We must never forget to pray for the persecuted. The majority of readers of this blog live in areas of the world where we have at least some degree of freedom to worship God. We should always remember to be extremely thankful for this, but we must never take it for granted. In many parts of the world, to follow Jesus is to risk losing one’s friends, family, employment, housing, freedom, or even their life. It’s a reality they live with every day.

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In many countries, to choose Jesus is truly to risk everything. We who do not face such pressure can barely relate. It is imperative we move beyond simple head knowledge of persecution, and internalize it. When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer (1 Corinthians 12:26). We must never forget to pray for the persecuted.

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I once read our excess money is given to us to share with others. This is something I’ve tried to incorporate into my own life because I feel there is good Biblical precedence for it. Early Christ followers shared all they had with each other (Acts 4:32-35). This seems to go even beyond simply giving away our excess. In the Old Testament, God gave laws commanding people to not harvest the edges of their fields so the poor could come and get some food for their families (Leviticus 23:22).

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Jesus told us not to hoard our wealth (Luke 12:16-21). The next question I generally get when discussing this is, “How do I determine how much is excess?” To me, this question is always the result of a scarcity mindset.

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There is a time thief lurking in all of our lives. Time is our most precious asset. You cannot acquire more than you’ve been given. We each have a finite amount that dwindles by the second. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Yet so many of us treat time as if there is a never ending supply. We spend our time foolishly on the nonsensical and irrelevant.

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What if we spent our money the same way we spent our time? It would be the equivalent of throwing cash out the window every second of our day. If we are not intentional about our time, a time thief will steal away what God has entrusted to us. We all have a time thief; what’s yours?

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One of the key concepts I want to establish through the blog this year is mediocrity is not acceptable in the Kingdom of God. Jesus, the perfect Creator of all the beauty you see in this world didn’t do a mediocre job of anything. None of His creation even hints at mediocrity. Even now He continues to make all things new. He continues to create. How many times have you looked at a sunset you felt certain was more beautiful than any you had seen before?

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Jesus continues to create beauty even in a dark and evil world. He continues to bring His best to every day we live. Do we not owe Him the same effort with our own lives? After all, we belong to Him. Mediocre simply can’t be good enough. We’ve got to strive to be better in ways that will bring Him glory. We can’t sit idling; we’ve got to move the needle in our commitment to God.

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As a year wilts away behind us, another blossoms on the path ahead. There’s something beautiful and fragrant about new beginnings. A new year heralds an opportunity for a fresh start. What was is no longer, and what will be is largely up to the choices we will make. This is our chance to shape what lies ahead in ways totally honoring to God. My theme for this year is “Move the Needle”, and nowhere will this be more important than in my walk with God.

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Everything revolves around and springs from my relationship with Him. Moving forward into a deeper knowledge of God necessitates doing something different than we’ve done before. If this is your desire for the new year as well, there is one thing I know. If we want to move the needle in our connection with and understanding of God, we can’t stay here.

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I recently wrote a blog post about personalizing the armor of God for yourself (see, “The Armor of God”).  During my time of study this morning I was given some new insights which excited me and I hope will prove useful to you as well. The idea came while listening to Bruxy Cavey teach about using the morning ritual of getting dressed as a reminder to pray for certain things.

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It clicked in my mind we could pray through putting on the armor of God as we actually put on our own clothing. I’m going to walk through this so you can see a practical example of what praying through putting on the armor of God might look like.

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We just completed a season of Advent. The word advent simply means “coming.” More specifically in Christian circles it means the coming of Christ. We celebrate Advent at Christmas time in memory of Christ coming to earth as a baby who would grow up to die for our sins. Now this season has passed, we look forward to a new season of advent.This is the second advent, the second coming of Jesus.

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With Christmas in our rear view mirror, we now turn our focus for the next year to building His Kingdom on earth in preparation for His return. This is the future advent. While we celebrate the Advent of His birth in memory of what He did, we celebrate the Advent of His coming again in honor and praise for what He has yet to do.

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I don’t know when you are reading this, but as I write it, Christmas is less than a week away. That means it’s somewhat obligatory I write a Christmas themed post. I know this because every sermon I’ve listened to for the past month (and I listen to a lot of sermons; call it a job hazard!) have all been around the Christmas story. Therefore, since I am a Christian writer, I apparently need to write about Christmas. But here’s the problem: regular readers of this blog already know all about the Christmas story.

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You’ve heard the same messages I have over the years. If we’re honest, it is rare we hear something in a new way this time of year. So instead of focusing on the Christmas story and trying to find some new twist to illuminate a story that cannot possibly be improved, I’m going to ask you a simple question: What will you do with Christmas?

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Those of you who work retail understand that particular career field has a way of destroying the wonder of Christmas. I’m twenty years removed from more than a decade of retail management, and I confess I think I am only now beginning to fully recover. To all of you in retail I want you to know I truly understand why this time of year may no longer be overly special for you.

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You are more likely pulling your hair out (or fantasizing about pulling out the hair of certain customers!) than you are experiencing the magnificent peace of the season. If you could hit pause for just a couple minutes, I’d like the opportunity to remind you of what an amazing time of year this is, and to hopefully help reorient your focus on the true reason for the season.

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That there is victory in surrender is one of the great mysteries of following Jesus. Almost everything about the life Jesus lived seems upside down and counterintuitive, but perhaps nothing more than this. Who wins by surrendering? History books are not written about those who waved the white flag, but about the conquering heroes and nations. We grow up daydreaming about being the champion, the victor, and the overcomer.

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No one dreams of being the one who grows up to surrender. But it is exactly to this Jesus calls us. In fact, He makes it pretty clear unless we are willing to surrender everything, He won’t be able to do much with our lives.

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