Tag Archives: Devotional

Keep The Fire Burning

Ever since I was young, I have loved building fires. I remember when I was taught how to build one. They taught me that there are three things needed: fuel, oxygen and heat. To start it, you have to have some tinder, which is tiny sticks. As they get consumed by the fire, you have to add in pieces that are a little bit bigger called kindling. When the fire gets large, you add in the big pieces of firewood referred to as fuel. Before starting a fire though, you need to make sure you have plenty to get it going and to keep it going. If you start it and have to run around looking for any of these, it will burn out. A fire has to be constantly fed if you want to keep it burning.

Fire has been used in the Bible as a symbol of God’s presence. He’s known as an all consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). When Elijah called the people back to repentance, he called fire down from heaven and it consumed the sacrifice (1 Kings 18). When Israel left Egypt, the Shekinah Glory of God led them through the desert as a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21). In the New Testament, God sent His Holy Spirit to live inside of those who believe on Jesus. In the Upper Room, to signify this, there was a flame above each believer (Acts 2:3) telling them that the presence of God now lived in them. You and I have that same fiery presence of God living in us, consuming us. Just like a real fire, there is fuel we can add to keep it burning strong in us.

1 John 2:24 says, “So you must be sure to keep the message burning in your hearts; that is, the message of life you heard from the beginning. If you do, you will always be living in close fellowship with the Son and with the Father” (TPT). In Revelation 2, Jesus was upset with the Church at Ephesus because they left their first love, and He threatened to remove their fire from its place of influence unless they repented. We need to keep the flame burning in our hearts by keeping God’s Word fresh in our lives and keeping our love for Him strong. In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to fan the flame within you (2 Timothy 1:6). Return to the message of God that ignited your love for Him and keep it burning strong. We are called to be light in this dark world (Matthew 5:16) and it needs us the light of God in our lives to see.

Photo by Colter Olmstead on Unsplash

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Get In The Wheelbarrow

I like to tell people that you will always act on what you truly believe, especially when you’re under pressure. It’s easy to say you believe something, but the proof comes when stress is applied. There’s a story of a man named Charles Blonden who famously put out a tightrope across Niagara Falls. He crossed it several times using different methods like stilts, backwards, blindfolded, carrying a stove and cooking on it. One time he pushed a wheelbarrow across it. When he arrived on the other side, the crowd applauded. He then asked who believed he could push someone in that wheelbarrow across the tightrope. Everyone cheered agreeing that he could. He then asked for a volunteer from the cheering crowd. The crowd fell silent and no one volunteered. Later his manager Harry Colcord did ride across on his back.

It’s easy to say we believe something until we have to get I to the wheelbarrow. In the Old Testament, God asked Abraham to take his only son to the land of Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice (Genesis 22). This was a faith testing moment. God had already told him that through Isaac he would have many descendants. He took Isaac to the mountain anyway because He truly believed God. David’s faith was tested too. He had been anointed king, but God delayed in that promise. He had several opportunities to kill Saul, the current king, but he trusted God’s timing instead. Many opportunities presented themselves, but he passed on them all as he waited for God’s perfect timing.

Testing is part of God’s means of proving our faith just like He did for those in the Bible. If He tested them, He’ll test us. 1 Peter 1:7 says, “Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you will receive praise and glory and honor on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed” (GNT). Testing purifies and solidifies our faith. Don’t back down from what you believe when hard times come or when you’re called out on it. Get in the wheelbarrow and trust God to carry you across Niagara’s Falls. He’s proven time and time again He’s able to, but it’s up to us to trust Him enough to get in.

Thanks to Sandra Grünewald @elmuff for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

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A Credit To Christ

John Maxwell, one of the world’s leading experts on leadership, almost always brings up the importance of being intentional in your life through words and actions. He challenges people to make deliberate decisions daily to use their everyday life to bring about positive change in the lives of others. He encourages people to be in a relentless pursuit of a life of significance. One of the things he says is, “You are either a plus or a minus in your relationships. You are either adding value to people’s lives on a daily basis, and they can hardly wait to be around you, or you are subtracting and pulling value out of people.” I constantly think about that. I want to be a credit in people’s lives adding value to them.

I also take it a step further. Am I a credit to Christianity and the cause of Christ or am I subtracting from it? Do my words, my actions and my life point people to Jesus? I run everything I do through this lens from my social media posts to my conversations. Will it add value to what they think of Jesus or subtract? I think of Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. He was a credit to God, but his sons were not and that reflected on him. It didn’t take long before God removed all three from their priestly roles. God uses people who are intentional about how they represent Him and His name. If you call yourself a Christian, you bear His name and represent Him wherever you go. Are you a credit to His message by your actions?

In Philippians 1:27, Paul wrote, “Live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ” (MSG). He was asking them to think about how they were living in front of others and to contend for people’s trust in the Good News. People will decide whether they put their trust in God by how you live and act. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to be intentional, especially when things aren’t going your way. Can you still live out your faith when things are difficult, when God feels far away or when nothing is going your way? Faith is trusting when you can’t see. It’s easy to be a credit to the Gospel when everything is good. People really pay attention when your life is falling apart. Are you still trusting? Are you still living like you believe it? That’s being a credit to the Message of Christ.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

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Connecting With God

When I was 20 years old, I was on staff at a church. My boss wanted our team to read a book on Prayer and discuss it as we went. I had been raised in church all of my life, been to prayer meetings and prayed publicly often, but I had never been taught how to pray. A better way to say it is that I had never been given a model of prayer. I just winged it each time. I had a lot of passion, but it often lacked direction. In this book, and with our discussions, I was taught the ACTS model of praying. In this model, you start with adoration, then move into confession of sins. After that you give thanks for the things God has done in your life, and will do. Finally, you end with supplication for your needs and the needs of others. Before using that model, my prayer time had simply been supplications for what I needed at the moment. While that’s good, it’s not really communicating and connecting to God.

Prayer is not just an avenue to ask God for things. It’s a way to experience His presence, to hear His voice and to know He is God. It’s a way for us to take the focus off of our immediate needs and to put it on the One whose name is above every other name or need we have. Prayer is a two way conversation with God where we spend time in silence listening for His voice. It’s not about the method, the ritual or getting the words right. It’s about posturing our heart before God, humbling ourselves by recognizing there are things we cannot do, and only He can. God’s desire to walk with us daily has remained the same since the Garden of Eden. He desires a deep connection with you that’s only attained through one on one prayer and conversation. Quick prayers throughout the day are nice, but the intimacy that He desires with us in the relationship only happens when you spend quality time with Him.

Here are some Bible verses on prayer.

1. Confess and acknowledge how you have offended one another and then pray for one another to be instantly healed, for tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer!

James (Jacob) 5:16 TPT

2. With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people.

Ephesians 6:18 AMP

3. The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.

1 Timothy 2:1-3 MSG

4. For this reason I tell you: When you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it, and you will be given whatever you ask for.

Mark 11:24 GNT

5. Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

Matthew 6:6 MSG

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

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The Joy Of Contentment

When I travel to New Orleans, there’s a certain homeless person I like to say hello to. He always makes me smile and he never asks me for anything. He’ll say, “It ain’t gonna cost you nothing to come say hello. I ain’t gonna rob you!” I then walk over and say hello and he puts a smile on my face. Except on a recent trip he called me over and said, “You know I never ask for nothing, but could you go in there and buy me an orange juice and sandwich? I’m about to curl up on my cardboard and I’m hungry.”

When I handed him his dinner, he hugged me and thanked me. He then asked, “You know what I’d change about the world?” My mind began to think of any number of answers. No more homelessness. No more hunger. No more devaluing people. No more selfishness. But before I could decide on an answer, he grabbed my shoulder, looked up at the sky, smiled a big toothless grin, and said, “Absolutely nothing!” He laughed, thanked me again and walked away.

I thought about his answer as I walked back to my hotel. Here’s a man, for whatever reason, is sleeping on a cardboard mat on the streets of downtown New Orleans and is exposed to the elements constantly, and he wouldn’t change a thing. Even though he has absolutely nothing to his name, he has found a way to be content. He’s learned to choose joy instead of bitterness over his situation. It’s a lesson we all could learn.

Paul learned that secret and told us about it in Philippians 4:12. He said, “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). That secret is choosing the joy of contentment with where God has you. That joy gives us the strength to endure whatever comes our way. It takes us from being a victim of life to a victor over our situation. Don’t try to change your world. Change your attitude. The next verse tells us we can. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Photo by Ev 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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Protect Yourself

In today’s world, everything is politicized which makes each of us feel like we have to be on one side or the other. When we choose a side in any issue, we feel we are right, which means anyone who doesn’t agree with the way we think is wrong. When we think someone is wrong about any issue we are passionate about, they become our enemy. When they become our enemy, we lose the love we’re supposed to have for them and can begin to care less if they make it to Heaven. This is a real struggle that many of us are going through in this day and age, and I believe it’s a strategy of the devil to keep us from winning souls. He has us more concerned with causes, politics and ways of thinking than with eternity. While these topics are important, we must make sure we’re not falling victim to our enemy’s deceit.

Ephesians 6:11-12 says, “Put on God’s complete set of armor provided for us, so that you will be protected as you fight against the evil strategies of the accuser! Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms. For they are a powerful class of demon-gods and evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage” (TPT). You and I are entrenched in a spiritual war right now whether we like it or not. The enemy’s strategy right now is to get us to think our fight is against other humans who don’t think like we do. If he can distract us with that, then he can keep us from the Great Commission. When we think our struggle is with people, we direct our attacks on them. We need to put on God’s Armor each day to help us think and see people, issues and battles the way God wants us to.

Jesus showed us a different way when He said, “However, 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 (Matthew 5:44).” When we put on God’s Armor, we will love our enemies rather than hate them or despise them. In fact, we are to pray for them and bless them. Remember it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). The next time you feel attacked or feel like someone is your enemy, remember to put on God’s Armor, ask Him to help you love them like He does and then turn your attack on our real enemy who knows that a house divided can’t stand (Mark 3:25). Our enemy has a strategy, but so does God. We need to make sure we are aligned with God’s and are not falling for our enemy’s.

Photo by Hugo L. Casanova on Unsplash

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Water Into Wine

A few years ago I was able to visit Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine (John 2). In the church there, they have a giant stone jar similar to what would have been used in that day. They hold about 20 gallons of water. Our guide, who was a Jewish rabbi, told us that it was important that these jars were made of stone because if it had been any other material, the wine would have been ritually unclean for the Jews attending the wedding. The day before, we had been to Nazareth and heard that the word carpenter didn’t just mean He worked with wood as it does today. Back then, it could have also meant He worked with stone. As I have thought about these two things, my mind can’t help but go to 1 Peter 2:5 where we are called “living stones”. I believe that Jesus’ first miracle was a representation of what He wants to do in us. He wants to supernaturally transform our lives on the inside.

Ephesians 4:23-24 says, “Now it’s time to be made new by every revelation that’s been given to you. And to be transformed as you embrace the glorious Christ-within as your new life and live in union with him! For God has re-created you all over again in his perfect righteousness, and you now belong to him in the realm of true holiness” (TPT). When we embrace Christ within us, the transformation happens just like the water was turned to wine when the servants embraced what Jesus said by taking a pitcher of the water from the stones to the master of ceremonies. The inward transformation takes place instantly when we receive Christ. Becoming a new creation is a process for most of us. People may see our rough, stoney exterior still, but God is changing that too starting from the inside out.

Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you]” (AMP). Your life is being progressively changed through Christ. If God’s still working on you helping your outside to match what’s inside, you’re not alone. We’re all being made new day by day as we embrace what God has done in us and allow Him to transform us from the inside out. Jesus has turned your water into wine. Now let Him, as the stone carpenter, continue to transform you into who He created you to be.

Photo by Jasper Oversteyns on Unsplash

These stone jars from Cana held about 20 gallons

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Studying The Textbook

When I was in school, I tried to get the best grade with the least amount of effort. I developed a system where I didn’t have to truly study for tests. I took notes in class on what the professor said. The day before the test, I simply read my notes and got a good grade. It worked so well that I quit buying textbooks at college and saved a ton. Then i had one professor who lectured and lectured every class, but when the test came, none of what he lectured was on it. I asked him where the material came from on the test, he simply replied, “From the textbook. Haven’t you been doing the daily readings?” I had a choice to make, I could drop the class and lose that money or I could buy the textbook and read. That was one of the few textbooks i bought.

There’s a lot of people who approach Christianity the way I did college. They show up for a Sunday lecture, but never open the textbook between Sunday’s. I’ve tried that too and it doesn’t work. You can never know if what’s being taught is true or not unless you know what the Bible says. In Acts 17, Paul and Silas were preaching in Berea. Their message was intriguing, but different than they had ever heard. They didn’t just accept it because they were good speakers or spoke with authority. Verse 11 says, “And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth” (NLT).

As believers, you and I must learn to search and study the Scriptures ourselves. Then use the tools that are available today to understand the context of them. After that we must meditate on them and learn how to apply them to our lives. Hearing and reading other people’s interpretation of them is good, but nothing replaces your study of the Scripture. Psalm 119:27 says, “Help me understand the meaning of your commandments, and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds.” If you struggle to understand the Bible, ask God to reveal it to you in a way you can understand. God doesn’t want you to be in the dark about what He says. Remember it is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Psalm 119:105), and you are to hide it in your heart to keep you from sin (Psalm 119:11). God gave us this textbook to help us. Make sure you read it.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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Never Forget

I love days like today. All across social media there will be posts remembering the attacks of September 11. People I’ll tell you that they remember where they were, how the felt and what they thought. After the attacks, you began to see people write, “Never forget.” Were nearly 20 years removed from that day, and here we are holding true to that promise to remember the lives lost, the nation coming together and how we pushed through. That’s why we want to remember isn’t it? We need to remind ourselves that we can make it through anything that comes our way. We did it in the past, so we can still do it today. It’s good to remember days like September 11th, but it’s also good to remember the things of God.

All throughout Scripture, we are told to remember things. The Israelites put up 12 stones where they crossed the Jordan River to remember the Lord’s goodness and how He brought them out of Egypt. They never wanted to forget and they wanted to let their kids know too. When we forget what God has done, we begin to devalue the role He plays in our lives. I recommend creating something to help you remember what He brought you out of, delivered you from or healed you of. Our minds tend to forget things unless we keep remembering them. When we bring things back up, it tells the brain this is important so it stores it where you can access it. As you you remember September 11th today, take time to remember what God has done for you too. He’s been faithful in the past, and He will be faithful in the future.

Here are some Bible verses on remembering.

1. Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him. Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given.

1 Chronicles 16:11-12 NLT

2. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate and thoughtfully focus on You in the night watches, For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings [where I am always protected] I sing for joy.

Psalms 63:6-7 AMP

3. Remember to stay alert and hold firmly to all that you believe. Be mighty and full of courage. Let love and kindness be the motivation behind all that you do.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 TPT

4. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way.

Proverbs 3:5-6 GNT

5. I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember— the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

GOD ’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.

Lamentations 3:19-24 MSG

Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash

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Selfless Love

Several years ago, I took my first trip to Haiti with coreluv.org. One of the things we did was to go to a very poor part of town to feed some children whose parents didn’t have enough money to feed them. I’ll never forget this little girl who couldn’t have been more than five years old. She had her baby brother with her who was around a year old. She took her food and began to feed him. This plate, with a small mixture of rice, beans, and pasta, was all she would get to eat until the next day. Instead of scarfing it down, she took care of her baby brother first.

I have worked with kids my whole life, and I can’t think of any other kid who acted so selflessly. Her mom wasn’t standing there telling her what to do. She did it out of love while starving. I was broken in that moment. I grabbed another plate, put a couple of spoons of rice on it, and grabbed her brother to feed him so she could eat as much as she wanted. After her brother ate, he fell asleep in my arms, and I began to reflect on what I witnessed.

In Philippians 2, Paul starts out asking if God’s love has made a difference in our lives. He then says, in verses 3-4, that if it has, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (NLT). This little girl in Haiti exemplified who we are supposed to be as Christians.

If you and I could act as selflessly as this little girl, the world would stop and take notice. I’ve read many stories where Christians have acted selflessly and won entire villages and towns to Christ. If we are going to be called by His name, we should be trying to have His attitude in our lives. Do something today that puts someone else’s needs above your own. Bless them selflessly, putting their needs ahead of yours, and then tell them God loves them. We become more like Jesus one selfless act of love at a time.

Me with the baby boy as he fell asleep

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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