church and sits down. Why would you help? You’re a guest, not a staff member. You can see there are things that need to be done, but it’s not your job. You’re there to get fed. The disciples had a similar mentality on the night of the Last Supper. A couple went ahead to prepare everything while the rest showed up expecting to just eat. However, they forgot one important detail. They forgot to get someone to wash everyone’s feet. Everyone was aware of the mistake, but no one did anything. They were arguing over who was the greatest instead. It was at that time that Jesus took off his outer garment, put on an apron and grabbed a towel. He saw what needed to be done, even though He had a lot on His mind that He needed to say, He washed their feet.

Having been at that dinner, Peter wrote 1 Peter 5:5 that says, “And all of you must put on the apron of humility, to serve one another; for the scripture says, ‘God resists the proud, but shows favor to the humble’” (GNT). Peter makes no exceptions in this verse. “All of you must put on the apron of humility.” None of us are above serving or helping others at home, at church or wherever you go. People all around us need help, but we have to lose the me first mentality if we’re going to serve others like Jesus. He knew that Judas would betray Him that night, yet He washed his feet and served Him dinner anyway. That is our example of putting on the apron of humility. It’s not about us or how uncomfortable we feel. It’s about showing the love of Christ to those who least deserve it because it was shown to us when we least deserved it. We must learn to serve others better if we’re going to be more Christlike.

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Changing Your Heart

As a high I in DISC, I tend to get along well with everyone. However, there are a few people that I’ve come across, that I clash with. There’s something about them that I don’t like and they bring out the worst in me. Because I don’t like them and they don’t like me, we have an antagonistic relationship where we tend to fight, put each other down and try to harm the other person psychologically, emotionally or socially. Can you think of someone or people who bring this out in you? It’s probably not hard to do in today’s world. We’ve allowed ourselves to become divided over everything, and for whatever reason, people who see the situation differently than we do, bring out the worst in us. So many of us are walking time bombs just waiting for the right person to rub us the wrong way and boom! We go off unleashing a tirade of words and actions we’ll regret later.

In Matthew 5, Jesus was giving the Sermon On The Mount. It’s most famous for the Beatitudes that He started off with, but as He kept going, He began to challenge the way we think and live, especially our self righteous attitudes. In verses 43-45, He said, “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves” (MSG). Love your enemies? Your political ones? Your religious ones? Your social ones? Yes. And the word “love” here is the agape love. This isn’t an emotional love like you would have for a spouse or family member. This love is one where you do things for the benefit of another person, have concern for their well being and seek the best for them. He’s talking about doing that for the ones who disagree with you on every level.

I know this is hard, but it’s the lesson Jesus has been trying to get us to adopt for 2,000 years at least. Why? Because when we act in anger, we’re identifying with the fingerprint of Adam in our life instead of God’s fingerprint. He said that when we respond in love, we’re working out our true selves that were made in the image of God. Remember, it was while we were enemies of God that He gave His one and only Son. He gave us His best when we were at odds with Him and didn’t deserve it. When we look past the differences we see in those we don’t agree with or we feel are out to harm us, we will see the image, or fingerprint, of God in them. Start by praying for them, not to see things the way you do, but for their brokenness to be healed. Pray for God’s blessings on their life. As you pray for them, and seek the best for them unselfishly, you will notice a change in you and them, most notably in your heart.

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Measure Once, Cuss Twice

I’m taking my annual sabbatical this week. To keep encouraging you, I’m sharing some devotions I follow. Here’s one from David’s Daily Dose.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)

“Measure once, cuss twice,” it’s a favorite saying of Ben Napier, from the HGTV show Home Town. On the show, Ben and his wife Erin renovate properties in Laurel, Mississippi. One of the latest episodes features the Napier’s taking their old Airstream to Sunny Campers, a business that restores vintage travel trailers. It was fascinating to watch, as they described the process to Ben and Erin.

Two Airstream trailers awaiting restoration.

First, they completely clear out the inside of the trailer–all the way back to the shiny aluminum skin. As it turns out, many older Airstreams have moisture issues. They leak. A ‘full gut’ makes these clearly visible. The company then moves to the outside of the trailer, where they pull EVERY rivet, clean out seams, reseal and re-revit to make the trailer better than new.

Once everything is replaced and triple checked, it’s time for the ultimate test– the water chamber. The chamber resembles a car wash, with high press jets soaking the trailer from every direction. Everything must be leak-proof. Only after passing the water test, can the empty shell become a camper again.

Sunny Campers says the biggest mistake people make is to take an older Airstream and fix it up on the inside, without considering that it probably leaks.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7b NIV)

When it comes to dealing with the old David, I’d be satisfied with a surface remodel. God, on the other hand, prefers a frame-up restoration.

This was the story in the third chapter of John, when Nicodemus came to Jesus. He was a respected religious leader (undoubtedly a good man) but Jesus told him, “You must be born again.” (John 3:3)

Nic wanted a superficial remodel, but Christ called for a complete re-do.

Today, and everyday, may we allow the Holy Spirit to restore and test our hearts. He’ll go farther than we ever could on our own.

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart. (Proverbs 17:3 NIV)

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