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Recognizing Jesus

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Going Fishing

For three years the disciples followed Jesus. They witnessed people receive their sight having been born blind. They watched leprous skin clear up right before them. They were standing there when Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb four days after he died. They handed out the five loaves and two fish to the 5,000. They not only saw Jesus walk on water, they saw Him calm the wind and waves. They had countless fireside discussions that you and I will never know about. That’s why I’ve always been baffled by this one thing that happened after the resurrection.

John 21:3 says, “Simon Peter said to the others, ‘I am going fishing.’ ‘We will come with you,’ they told him” (GNT). After all they had seen and done, they went back to their old life. It’s hard for me to comprehend how they could experience everything they did, and then just simply go back to their old life. Had they forgotten that Jesus had told them that from now on they would be fishers of men? How could they go back to being regular fishermen? No matter how perplexing it is, I have to wonder if we are any different.

We may not have seen those miracles as they did, but if we accepted Jesus as our savior, we experienced the power of God in our own life. We felt that initially cleansing feeling and the peace that passes understanding. Yet somehow, many times we go right back to our old way of living. We know we are supposed to be a new creation, but that old life that’s supposed to be dead and buried calls out to us and tempts us to go back. Even though we experienced the power of the resurrection, we sometimes live as though it had no affect on our life.

That life is as fruitless as that night of fishing for the disciples. The great news for us is that Jesus is on the shore calling out to us, “Have you caught anything?” Then He reminds us to cast our nets on the other side. He reminds us to return to Him and to live our life in the power of the resurrection. When we live that way, our nets will be full. Jesus’ words to them that morning were simple: Follow me. That call goes out to us too. Don’t go back to who you once were before you followed Him. If you have “gone fishing” in that old life, you can swim to shore where Jesus is waiting to welcome you back with open arms.

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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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Calling All Workers

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but around here construction has been booming since Covid started. New homes are being built as fast as they can, existing homes sell the day they go on the market and remodels are happening everywhere. That’s created a couple of problems. The first is that supply and demand has driven the cost of materials sky high. The second is that there is a shortage of workers to do the work. Construction companies are begging for workers. With the lack of workers, jobs aren’t getting done as quickly as they should and people have to wait for months to get their projects done. Every day people are praying for workers so they can complete their jobs.

Not long after Jesus started His ministry, crowds started showing up. They would search for Him early in the morning and stay until late in the evening. He could barely get any rest or time alone. Some days He was so busy He didn’t get to eat. Instead of being overwhelmed at the crowds, He had pity on them. His heart was filled with compassion because of their great need for salvation as well as physical healing. In Matthew 9:38, as He looked at the crowd, He turned to His disciples and said, “Pray to the owner of the harvest that he will send out workers to gather in his harvest” (GNT). He and His 12 disciples were busy every day with the work of God’s Kingdom so much so that John said if all the miracles Jesus did had been recorded, all the books in the world couldn’t contain their stories.

This is where you and I come in. We have two parts in this. One, we are to pray for workers to gather in the harvest as Jesus commanded us to. The other is to recognize we are the workers. Ephesians 2:10 says, “He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing” (MSG). Each of us were created to work in His Kingdom, but few of us are doing the work. He didn’t mean that we should all work at the church. He meant that everywhere you go, and especially at your job, there is a harvest that needs to be brought in. Instead of just praying for workers, we should be like Isaiah and say, “Here am I send me.” There is a harvest ready to be brought in right now, and God is looking for us to step up and do the work He’s called us to.

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Unnoticed Work

Years ago, I was the store manager for a major company. Not long after I took over the store, I needed to hire an assistant manager. My district manager came in and gave me a suggestion of who he thought would be a great fit for the store. I didn’t think they would be a good fit and wanted to hire someone else. He agreed to let me hire the person I wanted. When I approached them about applying for the job, they said they didn’t think I knew them. I replied, “I’ve been seeing your work ethic for years. I’ve watched how you interact with customers and how you’ve respected authority when it’s been in your store.” He replied, “I never thought anyone saw me. I was just being myself.” I agreed and stated that’s why I wanted him to apply.

The day after Jesus was baptized, He began calling disciples to follow Him. Philip was one of the first ones. He went and told his brother Nathaneal that he had found the Messiah. When Nathaneal approached Jesus in John 1:47, Jesus said to him, “Now here comes a true son of Israel—an honest man with no hidden motive!” (TPT) Nathaniel was stunned and said he didn’t think Jesus had ever met him and didn’t know how He knew him. Jesus replied, “Nathanael, right before Philip came to you I saw you sitting under the shade of a fig tree.” That was all it took for him to believe in Jesus and to follow Him.

A lot of ministry and work that people do for God’s Kingdom goes unnoticed. You have to give a lot of yourself, and more times than not you’re criticized more than thanked when it is noticed. I want you to know that God not only knows who you are, He knows you and sees what you’re doing. Don’t quit serving because people don’t see or people criticize. In Matthew 6:3-4, Jesus encourages us, “But when you demonstrate generosity, do it with pure motives and without drawing attention to yourself. Give secretly and your Father, who sees all you do, will reward you openly.” Remember, you’re not doing what you’re doing for man’s approval. God sees your unnoticed work and will reward you openly here or in Heaven. You are known and seen by God. Keep up the good work.

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Being Continually Renewed

One of the things I like to tell people is to choose your attitude or your day will choose it for you. I used to commute to work. Some days it was an hour, and others it would take nearly three. I drove a stick shift and would be sitting in traffic laying on and off the clutch. It was easy to get worked up and upset constantly riding the bumper of someone else while some person (not what I called them 😉) would be trying to weave through stop and go traffic. I then read where people who sit in traffic like that are susceptible to heart attacks. I decided I couldn’t allow myself to get worked up and call people names. I started choosing my attitude no matter how bad traffic was, even if it caused me to be late to a class I was training. I put on soft music and sang along in order to distract my mind. I also reminded myself that there was nothing I could do about the traffic. Some days, I just had to keep reminding myself over and over.

As a believer, there’s often a battle of the mind that has to be won over and over. It’s easy to let my past creep up on me to change my focus from what God’s grace has done to the things I’ve done in my past. That condemning mindset wants to try to tell me I’m not forgiven , I’ve used up too much grace, God could never use me, I’ve done too much, and so on. If i dwell on those thoughts, it would be easy to be unproductive, stagnant in my growth and cold to Christ in our relationship. I realize I’m unworthy of His grace, but I also remind myself that His grace is sufficient and the work has already been done. I have to choose my attitude and renew my way of thinking daily in order to keep growing and receiving God’s grace. I remind myself it’s not about what I’ve done, but what He’s done and is doing in me.

Ephesians 4:23-24 says, “And be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], and put on the new self [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image, [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation]” (AMP). When I’m feeling unworthy or those thoughts creep up, I remind myself of these verses to renew my way of thinking, to remember I’m made in God’s image and to thank Jesus for what He did for me. We all have choose our attitude, how we think and what we dwell on or we can go down some dark rabbit holes that will hold us back from the life we were created to live. If you’re struggling with those thoughts, ask God to help you continually renew your mind so you can be transformed from the inside out.

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Love In Action

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Abandoned

To abandon someone is to quit supporting them or to give up on them. If you’ve ever been through some of life’s toughest circumstances, you know what it’s like to be abandoned by some of your family or friends. You find out that there are people in your life that you can count on, and there are people that you can’t. When you’re looking for advice, a place to regroup, or just a shelter from the storm, some people that you seek out will abandon you. Some of the ones who you thought would support you through thick and thin give up on you.

David was a person who knew a thing or two about being abandoned. He was forgotten by his father, disrespected by his brothers, shamed by his wife, chased by the king, and dishonored by his son. The people in his life that he should have been able to count on, turned their backs on him at some point in his life. He knew a thing or two about rock bottom. He looked for those he could count on in times of trouble.

In all of his searching, there was one who never abandoned him: God. David wasn’t a perfect man either. He cheated on his wife, had a man murdered, and did some unthinkable things. Yet when he sought after God, he knew that no matter what he had done, God would not abandon him. He knew that there was nothing he had done that God couldn’t or wouldn’t forgive. When others gave up on him, God never did. In fact, God said he was a man after His own heart.

You may have walked David’s shoes. Maybe you’ve been abandoned by those who love you or you’ve abandoned the things you know are right. Either way, if you will seek God, He won’t abandon you. Psalm 9:10 says, “Those who know you, Lord, will trust you; you do not abandon anyone who comes to you” (GNT). It doesn’t matter what’s been done to you or what you’ve done to others, you can find shelter, hope, and forgiveness in God when you seek Him out.

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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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Internalizing God’s Word

Several years ago I had a boss that I didn’t see eye to eye with. They had their way of doing things and I had mine, but they had a “my way or the highway” mentality. They thought their way was the best way to do the job. I voiced my disagreement and explained why my way was better. They listened politely then told me to do it their way. At that point, I developed a forced compliance mentality. I would do the job my way, unless they came around. Sometimes I would do it their way out of spite, but over emphasize certain aspects of it and say, “This is what you said you wanted.” It didn’t create a good relationship. I kept thinking my way was better the whole time and never truly gave their way a chance. We were both miserable the whole time I worked for them.

Sometimes we approach Christianity that way. We read God’s Word and disagree with how it tells us to live. We think we have a better way so we live one way on Sunday when we think God is watching, and live a completely different way the rest of the week. We argue with pastors and teachers about what God really meant or we look for someone online who will agree with us. We simply want the benefits of Christianity without changing how we live. Jesus described this mentality in Luke 6:46-47 when He said, “Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on” (MSG). Jesus isn’t offering good morals to live by. He’s offering a different way to live completely and a compliance mindset won’t work.

Instead, we need to truly internalize His words if we’re going to integrate them into our lives and change how we live. They have to move from our head to our heart. Jesus continued in verses 48-49, “If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.” We can’t just pick and choose what we believe in the Bible or just talk about Christianity. To internalize His words, read them asking Him to help you understand how to apply them. Meditate on them to think deeply about them so you can work them into your life. Christianity isn’t a list of rules to follow, it’s a way of life to live.

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Fulfilling Your Destiny

I’m often asked to speak to groups to help people understand how they’re wired. Each of us have certain personality types that help us to fulfilled in our work and life. When we’re not operating or working in areas that are compatible with how we were wired by God, we feel out of place, stressed or unfulfilled. What I like to do is help people find their God given wiring so they can understand what’s going on inside of them. Once they understand that, they can find work that’s fulfilling and get plugged into serving in God’s Kingdom in a capacity that makes the greatest difference. Each of us were created by God on purpose and with a purpose. That means there’s a position in God’s Kingdom that only you can fill, and if you don’t do it, it won’t get done. You are called by God to be a Kingdom builder. Sitting on the sidelines thinking God’s calling is only for ministers is not an option.

Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations— that’s what I had in mind for you” (MSG). God was speaking to Jeremiah, but He was also demonstrating that He knows each one of us and has plans for us from before we were born. To reiterate it, Psalm 139:16 says, “Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” God prepared you with a purpose to make a difference at each stage of your life. We can’t sit back and wait for the next stage. There’s something He has for you to do even now! You were created for such a time as this.

Finally, Ephesians 2:10 says, “Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!” (TPT). You have a destiny, a mission, a calling and a purpose that God created you for. You are not an accident. You have a divine purpose to make a difference in the lives you’ve been planted in. It’s not the responsibility of someone who is more spiritual, better equipped or more qualified. You can’t get more qualified than being designed by God from before you were born to fulfill your purpose. Your specific wiring and personality uniquely qualifies you to do the good works God created you for. Our world needs you to fulfill God’s plan for your life. You won’t feel fulfilled until you are moving in your purpose and doing what you were created for. Go make a difference today wherever God has you. There’s someone needing what only you can offer.

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Living In Harmony

When I was in school, there was a game that schools were teaching kids called “Lifeboat”. Basically you were the captain of a ship that was at sea and it was going down. There was one lifeboat, but there wasn’t enough room for everyone. They gave you a rundown on everyone on board. Some were young, some were old, some had questionable past, some had noble professions, some had medical conditions, some were addicts, etc. You were then to choose to see how your morals or values guided you. My parents, and a lot of Christians were against this type of education and wanted us to respect all people and value their life. I don’t remember the game lasting very long in schools, but I do remember them reiterating the Golden Rule of treating others the way you want to be treated.

Both the Old and New Testaments teach us to love our enemies and to treat them well. The word enemy here is someone who is hostile toward you or who opposes you. That can be tough to do. Usually if someone is hostile toward me, my first reaction is to attack them back or go on the defensive. I’ve always tried to keep Proverbs 15:1 in mind when someone is angry at me, and give them a soft answer. Another thing I try to do to de-escalate the situation is to try to understand their side and point of view by asking questions gently. Most people simply want to be heard and understood. They feel like attacking or yelling is the way to do that. Our response has the ability to add gasoline to that raging fire or water.

Finally, if all else fails, value them and their life. Remember that they were made in the image of God as much as you were. Romans 12:16 says, “Live happily together in a spirit of harmony, and be as mindful of another’s worth as you are your own” (TPT). When we argue our points by devaluing someone else and their points. It’s like tossing them overboard in the game of Lifeboat. It’s telling them that they don’t matter and you and your points are worth more than theirs. As believers, we must learn how to live in harmony across denominational, racial, ethnical and personal belief lines. We must value each other as brothers and sisters in Christ even though we may not see eye to eye. We are not each other’s enemy, and our battle is not against flesh and blood. Each of us have the same worth to God and He paid the same price for their sin as He did for yours. When we learn to value others as ourselves, we create an ability to live in harmony.

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