Simple Truth, Short Devotions, Encouraging Prayers
Savoring Sorrow

Savoring Sorrow

October 1, 2019

Ecclesiastes 7:3
Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.

Oh at the times I felt the pain of deep sorrow. Sorrow undoubtedly comes and goes during the journey of life. Some of the saddest moments in my life have also been some of the most refining. The light a candle provides in a dark room is only made possible by a wick that  is burning (John 1:5). Ecclesiastes 7:3 reminds us that while laughter is good during the moment, it is the refining power of affliction that leads to good changes that last a lifetime. 

Growth is fertilized by pain and oaks of righteousness grow deep roots into Christ' love in the seasons of sadness (Colossians 2:7). Like most things in life, we improve with practice. I remember telling my son one time, “practice makes perfect.” He very wisely replied, “Dad, practice makes better. We will never be perfect.” His response was simple but true. There are many things that we willing practice in life. Sports, speeches, video games, and hobbies just to name a few. But perhaps it’s the things we don’t want to practice that really teach us the most. Whatever we face today He will use tomorrow (Romans 8:28)! If we are willing, He is able! 

Father, thank you for knowing exactly what we need even before we ask for it. Thank you teaching us and training us even in those moments when we really don’t want to learn. Thank you for wasting nothing! Thank you for using every sleepless night and fallen tear! It in your mighty name Jesus we pray. Amen.

A Brighter Tomorrow

A Brighter Tomorrow

August 17, 2019

Ecclesiastes 7:2
Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies — so the living should take this to heart.

When reading this, the first thought that came to my mind was, "But not everyone lives.” Telling someone that it is better to spend time at funerals seems like a very grim thing to say and especially to do. In all the times that I have asked someone, "What are you doing this weekend?" I have never heard anyone reply, "Well, I think I am going to hang out at a few funerals." People crash weddings and parties but not funerals. Our search for excitement and the rush of adventure drives us to do the things we can while we are still able.

But what about when we aren't able? What happens when our youthfulness fades and the realities of old age begin to set in? (James 4:14) I've never seen anyone sky dive with a walker in their hands or bungee jump with a cane. Is it too early to set our eyes on the realities of tomorrow — today? Investing for retirement is an example. If I wouldn't wait to start investing in my own retirement until I'm 65 years old, why should I wait to start investing in others lives until then? (Proverbs 3:28) I can't take any of my belongings with me. As I continue to grow in my walk with Christ, I am reminded that the value of my life is really only worth the eternal impact that it has on others in Christ (Matthew 5:13). When I take my last step on Earth and my first step in Heaven, the lives of others that were around me will still remain (Psalm 78:6). The torch we carry will only go as far as others carry it when our portion of the race is complete (Psalm 102:18).

Father,
Thank you for the opportunity to run the race! Thank you for your Light that shines in the darkness! Help us to be Kingdom-minded in everything that we do and say. Fan into flames the calling on each of our lives, and help us to shine brighter and brighter until the day that you call us home. In Jesus' mighty name we pray! Amen.

Creator Construction

Creator Construction

August 17, 2019
 
Isaiah 17:10-11
Why? Because you have turned from the God who can save you. You have forgotten the Rock who can hide you. So you may plant the finest grapevines and import the most expensive seedlings. They may sprout on the day you set them out; yes, they may blossom on the very morning you plant them, but you will never pick any grapes from them. Your only harvest will be a load of grief and unrelieved pain.
 
While reading this, I immediately began to think about my life, about all God has provided, and about His constant reminder to go to Him first in all things - not second, or after the fact, but FIRST! Life is oftentimes fast paced, challenging, and full of distractions and abundant blessings which can easily be taken for granted. Countless verses in the Bible tell us God cares about every detail of our life (Psalm 37:23). The Bible says He even keeps a record of our tears (Psalm 56:8)

Over the past several years, this is an area of my life that He has used to help me grow. Today, I can say with more confidence than ever before, God does provide "immeasurably more" than I could "ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20). It is natural to go to Him with the big things, but how much of our lives are really spent on "big things?" Most of us would have a slightly different answer based on our own life experiences. Personally, I would estimate that 5% of my lifetime has been spent on major life events. The rest of the time has been full of routine choices and everyday decisions. Why would I not go to Him FIRST with 95% of my life? 

As I seek to continually come to Jesus in the small things, I am realizing the change isn't necessarily in the circumstances of my life; the change is in my perception of them! If I come to God at the beginning of the day and truly surrender my time to Him, I can then take heart in knowing that when challenges come (and they will come), it is an opportunity for me to learn (John 16:33). The challenges are supposed to be there!

Painting a house comes to mind. If someone is building a new house, do they complain when it is being painted? No, they likely anticipate it, knowing it will bring them one step closer to completion. Would the same person be just as excited to repaint the house they are living in now? The answer is probably not, since it would likely be viewed as a costly and time-consuming repair. While these are the same event with the same processes, the two are viewed from completely different perspectives. Perhaps it is not as much about what is being done, but rather how we view it. With Him leading, it is viewed as construction, but with us leading, it is repair. 

Father,
Thank you for knowing exactly what we need even before we ask for it. Thank you for being a wonderful Counselor and perfect Teacher! Thank you for calling us, training us, and preparing us for everything that you have in store for us! Help us to rest in your presence as you continue to complete the good work you started in each of us. In Jesus mighty name we pray, amen.

Pursuing Purpose

Pursuing Purpose

August 17, 2019

Proverbs 14:12
There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

Recently, I was talking with a friend who was going through a challenging situation. This reminded me of my own struggles I have endured over the years. In almost every situation, there was a choice that needed to be made. Looking back, it was obvious that my poor choices led to bad situations. However, at the time, they seemed like good decisions. I wasn’t intentionally making wrong choices, so why did I?

In my search for the answer, I asked myself, “How did this happen?" The Holy Spirit led me to think about God’s Word and God’s direction. Both of them must be obeyed. The Bible is very clear about what is and is not sin. This is always true and never changes (James 1:17). Even so, God gives specific directions for the person He is leading (Psalm 32:8)

There is a path before “each person” (Proverbs 14:12). My path may not be the same as your path. There is the path of sin, and the path of purpose. The correct path is the one that avoids sin and pursues purpose! These paths will never intersect. If they do, it means we have either wandered into sin or drifted away from purpose. 

Isaiah 30:21 says, “Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, 'This is the way you should go,' whether to the right or to the left.” His voice gives us personal direction as He tells each individual which way you should go.

Father,
Thank you giving us life and the privilege to walk in your truth and in your ways. Help our ears to be tuned to the sound of your voice. Help our feet move obediently in the direction of your guidance. May we not only finish our race, but also finish it well. It’s in your mighty name, Jesus, we pray. Amen!

Finding Freedom

Finding Freedom

May 1, 2019

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

I once heard someone say, "Confession is good for the soul but bad for the reputation." Most of us would probably agree with that statement. Confessing our sins takes humility, especially when we are confessing to others. For many years, my confession of sin was primarily to the Lord. It is only the Lord who is able to forgive and cover our sins (Romans 5:19). However, it is through our confession to others that He oftentimes provides our healing (James 5:6).

Satan would love to deceive us and shame us into thinking our past is too great or have us believe we are the only one who struggles with something (1 Corinthians 10:13). In reality, all of us are a continual work in progress (Philippians 1:6). Even Paul, through everything he endured, said he didn't consider himself to have yet attained his goal  (Philippians 3:12).

Having wrestled many sinful areas in my own life throughout the years, I have realized over time that the road to freedom is often only about three inches long; it is the short distance between our minds and our mouths. When we begin to confess our sins to one another, the healing process starts! The Bible says that the people overcame the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony (Revelation 12:11). The devil cannot point to darkness that has already been filled with Light. God's Light "shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5).

Father,
Thank you for your unfailing love! Thank you for making a way for us! Thank you for forgiving our sins! Thank you for your healing hands! Help us by giving us the strength we need to confess to one another. We thank you in advance for the healing that is sure to follow. It is in Jesus’ mighty and all powerful name we pray, amen!

Planted in Promise

Planted in Promise

March 31, 2019

Matthew 25:24-25
“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back."

The servant thought he knew God but clearly he didn’t. Somewhere along the way he became fearful of God, but God’s perfect love cast out all fear (1 John 4:18). What happened after he received his gift that convinced him it was better not to use it? This story is a great example of the tactics the enemy still uses on God’s children today. He is continually trying to instill fear, doubt, and confusion within us. The Bible says the devil is the "father or lies" and that lying is his native language (John 8:44).

There was once a season in my life when I was surrounded by someone that continually spoke lies. I was grounded in truth, but over time, I unknowingly began to believe the lies. There was a gradual acceptance of the other person's words instead of God’s truth. It was an incredibly challenging season. Like this servant, I began to bury the things that God wanted to grow.

This season eventually passed, and I was able to see it for the deception it was. No matter how strong our walk is with Christ, we will absorb what we are around. Proverbs 22:24-25 says, "Don't befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul."

While walking in the valley, I realized the enemy isn't after us as much as he is after our calling. We are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). As we walk through life, the light of Christ that resides within us not only lights our path, but also provides light to those around us (Philippians 2:15). If the devil can convince us to hide our light or bury our spiritual gifts, he’s not just robbing us, he’s also robbing others (Matthew 5:15).

Father, help us to become more like you in everything that we do! Help us to be your light and shine bright in all the dark places. Help us to not be deceived by the enemy's lies, but to remain firmly planted in the truth of your word! It is in Jesus’ mighty name we pray! Amen.

Appointed and Anointed

Appointed and Anointed

March 31, 2019

Exodus 23:29-30
"But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals would multiply and threaten you. I will drive them out a little at a time until your population has increased enough to take possession of the land.”

God’s blessing and His fulfillment of that blessing often occur over the course of time. The older I get and the further I walk, the more I am able to clearly see His hand of faithfulness. God continues to provide and fulfill His promises along life’s journey.

The Bible gives us many examples. David was anointed as king years before he was appointed as king. God’s promise was true the moment it was spoken. However, it took time before David and those around him were able to visibly see the promise come to pass. Joseph had a God-given dream that took years to become fulfilled (Genesis 37:5). Abraham left his familiar land to inherit land he didn’t know how to reach (Hebrews 11:8).

Oftentimes, the beginning of our journey appears to be heading in the opposite direction of the fulfillment of God’s promise. Joseph didn’t mention prison in his dreams, but it was actually his time in prison that prepared him to rule the land, which later led to the fulfillment of the promise (Genesis 45:7-8). It was David’s confrontation with lions and bears that prepared him for his unforeseen battle with Goliath (1 Samuel 17:34-36). Even Jesus himself “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).”

I am reminded that delays are not the same as denials! They are simply preparation for what is to come. Let us celebrate that our Father not only has good things in store for us, but He also takes the time to prepare us for those things He has in store (Ephesians 2:10). He knows what we need even before we ask for it, and He is a faithful Provider of all good things to fulfill our created purpose!

Lord, thank you for creating us with purpose and completing the good work you start in each of us. Help us to not get discouraged as you prepare us for what lies ahead. Thank you for molding us, shaping us, and training us to walk in the land that is already ours. It is in Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen!

Listening and Looking

Listening and Looking

January 1, 2019

Luke 2:8
​That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.

Luke 2:12
And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger."

I recently went for an early morning walk while it was still dark outside. The sky was full of stars, but there was one in particular that appeared to be shining brighter than all the others. As I looked at it, I began to think about the star that guided the wisemen to our newborn King. I began to wonder if the star they followed looked something like the star I was watching. Was it brighter than all the other stars? Was it visibly moving like the lights on an airplane that slowly glide across the nighttime sky? While thinking about how far they had to follow the star, I decided to look up this story in the Bible.

As I read it, I noticed something I had never seen before. The shepherds were staying in a field “nearby” (Luke 2:8). They weren’t a long ways off! They were close to the miracle that the world had been anticipating for thousands of years, but they still couldn’t see it. It took an angel to reveal it to the shepherds, and the Lord used a star to guide the wise men (Matthew 2:1-2, Luke 2:9-15).

It was in this moment that I began to realize it isn’t much different in our lives today. Some of God’s mighty handiwork is happening all around us and in us, yet manytimes we still don’t see it. What if the miracle we have been praying for or seeking has already arrived and is "nearby" (Luke 2:8)? What if it is wrapped up “in strips of cloth” instead of  the shiny wrapping paper with a big bow that we may be expecting to see (Luke 2:12)?

God's ways are above our ways (Isaiah 55:9). Some of His greatest blessing are oftentimes found in some of the most unexpected places. For most of my life, I imagined a manager to be a nice baby crib filled with hay like we see in so many of the nativity scenes today. It was only after visiting Israel that I learned that a manger was nothing more than a stone feeding trough for animals. The world greatest gift, Our Savior, was found wrapped in pieces of torn up cloth and laying among the animals that He created. The world was waiting and didn’t see Him, but the wise men found Him because they were listening and looking (John 1:10).

Father, help us to see your ways and to hear your voice. Help us to always look up to you before looking out to others. Help us to lay down any and all of our preconceived notions and to willfully and joyfully open our hearts to everything you want to show us. In Jesus mighty name we pray, Amen.

Don’t Miss the Moment

Don’t Miss the Moment

December 31, 2018

Luke 2:38
​Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Recently, our team was  discussing some missed opportunities. We had experienced multiple disappointments in a rather short period of time, moments when we had a chance to make a difference in someone’s life. However, in these particular instances, it wasn’t something we could do on our own; it would require the help of others. To our surprise and disappointment, we didn’t get the help we were hoping to receive.

Honestly, my initial thoughts were not good ones. However, as I continued to pray about it, I began to see that the Lord was teaching me something through this. The words from the Holy Spirit that came to my heart were, “Don’t miss the moment.” In a world where we are continually making room for more things, we must also make time for more individual moments.

Until now I hadn’t given much thought to “moments” as they pertained to the Bible, but as I did, verse after verse began to come to mind. The centurion’s servant was healed at that “moment” (Matthew 8:13). The woman who had been bleeding was healed in a “moment” (Matthew 9:22). When Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus for the first time, Anna came up to them at that very “moment” and gave thanks to God“ (Luke 2:38).

I was reminded I must not get so caught up in the mission or the meeting that I miss the moment. God changes things in a moment! He heals and redeems hearts in a moment, and I need to be looking for moments! Through it all, there was the realization that I not only need to treasure my time but I also need to make time for what is treasured.

Father, thank you for taking the time to know us. Jesus, thank you for making time to to die for us. Help to become more like you. Help us to see moments and to never miss an opportunity that would bring glory and honor to your name. It’s in your mighty name, Jesus, we pray. Amen!

Heading Higher

Heading Higher

December 31, 2018

Isaiah 55:9
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

I recently got back from hiking the Grand Canyon from one side to the other. My friend and I went off the beaten path a few times, and it turned into a 25 mile journey. We arrived with purpose, and our mission was to hike it in a single day.

The hike began early that morning before the sun started to rise. It was dark and foggy, and even with headlamps on, our visibility was very restricted. As we continued the fog lifted and the darkness began to give way to the morning light. We hiked for hours, stopping briefly at times to take pictures along the way. Eventually, we crossed the Colorado River and began our ascent out of the canyon. The terrain was steep, and our legs were continually becoming more weary and fatigued. I found myself gazing upward and looking intently for the top that marked our way out. I was hoping that the end of our journey would finally be insight.

Another mile was hiked and another 1,000 feet of elevation was climbed. Every time we thought we could see the top, another peak emerged behind it, higher than the one before. This went on for hours!  I was tired, my body ached, and I began to wonder if the end was ever going to actually appear. I was ready to rest, but the path before us insisted we continue our journey to higher ground.

It was in this moment that I began to realize that this journey through the Grand Canyon is not much different from the grand journey of life. There is a path that He has set before us (Isaiah 30:21). We can wander off the trail all we want, but it much easier to stay on the course (Deuteronomy 30:15-19). Take time to enjoy the scenery and appreciate the beauty all around us. There will be times when we get tired and weary, but His strength works best in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Even when we face many disappointments, we can be certain that this, too, will pass, and the end will eventually be insight (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). His ways our above our ways! If we are going to see the splendor of things that we could never imagine, we must also be willing to follow Him to the higher ground. It is only there that they can be seen. (Ephesians 3:20).

Father, thank you for opening our eyes to your will and your ways! Thank you for your faithful hand of provision! Thank you for already being at the end, before we even begin, and for walking with us every step along the way. We love you, Lord! Amen.