In an attempt to make the automobile affordable for as many people as possible, Henry Ford developed the assembly line. Instead of a small team hand building the automobile from the ground up, a team of people would work together in separate parts to create it. Each person on the line had one assignment that they focused on. The overall goal for all people on the line was to make an affordable vehicle that ran well. Each person doing their assignment well is what made that happen. Each job was important because without it, the vehicle would be incomplete. It would be easy for any worker to think their work was insignificant, but nothing could be further from the truth.
The book of Nehemiah chronicles the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem. After living in captivity for a long time, many Jews had been permitted to return to their homeland. Some had returned to Babylon and Nehemiah asked them about Jerusalem. They explained that the people were defenseless because of the lack of walls. It was then that Nehemiah received his holy assignment from God to rebuild the walls. He went back and rallied the people to work together to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah 3 lists all the people who were working on the wall and their assignments. Side by side each person did their part while understanding their work was a benefit to the whole. No one spot on the wall was more important than another. Even though they were opposed by people, they kept at their work because the people had a heart for the work (Nehemiah 4:6).
1 Corinthians 12:22 says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (ESV). You and I have our own part and place in the Body of Christ. You may think your role is less significant than someone else’s, but it’s not. You are called by the same Lord to play a role in the whole of the Kingdom. Every part of the body has purpose and a place because the whole needs it. Wherever you are and whatever you’re called to do, do it with the best of your ability. The rest of the body is counting on you. God is counting on you. The work of the Kingdom is incomplete without you doing your part. Don’t let opposition or your feelings keep you from your assignment.
When my wife and I were faced with a dilemma, we went to our pastor for advice. If we did something we felt led to do, we knew we would disappoint a lot of people who wouldn’t understand. If we didn’t do it, we would disappoint someone we wanted to reach for Christ. Our pastor simply asked, “What would love do?” We chose to show love to a person many wouldn’t have in hopes of winning them to Christ one day.
In John 13, Jesus was having dinner with the disciples for the last time. Verse 1 says He loved the disciples throughout His ministry, and still at the very end. He knew that the devil had already prompted Judas, but He also knew He had all authority. It was then that He got up from the table and demonstrated love. He washed the disciples feet. They didn’t understand, and even Peter pushed back against Him. In His explanation Jesus said, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you” (NLT).
Galatians 5:13 says, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (ESV). The word for “love” here is agape. It’s the type of love that is not driven by emotion. It’s the type of love that does something for the benefit of another person regardless of how you feel. That’s the kind of love Jesus demonstrated. It’s the kind of love the calls us to regardless of what others think. It’s acts of love that help win the lost. It’s acts of love that show grace which is what God did for us while we were yet sinners. We need to follow that example more.
I’m reading through the “Killing Kryptonite” devotional by John Bevere. In it he said, “Repentance means changing our mind so deeply that it changes our personality from the core of our being.” As I read that, I thought about today’s world. Our culture is just the opposite of that. As a society, we celebrate and encourage people to be who you are. The problem with that is that we are encouraging them to identify with their Adamic nature rather than the image of God that is in them. We encourage people to suppress the new creation God is trying to bring out in order to celebrate their sinful nature.
When God called us to repentance, He called us to leave behind our Adamic nature so we can identify with His fingerprint on our life. Repentance means to turn around and go the opposite direction. We are not just called to accept Jesus, but to repent as well. The old life is gone and God turns you into a new creation from the core of who you are. There is a transformation God wants to do in each one of us, but it’s up to us to turn away from the fingerprint of Adam on our life, which is a spiritual cancer that God wants to put into remission.
Acts 20:21 says, “I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus” (NLT). Repentance and confessing faith in Jesus go hand in hand. We change identities when these two things happen so that we become who God created us to be. We walk away from who we once were, and leave the path we were on in order to become a new creation and be Spirit led. Your transformation starts with salvation then begins when you turn around and walk towards the life God has for you.
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.
Early on God established blessings for His people. It was a means of positive reinforcement. He taught us how to live, and if we lived that way, a series of blessings would be ours. All throughout the Bible, the blessings have been described. Some blessings show we have His favor. Other blessings come with prosperity and success. We each have access to receive them into our life if only we will live according to the ways He set for us. I just as He set the option for blessings in front of the Israelites, He sets it before us today. These blessings don’t mean we won’t experience difficulties. They give us His favor even in those times. You can have a life of blessings that He offers, but like any other promise in the Bible, they come as a result of our obedience first.
Here are some Bible verses on God offering blessings.
1. For to everyone who has [and values his blessings and gifts from God, and has used them wisely], more will be given, and [he will be richly supplied so that] he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have [because he has ignored or disregarded his blessings and gifts from God], even what he does have will be taken away.
Matthew 25:29 AMP
2. Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”
John 20:29 MSG
3. Since we are his children, we will possess the blessings he keeps for his people, and we will also possess with Christ what God has kept for him; for if we share Christ’s suffering, we will also share his glory.
Romans 8:17 GNT
4. Lord, keep pouring out your unfailing love on those who are near you. Release more of your blessings to those who are loyal to you.
Psalms 36:10 TPT
5. You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God.
Sometimes when I’m teaching a sales skills class I’ll ask people to share their undisputed secret to success in sales. Everyone has a different answer it seems. Some tell me how they never give up. Some say it’s their personal skills. Others talk of determination, relentlessness or positioning. Books have been written, classes have been taught and lectures have been given on the subject, but there’s no one answer really. Because of that people keep looking for it hoping it will make them rich in the process. Yet, some of you reading are thinking, “If I had to make a living in sales, I’d starve!” It’s a good thing there are other ways to make a living.
We typically equate money or winning with success, but that’s not always the case. In Judges 20, eleven of the tribes went to fight the tribe of Benjamin because of an evil they had allowed. The eleven prayed asking God which tribe should lead the fight. God told them Judah should. They marched 400,000 men out to battle and we’re quickly beaten by 26,000. They went back to camp, cried and prayed again asking God if they should fight again. God told them yes, and the same thing happened. A third time they prayed and asked God if they should fight or stop. God told them to fight. They were successful this time, but only after taking some devastating losses in the process.
In Philippians 4:12 Paul wrote, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (NLT). His secret of living was to be content with whatever season God brought him to. Whether he was winning and had all his needs met or was losing and didn’t have anything, he trusted God through it all. Success in life isn’t defined by wins or losses or even your bank account. It’s found in trusting God to be your source no matter what you’re going through. Can you keep going back to Him daily asking if you’re doing the thing He wants you to? Can you trust Him when you don’t have much? Can you recognize Him as your provider when you do? Can you be content with what you have?
When I first started writing for this site, I made a list of topics in my phone. I would try to brainstorm every couple of days to add to the list. I wrote on things I knew, but each day I was writing out of fear. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t have anything to say or that I’d run out of topics. As I shared my fear with an author, he told me I was approaching it all wrong. He said, “You need to go to God each day with an empty bucket and say, ‘Here i am, Lord. I need a fresh word. Will you fill up my bucket with enough for today?’” That conversation changed how I write and how I approach writing. It’s forced me to quit trying to use my knowledge, and to go to God each day seeking to hear Him.
In Exodus 16, the children of Israel had crossed the Red Sea and were on their way to Mount Sinai. They were hungry and began to glamorize their slavery. They complained that at least they had food in Egypt. God heard them and decided to supply them with what they needed. Each night, quail would fly into the camp and rest on the ground to provide them with meat. In the morning, the dew would turn to a thin bread like substance called manna. They were to take their buckets out in the morning to collect about half a gallon of it per person as food rations. They did this every day while they were in the desert.
In Exodus 16:15-16 Moses said, “This is the food that the Lord has given you to eat. The Lord has commanded that each of you is to gather as much of it as he needs, two quarts for each member of his household” (GNT). I believe the same is true for us. To move from a head knowledge of God to a heart relationship, we must go to Him each day seeking Him. Sunday’s sermon wasn’t meant to feed you all week. God is looking for you to meet with Him daily to feed your spirit. It’s time we started getting fresh manna from above each day. If you’re not sure how, pray, “Lord, I need fresh manna from you. I open my heart to hear from you today. Show me what you want to hear from you today.” Then open your Bible and read until you hear from Him. It’s not about the quantity as it is the quality. God will speak to you through His Word and fill your bucket daily.
I recently watched the documentary “Free Burma Rangers”. It is the story of a man training every day people to fight for the ethnic minorities who are oppressed in Burma. They get medical supplies to those who need them and treat the wounded. At one point, he was asked to deliver medical supplies to Mosul, Iraq. At the time, it was controlled by Isis. As he tried to help people, the Iraqi army was working to free Mosul. After freeing a family and giving them supplies, the got on a tractor to head for family. It wasn’t 10 minutes after they were freed that they hit a land mine left by Isis. The main guy was angry and told the camera all he could think about was killing Isis at that point. Then God spoke to him and reminded him that vengeance belongs to the Lord and he needed to keep working for justice.
He said, “I realized in that moment that vengeance and justice look the same and often have the similar outcomes, but justice is done out of love while vengeance is done out of anger.” It’s no wonder that God is a just God and wants us on the side of justice. We are to be known for our love, but also for being on the side of justice. The two are designed to work together because love and justice together bring correction. God does not leave us in our sin. Instead, He lovingly corrects and disciplines us in order to get us where we need to be. He corrects the wrongs in our lives and works through us to correct the wrongs in this world because of love.
Here are some Bible verses on justice.
1. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
Isaiah 1:17 NLT
2. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.
Amos 5:24 NLT
3. Justice never makes sense to men devoted to darkness, but those tenderly devoted to the Lord can understand justice perfectly.
Proverbs 28:5 TPT
4. You are doomed, you that twist justice and cheat people out of their rights!
Amos 5:7 GNT
5. He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you Except to be just, and to love [and to diligently practice] kindness (compassion), And to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]?
Every spring there are big displays in home improvement stores selling seeds. I like to look through them to see if there’s anything we would like to try to grow. One one side of the packet you have a picture of what the seeds inside will produce. On the other side you have a map of the US, a color coded map that tells you where these seeds grow the best and them some instructions that tell you how deep to plant them, how far apart, when the best time of year to plant them is and how long it will take them to produce. The more closely you follow those directions, the more likely that your garden will produce something from the packet.
Most of the seeds we plant in life can’t be seen and aren’t physically put in the ground. There’s no packet that you can read to tell you where they will grow best, how long until they produce or when the best time to plant them is. When I was a kid, a popular saying in the church world was, “You’ll real what you sow.” To me, it always seemed to have a negative connotation. They only brought it up when you weren’t doing the right thing. While it’s true that it works for those behaviors, it also works for the behaviors God wants to reinforce in our lives. The law of sowing and reaping was instituted in during creation when the Bible tells us that God planted a garden in the east. He didn’t speak the Garden of Eden into existence like most everything else.
As Christians, we need to pay attention to the things we are planting in our lives, the lives of others and into the world. We don’t have to worry about timing, location or season. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “We know that we prosper and excel in every season by serving the Lord, because we are assured that our union with the Lord makes our labor productive with fruit that endures” (TPT). The seeds you’re sowing today are not in vain. They will produce whether you think it’s the right season to plant them or not. The law of sowing and reaping can only come into affect when you plan seeds. God is the one who makes them grow, not you. Don’t hold back in planting where God tells you to or when. Your planting will be productive through Him.
One of my regular prayers is, “Lord, help me to hunger and thirst for you and your righteousness. Open my eyes as I read your word. Give me understanding beyond my abilities, and help me to see the connections throughout Scripture.” I don’t ever want to be satisfied with where I am in my relationship with Him. I want to have a hunger to know Him more. I also don’t ever want to think I know enough about the Bible. Each time I read through it, I see things that never stood out before. I know that it’s God answering that prayer. He’s willing to reveal Himself to us if we are willing to take the time to know Him more.
I recently heard of someone who said they hadn’t opened their Bible in years. They had read through it once, then they put it on the shelf with their other books. They lost their hunger to know God more and treated the Bible as if it were a regular book. It was worrisome to me to hear of someone who thought that they knew all they would ever know about God and the Bible after reading it once. God is not a box to be checked in order to cover yourself for eternity. He is a being who wants to be known, sought after and hungered after.
Proverbs 18:15 says, “The spiritually hungry are always ready to learn more, for their hearts are eager to discover new truths” (TPT). When we lose our hunger for God, we lose the ability to know truth. Without knowing Truth, we’re condemned to live a life shackled by things that don’t matter for eternity. It’s the Truth that sets us free. Freedom from so many of the things that weigh us down can only be found in knowing more of who God is. With the hunger to know Him more, comes the desire to be more like Him. None of us should ever be satisfied with how much we know Him or how well we know the Bible. There’s always more for you. It’s time we were hungry for more.
Growing up I had a habit of talking too much. I’m not sure I ever shut up. I talked too much in Sunday school to the point that one of my teachers asked if I wanted to teach the lesson. She was surprised when I took her up on the offer. In school, most of my demerits came from talking in class. I came close a couple of times to getting the maximum amount of demerits. One day, a teacher pulled me aside and said, “I love you, but you’ve gotta learn when to shut up.” I eventually learned that being able to talk with others is a good thing, but there’s also a time to shut up. If I’m always talking, how can I ever listen?
One of the stories in the Bible I’ve identified with is Job. I went through a period in my life where I lost everything. Going through that time, I remember thinking this is what Job must have felt like. One big difference was that I didn’t protest my innocence because i wasn’t. Most of the book of Job is he and his friends talking. He demands that he’s innocent and demands that God come down and give him a hearing. After 30 something chapters of their back and forth, God does show up and confronts Job.
Job had been innocent and God allowed Satan to test his faith in God, but because he talked too much, and blamed God, he got a holy visit. After God confronted him, He asked Job what he had to say now. In Job 40:3-5 Job said, “I’m speechless, in awe—words fail me. I should never have opened my mouth! I’ve talked too much, way too much. I’m ready to shut up and listen” (MSG). Job was very wise and we all could learn from that phrase. There are times when we need to shut up and listen to God. He’d love to talk with us, but we never give Him time to speak. Start trying to make a habit in your prayer time to spend a few minutes listening. You’ll find that God is a talker too, and what He says is worth listening to.