What’s Holding You Back?

A while after our beloved standard poodle, Margaux, passed away, we knew it was time for another dog. However, we just didn’t have it in us to train up another puppy. An opportunity presented itself for us to rescue a four-year-old male standard poodle. And so, Remy entered our lives. When he came to live with us, we immediately noticed a lack of muscle tone and instability at times. Remy was also unable to stand on his hind legs when we supported his front legs on our shoulders. We learned Remy was confined for long periods during his early years.

What about us? How often do we put ourselves in chains? Or, confine and hold ourselves back?

What are the chains in your life holding you back?

  • Fear—you don’t want to appear foolish or you don’t want to fail
  • Insecurity—you allow negative thoughts or a poor self-image to dictate your actions
  • Circumstances—you’re busy with family or your job is demanding or the children are too young
  • Lack—you cave in to your perception of inadequate ability, education, or resources
  • Time pressures—or is it just plain laziness?

Those excuses also place the blame on someone or something else rather than squarely on our shoulders. And, we allow our excuses to cage us in and restrain us, not allowing the Lord to use us.

Scripture offers an alternative response which we glean from the imprisonment of the Apostle Paul. Imprisoned several times, including in Rome from approximately AD 60-62, Paul considered himself an ambassador in chains (Ephesians 6:20). Acts 28:16 informs us soldiers guarded Paul, and verse 20 states, “I am bound with this chain.” The custom at that time was to bind a short length of chain to both the wrist of the prisoner and the wrist of a soldier—thus providing no means of escape.

Shackled at the wrist to a guard, enduring beatings, along with his physical limitations, Paul did not allow these circumstances to hold him back. He used this situation to promote the gospel.

Philippians 1:12-14 (NIV) describes Paul acknowledging his chains with furthering the kingdom, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”

During that era, it was common practice to write letters with the assistance of a scribe. Envision Paul sending for a scribe, pacing in his cell while chained to his guard, with the clanging of chains, as he’s dictating his letters. During his imprisonment in Rome, Paul wrote what are known as “The Prison Epistles”—letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Even though Paul dictated his letters to a scribe, he wrote the final greetings, a trademark of his letters, in his own hand. Imagine the reverberating clink and clank of Paul’s chain, tethering him to a guard, as he clumsily signed his letters. Letters that would be added to the canon of Scripture.

Remy’s previous owners had held him back, and our hearts filled with joy when we watched him running in the back yard, playing fetch, and growing stronger every day. He just needed release from the captivity of a cage.

Father God, Allow me to make the most of what I have and not allow excuses to constrain me. I don’t want chains holding me back any longer. Please use me Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Colossians 4:18 (NIV): “I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”

2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV): “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

2 Timothy 2:9a-10 (NIV): “But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.”

© 2017 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

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All the Time in the World?

Nervously clicking the “submit” button, I realized I was holding my breath. Slowly, I exhaled, aware of the importance of what I had just done. This was a sizeable step of faith for me as I submitted my first Christian article for publication. Although I’ve always had a passion for writing, I had done nothing about going public with it until several years ago. What changed my mind?

As I’ve gotten older the reality strikes me that I don’t have much time left. In fact, none of us know when our days on earth may be over. Yet, simultaneously, being newly retired, I also have all the time in the world these days. What a lovely paradox.

I have all this time, but at the same moment, time is short.

With my remaining years I’m compelled to make a difference. As I’ve aged, my priorities have changed and my internal urgency for evangelism and discipleship of others has heightened. The Bible describes this divine compulsion—Jeremiah 20:7-9 details the inner struggle the prophet Jeremiah had when he sunk into discouragement, reluctant to continue proclaiming God’s message, as he had suffered for it when he did. However, Jeremiah’s inner drive kept him obedient and pushed him on. “But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9, NIV) Proclaiming God’s Word was an intense motivation for Jeremiah.

Additionally, in Acts 4:20 we find the apostles Peter and John stating, “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard,” (NIV) in front of the Sanhedrin. This must have been an intimidating experience for them, but they testified they absolutely could not stop speaking about what they had seen and heard while with Jesus. Again, that divine compulsion to make public the good news of Jesus Christ.

Likewise, God’s Spirit in me compels me to undertake this pursuit and proclaim His Word through my writing. What is the Lord nudging you to do? Is your passion sharing the love of Jesus with young children? Are you a talented singer who needs to use your ability in worship at church? Or, do you need to open your home and facilitate a Bible study? Don’t ignore your inner voice spurring you on and stretching you beyond what you feel is possible; because, it’s by His Spirit you will accomplish great things for Him. Savor and invest wisely your allotted days.

The Lord is coming soon. I enjoy joking it’s not about whether your beliefs are pre- or post-tribulation rapture, but rather, in all seriousness, the importance of being pre-pared. Time is short. I hunger for my family and friends to know of and about our Lord Jesus Christ.

Father God, Our time is short and I know you desire me to use it wisely to advance your kingdom. Please show me how to further the gospel and where I need to commit the time to do so. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Psalm 90:10 (NIV): “The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”

Romans 12:11 (NIV): “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

2 Corinthians 5:14 (NIV): “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”

© 2017 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

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Steer Toward the Shore

“… But a [woman] of understanding keeps a straight course.” (Proverbs 15:21b, NIV)

During a recent vacation we decided to try our hand at some different water sports.Steer Toward the Shore Spying several Hobie Cats lined up on the beach, my husband exclaimed, “I’ve always wanted to sail one of those,” to which I replied, “Absolutely!” A Hobie Cat is a small sailing catamaran, and before the rental facility allowed us to take it out, a short sailing lesson is a requirement of theirs. Venturing out into the calm bay, we learned how to steer straight, and our instructor established the boundaries of where they permitted us to take the boat. Next, it was time to practice turning our Hobie Cat.

In order to have smooth sailing we quickly learned it was all about the turns—always turn toward the shore, take your time so you’ll go in the correct direction, and let the wind guide you.

As we became more proficient in our sailing skills our confidence increased, we relaxed, and we had a marvelous time out on the water.

While making headway around the bay, I discovered many parallels between sailing and serving the Lord in works He prepared in advance for us. Just as we allowed the wind to guide us, it’s essential to submit to the Holy Spirit and seek His guidance and direction in where we are to serve. He discloses His way to us if we listen to Him. Furthermore, our sailing instructor told us not to sail outside of certain boundaries, illustrating why it’s critical not to take on more than what the Spirit wants you to do. It gets troublesome and we run the risk of burnout if we venture too far out of His will/boundaries for us.

Faithfully staying the course in ministry is necessary as others are counting on you. We need to commit to a particular course and stay on it through focusing and intentionally doing what God has designed for us. Just as we can capsize the boat if we take too quick or fancy of a turn, it can get messy when we go in different directions. Proverbs 4:25 (NIV) exhorts us to, “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.” Sometimes it’s possible to lose focus of the goal, so it’s important to steer a steady course toward it. The Proverb continues with, “Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil” in verse 27.

Finally, we know the importance of a safe completion of the journey, landing the boat where we’re supposed to go. Navigating toward the shore, and not giving up, ensures we will present our best to the Lord.

I felt freedom and peace out there on the water, but I knew we were under control—God’s control—as He brought us in to shore.

Father God, I pray for the wind of your Holy Spirit to point me in the proper direction for where you want me to spend my time in service and ministry. Please grant me focus and intentionality serving in those areas, and help me to strongly finish those tasks. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Romans 8:5 (NIV): “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

Galatians 5:25 (NIV): “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Ephesians 4:14 (NIV): “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”

Hebrews 12:1b (NIV): “… Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

© 2016 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

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Squandering a Lead

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV)

Here in the south college football is king—particularly the SEC.squandering-a-lead Our alma mater, which we watch and root for, happens to bear the colors of maroon and white and has a handsome collie dog, Reveille, as its mascot. What is it about our team, or do other teams do the same thing? All of a sudden, with fans behind them and millions viewing on TV, they start running out of oomph in the fourth quarter. They don’t finish strong. Why do we vigorously give our best in something and then all of a sudden we falter and fail?

Numerous times in my life, I’ve taken on an endeavor that starts out with a bang with which I later grow weary. More often than I care to admit, I give it up, take some time off, and then turn my attentions to something new. I realize our Lord takes us through different seasons, and our circumstances and focus will shift as He directs, but all too often my mind wanders and a lackadaisical attitude starts slipping in. That’s when I’m vulnerable and easily sacked.

Or, we’re going strong and arrogance muscles in. Usually we’re thinking a particular project is impressive—wow, look what I did! Our reliance on God lessens as we perform in our own power. Taking credit for ourselves for what God has done, it usually doesn’t take long to start fumbling.

Why do we squander our lead? Is it due to pride and thinking we have everything under control? Or, are we simply lazy?

Today’s scripture passage sets the stage of an athletic stadium filled with former champions of the faith, including Abraham and Moses, cited in Hebrews 11. I refer to them as the Faithful Hall of Fame, and they’re not merely spectators, but examples for us, exhorting us to give our best. They are cheering us on!

The writer instructs us to get rid of the encumbrances that get in the way. Just as the opposing team tackles us and keeps a hold on us until we’re down, sin is waiting to snare us. The enemy doesn’t want us to finish and he will use any means to distract us, including pride and difficulties. Sin is a heavy weight that slows us down and clings to us. A winning team throws off the opposition when being tackled.

Whether you’re envisioning a track and field event or a football game, the calling of an athlete is to exhibit endurance, to stay the course, and to finish strong. Strong athletes don’t abandon the game, but rather grind it out. Also, we can’t assume victory. The race requires stamina and we are to remain faithful, as our Christian saints who went before us did.

Remaining centered and concentrating on Jesus Christ, we will find Him as our source of strength and ability. He alone mobilizes us in our race. Pride and looking to do the task in our own power just doesn’t work. We complete the pass when Jesus is our quarterback.

Only prayer, abiding in God’s Word, and relying on the Holy Spirit will disqualify the opposition. The enemy wants us to become careless and not give our best, and eventually give up. Let’s remember what Jesus suffered for us and stay focused on Him. His opposition was hostile.

Kickoff has occurred. Now we need to catch the pass, run with the ball, and cross the finish line. Touchdown!

Father God, I submit my intentions to you. I cannot run this race without you as my champion. Help me when I grow lethargic or prideful. I do this for you and I desire to complete the task and finish strong—I do not want to squander my lead. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Proverbs 16:18 (NIV): “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV): “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

Hebrews 6:12 (NIV): “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”

Hebrews 10:36 (NIV): “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”

© 2016 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

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If Only

Earlier in my adult life it seemed the “if onlys” filled many of my days:If I Only Had a

If only my husband traveled less.

If only I had a bigger house.

If only there was more money left over after paying the bills.

If only I was physically stronger.

My thinking was if all those things were in order, then I could effectively serve God.


Are you allowing your circumstances to stifle how God wants you to serve?

If we wait until everything lines up and is in order, we’ll never get anything done. God places us where He wants us, and it’s up to us to take advantage of available opportunities. Granted, there will always be conditions or surroundings we’d like to alter, but I’m heartened with what the Apostle Paul shares with the early church at Philippi: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11b-12, NIV)

Satan delights in hindering us through our circumstances. It was difficult back in the years when my husband traveled extensively for business. After many episodes of frustration, we learned to keep a detailed calendar and arrange opportunities to serve, along with setting aside precious family time, to fit in our schedule. It didn’t always work out how we would prefer on all occasions, but God was faithful to provide.

Maybe your house is small and you’re uncomfortable hosting a Bible study, small group meeting, or having the pastor over for dinner. We recently downsized our home, and yes, I do have to gather extra chairs around our family room when people come over, but it works. Through this I’ve learned people have a higher comfort level when everything isn’t perfect. Be encouraged to go ahead and take those important steps of hospitality even if the house isn’t just right.

Money woes and physical issues, along with all the other “if onlys,” take away from and delay us in living fully as God intended. Am I grateful for where God has placed me, including all the circumstances of my life, and for the unique works He has created just for me? Colossians 2:7 (NIV) exhorts me to be, “rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

I know God has situated me exactly where He wants me. I must secure a strong foundation by strengthening my faith and abounding with gratitude. I’m able to firmly root myself by accepting the works He has prepared for me to do no matter what I think my situation is or what I want it to look like.

Father God, Please enable me to remove my attitude of “if only” and replace it with an attitude of “what’s possible.” Thank you for placing me exactly where you want me with my unique set of circumstances. May my life bring you glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

1 Corinthians 7:17 (ISV): “Nevertheless, everyone should live the life that the Lord gave him and to which God called him. This is my rule in all the churches.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV): “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

© 2016 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

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