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Love In Action

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Abandoned

To abandon someone is to quit supporting them or to give up on them. If you’ve ever been through some of life’s toughest circumstances, you know what it’s like to be abandoned by some of your family or friends. You find out that there are people in your life that you can count on, and there are people that you can’t. When you’re looking for advice, a place to regroup, or just a shelter from the storm, some people that you seek out will abandon you. Some of the ones who you thought would support you through thick and thin give up on you.

David was a person who knew a thing or two about being abandoned. He was forgotten by his father, disrespected by his brothers, shamed by his wife, chased by the king, and dishonored by his son. The people in his life that he should have been able to count on, turned their backs on him at some point in his life. He knew a thing or two about rock bottom. He looked for those he could count on in times of trouble.

In all of his searching, there was one who never abandoned him: God. David wasn’t a perfect man either. He cheated on his wife, had a man murdered, and did some unthinkable things. Yet when he sought after God, he knew that no matter what he had done, God would not abandon him. He knew that there was nothing he had done that God couldn’t or wouldn’t forgive. When others gave up on him, God never did. In fact, God said he was a man after His own heart.

You may have walked David’s shoes. Maybe you’ve been abandoned by those who love you or you’ve abandoned the things you know are right. Either way, if you will seek God, He won’t abandon you. Psalm 9:10 says, “Those who know you, Lord, will trust you; you do not abandon anyone who comes to you” (GNT). It doesn’t matter what’s been done to you or what you’ve done to others, you can find shelter, hope, and forgiveness in God when you seek Him out.

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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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Internalizing God’s Word

Several years ago I had a boss that I didn’t see eye to eye with. They had their way of doing things and I had mine, but they had a “my way or the highway” mentality. They thought their way was the best way to do the job. I voiced my disagreement and explained why my way was better. They listened politely then told me to do it their way. At that point, I developed a forced compliance mentality. I would do the job my way, unless they came around. Sometimes I would do it their way out of spite, but over emphasize certain aspects of it and say, “This is what you said you wanted.” It didn’t create a good relationship. I kept thinking my way was better the whole time and never truly gave their way a chance. We were both miserable the whole time I worked for them.

Sometimes we approach Christianity that way. We read God’s Word and disagree with how it tells us to live. We think we have a better way so we live one way on Sunday when we think God is watching, and live a completely different way the rest of the week. We argue with pastors and teachers about what God really meant or we look for someone online who will agree with us. We simply want the benefits of Christianity without changing how we live. Jesus described this mentality in Luke 6:46-47 when He said, “Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on” (MSG). Jesus isn’t offering good morals to live by. He’s offering a different way to live completely and a compliance mindset won’t work.

Instead, we need to truly internalize His words if we’re going to integrate them into our lives and change how we live. They have to move from our head to our heart. Jesus continued in verses 48-49, “If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.” We can’t just pick and choose what we believe in the Bible or just talk about Christianity. To internalize His words, read them asking Him to help you understand how to apply them. Meditate on them to think deeply about them so you can work them into your life. Christianity isn’t a list of rules to follow, it’s a way of life to live.

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Fulfilling Your Destiny

I’m often asked to speak to groups to help people understand how they’re wired. Each of us have certain personality types that help us to fulfilled in our work and life. When we’re not operating or working in areas that are compatible with how we were wired by God, we feel out of place, stressed or unfulfilled. What I like to do is help people find their God given wiring so they can understand what’s going on inside of them. Once they understand that, they can find work that’s fulfilling and get plugged into serving in God’s Kingdom in a capacity that makes the greatest difference. Each of us were created by God on purpose and with a purpose. That means there’s a position in God’s Kingdom that only you can fill, and if you don’t do it, it won’t get done. You are called by God to be a Kingdom builder. Sitting on the sidelines thinking God’s calling is only for ministers is not an option.

Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations— that’s what I had in mind for you” (MSG). God was speaking to Jeremiah, but He was also demonstrating that He knows each one of us and has plans for us from before we were born. To reiterate it, Psalm 139:16 says, “Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” God prepared you with a purpose to make a difference at each stage of your life. We can’t sit back and wait for the next stage. There’s something He has for you to do even now! You were created for such a time as this.

Finally, Ephesians 2:10 says, “Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!” (TPT). You have a destiny, a mission, a calling and a purpose that God created you for. You are not an accident. You have a divine purpose to make a difference in the lives you’ve been planted in. It’s not the responsibility of someone who is more spiritual, better equipped or more qualified. You can’t get more qualified than being designed by God from before you were born to fulfill your purpose. Your specific wiring and personality uniquely qualifies you to do the good works God created you for. Our world needs you to fulfill God’s plan for your life. You won’t feel fulfilled until you are moving in your purpose and doing what you were created for. Go make a difference today wherever God has you. There’s someone needing what only you can offer.

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Living In Harmony

When I was in school, there was a game that schools were teaching kids called “Lifeboat”. Basically you were the captain of a ship that was at sea and it was going down. There was one lifeboat, but there wasn’t enough room for everyone. They gave you a rundown on everyone on board. Some were young, some were old, some had questionable past, some had noble professions, some had medical conditions, some were addicts, etc. You were then to choose to see how your morals or values guided you. My parents, and a lot of Christians were against this type of education and wanted us to respect all people and value their life. I don’t remember the game lasting very long in schools, but I do remember them reiterating the Golden Rule of treating others the way you want to be treated.

Both the Old and New Testaments teach us to love our enemies and to treat them well. The word enemy here is someone who is hostile toward you or who opposes you. That can be tough to do. Usually if someone is hostile toward me, my first reaction is to attack them back or go on the defensive. I’ve always tried to keep Proverbs 15:1 in mind when someone is angry at me, and give them a soft answer. Another thing I try to do to de-escalate the situation is to try to understand their side and point of view by asking questions gently. Most people simply want to be heard and understood. They feel like attacking or yelling is the way to do that. Our response has the ability to add gasoline to that raging fire or water.

Finally, if all else fails, value them and their life. Remember that they were made in the image of God as much as you were. 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). When we argue our points by devaluing someone else and their points. It’s like tossing them overboard in the game of Lifeboat. It’s telling them that they don’t matter and you and your points are worth more than theirs. As believers, we must learn how to live in harmony across denominational, racial, ethnical and personal belief lines. We must value each other as brothers and sisters in Christ even though we may not see eye to eye. We are not each other’s enemy, and our battle is not against flesh and blood. Each of us have the same worth to God and He paid the same price for their sin as He did for yours. When we learn to value others as ourselves, we create an ability to live in harmony.

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Truth > Facts

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Part Of God’s Heart

I was chatting with a friend at church recently. We were talking about the need for satellite churches around the city. As we were discussing locations that would be good, he brought up a certain area of town. He broke down and began to cry. He said, “We’ve got to get in there and take the Gospel to the people who live there.” I could tell his heart was breaking for that demographic. I believe God has given this man that burden and that’s why it bothered Him so much that there were so few churches in that area trying to reach them. His passion touched me, and it got me to thinking about the importance of anguish in a Christian’s life.

Several years ago, David Wilkerson preached a sermon called, “A Call to Anguish”. It’s one of those sermons I’ve listened to many times because it fires me up. In it, he says, “Anguish means extreme pain and distress. The emotions so stirred that it becomes painful. Acute deeply felt inner pain because of conditions about you, in you, or around you. Deep pain. Deep sorrow. The agony of God’s heart.“ That’s what was going on in my friend, and to be honest, I was a little jealous because I wanted to feel God’s anguish like that.

In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah wanted a son. Every day she was reminded of her barrenness. God put it in her heart to have a child so she went to the Tabernacle to pray. Verse 10 says, “Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord” (NLT). I believe her anguish was born in her heart by God. I believe it’s something every one of us need. If you’re not feeling God’s anguish today for a brokenness in the world, ask God to share part of His heart with you. It’s time we wept in anguish for the things that break God’s heart so we can do something about it.

Take five minutes today to listen to these excerpts from David Wilkerson’s sermon “A Call to Anguish” and ask God to share part of His heart with you.

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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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Winning The Culture War Within

When I lived in Egypt, there were no set prices on anything. You could go to the fruit and vegetable stand to buy food, and even though there were prices on everything, you would still have to have a cup of tea and argue how much you would pay for each item. I loved it! Buying groceries would take all day because we didn’t have a grocery store. We had a canned and boxed goods store, a fruit and vegetable one, a meat market and so one. I’d travel all around and negotiate prices of every item even though they were listed. When I returned to the US, I still had that mentality because I had adopted that culture. I went to the mall with my brother, and in stores like Macy’s they would ring me up and say, “That’ll be $42.37.” Without thinking, I’d pop back, “I’ll give you $30.” My brother was embarrassed because I had the Egyptian culture in the US. It took a couple of weeks, but I assimilated back into this culture.

As Christians, we are constantly at war with our flesh and it’s desire to adapt to the culture of the world. We are told to be in the world and not of it. That’s a hard thing to do since we live every day in its culture. Our spirit is constantly at war with the world and it’s customs. We were called to live differently and to stand out, not to blend in. Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking” (MSG). Sadly, we all succumb to this culture from time to time because it’s constantly at war with us and human nature likes to blend in. However, if we continue to live like the world and it doesn’t bother us, we may have accepted Jesus with our mind instead of our heart. His Spirit is constantly drawing us to be set apart and live His way, which is at odds with the world’s culture.

The good news is that you and I have His Spirit in us to guide us and to give us victory in how we live. 1 John 5:4 says, “For everyone born of God is victorious and overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has conquered and overcome the world—our [continuing, persistent] faith [in Jesus the Son of God]” (AMP). I love that he said, “Everyone born of God is victorious.” You are included in “everyone”. You can be, and should be, victorious in this culture war by continuing to be persistent in your faith. Remember that Jesus transforms us from the inside out through our mind (our way of thinking) and our spirit (our way of living). If you’re feeling defeated today or too well adjusted to this culture, take heart. In John 16:33, Jesus told us that He has overcome this world and its culture giving us the victory.

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Purposing To Trust

In February of 1998, my mom went into the hospital with some crazy symptoms. She thought it was a reaction to the chemo, but it wasn’t. The cancer had spread. On March 1st, she slipped into a coma of sorts. After a week or two of that, they took us into a side room to let us know they were sending her home and hospice would be assisting us for her final days. Our heads were spinning. We had fasted and prayed for healing, and it looked like our prayers were going unanswered. After the doctor left the room, we stayed behind still in shock. My dad spoke up and said, “We will keep believing and praying for a miracle, but be prepared in case He doesn’t answer the way we want Him to. I want each of you to purpose in your heart right now that you won’t be bitter at God if He chooses not to heal her.” She passed away on April 17th that year. Even though it hurt, because we had purposed in our hearts beforehand, we remained faithful to God.

The Early Church believers suffered more than most throughout the centuries of the Church. Each of the 12 disciples were martyred for their faith. Rome fed Christians to the lions for public sport. Nero used the heads of Christians as torches throughout the city. Yet somehow, these believers stayed faithful to God and encouraged each other with words of faith. The New Testament is full of Paul’s letters to these believers facing these issues. Many of them were written from jail. I’m sure that fear was doing its best to silence believers and to question their faith. However, because of their determination and they purposed in their hearts to follow God no matter what, our spiritual ancestors endured, stayed faithful and passed down a heritage of rock solid faith to you and I.

Psalms 116:10-11 says, “Even when it seems I’m surrounded by many liars and my own fears, and though I’m hurting in my suffering and trauma, I still stay faithful to God and speak words of faith” (TPT). This is the determination that each of us must make in our hearts. Our faith can not be dependent on our circumstances. Our trust in God’s goodness cannot be eroded by prayers that aren’t answered the way we think they should. Our suffering and trauma is not a reflection of His love. It’s a result of sin in the world. We must determine in our hearts and minds that no matter what happens in this life, we will stay faithful to Him. We will still speak in faith. We will still trust in Him. Even when things are happening here that we don’t like or understand, God has a plan and is able to work it out for our good. Don’t stop trusting in Him during the hard times. This earth and these sufferings are only temporary.

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Having Your Reigns Pulled

If you’ve ever ridden a horse, you know they’re fairly easy to control with the reigns. A slight tug on the right makes them go right. A slight tug on the left and they go left. Pull your feet into their side just a little and off you go. I used to ride horses in the Sahara Desert near the Saqqara pyramid in Egypt. This horse was fast and fun to ride. I’d ride her over dunes and through small valleys, up and over as fast as she could go. All was good until I went over one dune and she could see the pyramid. Immediately, she would go into memory mode and start walking toward the pyramid. No matter how hard I pulled the reigns, she wouldn’t turn. I would have to dismount, cover her eyes and lead her to where she couldn’t see them so I could ride some more.

You’re probably familiar with the story of Jonah and the whale. He was told by God to go to Nineveh and preach, but he didn’t want to go. Instead he boarded a ship and went the other direction. A bad storm came to try to get him to change directions, but he stayed the course. The storm got worse to the point they started throwing things overboard as God tugged on Jonah’s reigns. Finally he admitted he was the culprit and asked to be tossed overboard. He’d rather die than to go to Nineveh. God prepared a great fish to swallow him until He could lead Jonah to where He wanted him to go. Even there, Jonah had to have his reigns pulled a few times and even felt some spurs to the side to encourage him to move. We like to point at Jonah without looking at how we disobey God’s leading, but God has to pull on our reigns too.

God has a plan for you and for me. We were created with purpose, and God is constantly revealing it to us if we’re looking and listening. He’s constantly pulling on our reigns to keep us on track. In Psalm 32:9, God says, “Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule that needs bit and bridle to stay on track” (MSG). We get distracted like my horse in Egypt and become fixated on things of the flesh rather than the tasks God has for us. God pulls and pulls on us to go where He’s trying to lead, He will do whatever it takes to get our attention (just ask Jonah). You’re probably not in danger of being swallowed by a fish, but thankfully God will use people and things to guide us back to our purpose. Take it from me as someone who’s had their reigns pulled a few times, it’s better to obey and to stay on track. Follow the tugging of the Holy Spirit today and go where He leads.

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