Tag Archives: Devotional

The Gift Of Restoration

As we celebrate Christmas and follow our family traditions, it’s important to pause and remember that night in Bethlehem. Jesus’ birth was God’s answer to restore a fallen world. Since the Garden of Eden, God had promised that a woman would give birth to a child that would bruise the serpent’s head. This child was sent as a sign of God’s love for us. His goal was not to condemn us or to point out our failures. Rather He came to fulfill the part of our covenant with God that we are unable to keep. This incredible gift of restoration is worth celebrating every day, not just on Christmas.

Here are some Bible verses that show God’s plan for restoration..

1. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

Romans 3:23 NLT

2. Well then, the Lord himself will give you a sign: a young woman who is pregnant will have a son and will name him ‘Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 GNT

3. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matthew 1:21 NLT

4. For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 NLT

5. For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior.

John 3:16-17 GNT

Merry Christmas!

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Protecting Our Relationship With God

I get the opportunity to talk to different people all the time. Inevitably someone wants to ask me relationship questions. I’m not a trained counselor or anything like that, but as I listen to these stories, there’s a constant thread through all of them. The problems they’re experiencing are a result of a lot of little things that have crept in and gone unchecked. Also, they haven’t done things to protect the relationship. When that happens, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back ends up happening and it gets the blame. The truth is it was several small, basic things that added up.

Just like any relationship, we have to make sure that we do the small, basic things in our relationship with Christ. We need to set parameters and protect it. We live in a connected world where everything seems to be vying for your attention. If we allow little things to distract us and keep us from praying or reading our Bible or going to church, it will become difficult to have that relationship that God wants to have with us. We must protect that time. We must make it sacred so that nothing and no one comes between us and God.

I’m reading the Book of Song of Songs (Solomon) in the Passion translation. They’ve taken it and put in red letters the parts that are allegorically from God. Chapter 2:15 says this to us from God, “You must catch the troubling foxes, those sly little foxes that hinder our relationship. For they raid our budding vineyard of love to ruin what I’ve planted within you. Will you catch them and remove them for me? We will do it together” (TPT). God is asking us to protect our relationship with Him. I also love that just like any other relationship, it’s not just one side’s responsibility. We need to work together with God to remove the obstacles in our relationship so it can grow.

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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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Doing Your Work

Several years ago I worked in early childhood education. One of the first things I learned (and had to keep learning) was to never do for a child what a child can do for themselves. I like things to move along quickly. Watching a child do a task they were new at was painstakingly slow. It was a lot quicker for me to step in and do it for them, but in doing so, I was robbing them of increasing their ability to do the task. I had to learn to coach them through the process rather than to just sit back and watch them struggle. Some kids wanted me to do everything, liked the help, some ignored me and others insisted they didn’t want my input. Ultimately i embraced my role to empower them.

As Christians we’re not much different than the kids I used to work with. We’re slow moving on the tasks God asks us to do. When He sends help, we may push back because of our pride. Many times we just want God to do all the hard work while we sit back and enjoy the fruits of His labor. There are also times where we simply ignore what He’s asking us to do. He write it off telling ourselves that the voice isn’t God. Ultimately we need God’s help in completing and fulfilling our purpose. He gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us and to help us as we accomplish His will.

Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure” (AMP). One of the notes in my Bible for this verse says that while God supports us, it is our responsibility to do the work He called us to. No one else is going to do what you’re called to do. It is your part to play in the story God is writing. He’s there to guide, help and support you through it, but He’s not going to do for you what you can do and are called to do. Listen for His voice as He guides you, strengthens and energized you to fulfill His purposes for your life.

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Strength Training

I’m not a person who goes to the gym a lot, but I’ve got plenty of friends who do. I know some people who enter into body building competitions as well. It turns out that there’s a difference between muscle building and strength training. I always assumed very muscular people were super strong, but strength isn’t what they’re going for. Muscle building works to induce bulging muscles and increase muscle size. However, in strength training you’re trying to increase the functionality of your muscles. I love the idea of that. It’s not just about looks, but ability. Many people who go to the gym hope to get toned, but what they need to be doing is strength training instead.

Consider that understanding as we look at Ephesians 6:10. Paul wrote, “Finally, build up your strength in union with the Lord and by means of his mighty power” (GNT). Paul didn’t ask us to build up our spiritual muscles so we look good. He told us to build up our strength so we can have endurance and increased functionality in the Body of Christ. So many of us spend so much effort trying to look good by doing things that get noticed, but that’s the equivalent of body building. We need to be in strength training instead ready to fight spiritual battles, to carry other believers who need help and to endure hardships. Spiritual strength is what we need most.

Just like someone who is in physical strength training, spiritual strength training requires consistency. You must consistently pray, read the Bible and apply God’s principles to your life. Stepping out in faith in areas where God leads you is another way. You gain strength when you keep trusting in God during difficult times when your mind and others tell you that you should be cursing Him instead. You must push yourself beyond your current abilities and situations to the point it challenges you. Until you do that consistently, you’re not building your strength. If we’re not willing to stretch our faith through application of God’s principles, it’s no different than going to the gym, sitting on the equipment and never using it. You can know how to do it, but you only build your strength when you actually apply what you know.

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Kindness Matters

There was a single lady named Anna Schoiberin who got pregnant and gave birth to a boy named Josef in the late 1700’s. The man who got her pregnant was a mercenary soldier. He took off and abandoned them leaving them with the shame. The town’s executioner agreed to be the boy’s godfather. That didn’t help their reputation. After a couple of years, she couldn’t afford to live and support them both, so she decided to give up her son. The local church decided to take him in because no one else would. They noticed he had a proclivity towards music and began to foster it.

When he grew up, he decided to go into ministry. After school, he was assigned a church. After being there a couple of years, he was assigned the task of introducing a new song to celebrate the Christmas season. He took a poem he had written to a friend who arranged it to be played on the church organ. However, when Christmas time came, the organ had fallen into disrepair. His friend quickly changed the arrangement to be played acoustically. That night, “Silent Night” was sung publicly for the first time. The church loved it! It has gone on to be the most popular Christmas carol being translated into over 300 languages and even briefly stopped World War I.

Colossians 3:12 says, “You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (GNT). There are people all around us who, like Josef, have been rejected and need kindness. They’re seeking refuge, love and healing for their brokenness. We as Christians can either compound their hurt or silence their pain through our kindness and compassion. I love that it was the Church who took Josef Mohr in, loved him and fostered his gifts. There’s no telling what your act of kindness will do in someone’s life. Because that church was clothed with all these traits listed, history was changed. Kindness matters.

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Spiritual Roots

Roots are pretty incredible structures. We rarely see them when we look at plants and trees, but they are viral to their survival. Roots help anchor the tree in place to keep it from getting blown over by winds or pushed over by something. They also absorb nutrients from the soil they’re planted in and use them to feed the tree. It’s no wonder the Bible’s uses trees as metaphors for us. Where your roots are grounded matters. Each of us have our roots somewhere and they are feeding our spirit. They also are our anchor when we run into difficult seasons. Have you thought about your root system or are you more concerned with how things appear above ground?

Here are some Bible verses on roots.

1. See to it that no one falls short of God’s grace; that no root of resentment springs up and causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.

Hebrews 12:15 AMP

2. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.

Matthew 13:21 NLT

3. What the wicked construct finally falls into ruin, while the roots of the righteous give life, and more life.

Proverbs 12:12 MSG

4. And I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love.

Ephesians 3:17-18 GNT

5. Your spiritual roots go deeply into his life as you are continually infused with strength, encouraged in every way. For you are established in the faith you have absorbed and enriched by your devotion to him!

Colossians 2:7 TPT

Where you have your roots matters.

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The Tamarisk Tree

In Genesis 21, Abraham had been living in the Promised Land as a foreigner for a while. After he made a treaty with Abimelech, verse 33 says, “Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he worshiped the LORD, the Eternal God” (NLT). I don’t know if Abimelech was there for the planting or if it was just a sign to God, but it was no coincidence that he planted a tamarisk tree given the promise God had made to him about that land.

According to nps.gov, the tamarisk tree is an invasive tree that spreads rapidly. It has the ability to survive in harsh conditions. It is very adaptable to whatever conditions it faces. I can’t think of a better tree that depicts the Israelites and God’s plan for them. God had given them that land, and Abraham had been given the promise that he would have as many descendants as there were stars. His family would flourish and spread throughout that region one day.

The tree is also representative of how we as Christians are to be. God did not plant us where we are in order to be quiet about our faith. He expects us to advance the Gospel rapidly, even in the harsh conditions we live in today. In Mark 16:15, Jesus told us, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” He wanted us to be invasive with His message. It has never been about waiting for someone to come to you with questions about your faith. It has always been about us being proactive.

The tamarisk tree is also a survivor. It adapts to be able to thrive in the harshest conditions. Throughout history, it’s been in the harshest conditions that the Gospel has spread the most. With the social pressures and unfriendly conditions towards Christianity that we face today, you can expect that the Gospel is about to spread rapidly once again. We must be adaptable in the face of such pressure instead of allowing it to shut us down. As history begins to repeat itself, we need to be prepared for another Great Awakening.

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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School’s Out

I went through a sales psychology class once that helped people recognize how their fear displayed itself in their lives. It also showed how it showed up in their sales. One of the ways it would show up is by having a person feel like they didn’t have enough information. Instead of calling the customer, they would spend half an hour looking at the account, comparing plans and looking for ways to save them money rather than to call. We had all been to several classes on how to engage customers, how to connect with them and even had a sales process to follow. Yet somehow, this type of person felt like they wanted to learn more before actually putting it into practice..

In Colossians 2:7, Paul recognized that there are Christians with a similar problem. To encourage them he wrote,“You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving” (MSG). With 66 books in the Bible, there are countless lessons for us to learn. We can spend a lifetime trying to learn them all, but in doing that we miss the point. Christianity isn’t about getting a head knowledge of everything we’re to know. It’s about living it out day to day as we grow closer to God and displaying His love to others around us.

Don’t let the fear of, “What if I mess up and give God a bad name,” keep you from living out your faith. You will never know enough. That’s why He sent His Holy Spirit to fill us, to guide us and to remind us of what He said. You’re going to mess up. You’re going to fall, but He is faithful to forgive us when we confess our shortcomings (1 John 1:9). We can’t let the fear of failure to prevent us from living out our faith. We’re human, which means we’re not perfect. Let God worry about His reputation. You just need to live out your faith and let it spill out on people. You do your part and let God do His.

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Around Christmas time, I remember an old song we used to sing at church by Don Moen. “Emmanuel. Emmanuel. His name is called Emmanuel. Emmanuel. God with us. Revealed in us. His name is Emmanuel.” Simple, yet powerful as it reminds us of God’s plan to save the world. I thought about the meaning of it the other night when we, as a family, sat down, looked at our nativity and talked through all the people in it. By doing this activity, we each gained more insight and perspective into what has become a common Christmas symbol, but is truly the greatest display of love the world has ever seen.

Since the Garden of Eden, sin had reigned on the earth. It brought death and decay with it. Man had no ability to conquer it. When God looked on our helpless estate, He didn’t condemn us to an eternity In hell. Rather, He displayed His love by sending His one and only Son into the world, not to condemn it, but that through Him the world might be saved (John 3:16-17). He became one of us in order to reach us, to break the curse of sin and to end its rule. If you remember, while He was in the tomb, He took the keys of death, hell and the grace removing its power over our lives. He ushered in a wave of grace to do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves.

Romans 8:3b says, “Yet God sent us his Son in human form to identify with human weakness. Clothed with humanity, God’s Son gave his body to be the sin-offering so that God could once and for all condemn the guilt and power of sin”. Jesus, coming to earth as depicted in the manger scene, is God reaching out, identifying with us and ultimately sacrificing Himself so we could be together. Emmanuel is a powerful word that concisely tells the story of Christmas. You are loved immensely by your creator. He didn’t come to condemn you. He came to save you because there is no way to save yourself.

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Choosing Joy

Not long ago I realized I was singing one of the most iconic Christmas carols incorrectly. “Joy To The World”, written by Isaac Watts in the early 1700’s, says, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come,” not, “has come.” I looked up the history of the song, and it turns out it was written about the second coming of Jesus and not the incarnation. Watts was concerned with the lack of joy he saw in Christians as they worshipped. He wanted to remind them to look past their current circumstances to the return of Christ when all things will be made right. 300 years later, it’s a good reminder for us as we live for Christ.

Romans 12:12 says, “Let this hope burst forth within you, releasing a continual joy. Don’t give up in a time of trouble, but commune with God at all times” (TPT). Joy is not something that is based on your circumstances. Joy is as much an attitude as it is an emotion. It keeps us focused on what is to come rather than what is. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. It’s no wonder that the enemy of our soul is constantly trying to rob us of our joy. He knows that when he removes joy, it makes it hard to trust God. It makes serving God feel more like a chore than a privilege.

If you’re burdened down, going through a rough time, let hope burst forth within you today giving you joy. We know that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28), and that struggles produce growth in us. Let the things that are trying to steal your joy push you into closer communion with God. Instead of blaming Him, thank Him for taking the time to grow you and make you more like Christ. Above all, remember that this too shall pass and the Lord will come again to make all things right. We can joyfully worship just as Job did no matter what we’re going through by keeping things in perspective. When all else fails, choose joy.

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