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Being Resolute

Several years ago, we were in the hospital as my mom was dying. The doctor brought the whole family into a room and explained the seriousness of her problem. He told us there was nothing more they could do, and then he talked about hospice care. After he left, my dad kept us in the room. He said, “I still believe in miracles, but we need to be prepared if God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want Him to. You need to each determine in your hearts now that you will not be bitter against God if she passes away.” I thought it was an odd thing for him to tell us until she passed away and bitterness tried to creep in.

Determining what you’re going to do ahead of time is critical. When temptation comes, it’s too late to decide what you’re going to do. Unless you’ve determined in your heart how you’re going to handle it, we usually end up succumbing to it. You can’t just think, “Oh, I’ll never fall for that.” You need to determine in your heart what you will do and say in times of temptation. Jesus had determined to use the Word of God. We on,y have three of Hos temptations recorded in Scripture, but we have His responses too. Each time He was able to fight temptation with knowing what God’s Word says. The Psalmist said that if we will hide His Word in our hearts, it will Nelly us not to sin.

Psalm 119:112 says, “I have determined in my heart to obey whatever you say, fully and forever!” (TPT) That’s a great thing to determine, but it only works if you’ve spent time in God’s Word to know what He says and if you’ve determined ahead of time. Each of us will face various temptations for the rest of our lives to hurt our relationship with God. When you made a commitment to Christ, you committed to following Him for the rest of your life. Shouldn’t you also commit to obeying everything He says? God’s love language is obedience. If you haven’t done so, determine today that you will obey Him for the rest of your life and that you won’t give into to temptation.

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Opened Eyes

In 2 Kings 6, Elisha and his servant are inside a house having just woken up. The servant goes outside for something and realizes they are surrounded by an army. He calls for Elisha out of fear. Elisha steps outside and the servant wants to know what are they going to do. Elisha calmly replies, “Don’t worry. There are more on our side than theirs.” I’m sure the servant looked confused until Elisha prayed in verse 17, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” (NLT) All of a sudden, the servant could see into the spiritual realm and saw that the army around them was surrounded by God’s army.

There’s more to this life than you and I can see. I like that prayer and often pray it for myself. I want my eyes opened to see the things God wants me to see. I want to see if there’s something in God’s Word I’m missing or if there’s a connection throughout Scripture that I haven’t seen. I also want to see if there’s someone in my path that needs me to speak to them. You never know what God might show you if you ask Him to open your eyes to the things He wants to show you. I don’t want to live my life with blinders on. I want my eyes opened to see everything God is desiring to show me.

Here are some Bible verses on wanting opened eyes.

1. Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.

Psalms 25:4 NLT

2. If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.

Proverbs 29:18 MSG

3. Give me more revelation of your ways, for I see your love and tender care everywhere.

Psalms 119:64 TPT

4. Turn my eyes away from vanity [all those worldly, meaningless things that distract—let Your priorities be mine], And restore me [with renewed energy] in Your ways.

PSALMS 119:37 AMP

5. Open my eyes to see the miracle-wonders hidden in your word.

Psalms 119:18 TPT

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Choosing Freedom

Freedom is not something that is uniquely American. It was instituted by a God Himself. His desire is that all of us live free lives. We are the ones who constantly put ourselves in bondage through our actions. We are the ones who put ourselves in position to let others bind us up. God has called us to live free lives according to Galatians 5:1. So why do we do the things that take us away from freedom? Why do we lament the past when we were slaves instead of celebrating the freedoms we currently enjoy?

It’s a problem that goes back as far as time. When the children of Israel were set free from the bondage of Egypt, they cried out, “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted.” In their freedom, they looked back on their time of slavery as a positive thing. They didn’t grasp what it meant to be free, so they would have rather gone back into slavery than to have lived in the freedom that God had granted them. It sounds absurd, but are we so different?

We let what other people have said or done to us imprison us in our minds and actions. We let the past dictate our present. God has set us free, but we allow unforgiveness to hold us down and rob us of freedom. We allow grudges and pain to keep us from trusting anyone. When that happens, we hold ourselves back from the future God has for us. We let what man has done to us rob us of the blessings of freedom. We hold ourselves back in that prison not wanting to get out because it’s safer to stay there. Freedom requires action on our part to move forward and to stay free.

Galatians 5:13-15 says, “Use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows… Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom” (MSG). Selfishness is the doorway to imprisonment. Serving others is the way to staying free. When we help others, despite how many times we’ve been taken advantage of, we walk in freedom. When we hold back because of things that have happened, we allow that freedom to slip away. Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” As Christians, we can’t sit around and do nothing and stay free.

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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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Sudden Storms

I love the story of Jesus in Mark 4. He had been teaching all day sharing spiritual insights through parables with crowds of people. When He was finished, He told the disciples to get in a boat and head to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. After they had been going a ways, a sudden storm blew in and threatened to sink the boat. In the midst of the chaos and fear, someone realized they needed Jesus and He wasn’t on deck. Verse 38 says, “But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on a cushion” (TPT). In the middle of the storm, Jesus was able to rest because He trusted God.

Most of us aren’t that way. When things are going downhill quickly and everything we hold dear is being threatened to sink, we struggle to rest. Sleep eludes us as our minds think of everything bad that can happen and what we will do if everything heads south. Yet, in this story, we find that Jesus is able to rest. I believe that the rest He was given is a rest that belongs to us. We have to learn that our perception of things is not His reality. Where we look up at the storm in fear, He speaks to it in faith. When we let fear dictate our emotions and steal our rest, we lack the faith to trust His providence for our lives.

Psalm 116:7 says, “Now I can say to myself and to all, ‘Relax and rest, be confident and serene, for the Lord rewards fully those who simply trust in him.’” If you’re uncomfortable speaking to your storms, then speak to yourself. Worry robs us of the strength and rest that God wants us to have. Just because you’re surrounded by turmoil, it doesn’t mean you have to live in it. God gives His children rest and peace, but many times, we have to take hold of it and tell ourselves to take it. Sudden storms that pop up are not a surprise to God. If you will simply trust in Him, He will guide you safely to shore.

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Words And Actions

We all know that person who is all talk and no action. Years ago I was in a meeting with my peers presenting our quarterly numbers to the higher ups. We then had to project our numbers for the next quarter. One person in there projected a big bump in their numbers for the next quarter. The highest ranking person in the room asked them, “What are you doing to get that bump?” They said, “Well, what were going to do is…” The boss interrupted, “I didn’t ask what you were going to do. I want to know what you’re doing now to get those results. If you were able to change your numbers that much, you would be going to do It.you’d be doing it right now.” They didn’t have an answer because they were all talk and got called out on it.

Many of us, myself included, have learned how to talk a good game. We know Christianese and speak church lingo quite well. The problem is that Christianity is more than words. It’s actions. It’s not about what we are going to do, but about what we are doing now. We’ve learned to put on the church mask and say the words that others want to hear on Sunday’s, but are we living it Monday through Saturday? Our coworkers, neighbors and children are like that boss I had. They can see through the words to the lifestyle because actions will always speak louder than words.

Proverbs 12:14 reminds us, “Your reward depends on what you say and what you do; you will get what you deserve” (GNT). It’s important that our lives reflect what we say. We need to quit worrying what others think of us. God sees beyond our words and facades. He looks into our heart to see our intent and our actions. If you can recognize those who are all talk and no action, so can others. Proverbs also says that a good reputation is more desirable than great riches. It’s time we quit acknowledging Jesus with our words and denying Him with our life. Our reward in Heaven is based on words and actions.

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Predetermined Praise

One of the things I believe each of us must do daily is to choose our attitude. If you don’t choose it, your day will choose it for you. I’ve lived on an emotional roller coaster before, and it’s not very fun. My mood, my happiness and my attitude all depended on how things were going in my life. Unfortunately, my relationship with God was also dependent on that too. If things were going well, then it was easy to praise Him. If things were going poorly, then I didn’t feel I had a reason to bless Him. In fact, many times I ended up mad at Him and making threats if He didn’t make things better.

At one point in my life, I felt like I was going through hardships that were as difficult as Job’s. I was losing everything that I cared about and I was powerless to stop it. I prayed and prayed, but things kept getting worse. I got angry at God and started to blame Him for everything that was wrong in my life. I remember reading Job looking for insight and help. In the first chapter, after he had lost everything, instead of being mad at God, the Bible says he fell to the ground and worshipped God. How could he worship at a time of such loss? I believe it’s because He had chosen his attitude before everything went down.

Psalm 104:33 says, “I will sing my song to the Lord as long as I live! Every day I will sing my praises to God” (TPT). This is a great example of choosing your attitude. The writer committed to sing praise to God every day as long as he lived. I know there are days when you don’t feel like praising, but praise anyway. No matter how bad life gets, God has done enough for you already to deserve praise every day of your life. When you think that way, it’s a lot easier to worship in the middle of a storm. Our gratitude, our attitude and our relationship with God should all be predetermined before bad things happen. We have to remember that no matter what is going on, God can work it out for your good.

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Distressed

I can’t think of a single person in the Bible who didn’t go through distressful times. Adam and Eve went through the distress of sinning and hid from God. Moses went through it as he led the children of Israel through the desert. David spent years on the run. All the prophets I can think of had problems. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. On and on it goes. If you’re feeling distressed today, it’s ok. You’re not alone even though it feels like it when we’re going through those times. While your circumstances may be unique, the feelings you’re having have been felt by every person who has lived.

I’ve found that times of distress drive me to my knees. They cause me to cry out to God more than ever. In turn, they push me into a closer relationship with Him. I find that when we blame God for our problems, it has the opposite effect. I like to think of being distressed as having sandpaper smoothing out my rough edges. Yes it hurts while I’m going through it, but i know that in the end I’m going to be changed for the better through the process. God’s desire is to make you more and more into His image, but in order to do that, you must be shaped. Sometimes He uses distress to do that. If you’re distressed now, hold on. Things will get better and you will be better for it.

Here are some Bible verses about distress.

1. When the righteous cry [for help], the LORD hears And rescues them from all their distress and troubles.

PSALMS 34:17 AMP

2. Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.

2 Corinthians 7:10 MSG

3. Are there any believers in your fellowship suffering great hardship and distress? Encourage them to pray! Are there happy, cheerful ones among you? Encourage them to sing out their praises!

James (Jacob) 5:13 TPT

4. Set me free from my distress; then in the assembly of your people I will praise you because of your goodness to me.

Psalm 142:7 GNT

5. But God teaches people through suffering and uses distress to open their eyes.

Job 36:15 GNT

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