Monthly Archives: September 2019

Stuck In Your Story

My friend tells people, “Don’t get stuck in your story,” when someone is constantly living in the past. You’re stuck in your story when you allow your past pain to rob you of your present. Yes, it happened. Yes, it was and is painful, but if you allow it to consume you, it will rob you of a life that God wants to give you. I spent a lot of time living in the pain of the past instead of in the present. I couldn’t seem to get unstuck. The pain was becoming my identity, so I grew to need it. What I didn’t realize was that it had caused me to quit paying attention to my present and stopped all my progress. I didn’t get unstuck until a friend looked me in the eye and said, “You’ve given up and you’re in a rut. This isn’t who you are, and I don’t want to see you like this.” All of a sudden I saw that I was stuck and I decided to make changes to get unstuck.

In Isaiah 43:18-19, God says, “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present” (MSG). If we keep living in past pains, we will miss what God is trying to do now. I can tell you that the pain of your past can be used for good once you allow yourself to heal. I don’t know why we have to go through painful times that feel like they’re going to crush us. I do know that it’s part of God’s process in getting us to His promise. Just like a grape that’s crushed can never become wine unless it’s moved from the press to the vat, you and I can never fulfill our purpose until we move from the pain to the next part of the process.

Everyone has a past. Everyone. But everyone also has a present. Everyone. If you’re stuck in your story, you can’t move on to the next part of the process that God is trying to do in your life. Acknowledge your pain. It’s real. It happened, but if you live there going over it over and over, you will never heal. Change your routine. Change your habits. Stop dwelling on what happened. You can’t change that. You can change your future though if you will be present in this moment and ask God to help you move to the next part of the process. Everything that’s happened in your life can be used for your good. God wants to do a new thing in your life, but you have to get unstuck and be present for Him to do it. He will make rivers in your desert and bring new life to the dry places of your life.

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When Plans Fail

When I was in high school, I had figured out what I wanted to be and had planned it out. After high school, things happened and that plan went out the window. Several years later, I got married and began to plan my life out again. When those plans fell through, I found myself bankrupt and divorced. Each time things happened, I didn’t quit planning, I just had to make adjustments to the plan because I hadn’t calculated in set backs and going through hard times. I realize that these are things you can’t plan for, but I’ve also learned that plans rarely go the way they’re made. When things go off course from the way I envisioned them, God is still at work in my life and He still has a plan that has calculated all these things into it.

Life is not a matter of if things go wrong, it’s a matter of when. No one is excluded from bad things happening, plans falling through and going through hard times. But we have a promise from God that when things don’t go according to our plan, He’s right there with us going through the process by our side. He’s also promised that He won’t let those times overtake us. Looking back at those times in my life, I can see God’s hand at work and the course corrections He was making. It’s these promises that I now hold onto when I go through them again. Even though my plans fail, God never does. He’s there with us in the hardest of times even though it’s difficult to see Him in those moments.

Here are some Bible verses I hold onto when things don’t go as planned.

1. When I had nothing, desperate and defeated, I cried out to the Lord and he heard me, bringing his miracle-deliverance when I needed it most.

Psalms 34:6 TPT

2. You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

Matthew 5:3 MSG

3. To this very moment we go hungry and thirsty; we are clothed in rags; we are beaten; we wander from place to place; we wear ourselves out with hard work. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are insulted, we answer back with kind words.

1 Corinthians 4:11-13 GNT

4. Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.

1 Peter 4:12-13 MSG

5. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

Isaiah 43:2 NLT

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Winning Impossible Battles

In II Chronicles 20, a huge army invaded southern Israel. The king and all the people were terrified because they had defeated several strongholds easily. He begged God for help and asked others to pray with him. It sounds a lot like any one of us when we are facing something that seems impossible to beat. Fear is our first response, then we beg God for help. I believe what follows in this story is something we can all learn from in these moments in life.

The first thing that happened was King Jehoshaphat got like minded people together, fasted and prayed. We are not to fight these battles alone. Fear’s goal is to intimidate you and to push you into seclusion. Don’t let it! There is strength in numbers and in fasting. Get a group of people around you who can fight on their knees and touch God with you. This first step is critical if you’re going to win an impossible battle.

In verses 15-17, God answered those praying. The Word of the Lord came back saying, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (NLT). Things only seem impossible when God is not in the equation. The battles we face are not our own, but they are God’s. We don’t have to be afraid or discouraged at the sheer impossibility of anything that comes our way because God goes before us.

As the army of Israel approached the battlefield, Jehoshaphat spoke in verse 20 and reminded them, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets and you will succeed.” Faith will help us to stand firm when standing is all we can do. We can trust in God, and in His Word, to get the courage to keep standing in the face of impossibilities. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to continue to trust God and His Word until we can see the victory.

Finally, the king appointed singers to praise God and he sent them out in front. At the very moment they began to sing, the Lord gave victory. We need to be able to praise God in advance of victory. We need to honor Him when all else seems to be going wrong. Praise is powerful. It activates our faith and moves our God. If you can’t find it in you to praise, play praise music until you do. Victory is dependent on God, not us. We can praise Him for that. Our impossible battles are no match for a God who says all things are possible.

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Waiting On The Lord

If you know me, I live a very busy life. I’m constantly on the run doing things and going places. My days are fairly structured so I can fit everything in that I need to. The problem is living like that over long periods of time can be exhausting both physically and mentally. It feels like you’re burning the candle at both ends. Some days, I wake up and pray, “Can’t I just sleep in today, Lord?” What I’ve found though, is that I get refreshed and recharged as I spend time in God’s presence, waiting on Him to speak, trusting that He will come through for me and putting my hope in Him.

There are so many things in life to worry or stress about. If I’m not careful, I can let them overwhelm me and render me ineffective. The best way I’ve found to combat those is to pray without ceasing (having a dedicated prayer time, but continuing the conversation throughout my day), spending quality time in God’s Word (thinking about what God is saying, why He put that information in the Bible and how I can apply it) and spending quiet time in His presence (quieting my mind and thoughts in a place and time with no distractions). If doing these things are not a priority, life can overtake you easily and you will be exhausted, stressed and feeling like you can’t go on.

Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (NLT). Every one of us experiences being weary and tired, but not every one of us experiences new strength. It takes being dedicated and intentional about your time to wait on the Lord doing the things I mentioned above. They don’t just happen. You must plan them into your day and make those times sacred so that nothing is more important. If you find yourself exhausted today from running around nonstop, find some time (30 minutes to an hour) to wait on the Lord. If you just thought, “I don’t have that kind of time in my day,” neither did I, so I started waking up an hour earlier. Waiting on the Lord has to become the most important thing to you, even more important than some sleep.

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To-Do List Christianity

Part of my personality type is that I do really well with a to-do list. If I don’t have one, I tend to live my life jumping from one squeaky wheel to the next. The problem with that is that I can find myself living crisis to crisis, but never do the day to day things that need to get done. Another problem on the other side of the coin is that I can reduce Christianity and my faith to a series of to-do lists. Read my Bible daily – check. Spend time in prayer – check. Give my tithe – check. It can easily become very sterile or even about my works when I do that. So when I read Micah 6:8, in my head, I create a check list of things to do so that i make sure I’m doing what God requires of me.

That verse says, “No, the Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God” (GNT). If we dig deeper than the surface on these, they are more than things you can easily check off of a box. These are a way of living that flows out of a forgiven heart. I can’t just give justice according to man’s laws and ways. We must treat people and protect them according to God’s ways. To show constant love to others is nearly impossible in my own strength and selfishness. It flows out of a heart that has been shown what true love is from the One who is love itself.

All three of these really hinge on the last one. We must walk in humble fellowship with God if we are going to live out the other two correctly. Fellowship with God cannot be checked off a box as a duty. We’ve all had people in our lives that we were forced to be friends with. Love doesn’t grow in that type of relationship. When we learn to make our relationship with God less about us and our needs and focus on Him, we’ll have that fellowship that heals our brokenness instead of feeding it. These three things that God requires are not about us (which should remove the to-do list). They are about others and their needs. When we begin to live life for Him, it becomes less about us and more about seeking justice for others and showing the love and compassion He has for the world. Look around today and see the people He’s placed around you that need justice and love. Ask Him to use you to in their lives and to help you put down the to-do list.

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Perfectly Peaceful

One of the things I’ve learned is that your thoughts affect how you feel. How you feel affects what you do in any given situation. So many times we’ve reacted in a situation in a way we wish we wouldn’t have. If I lose my cool, I feel like I’ve lost the battle. I don’t like that feeling at all, but at the end of the day, it all comes back to how healthy I’ve kept my thoughts. If I don’t like how I react in a situation, I need to change how I feel in it. If I want to change how I feel, I have to change my thoughts. Our thoughts are more powerful than we give them credit for. Scripture dedicates a lot of verses to our thought life because many times they are what’s standing between us and victory.

When we learn to have a healthy thought life, our outlook on life changes. When our outlook on life changes, the things that happen in our life change. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (NLT) When we are at peace in our mind because our thoughts are fixed on God, our minds won’t be agitated by the things we’re going through. We all go through hard times, but those who have learned to keep their thoughts on God and His promises will be kept in perfect peace during those times. They won’t crumble when their world is crumbling. The thoughts of God’s promises produce feelings of peace and peace changes how we react.

Romans 8 assures us that no matter what you go through, it will not separate you from God’s love. That’s a promise I like to think about when times get tough. Through it all, you and I are still loved by God. He doesn’t leave us when times get tough. His love is not dependent on how we react in those situations. There’s peace in knowing that. It’s good to spend time in prayer when times are tough, but it’s even better to spend some time thinking about all God has done for you throughout your life. Keeping your mind fixed on Him will take you from panic to peace. It will keep whatever is going on on the outside from reaching you inside. You can have perfect peace no matter what you’re facing, and it all starts with keeping your thoughts fixed on Him instead of your situation.

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God’s Gift Of Peace

As believers, God gives us some pretty incredible gifts. We have the gift of salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the individual gifts of the Spirit and peace. God knows that our outer world is a reflection of our inner world so He gave us the gift of peace. When there is chaos all around us and things are going wrong, we can have peace instead of falling apart. Our inner world doesn’t have to be a reflection of things going on around us. Instead, our trust in God gives us peace no matter what we are facing. It is a driving force in our lives that allows us to be strong when the weight of the world is on our shoulders.

The peace that God gives allows us to have a sense of completeness, a sound mind and contentment. No matter how broken we are, God’s peace makes us whole. When everything around us wants to create fear, God’s peace reminds us that He is in control. When everyone else seems to be prospering and we are not, God’s peace helps us to be content. This gift of peace is strong in the face of adversity and keeps our eyes on God. We need to rely on it more than we do so that we can allow it to replace the worry and fear inside of us. Remember that God has not forgotten you – He’s equipped you for whatever you will face in life with the gifts He’s given you. Hold onto them and use them so your faith can be strong.

Here are some Bible verses on God’s gift of peace.

1. I leave the gift of peace with you—my peace. Not the kind of fragile peace given by the world, but my perfect peace. Don’t yield to fear or be troubled in your hearts—instead, be courageous!

John 14:27 TPT

2. I am listening to what the Lord God is saying; he promises peace to us, his own people, if we do not go back to our foolish ways.

Psalm 85:8 GNT

3. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].

PHILIPPIANS 4:7 AMP

4. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.

2 Thessalonians 3:16 NLT

5. GOD makes his people strong. GOD gives his people peace.

Psalm 29:11 MSG

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The Cost Of A Dream

What are you willing to pay to accomplish your dreams? The dreams are free, but seeing them come to fruition isn’t. So many of us freely talk about the dreams God puts in our hearts, but so few are willing to endure what it takes to make them happen. When God gives us a dream, He rarely includes the cost. Once the time comes to start paying for it, many of us walk away from it or question if God really gave it to us.

When Joseph was a teenager, God put a dream in his heart that his brothers would one day bow to him. He didn’t have that great of a relationship with them, so he was excited about it. He told them about it, probably in a flaunting way, and they hated him for it. They threw him in a pit, then sold him as a slave where he was carried off to Egypt. From there, he was falsely accused of rape, thrown in prison and forgotten for over ten years.

Through all of that, he kept believing in the dream. We don’t read where he questioned God for his troubles. I believe it was because he thought of it as the price of his dream, and he was willing to pay it. God knew that as a teenager, he wasn’t ready to be second in command of Egypt. He tested him and developed the character traits that he would need to make the dream a reality. Joseph paid the price for his dream.

Psalm 105:19 says, “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character” (NLT). If God gave you a dream and everything is going wrong, chances are that He’s testing your character. He’s finding out if you’re willing to pay the price and if you’re ready. Don’t give up because the dream seems so far away and the cost is high. Keep working hard. Keep paying the price. Don’t quit. God is getting you ready for the fulfillment of that dream. The dreams God gives us are always worth the cost.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Surviving The Dark Valley

In one of the darkest times of my life, I felt like everything was crumbling around me. I couldn’t sleep or eat for days. I laid in bed at night and would repeat Nehemiah 8:10. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Over and over I would say it. Then I started singing it through the tears. It became my mantra. Because of that, even though my world was crumbling around me, I found a place deep within that gave me hope that I would make it through it. Some days I couldn’t see past a minute in front of me, but i knew if God would help me survive that minute, then I could survive the next. God would remind me of Scriptures to hold on to or He would have someone give me one out of the blue. Life was hard, but God provided a way through it and gave me strength to endure.

Psalm 84:5-6 says, “How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord…Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain. He gives to them a brook of blessing filled from the rain of an outpouring” (TPT ). This promise is to those who find their strength in the Lord first of all. Every one of us goes through the dark valley of tears. What I love is that God says, “Pick up your shovel during that time and start digging. Beneath all that pain is a pool where you can find strength and refreshment.” We’ve got to dig deeper than the way things appear on the surface. We’ve got to dig deep into God’s Word. We’ve got to dig deep into His promises, and put our roots there. If they’re on the surface, we’ll be blown over like a tree in a hurricane. Our roots cannot remain at surface level in the dark valley of tears.

You can either be defeated in that valley or you can find the brook of God’s blessing. God is pouring out blessings all the time, but we don’t see them because we get too focused on the things going on around us. Lamentations 3:21-25 says, “Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope. The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him” (GNT). You can have hope in the dark valley of tears when you focus on God’s unfailing love to get you through it and His mercy to remind you that this is a season and there are mountain tops still ahead. Trust and hope in the Lord and draw your strength from Him.

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Surrendering Anxiety

Did you know that just being afraid of something is not considered a phobia? The fear must altar your behavior in some way to be considered a phobia. The same is true of anxiety. Many times we may be anxious, but when it causes us to change what we’re doing, we are considered to have anxiety. It shows up in different ways. Many times, we try to altar the situation ourselves, but that can make things worse. We don’t make the best decision when we are worried. I know that for me, it causes me to run through scenarios trying to find the right way to fix it. I lose sleep and can’t concentrate on things throughout my day. In turn, it affects every area of my life until I’m so desperate that I force the issue.

You’ve no doubt heard the Psalm that tells us to be still and know that He is God. What you may not know is that the Hebrew words for be still mean to let hang down; to be relaxed, especially the hands. It can also mean to not make an effort or exertion. Meaning take your hands off the situation and let God handle it. The Passion Translation takes that into account and writes that verse this way, “Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). So many times anxiety has altered our minds to the point that we lose sight of God in our situation. God wants to remind us that He sees us, and knows what we’re going through.

It’s tough to take our hands off the situation. It’s better to ask God for wisdom in how to handle it though. Ask God to give you peace in your mind and clarity of thought as well. Surrender your anxiety to Him, recognize He is in control and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Our behavior change in a situation should not be out of anxiety, but rather out of thoughtful prayer after we’ve handed it over to God. If you want to see God in what’s going on, be still, put your hands down and relax. Breathe. Pray. Listen. Begin to thank God for all He’s done, and all He’s going to do. Your life is in His hands and He is in charge of the outcome. Trust that He will do what’s best and grow you through it. God is at work and it’s for your good.

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