Tag Archives: paul

Character Development

I’m always intrigued by the story of Joseph found in Genesis 37-45. No matter how many times I read it, I come away with a new respect for him. God gave him a dream as a young man that one day his family would bow down to him, including his own parents. His brothers were so outraged that they wanted to kill him. His own father was so disrespected that he rebuked him. Even through that, he still believed in the dream that God had given him. That wouldn’t be the end of it though. For the next several years, he would face one trial after the other without wavering in his belief of that dream. Psalm 105:19 says, “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character. (NLT)”

When God gives you a dream, hard times are sure to come. There will be people who will openly resist you in your efforts to bring about your calling. It will not be an easy road. In fact, fulfilling your calling will be one of the hardest things you do. God does not choose the weak to carry out his plans. He calls the faithful ones who will endure anything to see it come to pass. He gives His assignments to those who will survive the pits of despair that they will be thrown in. He gives them to those who are willing to leave family and friends to travel to distant lands that are engulfed in spiritual famines so that others may find the spiritual food that God gives.

Joseph wasn’t the only one this happened to. Think of Peter and the early Church. Jesus told Peter that He would build His Church through him. When Peter was emboldened by the Holy Spirit, he was beaten repeatedly and thrown in jail. He was opposed by people he knew. He didn’t quit because there were hard times. He let that fuel the fire that God had placed in him. He used those hard times to grow his faith and endurance. Because he didn’t quit, the early Church grew and Christianity spread like wildfire in that region. He trusted the calling he was given over his external circumstances. 

Paul was another person who faced opposition. He went from being someone who killed Christians to one who was martyred for his faith. He was stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, bitten by a poisonous snake and carried off to Rome because he would not keep quiet about the dream God gave him. Because he was willing to endure the hard times, God used him to write most of the New Testament. The Gospel didn’t just stay in one region, it began to cover the known world. His character was tested over and over and he proved to be the person God saw in him.

God tests those He trust His message to because He knows it develops character. Romans 5:3-4 says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. (NLT)” When God calls you, He tests you in order to develop in you the characteristics necessary to fulfill that calling. He allows you to be moved around in order to create the relationships you need in your life and to put you into position. Don’t quit because hard times come. Let them do the work God intends them to do and continue to walk in your calling. 

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Let It Go

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The other night, my nephew and I went for a late night Wal-Mart run. We just needed to get one thing. As we entered the store, he asked, “Do you want a basket?” I told him we didn’t because we only needed this one item. As we walked past the aisles on the way, I spotted something my wife would love. I said, “Let’s get a box of these for your aunt!” As we went down the aisle, I spotted something else. The further into the store we went, the more I grabbed. He asked, “Are you sure we don’t need a basket?” I declined again. By the time we got to the item we were after, our hands were full.

I limited myself to what I could have because I refused to let go and to put them in a basket. God has great things in store for each of us, but we rarely want to let go of what’s in our hands in order to get more. When you think about it, that’s the underlying theme in so many stories in the Bible. Abraham had to let go of the place he called home in order to receive the Promised Land. What of he had tried to hold onto it? What would have happened if he refused to let go and to trust God?

Moses’ mom had to let go of him so that he could lead his people out of slavery. Moses had to let go of the riches of Egypt and his title of being the grandson of Pharaoh. He could have lived a life of luxury and had it easy. Hebrews 11:26 says, “He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ rather than to own the treasures of Egypt.” When he let go of what was in his hands, God was able to use him for a greater purpose. Would we even know Moses’ name if he hadn’t let go?

Think about David. He had to let go of His sheep in order to rule a nation. He let go of what was comfortable to him. He let go of the job he had known since he was a boy in order to be king. He could have looked at the greatness God had in store for him and chosen to watch sheep instead. It would have been less stressful. It would have been easier and required less faith, but he chose to let go of what he had in order to embrace what God had in store. I wonder if we would have the Psalms today had he not chosen to let go.

I could go on and on with example after example in the Bible. Paul let go of his life of persecuting to be persecuted, the disciples gave up family and income, Joseph gave up bitterness to save his family and the future nation of Israel, Jesus gave up all of Heaven to walk among us so that we could be with Him one day. The story of the Bible is all about giving up what’s in your hand so that you can accept more from God. Don’t be selfish with what The Lord has given you. Give it back to Him and He will open the windows of Heaven and pout out blessings you can’t even contain. That’s a promise He made and it doesn’t just apply to money.

What are you holding on to that God has asked you to let go of?

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Practicing God’s Truths

I played basketball on high school and every day after school we had practice. To get started, we’d do calisthenics to stretch our muscles and warm ourselves up. Then we would run to finish warming up. After that, coach would explain the plays we were going to work on. He would then grab the starting five to walk through it so everyone would know where they were supposed to be. He would interchange players from the bench so they would know where they fit into the play. Once we got it, we would do a full speed run through over and over until it was like clockwork.

There were lots of corrections once we got to full speed. He would blow his whistle, stop the play, make the correction for the person who messed up and then would explain to everyone what went wrong and why it had to be that way. Once we got that down pat, we would then bring in the second string players to be defensive stand ins. We would then practice with the obstacle of players standing in our way. Once we had the play down with them there, he unleashed them to move as real players. We then practiced with a live defense until we got it right.

As a kid, I didn’t understand why we practiced the plays so much. I didn’t understand why everything had to be perfect before we could move to the next level. Now I know that practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. In practicing, we learned the ins and outs of everything that had to do with what we were learning. We learned what not to do and what to expect from our opponent, even an opponent who knew the play. We learned how to adapt and execute the play in order to win.

In Philippians 4:9, Paul urges us who are believers to “keep putting into practice all that you have learned and received from me.” He wants us as believers to practice what’s right. To practice putting the Gospel into action in our lives. He knew, like my coach, that one practice isn’t going to get you to perfect. You have to keep practicing what you’ve learned day in and day out. You have to perfect what you do so that it becomes second nature. You’ll know what to do when the enemy plays defense and tries to mess you up. You’ll be able to beat Him.

Jesus said in Luke 11:28, “But even more blessed are those who hear the Word of God and put it into practice.” He wanted us to practice putting God’s Word into action in our lives. That means keep trying even if you fail. Don’t give up when you mess up or can’t seem to get it right. Slow down, go back to a His Word and understand why He wants you to do things a certain way. Then put it into practice until you get it right. If you want to see growth, take one of God’s truths and start putting it into practices until you get it down pat. That can take a while so don’t give up in the process. You’ll get it, just keep practicing.

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Free To Fail

It’s Free Friday! Today is the day you let go of the things in your life that keep you down or hold you back from all God has for you. To celebrate, I’m giving away an autographed copy of “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God” by Lysa TerKeurst. Keep reading to find out how to enter.

I heard something this week by Tullian Tchividjian, author of “One Way Love”, that challenged me. He said, “Because Jesus succeeded, you are free to fail.” Think about that for a second. Because Jesus was successful at the cross, you are free to fail. You don’t have to live a perfect life. Now before you start going nuts, I’m not saying you should go out and do whatever you want because He will forgive you. Paul addressed that in Romans 6:1-2 when he said, “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?”

What I’m saying is take the pressure off to constantly be perfect. You are an imperfect person who can’t live a perfect life. I know the pressure that comes from trying to live every day as perfectly as God described in scripture. I also think of three people who tried that as well. One was the Pharisees. They were so caught up in living by the law, that they couldn’t see when the law was fulfilled. They not only lived by the law, but they forced others to live by it as well. You don’t have to live by someone else’s personal convictions. Don’t live a life in sin, but also don’t live a life bound by so many rules you lose sight of the creator.

Another person that tried to live perfectly was the rich, young ruler. In Matthew 19:16, he asked Jesus, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life.” Jesus responded that he should keep the commandments. He looked at Jesus and said, “I’ve obeyed all those. What else do I need to do?” In verse 21 Jesus said, “If you want yo be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor… Then come and follow me.” He left sad because he had a lot of money and didn’t want to give that up. If you listened to his question, he thought doing good things got you in to Heaven. They don’t. Only the grace that Christ gives from His death on the cross can do that.

Finally, I think of Paul. In Philippians 3:3-4, he said, “We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could.” He goes on to say how strictly he lived according to the law more than anyone else, but then verses 7 and 9 come along. He said, “(7) I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. (9) I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.” There is nothing you can do to earn God’s love. So stop trying to live like you are earning His love and live a life out of love for Him.

When we grasp that, truly grasp that, the pressure of being perfect is lifted. There is freedom in being able to fail. I tell people all the time, “You learn the most when you fail.” I’ve got a PhD from the School of Hard Knocks. I’ve failed miserably in my life and have been embarrassed by it. I don’t have to be perfect because Jesus was. I don’t have to be successful because Jesus was. I don’t have to live up to the letter of the law because His grace makes up the difference between its standard and my failure. I am free to fail and so are you. Live in that freedom today. Be set free of trying to be perfect and let God’s grace make up the difference in your life.

If you would like to win “What Happens When Women Say Yes To God” by Lysa TerKeurst, all you have to do is go to my Facebook page here and “like” it. I will randomly pick one person tomorrow (April 12, 2014) who has liked my page. If you have already liked my page and enjoy reading these daily devotionals, you are already entered. Please invite your friends to like my page so they can receive encouragement from God’s Word too.

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Philemon’s Predicament

I’ve read Paul’s letter to Philemon many times. It’s usually one of the books in the Bible that I skim through and move on. Partly because it’s only one chapter and another because it’s a personal letter asking Philemon for a favor that doesn’t concern me. This last time I read it though, I began to question why this letter was so important that it had to be included in the Bible. Why did God want us to see this personal letter? When I questioned it like that, I began to see why it was so important.

Onesimus was a slave who ran away from Philemon. Through God’s providence, he crossed paths with Paul and accepted Christ. Paul then became his father in the faith and discipled him. Through time, they discovered the connection and Paul encouraged him to return to Philemon. He encouraged Philemon not to look at Onesimus as a slave anymore, but as a brother. He wanted him to forgive Onesimus’ past and to accept him back debt free. I’m sure Philemon must have struggled with this, but ultimately responded positively to the request.

It reminded me of someone I knew in high school. A guy that I didn’t like much. We ran in the same circles, but I didn’t think very highly of him so I didn’t hang out with him. To me, he was a Christian in name only because his actions proved otherwise. After high school, I didn’t hear from him for nearly 20 years until Facebook came along. I accepted the friend request from him and began to Facebook stalk him. I saw that he was in ministry and I scoffed. How could this guy be in ministry? He didn’t deserve it.

As I watched over the next couple of years, every time I saw a post from him that had to do with ministry, I looked for something wrong. I tried to find his angle in messing with people. The more I looked, the more I began to see it was real ministry. I still held out on accepting it because of his past. I knew what was underneath. I knew who he was. I wasn’t going to buy in even if everyone else did. We had a history much like Philemon and Onesimus. It was hard to accept that someone who had done so much wrong in the past could be doing so much right in the present.

One day as I was reading a post and scoffing, God spoke to me. He asked, “Do I hold your past against you?” My heart sunk. I wanted to say, “But I didn’t do the stuff this guy did.” I wanted to make my past better than his because I would somehow be justified in my feelings. But I knew the answer. “No,” I replied. “Then how can you hold his past against him? I have forgiven him and it is gone. He has become a new creation and is being used for my purposes,” God told me. What can you say to that besides, “yes, sir”?

I, like Philemon, had to let go of someone else’s past and accept them as a brother. I had to release my 20 years of contempt and see them as a fellow servant doing God’s work. We all have someone who comes to mind here. Someone who has wronged us. Someone who we’ve held contempt for. Someone who we’ve disliked for a long time. Today, release those feelings and be free. You are not God and don’t have the right to decide who God can and cannot use. If they have wronged you, hand it over to Him and let Him handle it. He’s a better judge than we are and has the ability to change people completely. If you need proof, look in the mirror.

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