Most of us have lost loved ones or lost relationships once very valuable to us. Many have suffered financial hardship or emotional or physical pain. And there are those who are in a season of waiting for an answered prayer or who may be going through a spiritual valley. It’s hard to feel thankful sometimes when everything seems to be falling apart. When our thoughts and feelings dwell on our circumstances and on what seems impossible, we can lose a spirit of thankfulness. So, how do we maintain it or get it back?
What is thanksgiving, after all? It is the expression of gratitude and showing appreciation. And what is praise? Showing admiration or great approval. When we offer praise to God, we tend to move into a spirit of thanksgiving. We praise Him for what He’s done. We praise Him for who He is. Praise and worship are the keys to maintaining a spirit of thanksgiving.
Job lost everything but still declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15a KJV). Job’s children were killed, and yet he could still bless the name of the Lord (see Job 1). In his season of loss, Job recognized the sovereignty of God.
When you focus on who God is instead of your circumstances, you will find that praise comes naturally. How can we not praise God for all He’s done, for who He is? Because no matter what we may go through, nothing changes that He is worthy, that He is faithful, that He loves us, and that He is good.
Our circumstances change; He does not. He remains.
There have been moments in my life in which I lost so much. Perhaps like many of you, I’ve lost loved ones and relationships. And I’ve dealt with anger, hurt, sadness, loneliness, and all the various emotions that accompany seasons of grief, depression, and waiting. The words “just be thankful for what you have” are not easy to hear or adapt to your life when you can hardly get out of bed in the morning and when grief muddles your thoughts and leaves you feeling sicker by the day. But as someone who’s gone through some of those seasons, I promise you that turning your focus from what you’re going through to who God is will bring some joy back into your life. It will allow you to feel more thankful because you’re no longer putting your focus on the natural but on the supernatural. You’re no longer putting your focus on the impossible but on the one who makes things possible.
And God is always a good God, no matter how trying times become. He’s never left me, and He never will.
I recently came across a song (linked here) that speaks so much to experiences I’ve had, and it demonstrates the faithfulness of God. Just look at the verses below:
“I have seen a lot of things, and I’ve been a lot of places. I’ve seen people come and go. I’ve been through a lot of changes. One thing I can always say, You’ve been here every step of the way. I have heard a lot said and sometimes believed the wrong things. I’ve made choices I regret, and I’ve doubted Your mercy. One thing I can always say, You’ve been here every step of the way. After all these years, You’re still good to me.”
After everything I’ve been through, God is still with me. After the things we’ve all endured these past few years, God is still present with us. When we remind ourselves of how good He is every day, we can maintain a spirit of praise and thanksgiving even through hard times.
The circumstances in your life may seem to grow worse or more complicated year after year, but hold to the promises in His Word. He will never leave us, He will never fail, He works all things for our good, His promises are “yes” and “amen,” He will provide for all our needs, and His mercies are new every morning.
Maybe they meant to. But it’s hard to move on and forgive when they seem to forget all about you. Or maybe they didn’t mean to, but it doesn’t matter. You can’t forget. And so you remember, and you seethe, and you stew, hoping someday they’ll get what’s coming to them. And the years pass on your anger, but nothing seems to change. Their life moves on, and you find yours does, too. And all that’s left is the semblance of anger turned to indifference.
Yes, they hurt you, but who cares about them, anyway? They’ll pay. Indifference turns to pride, pride to arrogance, arrogance to vengeance.
But vengeance only belongs to the Lord.
I’ve learned a lot over the past few years about forgiveness.
When I was going through a struggle and believed someone had wronged me, I wanted vengeance. I wanted to see them crumble. My circumstance made me believe they were my enemy, and how could I hope that anything good could happen for them? How could I want them to be successful? How could I want anything but destruction for them?
Well, I was wrong.
Let go and let God. It’s a cliché these days, but it’s exactly what you need to do when you believe someone has wronged you. Maybe they did. Maybe they really hurt you, but for your sake, you have to forgive and let God take care of it. It isn’t a matter of, “well, what if they don’t get punished?” If a wrong has truly been committed, rest assured, God will take care of it either now or on judgment day. But you should hope that that person gets right and is forgiven for what they’ve done because you shouldn’t want anyone to have to suffer for eternity.
They’re only human, after all. Like you. How many mistakes have you made in your life? And how many times have you asked God to forgive you? And yet you want to hold a mistake over another’s head?
Jesus taught Peter what forgiveness really is about in Matthew 18.
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”
Matthew 18:21-22 KJV
Of course, Jesus did not mean for Peter or anyone to literally count up to 490 until they could stop forgiving a person for wrongdoing. It’s not about the numbers or keeping track. It’s about always having a spirit of forgiveness.
“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:”
Ephesians 4:26 KJV
Anger is not sinful in itself, and it is okay to be upset when someone wrongs you, but holding onto hurt and anger leads to bitterness.
I had a conversation once with someone about an offence that was believed to have taken place. This person told me they had begun to pray for the one who had allegedly committed the offence and that they had told another confidant about it. They relayed to me that the confidant had allegedly asked them, “Why would you pray for them to be blessed? They’re your enemy.”
Whether this was truly said or not, it was the wrong sentiment about such a situation. You shouldn’t want anyone to have to suffer or possibly spend eternity in hell. When someone hurts you, pray for them. If they’ve truly done wrong, pray that God changes them and that they receive His forgiveness for what they’ve done.
“But I say unto you which I hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”
Luke 6:27-28 KJV
This passage in Luke 6 and the subsequent verses are a great study on the spirit of forgiveness. It takes strength to truly forgive someone who has hurt you, but the more you do it, the more Christlike you will become. The more you forgive, the more your love for people will grow. You’ll begin to understand people better. You’ll begin to truly care about people more. We are to be merciful as He is merciful (see Luke 6:36). When someone hurts you, give yourself time to sort through your anger maturely and privately, and then forgive.
Love people even when it’s hard. Let God change their heart and yours. Let God handle the offence. And let the matter go.
“Jesus over everything,” you say as you forget to spend time with Him that day.
You say you put Him first, but you spend half the day without a word in prayer. Then, you pray, but you’re distracted.
What is it that’s consumed your attention? Your Instagram account? Tik Tok? The news? Or perhaps it’s the load of laundry you still need to put on? Maybe it’s the garage that needs cleaned out, or the yard that needs mowing, or the half a dozen other projects you still have left to do.
So, what then, does Jesus over everything mean to you? Does it mean Jesus over everything, except your “me time?” Does it mean Jesus over everything, except your house chores? Does it mean Jesus over everything, except your job or your family? What do you think everything means? Oxford defines it as “all things; every single thing.”
That’s what it takes to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. Putting Him above all things, above every single thing in your life.
The rich man left Jesus in sorrow because he couldn’t put Jesus above his riches (see Matthew 19:16-24).
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
Mark 8:36 KJV
Others couldn’t put Him above their family.
“And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:59-62 KJV
So what can’t you put aside to follow Jesus? What is keeping you from giving Him everything?
If you want to get closer to Jesus, He must come first. His Kingdom must be your number one priority in life.
He created you to worship Him and reach the lost. Other things in this life are important, yes, but He has promised to supply all your needs. If you want to follow Him, you must trust Him to take care of you. If you want to follow Him, you must give Him your sacrifice of time and sacrifice of praise.
He must matter more to you than earthly gain. To see His face in glory, Jesus must stand first in your life over everything.
Until then, all your words and efforts are in vain and your promises empty.
Is “Jesus over everything” a daily declaration to you? Or is it an empty phrase you use to fool yourself into thinking you put Jesus first while you really serve the world or yourself?
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:15 KJV
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”
Missouri Youth Camp ended last week, but I’m still thinking about the powerful services we had. In every service, there was a heavy spirit of expectancy, depth in every message, and an outpouring of the Holy Ghost in every altar call. It was without a doubt one of the most incredible weeks I have experienced. Mike McGurk, the morning speaker, taught one message in particular that detailed a few tips that, if applied, can help each person (and each young person, especially) truly thrive in the kingdom of God. For today’s post, we’re going to go over these tips again.
Don’t keep the things you’re struggling with to yourself. This one’s actually hard for those like me who prefer to “suffer in silence.” It’s the noble, mature, strong thing to do, we tell ourselves. But actually, keeping deep struggles to yourself makes you more vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks and makes it harder to overcome those struggles.
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
Proverbs 28:13 (KJV)
Talking to a trusted spiritual leader, such as your pastor or youth pastor, about something you’re struggling with gives you a source of support and guidance. Openness and honesty are underrated qualities in any relationship. How are you to develop a working relationship of trust and transparency with your leaders or even colleagues or friends if you do not let them in if something is going wrong? The more you keep things to yourself, the more time you give to the devil to mess with your mind and bring confusion.
Bro. Mike McGurk spoke of self-destruction. If you keep things to yourself, then the lies of the devil can cause you to break down and self-destruct. There is strength in going to a trusted spiritual leader like your pastor with your personal struggles with sin or an emotional or spiritual issue.
You do not have to be perfect, for as we know, there is none perfect save for God.
We are incapable of perfection, and your pastor knows this. Because of our human nature and constant struggles with our flesh, we will always need encouragement, correction, independence, and guidance. We need encouragement for our self-esteem, correction to overcome our weakness and mistakes, independence to allow us to make our own decisions, and guidance to lead us in the right direction.
“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (KJV)
You’ve heard the saying that no person is an island. Learn to be transparent and trust your pastor to help you and pray for you when you’re struggling.
Be careful with the people and things that you allow to influence your thoughts, feelings, and actions. You’re heard “love the sinner, hate the sin” and the fact that Jesus ate with the sinners and publicans. This is true. However, Jesus called us to be separate from this world.
As another common saying goes, we are in the world but should not be of the world, meaning that while we are in the world, we should do the things we must to survive, build relationship, families, careers, etcetera, but we should not conform to the lifestyles and beliefs of the world. Bro. McGurk explained in his message that when it comes to those you may be around at work or at school who live like the world, you should love them and eat with them, but do not live like them or let them influence how you live. For example, if you’re out to lunch with your coworkers, but they talk about going out later to drink and party, don’t let their lifestyle choices influence yours. The sign of a confident Apostolic Christian is one who influences their friends and coworkers and draws them toward God, not one whose friends and coworkers draw them away from God.
There is one saying my Bishop used to teach about that some might take issue with, but I’ll mention it here and then explain: if you can’t change your friends, change your friends.
If the people you hang around are becoming negative influences in your life, then you should not spend time around them anymore. For example, if you have a teenage son and he starts hanging around kids who do drugs behind the school every day, you would want your son to stop hanging around those kids. That doesn’t mean he should be rude to them, condemn them, yell at them, or throw the Bible at them. It does mean he should set healthy boundaries in his life so that he can maintain a strong walk with God and show others that he is committed to living for God and not like the world. Having strong principles, convictions, and morals is a good thing, not something anyone should be ashamed of.
Lot allowed his surroundings to influence him, and it led to his wife’s demise.
“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.”
Genesis 13:10-13 (KJV)
The appearance of the land was pleasing to Lot, and so he allowed what pleased his eyes to influence his actions. He pitched his tent toward a place that was filled with wickedness. Much can be said and written just from this account in Genesis (and indeed much already has), but just six chapters later, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with Lot barely escaping with his daughters. His wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. Most of us know this story, but its message will forever ring true.
Want to know the direction your life is taking? Look at the things you allow to influence you.
The problem with influence is appetite. What you consume is what you put on display through your words, actions, and thoughts. In order to walk with God, you must change your appetite so that the things of the world – entertainment, personalities, trends, money, attention, etcetera – no longer influence you.
If you pursue God and allow the things of God to influence you, then you will thrive in His Kingdom. This point goes back to the previous point about influence. Your life will go in the direction of the things you pursue. If you pursue fame and attention and money, then your life will be filled with self-absorption and materialism. Pursuing God means putting God and a godly lifestyle above everything else.
You should get a job. You should make an income. You should try to have and raise a godly family, but those things become idols when you pursue them above God. So, how do you pursue God?
Read the Word. After all, the Word is God (see John 1:1). The Bible is His Living Word, and if we want to get to know Him more, we should read it every day. Don’t just read it, though. Study the Word. Pray the Word. And while you read the Word, journal. I have a journal set aside for Bible journaling, and when I open up the Word to begin my study time, I have the journal in one hand and the Bible in the other to write down thoughts, revelations, or specific verses while I’m reading. This is a pretty common and simple concept, but it is vital to understanding His Word more and committing key scriptures and biblical principles to memory.
When you pursue God, He will open up His Word to you and welcome you into a deeper relationship with Him.
“Draw night to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
James 4:8 (KJV)
We exist to worship our Creator, have a relationship with Him, and reach the lost. When we make living for God and growing His kingdom our purpose and top priority in life, then we will be too busy to become enamored with the distractions of the world. We will struggle with our flesh every day, but there are things we can do to become purpose-driven in the kingdom.
Be involved in your church. Help with the media team. Be part of the music team. Teach Sunday or Wednesday school. Clean the church. Contribute to your church’s social media page by taking pictures. Help in the kitchen. Go to outreach functions. Invite your friends and coworkers to church and special events. Go to special events yourself rather than skipping them because it’s your Friday night. Teach Bible studies. (Lord knows, we should all be doing more, especially on that last one, including yours truly.)
Whatever it is, be active in your church and be active in the kingdom of God. We find our identity in Christ, and when we make His mission ours, then our purpose will become clear.
Each of these four concepts is essential to thriving and growing in God’s kingdom. So, in order for you to apply these to your life, here are some questions you might ask:
Out of these four points (transparency, influence, pursuit, purpose), is there one or more that are lacking in my life?
What am I doing or what can I do to address this issue?
Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.
Exodus 3:1-4 (KJV)
1. Stay faithful in the things of God.
As the above passage of scripture opens, we find Moses traveling to the backside of the desert. He was traversing a hot, barren place alone, leaving behind him the comforts of home, companionship, and support. Regardless of his circumstances, Moses continued to faithfully take care of the flock that had been entrusted to him by his father-in-law. He was a support for his family even though it put him in a difficult situation. As he put the care of the flock before his own comfort, he was completely unaware that he would soon be called to lead God’s flock, the children of Israel.
Any time we do work for the church or support the leaders over us, it is important to remember to do it all unto God. It is not unusual to experience situations that make you feel like you are working alone in the desert. Maybe you are the only one showing up for prayer, willing to teach a Bible study, or participating in evangelism. It can be easy to wonder where everyone else is. If your eyes are not on the Lord, the work can become very wearisome in your own eyes. However, when you do it unto God, you can take comfort in knowing that God notices your hard work and determination. He knows exactly where you are and the work you are doing to further His kingdom.
2. God will utilize all parts of your life for His Glory.
The mountain Moses came to was called Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai. Even though Moses had been raised by Egyptians and then spent decades as a fugitive in the desert, God knew that every experience he had and every land he learned to traverse would be beneficial to help lead the children of Israel out of captivity. When God uses us, He does so knowing every past experience will become a skillset to be used in the future.
Do not let yourself believe you have no skills or talents to offer.
God can use your Bible quizzing experience, years of living faithfully, your secular work experience, and even the knowledge born out of learning from mistakes. The key is to give ourselves totally to God so He can use us for His purpose and His glory.
3. God uses your surroundings to get your attention.
A bush burning in the desert would not have been an unusual sight. It would have been easy for Moses to see the fire but shift his focus back on moving the flock away and continuing with his daily tasks. However, he gave this situation enough attention to realize something was different, and doing so, he witnessed a “great sight.”
God used a seemingly normal occurrence to get Moses’ attention as he was going about his day. What in our surroundings is God trying to use to get our attention? It may be a situation at work or with family or friends. At first sight, everything may appear insignificant and normal. But further inspection may reveal the Lord at work getting our attention for a greater purpose.
4. When God calls, answer.
As Moses turned aside to witness the bush burning yet not being consumed, God had succeeded in getting his attention. However, the Lord’s intentions went far beyond that. God does not just want to get our attention. All who are willing to stop and turn toward God can have the opportunity to hear Him calling. It is a call filled with love and a purpose, and all who hear will get to choose if they are willing to answer that higher calling.
This passage in Exodus 3 paints a beautiful picture of how God will set things in motion to get your attention. From the burning bush to the call, don’t be too busy living life that you miss what God really has for you. He is just waiting for you to look toward His direction to call you into a deeper walk and a deeper life with Him.
Dr. Rafael Machuca is a VA Hospital Chaplain at the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. He studied and received his Doctor of Ministry degree at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in 2020. Dr. Machuca served his country in the United States Marine Corps from 1993 – 1997 and has been honoring and paying tribute to U.S. veterans ever since.
Tears slipped down my cheeks as I roared down that road in that little red car.
“Jesus, why am I so broken?” I uttered as I felt as though I couldn’t be put together again. I felt like I was damaged beyond repair.
As I sobbed, I felt God’s comfort wrap around me, and I heard him say, “Yes, you may be broken, but you’re in the best place you can be. You’re broken, but you’re in my hands.”
Just these past few weeks, I have been broken. While life spun along around me, I stayed in the hands of the Potter, the very best place to be. When it feels as if everything in life is breaking us down, when life feels as though it’s completely and totally spinning out of control, you very well may be on the Potter’s Wheel.
Rest assured, dear friend, that even on the Potter’s Wheel, you are still in the hands of Jesus. Perhaps sufferings come not as a thing meant to break us, but to reshape us.
Sometimes, things that we have picked up in life, calloused wounds, and attributes that we are not meant to have are broken off of the jar known as “us.” We often misinterpret the surgical knife in the hands of the most knowledgeable surgeon as a knife murderously held at our throats. We mistake what was meant to reshape us for something that will break us.
Sometimes, some things come so that the glory of God might be revealed. As 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of power may be of God and not of us.”
Moving on to verses 8-9, we read this:
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (KJV)
Rest in this, dear friend.
You may feel as though there is something wrong everywhere you look. You may be perplexed, persecuted, and cast down, BUT you are not destroyed, you are not in despair, you are not forsaken.
You ARE in the hands of the man who loves you the most. The God of the universe who desires to commune with us.
Remember, even in the breaking, even in the shaping, even on the Potter’s Wheel, you are in the hands of Jesus.
From a young age, Camrie has loved to write. Starting a blog has been a long-time dream of hers, so she finally took the leap and started her blog, Camrie Writes, in September 2021. On any given day, you can find Camrie working on her first book, teaching, or talking with family and friends about teaching or writing. Camrie is also a full-time public school substitute teacher and is studying to teach middle school. Be sure to follow along with her blog on Facebook or Instagram (@camrie_writes)!
Sometimes when you make a mistake, the hardest part of forgiveness is forgiving yourself. If you’re like me, you might tend to beat yourself up for mistakes you’ve made, mulling over them at night and asking yourself how you could be so stupid. Self-condemnation completely hinders the process of forgiveness.
When we make a mistake, we must ask God for his mercy and strive to resist temptation and live according to His Word, but sometimes our own thoughts can make it much harder to feel forgiven when we imprison ourselves in our own guilt. What we forget in those moments is how much God truly loves us. In order for us to move forward with peace and in confidence, knowing that He has forgiven us, we must recognize His love for us and that His mercy has no end.
Two examples in His Word show us what it means to appeal to God’s mercy.
When Lot and his family escaped Sodom and Gomorrah, he asked God to save a nearby city so that they might flee to it and be saved.
“Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.”
Genesis 19:19-22 (KJV)
One of the first things Lot said to God was a reminder that God had granted Lot grace and that He had “magnified [His] mercy” by saving Lot’s life. When Abraham went to God to try to convince Him not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, he appealed to God’s justice, asking if God would destroy the “righteous with the wicked” (see Genesis 18:23). Abraham did not succeed in his intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah, but Lot succeeded in his intercession for Zoar by appealing first to the grace and mercy of God when he was in danger and needed to be saved.
In the New Testament, Jesus told a parable of humility and mercy when comparing the Pharisee to the publican.
“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican…. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”
Luke 18:10-11, 13 (KJV)
In this parable, the publican acknowledged his sinfulness and asked that God would show him mercy. He showed humility and an understanding of his own faults and need for a Savior.
These examples remind us to appeal to God’s mercy when we are facing difficulties and when we need forgiveness. Lot appealed to God’s mercy when he needed salvation from circumstances. The publican appealed to God’s mercy when he needed salvation from sin. Neither Lot nor the publican were perfect men, but in Lot’s case and in the parable of the publican, both men were sincere in their appeals, and God showed them His mercy. When we make a mistake and ask for forgiveness, we’re stating that we cannot make it on our own. Our appeal to God’s mercy becomes a declaration that we need Him.
Messing up again and again is human nature. God knows this. Of course, our human nature is not an excuse to sin, but rather it is a reminder that we need Him in order to resist temptation and receive forgiveness.
What these accounts remind me of is how much He wants to forgive us. Our God longs for us to surrender to Him and serve Him in righteousness and sincerity, and when we do, then He will forgive us of our sins. We need not walk in guilt and self-condemnation because He already paid the price for our sins and freed us from guilt and shame.
We can overcome guilt and self-condemnation by appealing to God’s mercy, by recognizing our flaws and inadequacies, and by understanding that it is only through the grace, love, and mercy of our Savior that we move forward and walk in confidence with Him. Self-condemnation will keep us from accepting His forgiveness, but the self-realization of our weaknesses and His great love for us keeps us under His blood and walking in newness of life.
Post Schedule Announcement:
Lots of things are coming up as my schedule will be getting busier over the upcoming weeks, so posts will be on Fridays only until further notice.
I’ve seen there are some newer readers and subscribers to Breathe Pray Repeat, so I also want to say “welcome,” and I pray these posts bless you and encourage you to get closer to God as you seek Him more and study His Word.
If you have any post or Bible study requests, don’t hesitate to comment below or send me a message and let me know! God Bless!
Is it simply someone who does good deeds and tries to be kind to others? Is it someone who serves their community? Is it someone who prays an hour every day and fills journals with Bible study notes? Is it someone who goes to Bible college and becomes a preacher or worship leader?
What does it take to simply be that good and faithful servant the Lord will welcome into Heaven?
Well, a person can certainly be a good and faithful servant by doing any or all of the above, but pleasing and serving God does not mean that we have to attend Bible college or that we have to become a preacher or singer. Those things are wonderful things but are specific callings rather than general requirements for all Christians.
When we study the Word, we see many examples of various people who were faithful servants—Abraham, Job, and Mary are a few that come to mind. One man in particular who appears very early in the Bible shows us three qualities of a faithful servant that are a good foundation upon which we can build and develop a strong relationship with God.
“And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: And I will make thee swear by the LORD…thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac…And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning the matter.”
Genesis 24:2-4, 9 (KJV)
When Abraham was old, he tasked his eldest and most trusted servant with finding a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac. Here, we have an example of a servant who was not only attentive to his master’s requests and needs, but he was also mindful of Abraham’s requirements to accomplish his task.
After he met Rebekah and her family, he faithfully repeated to them his errand, detailing every aspect of his oath (see Genesis 24:34-41). A testament to the servant’s mindfulness in completing his task, he even refused their request to let Rebekah stay with her family a little longer:
“And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go. And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the LORD hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.”
Genesis 24:55-56 (KJV)
In order for us to be good servants, we must not only listen to our Master’s commands, but we must be mindful of how we go about our work for the Kingdom. Abraham’s servant carefully heeded each aspect of his oath to his master. Even though some might deem it unkind to not allow Rebekah to stay with her family a few more days, Abraham’s servant was persistent in fulfilling his task, mindful of the time and his master’s needs. Abraham’s son needed a wife, and it was his job to deliver on his task—pronto!
When we serve in the Kingdom, we must be mindful of how we go about our ministry and of how we answer to God’s commands, which brings us to the second quality Abraham’s servant displays.
Abraham’s servant was obedient to the letter. He swiftly went about finding his master’s son a wife and made sure she was of the same household as Abraham’s family as his master requested. Now, we know Abraham’s servant had a reputation of faithfully obeying his master because Abraham trusted this man with all of the goods of his house (see Genesis 24:2, 10). Over the course of the chapter, we see that Abraham’s servant was forthright as he set out to the well to find Isaac a wife and was very thorough. Before assuming Rebekah was the one God had chosen for his master’s son, Abraham’s servant watched Rebekah carefully and questioned her about her family:
“And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not…And [he] said, Whose daughter art thou?…And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor…And the man bowed his head, and worshipped the LORD. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”
Genesis 24:21, 23-24, 26-27 (KJV)
Abraham’s servant waited for confirmation to ensure Rebekah was the one God had appointed for Isaac, and then he praised God and continued with his task. A good servant obeys, yes, but a good servant must pay close attention to every detail to ensure complete obedience.
3. A Relationship with God
Finally, a good servant must commune with God. We see throughout chapter 24 of Genesis that Abraham’s servant regularly spoke to and praised God. In fact, he spoke to God and worshipped Him three times in this chapter, showing his trust in God and a thankful spirit.
First, Abraham’s servant surrendered the situation to God by asking God to show him the woman He had appointed for Isaac (see Genesis 24:12-14). Second, he praised God when he realized God had blessed his journey and led him to the right woman (see Genesis 24:26-27). Third, he worshipped God when Rebekah’s family released her to accompany him back to Abraham and marry Isaac:
“Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the LORD hath spoken. And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth.”
Genesis 24:51-52 (KJV)
Through each aspect of fulfilling his work, Abraham’s servant gave the glory to God and surrendered his task into God’s hands.
In order to become the child of God that He wants us to be, we have to start somewhere. Applying to our own lives the qualities that Abraham’s servant shows us will help us begin a foundation for building a healthy and strong relationship with God. When analyzing your own walk with Him, ask yourself these questions: Am I heeding and obeying God’s commands in my life? Am I faithful in my work in the Kingdom? Am I seeking the Lord faithfully? Have I given Him honor and worship for the things He’s done for me?
If we build a strong relationship with God and follow His guidance and instructions for our lives, then He will ultimately bless us with the greatest reward—hearing the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” as we enter into His Kingdom to be with our King for eternity.
What will it take for you to see God in your life?
In the book of John, we see two examples of Jesus healing two separate men—a lame man and a blind man—who both had opportunities to recognize Jesus as their God who had personally touched their lives. Only the blind man recognized God. As for the lame man, there is no record of his salvation, but there is record of his disobedience and lack of gratefulness. When we look at both accounts together, we can see from their differences how important it is to not only glorify and recognize God in our lives but to do whatever it takes so that we can see Him. There are at least two ways the lame man and the blind man differed.
1. They differed in their responses to their peers.
Both the lame man and the blind man were honest when answering the Jews’ questions about their healings, but the lame man cared more about the interests of his peers while the blind man was able to see through the Jews’ questioning and recognize their antagonistic motives.
“The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that is was Jesus, which had made him whole.”
John 5:10-15 (KJV)
“Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not….They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.”
John 9:10-12, 17 (KJV)
The now-healed lame man was at first unable to identify Jesus by name after he deferred blame to Him, but once he learned who it was who had healed him, he went back to the Jews to inform them that it was Jesus “which had made him whole.” The blind man appeared to care more about pleasing the Jews who were after Jesus than obeying Him. The healed blind man, however, knew Jesus by name and (inadequately) described Him as a prophet.
As they questioned him further, he discerned the Jews’ motives to catch Jesus and remained true to his testimony, refusing to be swayed by his interrogators. Pay attention to his response below:
“He answered, and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see….Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes….Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.”
John 9:25, 28-30, 32-33 (KJV)
The formerly blind man was now defending Jesus against the Pharisees’ accusation that Jesus was a sinner, discerning their attempts to disprove his story and smear Jesus. He pulled from his theological knowledge to expose the flaws in the Pharisees’ argument, confirming to them that if Jesus had been a sinner, He would not have been able to heal the blind man, proving that He was “of God.” The healed man’s bold and clever responses to the Pharisees resulted in them casting him out of the synagogue (ex: “They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out” [John 9:34, KJV]). Even though the healed man knew what might happen to him, he stood his ground against the Pharisees.
2. They differed in their responses to Jesus.
While both men initially obeyed Jesus’ instructions to be healed, the formerly lame man disobeyed Jesus later and failed to recognize who He is, whereas the formerly blind man responded to Jesus with both recognition and praise. Notice the blind man’s response to Jesus below:
“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.”
John 9:35-38 (KJV)
The now-healed man recognized Jesus as Lord and worshipped Him, eager to believe. When Jesus told the formerly lame man not to sin anymore, the man turned right back around and tattle-taled on Jesus to the Jews.
One man recognized Jesus as Lord, and the other man failed to see who Jesus is, and his information to the Jews resulted in the Jews’ plan to persecute and kill Jesus.
From both of these accounts, we can glean at least two lessons:
1.) We must value God and the things he wants from us above all things, even if it costs us.
2.) We must not forget to give Him the glory for all He’s done for us.
The formerly blind man recognized and praised Jesus even after the Pharisees had excommunicated him from the synagogue for his defense of Jesus, but the formerly lame man did not recognize or believe on Him. He placed more value in pleasing the Pharisees. In fact, he showed no interest in obeying or praising Jesus whatsoever, perhaps proving he was the true blind man as were the Pharisees for lacking spiritual vision (see John 9:39-41).
We may find ourselves going through the motions and doing what we’re told (as both men initially did when Jesus gave them instructions to be healed), but as we learn from the account of the lame man, we can still fall short of recognizing God at work in our lives.
Each day, we must look inside ourselves to ensure we are placing Jesus above all things in our lives. Getting closer to Jesus requires an attitude of willingness, devotion, dedication, and sacrifice. The kind of attitude that says, “No matter what it may cost me, I will stand by Jesus and testify of this truth.” The kind of attitude that makes us willing to remove anything that might keep us from recognizing Jesus. The kind of attitude that says, “I will do whatever it takes to follow and obey Him no matter what.”
If we want to see Jesus, we must devote ourselves to Him, give Him the glory, worship Him alone, and tell the world of His greatness.
No one likes their flaws exposed. We wrap ourselves in armor to protect our egos, but are we wrapping ourselves in the armor of God to protect our souls?
“You don’t want people seeing the chinks in your armor,” I wrote in a creative nonfiction class last year. “Chinks. What does that mean? A weak point, a place of vulnerability, an opening for an attack from the enemy. A minor flaw, so says the online dictionary, or weakness in a plate of armor. A detrimental flaw. A special flaw. There’s an interesting phrase. A special flaw. It’s a special point of weakness that directs the enemy where to attack an otherwise invulnerable person. Are you invulnerable?”
Vulnerability is something of which many of us afraid. After all, who welcomes an attack from the enemy with open arms? We don’t want to be vulnerable, but sometimes, we allow ourselves to become vulnerable when we do not take care of our spiritual well-being. One missing or weak link can be deadly.
In a history class on the Spanish Conquest in 2019, I held a coat of chainmail as my professor lectured on the weapons of the Conquest. It was a small section of a coat of chainmail—about a 12-inch square. Remembering my professor’s lecture, I later described in my essay for a creative nonfiction class how the Europeans manufactured the chainmail while they rested between battles: “A blacksmith would take thousands of tiny metal or steel rings and carefully interlink them by hand. A single coat of chainmail could take months to finish if a skilled blacksmith worked 10-hour days.” If the blacksmith didn’t do his job correctly, it could spell death for the unlucky soldier wearing the flawed coat of chainmail. I became so fascinated with the concept of the process of creating a coat of chainmail that I reflected on its significance—and spiritual parallels—even more in my own writing.
“You imagine the misery of knitting steel for a living in 90-degree weather with 60-percent humidity in the Yucatan Peninsula,” I wrote, “trying to get a piece of chainmail done for a hotshot conquistador so he’s a little more likely to survive the arrows or stabbing spears of the Mayans than the footman who came over for gold and glory with only a helmet and a crossbow….You imagine the fever of smallpox getting to you while linking those steel rings and skipping a section right where the coat will slip over the conquistador’s left shoulder. If the Maya or Aztec crossbowmen spot the opening, the glory-seeking conquistador won’t last long. One small missing chink in his armor, and the obsidian arrow blade will tear through the chainmail as though it were linen instead of steel. A special weakness.”
At this point, you may be wondering why I’m going on about the history of developing chainmail in the Spanish Conquest and including excerpts from my own writing. As a deeply private person, vulnerability has always been a relevant topic to me. Those of us who like to keep things close to the chest tend to guard ourselves with more caution. But there are times when we may all be guilty of caring more about preserving our pride than protecting ourselves from spiritual attacks.
When we’re not prepared and protected, we give the enemy an opportunity to attack. There are at least 3 things we can do to ensure our chainmail is not missing any links:
1.) Stay prayed up. 2.) Stay well-read. 3.) Stay clothed in the armor of God.
(11) “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (12) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (13) Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” ~Ephesians 6:11-13 (KJV)
Do we have on the helmet of salvation? Are we carrying the sword of the Spirit? How’s our daily Bible reading? Are we keeping up a daily prayer life?
The armor of God is necessary for our spiritual protection. We are warriors in the Lord’s army, and our battles are spiritual. Just as soldiers must keep their armor in its best condition to protect themselves from harm, so must we keep our armor in its best condition through daily prayer & Bible reading. This also requires frequent checkups of our armor to ensure we’re not missing a crucial piece.
If we aren’t maintaining our spiritual armor, then we are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks due to our own laziness or carelessness. Without a helmet on, we expose our minds to sinful thoughts. If our shield of faith is missing, then we expose ourselves to the enemy’s arrows.
Proper preparation and protection will help us repel the enemy’s attacks.
Though God is always with us to win the victory, we cannot use His protection as an excuse to be careless with the upkeep of our spiritual well-being.
We may labor under harsh conditions as the blacksmith labored in the Spanish Conquest to develop a flawless coat of chainmail, but our labor is not in vain when we approach our work with purpose and dedication.
We labor in the Kingdom, we pray, and we study the Word so that we can withstand the attack of the enemy, so that there are no chinks in our spiritual armor, so that there are no missing links in our coat of chainmail.
One missing link can be deadly.
So, examine yourself each day and ask this question: