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Intimately Knowing God

One of the things I’ve loved since I was a kid is trivia games, especially Bible trivia. My parents couldn’t afford to send us to camp when we were young, so they took us to every Vacation Bible School in town. I got a head full of knowledge about the Bible from going to all of those. When you combine that with my ability to memorize things, I won a lot of prizes when it came to Bible Trivia. The only downside to having all that knowledge is that for years, I thought I knew God because I knew a lot about Him. However, knowing about someone and knowing them are two very different things.

When David was old, he was preparing to hand over the kingdom to Solomon. Like any parent, I’m sure he saw great qualities in his son. He wanted to make sure that his son didn’t just rely on who he had heard God was, but wanted him to intimately know Him the way he did. In 1 Chronicles 28, David was giving Solomon instruction for ruling, for building the Temple and for living well. In verse 9, he said, “Learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever” (NLT).

There is so much wisdom in that one verse, but I want us to simply focus on that first part today. Learn to know God intimately. It’s good to learn about Him, but it’s more important to learn to know Him intimately. Knowledge about God comes from Scripture, but knowing Him comes from spending time in prayer and being still in His presence. All of the Bible is about this one thing: God wants an intimate relationship with you and He’s willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. The problem is it takes two to have a relationship. God has done His part. Will you do yours and spend some alone time with Him today listening to His voice?

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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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Discipleship

Becoming a follower of Jesus isn’t a one time event. Jesus told us that we would need to take up our cross daily in order to follow Him. Being a disciple is to constantly choose to sacrifice your desires for His. In Greek, the language the New Testament was written in, the word disciple is mathetes. According to Strong’s Concordance it means, “a learner; a disciple, a follower of Christ who learns the doctrines of Scripture and the lifestyle they require.” What’s crazy is that Jesus didn’t tell us to go into all the world to make Christians. He told us to make disciples. We are to be followers of Christ who learn Scripture and live a life that daily reflects it. Paul said it was something we must press on for because it’s not an easy decision to make and live up to, but it’s who we’re called to be.

In Luke 18, Jesus encountered a man we’ve dubbed “the rich, young ruler”. He asked Jesus, in verse 18 he asked, “Good Teacher [You who are essentially and morally good], what shall I do to inherit eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?” (AMP) Jesus responded by telling him to follow the commandments in the Old Testament. The man wasn’t satisfied because he knew there was something more than following rules to being a disciple and follower of Jesus. So Jesus told him, “You still lack one thing; sell everything that you have and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have [abundant] treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].” The man walked away sad because he wasn’t willing to take his next step in discipleship. He was ready to accept the Bible and Jesus as Lord, but unwilling to daily follow Him. Being a disciple is a matter of the heart.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart [your wishes, your desires; that on which your life centers] will be also.” What do you center your life on? Is it your desires or His? Do you seek Him for direction for your life or do you allow Him to lead? To me, that last question is the difference in being a Christian and a disciple. The rich, young ruler was asking for direction, but unwilling to let Jesus lead his life. He lived life according to the Bible, but his heart kept him from experiencing the fullness of Christ. He valued his life, possessions and desires more. He wasn’t willing to nail them to the cross and follow Jesus fully. We’re all faced with that choice as Christians. Are we satisfied with being saved or do we truly want to become like Him learning Scripture and the lifestyle it requires? It’s a daily choice each of us must make.

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Psalm 23

If you’re like me, you memorized Psalm 23 as a kid and have been quoting it since. I’m all for memorizing Bible verses and teaching them to children. However, sometimes we can lose the significance of passages when we’ve read them or heard them so many times. Even though I’ve read the Bible through several times, one of the things I do is pray before reading. I ask God to help me see it with fresh eyes, to open my mind to understand it and to give me revelation knowledge of it. I don’t want to skip through stories or chapters just because I know what happens or can recite from memory. On those especially, I take my time pouring over every word and digging through it using commentary tools as well as original language meanings.

Psalm 23 starts with, “The Lord is my shepherd.” First of all, this is a declarative statement. He’s not just saying it. He’s confessing it and making a statement. The Lord IS my shepherd. It’s not might be or could be. Then he personalizes it. The Lord is MY shepherd. Our mind likes to tell us that God cares for everyone but us. That’s a lie! He is your personal shepherd who knows your personal needs and takes care of them so that you shall not want. Quit skipping out on asking God to meet your needs because there are so many others who have more important or desperate needs. He is YOUR shepherd and is able to shepherd others as well as you on a personal level. Their needs are no more difficult to answer to Him than yours. There aren’t levels of needs to Him, but there are different levels of faith and trust in Him as your shepherd.

The next verse says that He makes me lie down in green pastures. God knows you need rest at times because you’re always on the go. He wants to lead us to a peaceful place to just be. It’s a place where you put down the facade and the mask. You don’t have to be “on” all the time. He instituted the Sabbath for a reason. Since we ignore it, He is still trying to shepherd us to rest because our shepherd knows we need it. He also tries to lead us to still waters. These waters are a place of refreshing. He understands that we need to experience times of refreshing. We try to say we don’t deserve it or we have too much to do to stop and be refreshed, but your shepherd created you and knows what you need. Quit fighting Him and let Him lead you. Quit making excuses and trust Him. When you do, He’ll restore your soul, guide you through the darkest places, prepare a table for you and anoint you so that goodness and mercy will be with you all the days of your life. It all starts with declaring and letting Him be your shepherd.

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Unplugging Wells

During the Covid pandemic, while people were in lockdown, people had a lot of time on their hands. They had to stay home when they used to go out. Some people took that as an opportunity to rediscover their hidden talents, hone their skills and develop their talents. I watched several videos and read stories of how people were investing their time into these things. Their lives had become so busy before the pandemic that they quit practicing or using these skills and eventually forgot they had them. The pandemic gave almost all of us a rare opportunity to reset our schedules, manage our time better and rediscover ourselves. Once it ended though, most of us went back to living the way we were before it. We forgot the lessons learned and put our talents on the back burner again.

Genesis 26 starts off by telling us there was a great famine that caused people to move, including Isaac. God told him not to go to Egypt, but to stay in the same country. When he arrived to the area the Lord told him to go, he found favor with the king and purchased land. When he planted crops, God gave him 100 times more than he planted. The Philistines were jealous and filled his wells with dirt. Verses 17-18 say that Isaac moved to the valley and reopened the wells his father had dug, but the Philistines and filled up after his death. There were fights and struggles over it, but he kept unplugging them until he had enough water for his people and flocks.

1 Timothy 4:14-15 says, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress” (NLT). Each of us have plugged up wells in our lives. These wells are spiritual gifts, talents and skills that we were given to serve the Lord with. We’ve allowed them to be plugged up by our schedule, our mismanagement of time and daily distractions. It’s time to redig those wells and give your attention to them so that you make progress in them once again. You weren’t created to make a living. Your God given purpose lies in the gifts and talents He gave you. Unplug those wells and use them for His purposes once again. That’s were you will find fulfillment and purpose for your life.

Photo by Frans van Heerden:

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Walk In Power

One of the things we forget as believers is that the Holy Spirit lives in us. 1 John 4:4 says that He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world. God is all powerful and He not only lives in us, but He gives His power and authority to us as well. It’s time you and I started walking in that authority and power. We have victory in Jesus! We have authority in Jesus! We are not defeated. We will overcome because He has given us that power. We can face any situation with confidence because He lives in us and is greater than anything we face. Going forward, we need to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

Here are some Bible verses on the power you’ve been given.

1. But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.

2 Corinthians 12:9 TPT

2. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].

2 Timothy 1:7 AMP

3. I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.

Philippians 4:13 GNT

4. But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.

Acts 1:8 AMP

5. A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Ephesians 6:10 NLT

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Nothing Is Too Difficult

When my mom was in the final stages of her life, she was in the ICU at M. D. Anderson hospital. On one particular day, I got to spend the whole day with her. She must have seen the worry on my face because she said, “There’s nothing too hard for God you know.” She then spent the next few hours telling me of all the times in her life that God came through in impossible situations. She then said, “I have no doubt that God knows what He’s doing. I have peace in whatever He chooses.”

That day was one final lesson from her that God is in control, and that there’s nothing He can’t do. Just because she didn’t walk out of that hospital completely healed and cancer free, doesn’t mean that God’s doesn’t have the ability to heal. For whatever reason, He didn’t heal her the way we were praying. She knew that was a possibility so she reminded me, and herself, of all the times God had performed miracles in her life.

I don’t know why God answers some prayers and not others. I don’t know why He shows off in great form in some instances and not in others. What I do know is that He has the ability to. Jeremiah felt the same way. He was locked up while Jerusalem was under siege for prophesying that Jerusalem would be under siege and lost the battle. While He was in prison, God told him that his cousin would come sell him some land. I’m sure Jeremiah laughed. Why would someone in prison need to buy land? Because God was going to do the impossible and set him free one day and return him from captivity.

When the deal was done, in Jeremiah 32:17 , he prayed, “Sovereign Lord, you made the earth and the sky by your great power and might; nothing is too difficult for you” (GNT). He reminded himself, like my mom did, that there’s no situation too hard for God to intervene in. There no whole so deep that He can’t pull you out of. There’s no sickness too far spread that He can’t heal. There’s no life so far gone that He can’t rescue. Whatever you’re facing today, know that there’s nothing too difficult for God to handle.

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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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Be Faithful Now

My wife and I watched History Channel’s “Men Who Built America”. The show discusses several titans of industry during Reconstruction after the Civil War up to the early 1900’s. It was incredible to see what these men did and how they operated. It was also eye opening how they would do anything to make money. Because of them, we have a lot of the labor and antitrust laws. They were often ruthless in their pursuit, but two men changed their tune as they got older and began trying to make a difference by give away their fortune to philanthropic causes and charities. J.P. Morgan gave away around $900 million in today’s money and John D. Rockefeller gave away around $540 million. To this day their philanthropic causes live on.

In Luke 16, Jesus told the story of a rich man who had a manager of his affairs. It turned out the manager was wasting the money so the rich man called him to account. The guy was afraid of being unemployed and didn’t want to beg so he cut what each person owed with all of his boss’s debtors. He figured he would make friends before he left so that he would have a place to land. The boss was impressed with how shrewd he was. Then in verse 9, Jesus said, “Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home” (NLT). While Jesus doesn’t discourage us from being rich or making money, He does encourage us to give and make a difference with what we have.

In the next two verses Jesus continued, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?” Sometimes we think we need to be rich to make a difference or to give, but this verse clearly tells us to be faithful with what we have, even if it’s a little. Many of us pursue more money and better jobs, but how can we handle that if we’re not making a difference with what we have. The same is true with our spiritual gifts. Many people look for ministries that are in the spotlight or get lots of attention, but God is looking to see if we can be faithful when no one sees. When we are faithful with a little, He trusts us with a lot.

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Trusting God’s Truth

Sometimes we confuse the facts with the truth and we start to believe the wrong thing. A fact is simply a subset or fraction of what the truth is. They’re like a piece of the puzzle, but they don’t show the whole picture. They can tell us what’s going on in that moment of our life, but the truth is that a momentary situation in our life doesn’t define who we are. This is important because our enemy uses facts against us like a lawyer to destroy our faith and trust in what God is doing, or going to do, in our lives. He uses facts to distract us and to try to disqualify us from God’s promises. He tried to use facts against Jesus while tempting Him, but each time Jesus countered with the truth of God’s Word.

In Genesis 15, the fact is that Abram and Sarai were barren and couldn’t have children. The truth was that God had already promised Abram that he would be the father of many nations. The facts were that they were too old to conceive, but the truth was that God was still moving on their behalf. Even Abram had trouble believing the truth. In verse 2 he prayed, “But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth” (NLT). Then God reaffirmed the truth that he would have a son and many descendants. Verse 6 tells us that Abram believed the Lord and it was counted as righteousness because he trusted the truth over facts.

In John 8:31 Jesus said, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” What facts have you been believing over God’s truth? Facts have a way of binding us up and preventing us from being free. Today, I want you to start believing and trusting in God’s truth instead of the facts your current situation is telling you. If God has promised it, no facts can ever stop it. Be free from their grip on you today. Say out loud that you believe God’s truth. Repeat out loud what God’s promise is to you. Quit quoting facts and start confessing God’s truth. We must be like Abram where we believe despite what our current situation is telling us. God counts that kind of faith as righteousness. When we do, He blesses us and sets us free.

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Seeking The Reward

Our brains are wired to seek rewards. Seeking and obtaining these rewards create habits in our lives. When you wake up, if you have the habit of hitting the snooze button, your brain has been conditioned to seek the reward of nine more minutes of sleep. If you love working out, your brain loves the endorphins that are released and how your body will look. Scientists have observed the brain during these activities and see what they’ve nicknamed the pleasure center of the brain light up when it gets the reward. It gets addicted to that feeling which makes habits hard to break. If you want to change a habit, don’t just take away the reward, create a reward for the new habit.

Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, endured some pretty harsh things. He was beaten several times within an inch of his life. He was sent to prison, rejected, stoned, attacked, shipwrecked and more for his faith. How did he keep going? He found a way to let his brain know that there was a reward in Heaven coming. In Philippians 3:10-11 he explained his reward by writing, “And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; so that I may attain to the resurrection [that will raise me] from the dead” (AMP). He always looked for the reward in becoming more like Christ and being with Him one day.

Jesus set out a reward for us too. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.” If you look at what you’ve been seeking after instead of God’s kingdom, you will see the reward your brain is after. Jesus is offering us a greater reward by seeking Him first. Like Paul, we need to retire our brains, by allowing our minds to be transformed (Romans 12:2). When we put His needs ahead of our own, He rewards us with becoming more like Him and by taking care of all these things that cause us to worry.

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Time To Reevaluate

Do you know what happens when you neglect a plant? What about a yard? A house? A relationship? Things that get neglected usually die, become unhealthy or get rundown. Most of us live such busy lives that we can’t juggle everything. That means that something begins to get neglected. The Bible mentions several things that we need to make sure we don’t neglect. In fact, we need to make sure we bring life to these things, care for them and develop them so that they can grow, become healthy and get strong. If you’ve begun to neglect these or relationships in your life, it may be time to reevaluate everything on your plate. You may even have to sacrifice some things so that you can tend to what matters most.

Here are some Bible verses on things you shouldn’t neglect.

1. Give respect to your father and mother, for without them you wouldn’t even be here. And don’t neglect them when they grow old.

Proverbs 23:22 TPT

2. Do not neglect to do good, to contribute [to the needy of the church as an expression of fellowship], for such sacrifices are always pleasing to God.

Hebrews 13:16 AMP

3. Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you.

1 Timothy 4:14 NLT

4. This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing. In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning.

Hebrews 10:25 TPT

5. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Hebrews 13:2 ESV

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