DEVOTIONALS

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Pouring

 A water bearer had two large water pots which he carried on either end of a pole slung across his shoulders. One of the pots had a crack in it, so every day as he carried water to his master’s house he arrived with one full pot and one only half full. This went on for two years. One pot was very proud of its accomplishments, while the imperfect pot was embarrassed at its failure. Its distress at being able only to accomplish half of what it had been made to do, resulted in its speaking one day to the water carrier.
“I am so ashamed,” the pot said. “Why?” asked the carrier. “Because water leaks out all the way to your master’s house and because of my crack I’ve been only able to deliver half of the load.” The water carrier looked kindly at the cracked pot and said, “As we return to my master’s house today, I want you to look at the beautiful flowers along the path.”
The pot was a little cheered by the beauty he saw along the way. “Did you notice that the flowers were only on your side of the path?” the water carrier said.  “If your water hadn’t poured out, this beauty would not have occurred.  What you saw as deficiency, the flowers saw as provision.”
Pouring into others matters.  The Bible says it this way…
“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”    Ephesians 4:29b
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” – Hebrews 10:24
   God has called us to do many things while we are here on planet Earth.  One of our primary opportunities is to partner together with others on their journey to reach their God-potential.  You have people in your life right now that need you.  You are their encouragement… your presence brings them comfort… and they are counting on your friendship to help them bloom.   Make every effort to pour into them… be there for them in their times of trouble… and give them the reassurance that somebody really does care.  
Maybe you feel like the pot in today’s story…. broken… unusable…  You aren’t.  God has given you the ability to cheer someone up, carry someone’s burdens, brighten someone’s day, or to let them know that Jesus Christ…the true Living Water… can put flowers where there was once dry land.  When we remember this, and really do it…. we get the blessing and God gets the glory.  

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Two Dogs

I read a story of a young boy who was being terrorized by a dog.  Not a German Shepherd or Pit Bull… but a Chihuahua.  The dog’s name?  Godzilla.
He would run around the house and the dog would follow him.  The boy played and the dog stared.  In this little boy’s mind, Godzilla was stalking him…waiting for his moment to pounce.  While we know the dog just wanted to play… to this boy… the fear was real and unrelenting.  He was convinced that he was being hunted by a beast that wanted to hurt him.  
Guilt is a lot like that dog.  
Something we’ve done, said, or thought is sitting in wait.   But our guilt is no tiny chihuahua… it’s bark is much larger… and more menacing…  It’s pinned us in a corner and made us doubt the size of our God.  It has chased us through counseling, good advice, and numerous readings of scripture.  It torments our dreams and drops in every now and then throughout our day to remind us that we shouldn’t feel good about ourselves. 
You know what you did.
You know who you were.
You can’t overcome it.  You won’t change.  
And just when it seems like we get away… it sniffs us out again.  The chase continues.  
We’re tired of running.  
So how do we handle that overwhelming feeling of guilt?  We invite another big dog into the hunt… worry.  Guilt and worry… both crushing emotions in their own right.  Together they’re simply terrifying.  They’ve been known to cause sleepless nights, hopelessness, and an overwhelming dependence on our own strength.  
So why do we do it?  Why do we allow what we did to define what we’re becoming?  Why is guilt so powerful?  
We don’t believe this verse.
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”  Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)
If you are in relationship with Jesus… and He is your Lord and Savior… there is nobody holding your past over your head except you.  Scripture tells us that when we confess our sin… when we tell God what we’ve done… He sends it away forever.  Forgotten and over.  That is so hard for our minds to comprehend… that something that once defined us is now voided?  Something that once paralyzed us with worry and fear was one confession away from the feeling of freedom?
We don’t have to fully understand it for it to be true.  God’s thoughts are different than our own (Isaiah 55:8).  He loves us unconditionally, wholly, and without reservation.  When we ask for freedom from the chains on our thought life, Jesus gives us the keys of confession to unlock them.  Today’s the day to breathe without burden… shed the shackles of the past… and leave the guilt where it belongs… with the old you.    
Those dogs… guilt and worry… they’ll stop chasing you with one simple command.  
“Be still…”
God said it to your heart in Psalm 46:10  “Be still, and know that I am God!”
Today can be the day you stop running and be still.  Guilt-free.  Burden-lifted.  Heart deep in love with God again.
I came across a paragraph by an 85 year old woman that I think sums it up best. She wrote, 
“If you live to be 75 years old you will live over 657,000 hours. Did you know that? That’s almost 2/3rds of a million hours that you’re going to live. That’s too much to be anxious about all the time. So don’t worry.  God, if I had my life to live over, I would relax & ramble around and be sillier than I had been on this trip. I would take fewer things so seriously and I would take more chances. I would take more trips and I would climb more mountains & swim more rivers.

“I would eat more ice cream and less prunes.  I would perhaps have some actual troubles but I’m sure I would have fewer imaginary ones. You see, I’m one of those people who have lived sensibly & safely, hour after hour, day after day.  Oh, I have had my moments. And if I had it all to do over again I would have more of them. Just moments one after another instead of living so many years in a big chair, acting like all those persons who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat, or a parachute.

If I had it to do over again I would worry less. I would laugh more, & I would pick a lot more daisies.”

Good insight from a burdened life.   Your life can be different.  The last paragraph of your story doesn’t have to say…. “If I had my life to live over…”   Shedding the guilt and worry, you will have lived it to it’s fullest without the weight of “what if.”

Make today the day that you begin to release your guilt and worry through confession… start enjoying freedom… and live the long and purposeful life you were created to.  I’ll be praying for you as you do.
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Reading It Yourself

Where in the Bible will you find the following words?
“God helps those who help themselves.”
“God works in mysterious ways.”
“Honesty is the best policy.”
“This too shall pass.”
“Hate the sin, love the sinner.”
“Money is the root of all evil.”
“Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop”
“Beggars should not be choosers.”
We’ve heard many of these time and time again.  We quote them (as God’s words) to others when they ask.  Some have them hanging in their homes or scribbled down in the margin of a notebook.  We know we’ve seen them before… but where can we find them in scripture?
Nowhere.  They aren’t quotes directly from the Bible.  
But many believe they are.
Why do so many not know what’s actually in the Bible?  The answer is simple. 
They don’t read it.  
In an article “People of The Book”, John Ortberg writes:  “It’s a strange thing: the book has never been so accessible. According to Guinness Book of Records, L. Ron Hubbard’s writings of scientology have been translated into 65 languages; the Koran is supposed to be read in Arabic so it hasn’t been translated as much; the Book of Mormon is in about 100 languages. But 2,656 languages have all or some of the Bible. Some 65 million copies of the Bible are brought or distributed in the U.S. every year–nothing else is a close second. The average house has at least three. People cheer the Bible, buy the Bible, give the Bible, own the Bible-they just don’t actually read the Bible. According to George Gallup: One Third of those surveyed know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Fewer than half can name the first book of the Bible; 80 percent of born-again Christians believe the phrase God helps those who help themselves is in the Bible (it’s Ben Franklin, if you’re curious). So I’m thinking a lot these days about how to help the people that God brings my way to know and love the book” 
I want to issue a challenge.  Be different.  Read the scriptures… Don’t let this devotional be your only touch with God for the day.  Spend time with the Bible… it’s useful for so many things:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:16-17

Find a translation that you understand… Memorize key verses… keep God’s word in your heart… and live out what they ask you to do.  Many ask me what they should read… I always encourage starting with the books of John, Romans, Acts, and James.  Move through the Psalms and Proverbs too.  Don’t worry about covering ground and “getting through” them.  Read until God reveals something to you and then stop.  Write the verse down.  Meditate on it.  Let God explain to you what it means and how it applies.  Far too many try to stick to a reading regimen and get frustrated when they get behind.  If you miss a day, simply get back to it as quickly as you can.  Not only will you grow spiritually,  you will have God’s word in your heart to help you handle life’s issues.  

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Caring

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”  Galatians 5:13
“And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:42-45
“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.”  1 Cor. 4:1-2
“And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.”  Luke 14:23
“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,”  Matthew 20:26
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, …” Philippians 2:1-30
“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”  John 12:26
“Jesus replied, ‘The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.’”  Mark 12: 29-31
We are here with a purpose.
We all have gifts.
Our gifts are not for us.
They are to serve others.  
Serving His people is what we were created to do.  Loving on the lonely… reaching out to the hurting… serving those that are seeking Christ.   
The road to our God potential leads us through the valley of selflessness… putting others first… sacrificing so that people we may not even know can come face-to-face with a Savior who sacrificed everything on their behalf.
And we get to do that.  
We get to be servants.
Let’s make today a time of using our God-given gifts to care for those that He brings our way.

Lives will change and God will get the glory.  

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Tell the Truth

Each week for 10 weeks, 110 individuals, ages 18-71, took a lie detector test and completed health and relationship measures assessing the number of major and minor lies they told that week, says lead author Anita Kelly, a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. She presented findings at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, which ended Sunday.

“When they went up in their lies, their health went down,” says Kelly. “When their lies went down, their health improved.”

Evidence from past research suggests that Americans average about 11 lies a week. Kelly says the no-lie group participants were down to one lie, on average, per week. For both groups, when participants lied less in a given week, they reported their physical health and mental health to be significantly better that week.
– (from USAToday – August 4, 2012)


For some of us, participation in that experiment would have been easy. Not tell lies? Cake.

For others… let’s just say they would have had to go into an isolation chamber. Lying is their default setting.

But if telling the truth improves our spiritual, mental, and physical health, why do we still lie? We only do it when we feel cornered… when we want to have an advantage… when we are trying to manipulate… when we get bored… etc. There are literally hundreds of reasons to justify a lie and we know them all.

The Bible talks directly about the affects that lying has on our lives…

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16-19

“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.” Proverbs 19:9

“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3:9-10
So let’s go down the Bible verse list and recap…

Lying:

is something God hates
will cause us to perish
takes us back to our old selves
hurts the body of Christ

Big consequences for temporary “fixes” right?

Are we lying to ourselves?

We think it buys us time… but it just delays the pain.
We think we are sparing feelings.. but we are just hurting the integrity of the friendship.
We think we are protecting… we are slowly destroying.

Every day, liars have to think about…

What if the truth is revealed?
What if the secret comes out?
What if the trust is shattered?

Should we feel sorry for those who lie? Not necessarily. Lying is a choice. We know it’s not what God wants us to do yet we choose to do it. We aren’t forced, coerced, or held against our will to tell half-truths. We cause irreparable damage, miss the mark by sinning, and leave an indelible “X” on our scorecard.

Lying becomes an addiction.. an automatic “go to” move that quickly becomes the norm rather than the exception. It’s a slippery slope that some don’t even bother trying to overcome.

So how do we beat this?

– Decide that just because others are lying their way through life… you’re not going to. Honesty may bring consequences but God is glorified through your authenticity.

– Remember that the truth is easier. Mark Twain once wrote “Always tell the truth. That way you don’t have to remember what you said.” Very wise.

– Know what lying is. It’s not telling the truth. Period. You can easily convince yourself that you aren’t lying…but you know when you are.

– Understand that remaining silent when your word could make a difference is a form of lying.

– Know that your reputation is at stake. Once you become known as the “liar”… repairing the damage will be extremely difficult.

– Tell the truth even when it hurts. Start with little things you would normally lie about and work your way up to more consequential situations.

– Understand why you lie. Is it because you’re insecure? Afraid? When you know the meaning behind the misleading you can make progress in living a life of honesty.

No matter the reason for your lying… it’s never too late to change. God has a plan for your life… and integrity, honesty, and a sincere heart are an integral part of it. He will be there to walk with you through the consequences and give you the strength to be a truth-teller… even when it’s difficult to do so!
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Clock in the Wall

Jerry Lynn has a problem… and no matter how hard he tries,
he can’t get it out of his mind (or ears). 
In September of 2004, Jerry was struggling to find the
perfect place to drill a hole for some TV wire he was running.  His brilliant idea?  Lower a battery-powered alarm clock through a
vent in the wall down to where the wire would go… and when the alarm went off
he would hear it and be able to locate the place on the wall to drill.  Problem is that halfway down the wall, the
clock slipped off the string and fell. 
Now at 7:50pm every day he hears the alarm going off in the wall and
can’t do a thing about it.  His only
hope?  An eventual dead battery.  
The batteries are still going…
Every day Jerry Lynn is reminded of a bad decision from his
past.  Are you?
Do you wake up to the sound of a failed marriage or the
clanging of a broken friendship?  Are you
alerted to who you used to be every single day? 
You want to reach for the snooze bar… to try to quiet the feelings of
regret even temporarily… but you can’t. 
You have made the mistake, broken the trust, hurt the person, caused the
pain, or abandoned the commitment.
And every day you hear it in the walls of your mind. 
There’s hope… and you don’t have to wait on a battery to
stop working.   There can be peace in
your life today.   Want to silence the
ringing?   Meditate on this verse:
1 John 1:9 “But if we confess our sins to him, he is
faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
This verse gives us two instructions:  confess and trust.   Tell God what went wrong from the past.  Cry out to Him and let Him know what you did,
felt, or believed.  Come clean and reveal
to God what He already knew.   And you
know what happens after that?
Your sins are forgiven.
Pardoned.
Excused.
Absolved
Paid for.
Separated from you.
Behind you.
Gone. 
Then it’s time to trust. 
Count on God to cleanse you… to help you move past your past into a future
filled with hope.  What you did is NOT
who you are.  It doesn’t define you and
shouldn’t constrain you. 
When we confess and ask for forgiveness… God cleanses us
from our wickedness.   No more ringing
clock.  No more echoes.  No more needless reminders. 
We are free.
Today, take that first step. 
Spend some time talking with God about what’s keeping you up at night
from your past.  Confess what happened and
ask Him to forgive you.  His word says
that He will. 
It’s time to shut off that alarm for good.  No need to wait on the batteries… or hit
the snooze bar… it’s time to permanently break free and enjoy the peaceful
stillness that comes with forgiveness.  I’ll
be praying for you as you do.  
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Glass House Living

Donnie Dunagan was a tough marine.  He was a drill sergeant, shot through his
left knee, saved two lives during his career in the military, and was decorated
for bravery several times over.  However,
all that courage in the military pales in comparison to a fact that Donnie kept
hidden since he was a child. 
Donnie had a secret… and for a long time refused to live a
transparent life. 
Over the past week, Steph and I have been living inside an
actual glass house on our Cooper City campus. 
We now know what it’s like to be stared at… commented on by people
logged in to the page to watch… and have our lives put on display.   We do it willingly to show the world what
our relationship really looks like.  No
pretense or cover-ups.  Not that what we
do is perfect… but what people are seeing is honest.  All of it is out there… mistakes that we
make, communication challenges that we have, victories, and setbacks.  All of it is public knowledge.  No secrets or lies.
Fact is…God wants all of us to be real.  Transparent.  To live our lives with integrity knowing full
well that people are watching and making notes. 
Are we telling the truth?  Is who
people see in our offices the same person that we see in the mirror each
morning?  How authentic are we
really? 
When Moses received the ten commandments from God, they
included the one found in Exodus 20:16 “You must not testify falsely against
your neighbor.”  In other words, don’t
lie.  Don’t make up stories about others
or yourself.  Stop warping things.  Live openly and let the light of God shine
through and illuminate all the corners of your life.   
Are you living an authentic life?  Keeping any secrets so as to deceive others?  Only you know that answer.  Just like Donnie Dunagan did.
What Donnie didn’t reveal to the rookie recruits that he was
training was the fact that before he joined the service he had been a child
actor. The gruff, screaming, cursing, shouting drill instructor’s claim to
fame?  He was the voice of Bambi from the
Walt Disney cartoon in 1942. 
Gentle sweet Bambi.  
Some of us are covering up something far more serious.  And every day we live an inauthentic life,
the secret gets easier and easier to keep. 
Dare to be real.  Accept the challenge
of a “glass house” lifestyle… allowing others to see and experience who you
really are.  Your past doesn’t define you
and your present can be changed to reflect the light of Christ.  It may not be the easiest thing to start
doing… but the payoff is worth it.   You
were meant for so much more than living a lie. 
You were meant for greatness.  REAL greatness. 
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I’ll Let You Know

I heard a story once about a husband who was being yelled at by his wife.  Everyday she nagged him and pestered him with the same statement, “Why don’t you tell me you love me anymore?”  After several weeks of this, the man simply couldn’t take it anymore.  After his wife finished her daily tirade, he slowly turned to her and said, “You want to know why I don’t tell you I love you?  Because when me got married, I told you then.  If that ever changes… I’ll let you know.”
Why don’t we say it more?  Do your friends know you care about and love them?  How about your spouse?  Has there ever been a mentor in your life?  Brother or sister?
If they were gone tomorrow…. would they know how you feel about them?
Life is way too short to go around assuming people know how we feel.  Look at today’s verses…
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  John 13:34-35
“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  Matthew 22:36-39
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16
Jesus Christ didn’t wait to tell us He loved us… in fact, He climbed on a cross so there would be no doubt… He was crucified to eliminate any wonder…  We never have to guess God’s intent or doubt His feelings.  
Jesus is passionate about us
In the verses, He tells us to express our love for each other in a similar way.   Sacrificially…wholly…without reservation, embarrassment, shame, or condition.  
Love those God has placed in our lives… and remind them of that love regularly.  Who is it in your life that you haven’t expressed your feelings towards in a while?
Is it your friend who has never left your side while you lay in the pit?
Is it a spouse who stood by your bedside while doctors treated you?
Is it a mentor who never made you feel like you were bothering them with the 500th question?
Is it your child…who is still trying to figure out the world, their emotions, and your rules all at the same time?  
Is it someone who has hurt you in your family.  The pain runs deep.  They seek underserved forgiveness and you’ve met them with silent stares.
Who needs you to tell them you love them today?
I found this anonymous quote: “Have you ever wondered which hurts the most: Saying something and wishing you had not, or saying nothing, and wish you had?”
Mistakes are fixable but regret is forever.  Don’t wait.  Make today the day you tell those special people in your life how you feel about them.  Love them, encourage them, and remind them that no matter how deep the hole, how dark the valley, or how challenging the storm… you will be there for them.
Because they matter to God.
Because they matter they matter to you.

and you love them.
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Written

“Then the LORD said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.”  Habakkuk 2:2
Writing things down is important for so many reasons.  My friend, Pr. David Crank, says it well… the shortest pencil is more important than the longest memory.  In addition to writing down goals, I always encourage people to keep a prayer/thought journal.  Wondering how God is moving in your life?  Jot down what God is telling you… feelings you are having… answered prayers… etc.  Don’t forget…this isn’t being graded or analyzed by anyone.  Mad at God?  Write it down.  Frustrated… disappointed… upset?   Pencil those feelings down as well.  
I promise you this… God is working in your life.  Keeping a journal helps you to identify exactly how that is happening.   Looking back at past entries helps clarify progress, establish spiritual benchmarks, and see what areas of your life are moving forward (and which ones might be slipping a little).  
Your life is following a path… imagine being able to pass a narrative of that journey down to the generations that follow you.  It’s a legacy… your written legacy… that will teach, validate, guide, and encourage those that will read it in the future 
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