One of the things I learned in Nazareth, was that a carpenter in Jesus day meant more than someone who worked with wood. It was a person who worked with stone also. There wasn’t a different word for the two. It’s interesting to me because it changes how I think about Jesus versus how I thought of Him as just a woodworker. Knowing that Jesus could have been a stone worker as well, brings other verses to life that didn’t quite make as much sense before.
One of the first scriptures I thought of when I heard that was I Peter 2:5. It says, “And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God” (NLT). You and I are living stones that Jesus, the stone carpenter, shapes, molds, and builds with. No matter how hard our hearts might be, He can use His divine chisel to form us into who He needs us to be.
Another one I thought of was Matthew 16:18 that says, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” I’ve always thought of this verse as just Peter being the Rock, but when we think of what Peter said above, each one of us are the Rock with which Jesus builds His church. We are the ones also who the powers of hell will not conquer. We are stronger than we think and we have the power of God in us causing us to be able to withstand anything the enemy brings.
Go one more step with me. Mark 15:46 says, “Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance.” I don’t think it was coincidental that Jesus was buried in a rock. When we become Christians, we accept Jesus into our hearts. He fills the void inside of us just like He did that tomb.
The list could go on and on throughout the Bible. These are just a few examples I’ve thought of while sitting in Nazareth. Jesus was more than a wood carpenter, He was a stone carpenter. He’s a builder who uses what is available. No matter how little or much we think we have to offer, He can use it to build His Church because we carry His spirit inside of us. We are living stones because the One who lives forever, lives in us. We are His workmanship created to do good works, as Paul put it in Ephesians 2:10.
What would you change if you knew the day you were going to die? How would it change things if that day was years in the future or next week? I always wonder why God allows us to know when someone will be born, but not when we will die. He already knows the date, so why not let us know? For me, that leads back to the first question. Would we live differently if we knew the date? I think human nature dictates that we would live differently. Unfortunately, many people would live their lives for themselves, then at the last moment, give their lives to God. Since we don’t know when, we must live our lives being ready to meet our maker at any moment.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the average life expectancy in the United States is 78.6 years. With that kind of average, we all assume we will live that long, but the truth is that we don’t know. 78.6 years seems like a long time when you compare it to people you know, but what if we compare it to eternity? 78.6 years is nothing. It’s not even a second. What we do, and how we live will have an eternal impact. Why would we then try to live that second for anything other than our creator?
Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (NLT). Thinking about how short life is should push us to think eternally and make us live wisely with eternity in mind. The problem is that most of us don’t want to live our lives with the end in mind. We only think about today and what we need for it. God has planted eternity in our hearts, but He has left the future unclear (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He doesn’t want us to live our lives short sited. We need to live with eternity in mind.
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I was in court once fighting a traffic ticket, and i was somewhere way down on the docket. I watched other people get up and pleaded their case. One guy ran a red light because he didn’t see it was red. The judge told him that he was guilty because he was following too closely behind a taller vehicle. Another person was fighting theirs and when confronted with the law they broke, they insisted they were innocent because they didn’t know that was a law. The judge got everyone’s attention in the court room and said, “I want all of you to hear this because i don’t want to have to repeat it all day. Ignorance of the law doesn’t make you innocent when you break it.”
I’ve always remembered those words, and haven’t been back to fight a traffic ticket since. I learned a lot that day about driving and the law. There’s not been a time since when I was driving behind an 18 wheeler through town, that I haven’t remembered to slow down so I could see the light. Once we are knowledgeable about laws (God’s and man’s) it should change how we live. We are no longer ignorant of how we should live or of what is right or wrong. To continue living and doing things, knowing the law, is to be willfully breaking it. James 4:17 clearly calls that sin.
Just like that judge ruled that day, God will do the same in Heaven. Our ignorance will not be an excuse. I love how Psalm 86:11 says, “Teach me more about you, how you work and how you move, so that I can walk onward in your truth until everything within me brings honor to your name” (TPT). Our desire, and prayer, should be to know God more and more so that we are no longer ignorant of His ways and laws so that we can live the way He wants us to. He’s given us the Bible to teach us the right way to live, but He’s also invited us into a personal relationship with Him so we can know His heart. God is willing to let you know more about Himself if you’re willing to take the time to know Him more.
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It used to be that Christians and non Christians held the Bible in high esteem. Just about everyone could agree that its principles for living were good. It became the standard of what was right and wrong even by people who didn’t trust or believe in Jesus. Today, it is no longer regarded that way in society. Each person or people group is now believed to have their own standard of what right and wrong is. Our world has moved from a place of absolute truth to one where truth is relative to the person looking at it.
Integrity is not just about being honest. It’s also about holding yourself to a higher standard. As Christians, it’s important that we don’t lower the bar of what truth is just because the world has. The truth of God’s Word and the principles in it are not relative to how you’re feeling or want to interpret them. Our lives must be lived by the integrity of the Bible. Its truth has endured thousands of years and will continue to. If we want to live lives of integrity, we do it by building them on the Word of God.
Here are some Bible verses on living a life of integrity.
1. Above all, set yourself apart as a model of a life nobly lived. With dignity, demonstrate integrity in all that you teach.
Titus 2:7 TPT
2. The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them.
Proverbs 20:7 NLT
3. O LORD, who may lodge [as a guest] in Your tent? Who may dwell [continually] on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity and strength of character, and works righteousness, And speaks and holds truth in his heart.
PSALMS 15:1-2 AMP
4. The evil of bad people leaves them out in the cold; the integrity of good people creates a safe place for living.
Proverbs 14:32 MSG
5. Integrity will lead you to success and happiness, but treachery will destroy your dreams.
Proverbs 11:3 TPT
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In high school I had a coach that was tough. He would spend an hour and a half of a two hour practice conditioning our team. We would run laps outside and sprints inside. When we would beg for water, he’d say, “You can’t stop a game to get water.” After we would practice our plays for about 30 minutes, we’d finish practice with more running. Before you left, you had to make 100 free throws. He would tell us, “We may not be the best team on the floor, but we will be the best conditioned team.” I can tell you he was right. We ran the other teams out of the gym because they would get tired. When we held the state championship trophy, it was all worth it.
God, like that coach, is always looking ahead in our lives, seeing what we can’t see. He knows what it will take to condition us now so that we will endure the things that are coming. Preparing and conditioning are never easy, nor are they fun, but they build in us the endurance to push through where others fail. They get us in shape spiritually for the spiritual battles that we will face. At times during conditioning we can feel like giving up or want to start questioning why we aren’t spending more time practicing the things God is going to use us for. I’ve learned that if the enemy succeeds in destroying our witness, he can keep us from giving the message. We must be able to endure the pressure first.
I love the way The Passion Translation words Psalm 23:4. It says, “Lord, even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have!” God’s path rarely goes where we think it should. Many times it goes into dark places of testing and conditioning because God wants to build your trust in Him before the enemy attacks. What you learn in the valley will sustain you in the battle. Preparation and conditioning are necessary to make you more than a conqueror. The greater God’s plan is for your life, the greater your preparation and conditioning will be.
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Every time I fly, I think about a friend of mine who is a pilot. I’ve asked him many questions about the process of flying and what it’s like to be in the cabin. I’ve even questioned him about autopilot. He told me that before a flight, he plots the course based off of information he gets from others who are flying that route. Once the plane is in the air and cruising, he turns on autopilot. I wondered if it was really that easy. He then explained that at the cruising altitude, the winds can blow us off course and he has to readjust to get the plane back on course. If he doesn’t, the plane could arrive miles from its destination.
Our walk with God is a lot like that. We love to set our lives to autopilot and think that will get us directly to Heaven, but the Christian life is more than autopilot. In order to be successful at living this life, we need to have people in our lives who are ahead of us and have walked the path we are on. We need to listen to the information they’re giving us because they’ve seen first hand where turbulence lies. It’s important to have people in our lives who can give us guidance and the information we need to make the right decisions. Proverbs 13:20 tells us that if we want to be wise, we need to be around wise people.
The next thing we have to do is be aware of how the winds of life shift us from our course. Things happen. Problems are going to arise. We need to be in a constant state of questioning if we are still on course for where God has us headed. Reevaluation is an important part of your Christian life. Asking if we are where God wants us when God wants us to be there is important. Are we still on the path that God put us on? That path is hard to see sometimes. We need to have God’s Word in our hearts. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”
Applying God’s word to your life and taking advice from others will help you to live the most impactful Christian life you can. When we know what God says in His Word, we are able to defeat temptation that would take us off course. If we do get knocked off course, it’s not the end of the world. God offers forgiveness and course corrections. He makes a way to get back to where He had us heading. Don’t quit because you’ve been blown off course. Take the advice of someone who has been blown off course and been given a path back. God will not abandon you or the plans He has for you no matter how far off course you get. There’s always a way back.
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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.
Years ago, Tracy Lawrence sang a song called, “Find Out Who Your Friends Are”. The chorus said, “You find out who your friends are, Someone’s going to drop everything, Run out and crank up their car, Hit the gas, get there fast, Never stop to think, “What’s in it for me”, Or “‘It’s way too far”, They just show up, With their big ol’ heart, You find out who your friends are.” It’s a good reminder of the people in your life that you can count on for just about anything. God is One in whom we can count on in times of need.
King David had some incredible insight into who God is. He was a man after God’s heart, but he was also a man who lived a life of faith and trust. His psalms hit home with us because he was constantly in situations that required great faith and he wrote out his prayers. His desperation often matches our own and he gives words to prayers we need to pray in those moments. He found God to be a true friend who would never turn us away in our time of need. In Psalm 9:10, he wrote, “May everyone who knows your mercy keep putting their trust in you, for they can count on you for help no matter what. O Lord, you will never, no never, neglect those who come to you” (TPT)
You and I can go to God in our time of need and He will not neglect our need. I can tell you that He doesn’t answer each prayer the way I want Him to, but then again I don’t give my child everything he asks for either. Just like I look at the whole picture and make a decision for him, God does that with us. He meets our needs and never turns us away when we go to Him. His plan for our lives is greater than you or I can even imagine. For us to fulfill that plan, we’ve got to learn to trust Him the way David did. It’s not an easy path and things won’t always go your way, but if you keep trusting in Him, you’ll find that you can always count on Him no matter what.
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