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Receiving God’s Strength

Have you ever felt like you had to be strong for someone? What happened? After a while, your strength ran out. Whether we’re fighting our own battles or helping someone else fight there’s, we’re not supposed to do it in our own strength. We are to find that kind of strength in the Lord. When the Bible tells us to be strong, the word usually means to receive strength. You and I need to ask God to give us His strength and grace for each situation because it is made perfect in our weakness. Trying to do everything in our own strength will leave us depleted, burnt out and open to attacks. We receive His strength when we’re humble enough to know we need it and ask for it. He’s willing to give it to us, but we must realize our limitations and ask.

Here are some Bible verses on receiving God’s strength.

1. May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience. And with joy give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for his people in the kingdom of light.

Colossians 1:11-12 GNT

2. May He grant you out of the riches of His glory, to be strengthened and spiritually energized with power through His Spirit in your inner self, [indwelling your innermost being and personality].

Ephesians 3:16 AMP

3. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31 NLT

4. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:26 ESV

5. Finally, build up your strength in union with the Lord and by means of his mighty power.

Ephesians 6:10 GNT

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Acts Of Worship

One of my favorite authors says that he takes off his shoes when he sits down to write because he considers that place holy ground. He says that he worships God with each keystroke. I’ve often thought of that and wondered, “What are my acts of worship? Do I take them as seriously as He does?” I don’t think we have to remove our shoes for every act of worship, but I do think we need to recognize when we are worshiping God. Worship is more than a slow song at church. It’s an act of love done to honor God that’s often a sacrifice of some kind. It requires a conscious effort on our part to put God’s needs ahead of our own.

When’s the last time you worshiped God with your life? Any act of obedience with the right heart is an act of worship. Consider all that God has done for you. There is nothing you can do to repay Him, but you can thank and honor Him by living your life in a way that pleases Him. You can rescue those who are perishing spiritually and physically as a way to worship Him. We don’t worship to earn our salvation though. It is the response of a grateful heart. Each act of worship is different because each of us have different skills and burdens that drive our worship. The important thing is to make sure we offer these things consciously as worship to God. Whether you’re working to end human trafficking, giving your tithe, serving the homeless or staying home to raise your children, do it as an act of worship and God will bless it.

Let us be thankful, then, because we receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Let us be grateful and worship God in a way that will please him, with reverence and awe.

Hebrews 12:28 GNT

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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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Even Though

In 2008, Heather Dormiden was running the 600 meter race for the Big Ten championship. She was out front with about 200 meters to go when she tripped and fell flat on her face. Instead of being mad at herself or being embarrassed and staying down, she decided to finish the race. Team points were important and her university was close to the top. She had to finish to get any points. She began to sprint as fast as she could. She started passing other racers which made her push harder. In the last 50 meters, she said she found a gear she didn’t know she had. Hearing the roar of the crowd energized her as she sprinted towards the finish line. To everyone’s amazement, Heather won the race even though she fell because she didn’t give up when she fell down.

In Genesis 39, Joseph’s brothers resented him. He was clearly his father’s favorite son out of 12. He had been given a bright, colorful coat so all the world would know it. Then he started having dreams that his brothers and his parents would bow down to him. The brothers had enough. They seized him and threw him into a cistern while they decided how to kill him. A caravan was passing by on its way to Egypt when they decided to sell him as a slave. He was purchased by a man named Potiphar and put to work. Instead of sulking and being bitter, he worked hard. Verse 2 says, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he [even though a slave] became a successful and prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian” (AMP). Joseph prospered even though he was a slave because he worked hard where he was and received the Lord’s favor.

Proverbs 24:16 says, “For the lovers of God may suffer adversity and stumble seven times, but they will continue to rise over and over again” (TPT). Even though you’ve fallen down, get back up. Even though life has felt you blow after blow, get back up. Even though things are hard, God will bless you when you keep getting back up. You have a race to run with an eternal prize. I know what it’s like to have the bottom keep falling out until you hit rock bottom. It’s not easy to get back up, but we’re not alone and we don’t have to do it in our strength. Call on the Holy Spirit to rise up in you when you feel like you can’t. Ask for God’s favor as you rise. The race isn’t won by the fastest, the most gifted or the wealthy. It’s won by those who continue to rise even though they fall because God favors those who trust in Him for His strength when they are weak.

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Being Invisible

I love practical jokes. The more elaborate, the better. I saw a video of a practical joke where a magician was performing in a park to a crowd. Everyone was in on it except for the person who walked up and joined the crowd. After a bit, the magician needed a volunteer. The person who walked up was chosen. After he made them “disappear”, a person from off screen would come and interrupt the show and take the magician away. While the magician was away, two people would come up and take a selfie in front of the chair. When the unsuspecting person saw the phone, the didn’t see themselves and thought they were invisible. Some who “disappeared” had fun with it, but most panicked when no one could see them. They desperately tried to get people to acknowledge them, but the crowd who was in on it, pretended they weren’t there. When the magician felt they had enough, he would return and make them “appear” again.

In Genesis 16, Abraham and Sarah had been told by God they would have a child. After waiting and trying and not seeing they answer, they preempted God’s plan. Sarah gave her maid, Hagar, to her husband in order to have a child. After her son was born, Hagar taunted Sarah to the point that Sarah kicked her out, but God saw her and comforted her. She called Him El Roi the God who sees me. He then sent her back. Several years later Sarah gave birth to Isaac. When he was weaned, she had Abraham kick out Hagar and her son. Hagar found herself in a desperate situation in the desert. Her resources were gone and she had no hope. Right when she was giving up, God showed up and showed her an oasis of water to meet her needs. God proved to her again that she was not invisible to Him and that He cared for her.

Psalm 33:18-19 says, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine” (ESV). I want you to know that no matter how dire your situation, how depleted your resources are and how invisible you feel, God sees you. His eye is on you. Continue to hope in Him and He will deliver you from the famine you’re in. He has not forsaken you. He has not forgotten you. In my own life, I’ve found that God uses those desperate, wilderness places to reposition us and to build our faith in Him. You may feel invisible to the world around you, but God sees you. What feels like and ending is often God creating a new beginning for you.

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Lessons From Zacchaeus

If you grew up in church, you know and sang about Zacchaeus. In Luke 19, Jesus was entering Jericho. The crowds had gathered around Him as He was walking through town. They wanted to see a miracle, hear a sermon and to see what important religious person He would visit with. Some even thought He was going to start a revolution with Rome that very moment. The crowd was so big, and Zacchaeus was not very tall. He saw where Jesus was headed and ran up ahead in front of the crowd. He found a sycamore tree to climb in so that he could just see Jesus. When Jesus arrived to that spot, He looked up and saw Zacchaeus , He told him to come down so He could stay at his house. The people were mad because Zacchaeus wasn’t a religious person at all. In fact he was despised by people because he worked for Rome and stole money from his own people as the chief tax collector. When he saw Jesus, and Jesus saw him, everything changed including his heart.

Two things stand out to me in this familiar story. The first is that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus and was willing to do anything to see Him. How hungry and determined are you to see Jesus? Like so many before him, he wanted to get a glimpse of God. Moses was that way too. In Exodus 33:18-19 Moses said, “‘Please, show me your glory!’And God said, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the Name of the Lord before you; for I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion (lovingkindness) on whom I will show compassion’” (AMP) When we are determined to see God, He will show up with His glory and presence. He wants to be found, and will reveal Himself to those who seek Him.

The second thing I noticed in this story is that Zacchaeus was proactive and anticipated where Jesus was headed. Many of us try to go where He has been, but Zacchaeus ran ahead and waited on the Lord. In Matthew 5:8 Jesus said, “Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God.” When we anticipate God’s presence, we will see Him and He will see us. What is God wanting to do around you today? Where is He headed? Go and start being the hands and feet of Him there. Remember the laborers are few. There’s a lot God wants to do, but He needs us to know His heart, anticipate where He wants to reveal Himself and start there. When you start loving people there, God will show up and you will see Him.

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Called To Serve

From the moment you’re born, people take care of your needs. At first it’s because you can’t do anything for yourself. As you get older, it’s because it’s easier to do it for you than to wait for you to do things for yourself. This trains your brain that life is all about you and that others should take care of your needs. It creates a thought pattern that is counter to God’s design for you. His idea is that we should serve others, not the other way around. God is the one who said that it’s better to give than to receive. He wants us to look out for the needs of others and take care of them. Life is not about you. It’s about showing God’s love to others who often don’t deserve it in our minds. Take a look around you today and find someone to serve. Do it unto God and then begin to make a habit of it. You can develop this Christlike character by overriding the way your brain is wired.

Here are some Bible verses on serving others.

1. Take a constant interest in the needs of God’s beloved people and respond by helping them. And eagerly welcome people as guests into your home.

Romans 12:13 TPT

2. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well.

Romans 12:7 NLT

3. And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

Matthew 25:40 NLT

4. You are to lead by a different model. If you want to be the greatest, then live as one called to serve others.

Mark 10:43 TPT

5. Every believer has received grace gifts, so use them to serve one another as faithful stewards of the many-colored tapestry of God’s grace.

1 Peter 4:10 TPT

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Intimately Knowing God

One of the things I’ve loved since I was a kid is trivia games, especially Bible trivia. My parents couldn’t afford to send us to camp when we were young, so they took us to every Vacation Bible School in town. I got a head full of knowledge about the Bible from going to all of those. When you combine that with my ability to memorize things, I won a lot of prizes when it came to Bible Trivia. The only downside to having all that knowledge is that for years, I thought I knew God because I knew a lot about Him. However, knowing about someone and knowing them are two very different things.

When David was old, he was preparing to hand over the kingdom to Solomon. Like any parent, I’m sure he saw great qualities in his son. He wanted to make sure that his son didn’t just rely on who he had heard God was, but wanted him to intimately know Him the way he did. In 1 Chronicles 28, David was giving Solomon instruction for ruling, for building the Temple and for living well. In verse 9, he said, “Learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever” (NLT).

There is so much wisdom in that one verse, but I want us to simply focus on that first part today. Learn to know God intimately. It’s good to learn about Him, but it’s more important to learn to know Him intimately. Knowledge about God comes from Scripture, but knowing Him comes from spending time in prayer and being still in His presence. All of the Bible is about this one thing: God wants an intimate relationship with you and He’s willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. The problem is it takes two to have a relationship. God has done His part. Will you do yours and spend some alone time with Him today listening to His voice?

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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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Discipleship

Becoming a follower of Jesus isn’t a one time event. Jesus told us that we would need to take up our cross daily in order to follow Him. Being a disciple is to constantly choose to sacrifice your desires for His. In Greek, the language the New Testament was written in, the word disciple is mathetes. According to Strong’s Concordance it means, “a learner; a disciple, a follower of Christ who learns the doctrines of Scripture and the lifestyle they require.” What’s crazy is that Jesus didn’t tell us to go into all the world to make Christians. He told us to make disciples. We are to be followers of Christ who learn Scripture and live a life that daily reflects it. Paul said it was something we must press on for because it’s not an easy decision to make and live up to, but it’s who we’re called to be.

In Luke 18, Jesus encountered a man we’ve dubbed “the rich, young ruler”. He asked Jesus, in verse 18 he asked, “Good Teacher [You who are essentially and morally good], what shall I do to inherit eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?” (AMP) Jesus responded by telling him to follow the commandments in the Old Testament. The man wasn’t satisfied because he knew there was something more than following rules to being a disciple and follower of Jesus. So Jesus told him, “You still lack one thing; sell everything that you have and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have [abundant] treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].” The man walked away sad because he wasn’t willing to take his next step in discipleship. He was ready to accept the Bible and Jesus as Lord, but unwilling to daily follow Him. Being a disciple is a matter of the heart.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart [your wishes, your desires; that on which your life centers] will be also.” What do you center your life on? Is it your desires or His? Do you seek Him for direction for your life or do you allow Him to lead? To me, that last question is the difference in being a Christian and a disciple. The rich, young ruler was asking for direction, but unwilling to let Jesus lead his life. He lived life according to the Bible, but his heart kept him from experiencing the fullness of Christ. He valued his life, possessions and desires more. He wasn’t willing to nail them to the cross and follow Jesus fully. We’re all faced with that choice as Christians. Are we satisfied with being saved or do we truly want to become like Him learning Scripture and the lifestyle it requires? It’s a daily choice each of us must make.

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Psalm 23

If you’re like me, you memorized Psalm 23 as a kid and have been quoting it since. I’m all for memorizing Bible verses and teaching them to children. However, sometimes we can lose the significance of passages when we’ve read them or heard them so many times. Even though I’ve read the Bible through several times, one of the things I do is pray before reading. I ask God to help me see it with fresh eyes, to open my mind to understand it and to give me revelation knowledge of it. I don’t want to skip through stories or chapters just because I know what happens or can recite from memory. On those especially, I take my time pouring over every word and digging through it using commentary tools as well as original language meanings.

Psalm 23 starts with, “The Lord is my shepherd.” First of all, this is a declarative statement. He’s not just saying it. He’s confessing it and making a statement. The Lord IS my shepherd. It’s not might be or could be. Then he personalizes it. The Lord is MY shepherd. Our mind likes to tell us that God cares for everyone but us. That’s a lie! He is your personal shepherd who knows your personal needs and takes care of them so that you shall not want. Quit skipping out on asking God to meet your needs because there are so many others who have more important or desperate needs. He is YOUR shepherd and is able to shepherd others as well as you on a personal level. Their needs are no more difficult to answer to Him than yours. There aren’t levels of needs to Him, but there are different levels of faith and trust in Him as your shepherd.

The next verse says that He makes me lie down in green pastures. God knows you need rest at times because you’re always on the go. He wants to lead us to a peaceful place to just be. It’s a place where you put down the facade and the mask. You don’t have to be “on” all the time. He instituted the Sabbath for a reason. Since we ignore it, He is still trying to shepherd us to rest because our shepherd knows we need it. He also tries to lead us to still waters. These waters are a place of refreshing. He understands that we need to experience times of refreshing. We try to say we don’t deserve it or we have too much to do to stop and be refreshed, but your shepherd created you and knows what you need. Quit fighting Him and let Him lead you. Quit making excuses and trust Him. When you do, He’ll restore your soul, guide you through the darkest places, prepare a table for you and anoint you so that goodness and mercy will be with you all the days of your life. It all starts with declaring and letting Him be your shepherd.

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Unplugging Wells

During the Covid pandemic, while people were in lockdown, people had a lot of time on their hands. They had to stay home when they used to go out. Some people took that as an opportunity to rediscover their hidden talents, hone their skills and develop their talents. I watched several videos and read stories of how people were investing their time into these things. Their lives had become so busy before the pandemic that they quit practicing or using these skills and eventually forgot they had them. The pandemic gave almost all of us a rare opportunity to reset our schedules, manage our time better and rediscover ourselves. Once it ended though, most of us went back to living the way we were before it. We forgot the lessons learned and put our talents on the back burner again.

Genesis 26 starts off by telling us there was a great famine that caused people to move, including Isaac. God told him not to go to Egypt, but to stay in the same country. When he arrived to the area the Lord told him to go, he found favor with the king and purchased land. When he planted crops, God gave him 100 times more than he planted. The Philistines were jealous and filled his wells with dirt. Verses 17-18 say that Isaac moved to the valley and reopened the wells his father had dug, but the Philistines and filled up after his death. There were fights and struggles over it, but he kept unplugging them until he had enough water for his people and flocks.

1 Timothy 4:14-15 says, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress” (NLT). Each of us have plugged up wells in our lives. These wells are spiritual gifts, talents and skills that we were given to serve the Lord with. We’ve allowed them to be plugged up by our schedule, our mismanagement of time and daily distractions. It’s time to redig those wells and give your attention to them so that you make progress in them once again. You weren’t created to make a living. Your God given purpose lies in the gifts and talents He gave you. Unplug those wells and use them for His purposes once again. That’s were you will find fulfillment and purpose for your life.

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