Tag Archives: encouragement

Elaborate Plans

A friend of mine recently called me to invite my wife and I to go somewhere with him. I said, “Sure! We’d love to.” He paused for a moment, then nervously asked, “Are you going to check with your wife first to make sure she doesn’t have any plans for y’all?” It was a good question with much wisdom behind it. I was about to make plans without checking with her first, much like many of us make life changing plans without asking God.

A friend of mine recently asked on Facebook, “Where in Scripture does God, or any of His prophets, tell us to follow our dreams?” Many people attempted to put verses from the Bible in there, but none could give one. His point was that we’ve become people who teach our kids to follow their dreams and to become anything they want, but we haven’t taught them to ask God what plans and dreams He has for their life.

There’s a saying that’s been changed through the ages, but the current one says, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Too many times, we are making plans and telling God our plans without consulting Him first. Proverbs 16:1 says, “Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word” (MSG). So many of my plans in life have changed because God’s plan overruled my plan. Thank God too because His plan is much better.

If the plans you’ve made for your life are falling through, don’t despair. Pray and seek God for what His plans are for you. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord” (NLT). God knows the plans He has for each one of us. It’s time we stopped what we were doing and asked for His plans. Until then, our plans will continue to fail. Trust me. I’ve been there and have had to start over a few times. It’s better when we ask for His plans. They’re more elaborate than ours.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Throwback Thursday is a 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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Following God’s Lead

Driving through Houston can be complicated. I had a customer once call me to tell me where they were on their way to training. I told them it should only take about ten more minutes to get to the location. After 20 minutes past, I wondered where they were. After 30 minutes I began to worry. When they finally arrived, I asked what happened. They had tried to drive to me without their GPS, started talking and missed the sign that had the exit they were supposed to take. Instead of coming right to me, they ended up passing me, but then took the loop around instead of making a U-Turn. They got caught in traffic, but eventually made their way to me.

Life can be complicated too. God has a purpose and a plan for each of us. He’s given us to Holy Spirit to be our GPS to guide and direct us, but we don’t always listen to Him. He’s also put up sign posts in our lives to help us know where to go, but sometimes we’re too distracted to see them. As a result, most of us take the long hard road to get to where He’s trying to lead us. We think we know better than the Holy Spirit’s GPS, so we keep going when He’s trying to help us avoid traffic and distractions. He has cleared the way for us, but we must learn to follow His leading.

After King Solomon prayed for wisdom, he built the Temple that God had told his father he would build. While dedicating it in 1 Kings 8, he prayed, addressed the people there then blessed them. In verse 58, he blessed them said, “May he (God) keep us centered and devoted to him, following the life path he has cleared, watching the signposts, walking at the pace and rhythms he laid down for our ancestors” (MSG). I pray today that God will keep you centered in the chaos around you. That He would give you direction with the decisions you are having to make. That He would keep you alert so you can see the signposts He’s put in your path. Also that you would be able to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice above all the noise, and that you would have the wisdom and courage to follow where He leads.

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Seeking God’s Approval

Too many times I’ve been a victim of paralysis through analysis. I feel God prompt me to do something, then immediately the voices come in. What if this isn’t God? What are they go to think of you? One of our greatest needs as humans is the need for acceptance. We want to fit in and we want to belong. Doing what God asks sometimes will cause us to do something that will seemingly put that acceptance at risk. It’s in those moments we have to ask ourselves, “Whose approval are you after? Whose approval means more?” Asking myself those questions is the only way I can combat the paralysis that comes from the other questions about what people will think of me.

Noah was a person who had to deal with this. God told him to build a boat because it was going to flood. It’s believed that rain was a foreign concept at that time and a boat was too. God gave him the instructions on how to build it and let him get to it. He didn’t worry about what other people thought. Instead, the Bible says that he did all god commanded him to do. Because of an obedience that regarded God’s request as more important than any of his friend’s opinion, God saved his family and established a new covenant with him.

Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in GOD protects you from that” (MSG). Each of us must make the decision to trust God whenever He speaks to us. It’s rarely easy to do, and the fear of losing acceptance will always be there to create a tension in the situation. Finding a way to push through that tension is critical to obeying God. Even when it seems counterintuitive, awkward or crazy, you can’t let it disable you. Lives and eternity are often at stake. You can break through the paralysis through analysis trap by deciding to trust God and seeking His approval above all else.

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Wonderful Not Worthless

I was doing a self affirmation exercise with a group of people several months ago. In the exercise, the people are to think of a quality that they don’t posses but want to have, and then use present tense verbs to say they have it. One lady stood up and said, “I am enough.” In that moment, my heart broke. She believed she wasn’t enough and her actions in life were in line with that belief. When the group shouted back, “You are enough!”, her face lit up. For the first time in a while, she began to believe she was enough.

Many people live with feelings of inadequacy. They feel that they don’t measure up to the standards others have set for them. They put on a show for others to see, but inside, they’re dying. They do things to compensate for these insecurities hoping that it will give them worth in someone else’s eyes. They never feel like they will measure up, but they never stop trying to be the person others want them to be. All they want to be is enough so that they will be accepted.

If that describes how you feel, let me direct you to Psalm 139:14. It says, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well” (NASB). YOU are fearfully and wonderfully made. You were designed and created by God with a specific purpose in mind. His works are wonderful, not worthless. Since He made you, that means you are wonderful too, even when you don’t feel like it.

We know from I Samuel 16:7 that God doesn’t measure you by your outward appearance, but by your heart. He looks beyond your actions, through your walls and into your heart. He sees you for who you really are, and He still thinks you are wonderfully made. If you are struggling with your self worth, let me encourage you to say what that lady in my group said. I want to you to say, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am enough.” The more you say it, the more you will believe it. God has already said it to you and He believes it. Now it’s your turn to believe it and act on it. What God says about you is more real than what any person says.

Photo courtesy of Joram Jay Travilla Equipado

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Throwback Thursday is a 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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Seeking Sharpness

Do you know someone that just rubs you the wrong way? Every time you meet, you clash. It seems like every time you’re around each other, they bring out the worst in you. Then there are others you come into contact with who seem to make you want to be a better person. You have long, deep, conversations about things. They ask questions that keep you thinking for days. You can’t wait to be near them because they bring out the best side of you. I think it’s good to have both types in your life. I know it sounds crazy, but even the people who seem to bring out the worst in you can help you be a better person.

The people who bring out the worst in me reveal my rough edges. They show me the side of me that I work hard at covering up. When that side of me flares up, it’s a reminder that it’s still there and that I still have work to do. We all have rough edges in our lives that need smoothing out. When a piece of wood is rough, we don’t hold back the sandpaper. We apply it because we know that wherever it is applied will even be smooth. When a knife is dull, we don’t throw it away. We apply it to a whetstone or a grinding stone in order to make the edges sharp. Relationships, the good ones and the difficult ones, can have that same affect on you.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “It takes a grinding wheel to sharpen a blade, and so one person sharpens the character of another” (TPT). One of the things I pray often is, “God, put the right relationships in my life who will help me to be who you’ve called me to be, and take out the ones who don’t.” God is able to use relationships to smooth out our edges and to make us sharper people so we can fulfill our purpose. If you’re around people who seem to bring out the worst in you, ask God to use them to make you better or to help you break away from that relationship. We all have room for improvement in becoming more like Christ. Some relationships require you to end them so you can improve, and others will be used to smooth out your rough edges. Seek God’s wisdom for what to do in those relationships in your life and keep seeking to be sharp.

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Planning And Preparing

Several years ago the Lord spoke a simple word to me while I was praying. He said, “Prepare.” I replied, “Prepare for what?” Again, all I heard was, “Prepare.” I said, “Lord, if I’m going to prepare, I need to know what to prepare for.” For the third time, He said, “Prepare.” I had breakfast coming up with a pastor friend. I couldn’t wait to discuss what I heard. After our pleasantries, he said, “You know what I heard God say to me the other night? Prepare.” I told him I had heard the same thing. We began to discuss what it meant, but agreed we needed to each spend more time in prayer, in reading the Bible and in holding each other accountable to it.

Preparing is a necessary process in almost everything in life that’s worth anything. The greater the task, the greater the preparation. Think about taking a test. The more significant the test, the greater amount of time you spent preparing for it. Most of the time you had an idea of what could be on the test, but you weren’t sure what the questions were going to be. You needed to prepare for them to ask you anything. Life with God is a lot like that. We need to be prepared to be used in whatever situation He chooses to use us in. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. The on,y way to constantly be ready is to prepare ahead of time what you will say.

Proverbs 24:27 says, “Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house” (NLT). Too often we try to get the cart before the horse. We want the payoff without going through the process, but God’s plan is that you and I prepare for the greater things He has for us by being faithful in the small things. If you’re looking ahead to where God has promised to take you, take time each day to do the little things that will prepare you for that place. This proverb us to plan and prepare how we will be sustained once we get there rather than to focus on how we will stay there. God’s process always involves sowing first and then reaping later. If He’s being slow in keeping His promises, ask Him to tell you what He wants you to do today to prepare for your future.

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Bouncing Back

One of the things I love to do is to go to the beach. To me there’s something fun about going in up to my waist where the waves are crashing and leaning into them. I start off feeling like I could fight them all day, but after a while, they just keep coming and I get wore out. I’ve had it happen before where I’ve lost my footing. When I would try to get up, a wave would knock me back. Then I get into this cycle of not being able to get back up, and I have to switch into survival mode. The good news is that I’m close to shore and if I can time it right, I can get back up and breathe because it’s not very deep.

We all like to think we are resilient with the ability to bounce back. Life sometimes looks at that determination and says, “Challenge accepted!” None of us are exempt from tragedy, death, sickness, loss of a job, emotional pain, disappointment or devastation. We sometimes get hit over and over with things and have to switch into survival mode. There are times when it feels easier to stay down than to try to get back up, but we can’t stay down. Life is about getting back up. Christianity is about doing it with God’s strength rather than your own. He is our firm foothold in our time of desperation. He is the One who helps us get our head above water.

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). God creates purpose in our suffering and has a way of working it out for our good. When we get back up from being knocked down, we show that our faith is stronger than what gets thrown at us. People also find hope and healing from their situations when they see that someone else survived disaster. By being resilient and getting back up, we show our faith isn’t based on circumstances. The same God who makes you lie down in green pastures and leads you beside the still waters, is the same God who walks with you through the valley of the shadow of death. Don’t stay knocked down by what you’re going through. God is your firm footing and will help you bounce back.

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