Tag Archives: Christianity

Becoming Christlike

A book on spiritual growth that I’m reading discusses the different stages we go through as believers. There are two different places that mature believers fall into. Both look very similar on paper and in actions, but there is a huge gap between them. In both stages the believer has the spiritual disciplines of reading the Bible, praying, fasting, sharing their faith, serving others, seeking God and hearing His voice. However, the thing that creates the biggest gap between a person who is close to Christ and Christlike is how they run their life. A person who is close to Christ seeks God for direction in their life, but is still at the steering wheel determining to obey or not. The person who is Christ-like gets out of the driver’s seat and fully trusts God to guide their life. On paper it looks like a minimal difference, but in reality, it’s a huge gap.

In Mark 8:34 Jesus said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am” (MSG). It’s a pretty serious statement He made to us, but it’s what He desires from each of us. He’s not going to come in and wreck your life, but He is going to want full control of it. He made this statement immediately after having to rebuke Peter. A few verses before, Peter famously declared that he understood Jesus was the Messiah and savior. He was a believer, but then when Jesus talked about being killed, Peter took Him aside and reprimanded Jesus because that’s not the way he thought things should go. Peter is representative of those who are close to Christ in this incident. We argue with Jesus when His plan doesn’t make sense and then choose to do our own thing. Think about that. He knew Jesus was God the Messiah, yet he reprimanded Him.

Just like a Peter, you and I must get to the place where we quit trying to call the shots for our lives. We can’t be the ones who reprimand and argue with a God when we don’t like what He’s asking of us. If we find ourselves in that position, we haven’t fully let Jesus get in the driver’s seat. It doesn’t mean we’re not moving in that direction or we’re bad people. It just means there’s room for growth. Each one of us are called to continue moving and growing into a person that fully trusts God with our lives. It’s a hard thing to do, but it’s also what He’s asking of us. Don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from knowing God more. When we accept Jesus, we begin the process of letting go of what’s important to us and begin to embrace what’s important to God. Just like Peter, we’re going to experience some bumps along the road, but if we keep moving closer to Jesus, we will become more and more Christlike.

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Prepare Today

I believe it was Coach Wooden who said, “When opportunity knocks, it’s too late to prepare.” The window for an opportunity that shows up in our life is usually very brief. You won’t have time to do all the prep work necessary and seize the opportunity in most cases. We should always be ready by doing the prep work ahead of time. The problem is that human nature doesn’t want to put in the work when there’s not even an opportunity on the horizon. Those who have done the work ahead of time are the ones who make the most of every opportunity that comes their way.

I believe that God presents every one of us with opportunities that we should be prepared for. How can we give to a need if we haven’t saved any money? How can we answer spiritual questions if we haven’t studied the Bible? How can we tear down strongholds if we haven’t fasted? How can we be prepared for His return if we don’t have enough oil in our lamps? There are so many things that I believe God can do through us if only we would spend the time laying the groundwork of preparation.

Proverbs 24:27 says, “First plant your fields; then build your barn” (MSG). We need to make sure we are doing things in the proper order in our life. Too many times we want the barn without taking time to til the soil and plant. That’s not how things work. If you want God to use you in a certain way, there are things you need to be doing today to prepare for it. Be faithful in the preparation and God will trust you with the opportunities that He has for you. Don’t delay. Start today.

Thanks to @JestNinja for making this photo available freely on @unsplash

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing 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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Becoming A Person After God’s Heart

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Fake it until you make it.” We like to act like we know something without letting everyone know we don’t know it. Most of the time it’s a pride thing where we can’t admit we don’t know something. We can pretend for a while, but the longer and farther it goes, the greater the chance we’ll be exposed. That’s why it’s important that we’re always willing to learn. It’s an act of humility to admit we don’t know something. We have to put ourselves in the care of someone else who knows more than us about something and be open to being wrong. That’s an uncomfortable position for so many people, so we’d rather fake it until we make it. The problem is that a person who isn’t willing to learn, isn’t willing to grow, and at that point, they’ve reached the peak of their growth.

When the Bible says that David was a man after God’s own heart, I believe part of that was from his ability to constantly lift God up, thereby recognizing his place. He didn’t think more of himself than he should. For the most part, he kept pride at bay and lived a life where he was dependent on God. In Psalm 23 he wrote that the Lord was his shepherd admitting he needed to be led. In so many of his psalms, he was crying out to God for help admitting his weakness. I love Psalm 86:11 though. He prayed, “Teach me more about you, how you work and how you move, so that I can walk onward in your truth until everything within me brings honor to your name” (TPT).

David understood that there’s more to God than he would ever know. He also knew that the more he knew about who God was, the more his life would bring honor to Him. He took the time to read about God so he would understand the characteristics of God through the generations, but more than that, he got to know God and wanted to know more about Him. There’s a difference in knowing about someone and knowing them. God is asking you and I to know Him and to learn from Him. He’s wanting us to draw closer to Him, and when we do, He draws closer to us. That relationship keeps us humble and turns us into people after God’s own heart. David wasn’t the only one who was supposed to have that title. God wants to give it to you as well, but you have to be willing to be led like a sheep and open to learning more about who He is and how He moves.

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A Good Shepherd

Part of what I do for a living is leadership development. If you’ve worked for very long, you can think of leaders that you’ve admired and have helped you, and you can think of some that were only looking out for themselves. I’ve had leaders in my life who would ask me, “What’s next for you and how can I help you get there?” They were proactive in helping me reach my goals, gave me tools to succeed and showed the way. Their door was always open because they understood that when you’re leading people, you need to be accessible. One of the key things I talk to leaders about is the importance of visibility. It lets others know you’re there. It conveys that you’re in this together as well. People work harder for someone who is in the trenches with them and organizations accomplish more.

John Maxwell, one of the world’s leading gurus on leadership, says, “Leadership is influence. Nothing more. Nothing less.” That means if you have people in your life who look up to you and are influenced by you, you’re a leader. Yes, you. Many of us don’t think of ourselves as leaders, but the truth is that we’re all leading someone. Are you the kind of leader that’s admired or one that only looks out for themselves? The Bible talks a lot about shepherds, and we mainly associate them with pastors, but really, it’s about leaders. We don’t need to skip over those verses thinking they don’t apply to us or use them against our pastors. Instead, use them to look in the mirror to see how you’re doing with those you’re influencing.

Proverbs 27:23 says, “A shepherd should pay close attention to the faces of his flock and hold close to his heart the condition of those he cares for” (TPT). If you’re going to pay close attention to the face of your flock, or those who look up to you, you’re going to have to turn towards them and look them in the eye. If you’re going to know the condition they’re in, you’re going to have to take time to check in with them and listen to them. God has placed people in your life that you are a steward of. When’s the last time you checked in on them or had a face to face conversation (virtually counts)? The Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. Look around, reach out to someone and see how you can help them. We’re all in this together, and we all need encouragement and motivation at times. Be the shepherd others want to follow.

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Homesick

Have you ever been homesick? Or maybe you’ve been traveling or have been out and about, and just wanted to get home. Home is where we relax, unwind, and rid ourselves of our cares. It’s where we dress down and are our most true selves. It’s the place that smells the most familiar to us, and it’s where we truly rest. They even say that home is where the heart is. I think Dorthy had it right, there’s no place like home!

I recently went through “How’s Your Soul?” by Judah Smith. One of his first points is that while we are good at having that place called home for ourselves, our soul is looking for home as well. When God created man, he was loveless until God breathed into his nostrils. Judah says that our soul is really borrowed breath from God, and that it finds its home when we use that breath to praise God. That’s why worshiping God makes our soul feel the way it does. It’s when our soul gets to be home.

Think about David for a minute. He was chased by Saul for years. He lived in caves in one of the most inhospitable places on earth. If you’ve read the Psalms, you know that man was homesick both physically and spiritually. He longed for the courts of the Lord as much as he longed for being home. He even said that it was better to spend one day in God’s house than thousands elsewhere (Psalm 84:10). Why? Because that’s where his soul was at home. Even if he couldn’t physically be home, he wanted to have his soul at home.

I believe all of us are the same way. Our soul longs to be home. I think we misinterpret the signals inside a lot of times, especially if our soul has never been home. In Psalm 90:1, David wrote, “Lord, through all the generations you have been our home!” (NLT) If your soul is homesick, God is where you’ll find the peace you’re looking for. In Him is where you will find your truest self, and that place where you can rest. You don’t have to be homesick anymore. Spend time with God worshipping Him and loving Him today and let your soul be at home.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing 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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Soul For Sale

In 2006, Hemant Mehta listed his soul for sale on eBay. He was an atheist who didn’t believe he had a soul. In exchange for the sale, he offered to go to 50 services of whichever religion the purchaser wanted. To make sure a millionaire didn’t purchase it, he said all the money would go to an atheistic cause. Jim Henderson, a pastor in Seattle was interested and won the auction. His idea was to send him to different churches, take notes on his observations and feelings and then write up an article on each one on how he felt that church either pushed him closer or further away from Christ. A publisher saw the articles and expanded it by flying him to churches all over the US. After visiting all the churches, Hemant remained an atheist, but is open to their being a god with scientific proof.

When I first heard Jim Henderson tell this story and how he wrote a book called “Jim and Casper Go To Church”, I was intrigued. As I heard the story, I thought, “There definitely is a lot we can learn from an outsider about how we reach them.” Another part of me thought, “That’s interesting, but is it right? How can you buy someone’s soul?” I read Psalm 49:7-9 that says, “Not one could give God the ransom price for the soul of another, let alone for himself. A soul’s redemption is too costly and precious for anyone to pay with earthly wealth. The price to pay is never enough to purchase eternal life for even one, to keep them out of hell” (TPT). Even though a pastor paid over $600 to Hemant, and the guy went to many churches, he remains lost.

Then I started thinking about how many people don’t list their soul on eBay, but it’s still “for sale”. In our search for significance and worth, we sell our soul looking for meaning. We try to earn our salvation rather than except the free gift that was too costly and precious for anyone but the Son of God to pay for. We’re living for “likes” and followers because we haven’t fully trusted in the worth God has assigned to us. We desire man’s approval rather than God’s, yet God has deemed you valuable enough to sacrifice everything to have a relationship with you. Your life has meaning and purpose, and anything short of giving it to God fully will result in an empty feeling of, “There has to be something more,” no matter how much success, followers or worth you get from others.

No one, but Jesus, could give a ransom for your soul. No one but Jesus can help you fill that void that you’re missing. There is something in each one of that is searching for our true identity. My pastor calls it a holy homesickness. Your soul wants to find the rest that only being at home can give. We sell our soul to things in exchange to satisfy that feeling, but it will never go away until you give your life wholly to the only one who could ever pay the price for your soul. Finding religion isn’t enough. Christianity is about a relationship between your soul and God and finding the rest that it’s looking for. The freedom isn’t found in the rituals or do’s and don’t’s. It’s only found in accepting that Jesus paid it all for you and in surrendering your will for His plan for you. Your soul has been purchased already and paid for, but you must accept it and trust in what He has done.

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Following Footsteps

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When you do something that’s been done before, we say, “You’re following in their footsteps.” I have friends who have followed in their dad’s footsteps to become police officers, others who followed their mom’s to become teachers, and others who have followed in a mentor’s to become entrepreneurs. Each of us are following in someone’s footsteps. Have you considered whose they are?

I believe we each should have someone ahead of us that we look to in order to challenge us to be better. I also think that we should have others behind us that we’re leading. I’ve heard it said that successful people do what successful people do. In fact, many books like “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “From Good to Great” have been written so we can follow in the footsteps of people who have successful habits.

While that’s important, I believe having spiritual mentors is more important. There should be Christian people in your life, whom you look up to, that you can emulate. Their prayer life should challenge you to pray better. Their Christian walk should encourage you to keep going. Their acts of love towards others should ignite a desire in you to do the same. Their understanding of Scriptures should cause you to study more. You may already have someone like that in your life. If you do, let them know. If not, find someone who can be that person.

Proverbs 2:20 gives us this advice, “Follow the steps of good men instead, and stay on the paths of the righteous” (NLT). If we want to stay on the paths of the righteous, we need to be following in the steps of those who are on them. Look around your life for the people that God has placed in it for you to follow. He doesn’t leave us alone in our pursuit of Him. He’s given us people to follow. Reach out to them, find out their habits, and follow in their footsteps as they follow Christ.

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing 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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Fully Surrendered

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One of the books I’ve just read is about discipleship and how churches can create them. The first section of the book helps to define the four areas where people get stuck in the spiritual continuum. Many people never move past exploring Christ. They stand at the edge of receiving Him, but aren’t willing to give their heart to Him. Others who have accepted Jesus struggle to reconcile their private faith with their public life. They have a hard time growing in Christ. Once people become a new creation and develop spiritual disciplines, their life transforms and they move close to Christ. However, the next move is the hardest. It’s one thing to live for Christ, but it’s a totally different thing to completely surrender to Him living a Christ centered life. It’s where we quit asking God for direction and give Him control.

Think of the story of the rich, young ruler who came to visit Jesus in Matthew 19. He asks Jesus what he needs to do to have eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments. The guy then wants to know which ones. Jesus rattled off several of the 10 commandments. The ruler got excited and let Jesus know he’s been following the rules his whole life and feels like there’s more, so he asks what else. Jesus then tells him to sell everything he has, give the money to the poor and then follow Him. The young man went away sad because he was willing to follow the rules of Christianity, but he wasn’t willing to surrender his life completely to Jesus. He wanted Christianity and eternal life without fully surrendering his life.

Psalm 37:5 says, “Give God the right to direct your life, and as you trust him along the way you’ll find he pulled it off perfectly!” (TPT) We usually look down on the rich young ruler for not giving up his possessions, but you and I hold things back from Jesus all the time. We seek Him for guidance, but are we giving Him the right to direct our life? It’s like my driving navigation app. When it tells me to turn, sometimes I go straight because I think I know better. I’m driving and it’s guiding. When we approach Jesus that way, we may be living a life that is close to Christ, but it’s not fully surrendered to Him. God is calling you and I into a deeper relationship with Him that requires more surrender the closer we get. To fully surrender to Him is to fully trust Him.

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Owning Your Growth

From the very beginning of the Bible, we learn that God is a gardener. It says in Genesis that He planted a garden in the middle of creation. He didn’t simply speak it into existence like everything else. He took the time to plan and decide where He would plant each tree. He carved rivers around it to water it so that it would remain fertile. He walked in it every evening to enjoy it and to care for it. Then He placed Adam in there to be its caretaker. I think growth occurred naturally in that time because when Adam and Eve were removed from the garden, God told them that from now on they would have to sweat to get growth. There would be thistles and other things that would compete for the resources that he would grave to remove in order to achieve optimum growth. It then says that Adam began to cultivate the ground as soon as they left the garden.

God put the desire to create growth in each one of us. Some of us grow gardens. Some of grow families. Some money. In any case, if you look at your life, you’re spending a considerable amount of energy trying to achieve growth somewhere in something. Where we focus our time and energy is really what’s important to us since time and energy are our most precious commodities. What is it that you’re trying to grow? Will it matter for eternity? Is it only for your benefit? Each of us have to look at our lives to see if we’re growing the right things, and if we are doing the right things to create that growth.

2 Peter 3:18 says, “But continue to grow and increase in God’s grace and intimacy with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (TPT). Growth in maturity of our faith is required of each of us. Your Faith is not your pastor’s garden to tend. It’s yours. This message was from Peter, who was the head of the Church at the time. He was telling believers everywhere to own their growth. What are you doing daily to own your own growth? We must make sure we’re watering our lives with God’s Word. We have to pull the weeds of doubt constantly. We need to have a plan for the areas we need to grown in. If you’re going to own your growth, you’re going to have to start cultivating new ground in your faith and do the work of a gardener. Your pastor can give you the tools, but you must do the daily work.

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Owning Your Maturity

When my son was a new born, my wife and I decided we didn’t want him to learn the behavior of crying for what he wanted. That started with the very first thing that babies learn to cry for – milk. We began to pay attention to his movements and sounds around feeding times so we could anticipate when he was hungry. As we noticed them, we would begin to warm up some milk and feed him. However, there were times when we were busy and missed his cues. In those moments, he would let us know he was hungry and ready for milk through his only means of communication- crying. The best part was when he began to hold his own bottle. Later, we was able to crawl to the bottle when he was hungry and began the maturation process of feeding himself.

As Christians, we go through a maturity process as well. When we first accept Jesus as our savior, we are merely spiritual infants. We need the milk of God’s Word to help us grow. We need to learn simple concepts that are easily digestible. As we mature, we should graduate to more difficult concepts and spiritual disciplines. Just like a baby, there is a transformation that takes place in our lives. Our inner faith should grow as we mature and learn how to reconcile our inward faith with our public life. As we drink the milk of God’s Word, it begins to change how we live so that our lives become more Christ like.

1 Peter 2:2 says, “In the same way that nursing infants cry for milk, you must intensely crave the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word. For this “milk” will cause you to grow into maturity, fully nourished and strong for life” (TPT). Each of us need to own our own maturation process. It’s not the responsibility of the church to grow us. We must intensely crave spiritual food Monday through Saturday and learn to feed ourselves. Reading God’s Word daily puts food into our spirit. Meditating on verses is like the chewing process. It breaks it down and releases nutrients that are vital to your growth. Wherever you are in your maturation process, there’s always room for more growth that fully nourishes your soul and leads you into a stronger spiritual life.

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