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The Land Of Promise

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.

My three year old son surprised me the other day. We were sitting down talking and he wanted to get my attention so used both hands to grab my face to look at him. He said, “Joshua 1:9, Dada.” It took me a minute to figure out what he was talking about, but then I remembered it was his memory verse a few weeks back. I thought for a second how they had taught him, then I recited it to him, “Do not be afraid. God is with you.” He smiled and said, “Yeah. God is with you. Joshua 1:9.”

What a great promise to us to hold on to. The full verse says, “This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” This was God speaking to Joshua before he entered a land of giants and walled cities that he was to conquer. It was 40 years earlier that he had been there as a spy and was outvoted 10-2 because the people were afraid of what they saw. I’m sure the ones who were scared told their kids what the Promised Land had in it. They might have been afraid of what their future held.

Like them, you may be looking at your future and are starting to feel scared. There are uncertainties, giants even huge walls up around the things you feel like God has called you to. When you look at those things, you may be wondering, “How can I accomplish that?” The path to it may be unclear. There may be huge obstacles in your way. But if God has called you to do it, there are no walls high enough that He can’t push down. There are no walls thick enough that He can’t break. There is no enemy strong enough to keep you away from all He has promised. He just needs you to step out in faith.

That’s the hard part. The scary part. When that fear arises, go back to Joshua 1:9. God commanded us to be strong and courageous. He didn’t merely suggest it. He told us not to be afraid or discouraged by the obstacles in our way because He is with us. He doesn’t expect us to do these things in our own strength or abilities. He will do the work as long as we are willing to cross the Jordan and enter the Land of Promise. Our step of faith pushes back fear and activates God’s strength. Don’t hold back because of fear. Go and conquer all that God has for you.

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

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Critic’s Math

Several years ago I attended a conference for ministers. One of the speakers was Jon Acuff, and he spoke on critic’s math. The way critics math works is 1 insult + 1,000 complements = 1 insult. We can be praised by everyone for our work, but if one person didn’t like it, we allow that one negative comment to erase all the positive feedback we’ve received. It can be like we never even heard the compliments because our mind spends all its time focusing on the one negative comment rather than our feedback as a whole. Critic’s math is a dangerous thing for us to fall into.

An example is in the Book of Esther. Haman was the King’s prime minister. He had been put in such a high position, that the king declared everyone should bow to him as he passed by. Everyone bowed down except one. Mordecai refused. In the fifth chapter, Esther had prepared a banquet for he and the king. When he left, everyone bowed except Mordecai. In verses 12-13, he told his wife and friends, “What is more, Queen Esther gave a banquet for no one but the king and me, and we are invited back tomorrow. But none of this means a thing to me as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the entrance of the palace” (GNT). He allowed critic’s math to cloud his thinking, and it ultimately cost him everything.

You and I need to accept that we can’t please everyone, and that pleasing people is not our goal. Pleasing God is. Ecclesiastes 7:10 warns, “Don’t pay attention to everything people say.” When you receive negative feedback, take it constructively, but don’t give it so much weight that it distracts you from what God has called you to. What He has to say is far more important than what any person has to say. Keep focusing on what God wants to do in your life and through you, and don’t let one person’s negativity keep you from reaching your potential or from finishing your race.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

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The Wrong Boat

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.

In one of the classes I teach, I have people introduce themselves and tell me a hobby they have outside of work. It provides opportunities for connection early in the class as well as information I can tie back to throughout the day. Yesterday, while training this class, a guy answered that he liked to play music. I followed up with, “What kind?” He responded with, “Worship. I’ve felt called to lead worship since I was young, but I’ve been too scared to step out and do it.” He admitted in front of our group what so many of us Christians are afraid to say.

God’s call on our life can be scary. I think it’s supposed to be. If it were anything less than scary, we’d do it without hesitation. The problem with that is we would think it was done in our own ability. We need to understand that we are simply vessels to be used by Him. It is He who performs the work, we simply provide the channel. Our inability to do whatever He called us to is His greatest opportunity to do something amazing.

God sees in us what we cannot see. Peter was just another uneducated fisherman when Jesus called Him. He didn’t posses the ability to start the Church. He didn’t have the business acumen to take twelve men, start a worldwide movement and grow it. He didn’t have the boldness to stand in front of thousands to preach. He knew what fear was and it got the better of him from time to time. He denied Jesus and his calling in the same night.

The fear that he failed in his calling caused him to go back to fishing when he should have been preaching after the resurrection. He went back to what he knew instead of stepping out in faith to be the rock he was called to be. Jesus didn’t leave him in that boat though. He went to the waters edge in John 21, but they didn’t recognize Him. He called out to them, “Have you caught any fish?” They replied, “No.” Jesus called out, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you’ll catch some.” As soon as they did, the net teemed with fish. Peter recognized the man as Jesus and swam to shore.

Jesus reaffirmed to Peter that day what his role was. He didn’t worry about his failures or inabilities. He worried about his love for Him. Jesus knew that if he truly loved Him, he would obey his calling. He didn’t leave Peter in the wrong boat catching the wrong kind of fish. He reiterated that he was to be a fisher of men from now on. I think that call goes out to you in whatever boat you’re sitting in today. Maybe you’re reading this in the place where you can accomplish things in your own strength. It’s the boat of what is familiar and easy to you. But God has more for you.

I encourage you today to recognize the fear that is paralyzing you and keeping you from your calling. If God called you to do something, it’s His strength and ability that will accomplish it, not yours. Release the fear that sent you back into the boat of the familiar and do what God has called you to do. Faith is about trusting God to do what He said He would do. It’s not about you doing things and giving Him credit. Don’t let fear hold you back another minute. Get out of the wrong boat, and step into the life you were called to lead.

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

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Defeating Your Past

Do you ever feel like your faults, failures and past sins disqualify you from being used by God? Sometimes those voices that tell me those things get so overpowering that I start to believe it. My past comes back to remind me to stay grounded while God has called me to fly. They weigh me down like I’m attached to an anchor. They tell me, “Because you did this, God can never do that in your life.” It’s hard to hear anything else sometimes.

When those voices get too loud in my mind, there’s two verses I go back to. The first one is Psalm 65:3. It says, “Our faults defeat us, but you forgive them” (GNT). I use this verse to remind me that my past has been forgiven, and that there is no condemnation for those in Christ. The voices that tell me what God can’t do are not from God. When He forgives, He forgets. He uses those faults and failures as my qualifications to do what He called me to do.

The other verse I go to is Romans 11:29. It says, “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (NLT). No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, God still has a plan for your life. He still has a calling that only you can fulfill. He knew your future when He called you. He understood that you wouldn’t be able to live a perfect life so He built it into the plan for you. He doesn’t withdrawal His calling because of our past.

It’s easy to look at someone else and think, “They’re better qualified to do what I’m called to do,” but that’s not how God works. He created you with a purpose and a calling that only you can fulfill. It’s time to quit listening to the voices that tell us we can’t, and start listening to the only voice that matters. It’s not too late. You haven’t gone too far. God’s calling is still valid and you have work to do. Push out the voices that tell you why you can’t, and tell God, “Here am I. Use me.” God hasn’t withdrawn His calling or purpose for your life.

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Tough Choices

A couple of years ago, God asked us to move to a different church. It was one of the most difficult things to obey. I didn’t want to switch, but we felt Him speaking it to us over and over. We tested it by praying, “God, if this is you, and we’re hearing you right, then let these things happen.” After they happened, I reasoned those things could have “just happened”. We prayed again and asked for more signs, and He gave them. This went on for months because we didn’t want to move. Finally, I agreed to move, but told Him it was only going to be temporary.

It’s a difficult thing to follow God when it’s not when or where you want to go. People don’t understand why you’re picking up and moving. Others feel like you’re abandoning them because they don’t understand why either. We like to think going where God wants us to go is easy, but many times it isn’t. We like having roots planted, but if we are following where God leads, we have to be willing to be transplanted at any given moment.

After the children of Israel left Egypt, they followed God into the desert. Many times they questioned Him and wanted to return to where they came from. Over time, they learned to follow where He led. The Bible says, they followed God’s Shekinah glory wherever and whenever it lead. Numbers 9:22 says, “Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on” (NLT).

They learned what you and I have to learn. We need to follow where God leads us whether it’s for a short while or a long time. If we are surrendered to His plan and purposes, we must always be willing to move. It’s not easy at times, but following where He leads results in growth, blessings and expanded territory. If God is calling you away from where you’ve been, it’s time to break camp and move. You may not know why or where God is leading, but following Him is always the right choice.

Photo by Ihor Malytskyi on Unsplash

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The Jonah Syndrome

I’ll never forget a minister who came to work at our church when I was younger. They felt that God had called them to our town and our church. Not long after they had uprooted their family from their hometown and moved to ours, things started to go wrong. Their car broke down, the AC in the house went out, etc. It seemed that for a year nothing went right and everything was against them. They concluded that they missed God and weren’t supposed to be there. They resigned and moved back to where they lived before.

I remember talking to them about it, and decided to label it Jonah Syndrome. They believed if bad things were happening, they must have missed God or disobeyed Him. My response was that bad things happen, and that it could be an attack to try to make them ineffective at what God had called them to do. To this day, I believe they didn’t think that bad things happen to people who are in the will of God. Unfortunately, there are a lot of us who believe that. The truth is that we need to get rid of the Jonah Syndrome.

All of the early disciples, and most of the Early Church, suffered hardships. Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, left for dead and had disagreements with the leadership of the Church. Bad things happened to him constantly in the New Testament. He even had one nagging problem that he said was a “thorn in his flesh”. He asked God to resolve and remove the problem, but God didn’t. Instead, in 2 Corinthians 12, He replied to Paul, “My grace is sufficient” (AMP).

I like how Psalm 34:19 says, “Good people suffer many troubles, but the Lord saves them from them all” (GNT). You and I are going to go through suffering and have our own thorns in the flesh. It doesn’t mean we are not in God’s will, it means that we need to learn to trust His grace. Jonah was running from his calling. That’s why he suffered. If you’re trying to do what God called you to and you’re running into troubles, ask God for His grace to help you endure. It could be that you’re on the edge of a breakthrough and the enemy is trying to stop you. Above all, seek God’s wisdom in the matter and trust His answer.

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Fear Not

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.

I rarely watch the news, but this week, the hotel I was staying at had it on during breakfast. As I watched each day, I remembered why I don’t watch the news. It seemed like all they were doing was making people afraid. Every story created new fear. Fear over election fallout. Fear over a fiscal cliff. Fear over a divided government and country. In the age of 24 hour news channels, it’s easy to get addicted to the news. It’s also easy to let it control your emotions.

Fear is the author of inactivity. It paralyzes. It causes your imagination to run wild and can create hysteria. I think maybe that’s why throughout the Bible, God’s message to us is “fear not”. God spoke to him in Genesis 15:1 and said, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you.” Fear had caused Abraham to start doubting. That doubt lead to questioning God. When we question God’s promise, we fail to act on them and rob ourselves of the blessings He has for us.

For many of us, we know what God has called us to, but the vision is so large that we are afraid of it. That fear will keep you from acting on what God has called you to do. He has a plan for each one of us. To some He reveals far in advance where they are going. To others He gives them one step at a time. For both, the course of action is the same: take that first step of faith. Do not let fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of insecurity, fear of what your calling might be or fear of unworthiness keep you from your calling.

What God has called you to is for you alone. Everything in your life is preparation for your future. Your past victories, failures, storms, hurts, loss and gains are all there as preparation to equip you to take that next step. If you need the courage to take that next step of faith, turn around and look back. See how far you have come by faith. You are further along than you ever thought. You didn’t arrive to where you are without His help. If He has brought you this far, trust Him to carry you the rest of the way.

Photo by Tim Bogdanov on Unsplash

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