DEVOTIONALS

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Hold Nothing Back

Baseball great Joe DiMaggio was a very unique player.   He just never quit.  When asked why he continually gave it all he had (even when the game was out of reach)… DiMaggio smiled and said “”There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time, I owe him my best.”
So many times we don’t try to be great because we can get away with good.  We ease up, slack off, pull back, or slow down.  Not because we can’t do it… but because we don’t have to.  We settle for a “C” when our potential is an “A”…. If you’ve ever felt like letting the feeling of “good enough” take over… remember today’s verse:
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,”  Colossians 3:23
Joe DiMaggio worked hard consistently because of his inner drive.. his work ethic… and his unwillingness to settle.  He worked for Yankee manager Joe McCarthy.  If you are a Christ-follower… you should work hard, be driven, have a high work ethic, and push the envelope too… but not because you work for a demanding manager.  You work for God.  
Whatever you do… you work for God.  Plumber to pizza maker to politician…. Your boss came to Earth over 2000 years ago and died so that you could be a world-changer.  Defeat the feeling of “good-enough”… push yourself to try harder, work with joy, and represent Christ in everything you do.   Jesus gave all He had.  He held nothing back.  

Why shouldn’t we do the same… all day… everyday.  

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More Blessed

There’s an old Chinese proverb that says: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.  If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.  If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.  If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

If you’ve ever come to the aid of someone in need you know the truth in that statement.  There’s something about being there for a person that gives us a sense of fulfillment… a feeling of greater purpose.  This shouldn’t be surprising if you are a Christ-follower.  Scripture tells us in Acts 20:35 that “It is more blessed to give than to receive”  In Proverbs 11:25 we read “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”  Loving others…serving them… is something that God Himself has instructed us to do.  And when we stay obedient in this, the Bible tells us time and time again that we will be blessed. 

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Easily Understood

According to the Global Language Monitor… as of January 1st of 2012, there were over 1 million words in the English language.   In fact, a new word is created every 98 minutes!   Out of all of those words, well over a hundred thousand are rarely used because they are technical and/or scientific.  

Isn’t it amazing that when we read the Bible… the most important and life-changing part of it is perhaps the simplest?  In Acts 16:31, Paul and Silas are in jail talking to their captor.  During that conversation, the jailor asks “What must I do to be saved?”… and here was their simple…non-scientific…non-complicated answer… “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”  10 words.  No fluff.  Nothing extra or tough to understand.  We have a million word options when sharing our faith… but no need to complicate what’s meant to be easily understood. Trust Christ with your life… spend eternity with Him.  Simple word choice… infinite impact.
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Five Things

Good Housekeeping magazine once asked people to list the five things they first noticed when entering someone’s home.  First, they said they spotted piles of mail laying around… second, dust and cobwebs.  Next, a messy bathroom.  Fourth, dishes in the sink… and lastly, full and overflowing trash cans.  

This got me wondering what people notice when they first look into our lives.  Is it the smile on our face? The style of our clothing?  Or is it something else?  How does our heart look?  What words are we sharing?  Galatians 5:22-23 talk about the fruits of the spirit:  goodness, self-control, patience, peace, etc.  Are those the first things people notice about us?  Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 that people will recognize us by our fruit… so lets be sure that our first impression (and every impression thereafter) reflects Christ who lives within us. 
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Meaning

The Bible tells us in Matthew 16:26 “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  
Great questions!    But if we are told that what we gain here doesn’t matter as much as our relationship with Christ… why are so many after the applause of men?   Why do people pursue trinkets and trophies… when God has an infinitely better plan for their lives?  Comedian Jim Carrey once said, “I think everyone should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”  So what do we do?  

Keep in mind that meaning doesn’t come from anything that man creates.  God has designed us to be connected to Him… and when we remember that and pursue Him passionately,  we gain what really matters. 
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Sacrifice, Generosity, and Commitment

Liza was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her five-year-old brother. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. He hesitated for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, ‘Yes, I’ll do it if it will save Liza.’  As the transfusion progressed, he lay in a bed next to his sister and smiled, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, ‘Will I start to die right away?’  Being young, the boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give her all of his blood.  He was willing to lose everything to save the one he loved.

Sacrifice, selfless generosity, full commitment… these are the things of love.  Real love.  The love that Christ showed on the cross for mankind… and the type of love He asks us to demonstrate to those we call family or friend.   
Are we ready and willing to love those that have the most invested in us?  Are we willing to look past the past and move on even when people have hurt us so badly?  Do we really love those we say we do… or are they just supposed to understand when we give them just a portion of our hearts.  
Christ-like love is 100%.  It’s sacrificial.  It’s generous.  It’s top shelf love… not back of the fridge leftovers.  It’s forgiveness… even when that forgiveness has not been earned, asked for, or deserved.   When we love others like God loves us it is not self-serving, “what’s in it for me” kind of devotion… it’s totally unselfish and completely unconditional.  
Christ loves you 100% because you’re you.  That’s it.  
Is it possible to love another human being like that?  Yes.  
And that person may call you daddy, mommy, brother, sister, boss, friend, or colleague.  They may annoy you, call you out when you blow it, and frustrate you to the point of breaking sometimes.  But the reality is, if we all want to live like Christ did… and that’s the whole point of our walk with Him… we have to learn to love with all of our hearts.  
Are you willing to give it all for someone else?
Are you willing to serve another like you were caring for yourself?
Are you willing to love without holding back, give without reservation, and trust God with the outcome?
If so, God is going to do big things in and through your life.  
If not, what’s holding you back?
What is it that prevents you from loving at this level?  Is it fear, past hurt, lack of trust, risk, not feeling appreciated… what is it that keeps you loving at 90% or lower?  I can promise you this… one day when this life nears its end, you and I will look back not at what we accomplished, but on who we loved.  Who had our hearts?  Who did we hold dearest?  Who got our 100%?  
Was there someone who saw us as uncaring, cold, distant, or aloof?
Was there someone who we said we loved but never trusted?
Was there someone who we should have sacrificed for but held something back from?
Was there someone who deserved all of us… but only got a fragment?  
I don’t want to ask those questions of myself.  And I know you probably don’t either.  
The great part is… if you’re reading this today, you aren’t dead.  This means that you still have time to learn to love, give, and serve those around you at the “all-in” level.  Resist the urge to say this is impossible.  Push back the temptation to say “but I…” or “I can’t…”  or “she doesn’t…” or “but they…”.  Decide today that you are going to work toward giving people the whole you.  The you that loves wholeheartedly and without reservation.  The you that puts others first.   
The you that would give all of their blood for the survival of another.  
That’s the kind of total love Christ was talking about.  Remember what Jesus said were the two most important commandments… Love God and love others.  And the only way to really love both?  Give 100%.  

John 15:12-13 says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  

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I Have a Question(?)

As a Pastor, I am asked a lot of questions.   Some I can answer right away with an encouraging verse of scripture, a bit of advice, or some insight I’ve been given from a similar experience in my own life.  But sometimes there is no way of knowing the answer.  Questions like “Why did God….?”  or “When will I….?”  Only God knows those things.  

My response is always the same… there are some things that we won’t know this side of Heaven.  But it’s important to note that God has answered many of the important questions already!  We know He loves us, He has a destiny for our lives, and that through every pain there is a purpose.  The other answers will have to wait.  1 Corinthians 13 tells us that someday we will see everything with perfect clarity and know things completely.  In the meantime, it just comes down to faith.  While we may not understand the reason or timing of things in life, we can be assured that God does… and someday the questions we have will either be answered or will simply fade away in the presence of Christ Himself.
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Ten and Two

When I was first starting to learn how to drive, I was nervous.  Hands at 10 and 2 o’clock… feet on the brakes… mirrors adjusted to the right position.  I studied the handbook and knew the proper following distances and sign shapes.  Yes… I was ready… but one thing kept me uneasy… the speed limit.  After all, how was I supposed to look down at the speedometer and up at the traffic at the same time?  What if I wasn’t looking down and started to go too fast… and got pulled over for speeding… or I was looking down to check my speed and rammed into the car in front of me?  I couldn’t keep my eyes on BOTH places at the same time… so what was I to do?

So many times in our walk with Christ we get nervous for the same reason.  I want to keep my eyes on Him… but what if something needs my attention in life?  What if I’m looking to Him for guidance and bump right into a crisis?  The Bible tells us that our eyes are to be in one position only:  Hebrews 12:2 says, “”Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith …”  Unlike driving,  we only have to look in one place to stay safe… and that’s facing God.   Life swerving?  Look and pray to God.  A bad diagnosis?  High tax bill?  Failing in school?  Look up.  Marriage trouble?  Losing your authority over your kids?  Don’t stare at the dashboard of your life trying to figure out your speed… look to the One that knows how to steer through the danger!   It’s when we take our eyes off of Christ and put them on our troubles… that the real trouble begins.   
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Train Up

Billy Graham once said… “Children will talk, eat, walk, think, respond, and act like their parents. Give them a target to shoot at. Give them a goal to work toward. Give them a pattern which they can see clearly, and you give them something that gold and silver cannot buy.”  

Parenting is caught not taught.  No matter how we much tell our children to behave, be kind, share, tell the truth, and mind their manners… they will struggle if they don’t see it lived out in our own lives.  God tells us in Proverbs 22 that we should train up our children in a way that honors God… and once we do so, it will stick with them forever.  How do we do this?  Demonstrate integrity… be true to our word… give second chances.. love them like Christ does… and face challenges with courage not complaints.  Telling our kids about Christ is important.   Living out His values in front of them is equally so. 
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Advice From a Tree

Nature enthusiast, Ilan Shamir wrote a wonderful passage called “Advice from a Tree.”
Stand up tall and proud.  Sink your roots into the earth.
Be content with your natural beauty.  Go out on a limb.
Drink plenty of water. Remember your roots.
Enjoy the view!
Looking through these words, I can’t help but see the Biblical parallels.  God has called each of us to live confident lives.. to stand tall in Him.  And as we read His word and begin to grow deeper roots in the truth… we begin to see ourselves in a new light.  We are masterpieces already…right now… the best God can do.  We’ve been created intentionally…to live confidently…to see life as a series of learning experiences even in times of trial and failure.  He is the Living Water… and when we drink in the magnitude of His perfection…and accept His sacrifice on our behalf… our eternity is secure.  We were put here to give glory to Him.  To honor Him.  And when we accomplish what we’ve been sent here for… we’ll prayerfully hear the words from the One who sent us… “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  

I don’t know what you are going through as you read this… but I know God does.   He cares.  And He’s never going to leave your side through a second of it.  Stay strong as an oak, as flexible as a palm, and know that your best days are just ahead.  I’m praying for you..  
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