Children: Rewards Packed with Potential

This morning, as I was driving down the road, I stopped at a light where children (teenagers) cross to enter a local school. As I viewed each passing, this post I previously wrote came to mind about the potential in each soul walking by. I thought I would share it once again as a beautiful reminder to us all that children, no matter their age or stage in life, have a special place in the heart of God, and are rewards packed with potential.

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“And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children” (Isaiah 54:13), and “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psalm 127:3) are just some of my favorite Bible verses when dealing with the subject of children. Those precious treasures God has blessed us with are a reward.

Children have always had a special place in the heart of God. 

Jesus showed the value in the lives of these innocent ones by teaching the adults that unless they put on childlike faith, unless they “Be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).  

Days of parenting may not always be sitting by and watching children play in the best of their innocence and zest for life. Guiding young hearts may not always…

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Jesus is Greater!

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things . . .” Hebrews 1:1-2

The writer of Hebrews opens his book with the exaltation of Christ over all and declares that God “hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things,” (Hebrews 1:2). As the rightful heir, His supremacy is beautifully noted.

“Therefore,” Hebrews 2:1 tells us, “we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.”

Many believe the recipients of this letter are early Jewish Christians whose faith has come under attack, and they needed encouragement to hold on to the words of Christ, to hold onto the gospel message they received lest they “let them slip.”

When one “slips,” it is usually a backward path into old ways, and this is what was threatening their current faith.  The old ways, that were attached to the older religious system, that came before the securing and atoning death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, were trying to prevail and draw people backward.  In his writings, the author of Hebrews continues to teach and explain that Christ is greater than those old ways.  He is greater than Moses, greater than the old religious system and priesthood, greater the angels (read Hebrews 2-3 for more), and all that came before Him (although technically, Christ was before all of them – see John 1:1-5; 8:58).  He is simply greater in every way.

Is there something plaguing your current faith today? Has something infiltrated your dedication to the Lord and is seeking to pull you into a slipping mode?

Friend, whatever it is, Jesus is greater than that too. He understands the frailty of humanity. He understands the emotions you battle with and the questions you long to ask. Lay it all at His feet today. Take everything to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him, with all sincerity, for help with this and all other things you may be confronted with.

The old may be comfortable, but faith in Christ, the heir of all, is the greater choice.

Therefore, our rest and peace are now forever found in the promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3:18-4:3; 2 Corinthians 1:20), because He is greater.

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The Prayers of the Saints

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Oh, my friend, do not think within yourself that your prayers do not matter.  Don’t let the thought enter your mind, saying, “What’s the point.”  The point is your prayers are very special to your King.  He loves to hear the words and petitions that flow from your heart and mouth.  His ears are opened, listening for His beloved ones who wills to communicate with Him.

Your prayers are so special before God Almighty.  Only the enemy wants you to look away from that blessed throne.  Only those who don’t want the best for you wish to turn you from believing your prayers matter.

God loves when your heart is bowed before Him.  He loves the utterances that are spoken from your lips to His hears.  You are His child.  He loves you and wants to hear from you daily.

Give yourself permission to release all that’s inside at His holy feet.  Let your prayers rise as a sweet-smelling savour before He who loves you more than you’ll ever know.

Your prayers are precious to God now, and in that time to come.

“And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.

And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.” Revelation 8:3,4

“Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” Psalm 141:2

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“Be Progressive”

“And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward,” Exodus 14:15

Have you heard of the phrase “two steps forward, one step back?” What if we could erase that end part? What if we could subtract from the equation the minus one step? What would the total sum of one’s life be if all they ever did was progress? If all they ever did was to add without factoring in any negatives?

“Two steps forward, one step back.” It’s a phrase that I have used and I know you have, too. But in reality, I actually think that we get too comfortable with that kind of mentality. Everything is not always going to go off without a hitch, we know that.  And yes, we will face obstacles at times, but it’s almost as if we expect to move back every time we try to advance forward. We are factoring in a negative from the very beginning and any time doubt is introduced into one’s advancement in this way, that will almost always sabotage one’s progress, taking away from all that they have done and gone through to move forward. It can subtract from and overshadow the positive with that seemingly bigger negative.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are many hard trials and circumstances that everyone will face. I will not trivialize the hurt and disappointments that one may come across in their life. But what will happen, if while we are on this journey, we try our best to look beyond the circumstances that we are in and be determined to move forward toward the promise anyway? What if for once we could factor out the negatives of life instead of factoring them in? Despite the chariots and the enemies pursuing us, we could be more determined to pursue the goals that God has for us.

That is what I really believe God wanted the children of Israel to do here. To stop looking for reasons for not progressing.  To stop looking for obstacles. To stop making excuses for why they can’t get to where God wants them to go. He had a glorious destiny for them. God had already shown them many, many miracles that led up to their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Yet, as soon as a moment of adversity poked its head around the corner to spy on their progress, they stopped moving. Instead, they stayed in that unproductive state wallowing in self-pity: “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?” (Exodus 14:11), they cried.

God has a better plan for you than to keep you still, wallowing in the wilderness, in a state of self-pity. That’s why He said, “Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.” Stop crying about it and just go! Move! Make some progress! No more backward! It’s time to go on in Jesus’ name! To move it or lose it!

Looking at the stuff one has been through and the possibility of hardship ahead can be very discouraging, but press on anyhow! There is a promised land for you and me to reach. That alone is enough to urge you onward and upward. So, go ahead – be progressive today. Say within yourself, “I’m going to make it this time!”  No turning back!

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Encourage!

“Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do,” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

The main goal of a cheerleading organization is to raise the spirits of the fans and team members of the sport they are supporting.  As I look at this life, I realize there are others around you and me every day that could use some encouragement.  People who need their spirits raised.  Some whose lives need to be touched with a little something that will help see them through this day.

The old saying is true that you cannot judge a book by its cover.  People are like that also.  Day by day we walk through our normal routines.  Sometimes we come across different people.  Sometimes we see the same people each and every time.  In meeting people there’s one thing I have come to realize, you don’t have a clue of what one may be facing on the other side of that facade.

The face that is smiling at you may be at the point of giving up.  The one who is engaging you in polite conversation may have just suffered a hard blow financially.  Or, any others we may see or come across on a daily basis.  All we can do is look at what they show us.  Sometimes, what they don’t show is there are deeper issues they are dealing with.  While in the middle of those deep issues, what if they receive a word that renews, that makes them feel that everything is going to be okay in spite of what they are facing?  What if one act of kindness done for them helps to ensure them they are important too, no matter what the situation is telling them, and raises their spirits?

How would we order our day, our regular routines, if we treated everyone as if they were a mission field to receive kindness?  You could be the one that will help somebody else to make the decision that they will not throw in the towel.  They will not give up.  You and I can be that deciding factor!  You can be that spiritual cheerleader that brightens the heart and lift the spirits of those who may be having a hard time in life right now.

Oh, what joy!  We don’t have to know the total story of another.  All we have to do is try to treat everyone who crosses our path with respect and a willingness to radiate the goodness of God onto them.  Perhaps all we have to have is a kind word ready on the tongue to bless the life of another.  After all, the Bible does tell us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue . . .” (Pro. 18:21).  There is power in the words we speak to others and in any encouragement we can give.

1 Thessalonians commands us to “edify one another.”  That word “edify” means to build up.  Or, as I like to say, to cheer on!  The things we do and say in life should make people feel encouraged.  It should inspire them to go on and not give up.  It should show them to Whom we belong.  “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and the things wherewith one may edify another,” (Rom. 14:19).  It’s looking for ways to touch the life of another through encouragement.

Lift someone else today.  Send out a ray of sunshine from you to them.  Let them feel the warmth of the love of God in you.  Let them know that there is something special in them.  And, yes, make them feel that they matter.  Be an encourager today!  Be a spirit lifter!

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Your Amazing IF

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IF has been around since the beginning of humanity.  IF usually comes with choice, consequence, and question.  But, what if the word IF can be a statement of faith?  What if the word IF can be a declaration of what you believe God can do in your life.

One of my favorite IF questions in the Bible led to a miracle occurring and the constraints of what is normally not possible being removed.  IF unlocks something amazing in one man’s life, never to be repeated by another human being except for Jesus Christ.  Tossed about in the waves of contrary winds, Jesus’ disciples are struggling in a boat in the middle of the sea when Jesus came to them walking on the water (see Matthew 14:22-33).  After Jesus greeted the men in the boat and calmed them, Peter asked, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water,” (Matthew 14:28; italics added mine).

I believe Peter knew wholeheartedly it was Jesus since some Bible studies use the word IF as SINCE.  Thus, I believe Peter’s IF is a statement of faith, even if it appeared to be an immature faith at the onset.  He believed in Jesus.  He believed if Jesus allowed him to, he would be able to do what is naturally impossible.  He, under the direction of the Lord, could do the amazing, and walk on water.

Now, many of us are very familiar with how Peter’s story here ends.  Seeing the waves his faith falters and Jesus is there to pull him up from his sinking condition and bring him back to the boat.  Yet, that isn’t the part I want to focus on here.  I want to focus on the power of the IF that drew him out of the boat in the first place.  Where other men stayed hidden, he literally threw it all to the wind, and with the chance of a lifetime, stepped out to experience the amazing.

We can laugh at Peter and put him down, but how many of us can honestly answer that we would have gotten out of the boat also?  You see, IF can be a hindrance that causes over questioning and actually act as a stumbling block for not moving forward into something wonderful.  But, IF can also be the catalyst to open a door of opportunity if it is approached with the idea that something amazing can come out of taking a chance with Jesus; to move on to the waters of the unknown with my eyes on Him.

The phrase “What if?” has birthed a lot of good quotes and with good reason.  In that two-worded question, we are daring to ask ourselves the question: “Do I stay in the boat or do I choose to walk on water?”  We are daring to see potential in ourselves to do more than the ordinary, to do something amazing with my IF.

Where is your “IF” calling you today or even this week?  What extraordinary thing may unlock for you if you take a chance with your amazing IF?  I believe God gives us dreams to pursue, but it’s our faith in active pursuit of that IF that will allow the amazing to happen for us, just like it did for Peter.  Jesus most certainly could have gotten to the boat without walking on water, but then Peter or any one of the other disciples would have never had the opportunity to ask and pursue something more.

Is Jesus calling you to walk on water?  Is He calling you to take steps of faith in pursuit of a particular IF?  If He is, keep your eyes on Him and allow Him to lead you to your amazing IF.

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“Unwrapping Your Gifts!”

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Christmas time is the most wonderful time of the year.  There’s a special peace and happiness in the air as we come together with friends, family, and loved ones to celebrate the birth of Christ, our Savior.  We get together to laugh, eat and enjoy one another’s company.  Then, we have the privilege to exchange gifts that show the love we carry for each other all throughout the year.

Gifts, by definition, are something given voluntarily.  I love you, and because I love you, you don’t have to twist my arm to make me show adoration towards you.  I do it of my own will, without prompting, because you mean that much to me.

That’s what makes this time of year so special.  (After all, it was God’s biggest gift to humanity that gives us cause for celebrating in the first place.)  It’s not the big dinners, twinkling lights, or the carols (though we enjoy it all).  It’s the love and adoration shown when gifts are given and opened with a rejoicing heart.

We go through much trouble to find and carefully select that perfect gift for that special someone.  I mean, you just know in your heart that they are going to love it and you can’t wait for them to rip off that wrapping paper, rejoice with gladness over the special way you thought about them, and immediately start using that gift you gave.

Now, consider this.  What if, when you gave your gift of love, they toss it to the side in disregard saying, “I’ll get to it when I get to it?”  You would be so crushed, hurt, and disappointed over their uncaring way of receiving your gift.

What if God feels the same way?  Not only did He give us THE BEST GIFT that we could never live without (His Son, JESUS), but in our relationship with Him, we have been freely given many other gifts.  Not only is a gift something given voluntarily, but it is also a special ability or capacity; a special talent to be used for the edifying of Himself through you.

In the book of Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus told the parable of the talents.  One man was given five, one was called to receive two and another received one.  What is ironic is that the two to whom the most talents were given increased and prospered one hundred percent.  Now, we would think their master was unfair in expecting so much from them.  After all, he did give them more responsibilities than the other.

Through perseverance and diligent work, not only did they gain a little but they doubled what they started with.  Sadly, the one who was only given one responsibility, only one job, one talent let fear stop him from increasing and prosperity.  He said, “I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine,” (Matthew 25:25).  Instead of being made a ruler, he was made a disgrace.  Instead of living with abundance, he was deemed unprofitable and cast into outer darkness (vs. 30).

Living a life of unprofitableness is living a life of darkness.  There’s no joy or peace, only weeping.  This is not the life that God intended for us to live.  The special stuff that God put on the inside of you and me was never meant to be buried and hidden from the world.  We are meant to shine as a beacon of light into this dim, dark world and show them who God is and what He wants to do for all mankind through the abilities, gifts, and talents He has put in us.

What you have in you is too good to hide.  Don’t keep it to yourself.  “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath,” (vs. 29).  To some, this may seem like an unfair statement, thinking, Why do they get more when they already have some?  And, why are they going to take his little bit of stuff away?

Instead of questioning and overanalyzing the story, perhaps our time would be better spent if we were to pull out our own shovels and start digging.  Dig for your talent.  Unearth it from deep within and don’t give up until you have pulled out every treasure that God has put in you.  If when you pull your treasure up, it turns out to be only one thing, then, you work that one thing with hard-pressing diligence until it has increased and doubled to two.  Then, you work some more until that two doubles to four and so on.

‘Tis the season for opening gifts.  God has already given them to you.  Don’t let fear stop you from unwrapping them.  God took great care in picking out the perfect gift for you and He can’t wait for you to rip off the wrapping paper and begin to use it.  God gave it to you because you mean a lot to Him and He knows that you would be great in using it.

Don’t toss it aside.  Whether your gift is humble or outrageous, open it and bring it to the Savior!  You may be surprised at what you find.

We have just a little ways to go before we celebrate the best gift ever: JESUS!  Soon after that, we will be bringing in a New Year.  What better time to unwrap all that good stuff God has placed in you?

Have a very blessed and Merry Christmas, always thanking God in advance for the greatest gift of His Son, our Savior, JESUS CHRIST!

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Navigating the Days

Friends, this day is a day that we have never seen before.  As each day progresses into the new, we all walk on unfamiliar ground.  As we walk the paths that lead into each day, we never fully know entering in what its end will be.  We never fully understand what will happen on the road ahead as we put our feet to walking forward.

But we are here, dear friend.  We are at the beginning of a new day and already there is not lacking things that demand our attention, or things that stir up friction, trying to disturb the walk for the day before the day itself has fully begun.

How can we make the best out of these days if we have never navigated them before?

As God was preparing the Israelites for the conquest of the Promised Land, He gave Joshua, their new leader, incredibly detailed instructions on their going into this new territory.  He said,

“When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.

Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore,” (Joshua 3:3-4). 

Their story is such a great symbol of our daily living.  Each day we enter is new to us: “You have not passed this way before” (Joshua 3:4, NKJV).

The Ark of the Covenant represented God’s presence among His people.  The instructions were for them to leave enough space between it and them so that they could properly see it, follow it, and know which way to go.

God stood as their ultimate guide for going into the new, and He stands as our guide, too.

How many attempts are made daily of entering this fresh territory called today without proper guidance?  Without connecting our eyes and hearts with the One who knows our days before we do?

Every day, as we are entering in, we need to look to God.  We need to get connected to where He is leading, and then we need to follow His lead.

As the clock ticks on, and the hours go by, the days and years come and go – every single day that we open our eyes in the land of the living is new to us.  To make the most out of each day, to successfully navigate this day, we need to focus on Him who has gone before us.

Take comfort, dear friend, that you are not navigating the days alone.  As He once told the Children of Israel: “… he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8), I believe if we look to God, and follow His lead, we can be encouraged by the same promise.  Instead of being dismayed by what is ahead, we can find joy because our God has gone before us, and daily His presence is with us (Hebrews 13:5).

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“Wisdom is Better!”

“Wisdom is better,” is what I read twice during my devotional reading.  In Ecclesiastes 9:16, 18.  In verse 16 it states that “wisdom is better than strength” and in verse 18 it states that “wisdom is better than weapons of war.”  This had me thinking, how often do we resort to strength and weapons before choosing wisdom to fight the struggles in life?

Strength and weapons are carnal devices that depend on fleshly know-how and might.  Often these are the first resources that man runs to in times of difficulty and adversity.  Wisdom is dependent upon God.  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction,” Proverbs 1:7.

Would it not be more prudent in the days of trials to follow the path of wisdom whose author is God?  Many of life’s mistakes are made from rash human impulses instead of the patient endurance of wisdom that God provides.  Christians especially are admonished to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” Proverbs 3:5-6.

“Wisdom is better!”  James 1:5 gives us the key to finding this wisdom to help with life’s choices.  He said, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be give him.”  God will freely supply for the heart that seeks wisdom rather than the harried messes of one’s own way.

Today, choose wisdom.  It’s always the better option.

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In the will of God

“But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.” Jonah 1:4

Are the winds blowing?  Has a tempest howled at your door?  Do you feel like your ship is bring broken and your world falling apart?

Have you stayed the course?  Have you allowed your sails to be set in another direction from His calling?  Have you gotten on board with a plan that is not God’s best plan for your life?

There is only one solution.  Reunite yourself with God’s will for your life.  Step back onto the path He has chosen for you to walk.  It may not always be easy, and the way may be unclear to us, but when we are where God want us to be, doing what God wants us to do, we are in the best place possible.

Following, when we don’t know all the specifics, is not always easy but the Bible encourages us to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6).  But you must be willing to go where He directs.

Jonah fled and when his plan began to break around him, he ended up in the belly of a great fish (Jonah 1:17).  If your plan is breaking apart, make sure your plan is falling in line with God’s plan for your life.

God’s ways are perfect and right.  He wants to see a good end come from even the worst of circumstances (Jeremiah 29:11).  But we can never see the fulfilling of it if we are determined to board our own boat and go our own way.

In the will of God is where we’ll find safety and refuge.  In the will of God is where His best plan for us becomes the best part of our story.

Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”  God will instruct you in the best way to go.

Psalm 37:4 “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”  When we delight in God’s will, God delights in us.

Proverbs 19:21 “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.”  It is God’s will that will always stand.  Don’t fight it.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”  God knows how to get to the best ending out of your life.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Seek God’s kingdom/His will first and everything else will fall into place.

John 7:17 “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”  Those who truly seek after His will, will know His will.  God doesn’t play hide and seek with His people.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  Following God’s will, even when we don’t understand, will always work out according to His purpose.

Father God, I don’t pretend to know everything.  The things that are happening and the things I don’t understand may perplex me, but nothing is out of the reach of Your Sovereign hand.  Thank You, for Your faithfulness in my life.  Thank You, for the daily new mercies.  Thank You, that You have not given up on me, rather daily, You help me in the way I should go.  Forgive me for the times when I went the wrong way.  Help me to stay where You want me to stay and do what You want me to do.  In the name of Jesus Christ, AMEN.

If you have found yourself out of the will of God, use today to start again.  Today can be a day of renewal for you.  Today, you can have a fresh start.

“When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.

They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” Jonah 2:7-9

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