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God Hears Your Voice

I love the story in Mark 5:25 about a woman who had been hemorrhaging blood for 12 years. She had gone to every doctor and specialist she could find to get the bleeding to stop. She had spent all her money on doctors and treatments, but was worse off than before. She was broke and devastated when she had heard Jesus was in her town. She thought to herself, “If I can just touch the hem of His garment, I’ll be healed.” She didn’t feel like she had a voice to even ask Him for it, nor to even say her plan out loud. When she touched His robe and was healed, Jesus stopped and asked who touched Him. Now she was terrified and afraid to speak up, but Jesus wouldn’t let it go. Finally, trembling she came and spoke up. He lovingly looked at her and said, “Daughter, your faith has made you whole.” God had heard her voice even though she didn’t feel like He would. He hears yours too. Don’t stay silent. Tell God what you need. He hears you.

Here are some Bible verses on God hearing your voice.

1. My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.

Psalms 77:1 AMP

2. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

Psalm 66:19 ESV

3. In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will prepare [a prayer and a sacrifice] for You and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart].

Psalms 5:3 AMP

4. O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

Psalm 130:2 ESV

5. I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy.

Psalms 116:1 NLT

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Integrated Into Christ

One of the things that I’ve taught for years is that habits, behaviors and attitude are all learned behaviors. You have the ability to change them with enough dedication and thought process changes. In the late 1980’s, Stephen Covey wrote a book called, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. It sold so many copies in the first 11 years that it was named the most influential book of the 20th century. It taught people principles they could change personally to move from dependence to independence, and it also taught how to become a better team player as well. Many people attribute their success in business and in life to this self help book.

Unfortunately, many people approach the Bible as a self help book. They look at it as a book of do’s and don’t’s that will make you a better Christian in order to get into Heaven. We’ve been conditioned to think that if we will just act right, say the right things and spread love then we will be good Christians. The problem with that thinking is that it’s all behavior based Christianity. Romans 7 address that. If we try to live our Christian lives based on behaviors, then we’re going to be miserable. Jesus didn’t die to make you a better person. He died to give you new life. The changes in our life are a result of our love for Him, not our will power. The root of behavior based Christianity is that we are trying to integrate Christ into our lives instead of integrating our lives into Him.

In John 15:4, Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me” (NLT). Fruit isn’t produced on your own trying to be a good Christian. Fruit is produced through the new life Jesus gives us when we are fully grafted into Him. When we surrender our lives to Him, we are letting Him integrate us as branches into Himself as the Vine. Life changing power comes from that surrender and integration. It doesn’t come through will power. You are saved by grace, through faith, not by your good behavior or works (Ephesians 2:8). It’s not your habits that make you a Christian, it’s your heart. Man looks on the outward things, but God looks at your heart. Romans 8 addresses living surrendered to Christ in contrast to trying to do things on your own in Romans 7. We each need to make sure our lives are grafted into Christ where true life and fruitful living are.

Photo by Henri Guérin:

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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Take Time To Prepare

Years ago I had a corporate job where I stood in front of groups to train soft skills and also processes. Every once in a while, someone would come up and tell me that they wanted to be in a position like mine. They would ask if they could shadow me for a day. I would usually agree to it, and then they would ask what training they could shadow. I’d laugh and say, “I’m not going to have you shadow me on a teaching day. I want you to come up here during my preparation time.” They would look puzzled and ask why. I always responded, “Because what you see in the classroom is the result of my work. I’ve spent hours preparing to stand here and deliver this content. If you want to do this job, you need to see the amount of preparation it takes to stand here for 8 hours.” Not many people wanted the job after that.

When we read the Gospels, we’re looking at 3 years of Jesus’ ministry. It was the result of 30 years of preparation. We don’t really get a glimpse of the years He prepared. We know as a twelve year old, He was in the Temple preparing. He knew He needed to be about His father’s business even then. We know that His earthly father was a carpenter. He would have learned His father’s trade of looking at the details, measuring twice, cutting once and using tools to create masterpieces from wood that had been cut. All of His life was preparation for ministry. We even read how He took time away from the disciples and people to get alone with God as preparation for the ministry He would do the next day.

2 Timothy 2:21 says, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things [which are dishonorable—disobedient, sinful], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified [set apart for a special purpose and], useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (AMP). God wants to use each of us somewhere in His Kingdom, but we each must take the time to prepare for it. We must be willing to be alone with God in prayer. We have to be willing to be taught skills that God can use. We must be open to learning more about who He is. We also have to make choices to be set apart, live pure lives and to be ready when God wants to use us. Most of us will touch one or two lives at a time rather than the masses. That will still require you to spend time in prayer and preparation. Every person who wants to be used by God must take the time to be prepared for every good work God wants to do through them. Ask God today what He wants you to do to prepare for what He’s calling you to do.

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You Are Empowered

Have you ever been told, “If you’re going to complain about a problem, bring a solution”? There are usually at least two types of bosses who will say that. The first knows there are tons of problems, but is either tired of hearing about them or has no clue how to solve them. They use that line to keep people from constantly bringing up issues. The other type wants your input on the situation and will often empower you to enact your solution whether it’s the right one or not. They want to help you take ownership of the organization and also want to help you grow. One of these bosses are healthy, and the other is not.

In Judges 6, we find the story of Gideon. He was threshing his wheat in a wine pit so that he couldn’t be seen by the Midianites. At harvest time, they would come through Israel and steal their harvest while they were threshing it. While he was hiding, the Angel of the Lord showed up to talk to him. That’s when Gideon told him that ever since they left Egypt and took over their land, the Lord had abandoned them and allowed Midian to overtake them. In verse 14, the Angel responded, “The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this strength of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” (AMP) God empowered him to set Israel free. God could have wiped out the Midianites, but chose to partner with Gideon to accomplish it.

As Jesus was preparing to die on the cross, He prayed over the disciples and believers which includes us. In John 17:18 He prayed, “Just as You commissioned and sent Me into the world, I also have commissioned and sent them (believers) into the world.” Jesus had been on a mission to preach the Gospel, to set the captives free and to release the oppressed. Here, He handed that job to you and me. We are God’s solution to a broken world. Are we still complaining about it to God or are we going in the strength we have because He sent us? Like Gideon, we may be timid or even doubt, but also like him, we must step out of hiding and walk in faith to accomplish all God wants go through us. You are anointed. You are commissioned. You are called. Go set people free today by the power of the Gospel wherever you go. You are empowered to solve this world’s problems with God’s solution.

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Praising Changes Things

Praising God is something we’re going to be doing for eternity. The word “praise” in the Bible according to the Strong’s concordance means to boast, to rave about, to commend, to speak well of, to laud. What I’ve learned from people in the Bible like David is that it’s always a good time to praise God. It’s even more so appropriate when you’re down or simply don’t feel like it. When we praise, we give honor where it’s due, we magnify Him and we turn our attention from our problem to our solution. Praise takes the breath God placed inside us and gives it back to Him as an offering. When we do that, something shifts in our attitude, our situation and in the spiritual realm. It invites God into our space, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were preaching and a slave girl, who was demon possessed, started taunting them. She did it for days until Paul had enough and cast the demon out. Her owners were furious because their money stream dried up. They had Paul and Silas beaten and cast into the innermost part of the prison. With their open wounds and feet shackled in an uncomfortable position, they felt it was a good time to praise God. Verse 25 says, “Paul and Silas, undaunted, prayed in the middle of the night and sang songs of praise to God, while all the other prisoners listened to their worship” (TPT). They didn’t allow their circumstances to discrete their ability to praise. Because they praised, God showed up, caused an earthquake, loosened their shackles and set them free. That night, the head of the prison and his family gave their lives to Jesus.

Psalm 34:1 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (AMP). No matter what we’re going through, how dark our situation is or how bad things seem, His praise should continually be coming out of us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this and God has shown up. When I’m unable to get the words out of my mouth, I turn on a YouTube channel, a Pandora station or Air1 radio to bring praise into the room where I am. We have a need for the presence of God at all times in our life. However, when we need Him most, praise is one of the things we forget to do. Make a change today to bless the Lord at all times whether you feel like it or not. Start and end your day with it. You will see a difference in your attitude, your circumstances and your life if you do.

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Overcoming Discouragement

At one point or another, we all get discouraged. It is an attack on the mind where you lose confidence and enthusiasm. The cycle of thoughts can be tough to break. Some of God’s greatest servants like David and Elijah fought discouragement in their lives. If you’re going through a time of discouragement, it’s important to focus on your thought life (Philippians 4:8). You also need to let someone know that you trust, and ask them to pray over you. You also need to combat it with the Word of God. Read it out loud and fill your mind with what God says. His Word is true and can combat the lies that take over our mind. It often takes an all out effort to combat it to win the victory and restore your confidence and enthusiasm.

Here are some Bible verses on discouragement.

1. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9 NLT

2. He alone is my rock and my salvation, My defense and my strong tower; I will not be shaken or disheartened.

Psalms 62:2 AMP

3. The Lord is near to those who are discouraged; he saves those who have lost all hope.

Psalm 34:18 GNT

4. Lord, I’m fading away. I’m discouraged and lying in the dust; revive me by your word, just like you promised you would.

Psalms 119:25 TPT

5. Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!

Psalms 42:5 NLT

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Water Into Wine

A few years ago I was able to visit Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine (John 2). In the church there, they have a giant stone jar similar to what would have been used in that day. They hold about 20 gallons of water. Our guide, who was a Jewish rabbi, told us that it was important that these jars were made of stone because if it had been any other material, the wine would have been ritually unclean for the Jews attending the wedding. The day before, we had been to Nazareth and heard that the word carpenter didn’t just mean He worked with wood as it does today. Back then, it could have also meant He worked with stone. As I have thought about these two things, my mind can’t help but go to 1 Peter 2:5 where we are called “living stones”. I believe that Jesus’ first miracle was a representation of what He wants to do in us. He wants to supernaturally transform our lives on the inside.

Ephesians 4:23-24 says, “Now it’s time to be made new by every revelation that’s been given to you. And to be transformed as you embrace the glorious Christ-within as your new life and live in union with him! For God has re-created you all over again in his perfect righteousness, and you now belong to him in the realm of true holiness” (TPT). When we embrace Christ within us, the transformation happens just like the water was turned to wine when the servants embraced what Jesus said by taking a pitcher of the water from the stones to the master of ceremonies. The inward transformation takes place instantly when we receive Christ. Becoming a new creation is a process for most of us. People may see our rough, stoney exterior still, but God is changing that too starting from the inside out.

Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you]” (AMP). Your life is being progressively changed through Christ. If God’s still working on you helping your outside to match what’s inside, you’re not alone. We’re all being made new day by day as we embrace what God has done in us and allow Him to transform us from the inside out. Jesus has turned your water into wine. Now let Him, as the stone carpenter, continue to transform you into who He created you to be.

Photo credit: me while in Cana Israel showing the type of jars Jesus would have used.

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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Quick To Listen

For some reason, one of the hardest things for us to do is go listen. We live in a world with so many platforms to voice our opinions and thoughts, but who is listening? When people get into a disagreement, both people tend to talk over each other because they both think they’re right and they want to make their point. If anyone is listening in that situation, it’s usually so they can rebut the other person. For the most part, we’ve lost the ability to actively listen with the intent to understand the other side and where they are coming from. Active listening involves pushing out the rebuttal thoughts and stopping the need to interrupt. It’s very difficult to do, but is able to be learned so that we can find what is the truth instead of “our truth”.

In Acts 15, while the Church was still very young, there was a difference in opinion about whether Gentiles needed to be circumcised in order to truly be saved. Paul and Barnabas disagreed and debated strongly. Since neither side moved, they decided to take the case to the apostles in Jerusalem for clarification. Peter agreed with Paul in this matter. Then in verse 12 it says, “All the people remained silent, and they listened [attentively] to Barnabas and Paul as they described all the signs and wonders (attesting miracles) that God had done through them among the Gentiles” (AMP). After listening, James got up and pointed to the Scriptures to show what they said, and then everyone came to an agreement and sent out people and letters to discuss their decision.

James 1:19 says, “Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving].” God’s Word has given us instruction to be quick to listen rather than to be quick to interrupt and speak. Then when we do speak, we need to choose our words carefully. Finally, be slow to get angry at someone, especially those with whom we disagree. People feel most valued when they’re heard. Remember that the person you are disagreeing with is also made in God’s image. Each person in the disagreement in the Early Church thought they were right and the other was wrong. Because they were willing to listen and seek wisdom from authority who prayed and searched the Scriptures, the issue between them was resolved. That same formula works today if we’re willing to listen and be humble enough to know we could be wrong.

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God’s Paths

Have you ever noticed how God’s paths for our lives never take the quick route? It seems like they always take the longest route possible. Take Joseph for instance. God gave him dreams of his family bowing down to him. His path went from there to his brothers beating him, throwing him in a pit and selling him as a slave. As Potiphar’s servant, he worked his way up the chain of command only to be accused of trying to rape Potiphar’s wife which landed him in jail. In jail he earned the jail keepers trust, but was forgotten for years until he was able to interpret pharaoh’s dream. It was still nearly a decade before the dream came true where his family bowed down.

David was minding his business watching the sheep while his brothers were being presented to the prophet to see which one would be king one day. When none of them were chosen, David was sent for. Immediately he was anointed as the next king in front of his family. He then fought Goliath and won the respect of the nation, but wasn’t elevated to the throne. He went back to watching sheep until he was called to play the harp for the king. He was close to the throne, but was a lowly servant. That’s when the king tried to kill him. He was on the run for over ten years having to leave his family and country behind. Finally, the king and his sons died and he was elevated to king, but only for a portion of the country. It would be a while before he was king over all Israel.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life], But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them” (AMP). When God reveals our destiny or calling, we often think of the shortest route there, but that’s not the way God usually leads us. His path is long and goes through difficulties. He uses His paths to shape us, mold us, prepare us and position us. If you find yourself on the long way around to where you’re going, take heart. You’re in good company. God is guiding and directing your paths. His ways are not our ways. They’re much better even though it may not feel like it in the moment. Trust God’s processes on your way to His promises.

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A Little Bit Better

I love watching the Olympics every four years. It’s not just the competition that draws me, it’s the desire of these people to get better. They dedicate so much of their life to be the best they can be. I remember watching Michael Phelps compete during several Olympic Games. We cheered when he broke the world record and won gold. We cheered again when he broke his own world record. Did you know he broke his own world record seven times? That’s insane to me! He kept pushing himself to get better all the time. When asked about it, he said, “Yesterday doesn’t matter. It’s about who can get their hand on the wall first today.” That attitude pushed him to not settle.

In the book of Acts, we read about a preacher named Apollos. Chapter 18 says he was making a name for himself because he was passionate for Jesus and was powerful in the Scriptures. He was an educated and cultured person who was winning many to the Lord. When a couple of believers in Ephesus heard him preach, they noticed he was only preaching about the baptism of John and not of the Holy Spirit as well. They took him aside privately to discuss it with him. Instead of letting his pride get in the way, he listened and learned so he could grow. His preaching and life became even more powerful. It even says that after that he became a tremendous help to the believers and caused them to grow in grace. His desire to grow in the Lord and learn more about Scripture caused him to be a force to be reckoned with in the Early Church.

Even Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament wanted to grow and know Christ more fully. In Philippians 3:12 he wrote, “I admit that I haven’t yet acquired the absolute fullness that I’m pursuing, but I run with passion into his abundance so that I may reach the purpose for which Christ Jesus laid hold of me to make me his own” (TPT). If Paul was on a constant journey of growth and pursuit of trying to get closer to Jesus, so should we. When we compare ourselves to others, we can get prideful and complacent. However, when we compare ourselves to Jesus, we realize we still have growth opportunities ahead of us. The Christian life is one of constant growth and pursuing Jesus. You will always have the opportunity to get a little bit better and little bit closer to Jesus.

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