Category Archives: Devotional

The Verbs #1 – Start with God

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Start with God

 

Start

 

One of the hardest things in life isn’t finishing. Most often the hardest thing to do is to begin.

Solomon starts the book of Proverbs by telling exactly where to begin. You have to start with God.

 

“Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.” – Proverbs 1:7 (The Message)

 

The first step, the very beginning of all of our plans, dreams, and this life, must begin with God. We have been trained to trust in ourselves, to lean on our own understanding; to trust ourselves more than anyone else. In other words, we have been told to start with ourselves. In actuality it is when we come to the end of ourselves that we begin with God. It is when we start with God that real life begins. Solomon tells us that the first step in learning is bowing down to God.

 

The act of starting with God in everything that we do is the foundation upon which you can build your life. However, it isn’t just a one-time event. Starting with God is something that we should do every day.

 

There isn’t an aspect of our lives that should not begin with God. Our marriages should begin with God. We stand before Him and utter vows, that if God would help us, we would keep those vows. We dedicate our kids back to God. We start their lives off by consecrating them back to God.

 

Solomon was teaching a wise lesson because, not only is it good to start with God, God wants us to begin with Him. Starting with God in everything is vital to living a blessed life.

 

What do you think would happen if you started giving God the first hour of your day, the first day of your week, and the first dime of every dollar? I lost so many of you right there, what an hour, a day, a dime… yep, that’s exactly what I said. Your day needs to start with God. One man said that we should never see the face of man until we have seen the face of God. Starting our day with God sets the tone for the rest of the day.

 

No doubt you are aware of the Ten Commandments? In those Ten Commandments, nine of them get straight to the point, no fluff, Thou Shalt not kill. Pretty much sums it up and we all agree with it. That’s pretty much how they all go; four to ten words, and obey. However, God gives a ninety-four word instruction on keeping the first day of the week, holy. Why, so many words? It was important. It was the fourth command, “Keep the first day of the week set apart for MeMake sure you start with Me.”

 

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft stated that, “in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient… there is a lot more that I could be doing on a Sunday morning.”

 

God sees it far differently. As a matter of truth, He had Isaiah write it down for us just to be clear that we should start with Him.

 

“If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage, If you treat the sabbath as a day of joy, God’s holy day as a celebration, If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’ making money, running here and there—Then you’ll be free to enjoy God! Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.” Yes! God says so! – Isaiah 58:12-14 (The Message)

Lastly, we should ensure that our money starts with God; the first dime of every dollar.

 

“Honor God with everything you own; give him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over.” – Proverbs 3:8-10 (The Message)

Many people want to start giving to God after they have enough. You will never have enough unless you start with God. I learned early on to start with God when it came to my finances. The more I started with God, the more I had when it was finished.

 

When will you start with God, once you start it’s hard to quit, because the blessings begin when you start.

 

If not now, when? Sometimes the hardest thing to do is start.

 

Does God Need My Praise?

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Does God need my praise?

The Bible is very clear when it presents God as perfect and without any needs! Acts 17:24-25 says, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.”

So why do we praise Him if He doesn’t need it? Doesn’t He have angels to worship Him?

    God delights in the praise of His creation! Psalm 149:3-4 says, “Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp. For the LORD takes delight in his people…”           

    Praise helps us see and understand God in a deeper way! We take our eyes off of our circumstances and put them on the Creator of all things! Psalm 150:1-2 says, “Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.”

     Praise puts the credit where it belongs. When we fail to praise, we often take the credit instead of giving that credit back to the true Source of all blessings. Ephesians 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

Jesus told us that the greatest purpose for our lives is in Matthew 22:37-38 (NIV) 37 … “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. When we love God with all of our being this causes us to worship, praise, rejoice, be thankful, and glorify. Each of these attributes has a different meaning but they are all closely related.

Worship is to acknowledge the presence of God. Praise is a response of worship. Thankfulness is a part of praise and a response to blessings given. To glorify is to bestow honor, praise, and admiration. Rejoicing is to have great delight and give praise.

Matthew 4:10, Jesus says, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” – Psalm 29:2 says, “Give unto the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

Justification of Praise

I Praise Because He is Great and greatly to be praised. 

1 Chronicles 16:25

25   For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised;
He is also to be feared above all gods.

Psalm 145:3-4 

3     Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
And His greatness is unsearchable.
4     One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts. 

Psalm 96:4

4     For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods. 

2 Samuel 22:4

4     I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.

 Revelation 4:11

11   “You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”

Psalm 73 

14   But I will hope continually,
And will praise You yet more and more.
15   My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
And Your salvation all the day,
For I do not know their limits.
16   I will go in the strength of the Lord God;
I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.

Psalm 150 

1     Praise  1the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
2     Praise Him for His mighty acts;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
3     Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the lute and harp!
4     Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
5     Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
6     Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!

Praise

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*MacNeil Jordan was born in Barbados on Christmas Day in 1902. On his 100th birthday, he recited numerous pages of scripture and poetry. He could tell you the name of the ship that brought him to Ellis Island, the street where he got his first job as a garment worker, and the name of the cafeteria where he ate 70 years ago.

*A month before MacNeil’s 100th birthday, his family made a CD containing everything he wanted to say to his family, which included 8 children, 23 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren and 3 great-great-children. MacNeil’s recipe for long life is as follows: I eat well. I sleep well. I walk quite a bit. And every week there’s church, where I praise my God.’” MacNeil said thats what is most important: Give God praise every day. That’s all. That’s my life.” 

Description of Praise 

Praising God is a central theme in Scripture. We see this as the word “praise” is listed over 330 times in the Bible. It comes from the Latin word meaning to “value”. Therefore, when we praise God, we are proclaiming His greatness and His goodness. The book of Psalms means “Praises”, and comes from the same Hebrew root word as “hallelujah” which means “Praise the Lord.”

Expression of Praise

The believing community is both a fitting and frequently mentioned context for praise.

The author of Hebrews puts it this way: “In the midst of the assembly I will praise you” ( Heb 2:12 ).

The audience is enlarged beyond church when the worshiper announces, “I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations” ( Psalm 57:9 ), and more enlarged still, “In the presence of angels I will sing my praise” ( Psalm 138:1 ; nab ). We are not called to express praise to God only in our quiet time with Him. It is intrinsic that praise be publicly expressed. David appointed Levites to ensure the public praise of Israel ( 1 Chron 16:4 ; 1 Chronicles 23:41 Chronicles 23:30 ).

The Scriptures offer a language of praise and give instructions on expressions of praise.

Nehemiah leads in praise by saying, “Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord” ( Neh 9:5-6a).

Asaph followed David’s cue: “Sing praise to him; tell of his wonderful Acts” ( 1 Chron 16:9 ).

Declaration of Praise  

The New Testament reveals that the name of the Lord is Jesus, so we are to Praise Jesus! This truth is declared over and over in the Scriptures and is one of the main reasons each one of us has been created. The name of the Lord is to be praised and God’s creations are created to declare praise to God! No one is excluded from praising God. When we praise, we are being obedient to God. Psalm 150:2 says, “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.”

Further Study: Psalm 63:3-4 (NKJV), Psalm 113:1-3, Isaiah 43:21 and 150:6, songs Psalm 98:4Psalm 146:2 ) instruments ( 1 Chron 25:3 ; 2 Chron 7:6 ; Psalm 144:9 ; 150:1-5 ), and dancing ( Psalm 149:3 ), Matt 21:1-11Psalm 51:15 )  Psalm 9:1

Train a Timothy

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Train A Timothy

Another relationship we observe in the New Testament embodies training. When, as a faith-filled believer, you find a willing, motivated individual who wants to learn from you, take the time to teach, expend the energy, and invest in that training. Become the mentor God has called you to be. The rewards are great!

Read 1 Tim 4:12-16. You may be wondering whether you are cut out to serve as another person’s mentor. Answer these questions to help you evaluate your suitability:

  1.   Are you a person of patience? Do you take the long-range view?
  2.   What is your area of competence? In what skills are you qualified, and what is your specific area of expertise?
  3.    How strong are your interpersonal skills? Are your relationships generally healthy?
  4.    Are you process-oriented? Are you capable of sticking with people over time while they develop?
  5.    Are you willing to take risks?
  6.    Are you willing to accept responsibility to help someone else grow?
  7.    Is your character worth emulating? Would God approve of someone adopting your behaviors,        attitudes, values, language, and mannerisms?
  8.    Are you willing to make time for someone else?
  9.    Is there any sin or unhealthy situation that you have not addressed that could possibly damage your relationship with another person?
  10.   Have you settled the question of Christ’s Lordship over your life? Are you fundamentally committed to honoring Him in every area?

Potential Mentor Inventory Adapted from As Iron Sharpens Iron, by Howard and William Hendricks (Moody Press, 1995). Used by permission.

Training is a cyclical activity involving instruction, implementation, observation, and evaluation. In this model, the event of teaching/instruction is but one component in the process of training. Training gives further opportunity for implementation and observation with evaluative feedback, followed by further instruction as necessary with the cycle continuing.

Intentional training is needed in the ranks of our ministers today. Skills need to be learned and competencies need to be refined. Many young Timothy’s desperately need increased effectiveness. While the primary result may be that the young minister is trained and more effective, several by-products occur because of this activity. Benefit also comes to the one doing the training. As the teacher shares the principles, they are further highlighted and engrained in the teacher’s mind and heart, whereby strengthening the faith and resolve in the trainer.

Additionally, a certain amount of accountability is applied to the life of the one doing the training, “so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Furthermore, joy wells up in the heart of the one investing the training energy whenever those influenced become effective in the work of God. The aged apostle John, referencing his friend Gaius, said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).

Seek out a Timothy to train. Well-trained ministers have a better potential for longevity in ministry just as well-trained marathon runners have a better chance at finishing and/or winning the race.

Without Timothy, there is no legacy of the gospel. Therefore train up a Timothy, and help them stir up the gift that is within them. We need Timothy, but a Timothy is birthed by a Paul.

Be a Barnabas

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You need a Barnabas and You need to Be A Barnabas

Would Paul have had the same impact had it not been for Barnabas? The Damascus dust may still have been on Paul’s sandals. Paul’s murderous threats toward those of the Way were still a fear-filled reality when Barnabas took Paul to the apostles, but Barnabas vouched for the truthfulness of his testimony (Acts 9:26,27). He didn’t have to vouch for Paul, but his act of encouragement provided a necessary link between Paul and the fulfillment of his calling. Several years later, Barnabas was prompted by the Holy Spirit to look for Paul (Acts 11:25). No doubt the Damascus Road testimony had been forgotten by most, but not by Barnabas.

Barnabas, in keeping with his name, always seemed to be looking for someone to encourage. The tentmaker from Tarsus had seemingly been overlooked by the established church and bypassed for any “meaningful” ministry assignments. But because of Barnabas’ influence, the Antioch church found a place for Paul and helped him develop trusting relationships and a respected teaching ministry (Acts 11:26; 13:1,2). This was not the only time Barnabas took such an initiative. Remember John Mark? (Acts 15:37) Regardless of the baggage or failure from the past, Barnabas was there to be that “son of exhortation.”

How many of us need a modern-day Barnabas to come alongside to promote our ministries? How many ministers sit dejected on the sidelines because of a failure? Their church didn’t grow. The vote was not strong enough to stay. The program was a disaster. A marriage or family relationship disintegrated. Where is that brother or sister to look for the forgotten, to believe in the divine call, to hope for the best? The 21st century needs larger numbers of Barnabas-minded people. Deserting the call God has placed on our lives is pandemic.

Seek out a Barnabas. Then BE a Barnabas to someone else.  The challenge is before us. Scan your environment for the overlooked, the rejected, the discouraged and disheartened, the ones who were passed by. Seek to be a Barnabas. Retaining and encouraging Christians will certainly help reverse the trend of declining numbers in churches.

Pursue a Paul

Pursue A Paul

Paul is that person that is ahead of you. It is not an age thing, it is an experience and wisdom thing. There is a real need, and it is being exacerbated by sociological realities of the 21st century. The breakdown in the home where sons and daughters have distant or nonexistent relationships with their fathers certainly has had a negative effect on leadership development. In times past, the son worked alongside his father, learning not only skill and competency, but also behavior and values. Where does this happen today?

You need a Paul in your life. Think of the list of individuals in the New Testament who were impacted by the apostle Paul.  Real life is different from theory. An education in itself does not prepare one for life. drives me to be better than before. Paul is that person that you might get offended at what they say to you, but that is what you asked them to do so you get over it and get on with the vision at hand.

Who is the Paul you are pursuing? Observation tells us that mentoring is not best-accomplished through a formal program. Mentoring takes place best as the one who desires the information and training pursues the one who has it.  Mentoring takes place as we watch, listen, serve, follow, learn, read, glean, and emulate. It is not something someone does to someone else. It is the result of a diligent pursuit of another’s life and ministry.

In Elisha’s day, this process took place as “the two of them walked on” (2 Kings 2:6*). “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you,” embodies the resolve Elisha had in pursuing Elijah.

Everyone needs to pursue someone who excels in some area of life or ministry. Thanks to 21st-century technology and travel, the entire world is open to us through print media—classic and current—tapes, interactive CDs, the internet, conferences, and networking. This allows anyone to connect with any Christian leader anywhere.

So, prayerfully ask the Lord to lead you to the “major league influencers” who can have an impact on your life and seek a Paul to pursue.  You must pursue your Paul, Paul will never Pursue you!

Connecting

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We live in a world that is increasingly connected, but just as increasingly disconnected. Social media has allowed people to become connected to old friends, acquaintances, and family alike. Yes we have more “friends” than ever before. Each one of us probably has hundreds, if not thousands, via social media, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and countless others.

So, on the surface, it would seem that we are becoming more and more connected. This connection, however, is just that: a “surface connection.” We are in front of a keyboard and screen. The good ol’ days of sitting across from one another, sharing funny stories, and a cup of coffee are disappearing. Connecting and truly sharing the feelings we have as well as the struggles, happens less than ever before. Our lives are suddenly more difficult. It is the never ending rat race of keeping afloat and struggling to make ends meet, deadlines, meetings, and  who could possibly get 2 calendars to match?

Mentoring of one generation to the next with stories began with: “My Dad used to say…” or “My Mom used to say…” or “My teacher used to tell us…” This passing of experiences and knowledge from one generation cannot cease to continue. My father instilled in me a work ethic, honor, ethics, and integrity. My mother instilled into me grace, promptness, cleanliness, and faithfulness. These are not characteristics passed through a computer screen or keyboard. The bible gives clear direction about mentorship from the elders to the younger generation. It is also clear that the younger should submit themselves to the elders to be mentored.

My dad once told me, you cannot complain about something unless you are willing to get involved in it, in order to change it. If we desire to see real change in people, than you must become involved with them. Are you willing to get involved?

Seek out a real connection today by scheduling time with someone you love, respect, and admire. Or, seek out someone and invest in them, be the difference in their life today!

Grace

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What’s the first picture that pops into your head when you hear the word “grace”? Aunt Bethany from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation came to mine. You know, when they ask her to say grace before eating and her reply is: “Grace! She’s been dead for 30 years!”

Once we are born again, grace now accompanies us as though we are married.

Many within the church believe just like poor little confused Bethany that “Grace” is dead.

God’s grace covers more than our plate at dinner time. Grace is the blessing of a lifetime.  It is the grace of God that saves, forgives, sustains, heals, liberates, restores, and transforms us!

Grace should cause us to give God glory because it’s because of grace that we are saved, forgiven, sustained, healed, liberated, restored, and transformed. The grace of God gives us whatever is required of us. We rejoice because that grace justifies us and fills us with peace. That same grace so many think is a “little thing” gives us an all-access past to our God. Grace isn’t dead. If you feel as though grace is dead, it is because it’s been too long since you’ve seen God move incredibly. Grace isn’t dead and God’s not either.

God’s grace is as strong today as it has ever been. He hasn’t changed nor will He ever change.

Not only is she dead she’s been dead for 30 years.  Let me say it like this…it’s been dead to you since the last time you saw God move incredibly.  However, long that has been, it’s been too long. Grace isn’t dead, because God’s not dead.  He’s alive. God is alive and stronger today than He has ever been.

God’s grace is what lifted us up out of the deep pit that we were in. It was His grace at the midnight hour when it seemed like everything was against you, that God  turned it around in your favor.  It was the grace of God that changed your life. You were headed in the wrong direction and God’s grace interrupted that! Just one encounter with God’s grace bestows the blessing of a lifetime.

God gives us something we can then give away. He never runs out of grace and we shouldn’t either. Grace is the gift that keeps on giving.

For your further study…

2 Corinthians 8:9
2 Corinthians 9:8
Romans 5:13
Malachi 3:6
James 1:16­-17
Psalm 102:27
Isaiah 9:6­7 6
Hebrews 13:8
Romans 8:11

The Lord is on My Side

Read Psalm 124:1-8. Then ponder, where would you be “if it had not been for the Lord on your side?”

David said: If it had not been the Lord on my side, when men rose up against, they’d overtaken me. When my enemies rose up against me, if it had not been for the Lord on my side, they would’ve defeated me. If the Lord wasn’t on my side, then when men rose up against us, not only would they’ve defeated me, but they’d defeated me quickly. They’d swallowed us up quickly. If it had not been for the Lord on my side when the waters began to rise, when the floods began to come against us, we would’ve failed! If the Lord hadn’t been on our side the waters would’ve overwhelmed us. It is because the Lord was on our side that we were not overwhelmed and we weren’t defeated.

Every one of us could’ve written this psalm because if it hadn’t been for the Lord, we too would have been overwhelmed, washed up, and wiped out.

Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3:22-23, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”

It is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed and because of Him that we are not defeated.

The Lord is on your side, and if the Lord is on your side, then you will not fail. You will not be overwhelmed. You will not be swept away. You will not be consumed. The Lord is always by your side and He is with you wherever you go.

 Just like David…when people rise up against you, you’ll not be defeated.

 Just like David…when calamity, trial or tribulation comes, you will not be overcome.

 Just like David…the Lord is on your side!

Here are a few reminders of what that means for you!

Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. (Psalm 91:7 NLT)

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. (1 John 4:4)

I shall not die, but live,

And declare the works of the Lord. (Psalm 118:17 NKJV)

I dream of a day that you’ll live like the Lord is on your side! I dream, of a day, that you’ll pray, believe, and dream like the Lord is on your side.

Tell me what would you believe for if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Tearing Down Strongholds

As Gideon “bravely” tiptoed to the enemy’s camp, passing more camels than he could count, he listened to the two armed guards recounting a dream in which he was said to be a loaf of bread, barley bread to be more specific, the lowliest of the breads. This dream caused Gideon to realize who God truly is and this “lowly” man conquered the Midianites. There was no choice for Gideon but to face the enemy, his stronghold, head on. If the enemy had not been confronted, the Midianites would have continued to destroy the Israelites’ harvest.

A faulty thinking pattern is based on lies and deception. Deception is one of the primary weapons of the devil. It is the building block for creating a stronghold. Strongholds cause us to think in ways that block us from God’s best.

Many people are scared of God, unable to feel Who He is. They view Him as a cruel taskmaster, not as the God Who is always there for them. These individuals build walls, making it difficult for them to receive God’s love and presence, or to draw close in their relationship with Him. Think about this: If you saw your spouse as a rude, cruel dictator, you probably wouldn’t be as apt to snuggle up to him, loving him, as you would if you saw him as a kind, caring person, knowing the object of his affection was you. If you perceive someone as mean, it’s hard to receive their love, right? Our perception affects our reception. That’s how our idea of God can hinder us from feeling His love and presence in our lives. It is crucial to have the correct perception of God if we want to live victorious lives through Christ Jesus!

One of the most widespread and devastating strongholds is an incorrect image of not only our Creator, but also an inaccurate image of how He views His creation, us!

People who see themselves incorrectly and suffer from low self-esteem have difficulty seeing themselves as the new creation they are now in Christ Jesus. These individuals also have a stronghold. They don’t understand what Christ did for them, and how it applies to their own life. Common symptoms of this stronghold are:

*guilt feelings (questioning if you’ve really been forgiven of your sin(s))

*low spiritual esteem (they feel like sinners, not saints)

*lack of spiritual confidence (we are supposed to have this in Christ Jesus)

*constantly struggling with sin (Jesus said that if we keep in His Word, which tears down strongholds, we will be free from the power sin has over us. John 8:31-34)

*overall feeling of unworthiness spiritually

*lacking the joy of the Lord in life.

Those who see God as cruel live lives with an unhealthy fear of God. A healthy fear of God looks more like a holy respect for Him. There’s another kind of fear, however, an unhealthy one. The enemy hopes to develop this one within us; it’s a kind of fear where we see God as a taskmaster: cruel, cold, distant, uncaring, snapping a whip at us the moment we step out of line. People who are afraid they’ve committed the unpardonable sin, or find it difficult to feel God’s love and presence, often have this stronghold. If you question God’s love for you, this stronghold must be demolished.

At some point, the stronghold has to be broken or there would have been certain destruction, just as in the case of Gideon.What strongholds do you need to conquer? Do you fit in one of the categories described above? Decide to be set free today. It’s easier than you think.