Tag Archives: spiritual growth

Be Thankful


I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). It’s one of those verses we can quickly read over. Paul was wrapping up his letter and was writing several commands for these new believers. He was wanting them to take these instructions and ingrain them in their new lives early on so that they would become a habit long term. Each of the things he said were important, but this one always jumps out at me.

He said, “Be thankful in ALL circumstances.” He didn’t say we had to thank God for our circumstances, but that we need to find something to give thanks for. In my most difficult time. I was living minute to minute. I would watch the clock and tell myself, “If I can survive this minute, I can get through this problem.” When the minute would pass, I would thank God for helping me to survive that minute, then the process would start over. I didn’t thank God for the mess I was in. I thanked Him for keeping me alive in it.

Paul, the writer of Thessalonians, had gone through some pretty dark days himself. He learned that if you focus on your problem, despair sets in. If you focus on finding something to be thankful for, praise fills your heart. That’s how he and Silas could praise in prison. I’m sure it started out as a conversation on things to be thankful for that turned into singing praises to God. It was in those praises that God moved the earth and set them free from their chains.

Don’t miss that powerful truth. When you praise, God frees you from your chains. Praise comes from a heart that is thankful. A thankful heart comes from a person who looks for the good in every situation. If you’re breathing, you’ve got something to be thankful for. If you have a bed to sleep in, you’ve got something to be thankful for. Your world may be falling apart, but God has not abandoned you. Give thanks for that. When you learn to give thanks in all circumstances, you’ll learn to praise in all circumstances. 

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Staying On Course


When I was a teenager, I was very involved in a camping program through my church. One of the badges I had to earn was for orienteering. I had to learn how to use a compass, read a map and plot courses on a map. I also had to go on a several mile hike through a dense forest using my compass. They handed me a topographical map of the area, gave me several coordinates and told me where to start. 

I took my first coordinate, set my compass and started walking. I had to measure my steps because my next turn was two hundred yards in. The deeper I got into the woods, the harder it was to find the markers I was looking for. It was also more difficult to look ahead several hundred yards. I had to go to a tree in my path, walk around it and reset my path. If I was barely off at all, I could be twenty yards or so from the hidden marker in the woods that I needed to write down.

I made it through the course and earned my badge. As I think back on that experience, it reminds me of what it’s like to follow God’s plan for my life. There’s no real trail, I just know the direction I’m supposed to go and I’m not sure where the markers are hidden. There have been many obstacles in my way that have tried to knock me off course, but I’ve kept at it. I’m sure you’ve experienced the same thing in your life.

Psalm 119:1-2 says, “You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by GOD. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him” (MSG). God has set a course for each one of us to run. He’s given us the compass of His Word to help us navigate, and the Holy Spirit to help us measure our steps. It’s up to each one of us to utilize the tools He’s given us to do what He’s called us to do. If you’re off course right now or stuck, go back to the Bible and seek the Holy Spirit’s help. You can get back on course and finish your race well. 

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The Brutal Truth


Were you ever taught, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? I was. My parents were trying to teach me a few lessons, including that not everything that comes into your mind needs to be said. They were building filters in at an early age. I know people who don’t have any filters. He things they say are almost comical, if they weren’t so sad. They are often saying the truth, but not in a way that gets heard. 

When I’m developing a relationship with someone, one of the first conversations I have with them is about the truth. I let them know that if they ask me a question, I’m going to tell them the truth, whether they want to hear it or not. I also will try to give them that truth in love because as Warren Wiersbe said, “The truth without love is brutality.” I’ve found that the brutal truth is just like not having a filter. 

So why do we watch what we say? As James 3:6 says, the tongue can be a world of evil. Even though it’s a small member of our body, it can destroy relationships that have taken a lifetime to build. James 3:5 says, “Just think of how large a forest can be set on fire with a tiny spark” (GNT). He was reminding us of how small words from a small member of our body can burn down things that have taken years to build. 

I believe he was also teaching us to watch what we say so that we will get along with others. James concludes the chapter by saying, “You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor” (MSG). We are to be developing healthy community, and the way to that is learning to control what we say, and how we say it. If you’re not sure what needs to be said or how it needs to be said, ask God for wisdom. A well placed word brings life rather than destruction. 

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Walking In God’s Presence


My son is competitive like most kids. He wants to be first everywhere we go. The problem is that he doesn’t always know where we are going. Sometimes when he gets a few steps ahead, I turn and he keeps going straight. I’ll usually make a noise to let him notice. He then runs over and tries to stay in front. With each turn, I remind him that I’m the one who knows where we are going, and that he should follow. 

There are other times when he’s just trying to keep my attention. If I’m trying to do something, he’ll get in my face. If I direct my attention elsewhere, he moves to try to stay in my face. Sometimes it makes me laugh how hard he tries to get and keep my attention. The truth is that it’s a picture of how we are to be with God. Sometimes we forget to be like children, which is what Jesus told us to be like. 

I believe God is looking for us to be in His presence. He’s not wanting us to be out in front of Him trying to guess where He’s leading us, and He’s not just wanting us to be somewhere in His vicinity. He wants us to go get in His face, and to be where He is looking. Psalm 116:9 says, “I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth!” (NLT) The Psalmist understood what God desires from each of us, and that is to walk in His presence. 

The word “presence” in its original meaning, is the word for face. So to walk in the Lord’s presence is to walk where He’s facing. In order to do that, we need to be constantly looking at Him to make sure we are going the same way He is. We have to spend time in prayer throughout the day constantly grabbing His face and attention. It’s what children who love their parents do. God is not annoyed by us in trying to do this. He is honored when we walk in His presence. 

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Thank You Pastors


To me, pastors are special people. They carry the burden of the local church, and they often wear many different hats. They not only preach, but they make sure the church is open. They’re usually the first to arrive and the last to leave. They are counselors when we need Godly advice. They are prayer partners when we need God to intervene. These men and women stand in the gap between God and the world, and are the watchmen for their flock.

Knowing how much they do, it’s easy to forget they’re human and to think of them as super Christians. The truth is that they struggle with sin just like us. They need friends who will lift them up in prayer, and give them an encouraging word from time to time. They deserve our honor, our support, and our prayers. We should honor them all year long because their job never stops. So, to all the pastors out there, I want to say, “Thank you!”

Here are some Bible verses on appreciating pastors. 

1, Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness.
Hebrews 13:7 MSG

2. Then [in the final time] I will give you [spiritual] shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and [true] understanding.
JEREMIAH 3:15 AMP

3. Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”
1 Timothy 5:17-18 MSG

4. In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.
1 Corinthians 9:14 NLT

5. The one who is taught the word [of God] is to share all good things with his teacher [contributing to his spiritual and material support].
GALATIANS 6:6 AMP

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Endurance Running


If you’ve never heard of an Iron Man race or been to one, the people who do it are incredible. The race starts off with a 2.4 mile open water swim. Then they ride a bike for over 112 miles. Once they’re done with that, they have to run a marathon. Did I mention that it all has to be done on the same day and within a certain timeframe? These men and women push their body’s to the limit like nothing I’ve ever seen. To me, they are the very picture of endurance. 

In high school, i ran the mile. Yes, it was just one, and they called that endurance running! I still had to train and condition my body to be able to run four laps around the track at the fastest speed possible. I had to get my muscles to the level where they could maintain that speed for close to five minutes. I also had to condition my lungs to not get winded so I wouldn’t run out of breath in the race. It’s a far cry from an Iron Man, but I still had to train.

Hebrews 12:1 tells us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (NLT). We each have our own race to run in life. Some of us will run a short distance, some will run a 5k, others a half marathon or a marathon, while others an Iron Man. Whatever race God has set before you, run with endurance and don’t compare your race to someone else’s. 

There’s an old saying that goes, “It’s not the mountains ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” To run with endurance, and to run to win, we need to get rid of sin in our lives, even small ones. They keep us from running our race the way God wants us to. We must discipline our flesh and our spirit through prayer, reading God’s Word, and running alongside other believers to be able to endure the race we’ve been given. We each have a certain time frame within which we must run our race, so we need to run to win.

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Diligent Faith


I like to ask people to give me one word to describe what makes them successful. I get a lot of the same words from people like: personable, knowledgeable, honest, trustworthy, determined, and selfless. A word that I’ve yet to hear is diligent. It’s not a word we use that often anymore in our daily vocabulary, but it’s still a great word. It means to be constant in effort or to be persistent in trying to accomplish something. It’s about not giving up.

It’s a great word to describe how to be more successful at following God. Imagine if we became more persistent in chasing after Him or if we were more constant in our effort to know Him. How much stronger would our faith be? As I read Hebrews 11 (the Hall of Faith), I can’t help but see these men and women as diligent people. The greatest people of faith in the Bible had a common thing: they were diligent in their faith to follow God. If we want to live greater lives of faith, we should become more diligent in following God.

Here are some Bible verses about being diligent. 

1. The soul (appetite) of the lazy person craves and gets nothing [for lethargy overcomes ambition], But the soul (appetite) of the diligent [who works willingly] is rich and abundantly supplied.
PROVERBS 13:4 AMP

2. Our people have to learn to be diligent in their work so that all necessities are met (especially among the needy) and they don’t end up with nothing to show for their lives.
Titus 3:14 MSG

3. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward.
2 John 1:8 NLT

4. So be very diligent to love the Lord your God for your own well-being.
Joshua 23:11 HCSB

5. But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him.
HEBREWS 11:6 AMP

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