SQUEEZED!

Most likely in countless bathrooms across this country, there are tubes of tooth paste mangled and distorted lying next to the sink.  Even when the tube has been completely flattened out, we still count on there being enough for one last brush, so we squeeze, fold and crimp for that little dab to come out.  You paid good money for it, so get as much out as you can.  We do that with other things as well, like those squeezable sour cream containers.  It says on the back, “Now you can squeeze a dollop of Daisy,” and we might as well because we paid for it. 

Many times in life, God does to us what we do to the tubes of tooth paste and sour cream, He squeezes us!  When those unexpected trials come and we experience affliction and deep pain, sometimes that’s God squeezing us to get more out of us.  And the truth is, we need that spiritual squeeze from time to time.  I’m certain that God has put more in you than what He is getting out of you.  Think about it, Job got squeezed.  Naomi got squeezed.  Paul got squeezed.  Jesus got squeezed on the cross by the weight of humanity’s sins.  

Some squeezable containers get clogged in the narrow openings, so they require being squeezed with a little more pressure.  And then there are some that stay free flowing all the time.  God wants you to be free flowing requiring only a touch, and the life of Jesus comes out.  That only happens by continual surrender and faithful obedience to His will.  Some wonder at what God is doing in their lives in times of hardship, and the answer is, He is trying to squeeze some Jesus love and Jesus mercy and Jesus goodness out of you.

Philippians 2:12-13 says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for [His] good pleasure.”  

You have the opportunity to work out what God has already put in you so He doesn’t have to squeeze it out.  Are you tender to His touch, or have you become hard and clogged up?  If you are a child of God, then He paid for you, so He feels free to get as much out of you as possible.  

“Holy Father, I lift up that person right now who is feeling the pressure of your squeeze.  God I know that deep pain and heartache, so I plead with you to speak to that person and give spiritual understanding to recognize you and give them power to surrender.  Father I pray that they will even recognize how they may be resisting you.  I pray that You will move on that person this moment and reveal Yourself to them.  Thank you, Father, for Your everlasting mercy and the sufficiency of Your grace.  Lord, we give ourselves to You and to the work of reflecting Christ to the world. This we ask in the name of Jesus, Amen.”  

BROKENNESS

For about a year, we lived with a broken ice maker in our refrigerator.  The ice maker worked, but it wouldn’t dispense the ice as it should.  Most things that are broken we just throw away without a second thought, and then there are some things that are broken that we just live with.  We throw broken things away because they lose their usefulness when they are broken.  God, on the other hand, is not that way.  Oftentimes He waits until we are broken before we become useful to Him.  You can be broken over sin or you can be broken over an act of denying the Lord around others.  You can be broken over the sin of others.  You can be broken over the lost condition of the world.  The brokenness that makes us useful and is actually a blessing comes from an attitude of heart that expresses complete lostness without Christ.  It’s an attitude that recognizes our total dependence on Him.  It’s the attitude Jesus promoted when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  —Matthew 5:3  There is a blessing in our brokenness.  It may sound strange, but brokenness produces a greater longing for God like nothing else.  When you long for someone, you desperately want to be with them.  Mary Magdalene was broken standing and weeping outside of the empty tomb.  Jesus had delivered her from seven demons, and from that point on, her life was wrapped up in His life, but in that moment, He was gone.  Can you imagine how messed up her life was until Jesus delivered her?  Now she was hopelessly stuck without Christ.  This is a picture of what it looks like to be broken before God, desperately longing for Him.  Praise God that He is not unresponsive to our longings for Him.  The very moment you begin to move towards God, He begins to move towards you.  “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” —James 4:8.  Nothing else will draw God towards you like a broken heart longing for His presence.  Brokenness produces a desperate longing God responds to by drawing near.  Jesus didn’t just draw near to Mary, but He revealed Himself to Mary at the empty tomb.  The longing of your heart will draw God near, and He delights in revealing Himself to you.  This is what He wants for us.  He wants us to recognize Him even though we might not initially.  Mary thought He was the gardener at first.  But when He called her name, “Mary,” she knew it was Him.  Don’t you know God wants to reveal Himself to those who are longing for Him?  Is that you?  The blessing of being broken is seeing God!  Mary went and told the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”  This should be the words of believers today, “I have seen the Lord.”  But that declaration only comes from those who are broken.  You may see God in general like in nature or in the way other people act, but when you have an encounter with Him like Mary did, you will become a witness for Him who says, “I have seen the Lord!”  When was the last time you said that to someone?  When was the last time your encounter with God was so personal that you began to tell others like Mary did?  Oh, how we need a revival of brokenness that produces a longing for our God.  The next time you see something broken, be reminded of the heart God blesses.

DISTINGUISHED

Distinguished! That word is usually used to describe someone whose clothing fashion sets them apart from everyone else. Their fashion may not be flashy, but it is classy and catches the eye of the lookers. Distinguished also describes someone who has excelled in a specific field of study and research. There’s nothing wrong with being distinguished. In fact, being distinguished is God’s desire for you and me. We should be distinguished spiritually, not in some way that draws attention to us, but in a way that draws people to Christ. What is it that sets you apart from others? What sets you apart from those you attend church with? In all reality, your strong faith expressed in surrendered obedience to Him is the only thing that will distinguish you spiritually. It’s not your voice or ability to speak or even your faithful attendance to the Lord’s house that sets you apart. Others can teach, preach, sing and serve, but a strong faith and surrendered obedience distinguishes you. Hebrews 11 is filled with spiritually distinguished people. God is faithfully calling you to a life of faith and obedience, and not just to set you apart, but this is God’s way of providing the abundant life He promised. Without faith followed by obedience, the abundant life will be a spiritual mirage and being distinguished will only be a dream. Look at what it says about Joshua’s counterpart in Numbers 14:24 “But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” Caleb was distinguished because he trusted God when other men didn’t. Anyone can be different, but only a few will be spiritually distinguished. God is calling you to be among the few.

Growling to be Growling

Our little dog Raschal is a growling dog. He growls more than any dog I’ve been around, but he doesn’t bite. That probably describes some people you know. I can pet Raschal and he growls almost to say, “Don’t touch me.” I was letting him out at around 4 a.m. recently and right when he walks out he starts growling. There should be something to growl out rather than to start growling to be growling, but he does. I’ve seen him go into the yard and pick up a scent and he starts growling. It is obviously in his nature to growl and that’s what some people do. They growl because it’s in their nature and they don’t need much of a cause to growl and express their disapproval. What’s really crazy is that Raschal growls at me and I’m the one who helps take care of him and provides for him. All his growling tells me it doesn’t register with him that I am the one who provides for him.
It’s no difference between us and our God. Our growling is our grumbling and complaining and often times we don’t need a lot to get it going. For some complaining is their song and they sing it like a song that gets stuck in your heard and can’t get it out. What happens for most of us is that we can’t even hear ourselves complaining, and on top of that, we get those around us to join in part harmony with our Blues. So let me ask you, do you know how God feels about our complaining? He takes it personal like parents do the whining of their children. The good news is you can sing another song. Paul said, “Do all things without complaining and disputing,.. Philippians 2:14-15 (NKJV). You can stop complaining cold turkey. How? Who doesn’t complain? People who are filled with the Holy Spirit. Their song is one of thanksgiving so ask God to fill you to the point you change songs.

God is Good!

God is Good! Everything God does or allows is good because there is eternal and redeeming purpose behind every action. Because of the trials we experience in life we can wonder and doubt this truth. Not everything feels good or appears good but by faith we can trust that somewhere and somehow there is good in it and behind it and will come from it. If you only look at the surface of a trial this truth is only confusing, but when we look below the surface, God is moving. The devil wants you to be a surface Christian but our faith takes us below. Joseph told his brothers “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” Joseph didn’t know that immediately, but he came to know it in time and watching God work in his life. How has God been working in your life? Is there adversity or tragedy? Is there struggle and hardship? Have you asked God to show you what is below the surface?When things look like they’re falling apart that is God’s way of putting them together and at the same time using that trial to pull you closer to Him. How sad is it when the trial comes, but the child of God doesn’t. Every trial is Gods bullhorn for us to draw near. God is good! Psalms 107:1-2 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for [He is] good! For His mercy [endures] forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say [so,] Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,…

No Exemptions

Because there are no exemptions, you will need to learn to use the exceptions. Look at this: [“We are] hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed–2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NKJV). If you can find these two very special words the apostle Paul used to keep his head up and eyes focused on his mission, you’ll do ok in life. The words are, “yet” and “but.” You may be exempt from some things in life and may have an exempt licenses plate, but you are not exempt from the harsh realities of life. You are going to get hit with what everyone else gets hit with. It doesn’t matter what your social or economic status is or how spiritual you are, or how many Bible verses you’ve memorized, you will be tempted to lose heart and give up. “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.” 2 Corinthians 4:1.

Paul had a unique ability to find a positive in every negative. This is our challenge today, to find a positive in the negative circumstances of life. You also have that ability if you will at least try. You may be facing a negative circumstance right now, so what is one possible positive? You may have lost your job, but you still have the ability to work. You may be abandoned, but God is still with you. You may be crippled physically, but you can still reach the Father. You may be abused, but healing is available from the Lord. The whole point is to do whatever you need to do so you don’t lose heart. Everyone may be against you, but God is still for you. You may have hit rock bottom, but you can still look up. There is an exception for whatever you are dealing with today. This is not making light of the horrendous situations people find themselves in, but hopefully you can find some kind of encouragement in this truth. Find your “yet” and your “but” and you’ll be able to keep moving with your purpose in life. You’ve been given something amazing, don’t let negative circumstances kill your God-given mission with the gospel.

You Wore that Yesterday

“And I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet.” Deuteronomy 29:5 (NKJV) I don’t know about you but I’ve worn the same shirt and pants two days in a row. And it’s ok especially if you’re not going to see the same people as the day before. Am I wrong? Am I the only one? I don’t think so. Now when you start wearing the same clothes more than two days in a row, there may be a problem. God performed a fashion miracle for the Hebrews coming out of bondage and wandering for 40 years in the wilderness. Their clothes didn’t fade like ours do and didn’t wear thin for wearing them too much. The women were not checking each other out because they wore on year 20 the same thing they wore every day on the first year of their wandering. Can you imagine? But what’s the point, right? How does this speak to us? It should speak to us about the detailed care and faithfulness of God. But here’s the point, in the Old Testament God put something on His people that would be preserved for all those years, but in the New Testament God put something in us to preserve us. 2 Corinthians 4:16 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man(flesh) is perishing, yet the inward man(spirit) is being renewed day by day.” You may be wearing out physically, but God’s spirit is due for a renewal. Ask God to let you experience the renewal today. You have been clothed with a never aging Spirit that lives in you. You renew everything else, be renewed in your spirit. Renew your strength. Renew your hope and joy. Renew your love and devotion to God. Renew your faith and vision. He lives in us to renew us!

Jaws of Life

During the years I worked for the Smith County Sheriff’s department, there were a few times I was dispatched to the scene of an accident for traffic control.  One accident I remember vividly was a vehicle so mangled, the Fire Department had to use the jaws of life to get the people out for medical treatment.  They were hopelessly trapped without the right tool.  You don’t have to be in an accident to feel hopelessly trapped.  Some people feel trapped in relationships or trapped in a dead-end job.  You can get trapped in the middle of a conflict you had nothing to do with, and you can get trapped financially in a pile of debt that you had everything to do with.  Trapped people don’t think right!  Trapped people often panic and run or they come up with a plan of escape that only makes things worse.  Another reaction to being trapped is to give up and just accept where you are and live in defeat.  But please listen, if this is you, this is not God’s plan for your life.  How many people do you think are out there who are trapped and think there is no way out? Before you answer, think about what happened to God’s people after they had been delivered from their bondage in Egypt.  Pharaoh’s army pursued the Hebrews to the Red Sea.  It says in Exodus 14:3 “For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They [are] bewildered by the land, the wilderness has closed them in.”
Pharaoh believed the Hebrew slaves were trapped and the Hebrews believed they were trapped and about to die. With their wildest imagination the Hebrews never envisioned that that big body of water behind them splitting open would be their escape route, but it did!  Just because you can’t see a way out where you are, doesn’t mean there’s not one. All the Hebrews had to do was, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”  You are not trapped.  God has the jaws of life and can make a way when there is no way.  Call on Him.  Cry out to Him until He parts the waters where you are.  Then give Him glory, praise and honor.  

You Are in a Battle!

Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” 1 Samuel 30:6 (NKJV). When David and his men returned from battle to Ziklag they found their homes burned and families taken by the Amalakites. Those men with Dav believing he was to blame. But in the form of a true leader, David didn’t argue with those men and he didn’t give up, nor did he fall into self-pity, but he “strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” How amazing is that? Maybe you’ve been there when it feels like everyone around you has turned on you, and those who have encouraged you in the past just aren’t there for you now. Sometimes you can’t reach out because there’s nothing and no one to reach out to, but you can always reach in and reach up. If you feel all alone, this word is for you. If you feel weak, this word is for you. If you feel confused and not sure what to do, start strengthening yourself in the Lord. David couldn’t afford to give up and neither can we. David had wives that had been taken captive and the families of his men had been taken as well. Those men with David didn’t need to stone him, they needed to strengthen him. That is another the message here, the leader you feel like stoning right now, could be the very one you need to strengthen. But if you are the leader, please listen, those around you need you to strengthen yourself right now. Do it especially if you don’t feel like it! Put your feelings to the side and start talking to yourself. It may sound strange, but if you will start telling yourself what God has already said about you, then you will experience God’s strength rising up in you. Start right here, right now.

I am a child of the most High King.

I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me.

Greater is He that is in me, than he who is in the world.

I am standing strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

My weapons are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.

No weapon formed against me will prosper.

I have all I need in me to get the victory today.

My enemy comes against me with swords and spear, but I have come in the name of the LORD of hosts.

I am an overcomer because of the blood of the lamb and the word of my testimony.

No matter what, I have the victory through Jesus.

Now listen to this, the devil is trying to convince you that you are anything but those things. But listen, you need to strengthen yourself in the Lord because there is still something for you to do. Just like David had to go rescue his wives and those families, there’s still a battle in front of you, so win the battle where you are. God has called you and equipped you to win the battle with yourself so you can win the battle against the enemy.

Getting Spiritual Traction

Driving through a pasture after a fishing trip with my grandson I knew there was a soft soggy patch with high grass I had to drive through. I was pretty confident we could get through it because we had driven through it on our way to the pond. My half ton Chevy was light but with good tires and the right speed I felt pretty good. As I approached the soggy patch I gripped my stirring wheel, set up straight and picked up my speed, but that wasn’t enough. Halfway through the patch I could feel my speed slowing down even though my foot on the pedal was steady. Finally my truck stopped moving, but my wheels were still spinning. What happened to us in that pasture is what happens to so many people in life, the wheels are spinning, but you’re not going anywhere. I tried to rock it, reverse then drive, and a few other things, but I couldn’t get any traction. The truth is, you will never be able to get spiritual traction until you realize you are stuck. I hated to do it, but I called Mike who was there within a minutes. Mike hooked us up to his truck and pulled us out. We thanked him and went on our way. In your life there must be someone like Mike. He was close, he came with just a call and had exactly what we needed to get unstuck. The entire army of Israel was stuck in battle 40 days against the Philistines because Goliath was in the valley. Each morning that came out shouting as they lined up for battle, but no one moved. They were spinning their wheels in fear and they did that until the day a shepherd boy named David showed up. “Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung [it] and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth.” I Samuel 17:49 NKJV. If for some reason you are stuck and spinning your wheels in life know that help is available. Stop trying to rock your life back and forth you’ll only sink deeper. Call on Jesus! He will come and He will have what it takes to get you free again.

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