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Desperate Prayers

If you’re reading this, you’ve been overwhelmed by problems before. You’ve probably spent some time pouring your heart out to God asking for an immediate miracle. Every one of us has been there at some point. When we’re there, Psalm 102 is one we can relate to. It’s official title is, “A Prayer of One Overwhelmed with Trouble, Pouring Out Problems Before the Lord”. Can you relate? Verses 1 and 2 are words we have said. They say, “Lord, hear my prayer! Listen to my plea! Don’t turn away from me in my time of distress. Bend down to listen, and answer me quickly when I call to you” (NLT). There’s desperation in those words and an urgency for God to answer. Know that God is not offended by your honesty in prayers. He’s not looking for flowery prayers from us. He longs for us to have real conversations with Him.

After pouring out his problems to God in the first several verses, the psalmist then writes in verse 12, “But then I remember that you, O Lord, still sit enthroned as King over all! The fame of your name will be revealed to every generation” (TPT). It’s a great reminder to any of us who are overwhelmed with things going on in our lives to stop and remember who it is that we’re praying to. When we put God in His place, it puts our problems in theirs. When we remember all He has done, it builds our faith and helps us to look at our problems through God rather than looking at God through our problems. That perspective is important in desperate times. God is greater than whatever you’re facing in that moment.

Finally, I love verses 17-18. They say, “He will listen to the prayers of the destitute. He will not reject their pleas. Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord” (NLT). God hears your desperate prayers and your tone. When all you have is God, you have more than enough. Through faith, look ahead to God answering your prayers. Keep a prayer journal so you can share how God has been faithful over your lifetime. It’s great for you to look back on, and it’s great for your children and grandchildren to read. Over the course of time, as you look through that journal, you will see how God had His hand on you throughout all your times of desperation. You’ll see that He may not have answered the way you were asking Him to in that moment, but He did get you through it and work things out for your good. When you’re overwhelmed, it’s important to remember that and keep praying. God is listening and working on your answer even as you read this.

Thanks to Jude Beck for making this photo available freely on @unsplash

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Chasing Illusions

One of my buddies is a pretty good magician. He has mastered the art of illusion. Over the years, I became his set up man for his tricks we would do in trainings. Because of my investment, I got to see behind the scenes to each illusion. One of our favorites was a disappearing coin. He would show someone two different coins of different sizes and have them open their hands. He then placed a coin in each of their hands. We would have them close their hands on the coin and identify which was larger. They then clasped their hands, shook them up and separated again. Once they identified the larger coin, they would open their hand and show us. When they opened the other hand, it was a coin exactly like the other. They always wanted to know where the smaller coin went. So he would send them back to their seat and it would be in their book or purse, and neither of us moved.

All illusions trick the brain into believing something other than what’s true. Once the brain believes it, it’s very difficult to convince it otherwise. There are so many illusions that our enemy uses to distract us, and to get us off the paths God has for us. We end up chasing something that looks good, and our brain believes is good, but in the end, it’s just an illusion that distracts us from what God wants. We all fall for them because we’re human and the devil is a master deceiver. He is constantly trying to disrupt our focus, our direction and our relationship with God. His goal is to get us to believe something other than what God said or meant. Think of Adam and Eve in the garden. The fruit was the illusion to distract with the belief that God was holding out on them. The moment they fell for it, they realized they had been fooled.

The main way to combat the illusions and lies of our enemy is to know God’s Word and put it in our heart that we might not sin against God (Psalm 119:11). David knew this importance and wrote a prayer just a few verses later. It says in verse 37, “Help me turn my eyes away from illusions so that I pursue only that which is true; drench my soul with life as I walk in your paths” (TPT). Asking God to help us keep our eyes on Him is another important thing we can do to keep from falling for illusions. Any accomplished magician has mastered the art of distraction. So has our enemy. Keep your eyes on Jesus, stay in His Word and pray that you stay focused on Him. The enemy’s illusions end up leaving you empty handed chasing after something that isn’t real, but God’s paths lead to fulfillment and life.

Thanks to @omkarn285 for making this photo available freely on @unsplash

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Your Innermost Circle

When I was a kid, I began to hear my parents tell me, “You become like those you run with. Choose wisely.” Those were wise words to a child, but they’re also wise words to you as an adult. We like to think that people don’t change us, but the truth of the matter is that each of us are being sharpened and shaped by the people closest to us. They’re the ones whom we let down our facade the most with to show who we really are. Because of that vulnerability, they become the people who shape our decisions, our interests and even direction of our life. Your innermost circle of friends even determine the level of success you’ll have in life. You can’t soar with eagles if you’re scratching around with turkeys all the time.

The Bible has a lot to say about friendships. It gives examples of people like David and Jonathon who were willing to sacrifice everything for each other. There’s also Paul and Timothy whose friendship was one where Paul was a mentor as he shaped this young pastor. However, Job had some friends that gave him bad advice and weren’t able to endure the suffering with their friend. They used their influence in his life to try to misrepresent God and affect his relationship with Him. The people we let in our innermost circle of friends shape even our relationship with God, so it’s eternally important to choose wisely.

In Psalm 101:6 David says, “My innermost circle will only be those whom I know are pure and godly. They will be the only ones I allow to minister to me” (TPT). He understood the importance of that group on his relationship with God and wanted to protect it most. Who are you allowing to minister to you and to shape your relationship with God? Are they pushing you closer to Him or are they misrepresenting God to you? If they’re not making you sharper, challenging you to grow more or improving your relationship with God, they’re holding you back. David was selective about who he let into that group, and we should be too. God is calling us to greater maturity, faith and relationship with Him. Are the people closest to you influencing you in that direction?

Thanks to @lyrawhite for making this photo available freely on @unsplash

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Following Where God Leads

We all have leaders in our lives. Some of them we trust, and some we don’t. I’ve had some whom i didn’t question. If they said we could walk on water, I’d get out of the boat. There have been some I’ve had that if they told me to go right, I’d think really hard about going left. I’m always working on my leadership skills which means I’m always learning how to build trust. There are thousands of books on how to be a better leader. There are any number of traits you can take too, but not much is out there about how to be a good follower. None of us like to think of ourselves as followers, but we are. To be a good follower, you have to put pride and selfishness away, and trust the one who is leading you.

The Bible is full of verses that talk about how God leads us. It’s also full of men and women who refused to follow where God was trying to lead them. They felt their plan was better or they failed to clarify what they understood of His plan. There are also many people who followed where God led them, and they were blessed immensely. God doesn’t force us to follow where He leads us. It’s always our choice. How well have you been following where He has been trying to lead you? Has pride or selfishness kept you from following? No matter how far you’ve gone in the other direction, it’s just one step back to following where He wants to take you. Learning to follow where He leads is a process each of us are in daily.

Here are some Bible verses on God leading us.

1. From the end of the earth I call to You, when my heart is overwhelmed and weak; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I [a rock that is too high to reach without Your help].

Psalms 61:2 AMP

2. Lord, even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have! You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way. Your authority is my strength and my peace. The comfort of your love takes away my fear. I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.

Psalms 23:4 TPT

3. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.

Psalms 25:5 NLT

4. The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.

Psalm 23:1-2 GNT

5. If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead), behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will take hold of me.

Psalms 139:8-10 AMP

Thanks to @AMPRSNDPHOTO for making this photo available freely on @unsplash

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Prepare Today

I believe it was Coach Wooden who said, “When opportunity knocks, it’s too late to prepare.” The window for an opportunity that shows up in our life is usually very brief. You won’t have time to do all the prep work necessary and seize the opportunity in most cases. We should always be ready by doing the prep work ahead of time. The problem is that human nature doesn’t want to put in the work when there’s not even an opportunity on the horizon. Those who have done the work ahead of time are the ones who make the most of every opportunity that comes their way.

I believe that God presents every one of us with opportunities that we should be prepared for. How can we give to a need if we haven’t saved any money? How can we answer spiritual questions if we haven’t studied the Bible? How can we tear down strongholds if we haven’t fasted? How can we be prepared for His return if we don’t have enough oil in our lamps? There are so many things that I believe God can do through us if only we would spend the time laying the groundwork of preparation.

Proverbs 24:27 says, “First plant your fields; then build your barn” (MSG). We need to make sure we are doing things in the proper order in our life. Too many times we want the barn without taking time to til the soil and plant. That’s not how things work. If you want God to use you in a certain way, there are things you need to be doing today to prepare for it. Be faithful in the preparation and God will trust you with the opportunities that He has for you. Don’t delay. Start today.

Thanks to @JestNinja for making this photo available freely on @unsplash

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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Letting Go Of Anger

I was recently scammed out of some money through phishing. I’m well aware of phishing scams and have always been able to spot them, but when this one came in, it was the perfect storm of timing. As soon as I figured it out (20 minutes later), I fought to get my money back. I was able to stop them from using the money, but then I began to beat myself up. That anger towards myself shifted to them after a day. I began to plot my revenge. I started researching to see if I could hire a hacker yo hit them hard. Then I decided that I was going to send them a spam bomb. My mind kept thinking of how I could pay them back until it consumed most of my thoughts. In the middle of my research, I heard the Lord say, “Vengeance is mine. Let it go.” That’s all I needed to hear.

A few weeks earlier, I had watched the documentary “Free Burma Rangers”. It’s about a man who grew up as a missionary and now has started a humanitarian movement in Burma, Iraq, Syria and Kurdistan. The documentary followed he and his family into Mosul, Iraq. He was on the front lines of an Isis controlled area. After freeing a family on the outskirts of the town, they were happy. They all loaded up in a tractor and headed to be with other family members. They got about a 100 yards away and hit a land mine that Isis left as they retreated. This missionary became angry and talked about how he wanted to kill every Isis member over it. Then God spoke those same words to him. The missionary then said, “Vengeance looks a lot like justice, but it comes from a different place. Justice is done from a place of love and vengeance comes from a place of anger.”

Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense and discretion make a man slow to anger, And it is his honor and glory to overlook a transgression or an offense [without seeking revenge and harboring resentment]” (AMP). It’s ok to be angry, but we can’t let it lead us into sinning (Ephesians 4:26). Anger has the ability to consume us, especially when we were wronged intentionally. What we do with it matters. Seeking revenge and harboring resentment is not of God or from God. Those things slowly put you in a prison of your own doing. It’s time to let them go, and let God give justice for how they wronged you. God wants you free from the prison of anger and resentment so you can be used in the way you were created to be used. I know it’s easier said than done, but start by praying and giving it to God. Then ask Him to set you free from the anger and resentment by helping you to let it go.

Thanks to Steve Halama for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 🎁

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Becoming Spiritually Hungry

When I was in my early twenties, I lived in Cairo, Egypt. After being there a few months, I began to get hungry for some home cooking. I reached out to my mom and she sent me some recipes so I could have a taste of what I was missing. On other occasions, a few of us would sit around and talk about what we were hungry for. Then there were rumors that a Taco Bell was opening up in a certain part of the city. I would ask around to see if it was true. I even went down there a few times to look for it. I was hungry for more than what the country offered. In the process, I found some really great places to eat, but that hunger in me grew so much that I began to plan my first meal back in the States.

Being spiritually hungry is pretty similar. It’s a desire that’s inside of you that needs to be fostered. It starts with a thought, “I wish I could experience God like that person.” It could even be the desire to know God like you once did or to feel His presence when you’re missing it. That stirring should push you to move and do something different in order to experience it. Those thoughts should challenge you to seek others who are experiencing God in a way that you never have to find out what they’re doing, how they’re studying and what they’re reading. Spiritual hunger should motivate you to fill it much like hunger in your belly does. You don’t just sit around thinking, “I’m hungry.” Chances are, you get up, go to the pantry and start digging around for something to meet that need. God wants us to dig through His Word looking for sustenance.

Proverbs 18:15 says, “The spiritually hungry are always ready to learn more, for their hearts are eager to discover new truths” (TPT). There are depths of God that you and I have yet to experience and discover. The amount we will learn and know about God is in direct proportion to how much we hunger for Him. Are you satisfied with only a snack? Are you content to stay where you are? Do you feel like you know Him enough? Challenge yourself in these areas. Stir up that hunger within you to know and experience more of Him. That’s how you grow and mature in your faith. You feed the desire to know Him more and by praying for Him to reveal more of Himself to you. It requires effort on your part to get up earlier, to stay up later, to block out distractions, to read more, to listen more and to seek more than you have. God is willing and able to satisfy your spiritual hunger, but you must be ready to learn and discover more.

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