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Active Duty

When God spoke to us about changing churches, we weren’t happy about it. At the new church we would come in late and leave early to avoid connecting with people. We did this for about nine months. Then the pastor reached out and wanted to go to lunch. At the lunch, he said, “I want you to know that I know you’re in our church. If you’re here to heal and want to move on, that’s fine. If you’re only here temporarily and want to move to another church, I can help you find one. If you’re going to stay here, let me know when you’re ready to get engaged. Whatever you and God decide, I’ll support.”

It was very impactful for me because he wasn’t just acknowledging I was there. He was calling me off of the sidelines and telling me that wherever I went I was going to have to get active again. When I was ready to get active again, I let him know. He had me meet with the executive pastor to see where I would fit best. He said, “We have a lot of places we could plug you into, but we want to find the right fit for you.” We met several times before finding a place. They were putting 1 Thessalonians 5:14 into practice.

It says, “We appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, to instruct those who are not in their place of battle. Be skilled at gently encouraging those who feel themselves inadequate. Be faithful to stand your ground. Help the weak to stand again. Be quick to demonstrate patience with everyone” (TPT). Each of us have a place on the battlefield with a job to do. At times, every one of us will feel inadequate and we need help standing. If you’re there now, surround yourself with those who will help you. If you see someone else in that place, reach out and help them. We are to help each other reach our potential and to do our part in the Kingdom work.

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Forgiving One Another

Several years ago I reconnected with a person that went to my high school. I watched silently as they posted pictures of the ministry they were doing. Inside, i would think, “What’s their game? Who are they trying to fool?” I had seen this person play the part of a Christian, but could tell they were faking it. Fast forward twenty years later and I felt like they were still faking it. I watched them for almost a year as they kept updating about their ministry. Each time it would burn me up. One day as I was stewing over it, the Lord spoke to me and said, “Why are you holding their past against them? Do I do that to you?”

I can tell you that was an humbling experience. God reminded me that as a person, I only look at the outside of a person, but He looks on the inside to see the true intent. I finally reached out to this person and found out that God changed their life in college. After they shared their testimony, I confessed how I had felt and what God spoke to me. From that point, I began to look for ways to partner with them in the ministry they were doing. Once I forgave them for their past, I was free for God to use me as well.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “But instead be kind and affectionate toward one another. Has God graciously forgiven you? Then graciously forgive one another in the depths of Christ’s love” (TPT). Many of us are guilty of holding something against someone because of something they’ve done in the past. As believers, we must forgive them or we withhold our own forgiveness. If the depths of Christ’s love can cover any sin, we too must learn to forgive in the same manner. Who knows what our unforgiveness is keeping us from? Even if the relationship isn’t reconciled, forgiveness is our path forward in Christ.

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Actions Matter

When you read the New Testament, you find that it talks a lot about how we should live. It describes in detail how your life and actions should be different once you accept Christ into your heart. It’s very clear that we are not saved by those actions, but they should be the fruit of a life that has been changed from the inside out. In other words, our actions should line up with what we profess to believe. The Bible is very clear that there should be a distinction between how we live, act and speak as Christians and those who aren’t.

Just like an apple tree can’t produce oranges, our lives should produce the fruit of the Spirit instead of the fruits of the flesh. You’ve heard the saying that actions speak louder than words. Are your actions confessing Jesus louder than your words? Our faith should be seen through our actions. I love the quote, “Preach at all times. Use words when necessary.” It reminds me that my actions matter because that’s what other people see. Our goal should be that the fruit of our actions points people to Jesus.

Here are some Bible verses on the importance of our actions.

1. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

Matthew 7:20 NLT

2. My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.

1 John 3:18 GNT

3. So now it’s clear that a person is seen as righteous in God’s eyes not merely by faith alone, but by his works.

James (Jacob) 2:24 TPT

4. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!

Psalms 119:5 NLT

5. For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live.

Romans 8:13 GNT

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Grab Your Sword

Have you ever been so angry with someone you sat there and plotted ways to pay them back? I have. I’ve plotted ways where I wouldn’t get caught, ways that would hurt them worse than they hurt me and ways where they would know to never do something to me again. I used to say, “I don’t get even, I get ahead!” It’s crazy how clouded our mind gets when we’ve been hurt by someone. Reason goes out the window and we have a laser focus (tunnel vision) on hurting them back. We don’t care who gets caught in the wake as long as that person suffers.

I know I can’t be the only one who has ever felt this way. Maybe you’ve experienced it too. I know David did in 1 Samuel 25. He had protected a man’s property while running from Saul and living in the wilderness. He was hungry so he sent servants to ask for food as repayment. The man whose property he protected replied, “Do you think I’m going to take good bread and wine and meat freshly butchered for my sheep shearers and give it to men I’ve never laid eyes on?” David took that as a slap in the face for all he had done for him. Without hesitation, David said, “Get your swords!”

His first instinct was to repay this man evil for evil. Eye for an eye. Tit for tat. His anger blinded him. He got 400 of his strongest men and headed for that man. If he wasn’t going to give it freely, David was going to kill him and take it. We act the same way when we’re angry. Only around here, we don’t say, “Get your swords,” we say, “Grab your gun!” Violence seems to be our answer when someone has made us mad. We hit a wall, stomp our feet into the ground, punch something, scream out loud and display our displeasure any way we can. We want people to know we’re really mad.

That’s opposite of what God wants us to do. God says, in Deuteronomy 32:35, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will over take them.” The problem is we want them to have pay back now. We want to be the ones delivering it, but that’s not God’s way. That’s not God’s timing. In the New Testament, God reaffirms this message through Paul. Romans 12:17-18 says, “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”

God doesn’t want us grabbing our swords (or guns) to pay back what someone did to us. He wants us to calm down, breathe and trust that He will handle it “in due time.” Proverbs 22:1 says that a good reputation is more important than riches. We lose our reputation when we go around paying people back. In turn, we tarnish God’s name. By the way, that man’s wife stopped David from killing her husband and everyone else. The next day, the man had a stroke and died. Instead of having murder on his hands, he maintained a pure heart before God. Instead of reaching for your sword next time someone hurts you, reach for patience instead. Let God have it.

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Throwback Thursday is a new 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.

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Finding Grace

When I was around seven or eight, I did something that upset my mom. She told me that when my dad came home from work he was going to punish me. She then sent me to my room to wait. After I got in there, I began to think of the punishment I was going to get. I thought about hiding. It seemed like the best plan until I thought about escaping through the window. I then realized that would make it worse. Finally, I decided to put on every pair of underwear I had and some baggy pants. As I waited, all I could think about was the punishment. To be honest, I don’t remember the punishment that day. I just remember the build up and fear.

When you and I sin, we often act like that. It’s the Adam and Eve approach to sin. We feel bad for what we’ve done, and more than anything, we’re embarrassed. It’s obvious God knows about it, but for whatever reason, going to Him seems like a far fetched idea. To be forgiven freely doesn’t feel right, so we wallow in our shame for a bit. It’s like we feel the need to punish ourselves over our sins. The truth is that God doesn’t want us to hide from Him in those moments. He wants us to come to Him right away for the grace He gives.

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it” (GNT). The verse before says that Jesus understands our weaknesses and sympathizes with us. He didn’t come into the world to condemn us, but that through Him we would find grace when we need it most. He is merciful, and too often we forget that. There’s no reason to hide from Him because of what you’ve done. He knows about it and loves you still. Approach His throne today, get the grace you need and lose your shame.

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Developing Your Spiritual Gifts

Every one of us have things we are naturally gifted at and things we are not so good at. In today’s world, we have been spreading the lie to people that they can be anything they want to be. If you are not built a certain way or have superior skills, you will never be a professional athlete no matter how much you want to be one. Instead, i recommend that you look at the what has been given to you, develop those skills and use them for in a field where they can bloom. We get the biggest bang for our buck when we develop what we are gifted with rather than what we’re not gifted with.

Romans 12:6 says, “God’s marvelous grace imparts to each one of us varying gifts and ministries that are uniquely ours” (TPT). That means that not only are you naturally gifted, you are spiritually gifted as well. God designed each one of us to fit perfectly into His plan so He gave us spiritual gifts to use for His purposes. The problem is that many of us don’t use or develop the gifting that God has given us. They often lie dormant inside of us and we miss our holy calling going through life unfulfilled.

When Paul was writing his last letter, he started it off by saying, “I’m writing to encourage you to fan into a flame and rekindle the fire of the spiritual gift God imparted to you when I laid my hands upon you.” He was talking to Timothy, but it was to each of us. The word he used for rekindle means to develop the gift. It’s up to you and I to first know and understand the gifts God has given us, then to develop them so we can maximize our potential. Because you have a unique gift, you have a unique calling. While you can do a lot of things on this earth, you won’t be completely fulfilled until you activate your gifts and operate in them.

If you’ve never taken a Spiritual Giftings assessment, try this one to see what gifts God has given you. Click here.

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Applying God’s Word

Every once in a while, I’ll see an equation pop up that looks something like 6-1×0+2/2=? for people to solve. I like to read the comments to see the heated exchanges of what people think the answer is. You can’t simply work this from left to right. You have to use the acronym PEMDAS (parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition then subtraction) to do it. You can try any number of methods and come up with a lot of different answers, but only one answer is right. The only way to get it is to remember the acronym, “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally,” and apply it.

Every one of us have problems that show up in our lives. Whether they are complicated or easy, we must approach them through the lens of Scripture. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made things worse by trying to do it my way instead of God’s. The Bible gives us principles on how to live, how to handle your finances, how to treat others, how to act in a relationship and so much more. If we would apply those principles, we would be more successful in each of them.

2 Timothy 3:14 says, “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught” (NLT). Paul was reminding Timothy that it’s not enough to know the right way to do things. You must faithfully apply them. If you’re struggling in an area today, or going through a problem, I want to encourage you to see what God’s Word says about it. Take His Word and faithfully apply it to your situation. You’ll find that it is good for teaching us what is true, showing us what needs to be corrected in our lives and for training us in righteousness (verse 16).

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