One of the toughest things Jesus told us to do was in Matthew 5:44. He said, “I say to you, love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you, and respond to the very ones who persecute you by praying for them” (TPT). I have to tell you, that goes against everything that I want to do in those situations. The easiest thing to do is to hate the person who hates you, curse the person who curses you, yell at the person who hates you and to fight anyone who comes against you. That’s the way I’m wired anyway. The things Jesus is asking us to do here goes against my nature.
I believe God asks us to act this way because we are to be a reflection of Him and who He is. When we are full of ourselves, and someone does something to us, it’s who we are on the inside that spills out onto them. When we replace who we are with who God is inside us, our reactions change. Everywhere we go, we will be spilling God’s love onto anyone who runs into us. The hardest part of being a Christian, is getting rid of all my selfish desires so that I can be filled with more of who He is, but that is God’s desire for each one of us. It’s a constant battle, but it’s one our spirit must be victorious in.
For many of us, we view God as the person we are when someone cuts us off on the road. He’s angry and out for payback. What Jesus said gives us insight into what God is like. Psalm 145:8 does as well. It says, “You’re kind and tenderhearted to those who don’t deserve it and very patient with people who fail you. Your love is like a flooding river overflowing its banks with kindness.” God isn’t angry and out to get us when we mess up. Like a good father, He’s kind and does everything He can to help us succeed at being more like He is. He’s patient with us in our failures as well. As we get to know Him more, He will become increasingly more evident in our life through our responses to people.
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Almost every woman who has a child can tell you what she craved while she was pregnant. It’s interesting to me to hear some of the things that their bodies were asking for. When my wife was pregnant, I remember the doctor telling us that she may experience cravings for some crazy things including dirt. She said that the body will crave and create intense hunger for the things it needs. There are plenty of husbands who will tell you what time of the night they had to run to the store, and what crazy food they had to get to satisfy their wife’s hunger craving.
I believe our spirit is very similar. It hungers to find God. Inside each of us is the desire to know and understand why we are here and what our purpose is. It creates a holy curiosity that is truly a hunger to know God. The problem many of us experience is that after we find Him, we often dismiss those hunger pains to know Him more. We give into the cravings of the flesh rather than the spirit within us. God’s desire for each of us is to continue to hunger to know Him more. Our spirit’s cravings are not to be ignored. Just like a pregnant woman’s body craves what it’s lacking, so does our spirit.
Here are some Bible verses on hungering for the things of God.
1. You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
Matthew 5:6 MSG
2. Those who hunger for him will always be filled, but the smug and self-satisfied he will send away empty.
Luke 1:53 TPT
3. “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord GOD, “When I will send hunger over the land, Not hunger for bread or a thirst for water, But rather [a hunger] for hearing the words of the LORD.”
AMOS 8:11 AMP
4. Lovers of God hunger after truth, but those without understanding feast on foolishness and don’t even realize it.
Proverbs 15:14 TPT
5. God—you’re my God! I can’t get enough of you! I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God, traveling across dry and weary deserts.
Psalm 63:1 MSG
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Do you ever get to the point where your problems become overwhelming? There are times and periods in life when I just can’t seem to shake free of a cycle of problems. It depletes my energy and saps my spirit. To stop and look at everything in front of me and see a never ending line of things coming at me can easily leave me feeling depleted. It feels like I’m on that show “1 vs. 100” sometimes, except there’s no cash prize at the end of the line of things I’m facing. What I usually forget during those times is that I’m not facing it alone.
In II Kings 6, the king of Aram was trying to attack Israel, but God kept showing Elisha their plans and Israel averted them. The king was angry and wanted who in his army was the traitor. When someone told him that it was Elisha who was giving away their position and plan, he mobilized his entire army and went to attack Elisha. That next morning, Elisha’s servant woke up and went outside. When he saw an entire army camped against them, he panicked. He was overwhelmed and didn’t know what they would do.
I love Elisha’s response to him in verse 16 when he comes outside and sees the army. He said, “Don’t be afraid! For there are more on our side than on theirs!” (NLT). Then Elisha asked God to open his servant’s eyes, and he saw an army of horses and chariots of fire. The army didn’t defeat Elisha that day because God was on his side. Elisha remained calm under the pressure of being in a 1 vs.100 type situation because he knew that God was with him. He didn’t panic, but instead trusted.
When facing those insurmountable odds, instead of panicking, we need to remember that greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world (I John 4:4). In those moments when I feel overwhelmed and outnumbered by my problems, my prayer is that God would open my eyes to see He’s on my side. I need to know that I’m not going to be defeated and that God has everything under control. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1 vs 100 or 1 vs 1,000,000, when God is on our side, there are more on our side than on theirs!
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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.
In one of my previous jobs, we had a saying: Feedback is a gift. One of the ways feedback was encouraged was after a presentation among your peers, you had to give yourself feedback in front of everyone. When you were done, one of your peers would give you feedback as well. One of the hardest things to do was to stand there, smile and accept it, especially when it wasn’t right from your perspective. The others didn’t know your intent. They could only see your actions, and that’s what they gave feedback on. Every once in a while, someone would lose their cool during this process. It wasn’t ever a good thing to argue with the feedback someone was giving you. They could usually see something you were blind to.
In today’s world, giving someone feedback is a huge risk. No one wants to be corrected, but every one of us needs it. Galatians 6:1 tells us that if we see someone overtaken in sin, those who are spiritual should gently restore that person in love. Many times we’ve sinned or have offended someone without really knowing it. We can’t see it ourselves because we know our own intent, but don’t realize how our actions came across to someone else. It’s best to receive corrections in an humble spirit, rather than a defensive one, so that we can grow. God has placed people around us with the ability to see things in our blind spots.
The psalmist of 141, who was just as human as we are, prayed in verse 5, “When one of your godly lovers corrects me or one of your faithful ones rebukes me, I will accept it like an honor I cannot refuse. It will be as healing medicine that I swallow without an offended heart. Even if they are mistaken, I will continue to pray” (TPT). This is the attitude we should all have. Even if their wrong, we should put them on blast. Accept it, thank them for their concern and then pray and ask God to show you if there is something they see that you don’t. Receiving feedback and correction is a gift that should never be taken lightly. It’s God’s way of keeping us on His path.
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You and I are constantly living between the tension of our well known past and our unknown future. When we look at our past, we often see the things that can discredit us and prevent us from having a promising future. When we look to the future, it can be overwhelming. There are so many possibilities that many times we experience paralysis through analysis. We don’t always know where that next step is or how to take it. We often get stuck here worried that our past will weigh us down, and fearing that we’re not prepared for the future. It’s a constant struggle that so many of us live with.
The good news is that your past doesn’t change God’s future for you. God has a plan and a purpose for your life. The tension you feel is designed to draw you closer to Him. No matter how close you get to God, that tension will always be there because there’s always another level of faith you can grow into. The deeper your faith and trust in God gets, the more He trusts you with. Jesus Himself told us that when we learn to be faithful in the little things, He will trust us with the bigger things.
Psalm 139:5 says, “You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past. With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a blessing to me” (TPT). God has His hand on your life. He has already prepared the path for you to walk down. It’s up to you to step out in faith and trust Him. I love that this verse shows He’s also going behind you to make sure your past decisions that weren’t so great won’t harm you. You can keep moving forward knowing He has your future in His hands. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Corrie Ten Boom reminds us to never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
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The heart is known as the seat of our emotions. Our emotions dictate our words and actions. You can tell a lot about what’s in people’s heart simply by listening to them and watching their actions. When I hear people talk down to themselves or beat themselves up, it bothers me because it’s a reflection of how they truly feel about themselves. I went to compliment a kid recently about how well he performed and he replied, “I was terrible. I’m no good. I don’t know why I did it.” My heart broke because he’s already let his self talk destroy his confidence. I tried to speak life into him, but more than anything, he needed a change in his heart to readjust his thinking.
Proverbs 14:26 says, “Confidence and strength flood the hearts of the lovers of God who live in awe of him, and their devotion provides their children with a place of shelter and security” (TPT). It’s amazing how much we can accomplish when we have confidence and mental strength. So many of us struggle with an internal picture of who we are. We must remember that we are made in God’s image. The greater picture we have of God, the greater picture we will have of ourselves. A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.”
The greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength. To love Him with all of our heart, we need to know Him more. The more we know Him, the more we will live in awe of Him. It’s no coincidence that He listed the heart first. Everything stems from there: our relationship with God, our relationship with ourselves and our relationship with others. If you need confidence in any of those areas, it starts with knowing God. You get to know Him more through reading the Bible, prayer and sitting quietly in His presence. Learning to do these three things won’t just change you, it’ll have a generational effect as well.
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One of the things I’ve learned is that my growth should never stop. When we accept Jesus, that’s the beginning of our relationship with Jesus, not the end goal. Too many times I see people who feel like once they’ve received salvation, that’s it and there’s nothing more to do. That’s like getting married and then deciding to do nothing about the relationship going forward because you made a vow. Marriage is more than a wedding, it’s a lifetime commitment to grow together. If you don’t continue to invest in that relationship, that growth will never happen.
Our faith is very similar. It’s not a one time experience, but rather a lifetime of daily commitment to continue on even on the days you don’t feel saved. You must persist in the process of being made new constantly. God’s desire is for you to know Him and the power of resurrection that He gives. That power helps us to overcome obstacles and to continue pushing on in the hard times. There’s more to God than we will ever know in this life, so we should continue to explore the depths of who He is and how He wants us to live. The Christian life is not about a moment in time, but rather a continuation of knowing God.
Here are some Bible verses on continuing in the faith.
1. And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him.
Colossians 2:6 NLT
2. So everyone should continue to live faithful in the situation of life in which they were called to follow Jesus.
1 Corinthians 7:20 TPT
3. But continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory, now and forever! Amen.
2 Peter 3:18 GNT
4. It pleases me that you continue to remember and honor me by keeping up the traditions of the faith I taught you. All actual authority stems from Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1-2 MSG
5. But as for you, continue in the things that you have learned and of which you are convinced [holding tightly to the truths], knowing from whom you learned them.
2 TIMOTHY 3:14 AMP
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