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Fighting The Unseen

When I was around 16 years old, I had invited a kid I barely knew over to hang out for the day. My parents were gone, but had the foresight to have a family friend stay with us. We were in my room playing video games when his eyes rolled into the back of his head and they came back down looking different. He looked at me and said, “Fight me!” I wasn’t sure what he meant, but I knew if we got into an altercation, I wasn’t going to make it. I responded in a whisper that I wouldn’t fight him. He got angry and began repeatedly asking me to fight him. Our family friend sensed something, opened the door, noticed I was upset and got me out of the room. I began praying for about 15 minutes while I was locked in the bathroom. When I came back out, he had changed back to normal.

Spiritual battles present themselves in the physical realm all the time. In 1 Samuel 17, Goliath was dressed for battle and called out to the Israelites to come fight him. They were terrified. How could anyone beat such a man? Saul offered money, his daughter, no taxes and more, but no one was willing to fight Goliath until David came around. He recognized it as a spiritual battle immediately. They tried to dress him up in Saul’s armor, give him a sword and instructions, but David knew better. In verses 45 and 47 David called out to Goliath, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted…And that this entire assembly may know that the LORD does not save with the sword or with the spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will hand you over to us” (AMP). David won the physical battle because he had won the spiritual battle first.

In your life, there may appear to be people who are attacking you, your character, your work, your calling or something else. Understand that it is more than likely a spiritual attack to produce fear, anger or doubt in you. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places.” If you fight a spiritual battle in the physical, you will lose the battle that matters. Spend time in prayer, put on the full armor of God and fight on your knees praying against the spirit that is guiding the other person. The enemy will use whomever he can to immobilize you and to keep you from living the life God created you to live. Stay strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

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Wait Patiently

Have you ever prayed for patience? If you haven’t, don’t try it! I’m kidding. It turns out that when you pray for patience, God typically doesn’t just give it to you. Instead, you will earn patience through a series of events that will try your patience. I don’t really have patience when I see things that need to be done. I start doing the work to get it done whether it’s the right time or not. There are times when my wife has to make me stop and wait to do things. I’d rather do them right then and get the satisfaction of completing the task than to wait. I’m also competitive, and with that comes comparison. If someone else is doing more, working harder, completing tasks or succeeding where I think I should be, it drives me to push forward without rest. I easily lose sight of the bigger picture, and I forget that patience and steadiness bring success and blessings.

I don’t think Abraham and Sarah were very patient either. When God made the promise that he would be the father of many nations, Abram was 75 years old. When his wife didn’t immediately get pregnant, I’m sure He doubted God, or did what we do when we run out of patience, and took matters into his own hands. Because they didn’t wait for the promise, Abraham got another woman pregnant thinking that he was doing God a favor or enacting His plan for Him. It was 25 years after the promise that he had Isaac through his wife. If he thought he was too old to have kids at 75, imagine what he was thinking as he approached 100. Yet, because God told him to wait for the promise, he did.

Psalm 37:7 says, “Be patient and wait for the Lord to act; don’t be worried about those who prosper or those who succeed in their evil plans” (GNT). I love that this verse speaks to our focus. Quit looking at what other people are accomplishing, and thinking about how you wish you were farther along at this point in your life. Be patient and wait for God’s timing. There’s a greater blessing for us when we do. Put your focus back on being faithful where you are, doing the little things, and God will reward you in due season. I know how hard that is, but it is the right thing to do. Even though you may be able to act now, be patient. God is using this time to prepare you for the blessings that are coming so that when His time is right, you won’t squander what He gives you.

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No More Excuses

Any time we are faced with the prospect of doing something that we’re afraid of, we typically resort to a coping mechanism that is designed to get you out of the situation. They don’t always appear in ways that you may think. Sometimes you feel like you have to go to the restroom, or feel thirsty and need a drink. Other people all of a sudden think of something else to do that feels like it’s more important at the moment. The typical route our brains take is to hesitate, then procrastinate and then to make an excuse as to why we can’t do it. Almost every time you make an excuse to avoid doing something, it’s linked to fear. While people may accept our excuses, God doesn’t. He has a rebuttal for each one.

Some time after Moses fled Egypt, he had made a new life for himself and tried to forget about his past. The only problem was God had made a promise to bring the Israelites out of Egypt and moses had been spared to do the job. When God appeared to him in the burning bush, Moses was intrigued. However, when God asked him to go back to Egypt, fear showed up. Moses began to make excuses as to why he couldn’t do what God was asking. In Exodus 4:10 he gave this excuse, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled” (NLT). I love God’s response to that in the next verse. He asked, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord?”

God is not interested in our excuses. He’s interested in our obedience. It’s easy to look at Moses and think he shouldn’t have made all those excuses, but we’re not so different. What excuses have you been giving to God? Have you told Him you’re not ready? You don’t have the funds? No one else is interested? There’s a pandemic going on? All these are excuses from doing what God is calling you to do. He created you for this moment and is aware of the things you have brought up, but He is also the one who has prepared you, will fund you, bring people to you and make a way where there seems to be no way. Is He not able? Most of the time, He’s waiting on us to get over our fears, to quit making excuses and to step out in faith before He meets those needs. Faith isn’t about taking a calculated risk or knowing everything is going to work out. It’s about obedience even when you can’t see what’s going to happen. Let your faith be stronger than your fear long enough to take that next step instead of making an excuse.

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Be A Rescuer

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Does Prayer Work?

When I was a child, I went to vacation Bible school with my friend. On one day, the pastor came in and asked, “Can we change God’s mind?” In my eight year old mind, I had already figured God out, so I raised my hand. When he called on me, I gave an emphatic. “No!” He then asked me, “Then why do we pray for people and situations?” I didn’t have an answer. “Maybe we can change the mind of God,” I thought. That conversation changed how I viewed God and how I pray.

In Exodus 32, Moses went up Mount Sinai to get instructions from the Lord. He was gone 40 days, and the people began to wonder if he was coming back. They decided to create their own god out of gold from their earrings and other jewelry. They built a golden calf, then built an altar and worshiped it. God became angry and told Moses what was happening. He then told Moses that he was just going to destroy them all and start over. He was through with these stubborn people.

Moses quickly came to their defense. He reminded God of all the things He did to bring them out of Egypt. He didn’t want the Egyptians to take credit for their deaths. He then reminded God of the covenants He made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Then in verse 14, the Bible says, “So the LORD changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people” (NLT). There it is! Right in the Bible in black and white. Moses changed God’s mind.

Whatever you’re facing today, your prayers can make a difference. They can change your situation and even the mind of God about what’s happening. Your prayers matter to God and He’s listening to them. Moses reminded God of the promises He made, and we can too. Don’t be afraid to ask God to change His mind. Who knows what He will do? What we do know is that prayer changes things, including God’s mind.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other 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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Becoming More Fruitful

In the 90”s, one of the t-shirts that was popular said, “No Pain No Gain”. They were referring to working out, but I believe that’s true in a lot of areas in life. People like complacency and they don’t like pain. Because of that, we often find ourselves in ruts doing the same thing day in and day out. The problem is that the processes in our lives can only produce so much, and many of us have been in a rut so long that we have reached a plateau and we’re coasting. The greatest motivator for change is pain. It’s not until we’re faced with pain of some sort that we change. When you change how you do things, you change the results you’re getting in life. Sometimes we get the choice to make the change, and other times God forces the change in our lives.

Joseph, in the Old Testament, is one of the most intriguing people in the Bible to me. When he was 17 years old, his brothers beat him up and threw him in a pit with the intention of killing him. Instead, they sold him as a slave where he was taken to a foreign land. There he made the most of his situation and became the highest producer in the household. The owner’s wife took a liking to him, but he held to his integrity even though life had dumped on him. He was thrown in jail where he was forgotten, but he continued to persevere in the pain. 17 years after his brother’s sold him, he became a free man, and then became second in command of the nation. He was a man who went through much pain, suffering and affliction, but you never read where he questioned God or doubted Him.

After he was married, he had two sons. Genesis 41:52 says, “He named the second [son] Ephraim (fruitfulness), for ‘God has caused me to be fruitful and very successful in the land of my suffering’” (AMP). God has a plan for our lives that contains suffering, but with that suffering comes the potential of fruitfulness and success. How do you respond to times of pain and suffering? I believe our response is what determines the extent of that fruitfulness. God will do whatever He needs to in our lives to get us to a place where we can be fruitful for Him and His purposes, but along with that comes the potential for greater things. Some of the most successful people you know have endured some of the hardest times. If you’re going through a season of pain and suffering like Joseph, take courage. God is working in your life to produce some amazing fruit. Ask Him for the strength to endure and the wisdom in how to make the most of it.

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Implicitly Trusting God

I remember as a kid when someone would ask, “Do you promise?” I’d quickly give them a “Yeah.” Then, if they asked, “Do you pinkie promise,” I’d have to think carefully before answering that one. It was like I could promise something and possibly go back on my word and everything would be ok. However, if I went back on a pinkie promise, I’d never get their trust again. I guess it was around that time that I learned the importance of trust and keeping your word. I’ve carried that into adulthood. When I talk with someone who is new to a leadership role, I explain the importance of keeping your word. Without trust, you can never lead anyone. Think about it. Name any leader in your life that you will follow anywhere, and think of how much you trust them. The more you trust them, the farther you will follow them.

Abraham was a person who trusted God enough to leave his family to go to a land that God would show him. He trusted God when he was told he would have a son at 100 years old. He kept on trusting God when He told him that through that son, he would become the father of many nations. I think the greatest trust was shown when God hawked him to sacrifice that son. I love in Genesis 22:5 where he tells the servants, “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back” (NLT). Abraham trusted God’s promise enough that even if he sacrificed His Son of Promise, God was able to raise Him up and fulfill it. He knew that no matter what happened on that mountain, they were both coming back.

Romans 4:20 says, “He (Abraham) was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.” Are you fully convinced that God is able to do what He promises? Remember earlier, I said that you can only follow someone as much as you trust them. That applies to your relationship with God as well. Are you trusting in what your situation looks like right now or in God’s promise? God is able to revive dead dreams, irreparable relationships and impossible situations if it means keeping His promise. Number 23:19 says, “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” You and I can trust what God says implicitly. When we do, we can go farther than we’ve ever gone and live the life we were created to live.

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Keep Moving Forward

2020 was a difficult year for so many. Resolutions that were made were forgotten. Goals that were set were thrown out the window. People’s worlds were turned upside down with the loss of family members, the loss of jobs and the lack of true human connection. It was a year of loss for so many, but I believe that God has a plan and is able to take a year like that and to make something good out of it. The world sees times like that and it produces fear that prevents them from moving forward. As Christians, even if life hits us in the face, knocks us down or blindsides us, we get back up and move forward because we are driven by God’s purpose and led by His Spirit.

I can’t help but think of Job and all he went through. In one day he lost his fortune, his livestock, his servants and his kids. He took a knock out blow from life, but instead of staying down, he worshipped God and kept moving forward. He was then attacked with a terrible skin disease. His wife told him to curse God and die. His friends told him it was a punishment from God because of hidden sin. Even though he wished he would have never been born, he still worshipped God. In Job 17:19, he told his friends, “The righteous keep moving forward, and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger” (NLT). He knew that things happening to him were not because of sin, so he kept getting back up and moving forward.

How do you respond to tough times? Do you let it keep you down or do you get back up? The easy choice is to stay down and to submit to it, but that’s not what God calls us to do. Proverbs 24:16 says that the righteous get knocked down seven times, but they get up again. No matter how many times life knocks us down or what it throws at us, we must get back up and move forward. God has the ability to make all things (including 2020) work together for our good. We have the righteousness of Christ around us that helps us to move forward and to grow stronger through adversity. At all times, in all circumstances, find a way to worship God. It will give you the right perspective and the strength to get back up so you can move forward.

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2021 New Year’s Prayer

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New Beginnings

Author Robert Burns penned the now famous line, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I can’t tell you how many times in my life the plans I made were detoured. I thought my plan was foolproof, only to find out it wasn’t life proof. Things happen that I don’t foresee and derail my goals and dreams. Often times, in disappointment and frustration, I give up on them and never return to complete them.

Sadly, this is the story for most of us. Life happens and takes away our happily ever after. We either think life has it out for us or God just doesn’t care. The truth is that often we try to build our own plans for our life and never include God’s plan for our life. When all of my plans came crashing down several years ago, I looked at my life and only saw a foundation left. I remember hearing God say, “Now that your plan failed, will you try it my way?”

I agreed that His way was best. I remembered the prophetic words spoken over me shortly after disaster took it all away. God said, “What looks like an ending is only a beginning. Where I am leading you, you will find more joy than you’ve ever known.” As I handed over the reigns of my future to God, I prayed, “God, I trust your future for my life over mine. Do what you want with my life and work out your plan for me.”

God has been faithful to do just that. Psalm 138:8 says, “The Lord will work out his plans for my life” (NLT). If your plan for your life has failed and you’re at what looks like an ending, I recommend handing over the reigns of your life to God. You can trust your future to Him. He will take what looks like an ending, and turn it into a new beginning. Pray that same prayer I did and watch God work on your behalf.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other 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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