Devotions
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September 10, 2017, 5:00 AM

What eggshells do you tend to throw out to keep people at bay?



If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. Proverbs 15:31

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. Proverbs 18:21

It’s been said that you can measure the health of a relationship by measuring the number of undiscussables. Our relational limits are determined by what remains off-limits in our conversations. We tiptoe around the tension, ignoring the rotten smell in the air and hoping not to step on any eggshells. We throw out eggshells all around us in an effort to keep people at bay. With every eggshell we toss, we are attempting to protect our image, our heart and sometimes our pride. Eggshells are the things we lay down that keep people from telling us what we need to hear. One of the biggest tragedies is how isolated and lonely our eggshells leave us. They harm every facet of our lives.

 

When we live our lives walking on eggshells, we are unable to reach our full potential and become the people God wants us to become. The author of James speaks about the power the tongue holds. All throughout proverbs, King Solomon advises his readers to pay attention to the words that come out of their mouths. Both writers understood that our words have the power of life and death. They have the ability to build-up and tear-down. They can cripple as well as breathe life and confidence into another individual. A well-spoken word is one of the best things we can have in this world.

 

Unfortunately, we fail to leverage our words when we avoid conflict. We often see conflict as a negative. If tension exists in our relationship, we view that relationship in a poor light. Each one of us has a default response towards conflict. We avoid it in hopes that if we pretend it doesn’t exist, the problem will go away. Others of us drop hints anticipating the other party will eventually open their eyes to their shortcomings. Then there are those of us who wait out the conflict to see who will go first. If that doesn’t work, we wage war on the conflict by being passive aggressive. And, if all else fails, we simply explode.The moment conflict arises we go into fight or flight mode. We stop thinking and start reacting.

 

On top of these responses, we begin to craft a story about the person on the other side. Since our brains are hard wired for stories, we paint a picture in order to fill loops. This is the only way we can justify our anger, our hurt, our pain and our frustration. The more we personalize and make ourselves the victim in our story, the more likely we aren’t seeing the whole picture. There are more sides to every story than just two. We have our side, the other person’s side, and then there’s the truth. This is why we must assault our own story to see where we are off base. Conflict is an opportunity. We might not see it as such, but it is. This is why we must learn how to communicate in the context of community.

 

If we find ourselves stuck it means there is a crucial conversation that needs to take place. To love someone is to enter into a relationship by speaking the truth in love. We are moving the eggshells to the side and making a clear path for connection. Yes, when crucial conversations exist it does mean there are strong opinions, high emotions, and high stakes. But, what is at stake is our personal growth and the growth of our relationships. We can tell a lot about ourselves by the way we are able to receive correction and rebuke. If we want to be wise, it begins by making ourselves available and developing a listening ear. When you find yourself in a relationship where anything can be said, you have found yourself in a healthy place.

 

Eggshells are what we use to keep people from telling us what we really need to hear. What eggshells do you tend to throw out to keep people at bay? What conversation are you not having or not having well? How is it causing you to feel stuck?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, when I look around myself, all I see are eggshells. Lord I use them as relational land mines to prevent people from coming close and speaking into my life. Today, may I pick up these eggshells and stop pretending like they don’t exist. Let me be open to hearing words that might sting at first. Jesus give me the courage to be transparent and vulnerable before others and You as well. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




September 9, 2017, 5:00 AM

How would you describe the condition of your heart?



So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:17-24

 

In this passage, Paul makes a bold statement. He says the Gentiles were “separated from the life of God.” What does Paul give as the reason for this separation? It was due to their futile thinking, darkened understanding, and the hardening of their hearts. The Gentiles missed out on the life God had to offer because their hearts and minds were not right.  However, as Christians we are called to live differently. We must learn to walk by faith. Paul urges us to put off our old self and be made new in the attitude of our minds. We are invited to believe, trust and depend on God. This isn’t something to take lightly. Our very hearts are at stake. 

 

Notice the end of the passage.  Hard hearts create callousness, which eventually leads to indifference in the way we live.  This is a dangerous cycle, especially when you consider the weight of the decisions you often face.  The choices you make not only impact you but your family, friends, and others within your sphere of influence.  Your decisions speak volumes about your belief in God. So, instead of leaning on your own understanding, walk with God. He offers you forgiveness, life and a footing for your steps.  Trust Him and forsake the futility of your own thinking. How would you describe the condition of your heart? What causes a heart to become hardened? What does it look like to be made new in the attitude of your mind?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, there are so many times when doing things Your way doesn’t make sense.  Lord I confess there are areas in my life where I have tried to get You to operate according to my thinking.  Jesus help me to be aware of those tendencies and reveal to me Your ways so I can trust in You.  In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




September 8, 2017, 5:00 AM

How can you to own the mission of reaching people and helping them walk with God?



So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:11-16

 

Over the years of shopping with my wife, I have developed quite a gift.  I can tell you the exact location of each honey place in any clothing store we can go in to. What is the honey place you might be wondering? It is the place, often right outside the fitting room, where your wife hands you her purse and says, “Honey, sit right here and hold my purse.  I’m going to try a few things on. Don’t worry, I’ll only be a minute.”  Store after store there always that for me to wait, while she looks for that perfect outfit. Eventually, after all that time trying different outfits on, finds just the right one. Having plenty of time for reflection while in the honey place, I began to realize how shopping for clothes has a lot in common with serving.

 

As Christians, often we fall into this trap of being paralyzed over what God is calling us to do with our lives. We desperately want to know what our thing is when it comes to making an impact or leveraging our life for impact. Since we are unsure of what the right fit is for us, we remain idle. Instead of jumping in, we sit on the sidelines. Sometimes envy sets in as we see someone serving in his or her sweet spot. We look at them and think, “man, they were made for that” and quietly, we fume over not having what they have. What we don’t realize is that this individual didn’t just find that position. They had to start somewhere. They had to take that initial step to jump in. There were many steps along the way. They first had to get into the fitting room and try things on.

 

The reality is there are plenty of opportunities for people to use their gifts and talents in Christ’s church. The need for volunteers who have a heart for service is now greater than ever.  As the church attempts to make an impact in your community, region, and world, we need a greater sense of shared ownership. The task before us as the church body is too great for anyone to remain on the sidelines. We are asking each member to jump into service and be a part of what God is doing all around us. Our impact won’t be felt if people continue to have a spectator mindset. The time has come to move from the sidelines and begin to own the mission of reaching people and helping them walk with God.

 

So, if you haven’t done so already, take that leap of service. Don’t worry if it is the perfect fit.  Maybe the first thing you try on won’t feel right. That’s okay. There is always something else to try on. God will honor your willingness to possess a proactive heart set towards service. By engaging in service, God will bring to light your gifts and your passions.  How can you move from spectator to active participant? How can you to own the mission of reaching people and helping them walk with God?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, thank You for leading me as pursue relationship with You.  Lord I desire to reflect Your heart through my actions. I want my life be defined by humility and service.  Help me to  understand how patient You are with me while I struggle to find where I fit.  Jesus help me to trust that You have given a place to serve that is just right for me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




September 7, 2017, 5:00 AM

Results aren’t just what gets accomplished, but rather the way it gets accomplished.



And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God. Hebrews 13:16

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Even though many people want to make an impact in this world, they tend to struggle when it comes to pinpointing the gifts and resources they’ve been given. After all, our own worst critic tends to be ourselves. What everyone needs is for someone to walk alongside them, speak into their lives and pinpoint the abilities they can’t see on their own.  The only way this can occur is through intentionality and investment. One of the greatest gifts we can give someone is encouraging them to have courage and to see themselves as a leader. People connect when they are known.

 

A relationship is where influence takes root. We can’t take this responsibility lightly. Our expression, the way we live our lives, can be someone else’s encounter. As believers, everywhere we go we carry with us the integrity of Christ’s image and the influence of His love. Our encounter with Christ is meant to be shared, rather than held onto.  God does something in us first before He will ever do something through us. He can do immeasurably more than we could ever hope for or dream. Immeasurably more starts with His power at work within us. Influence gets formed within and moves outward. These ripple effects touch others who in turn impact the places where they’ve been planted. Making disciples is what happens outside of the church walls “as we go” about our normal day.

 

Results aren’t just what gets accomplished, but rather the way it gets accomplished. Results matter because people matter. Accomplishing things and making a name for ourselves means very little if people don’t feel valued. Influence has a responsibility for those within its care. We must start with love because love compels and love fills. Love wants the best for another person. Think about the people you lead and who are in your sphere of influence. What could the people you lead become? Who needs to hear that you believe in them?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, help me to encourage those around me. Lord help me to speak Your life and truth into the people that I know and care about. Jesus I desire to take what You are doing in my own heart and give it away to others. In Your name, Jesus Amen.




September 6, 2017, 5:00 AM

What are you already doing that God could be calling you to lead with greater influence?



The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23

Some mornings I have to crouch down at the edge of my backyard patio and plunge my palm into the grass just to make sure. Without fail, I walk back in the house with a wet, grassy hand every time—His mercies are new every morning.  I don’t know exactly why I think I might not find dew on the ground, but ailments of the human condition such as self-doubt and denial are probably part of it. This point plays out in the story of Gideon found in Judges 6 and 7. God appoints Gideon to lead an army into an ever-treacherous battle against the malicious Midianites.

 

Along with other tribes from the east who had invaded a vulnerable nation in Israel (in part because of their own sins), the Midianites were an oppressive force who had taken up residence in Israel. They killed all the crops along with every “living thing” in Israel. Gideon’s appointment was a divine one; it had to be. Otherwise, we would surely not know of a Gideon from the Old Testament because he would have easily shirked the job to someone else, and that would have made sense.  In an ordinary sense, Gideon was not the right guy for the task at hand. Already in a wary position threshing wheat in a winepress to hide it from the Midianites, the angel of the Lord visited Gideon. Calling him “mighty warrior,” the angel told him “The Lord is with you.”

 

Gideon was immediately skeptical, and based on his estimations, rightfully so. He reminded the Lord his clan was the weakest in his region and to top it off, he was considered the “least” in his family. He asked, “how can I save Israel?” This sort of doubt and denial creeps in all too often in our respective worlds. When we are wondering how we can make a noticeable impact in our world, we forget to consider a God who is always with us and always leading us. We think, “I’m not meant to climb trees but to stay on the ground.” In harder times, we can even resort to questioning our purpose in this world altogether. Although Gideon was a dark horse for leading a force against a much mightier foe, he had God right by his side. God promised Gideon, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

 

Gideon’s faith was shaky. He did not want this to be his “call.” Even so, God took him through a series of instructions to prepare him for battle. Still in denial, Gideon requested one more sign from God. He asked that God soak only his fleece with morning dew and leave everything else around it dry. God obliged this request. Still waffling, Gideon asked for the opposite to happen and God showed His power once again. These signs caused Gideon to surrender his trust to the Lord and lean on His guidance. Not long after, Gideon and his clan defeated the Midianites. So many times in life we question what our position of influence should be (or if we are influential at all). The problem is, we leap at different ideas of that in a horizontal way.

 

Some of those ideas are noble, but all the while we need to think vertically. God wants us to lean on Him. He wants us to draw close to Him when we are on the ropes. He already knows just how to position us and wants to stay with us through it all. His plans involve using us to produce results in people and for Him. What might all this look like from the front lines? For some of us, God might be pushing us to follow Him deeper in the work we do. Others of us might find that God is priming us to influence others in that place that is “right under your nose.” It might even be that simply our ability to listen and be available makes a massive impact. It could take a little time, but nobody discerns time better than God.

 

We might be unsure of a “calling” or gift to be leveraged for service. However, God makes no mistakes. After all, we are made to worship Him and serve those around us, so that others can see His image through our actions and words. We encounter self-doubt because we are human. He has new mercies for us every morning though. He is at work leading us so that we might lead for the underlying purpose that is making Christ’s love known. If we align ourselves vertically by listening to Him and leaning on Him, our sphere of influence becomes abounding and unquestionably productive. What are you already doing that God could be calling you to lead with greater influence? How can you use what’s been given to you (time, gifts, talents, resources, etc.) to bless and serve someone else?

 

This my Prayer: Father God, I do thank you for Your continual support. Lord You are good and Your mercies are new every morning. Help me to trust in that, so that I might fully trust in You to shape how I influence others. Jesus remind me of my ultimate purpose which lies in worshipping You and serving others through You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.


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