Are You Focused on Your God Given Gifts or Your Flaws?

Photo by Pok Rie

Do you ever get that voice in the back of your head that keeps telling you that your flaws make your gifts unheard, ineffective, drowned out, or devoid of meaning?

Note: When I say flaws, I mean things like imperfections, inadequacies, weaknesses; I do not mean sin.

I’ve been a public speaker now for the past four years, and I’ve had lots of people thank me for my talks and tell me how helpful the information I presented was to them. Yet when I think about being a speaker, so often all I can see of myself is: How I say “um” way too much. How I start too many sentences with “So…”. And how I sometimes gasp for air like a drowning person, because despite how many times I’ve gotten up in front of people to present I still get nervous and breathless.

Recently, I was feeling particularly subconscious about these flaws and was finding myself focusing a lot on them. I ended up re-listening to a TED talk by a famous speaker who I had heard several years ago. When I’d listen to this speaker the first time, I’d found her materials very interesting and quite helpful. But I was listening this time with all my own speaking flaws lurking in the back of my mind, and you know what I heard? I heard her use “um” a lot and “So…” at the start of a many of her sentences. And she was kind of breathless at many points. At this discovery, I found myself both relieved and then very challenged.

I was relieved because in hearing her I knew that I wasn’t alone in my speaking flaws, but meanwhile I was also very challenged. I realized, when I was focused on my flaws, I saw her flaws. And before when I wasn’t focused on my flaws, I hand’t seen her flaws either. 

Maybe you can relate to this or perhaps this example. Have you ever been to an event and felt self-conscious about what you were wearing? In such a position, do you know what most people end up noticing during that event? They end up noticing what every other person is wearing. Now sometimes the results of these comparisons come out favorably, but other times not so much. Thus, I want to bring us back to the challenge in this. If I’m not worried about me, then I’m probably not going to worry about the comparison either. 

We all have areas of skills and abilities in which God has gifted us, and we all have flaws. 

What if we focused not on our flaws but instead on our skills and abilities? Because, this “if-then” works both in a negative and a positive way. If we can see our own skills and abilities in a healthy way, then it’s also easier for us to see other people’s skills and abilities and then encourage them in what God has given them to use for His glory.

“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”  ~Romans 14:19~

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received…these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”~ Philippians 4:8-9~

Challenge: Focus on the good gifts God has given you, so that you can encourage yourselves and others in pursing the things God has given you to do.

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Grieving and Rejoicing

Photo by Brett Sayles

Memorial Day can be a mix of emotions for family and friends. For many people Memorial Day is a time to pause and consider the sacrifices of others. For other people that sacrifice is far more personal, a family relatives who served, co-workers they served with, close friends they lost, etc. For some people it’s a day to simply get together with friends and have a good time.

Regardless of which group we fall in, we would do well to remember that there is a mix on this day and to be mindful of how we interact with those who may not be experiencing the day the same way we are. Perhaps for one person they need the day to grief, and perhaps for someone else they needs the day to rejoice. Let’s be a reflection of Jesus’s heart toward others.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” ~Romans 12:15

Challenge: Be respectful and compassionate in how you respond to other people.

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The Proper Ratio for Maturing in Christ

Photo by takenbytablo

I’ve recently had several conversations with people about Christian accountability and the ways different types of people respond to dealing with their brothers and sisters in Christ when presenting them with something they need to change.

What struck me this time while thinking through this, is that the way we go about “holding people accountable” is often done without first considering the person’s current condition, particularly in relation to their and our relationship and how they may or may not receive our words. 

What if we considered and imparted accountability toward our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ not in the context of simply expressing to them what we see needs to change in their lives but rather in the context of how we can best speak health and growth into their lives.

As an illustration: What if we saw accountability like adding wood to the fire of Christianity in someone’s soul?

Now, by no means is fire a perfect example, but let me explain the elements of why the illustration of fire struck me. Hopefully you will then see what about this illustration challenged me to slow down, evaluate better, and ask what kind of ratio I’m bringing to my dealings with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Fire Needs Several Elements to Burn:

  • Heat—their pursuit of the Christian life alongside their fellow believers
  • Fuel—accountability
  • Oxygen—encouragement
  • The Chemical Reaction—their relationship with the Holy Spirit

When it comes to a fire, there has to be a good ratio kept in regard to the fuel, the heat, and the oxygen. For instance when fuel (let’s say wood) is added at the wrong ratio and there is too much fuel, which gives the fire what it needs to stay alive, it can actually be what snuffs the fire out. Because fuel requires a certain amount of heat and oxygen in order to ignite and burn well. Too much fuel at the wrong time and in the wrong amount can smother a fire that isn’t ready to receive it. If you’ve ever added logs to a small fire and watched it’s flame die out, you know what I’m talking about.

Just like with a fire, we should be paying attention to whether or not someone has a proper ratio of all the elements they need to sustain their maturing in Christ. Then we ought to interact in such a way that either maintains the right ratio or else brings the right ratio of those elements, so that when we add fuel to someone’s life it help them and does not hinder them.

Conclusion: To burn well, a fire (a Christian ignited by the Holy Spirit) needs enough heat (good relationship) and oxygen (encouragement) to engage with the fuel (accountability) in their life successfully. 

In a similar way, when there is too much oxygen in the ratio, a fire can end up consuming everything in its path and therefore unable to sustain a long-term burn. Even though oxygen is what keeps a fire alive, in the wrong amount oxygen causes the fire to burn fast and furious, consuming all the fuel it had and leaving only embers in it’s wake. With nothing left to support and strengthen its burn, it lacks a healthy existence. If you’ve ever worked with or witnessed the combination of a really dry fuel and an accelerant on a windy day, you’ve probably watched this kind of fire. It appear to have incredible growth but that growth quickly passes, leaving behind only scorched earth and no long-term flame.

We won’t want to be either version of this when we’re dealing with accountability and encouragement. It’s important therefore that we start asking questions like: 

Am I bringing accountability to this person in a way that will smother their fire or in a way that will bring their fire life?

Am I bringing encouragement to this person in a way that helps them be a quick burn or in a way that helps them be a sustained burn?

Challenge:  “…though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” 1Corinthians 13:2 

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Assumptions that Turn Into Lies

It’s often startling to realize the amount of influence our preconceived ideas have over the way we respond to things like someone’s youth, singleness, physical or mental handicap, alternative education, ethnicity, etc. What is even more startling is our lack of recognition of what these assumptions cost the other person. We jump to conclusions about who and what someone is without waiting for evidence of what it true about them or asking them any questions. We then treat that person a certain way based on our assumptions. Sometimes we’re right, but more often than not we are wrong. 

When we do this and we’re wrong about our assumption, it means the way we treat that person is a response to a lie that we told ourselves rather than a response to the truth of who they really are. We are supposed to be speakers and doers of truth. But when we make false assumptions because we fail to take the time to see or seek the truth, we are neglecting the truth and are in essence expressing a lie. 

Worse still, we’re reflecting that lie back on the person that we’re lying about. I think we don’t often consider this to be a lie. We also don’t often consider the cost of such a lie, because rarely do we evaluate it from the direction of the assumer. So let’s reverse it. When someone wrongly assumes something about who you are, what happens inside you?

For example: Let’s say you’re waiting to order at a coffee shop and anticipating the arrival of the friend you were supposed to meet there. But your friend is running late and isn’t answering their phone. In fact their running so late you’re starting to worry something might have happened to them. You’re shifting back and forth on your feet, checking your watch, jiggling a leg, and wondering what to do. And suddenly a person says behind you, “Looks like you’ve already had enough coffee today.”

Now, if you’re a polite person you’ll probably just brush off the person’s comment. But there is a moment between when it is said and when you choose to dismiss it, where that lie hangs in the air over you as a statement about who you are. You can and should dismiss any false statements. But that lie has a cost. You can choose to willingly bear that cost and thus not turn that lie justly back on the person who created it. You can forgive—someone does something costly against you, intentionally or unintentionally, and instead of making them pay for it, you choose instead to pay that cost yourself. You pay it, let it go, and move on. That is the good version of what might happen. 

But there are two other version of what might happen.

  1. You might react in anger and go after the person who lied, making you then guilty of your own sin.
  2. You might take what was falsely assumed about you and hear it as truth instead. Then you may begin to internalize and respond out of that lie yourself. 

Now, when it comes to an assumption like you’ve already had enough coffee, that lie probably doesn’t sound too serious. But what if it’s something like, “Are you even old enough to be operating that machine?” Or how about “So what’s wrong with you that you’re still single?”

Such assumptions even made flippantly or as more of a joke, have a cost, and that cost may be far weightier than we realize. Truth speaks and so do lies.

We need to carefully mind our words, speaking truth to ourselves and to others and not lies.

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God… But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.” ~ Ephesians 4:17-25~

Challenge: Don’t make assumptions that lead to lies. See, seek, and speak truth!

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Was Phoebe Really A Deaconess or Just a Servant?

Recently while selling my books at a Christian educators conference, I had a man approach my book table. I started up a conversation with him in my typical fashion and very quickly the conversation turned from the Christian books I was trying to sell, to him telling me about the ministries he was involved in. At first I was nodding along and engaged listing, but then he made a side comment that took me by surprise. 

He was talking about doing street evangelism and made a comment about how the woman who was with him, of course because she was a woman, couldn’t preach or teach. She could however obviously evangelize, so it was okay that she was sharing the gospel.

I was so stunned by his comment, it actually took me a moment to circle back and ask him more about this. Now, don’t get me wrong, this was not the first time I’d heard this ideology. But it was the first time I’d encountered it spoken so flippantly by someone who clearly had no idea who his audience was.

Ironically, I was not just selling books at this conference; I was also a speaker (you know, teaching my fellow Christian brethren, both women and men).

I gently tried to inform him of my own perspective on female roles in Christianity, and he of course respond the way any man that believes women shouldn’t teach or speak would. He informed me I was wrong and continued to try to tell me that nothing I knew of Scripture was accurate. Like when I mentioned that Phoebe is noted in Scripture as being a deaconess, he immediately informed me that when you go to the Greek word in that passage it isn’t actually that she’s a deacon. It’s just that she serves in the church and the word actually means servant.

Now, I would love to say I had some great responses that finally stumped him. But I didn’t. I had never before had to debate the Greek word for deacon. Thus I stood there countering his statements with my English knowledge of Scripture on this topic, only to have him continually re-interpret my referenced Scriptures to match his ideology. 

Now, being the person I am, if I don’t have the answer to something that someone has thrown at me, that something tends to be the next thing I study. 

So I spent today digging into the verses that are often used to support the ideology this man was speaking. This included, obviously, the passage in Romans about Phoebe, a female deacon. (Side note: Just after talking about Phoebe, Paul goes on in his letter to the Romans to mention/greet three other women in prominent roles of ministry: Priscilla, Mary, and Junia). Lets take a look at that Greek word used to describe Phoebe. 

I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a [diakonos] of the church in Cenchrea,” ~Romans 16:1~

Diakonos is the Greek word Paul uses in Romans 16:1, and this word is translated as “servant” by the KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB20, NASB95. It’s translated as “deacon” by the NLT, NIV, and it’s translated as “deaconess” by the RSV. (Now, I don’t typically read the RSV, but obviously at some point I’ve heard Phoebe references as a deaconess.)

Now, obviously looking at the way these different English translations have dealt with this passage doesn’t really help clarify the issue of whether or not she really is a deacon and not just a servant. However, when we look more into the Greek word diakonos things get quite interesting. 

For instances, this same Greek word is also translated as “minister” when Paul refers to himself in Colossians 1:23 (see verse below).

“…if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister (diakonos).”  ~Colossians 1:23~

In Philippians 1:1 we also again find this word diakonos. It’s in the greeting of one of Paul’s letters, this time translated as “deacons” (Um, yeah, like perhaps fellow servants or ministers of the gospel)(see verse below).

“Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons (diakonos):” ~Philippians 1:1~

In other words, when Paul’s references bishops and deacons along with all the saints in Philipp, the word translated as deacon is diakonos (the same word Paul uses when describing the female Phoebe).

Interesting to note: according to Blue Letter Bible Lexicon :: Strong’s G1249 – diakonos is a masculine/feminine noun.

Further more and perhaps most conclusively, when we look at 1 Timothy where Paul is actually instructing Timothy in what kind of character traits a church deacon ought to have we again find, yup, the Greek word diakonos (see verse below).

“Let deacons (diakonos) be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons (diakoneō) obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” ~1Timothy 3:12-13~

Note: the second reference to deacon in this passage is not exactly the same Greek word. That’s because diakoneō is a verb.

Want to know what the verb means? Keep reading.

Strong’s Definitions (From Blue Letter Bible)

διακονέω diakonéō, dee-ak-on-eh’-o; from G1249; to be an attendant, i.e. wait upon (menially or as a host, friend, or (figuratively) teacher); technically, to act as a Christian deacon:—(ad-)minister (unto), serve, use the office of a deacon.

Looking at this, there is only one way to argue that Phoebe is not a deacon, and that would be by saying that because Paul instructs Timothy that deacons must be “the husband of one wife,” that this then means that deacons can only be male. Thus, saying when Paul references Phoebe he couldn’t possibly have actually meant that she was a deacon.

But, if that was the case and only men could be deacons, why in the world would Paul refer to Phoebe by the word diakonos? Of anyone, Paul would have obviously known not to call her this, since he IS the person who wrote to Timothy defining the character traits of a deacon.

Also, if Paul really just meant that Phoebe served or was a faithful servant in the church, there were other words in Greek he could have used to describe Phoebe. In fact, Paul uses these other Greek words to describe himself as a servant and another fellow believer as a servant and bondservant, but not to describe Phoebe. (see the verses below).

“For though I [Paul] am free from all men, I have made myself a servant (douloō) to all…” ~1Corinthians 9:19~

“…as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant (syndoulos), who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf…” ~Colossians 1:7~

Note: Syndoulos is actually a soon’-doo-los a co-slave (a.k.a “fellow servant”).

And if we stick with Epaphras in the book of Colossians we find Paul actually uses a third Greek word similar to the word he used in Corinthians, when he talk again about Epaphras.

“Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant (doulos) of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” ~Colossians 4:12~

So obviously, Paul had other Greek words he easily could have used to talk about Phoebe, but he didn’t. Paul called Phoebe a diakonos. A word he used for himself, for deacons, and for faithful ministers.

So there you go, if any person tries to tell you that Phoebe wasn’t actually a deacon, because she was a woman and the Greek word “diakonos” just means servant, you now have an answer for them.

Challenge, specifically for my female readers: Women, don’t let foolish ideology based on mis-interpreted Scripture keep you from speaking and teaching the Word of our God!

If you could use some encouraging stories about women in the Bible, you should check out this Crosswalk article about women in the Bible.

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The Danger of Trying To Please Your King Without Knowing Him

Originally posted in Sept 24, 2018, this is a re-post of an older topic that I’ve been pondering on again the last couple of weeks. Many Christians are convinced they are pursing God’s desires and will tell you boldly that their actions serve Him, but that doesn’t mean that their actions actually do align with God’s desires or that God is pleased with what they are doing. Deception is one of Satan’s favorite tools, and we need to be aware of and on guard against how Satan uses lies to twist us into his service rather than the service of God.

In 2 Samuel 1:1-16 a man comes to David, who is hiding from King Saul, to tell David of the results of the battle between Israel (King Saul) and the Philistines. The man tells David that King Saul and Saul’s son Jonathan are dead, but not only that, the man  goes on to take credit for King Saul’s death, saying that upon Saul’s request to be killed “…I stood over him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them here to my lord.” 2Sa 1:10

This man calls David “my lord” yet this man does not know David at all.

Presumably he thought David would be happy to hear the news that Saul and Jonathan were dead, likely assuming that, because David had been fleeing Saul, David would be thrilled to be delivered Saul’s crown and bracelets and probably even reward the man for his part in Saul’s death.

Yet, anyone who had spent time with and knew David, knew King Saul’s death was not something David sought. They also would have known that David deeply loved Jonathan and would be heartbroken by his death. 

No one who knew David would have proudly come to tell David this news.

This man thought his stated actions and what he had brought would please David, because He was mistaken about David’s nature, David’s goals, David’s heart, and David’s judgment.

David respond to his man:

How was it you were not afraid to put forth your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?” Then David called one of the young men and said, “Go near, and execute him!” And he struck him so that he died. So David said to him, “Your blood is on your own head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the LORD’s anointed.’” ~2 Samuel 1:14-16~

When we take an action thinking it will be pleasing to God, but we haven’t take the time to know God we can end up doing evil rather than good. In the same way, just because someone else claims to be serving God does not mean that they are or that God is pleased with their actions.

Challenge: Take the time to know God, so that you will know what is truly pleasing to Him and what is displeasing to Him, so that you do not do evil in His name but rather what is right and good.

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What Does it Mean to Find My Identity In Christ?

Photo by Victor

This week, I’ve spent time contemplating the reality of identity. My identity, who and what I am, is important to me. Generally speaking, I’m not a people pleaser, but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle in dealing with what people think of me, because I want my identity and people’s perspective of me to be one and the same. The desire in many of us to be thought well of by other people, isn’t a bad desire.

“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—” ~ 1Peter 2:15~

However, the problem with this desire to be identified as someone who does good, is that, if we’re honest, we know there are parts of ourselves that should not be thought well of by anyone. We know we’re sinful creatures who can be selfish, self-serving, harmful, etc. 

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1John 1:8~

The truth of who we are as fallen humans is not an identity most of us want to claim. It’s an identity that carries guilt and shame. But we can’t remove ourselves from that truth without our identity becoming a lie, so how in the world do we find a place of peace when it comes to our own identity? Well, first and foremost, we have to take steps to allow the parts of our identity that are sinful and full of guilt and shame to be dealt with by the only person who can deal with sin.

“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel…” ~Colossians 1:21-23~

What is this hope of the gospel through which we are given opportunity to be reconciled and presented as holy, blameless, and above reproach?

The simple answer to the hope of the gospel is this: 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ~1John 1:9~

The longer answer is this: 

“…in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…” ~Ephesians 2:13-19~

God has reconciled (restored) our identity through His response to our sin. Jesus paid the cost to take away our identity of guilt and shame, but even more so Jesus is our Advocate.

“…if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” ~1 John 2:1-2~

When it comes to standing tall in our new identity in Christ (an identity we receive when we confess our sins, receive His forgiveness, and embrace the blamelessness He has given us), there is nothing more powerful in being reminded of our identity than having Jesus as our Advocate.

An advocate is someone who speaks on our behalf. I love this because I don’t know about you but it’s easy for me to fall back into seeing myself as that old sinner and doubting that there is any place for me in being “holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” I get stuck feeling like I can’t move forward in spiritual maturity because I’m a sinner. But the thing about having Jesus as our Advocate is that if we let Him, He does the talking for us. And if we listen to what Jesus said about us to God. We get to hear our identity in Christ.

Challenge: When you’re tempted to try to either define or defend your identity yourself, pause and let your Advocate Jesus Christ do so for you instead. Because in His truth there is always mercy and grace and a way forward in which forgiveness, blamelessness, and belonging are yours to claim.

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Can Being Judgy Sometimes be a Good Thing?

Photo by Antoni Shkraba

We often perceive someone being a judgy person as them being rude or overly judgmental toward others, but what would happen if we were never judgy about anything? Would that be a good thing or actually a terrible thing?

As an author of young adult suspense and action/adventure novels, I have spent a lot of time learning about the use of the different forms of communication that go into writing. For instance movies and books are two very different forms of media and yet both are powerful types of storytelling that do subtly or not so subtly influence their consumer through all kinds of messages passed along via their many forms of communication. 

Whether we realize it or not we’re always being influence by what’s around us. That influence might come from our latest experience at the grocery story, our conversation with a neighbor, our interactions with a pastor, our late night binging of the latest episodes of a tv show, our afternoon reading of a fiction book, or our lunch break talking with a co-worker, etc.

Every interaction we have with people or things influences us. The question is: What are we doing with that influence? Do we even recognize that we’re being influence? Are we making conscious decisions in regard to how we choose to respond to that influence?

Influence is defined as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.”

I think most often when we talk about someone being influenced we think of it in regard to big changes for good or for bad, like someone being influence by their friends to drink or someone influenced by their friends to exercise and eat healthier. But not all influence has a physical impact or change. Lots of times influence is very subtle and happens in the mind first and foremost, by introducing a thought or concept.

In order to not be influenced by something you have to make a conscious decisions to ignore or reject it’s impact so that it does not change you. Which, it could then just be argued that you were still influence, it just didn’t have its typical impact because you responded to that influence in an atypical way. 

Communicating with people is all about influencing them. Influencing them to understand you. Influencing them to do something you’re asking. Influencing them to not do something you don’t want them doing. Influencing them to give you an explanation that you need. Etc.

Judgement is about evaluating the influence of someone or something and deciding whether or not you should accept or reject the physical, mental, or emotional impact/change that it’s attempting to make in your life.

Judgement is defined as “the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.”

“….the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask! What shall I give you?’ And Solomon said: ‘You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father…You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, …O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king …Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?’ The speech pleased the Lord …Then God said to him: ‘Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart…’” ~ 1 Kings 3:5-12

Discernment is defined as “the ability to judge well”

When the LORD asks King Solomon what he wanted from God, Solomon asks for the ability to judge well—to have discernment. And God is pleased with this request and grants it.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”~ James 3:13-18~

“…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” ~ Colossians 2:2-10

Challenge: Are you seeking to have the wisdom of God in your life, so that you can walk in the righteous knowledge of God and be the right kind of judgy?

Check Out As Well:

What Is Doctrine? Is Doctrine Important?

How Do We Know if Doctrines are Right or Wrong?

Where In the Bible Do We Get the Idea for Daily Bible Reading (a.k.a. Personal Devotions)?

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Our Risen Savior Offers Us a New Beginning

Photo by Monstera

One of the most beautiful things God offers us is a new beginning. How many of you have ever wished for a fresh start? Have you ever longed to wipe the slate clean? How about to get to go forward without all your baggage and history coming with you?

When Jesus died on the cross, He bore our sins (1Peter 2:24), and through His resurrection, He gives to us the opportunity of accepting a new beginning. When we receive Him, we get to experience a clean slate because He took our punishment and removed our transgressions and given us new life, making us righteous.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” ~2Corinthians 5:17~

“…the righteousness of God…through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. …being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” ~Romans 3:21-26~

“He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” ~Psalm 103:8~ 

With Christ Jesus you really do get to have a clean slate with a new start. What if we treated ourselves the way God treats us? What if we gave ourselves that new start, not just once but as a mindset?

Think about it for a second, what if you saw yourself as having a clean slate and responded to yourself this way? Would you talk to yourself differently? What if today wasn’t about five minutes ago, about yesterday, last month, last year, nine years ago, or nineteen years ago, what if it was about just today. And what if today, you walked out the truth that God has made you new? What if you walked forward not in your past but in God’s righteousness? (1Co 1:30, Rom 5:17-21)

“Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.’”  ~Revelation 21:5-6~

Challenge: We celebrate Resurrection Sunday as a reminder of our Jesus who is our Living Savior. Don’t forget to also celebrating and embrace the new life Jesus, your Savior, has given you.

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Are You Covered by the Blood of the Lamb?

In the Bible at the first Passover, Egypt was a sinful nation intent upon worshiping false gods and oppressing those that worshiped the One True God (Exodus 5:2-8). Yet, when the Israelites first came to Egypt, it was because Joseph—a worshiper of the One True God—was second-in command over all of Egypt and by God’s hand was used to save many nations including Israel from famine. (Genesis 41:54-57)

Leading up to the Passover, Egypt was becoming increasingly oppressive toward anyone who served the LORD. To be one of God’s people meant you were enslaved (Exo 1:11), your sons killed. (Exo 1:16), and your back bent with work that became increasingly demanding (Exo 1:13, Exo 5:18). 

Egypt was a horrible place to live and to be identified with the One True God meant hardship. But you know what the LORD asked of His people?  In the showdown between the power of Egypt and the power of God, at Passover, the LORD told the people to make a public confession of who they chose.

The blood on the lintel of their door wasn’t itself what saved them. The blood above their doors was their act of obedience, a public proclamation, that they chose to be identified with, to be saved by, and to serve the LORD God of Israel and to reject Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt. The blood was the sign of the acknowledgement by the people that they needed and wanted their God to rescue them from the coming judgement against Egypt. The Israelites were already God’s people, and yet those who did not obey God and did not publicly place the blood of the lamb over their doors would not be saved.

“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’  He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”  ~Matthew 10:32-39~

As we approach Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I think it’s significant to consider what it means to confess Jesus Christ before men. 

“…faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” ~James 2:17-18~

Many Christians have head-knowledge of Christianity, and yet they fail to have true faith that leads to true actions that reflect that faith.

When we look at the Passover in Jesus’s time, we see that Judas had head-knowledge of Jesus Christ and yet failed to have true faith in Jesus as his Messiah. Judas betrayed Jesus by giving Him over into the power of the religious leaders of that day. We don’t know exactly what Judas’s reasoning was for doing this, but we know that Satan enters Judas just before the betrayal (Luke 22:3).

Then there is Peter, who is warned by Jesus that he will deny Him three times. Peter adamantly says he won’t do such a thing and would die with Jesus. But, as events unfold, Peter fails to do what he said he would do and does exactly what Jesus warns him he will do. He denies Jesus his Messiah.

“But again [Peter] denied with an oath, ‘I do not know the Man!’And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, ‘Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.’ Then he began to curse and swear, saying, ‘I do not know the Man!’ Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ So he went out and wept bitterly.” ~Matthew 26:72-75~

Peter isn’t the only one who regrets his actions. Judas also feels remorse for what he has done.

“Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ And they said, ‘What is that to us? You see to it!’Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.” ~Matthew 27:3-5~

Judas recognizes what he has done, but because he has no faith in his Messiah, he does not acknowledge nor does he seek the covering blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Overcome by his sin, Judas kills himself. 

Peter, on the other hand, recognizes what he has done, and because he has faith in his Messiah (Mat 16:15-16), he rises and and runs to seeks his Messiah and the covering and saving blood of the Lamb (Luke 24:11-12). Covered by mercy, Peter finds life in Jesus Christ (John 20:30-31).

Peter later wrote: 

“…to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” ~1Peter 1:1-9~

Challenge: Are you like Peter a sinner covered by the blood of the Lamb? Or are you like Judas, a sinner unwilling to believe in the Passover Lamb, whose blood was shed for many for the remission of sins (Mat 26:28)? As long as you are still breathing, it’s not too late to live as Peter did covered by God’s mercy.

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