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A Breath Of Fresh Air

When I was a senior in high school, I was given the gift of the trip of a lifetime to go camping in the Canadian Rockies. I went with a small group of other high school students who had completed the same milestone in this scouting program. As we pulled up to our first camping spot somewhere near Banff, Alberta, i remember the view was incredible. One of the trip leaders got out of the van and said, “Boys, get out here and take a deep breath of this fresh, mountain air!” I remember taking that breath. The air was crisp and cool. I think one of us even coughed from taking such a deep breath. The leader said, “That’s right! Get that city air out of your lungs. You’re breathing fresh air up here.”

When You read the creation account in Genesis, you will read that God formed man out of the dust of the ground. He shaped him, gave him fingers and toes, arms and legs, a brain, a heart and even lungs. Man has everything he needed to live, but was still laying lifeless on the ground until God bent down and blew the breath of life into his nostrils. His lungs filled with air and man became a living being. I believe that every one of us have that breath of life in us, but it gets covered up by the polluted air we breathe in this world. One way to replace that polluted air is to read the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “Every Scripture has been inspired by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God” (TPT). When we breathe in the Word of God, we breathe in what God exhaled and our lungs are filled with fresh air.

What will we do with that fresh air? Will we let it become polluted again or will we use it to allow others to breath in fresh air? In 2 Timothy 1:16, Paul wrote, “So many times Onesiphorus was like a breath of fresh air to me and never seemed to be ashamed of my chains.” Even Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament needed someone to be a breath of fresh air to him encouraging him with the Words of God. If he needed it, how much more do the people around you? The problem is that we can only breathe out what we breathe in. What have you been breathing in? Is what you’re breathing out life giving? Is it fresh air to those around you? If not, spend more time in God’s Word asking Him to fill, your lungs with His breath of life so that you can be someone who is a breath of fresh air wherever you go.

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

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Unity Through Prayer

Our world is more polarized and divided now than ever in my lifetime. We’re divided politically, socially, on masks, on justice issues and just about anything you can think of. I’m a person who loves to read comments on social media because I love how creative and funny people are. However, lately, I see a lot of arguments in the comments with hateful attacks toward each other over the littlest things. I watched a video by a comedian recently and then went to the comments. People were attacking him, his humor, his lack of humor, people who thought it was funny and people who didn’t. It’s easy to think that the division of people is something new, but it’s been around since the beginning. It’s one of the most effective tools in our enemy’s belt.

Satan used his divisive techniques on Adam and Eve to get them separated from God. He used it on Cain to kill Abel. Moses and the Israelites dealt with it over and over in the wilderness. You can’t read something in the Bible hardly without seeing the conflict. When Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy, Nero was the ruler and he was decapitating Christians and using their heads as torches to light the city. There were people named at the end of chapter 1 who were opposed to the message of Christ that Paul said that he handed over to Satan to be rid of them. Interestingly though, immediately after that verse, chapter two starts and Paul takes a different tone towards those who were polar opposites from him and the faith.

1 Timothy 2:1 says, “Most of all, I’m writing to encourage you to pray with gratitude to God. Pray for all men with all forms of prayers and requests as you intercede with intense passion” (TPT). The next verse says to pray for political leaders, even those opposed to your way of thinking, referring to Nero. You and I have a responsibility right now, in today’s climate to bring unity through prayer. It’s hard to hate someone you pray and intensely intercede for. Are we so busy arguing our side of things that we’ve forgotten to pray for those opposed to us? Romans 12:20 said if our enemy was hungry, we should buy them lunch. Where is that kind of love today? I’m praying that God would give me, and Christians everywhere, that kind of heart instead of an argumentative one. I think there’s a time and place to defend our way of life, but they shouldn’t know us by our arguments or eloquent defense. They should know us by our love.

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Salt Or Pepper

Recently we had a friend, who is a chef, come to the house to prepare a meal for us and to teach us how to prepare steaks. We had three different petite steaks prepared three different ways. One was reverse seared, one was sous vide and one was dry brined. On the dry brine, he told us to cover the steak with salt and allow it to sit for at least an hour before washing off and cooking. The salt will pull the moisture to the surface of the steak creating a juicy, flavorful steak with a caramelized outside. The salt worked well before and during the cooking process. He then told us it’s best not to use pepper until after you’ve cooked your steak. Whereas salt interacts well with the fire, pepper actually adopts a bitter taste that we’ve all become used to.

As I was reading Mark 9:49-50, I thought about this dinner. Jesus said, “Everyone will be purified by fire as a sacrifice is purified by salt. Salt is good; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have the salt of friendship among yourselves, and live in peace with one another” (GNT). Every one of us will go through the fire in this life. Will we dry up and get burned during that time or will we become more flavorful? I love how The Message puts Jesus’ word of Matthew 5. It says, “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.”

Our lives should be bring out God flavors in this world especially when we’re going through hard times. We shouldn’t be like those with pepper on them producing bitterness. Just like those steaks, it helps if we’re covered in salt before we go through the fire. We must continually be in prayer and in God’s Word so that when the fire comes, that’s what comes out of us. The world is going through a tough time right now. People are afraid, bitter and arguing. What better time for us to be salt and light than now? We have an opportunity like never before to bring out the God-flavors of the world. Let’s not squander it by being bitter. Let your salt be flavorful and leave a good taste in people’s mouth as you point them to God.

Photo by Edson Saldaña on Unsplash

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Looking For God

Last night we went outside to see the Neowise comet. After waiting until it was dark enough to see it, I decided to go get my barely used telescope. I struggled to bring it into view. So I decided on an easier target to find in space: the moon. After checking out some of the craters, we started looking for meteors since there’s a meteor shower peaking this week. As we looked east, we saw Jupiter and Saturn. I decided to try to get them in my telescope expecting to see little dots. Instead, we were able to see 3 moons around Jupiter and even a few bands of gas. When I then moved it to Saturn and we could see the rings, my son flipped out. He started crying saying how beautiful it was and how it was better than he ever imagined. I had him read Psalm 19:1. After he read it, through his sobs, he said, “Now I believe in God more!”

God reveals Himself to every one of us through different things. Ravi Zacharias once said that God put enough of Himself in creation for you to find Him, yet He hid enough of Himself in it that you could miss Him if you weren’t looking. Most of us go through our daily lives so focused on our tasks or problems that we rarely look for how God is revealing Himself to us. He uses different means to make Himself known to us, but we must be looking with intentionality. John 1 tells of how all of creation was made through Jesus. Then in verse 10 it says that when He came into the world to reveal Himself, we didn’t even notice and were unaware. We can’t be caught unaware of what God is trying to reveal today.

Here are some Bible verses on how God reveals Himself to us.

1. How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory! How plainly it shows what he has done! Each day announces it to the following day; each night repeats it to the next.

Psalm 19:1-2 GNT

2. So he said, “When you pray, say, Father, Reveal who you are. Set the world right. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.”

Luke 11:2-4 MSG

3. So then, let us [who minister] be regarded as servants of Christ and stewards (trustees, administrators) of the mysteries of God [that He chooses to reveal].

1 Corinthians 4:1 AMP

4. He said, “Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surrounded by light. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors, for you have given me wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of you and revealed to us what the king demanded.”

Daniel 2:20-23 NLT

5. Pour out even more of your love on us! Reveal more of your kindness and restore us back to you!

Psalms 85:7 TPT

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

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Being Persistent

What’s one characteristic that you have that makes you successful? Have you ever thought about that? Each of us have natural giftings and characteristics that God gave us that help us to be successful. I like to ask that question because I get a lot of different answers. My answer is usually determination or consistency. Consistency is what dug the Grand Canyon and determination can keep you focused to accomplish anything. I try to be consistent in every area of my life. What you see is what you get. I’ve also learned that there are characteristics that I can learn and implement into my life in order to be more successful. I don’t have to just rely on and use my natural giftings.

In Luke 11, the disciples were talking privately with Jesus and they asked Him to teach them to pray. He taught them what we refer to as The Lord’s Prayer. As soon as He finished, He gave an illustration to help them understand how to pray better. He gave the example of a person who had a friend show up unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Instead of putting them to bed, he needed to serve them some food, but didn’t have any. He then went to his neighbor and knocked on the door to ask for food. The neighbor was in bed and didn’t want to give the food, but the person kept knocking and wouldn’t go away. Because they wouldn’t stop, the neighbor will get out of bed and give him what he needs. Jesus then said our prayers should be like that instead of one and done or asking timidly.

In verse 11, Jesus gave a characteristic that we can al, learn and implement. He said, “Every persistent person will get what he asks for. Every persistent seeker will discover what he needs. And everyone who knocks persistently will one day find an open door” (TPT). Persistency. How many times have we been persistent with God like a kid in the grocery store wanting something? We tell ourselves that we don’t want to bother God with our problem or believe the lie that God doesn’t care about our issue. Those lies are meant to rob you of your blessing and to keep you from communicating with your Heavenly Father. Don’t listen to them. Instead, pound on Heaven’s door and let God know you’re not going away until you get what you need. Jesus said every persistent person will get what they ask for. Don’t quit asking. Don’t quit seeking. Don’t quit knocking.

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Making Choices

Making financial decisions or long term decisions can be difficult. There are some people who have no issues making a decision and living with it, but there are other personality types that struggle because they’re thinking of all the ramifications. They study up on the subject, they weigh the consequences and don’t want to make a mistake. What usually happens is that they feel they can never get enough information to feel comfortable making the decision or they get paralysis through analysis. They are so afraid of making the wrong choice that they end up making no choice at all. It’s a tough spot to be in. Because they can’t feel peace inside, they hold off on the decision until it is often made for them by circumstances.

When this happens to my wife and I, we usually take one or two different approaches. The first one is usually to lay fleeces before the Lord like Gideon did. We ask God to do an impossible thing to show us we’re to make that decision. Gideon did two fleeces, but we usually do three. If two out of three happens, we walk away, even if the third is 99.9% there. If God had desired for us to make that decision, it would have been 100% there. He is able. I don’t always like Hid decision, but in the end, if we have prayed then I know we’re in His will and His decision is better than mine. When disappointment or bitterness try to creep in, I remind myself that God sees the future, and I can’t. He knows what is best, and my peace returns.

The second thing is that we pray for peace regarding the situation. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]” (AMP). If it’s not God’s will, we ask Him to take away our peace, cause us to be stressed over it and to lose sleep. If we lose our peace, we make the decision to not do whatever it is and His peace that passes understanding returns. You and I can’t live in a state of fear or of paralysis through analysis. The Bible shows us many ways to make decisions, but these are the two we have found to be most helpful for us. Decisions can be difficult, but when we have the peace of Christ, we can make them and no that we’re in His will one way or the other.

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Speaking Over The Storm

One of the most incredible stories of the Gospels happened on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had just fed the 5,000 after mourning the death of John the Baptist. He put the disciples in a boat and told them to go to the other side. Matthew, who was not a fisherman, said that a storm came up and the boat tossed all night. He even said the wind was against them as if it had a problem with them. They fought the storm for every inch hours on end in the dark of night. Sometime after 3 AM, they saw someone walking on water towards them in the middle of this madness. Exhausted from serving others all day and fighting the storm all night, they let fear set in. They became terrified of the ghost walking on the water towards them. Mark wrote that they all screamed in terror. But then Jesus spoke over the wind, over the waves crashing against the boat, over their high pitched screams, over the thunder, over the darkness, and calmed them with a few words.

It’s easy to sit here in my house on dry land, protected from the elements and after a good night’s sleep to judge their fear. Didn’t Jesus send them across the lake? Where was their faith? Didn’t they know He wouldn’t let them drown? But when you’re in the thick of battle and you’re exhausted fear has an open door. When you’ve tried a thousand times, when you don’t know what else to do, when you followed God’s voice and you feel alone, when you’ve done all you can do and nothing is working out, it’s only natural to be afraid and to doubt. I believe that just like He didn’t abandon the disciples, He won’t abandon you. His words back then still speak to us today. Courage! Don’t be afraid! Your redeemer sees you struggling, fighting for every inch, pushing forward when everything seems to be against you, and He’s there in the storm with you speaking peace to you over it all.

Here are some Bible verses to remind you not to be afraid.

1. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told them, “it is I!”

John 6:20 GNT

2. Do not fear [anything], for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you; I will certainly take hold of you with My righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].’

Isaiah 41:10 AMP

3. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

Luke 12:7 NLT

4. Even though dark powers prowl around me, I won’t be afraid.

Psalms 3:6 TPT

5. When I am afraid, I will put my trust and faith in You.

Psalms 56:3 AMP

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Walking Freely In The Fire

To me, one of the coolest stories in the Bible is the one where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace. As you know, they refused to bow to the god King Nebuchadnezzar built and set up. When the king confronted them, they didn’t back down from their beliefs knowing it would mean their death. In Daniel 3:17-18, they said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (NLT).

Their response visibly angered the king. He ordered that the furnace be heated up seven times hotter than normal. He then had the boys bound up, hand and feet, dragged to the furnace, and thrown in. It was so hot that the men who dragged them there died. The king then noticed something odd. In verse 25, he said, “Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” He then called them out of the fire and promoted them to higher positions.

When you look back on your life, when was God most evident? Where can you see Him most clearly? For me, it’s in the hardest times. You could say it was when I was walking through the fires of life. When we are cast in the fire, we don’t always know if we will survive. We know God is able, but there is no guarantee He will get us out of the fire. Even still, we are required to endure and to be willing to be subjected to the fires of life.

Remember, it was in the fire that they were freed from the ropes that bound them. But even before that, God was with them. He’s not always visible leading up to the fire, but I know He was standing there with them as they refused to bow. It was only in the fire that He was revealed. God is most evident in the hardest times of our lives because those are the times we trust Him the most. When we walk through the fire, our faith is deepened, our character is strengthened, and God’s love for us is proven.

You and I don’t have to fear the flames. We can walk freely in them with the Son of God beside us. I don’t know if the three Hebrew boys saw the Son of God in the fire with them or not, but He was there. We don’t always see God walking in the fire with us until we look back on it. So if you’re in the furnace now, look around. God has not abandoned you. He is there walking with you. He may not be visible now, but He’s there growing you, preparing you, and making you more like Him. Don’t give up in the furnace. Walk freely in the fire.

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

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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Seeing Someone’s Worth

Worthless. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used that word to describe someone. It comes out of my mouth and into my head too often to be honest. There was even a time when that word would come into my head as I looked into the mirror. Rejection and pain have a way of doing that to you. The problem is that when you say it about someone or yourself enough, you start to believe it. When you think or say those things about yourself or someone else, you’re capable of doing anything to that person simply because you don’t see any value. It’s hard to live in harmony or to be at peace with someone, especially yourself, if you don’t value them.

One of the things I love about Jesus is how He valued people. When I read the Gospels, that’s something that always jumps off the page at me. When Jesus looked at people, the Bible said He had compassion on them. Because He valued them, He poured God’s Word into them, fed them and healed them. Think of the disciples He called. The world said they were uneducated and worthless, but Jesus saw more than that. He didn’t see a wispy washy man. He saw a rock in Peter. He didn’t see a doubter in Thomas. He saw a person that carry His message outside the Roman Empire. With Matthew, He didn’t see a worthless, traitorous person, He saw someone who could reach the rejected.

What do you see in others or in the mirror? Can you see beyond the present? Do you see value? Romans 12:16 says, “Live happily together in a spirit of harmony, and be as mindful of another’s worth as you are your own” (TPT). How can you love someone if you don’t value them? We’re to be known for our love. We’re to carry out the Great Commission, but we can’t if we don’t value people. Worthless shouldn’t be in our vocabulary when it comes to ourselves or others. Christ loved and valued each of us enough to die for us so that we could spend eternity with Him. God created each one of us in His image as well. If we value God, and Jesus’ work on the cross, then we must value ourselves and everyone else. When we value them, we can love them. When we love them, we will see them as Jesus does.

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Risking Failure

Taking risks and being open to failure are a couple of things I try to teach my nieces and nephews. Those who aren’t afraid to fail and take risks are some of the most successful people on the planet. The greater the risk, the greater reward. However, when you fail, fail fast. Don’t keep going in that direction just because you’ve risked a bunch and you’ve committed. There are times to cut bait and run. At that point, figure out why it didn’t work and where it went wrong, then take another risk. If you can have the courage to push through a few seconds of fear, you can do just about anything. All of these things hold true for money and God’s blessings in our lives. Hoarding them does no good and stunts their growth.

In Matthew 25, Jesus told a parable we’re all familiar with. A man was going to take a long journey and decided to entrust some of his property to some of his servants. He gave one five talents, one two talents and one talent to another. The one who had five talents invested it and was able to get a return of ten talents. The one who was given two talents also invested his and doubled it. Then the person who only had one dug a hole and buried. He let fear keep him from taking risks with what was given to him. In the end, his fear cost him everything. If he had done something risk free like putting it in the bank just to get a little interest, it would have been better than succumbing to fear.

In verse 29, the master said to him (and the Master says to us), “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” (AMP). Part of valuing the gifts and blessings of God is being willing to risk failure with them. God invests different gifts in each one of us, but He’s watching to see what we do with them. We will have to give an account for our actions (or inactions) one day. If you’ve been letting fear of failure dictate your decision in risking them, it’s time to get enough courage to push past that fear and to do something with them. Start that blog, sign up for that course, ask for the microphone, stand on stage, send that letter or whatever it is that fear is keeping you from doing. God is counting on you to value your blessings enough to risk failure with them.

Photo by Gene Chauvin

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