DEVOTIONALS

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Day 3 – A Tiny Rope

If you’ve ever gone to the circus, you know the size of the mighty elephant.  But did you know that when they are behind the scenes, they are kept in place by tying a tiny rope from their leg to a small stake in the ground?  How does this work?  Simple.  When they were baby elephants, that same small rope used to hold them securely.  Sure, they could easily break it now… but because it used to be strong enough, they’ve become conditioned to believe it always will be.

Many of us are the same way.  A mistake early in our life ties us to the post of failure.  We think… why bother trying to break free?  We’re just like that elephant that stops trying to tug on what used to hold them in place.  Fact is, you aren’t bound by your past to a lifetime of defeat… If you know Christ as Savior, you have His strength to break free.  In Philippians 3, Paul tells us that he has forgotten the past and is focused on the future.  Do the same!  Pull against that tiny rope of your past mistakes and watch it release you.  It’s time to be the person God tells you that you are!

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Day 2 – Real Competition

A former chaplain of the US Senate, Richard Halverson, once said… “Want to be a winner? Compete against yourself, not somebody else. Outrunning your rival doesn’t mean you ran your best race. You can win over another and still not fulfill your potential. It’s true in all of life. To be your best, you must compete with yourself. It’s life’s biggest contest.”

In Galatians 6, the Bible says, “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions.” One of the biggest barriers to personal success is the comparison of ourselves to others. You are the only one qualified to be you… and that’s what God made you to do! Are you ready to move forward and improve? Stay in your lane, check your own motives, work on improving yourself, and remember… your only real competition is the you of yesterday. Keep moving forward!

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Day 1 – Fasting

A man once fasted for two full days… choosing to spend forty-eight hours without any type of food whatsoever.  At the end of that time, his first meal was a steaming hot bowl of fresh soup.  He closed his eyes as he sipped the delicious broth… letting each spoonful bathe his tongue in savory goodness.  After eating to the bottom of the bowl, he told a friend “Prior to my fasting experience, I would have eaten the soup without any awareness of its flavor, texture or taste.  After the fast, it was as if every spoonful was like eating from an entire banquet!”

Fasting is an important discipline in the life of the believer.   It’s simply putting aside something that we are accustomed to doing so that we can focus on prayer and our walk with God.  When we feel the urge to eat… we pray.  When we really want to check our phones… we spend quality time with God.  Fasting cleanses the soul from distractions and challenges us to zero in on what God is trying to tell us.

Joel 2:12 says, “’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;”

When we give up something for a little while, it allows us to focus on God and become more acutely aware of His presence.   The spiritual clarity that comes with (and after) a fast allows us to notice things we never did before about ourselves and our relationship with Christ.   It’s a spiritual reset like no other… and one that’s designed to bring us closer to Him.  Have you ever fasted from something that required sacrifice?  Take some time today and seek God’s recommendation as to what to give up in a fast.   Then be bold enough to put it aside for a while.   God wants to whisper something to your heart… it’s time to take a break from what is distracting you from hearing it.

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Changes Are On The Way

For the past five years, I’ve been writing daily devotionals each weekday and posting them here on my Facebook page. I pray that they have been helpful and encouraging. 
I have good news… the devotionals will continue. 
However, I’ve decided to make a change in the way they’re posted. Starting in the next couple of weeks I will be posting one new devotional on a specific day of the week (I’m still deciding which one…probably Mondays). Some of these posts will be me on video and some will be written (and a bit longer than what I’ve been posting thus far.) 
For the other days of the week, I’ll be writing a reading plan filled with verses and material that will help reinforce and further support the devotional. For example, let’s say I choose Monday for the devotional… and the topic is “Trust”. For Tues-Friday of that week, I will provide some verses to read that are connected to the topic of trust that will enable all of us to gain a deeper understanding.
It’s my prayer that this new format will help all of us stay connected with God, come to a better understanding of that week’s subject, and grow in our faith like never before. 
I look forward to posting my first one… and here’s a hint… that week’s topic will be about thanksgiving and contentment. See you soon!
Pastor Troy
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Repay?

Romans 12:17-21
“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
This is one of those passages of scripture that many like to read quickly and move on.  After all, look at the list of what God tells us to do… 
Repay evil with good…
Do what’s honorable when the other person hasn’t been honorable…
Live peaceably with others when they don’t deserve it…
Don’t seek revenge…
Be kind to our enemies…
How?  Why?  Doesn’t seem fair does it.   The world screams to get even… and God says don’t.  Our friends tell us to make them pay… and God says “Trust Me, I’ll take care of it.”  Why would anyone follow these directives?  Why would anybody treat people better than they were treated?  Why would someone give up their right to settle things their own way?
Simple.  Because that’s what Christ did.  Sinless Christ.  The King of Kings.  All man… all God… perfect and unblemished.  He climbed up and let His own creation nail Him to a cross… pierce His side with a spear… put a crown of ragged thorns on His head… And as people mocked and spit at Him…. He was forgiving those doing it before the saliva could even dry.  So much injustice… so much undeserved hatred toward the Son of God…
Met with so much love.  Jesus chose to show compassion and forgive.  Why should we waive our right at revenge?  Because Christ did.
I can imagine your thoughts as you read this….  Pastor, you don’t know what they did.  If I treat them this way…they win, don’t they?  If I turn the other cheek…they’ll just hit me on that one too….Jesus didn’t say it would be easy…  But real growth…real faith… real and long lasting change never is.  Resist the urge to dismiss these verses as impossible.  Don’t give in to the enemy telling you that this doesn’t apply…  doing the Godly thing is rarely popular or easy…
However, it is obedient.  It is blessable.  And it is always the right choice… 

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Pencils

Mother Teresa once said, “No
one thinks of the pen while reading the letter.  They only want to know
the mind of the person who wrote the letter.  That’s exactly what I am in
God’s hand–a little pencil.”
When you woke up this morning how did you see yourself?  The star of your own one-act play called
life?  A doormat?  A VIP? 
Or maybe as someone who is insignificant in the grand scheme of
things.  In any case, I want to assure
you this morning that you matter.  You
were put on this earth for great things. 
But that greatness might not be for what you think.
You werent put here on this planet to be great
for your own sake but for God
s. 
God must get bigger and we must get smaller. 
Scripture says it this way in John 3:30 He must
become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.
Let that sink in a second. 
Life isn’t about you.  It isn’t about me either.  We are tiny pencils writing Gods story
that will impact the world.  Some of us
will write beautiful stories of love, sacrifice, dedication, and a willingness
to serve others.  Others will defy God
and scribble out a message of selfishness and greed.   Which are you? 

God wants to write a new chapter for this world using you.  Are you willing to let Him?  Are you able to accept your role as HIS
pencil and not your own?  Are you ready
to surrender your agenda for Christ
s? 
Today, take a minute and thank God that He uses someone as broken as you
and I to share His message with the world. 
 
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Reaching Out

Things happen that we don’t comprehend.  Violence, rage, disease, intolerance, desperation… the list goes on.  A typical reaction to things we don’t understand is, “Where is God?  Why doesn’t He do something about what’s happening?”

We don’t see Him interacting so we worry.
We don’t understand what He’s doing so we doubt.
We don’t feel His presence so we feel alone.
Today, recommit to trusting God.   You may not see Him or feel His presence.
Trust Him.  He is there.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding. 
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.”
Proverbs 3:5-6
Reach out to Him… and if you can’t feel His gentle grip right away, don’t worry… He will never let you out of His sight.  He knows you hurt… He knows you are struggling… He is not worried about your future because He has plans for it and will be there throughout it.  
He is all that we need or could ever hope for.
Whether we are in the darkness of the valley or enjoying the warmth of the peak… Jesus is there for us.  
His loving heart beats for you…  it’s my prayer that you would hear it louder than ever.  
Don’t give up.
Choose to trust.
He will never let you down.

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Addition

It has been said, “Being well is more than eliminating the negative.  Rather, it requires the addition of the positive.”  
When I read that statement I thought of our walk with God.  Many times we are tempted to read the Bible as a book of “don’t”s.   I need to stop doing this… quit that… get rid of this habit or that behavior.   And while there are many things God asks us not to include in our lives… only subtracting the bad leads to a life that is one-sided and lacking.  Scripture tells us that alongside the “no”s, we have to have some God-honoring “yesses”.  Colossians 3:10 says to “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him.”  Want to grow more like Christ?  Be more spiritually healthy?  Get rid of what is holding you back.. and in turn.. fill your heart with things like love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and patience.   Out with what’s bad and in with what’s good.  And before long both mind and heart will be healthier (and more Godly) than ever.  

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Jesus’ Choice

Does meekness equal weakness?

Look at today’s passage of scripture…

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Matt. 5:5

Jesus Himself says that those that are meek will… “Inherit the Earth”. Doesn’t sound like this is a bad trait to have! But what does it mean?

The Greek word for meek means gentle and humble but strong and courageous. It is a person who can demonstrate tremendous self control. Meek people possess strength…and tenderness. Power and polish. They will inherit the earth because they are problem solvers without being bridge burners. Tremendous ability, opportunity, and strength…while demonstrating control, discipline, and focus.

Think about the life of Christ. He lived a life that reflected this idea of meekness. No better is it demonstrated than this passage from the book of Matthew. Jesus has just been arrested and is being taken for questioning by the high priest.

“Then the people who had arrested Jesus led him to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of religious law and the elders had gathered. Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and sat with the guards and waited to see how it would all end. Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find witnesses who would lie about Jesus, so they could put him to death. But even though they found many who agreed to give false witness, they could not use anyone’s testimony. Finally, two men came forward who declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?”  But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”
“Guilty!” they shouted. “He deserves to die!”
Then they began to spit in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. And some slapped him, jeering, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who hit you that time?”

Matthew 26: 57-68

Think about that… Jesus could have called down legions of angels… hundreds of warriors on His behalf. He knew the hearts of every person in that room and how they truly felt about Him. They were falsely accusing Him. Spitting on Him…. Laughing and mocking Him.

What would you have done? Does peaceful resolution come to mind? How about revenge?

Jesus chose meekness.

He knew the true definition of the word… Meekness means giving up what we want and giving in to full submission to God’s will. It didn’t mean that He was incapable of defending Himself… it simply meant that He was unwilling to disobey God’s will for the sake of winning.

Meekness isn’t weakness. It is an act of obedience. I want to challenge you… as you face the trials and discouragement of the world, I want you to follow the example of Christ.

Choose meekness.

Can you solve the situation forcefully? Maybe. Choose to be meek and follow God’s direction in how to handle it.

Do you know more than they do? Possibly. Decide to be meek and allow God to change the hearts of those intimidating you.

Does the situation you find yourself in have a solution that would NOT honor God? My bet is that it does… and it might seem like the easier route…

Choose meekness. Harness your strength… demonstrate self-control… live out your faith… and follow God’s direction.

Remember meekness isn’t about rolling over or giving in… it’s about giving up control. It’s not about what we want or can do… it’s about what God wants to do in and through us as He builds our character!
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Let Go Of It

There is a story told about a construction worker. This construction worker was employed on a high-rise building project, which required him and others to work after dark. He was busy on the edge of one of the walls which was many stories high, when he suddenly lost his balance and fell. 

As he fell over the edge, he managed to grab the edge of the wall with his fingertips. Desperately he hung on hoping that somebody would discover his perilous situation. He was in total darkness, just about hanging on to the wall, and crying out loud for help. Due to the noise and machinery at the construction site, no one could hear him; all his screams were in vain.

Very soon his arms begin to grow weak and his grip began to slip. He tried praying, but no miracle occurred. At last his fingers slipped from the wall and with a cry of horror he fell! He fell exactly 3 feet and landed on a scaffold that had been there all the time. But he had not seen it because of the darkness.

Sometimes darkness hides the truth.

The construction worker in this story was 36 inches from peace… and couldn’t see it. All he needed to do was let go and he would have been fine. But how was he supposed to know that? How are we supposed to know when to let go…or when to worry…or when to trust?

How many times have you worried about something so much that it changed?

Ever?

Me neither. It’s not possible. So why do so many of us do it? Why is worry part of our daily life? Why are we so afraid to let go and let God take over?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7

I think the answer can be found in today’s verse with these three questions.

Am I praying about it?
Do I have to fully understand why before letting go?
Will God really catch me?

Paul tells us that if we are going to beat worry, we need to start with prayer. Go to God with an open and honest heart…both to petition (ask) and listen. Prayer isn’t a defensive maneuver or a last resort… it is the strongest and most result-producing thing we can do as Christ-followers.

I talk to so many who feel that they need to understand why before they can stop worrying. I think it’s more important to know Who. Who has the power to change lives? Who makes the impossible happen? Who has our best interest in mind? Who is trying to help us grow through crisis? God is. You won’t always understand why things happen… but you should know Who will get you through them.

The last question seems easy. Will God catch me if I let go? Will God be there if I truly give up worrying? The answer is found in the second half of the verse… when we let go… when we pray and give it up to God… He gives us “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” We let go… He takes over. We give up stress… He gives us peace. We release our grip… He opens His hand.

God will NEVER let you fall.

Today… if you find yourself worrying… take a second and pray. Even when you don’t understand… pray. Then allow your grip to release. He promises that even though we don’t see His hand below us, it’s there. Those beautiful nail-scarred hands are ready to catch us, hold us, and deliver us from where we are to where He created us to be.
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