John 11:14-15 “So He told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” ~NLT
I was a toddler when I had my first traumatizing experience at a swimming pool. I had been in a class for beginners and had already become familiar with the water and on this day, it was time for me to swim in the deep end on my own. This was not what I wanted to do.
As much as the instructor and my dad were telling me that I was safe, I wasn’t trying to hear them. I was looking at how much darker the water looked on that end of the pool. Not only was I worried about drowning, but as a toddler, I had seen ‘shark’ movies and I didn’t’ know what was underneath, settled in that darkness.
My father asked the instructor to leave us for a moment. He then began to assure me about getting into that pool and doing my best. My father persuaded me to accomplish the mission I had come to do. I got in and after a lot of yelling and crying, I became aware of my ability to swim. I had to trust my dad. He wanted me to be able to swim and not be afraid of the water, so he saw to it that I was prepared.
This is what happened with the disciples when they trusted Jesus. In the text above, Mary and Martha sent for Jesus because their brother was sick. They knew that Jesus had the power from on High to heal their brother. But even though Jesus was just down the way from where their brother Lazarus was very sick, Jesus did not come until after Lazarus died and had been dead for four days.
Everyone including the disciples knew Jesus could do something as long as Lazarus was alive, but in their minds, it was too late. Four days dead, hope was gone. Jesus knew that the miracle that was about to take place was a great one. So He told the disciples that He was, “…glad…” He wasn’t there.
When we form in our minds how God is going to help us in our situations, we have all the hope in the world. But when that ‘window for what we visualize’ closes, we lose hope. Because when we can’t see or imagine how God will help us, we give up hope that He will. This is a mindset given to us by the enemy.
Jesus was ‘glad’ because He wanted to teach the disciples not to try and figure out what God is doing, just trust and be ‘glad’ that God is about to perform a miracle in all our lives. Chapter 11 goes on to show that Jesus brought a man who had been dead for four days, back to life. In verse 39, the text speaks of how Martha describes a stench because he had been dead so long, but it did not matter. God brought Lazarus back to the living and all who witnessed saw God’s power through the Son that day.
It doesn’t matter how dark the water may seem underneath on the deep end; God will allow you to witness how strong He made you in your worst fears. Today, I love the water and am unafraid of the darkness below. Learn from those who witnessed the rising of Lazarus. They all lost hope because they limited God’s power in their minds. But we must never take for granted what God can do. Let go of the belief in sight, hold on to the belief in Spirit.
May the Lord continue to bless and keep you safe as you journey in Jesus’s name,
The Strength in Your Faith
Isaiah 43:2 “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” ~NLT
There was a young man named Sam in the 6th grade who had the assignment of writing a report and reading it in front of his class. He was nervous and did not want to read in front of his classmates. What really terrified him was reading in front of his teacher. She was very loud and did not hold back her criticism in front of the other students.
As the young man attempted to read his assignment, his awareness of all eyes looking at him, including his teacher, overwhelmed him so much that he began to stutter. He was a great reader but because he was nervous, he did not read well. After he completed his report, the teacher began to run down the list of everything she found error in. She told him he would have to read his assignment again in about a week. Embarrassed and ashamed, he really did not want to do it.
Later that night, Sam was in his room crying. His grandmother came in and asked what the matter was. He told his grandmother all about his assignment ordeal. This blessed Christian woman embraced her grandson and told him, “The good Lord gave you everything you need to do what you have to do in this world. And I believe God gave you great tools to be a great speaker. He did this because He has a lot to say to those around you, through you.”
She continued, “Now, you need to realize that God is the only one you should be concerned about listening to and watching you. Everyone else around you are not necessarily your audience, but those who God wants to bless as He exists in your presence. So don’t be afraid, He is with you. Now let’s get ready for your next presentation.”
Sometimes we are like Sam. We pay too much attention to our situations around us, the people around us and not any attention to what God may be doing in our lives. It doesn’t matter how “deep the waters”, God will be with you. You will not drown in the circumstances that seem to overwhelm you. The solution is in your faith in God. The same comfort Sam received from his grandmother’s instruction, should be the same comfort in peace we receive from our Father in heaven!
Sam gave the greatest presentation on his next turn and the mean teacher saluted him. He grew up to become a great educator and motivator. He took what once gave him fear and hesitation and allowed God to turn that into a driving spiritual force in helping others and making disciples.
Allow God to turn that negative, that dark pain, into a tool for the kingdom and you will see that, “…when you walk through the fires of oppression, you will not be burned!” Watch God bring you joy beyond measure!
May God continue to heal, guide and provide wisdom and strength to you as you walk in Jesus’ name.
Philippians 2:13 “For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to His good purpose.” ~CSB
Have you ever had that ‘I don’t feel like it’ feeling when it’s time to go to the gym and workout? But because you are determined to stay committed, you go anyway. You get up on that treadmill or pick up the weights and begin. Before you know it, you are into the best workout you’ve ever had. Why, because all you had to do was get there, and your inner strength and determination took over.
Or, how about when you decide to eat right. Pizza, hamburgers, fries, everything but what you have prepared to eat for the week is on your mind. The imaginary smell of all your favorites seems to be in your nose. But when you push on to eat that salad instead, and your appetite is satisfied, you feel better because you did not quit, and you did not fall off your commitment to healthy eating.
This same issue can happen to us on our spiritual journey. We have our days of stress and worry. We have our days when it seems like we are that rubber band being stretched as far as we can be stretched and about to pop. Yes, and the days where we just want to fall down and quit.
But because we have a Savior that did not quit, we don’t either! Think about it my fellow Christians, the times you ‘don’t feel like it’ and you push on anyway, there is a feeling you get that pushes you. There is something that comes over you that takes you even further than you thought you could go. That my friend is the power of God!
You see when you feed yourself the Word of God daily, your spirit becomes stronger than your flesh. Your flesh may want to quit, but the spirit overrides that command! The scripture says, “For it is God who is working in you…” That great godly strength from above is right inside you, rejecting the wants of the flesh and acts on the ‘will’ of the Father! The text continues, “…to will and to work according to His good purpose!”
What a wonderful God we serve! All we have to be, is obedient. All we have to do, is walk in the name of Jesus. God will take care of the rest! We pray for all of you today. We pray that strength from God, that power from God and that wisdom in direction from God as He lays His hand upon you in your meditation.
In Jesus’ name we pray,
Luke 5:4-5 “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” “Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.” ~CSB
In our commission in becoming Christ followers, we automatically took the order to go and make disciples. (Matthew 28:19). When we are saved and in church, we praise the Lord and vow to live a life in obedience and declaration in our testimonies of the Father.
Testifying to those that 'want' to hear the Gospel is easy. It is the testimony we make to non-believers that is the hard work. We may not necessarily preach the Gospel, but our obedience in the circumstances surrounding us and those who God will bless through us, could be the ‘testimony in our actions’. The non-response, or negative attitude of those non-believers may be the ‘empty net’ you pulled up on the side of the boat.
When we and the non-believer part ways, we have that feeling that we may not be a ‘good servant’ because we have nothing to show for our efforts. We feel this way because we did not see any progress in the ministry sent in their direction. We go home and think, "I did not make a disciple today." But what we don’t know, (because we didn’t see it), is that God planted the seed through us in them.
In the text, Simon, (Peter), and his crew have been fishing long and hard all night with nothing to show for their efforts. They even cleaned the nets they were using as they were about to quit for the day. When we think we did not seed in our testimony, we begin to ‘clean our nets’ because we are about to ‘quit’. But make no mistake, God doesn’t use you for you to be satisfied. He uses you in your purpose for His will in the situation. We must do as we are told and take the action of discipleship.
Jesus told them, “...let down your nets for a catch...” Imagine what was going on in the minds of Simon and the others when told to do this. But against Simon’s judgment, (and all he knew about fishing), he says, “...if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.” He followed the commands because his Spirit drew him to follow the instructions of a Higher Power.
Sometimes we may receive instructions that may seem funny to us but follow them we must. How do we know they come from on High? We won’t unless our relationship with God is strong. He has already laid out the path for our lives. Allow His will to take over and when you cast your net into a sea you think is empty, you will come up with an abundance in blessing, so much that you can’t keep it all yourself.
Simon and his crew hauled in so many fish that their boats were about to sink. Verse 8 says, “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees...” He knew Jesus was the Messiah and thought himself unworthy to be blessed by His presence. But God will choose you no matter what you think of yourself. Be ready because God will tell you to get up! Let’s go and spread the Gospel by telling others about how God blessed you in your life!
May God bless and keep you covered in His peace as you continue your journey in Jesus’ name.
Isaiah 49:15 “…Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!” ~NLT
On national TV the other day I saw a man apologize to his wife because he left the freezer open. He was apologizing because all the breast milk she had stored for their baby had melted and gone bad. Now as a man, I never understood, but one of the female reporters explained it well.
She said that as a mother, the process of their body producing milk is painful. Every ounce of milk produced from them is important as they save it for the baby. The reporter stated that being upset about losing a weeks’ worth of milk by leaving the freezer open is not only upsetting but unacceptable. But she was surprised and appreciated the action of husband apologizing on national TV.
The mother’s anger toward her husband for leaving the freezer open, was in consideration of the child. The mother’s pain in carrying the child for nine months, the pain in birthing the child and the painful healing process after birth is an unbreakable bond for a mother and that child. They both went through something together and the love present is the foundation for that unbreakable bond.
With that said, anything that requires blood, sweat and tears forms a bond for those who go through it together. When I went to boot camp at Fort Jackson, I met some great soldiers. I have many friends and I keep in touch with those I met in my military career, but I have not seen or been in contact with any of those I met at boot camp. But because of the blood sweat and tears we went through together; I won’t forget them.
Going back to the ‘mother and child’ bond. Understand that the mother’s side of the bond is stronger. The child was not understanding of the pain when it was born. The child sometimes grows up not being grateful for the mother’s love because it did not share in the pain and was unaware of the experience of the blood sweat and tears.
This is how we as God’s children are with the Father. We were unaware when He created us. We were unaware of the world and its history and because of that history God was creating us for the purpose of making this world better. The mother’s love for her children comes from God’s agape love for His children.
God says in the text above that even if it is possible for a mother not to love her child, He will still love us. Just as a child should trust its mother, we should trust the Father as He guides us in our lives. We should look to the Father for His direction in the purpose He created in us for our involvement in His plan and control for this world we live in.
I say this all the time; if we really knew just how much God loves us, we would not worry, doubt or live in fear in this world. Even though we go through the blood, sweat and the tears, know that God made us strong enough to endure, because that painful journey produces the good fruits of God’s plan for us all. Just like the precious fruit of a baby to a mother who endured the pains of labor.
May God bless and keep you as you journey in Jesus’ name,
Place a hula-hoop down at your feet, step in it and consider those you would allow in that circle. When you look at it, it is a very small circle. So maybe you would say your spouse. Your children, maybe even your parents because that is such an intimate space.
Now widen it. Who would you allow in that circle? Friends, certain co-workers, family members you feel close with. Now put some distance between you and this next group. This is going to be your biggest circle, with the most distance. Let’s talk real feelings and emotions, who would you place here?
That person that talks a lot and you just can’t get away from. That person you feel gossips a lot and tells all your business. How about those family members you do not get along with but must have a relationship because they are family? Those co-workers that you don’t see eye to eye with. It’s obvious that this circle is for all of those you do not care to socialize with even if you must maintain some kind of relationship with them.
Think really hard about your circles. Then think even harder about the command you were given as a Christian. Mark 12:30-31 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.” ~CSB
When you refer to this text in Mark, this sets you up for your spiritual cleansing. You see it’s not about you or how you feel about a person, it is about your purpose and that person’s purpose. One may need the other to get the ‘kick-start’ they need to live in that purpose. If you deny a relationship with someone, regardless of how you feel about them, you are denying another of God’s children to be seeded by Him through you. And God will do this seeding through the love you have for that person. Therefore “…loving your neighbor…” is a command because it is a conduit for the Lord to work His miracle.
The next Word from the Lord to help us as we ponder our circles, is found in Matthew 28:19, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” In a way that only God can do, allow Him to teach, train and bring awareness of His great power in miracles through the testimony of what He has done for us. Our testimony about God in our lives mixed with God’s gospel is the foundation of your purpose for the kingdom.
That person we are trying to avoid because they talk too much, may have a blessing hidden in their words for our direction. That family member we wrote off may need God to reveal Himself through the love He created in us to give them so that they can become aware of the purpose that is inside them.
In other words, God did not give us the authority to decide who we place in those circles that we have created. It is God who decides who crosses our paths. And those paths are crossed for God to do a good work in us as well as those we encounter in our lives. We may not like the situations. But do not let those situations keep you from being a witness to the victory at the end of those encounters because this is how God shows the non-believing world He exists. And He choses to use you and I to do that. What an honor!
May God bless and keep you as you continue your journey in Jesus’ name,
“There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish — but what are they for so many?”
John 6:9 CSB
I’m writing today’s devotional as I sit here watching my son warm up to play in his team’s football game. He is in middle school, and I am really proud of the athlete he is. He is little, but he accomplishes a lot. Last week he asked me, “Dad, do you think I’ll make it to the NFL?” My response to him, “Son, you can do whatever you put your mind to.” But in my mind, I had already quit on him. My immediate thought was how can he make it? All the kids that play football at this age won’t make the pros. My perspective was negative. Mainly because the world has shown me that the odds were against my son making the pros.
But I did look at the other perspective. I thought, all who play in the NFL once played at the age my son is. There was something special about those who excelled and made it. Those individuals realized their gifts. They spent their lives sharpening their skills and strengthening their talents so they could be the best at what they do.
God may bring us to a point in life and instead of us feeling that the task is too great for what 'little' we have. We must remember that He is our creator and has already given us all we need for the situation He has brought us to. This is my job as a father; to raise my son in knowing that his gifts come from above. And although he may be good now, he has to continue to sharpen his skills to make God’s gift in him stronger.
That young man in the text came to the services that day with just his lunch. That’s all he had. But God took that gift, and through His Son, feed 5000 people. That young man’s ‘little’ became bigger than the problem. And through that miracle everyone saw that God was in the house!
You should be excited when God puts you in the position of the miracle. My son for example, by me telling him he can do whatever he puts his mind to, I said this knowing that it’s my job to teach him to put God first.
When he does that, he then realizes what he has in strength and talent, he received from God. Being grateful for these gifts, he will work hard to keep his skills sharp so that the Lord can use him to teach and bless the world in His own way, not my son’s and not mine.
Now my perspective is clear and positive, if it’s God’s will, it will happen. God will take the little bit my son has and make it bigger than the problems of the world. Let God do that with you. Tell the devil that God has made you bigger than any problem and watch the Lord prove that to everyone around you. Just like He did with the boy with the five loaves and two fish.
By the way, my son caught the game winning touchdown tonight. As I pray that God Will teach him how to use his gifts for the kingdom, I equally pray God will bless others through you as you learn to use what you have from Him.
May God bless and keep you as you journey in Jesus’ name.
1 Peter 4:10 “God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” ~NLT
I played football from 5 years old to 12th grade. I developed into a very impressive cornerback and strong safety. Often, I thought I would become a professional football player but that dream never happened. Why don’t some things fall in place when the chances look so good? Maybe it’s because if it’s not in God’s plan, we should be happy those things don’t happen.
On the other hand, little did I know, that during the same time I trained so hard to play football, I was spiritually being trained to do something else. In elementary school I drew comic books. I used to pass them around to my friends in school and they would read them. I would always leave them ‘hanging’ at the end of the comic so that they would want to read the next one.
I continued to draw in High School but no longer drew comics. Drawing and writing comic books were the foundation that would later lead me to another type of writing. During the late 80’s and mid-90’s, I wrote three books. I never published these books but instead wrote them as a hobby.
It wasn’t until 2017 when God would show me why He trained me spiritually in the ‘literary arts’ for all those years. I co-wrote with my wife our first published book concerning marriage ministry. Later that year I began to write devotionals. God allowed me to use my testimonies and mix them with His Word to serve others and allow Him to save lives through my actions in writing. This is a gift God has given me and I gratefully accept. In other words, even if I wanted something else for my life, if God is not in the plan, I don’t want it.
Think about this: if you feel stuck in an area you are strong in, search yourself through God’s Word and see if that’s really where God wants you to be. Just because we may be good in the area we are in, doesn’t necessarily mean we are on the ‘path prepared’ for us.
The scripture above says “Based on the gift each one has received…” The gift given from above was given from, “…His great variety of spiritual gifts…” and must be recognized. Each one of us has a gift from His variety of spiritual gifts. Our own custom-made gifts for Him to use through us for our own individual purpose in this world. This gift will not allow us to be ‘stuck’. Instead, this gift will allow us to bring meaning, light and hope to those God places in our path.
This gift can only be used if received. I didn’t receive the gift of written testimony until I submitted and gave my life to Christ. It was then the Lord allowed me to realize that I had this gift from Him all the time. Scriptures saved my life and made me aware of the beauty in an otherwise dark world. We all have access to that.
A great tool for seeking God’s Word for direction is through devotionals. Feel free to grab a copy of my new book, ‘Testimonies of Faith and Encouragement: A Weekly Devotional’ at this link: bit.ly/testimoniesoffaith
Allow God to take you to your place of purpose, so that you can be aware of the beauty of God’s existence and His power as He uses you to save lives. May God continue to bless you with His healing, direction, and love as you walk in Jesus’ name.
“The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.” ~Genesis 12:1 NLT
Last week we talked about “Disciplining the Desire” and how the effects of not getting caught feeds our flesh in wanting to continue to do wrong. Today we are going to talk about the consequences of those actions as it relates to God’s will for our lives. God created us in His image and with a purpose for the kingdom that He has every intention to use us for. Are we ready for our change of direction?
Last week I talked about me getting caught taking my mom’s car. I said in that devotion that I got into some “serious life changing trouble”. My life changed as a result of that punishment as I was spiritually set in another direction. What I didn’t cover last week was that I was living with my mother and stepfather. I was a young son/stepson that was giving his mom and stepfather a hard time because of the ‘you are not my daddy’ syndrome.
Well this last attempt at rebellion was a ‘last straw’ for my mom. The agreement had been made that I leave Alabama, the home of all my grade school and middle school education, football career, friends and family, and return to the city of my birth to live with my father for my high school years. Basically leaving my, ‘…native country…’ and everything I knew and was used to.
In the text above, Abraham was directed by God to trust Him and leave everything he knew. The trust and faith were so strong that Abraham didn’t know where he was going. He was just given an order to leave, and he did. He walked his journey trusting in God. And the results of that included him leading God’s people to the promise land.
I didn’t see this when I was directed. I was young and not in God’s Word enough to recognize what was happening to me, but the spirit God gave me guided me. I was able to walk my journey. Even though I didn’t know what was ahead. Even though I was scared at times, I was protected and allowed to make decisions good and bad. But everything I went through came together in the purpose God created in me.
You see, if I had remained where I was, I would have never been in the position to be used in the places God intended for me to be. If I had stayed in Alabama, I would have never attended the historic Pearl High school and met the friends that I hold dear to this day. If I had stayed in Alabama, I would not have attended historic Fisk University and met the friends and fraternity brothers I hold dear. If I had stayed in Alabama, I would not have joined the Army and developed the relationships and received the training and experience that helped develop the qualities required for the strong foundation needed to support the man I would become.
All of this allowed me to become the man I became in Christ almost 30 years later. My life, my wife and my children may not be as they are had I not accepted ‘change’. When I embraced the change in my life, God turned my short comings into huge blessings. For that I am forever grateful. God’s Miracles only happen in His time and in His area of choice. That is why when God says move, we must move. We may not like some of the aspects of the journey, but these aspects play an important role in our Christian development.
May God continue to bless and keep you under His protection on your journey in Jesus’ name.
Ecclesiastes 8:11 “Because the sentence against an evil act is not carried out quickly, the heart of people is filled with the desire to commit evil.”
When I was in middle school, I lived in the country in the middle of nowhere. My nearest friends lived about five miles away. At first, I would get on my bike and ride those five miles to visit them. They, from time to time, did the same. But it was the nighttime that would draw me into an area where I would get in trouble in the future. Some nights I would be on the phone talking to them and since they all lived in the same neighborhood, they would get together and hang out and play. I wanted to be with them. So I came up with a plan.
First night: Now it was too dark to ride my bike, so I got creative. After my parents went to sleep, I took my mother’s keys that were hanging on the keyring in the kitchen. The carport was an open bay and was literally right in front of my parents’ window. I put the car in neutral and pushed the car far enough to start it without being heard. I drove to the neighborhood where my friends lived and partied. (Yes, I did this as a middle school kid).
On the way back home, it was late, and I was praying, “Please don’t let me get in trouble! Please don’t let me get in trouble.” I also remember saying, “If I get out of this, I won’t do it again.” I pulled up to my dark home. All lights off. I was smooth as I turned the car off while coasting down the driveway to the original parking spot under the carport. I eased out of the car and closed the door quietly. I was able to sneak back into the house, into my pajamas and into my bed. The next morning, I didn’t get in trouble. My parents and my sister did not know I had been out. It was because I didn’t get in trouble, I threw everything out about ‘not doing it again’. Instead I was planning my next adventure. I think I pulled the journey off a few more times until I was eventually caught. And when I got caught, I got into some serious life changing trouble.
This is what happens to us all the time. We do things we know we are not supposed to do because in our eyes we get away with it. We think if the repercussions from what we do don’t come then they wont’ come at all. This is not true. Especially if your audience is God.
What really occurs is the fleshly desire to continue to do wrong. Because we haven’t gotten caught, this desire pulls at us resulting in us going forward in a sinful way. For example, I know a few co-workers that thought they could get away with drinking heavy the night before coming into work. This has occurred often because so many days they have gotten away with having hangovers at work, thinking no one noticed. Until that one day they came into work and finally had to deal with the consequences because someone noticed.
We do these acts in our marriages. Just because our spouse doesn’t say anything, doesn’t mean we aren’t caught. We do these acts to our children. We think we act angrily, ungodly and sinful and our children don’t notice. But when they grow older, we see the results of their noticing our short comings in their depressions, addictions and failed relationships.
We must rid ourselves of this desire to do evil. When we know wrong, avoid it. When we know what not to do, don’t do it. And when we know God would not be pleased, seek his blessing by doing good. Because unlike my parents concerning their car, God is always watching.
May God continue to bless and keep you safe in His Son’s precious name,
Authors Billy & Yolanda
This is the place where we share our heart through God's Word in faith that will inspire and empower you to live in peace.