Tag Archives: following jesus

Listening To His Voice

Several years ago I read a book called “While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks” by Dr. Timothy Laniak. The author lived with nomadic shepherds in the Middle East in order to gain a greater understanding of what Biblical shepherding was all about. In one chapter he discussed the position of the shepherd in relation to the sheep. There are times when the shepherd is out front leading them, and other times when he’s behind them pushing them forward. When the sheep are an open area, the shepherd is out front. The sheep follow for protection and provision. When they’re traveling through a low visibility area, the shepherd will go behind the sheep to keep them moving. The ones in front feel the pressure of the movement to move forward.

In John 10, Jesus was using shepherds to teach the people about Himself in a manner they could relate to. He called Himself the Good Shepherd. He talked about being the gate as the shepherd. They would have understood the shepherds put the sheep in a pin at night and the shepherd sleeps in the doorway to protect them. He talked about how when dangers come, hired hands run, but the shepherd stays. He then discussed how the sheep know His voice and listen when it’s time to leave the pen. Verse 4 says, “When he has brought all his own sheep outside, he walks on ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice and recognize his call” (AMP).

Is Jesus out front leading you or is He pushing you from behind right now? Are you listening to His voice as He guides you? There are a lot of competing voices out there trying to get your attention. Jesus said His shepherd know His voice and listen to Him. They know Him and He knows them (verse 27). We must be tuned into His voice each day in order to go where He leads. Whether you have low or high visibility right now for your direction, take time each day to be still and quiet your mind. Pray, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.” Then wait in silence until you hear Him. He’s speaking to you constantly, trying to lead you, but you must listen for His voice and recognize His call. The more you sit quietly in His presence, the more you will hear Him speak to you.

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Losing Sight Of Jesus

On any trip to Israel, visiting Galilee is a must. One of the places I enjoy most is the Mount of Beatitudes. As I was sitting up there, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, I watched boats crossing back and forth. I couldn’t help but think of when Jesus sent the disciples to the other side while he went up the mountain to pray. While they were making their way across, a fierce storm overwhelmed them. Their focus was on surviving the storm, and not on Jesus who sent them across the sea by themselves. From where Jesus was sitting, He never lost sight of them. So when He walked on water, He knew right where to go.

It’s not hard to lose sight of Jesus in our lives. Life gets hard and rarely goes as planned. We can get rocked by a diagnosis, our spouse walking out or something happening to one of our kids. In those moments, life often becomes a battle for survival. We can lose sight of Jesus and wonder where He is in the middle of our chaos. I can tell you that He’s never taken His eye off of you. If He doesn’t come walking on water to save you, keep rowing, but also make sure you take the time to find Him. We know that if you seek Him, you will find Him. I’ve found that the times I’m most overwhelmed by the things happening in my life are the times my relationship with Him is strengthened because I realize I can’t do it without Him.

Song of Songs is an allegory of Jesus and us. In Song of Songs 1:8, Jesus calls out to us, “Listen, my radiant one— if you ever lose sight of me, just follow in my footsteps where I lead my lovers. Come with your burdens and cares. Come to the place near the sanctuary of my shepherds” (TPT). The beautiful thing about Him is that He’s waiting for us, chaos and all, to find Him. He loves us no matter how crazy our life is or how far away from Him we’ve gone. It’s always a shorter journey back to Him than it was leaving Him, and He’s never taken His eye off of you. If you’re burdened down today, or blinded by your worries, take them to Him and rest in the fact that you are loved and His strength is made perfect in your weakness.

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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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Being Teachable

One of the things I’ve learned is that if you’re going to grow, you must be teachable. People who think they know it all have placed a lid on their growth. The ones who are humble enough to realize they don’t know what they don’t know are often the people who ask questions that seek understanding. They want to learn more so they can get better at something. They seek out people who know more than they do in the area they want to grow in, ask questions and then apply what they’ve learned. Application is a huge part of growth. It’s what takes the knowledge you’ve been given and does something with it. If you’ve been taught something new and don’t do anything with it or change how you do things, then you may not be as teachable as you thought.

Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, was a serious scholar. He had one of the brightest teachers who poured everything into his students. Even though he had all that knowledge and was very strict in obeying the Law, he was missing the point. Jesus met him on the way to Damascus to show him His will for him. Paul spent the next several years relearning everything in the Scriptures with his new perspective. Once he understood what God wanted him to do, he did it faithfully until he died. He served God with complete devotion, and wrote letters to the churches of that day explaining the Scriptures and helping them follow Jesus with the same devotion.

In Psalm 86:11 David prayed, “Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do, and I will obey you faithfully; teach me to serve you with complete devotion” (GNT). It’s a prayer each of us should pray as we seek to grow and follow Jesus more closely. Like Paul, God will reveal to us His will and give us understanding of Scriptures. He wants us to know His will for our lives so we can obey Him and fulfill our purpose. It starts with us being teachable and asking Him to show us. Just like before, knowledge is great, but growth happens in the application and obedience. Both David and Paul were people like you and me. They had flaws and failures, but what sets them apart from most is that they were always seeking to know more of what they didn’t know about God and how to serve Him more faithfully. I believe their teachability is why God revealed so much to them and why God used them to write so much of the Bible. Imagine what God could do through you if you were that teachable.

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The Keys To Life

When it comes to keys on a key ring, I’m a minimalist. I’ve got my car key and a key to an office. I don’t even have a house key on there. I’ve got friends though who have lots of keys on their key chain. They’ve got a key for every door in their life on their key ring. I’m not quite sure how they remember what key goes to what, but they know. Every key on their ring has a purpose. What’s great about keys is that they open locked doors. So when I read that there is a key to life, I immediately paid attention.

Deuteronomy 30:20 says, “You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life” (NLT). The first key to opening the locked doors in your life is loving God. Jesus said that this is the greatest commandment of them all. It’s the master key if you will. When we love God with all our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength, our purpose in life becomes clear and doors open.

The second key is often the toughest for us. It’s to obey God in whatever He tells you to do. I believe in simple obedience. I expect it from my son and God expects it from us. It’s the faith to simply act on what God says without always understanding why. We have to trust that God sees the bigger picture of not just our life, but all lives and how they’re connected. Our obedience never just affects us. It has a ripple effect across His Kingdom.

Finally, is to commit ourselves firmly to Him. We’ve got to get past our commitment issues and cling to God through thick and thin. Just like we make a vow at our wedding, we need to make a similar vow to God. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, until death unites us. We can’t allow ourselves to be seduced by the things of this world causing us to break that vow. We must fully commit to Him. When we do these three things, I promise you that locked doors will open because these are the keys to life and blessings.

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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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The Gift Of Self Control

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Being Shepherd Led

One of the things in the Bible that has lost context over the years are the constant metaphors to sheep and shepherds. The Old and New Testament talk about sheep a lot. We know Psalm 23 starts out that the Lord is our shepherd. In Mark 6:34, Jesus had compassion on the crowd because they were sheep without a shepherd. Ezekiel 34:31 says that we are the sheep of God’s pasture. Isaiah 53 says that we are like sheep who have gone astray. Over and over there’s this comparison to sheep, but shepherding sheep isn’t as common as it used to be. I don’t know a lot about them, but I do know that they are defenseless, like to flock together and prefer to be led from the front rather than pushed from behind.

As a person who teaches leadership, I can tell you that people need a want a leader worth following. As John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.” By that definition, we all have leaders in our life who influence or lead our decisions. 2 Peter 3:17 warns us about who we allow to lead or influence us. It says, “As for you, divinely loved ones, since you are forewarned of these things, be careful that you are not led astray by the error of the lawless and lose your firm grip on the truth” (TPT). We must be careful in who we allow to lead us because there are those who would lead us astray. Even Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 to only follow Him as he followed Christ. It’s important to know who’s leading the people that are leading us.

Leaders and pastors will be held to a higher standard on judgement day (James3:1), but you will still be held liable for your actions. That’s why it’s important for each of us to not just follow a person. We must also be led by the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (NLT). We must know our shepherd’s voice for ourselves without relying on another leader to hear it for us. If we don’t learn to hear it ourselves, we can easily be led astray. Each of us must take time to listen to what God says through His Word and to our hearts. Anyone who gives contradictory advice to what God says will lead you astray. We are to be Spirit led more than people led, but our sheepish nature simply wants to follow the sheep right in front of us. We must fight against that and listen to the Shepherd ourselves.

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Running To Win

I went to a pretty small high school where if you were athletic, you pretty much played every sport. If you ran track, you didn’t just run one race, you ran several which meant several heats for each race. We had to be in great shape. I remember my running coach teaching me to breathe a certain way so that I wouldn’t get that pain in my side. She also taught me aerodynamics so that my body would channel the wind. Then there was the conditioning to get my body in shape to survive so many races. I put a lot of miles on my shoes so that I could win the races I ran. After high school, I decided had ran enough miles for a lifetime, but in the course of it, I had won many races.

Running takes discipline and mental strength to push through when your body wants to quit. It’s a lot like living out your faith. It takes being dedicated, being mentally focused and being disciplined. Your flesh is always fighting against you and is trying to slow you down so you have to be prepared mentally to push back. It tries to play against your sympathies to get you to stumble and fall. You have to be disciplined enough to catch it early so you can stop that line of thinking. You also have to keep your eyes on what’s at stake in your life and in the lives of others. It’s not a 5k Fun Run. This is more like a marathon or an Iron Man. Every part of you must be disciplined so that you’re making determined progress and are be becoming more like Christ every day.

1 Corinthians 9:24 says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours!” (AMP) Each of us are running the race God has called us to. No one can run your race for you. It’s up to you to run your race in a manner that you’re not just providing traffic for the other runners, but that you’re running in order to win. When you’re running to win, you push yourself to stay in the front of the race. You lean on lessons you’ve learned from the past and ensure that you’re spiritually fit. You use the discipline of reading and applying God’s Word to keep you on track. You continually seek God and His presence so you can endure. You invite the Holy Spirit into your life to encourage you daily to keep going. If you’re going to live a life of faith, be 100% committed and give it your all.

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Surrendering The Driver’s Seat

Have you ever been driving and had someone in the vehicle comment constantly on your driving telling you what to do and how to do it? Did you like it? I’ve never met anyone who likes a backseat driver. According to Miriam-Webster online, a backseat driver is a passenger in a vehicle who is not controlling the vehicle but who excessively comments on the driver’s actions and decisions in an attempt to control the vehicle. We’ve all experienced it from someone in our lives. They make comments about your driving, especially when they feel like you’re taking a risk that they wouldn’t take. What they don’t realize is that backseat driving increases the risk of having a crash because of the added stress and distraction.

When you and I accept Jesus as our savior, we put Him in the driver’s seat of our lives. We, in effect, step out of that role and become a passenger. The church phrase is, “surrendering your life to Christ”. Yet how many of us have truly surrendered our lives to Him? We don’t mind surrendering the parts of our life we struggle with, but being a Christian is about surrendering everything. Remember the old hymn “I Surrender All”? Somewhere we have lost what it means to surrender our entire life to Him. When we are both trying to control the outcome of our life, we become a backseat driver to Jesus and increase the risk of messing things up. We start telling Him what we think He should do when we don’t have all the information He has as the one in control.

Jesus said it best in Matthew 16:24, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am” (MSG). You and I have to surrender the driving seat to Him. One way I do this is each morning before my feet hit the floor is to pray, “Lord, I open myself up to you. Fill me with your Spirit until I’m overflowing. Speak through me, love through me and live through me today. Let my words and actions be reflections of who you are. Use me in anyway you see fit. I surrender to your will.” Surrendering the driver’s seat isn’t natural. It has to be a daily and sometimes hourly. God is good and has a plan for your life that is greater than your own plan. Getting out of the driver’s seat and allowing Him to take over is the best thing you can do for your life.

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An Open Hand

To me, one of the most challenging things God has spoken to anyone in Scripture is in Genesis 12:1. “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you’” (NLT). He was 75 years old at the time. He was well established, and yet God asked him to pack everything up and go to a destination that would be shown to him at a later time. His faith in action is inspiring to me. The Bible later says that his faith was counted at righteousness. That’s a faith we should all aspire to have.

Fast forward to the New Testament and Jesus spoke something very similar to all of us. In Luke 14:31 Jesus said, “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.” Every one of us who follows Christ is given the same call that went out to Abram. I believe it’s God’s reminder to us that this place is not our home. Everything we have here is temporary and we can’t take it with us. We must be willing to let go of earthly things so we can receive from God the spiritual things that matter for eternity.

My wife and i try to keep an open hand for the things we have. When your hands are open to God, He can place things in them and take things out of them whenever He wants. Faith is trusting God with all you have and with the direction of your life. You may not get to know the destination. You may he asked to walk away from everything that’s familiar to you. God’s greatest blessings are stored up for those who are willing to give God whatever He asks for and for those who follow Him wherever He leads. What are you willing to let go of should God ask for it? Pray that God would help you keep an open hand and heart.

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Prove It

I think we can all agree that there is a difference between saying something and proving something. When we were kids, we all had that friend that told tall tales. He was related to famous people. He was going to be on TV. He had a hundred dollars. You name it, he either did it or had it. After a while, we found the phrase, “Prove it!” It turns out, he could tell you just about anything, but he couldn’t prove any of it. Without proof, we had no reason to believe the things he said.

When I was younger, I heard someone ask, “If you were to be convicted of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to prove it?” That’s a tough question we should all think about. A court can’t convict anyone unless there is some form of evidence against them. In some cases, that evidence comes from first hand witnesses. Other times it comes from physical evidence left behind. What evidence are you leaving behind for others to know you are a Christian? Can eye witnesses tell by how you live that you’re a Christian?

In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptist was out at the river baptizing people when the religious leaders came to take a look. One of the things he said to them was, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (NLT). He knew they were manufacturing false evidence to try to prove they were righteous, but their lives contradicted that evidence. Jesus later said they were whitewashed tombs. They looked good on the outside, but were full of death on the inside.

Today’s devotion is not to say that you earn salvation by your works – that’s what the religious leaders were trying to do. It’s saying when you truly experience the power of God in your life, it changes you. Your life changes inside and out. You find that going to church isn’t evidence that you’re a Christian – living for God is. When you experience the power of salvation, you begin to leave evidence everywhere that you have repented and followed Christ. My challenge to you today is to take an honest look at the evidence in your life. What does it point to? Is it manufactured or is it natural from a changed heart and life?

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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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