Tag Archives: encourage

Stop Testing God

Over the past few weeks, I have been saddened by pastors and churches ignoring the government recommendations to not gather in large groups and to practice social distancing. Pastors are holding worship services. Pastors are being arrested. All of this is because of the defiance to the government.

There is separation of church and state. There is freedom of religion. There is also free will. God has given us free will. We get to decide if we will listen to the government, if we will obey God’s Word, or even if we want to go a totally different path. We get to decide.

Too often, people cherry pick scripture rather than read all of God’s Word. We select what we like or what fits our agenda. This is a big reason why I always wanted the congregation to have their Bibles open when I preached. It is important for you to know all of God’s Word, not just pieces. It’s very dangerous to blindly follow someone who wants to feed you a piece of God’s Word, but not adhere to scripture found elsewhere. God’s Word is the entire Bible, not portions that favor you. 

Whether you love and fear God, or you disbelieve, read Romans 13:1-7. This is what God says about authority. As a follower of Jesus, we are to follow the government unless it is something that defies something that goes against the law of God. This means that when the government says STAY HOME, that you stay home. You are not defying God to stay home and worship in your home. Please understand that nowhere in the Bible does it tell you that you must go to a building to worship. The church is people. We can worship right from our homes. Plus, we have the added blessing today of technology. We can actually join together online, without anyone having to leave their homes, through Facetime, Zoom, YouTube, etc. It’s all there. God has provided. 

Additionally, claiming that God will keep you safe from the virus so you can defy the government is also wrong. Yes, God says that no one can pluck someone from His hand (see John 10:28). This actually speaks of the soul of a believer being safe; souls don’t get the Coronavirus. However, Jesus also tells us not to test God (see Matthew 4:7). Remember when the devil tried to tempt Jesus to throw Himself down so the angels would catch Him? We should not live life trying to get ourselves into trouble to see if He will rescue us. He has given us wisdom and discernment. He has given us resources. Faith isn’t declaring that He will keep you safe from Coronavirus and entering a large group of people to show everyone God is keeping you safe from the illness. Faith is trusting that even while this great pandemic is taking its toll on the whole world, you are trusting in God’s plan, you are trusting in God’s Word, and you know that He will use everything for His good purpose.


Not staying home, choosing to go out when you are not essential… This is not love. This is pride. This is ignorance. This is wrong. If you are going to the grocery store more than once a week, there is a problem. Plan a little. Be creative with the items you have in your cupboard. God made us in His image and He is the most creative. So you have creativeness in you. Let it flow. If you feel like you are climbing the walls at home, ask yourself why you cannot stand to be home… let God and you work that out. As you find yourself adapting to a life very different from what you once knew, draw near to God and He will draw near to you (see James 4:8). Repent. Pray. Love. Be a blessing. 

“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong.So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. – Romans 13:1-7 [NLT]

Melodies of Praise

Things do not always go your way. As a parent, I remember when my kids would be upset because they couldn’t have a snack before dinner. As you get older, you begin to develop a nasty habit—complaining. We complain about things not going our way. We complain about the traffic. We complain because the food isn’t up to par. We complain because the service is poor or because the wait is long. We complain because the neighbor cannot put his trash bins away. 

Words are powerful. The Bible says that words have the power to kill or give life (see Proverbs 18:21). The question to ask yourself daily is what are your words doing? Are your words building up or tearing down? Are your words speaking life or damaging others? Are your words honoring God? Are your words pointing to Jesus?

The Psalmist speaks of “melodies of praise” that “will make Him known.” A picture is painted here. Your words… your praise… it will make Him known. But what if these melodies of praise are instead complaining rants? What if you are using your words to point out another’s shortcomings or to complain about bad customers? What if you are using your social media to put down another, to share the evils of the world, to broadcast the bad? Surely if the melodies of praise are what makes Him known to others, the negative, the complaints… these things are not depicting victory. Check your words today. What words are on your lips? What are you making known?

“But I will proclaim the victory of the God of Jacob. My melodies of praise will make him known.” – Psalm 75:9 [TPT]

My Saving Grace

In Psalm 42, the Psalmist is crying out for revival. We read of a soul thirsting for God—the desire to drink deeply—and a memory of past gatherings for worship. When we look around the world, it always appears to be in need for a revival. Today, as we are experiencing life behind closed doors in isolation to heed warnings to social distance so as to help contain a pandemic, Christians are not gathering together for worship. Church buildings have closed their doors. Families are home on Sundays. 

Though many churches have begun online worship, this pandemic surely can open our eyes to what spiritually is a struggle for many—even those who profess to be Christian and previously attended church weekly before this pandemic. The struggle is living before God. The Psalmist writes of singing God’s praises, and of “living before His face” which is described as his “saving grace.” Though God is ever present, we often times are not living in His presence. There is a difference. To be living before God is to acknowledge His presence, to live as He is present, to recognize Him throughout your day.

The Psalmist wants a great revival—he wants for people to draw back to God and praise Him for He alone is due praise. The Psalmist recollects a time when people gathered together to sing to God. He clings to the hope He has in God and understands that even when there is darkness all around, even when the world is so in need of a revival, that He could live in the presence of God. He could still sing praises. Why? Because God is his saving grace. Despite his flaws, despite his shortcomings, that God lifted him up through grace to save him, to allow him in His presence, to give him a taste of His goodness. The Psalmist never deserved it; you never deserve it. Yet He offers us this saving grace freely. Today may seem dark and gloomy. Today you may be sinking into despair. Keep hoping and waiting on God. Sing His praises. I pray you are living before His face. I pray He is your saving grace.

“So then, my soul, why would you be depressed? Why would you sink into despair? Just keep hoping and waiting on God, your Savior. For no matter what, I will still sing with praise, for living before his face is my saving grace!” – Psalm 42:5 [TPT]

Having Heard

Today’s verses discuss the importance of hearing. Note that in Mark 5:27, we read that the reason the woman sought out and touched the clothing of Jesus is because she first heard. Romans 10:14 reminds us that if we do not hear, how can we believe? The woman heard of Jesus first, and this knowing of Him and this hope she had prompted her to seek Him for healing.

Consider today who has heard this week from you about Jesus. Consider who has observed you this week as you were living life and saw Jesus. Consider who heard about the happenings in your life this week in “real life” or on social media and heard of Jesus—meaning when something happened, you glorified God. Who heard?

I am not writing to shame you on the lack of testimony happening in your life, nor to point out that we all fall short in life. Instead, I hope this encourages you to consider the “having heard” moments in life—the opportunities for you to share the goodness of God. One of the best ways to share His goodness is to embrace His goodness and let it overflow in love and grace in your life. It’s not about a program or a rigid list of things to say. Love. Have they heard?

“Having heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothing.” – Mark 5:27 [CSB]

“How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher?” – Romans 10:14 [CSB]

Fortune Cookie Devotion Series: Plans of Failure

As the fortune cookie says, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I certainly am not trying to get you to live a life without spontaneity; however, there is a big difference between not planning a day trip to the local shopping outlet and not planning as you purchase your first home. The Bible speaks often of making plans and counting the cost of our choices. 

One of my favorite moments of preparation in the Bible is when Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem. He did not simply jump into the task of rebuilding a wall after he arrived. He took the time to walk around the entire area. He spent days looking everything over. It was important for him to be prepared for the next step. For us, it is the same. We often are led to do things in faith, where we cannot plan much if anything, and we certainly cannot control the situation. At the same time, there are moments when it is important for us to use good discernment, to way options, to count the cost, to get all our ducks in a row. This is part of giving God our best. 

This doesn’t mean you have to plan every second. This doesn’t mean you must be a time-driven crazy person who does not allow for God ordained interruptions. Just don’t let yourself be so slack in life that you live a lazy life. Plans mean having a budget. Plans mean counting the cost to decide if it is worth the investment of your time, talent, and treasure. Plans mean scheduling time throughout your day to dive into the Scriptures, to pray, to meet with God. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. 

“So I arrived in Jerusalem. Three days later, I slipped out during the night, taking only a few others with me. I had not told anyone about the plans God had put in my heart for Jerusalem. We took no pack animals with us except the donkey I was riding.” – Nehemiah 2:11-12 [NLT]

They Seemed to Have It Made

Today’s passage is a great reminder of the thoughts we have as we look at others who seem to have things going their way. We all get jealous. We have longing for things that other people own, or relationships other people are involved with, positions people hold, etc. It is so easy to look at people and declare the people “have it made.” Look at them. They have “no pain, no problems.” Look at them, they have been “indulging in whatever they wanted.”

We turn green with envy. We covet what we do not have. We start to take for granted our own blessings. We complain. We miss the truth. We succumb to our jealousy of others and miss out on the enjoyment from the great plan God has for our lives. 

The verses today speak of someone who is focused on what he or she wants, who is without care, living “as though life would never end.” Why do we want to be living focused on wants, when we were made to glorify God… when the wants are temporary and will rust and rot? Why do we want to live a life that is not mindful of the brevity of life and the importance of our Savior and a life with Him? Sometimes our focus is skewed—remember, they only seemed to have it made. Do not be deceived by the only seems of this world. God has so much more for you!

“Indulging in whatever they wanted, going where they wanted, doing what they wanted, and with no care in the world.No pain, no problems, they seemed to have it made. They lived as though life would never end.” – Psalm 73:4-5 [TPT]

The Easy Way Is Not Always Best

I love a good shortcut. Almost every day as I drive to work, I take a shortcut. Yet there are times in life when shortcuts are not best—when the easy way isn’t the best way.  

When we dream about something we desire for the future, we want a shortcut to reach the dream. We want the money, but we do not want to do all the work. We want the title, but we don’t want to start from the bottom. We want the stuff, when we do not yet have the money to pay for it. We want the relationship, yet we do not want to make the investment.

In today’s passage, we read of the Israelites leaving Egypt, and of how God did not lead the people to take the shorter route. It’s true—sometimes shortcuts are great. Yet in life, we oftentimes have something to learn on the journey that we can only learn by travelling for a longer length of time. Suffering less is desirable, yet in suffering we often grow in our dependence on God, and our faith flourishes. Next time you have the opportunity to choose a path to take, instead of immediately jumping at the quick results, ask God what will bring you closer to Him.

“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’” – Exodus 13:17 [NIV]

The Gratitude of Grace

Today’s verse speaks of who truly honors God – “whoever offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (NASB). The Message translation calls this living the “praising life.” The Bible says that we were created to glorify God (see Isaiah 43:7). Psalm 50:23 makes it clear that we are living out our purpose to glorify God when we live “in the gratitude of grace.” The real question is how well are we bringing God glory with our gratitude of grace? 

If we are honest about this question, if we are honest about the thanksgiving we have lived out today, it is likely the thankfulness is not very evident. We spend so much of our time thinking we have earned what we have, that we are entitled to certain things. We overlook our daily blessings because we do not spend time considering life without them. When something good comes our way, our initial response usually isn’t to thank God for provision, for blessings, for protection, etc. Though God is alive and active, and very much moving in the world today, we oftentimes allow God to be boxed up, whereas we only need interact or thank Him when we have a grand request. Everything is separate. Everything else we can handle in our own strength. 

Without our life lived in the gratitude of grace, our testimony of the Gospel is silenced. If we do not spend time praising Him, pointing to Him, honoring Him, etc., what does everyone see? When we aren’t pointing to God, our fingers are always pointing elsewhere—to ourselves, to others, etc. 

How can we truly live in the gratitude of grace? We can devote more time listing reasons we are thankful, spending each day trying to find more reasons God deserves all praise and glory. We can receive the Gospel daily to remind us of the free gift of God’s grace. We can pour out that freshly received grace to others as we go about our day. We can pause to breathe in God’s grace and meditate on His goodness. What are you thankful for today?

“The life that pleases me is a life lived in the gratitude of grace, always choosing to walk with me in what is right. This is the sacrifice I desire from you. If you do this, more of my salvation will unfold for you.” – Psalm 50:23 [TPT]

An Empty Hope

The Psalmist states in today’s verse that trusting in a person is worthless or useless; the Psalmist declares a person cannot rescue another. This thinking is contrary to what the world exclaims. I remember growing up with the hope of being rescued. Remember the stories of a knight on a white horse? Today, our entertainment includes superheroes, and even underdog heroes. Lots of stories about people saving the day, rescuing people, getting the win—and these are the stories we cling to and celebrate. These stories do not simply entertain; the stories invade our thinking. We begin to think a person could help our situation and a person could even rescue us.

Yes, it is true. A person could help you. People help people daily. A person could rescue you. People rescue people every day. But the hope of man—the hope of man—it is in God alone. Here’s where we get caught up, where we all get caught up. When we are around a certain person, we feel happy and we begin to think that the person is the reason for our joy. When we are bailed out by someone from a financial hardship, we begin to think the person will help the next time. When our neighbor rescues us every time we have car trouble, we start to expect it. But people let people down. We are not strong enough to carry another. We can barely carry ourselves. Even though we have moments where we can be used to bless, to help, to rescue—we cannot carry another completely. Most importantly, we cannot offer a person hope. We cannot offer a person salvation.

We can point to hope. We can point to salvation. We can point to Jesus. We can lend a hand. We can speak life. We can be there to listen. We can be the hands and feet of Christ. Remember though, only God saves. Jesus is our only hope. Don’t put everything on another person’s shoulders. You have a Savior who already carried your burden and paid the price a million times over. An empty hope is no hope at all. Thank God for Christ Jesus!

“Give us a father’s help when we face our enemies. For to trust in any man is an empty hope.” – Psalm 60:11 [TPT]

Every Waking Hour

Did you ever hear the phrase, “There’s not enough time in the day” or even find yourself making the declaration? Even though we are gifted 24 hours a day, we never seem to find enough time. With the invention of new technology to help accomplish things with ease, it would seem as if we would have extra time to spend with God, yet the pleasures of the world usually take the driver’s seat.

The Psalmist speaks of different periods within the day, each focused on drawing near to God. Every evening, there is time to explain what needs are on the heart. Every morning, the Psalmist draws near to God. Every waking hour is considered worship time.

Most of us struggle with connecting with God on a daily basis. To consider God first each morning is foreign to most. To think of God every night, and to draw near to Him in prayer is also not a typical part of the daily routine in life. Do we just acknowledge these problems and admit we struggle with drawing near to our Creator, and then call it a night? No. If we believe and if we love God, we evaluate our schedule, we discern our priorities, and we make changes. These changes do not happen overnight. Baby steps. Aim to meet with God in the morning; aim to meet with God at night. Begin to meet with Him while at work, while at the gym, while at the grocery story. As you keep pressing into Him and experience His glory, you will begin to worship Him more. As you continue to water this seed, you will rejoice as it grows. As you spend time with Him, the more you will carve out for Him. May you one day spend every waking hour worshiping Him!

“Every evening I will explain my need to him. Every morning I will move my soul toward him. Every waking hour I will worship only him, and he will hear and respond to my cry.” – Psalm 55:17 [TPT]