Tag Archives: difficult times

The Power Of Praise

When I was a child, I started to learn the power of praise and worship. My earliest recollection of it was hearing the story of King Saul who was tormented by an evil spirit. David would come in, play his harp singing songs of praise to God, and the spirit would leave the king. I remember then hearing the story of Paul and Silas in prison. They had been beaten and were in the deepest, darkest part of the dungeon. In the middle of the night, they began to sing praises to God. The prison shook, the chains fell off and they were free. Then I memorized Ephesians 5:19 where Paul emphasizes to believers that we need to be, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melodies in your heart to the Lord” (KJV).

I know when I’ve had major events in my life, I’ve turned on praise and worship music to help me get through. When I’m stressed out and under emotional pressure, I find a praise and worship station on Pandora. All of a sudden, the atmosphere around me begins to change. My mind shifts from my problems to my savior. There is a powerful thing that happens in those moments as I invite God’s presence into our situation. The thought chains that held my mind captive begin to fall off. The way I see and approach the problems changes as I shift my focus from them to the One who is greater than anything I face. I go from being the victim in the situation to the victor because I take up the weapon of the Word of God and began to fight the unseen battle.

Psalm 71:14 says, “No matter what, I’ll trust in you to help me. Nothing will stop me from praising you to magnify your glory!” (TPT). The writer knew that there will be things that happen to you to try to take your focus off of God. There will be lies spoken and heard internally that tell you God has abandoned you and forgotten you. However, he purposed in his heart that nothing (no lie, no circumstance, no situation or pressure) would keep him from praising God. When we focus our hearts on praise, our faith and trust in God rises. We quit listening to our circumstances and begin to speak into them with the Word of God. Don’t underestimate the power of praise in your life. God isn’t listening to see if you can carry a tune in a bucket, He’s listening to the intent in your heart. Don’t stop praising God no matter what is happening in your life because it will carry you through and break the chains trying to hold you down.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Rock Of Help

When I get overwhelmed by circumstances and things going on in my life, I do an exercise in faith. Before I panic, I force myself to remember times when God has come through for me. I try to think of all the times before when things have been hopeless and at the last minute, He answered. Doing that reminds me that God answers at just the right time, that He sees my situation and that He’s been faithful in the past. When I begin to take my focus off of how impossible my situation is and remind myself of how capable my God is, my attitude starts to change.

The Israelites were at Mizpah offering sacrifices to God for their sin. I Samuel 7 tells us that all of Israel was there repenting. While they were gathered for offerings, the Philistines decided to attack them. The Israelites were scared, confused and began to panic. Samuel cried out to God on their behalf as he made a sacrifice. Verse 10 says that as he was making the sacrifice, the Philistines showed up for battle. God spoke from Heaven in loud claps of thunder that threw the enemy into confusion. After Israel routed the Philistines that day, Samuel set up a rock and named it “Ebenezer” which means rock of help.

Anytime that Israel was in distress, they simply had to look at that rock and remember that God came through in an impossible situation. It was a reminder that if He did it before, He’ll do it again. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. David knew that too. I wonder how many times he passed by Ebenezer and called out to God. In Psalm 61:2, he wrote, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” He wanted to be led to God, but also to that memory that God saves us just in time.

When we get overwhelmed, our prayer shouldn’t be one of panic. It should be that we are led to the rock that is higher than we are. When the enemy comes in like a flood, we need to run to that rock for safety. When we can’t see tomorrow because of all the trouble today holds, we need to remember the God we serve. We need to call to mind the great things He has done in the past and remind ourselves that we are not forgotten. We have not been abandoned. He will come just in the nick of time as He always has.

Don’t make your decisions based on fear. Make them based on the faith that God hears us. Make them based on how He has responded in your life in the past. Your situation may seem hopeless. You may be outnumbered, out gunned and surrounded, but you serve a God who is able. He is able yo deliver you from whatever you are facing today. It’s not too late. You’re not too engulfed. You’re not finished. When you’re overwhelmed, run to the Rock of Help. He’s there for you in your time of need.

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

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.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

My Will Be Done

I have a friend who has a favorite quote that he has to use often. He plans out his week, prioritizes things and works his plan. All week long people come to him and ask him to stop what he’s doing in order to help them. They give excuses and sob stories to try to get him to stop what he’s doing so he can work on their project. Some will even invoke the boss’ name to try to get him to work on their stuff. “The boss says you need to work on this right away.” He’s learned that rarely has the boss ever asked him to stop what he’s doing in order to do an immediate request. So his normal response is, “A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.” He then adds them to his list and gets to them later.

Being around him and watching people beg, barter and demand he do their project now always gets me to thinking how often I treat God that way. “God, if you get me out of this, I’ll do better next time.” “God, please! I need you to do this right now! Hurry!” “God, your Word says you have to do this and you can’t be untrue to your Word, so do it in Jesus name!” Sound familiar? I’ve prayed every one of those prayers in the last couple of weeks. I try to paint God into a corner in order to get Him to give me what I want. If that’s the on,y time we’re talking and that’s how I’m treating Him, there’s a spiritual maturity problem on my end. The phrase, “Thy will be done,” often comes to mind in those moment when I want it to be, “My will be done.”

In Psalm 69, David starts his prayer off, “Save me, O God! The water is up to my neck; I am sinking in deep mud, and there is no solid ground; I am out in deep water, and the waves are about to drown me” (GNT). He’s clearly in an emergency situation as he describes throughout this Psalm. However, in verse 13, his tone changes and he prays, “But as for me, I will pray to you, Lord; answer me, God, at a time you choose.” Instead or telling God when to help or even how to help, a sign of maturity is asking God to help in His time and in His way. I often wonder how many of my prayers go unanswered or that I don’t recognize the answer because I tell God how and when to answer, but those aren’t what His plans are. Jesus started the Lord’s Prayer giving God permission to have His will be done. Since He was teaching us to pray, let’s focus on the words we use in our prayers to make sure we’re asking according to His will and not ours.

Photo by Sam Rios on Unsplash

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

God Hears And Sees

One of the things that happens when we’re going through a tough time is that we get tunnel vision as the world seems to close in on us. We tend to hunker down and shut people out. We feel like running away to escape our problems, but know we can’t. If you’re like me, the problems weigh heavy on your mind and make you feel fatigued. It’s a lonely place, and it feels like it’s you versus the world. Many times, it can feel like your prayers are going unheard. You even start to wonder, “Where is God? Doesn’t He care?” Your prayers seem to feel flat and it’s like they aren’t being heard. Going through times like this are tough, especially when you feel like you’re doing what God told you to do.

I’m sure Hagar felt all these things. She was Sarai’s handmaiden and had been given to Abram as a second wife so that God would fulfill His promise to give Abram children. When she got pregnant, Sarai began to hate her and verbally abused her to the point that she did run away taking what they thought was the fulfillment of God’s promise. I love verse 7 of Genesis 16. It says the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring and said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where did you come from and where are you going?” (AMP) He knew the answer, and even called her by name. He blessed her and told her to name her son Ishmael which means “God hears”. “Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are God Who Sees’” (verse 13).

Even in the wilderness and under attack, God spoke to her and proved to her that He hears and sees us in our most desperate times. Matthew 10:29 says that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing. You are worth more to Him than a sparrow, and He knows the very number of hairs on your head. While it may seem, and even feel, that you are all alone and that God doesn’t see you or know what you’re going through, He does. He sent Hagar back to Sarai from that well, and He may leave you in your situation, but it doesn’t mean that He doesn’t care. Being under pressure and in difficult situations often produces a faith in us that we can’t get any other way. It opens our eyes to see that God is there with us in those times guiding us, listening to us and blessing us even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Photo by Austin Mabe on Unsplash

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Valley Of Blessing

In 2 Chronicles 20, several armies declared war against King Jehoshaphat at the same time. It says he was terrified when he heard the news. He immediately began to beg The Lord for guidance and asked everyone to fast and pray with him. The people came to Jerusalem to pray with him and to be ready to fight this vast army that had risen up against them. While they were praying, a man spoke up and said, “Don’t be afraid! The battle is not yours, but God’s.” He also told the people they were to march out to the battlefield, but that they wouldn’t even have to fight.

When they showed up to the battlefield, the other armies had been fighting each other and not one was left alive. The Israelites walked through the valley and gathered up all the spoils. It took them three days to collect it all. On the fourth day, they decided to call that place the Valley of Blessing. After that, no other armies wanted to face Israel and the story ends with, “Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.” Not only had God fought his battle and given him the spoils, He gave him peace and rest.

When I think of valleys, I don’t think of blessings. I think of difficult times, dark times, hard times, wandering aimlessly, and pain. What I see in this story is that God can take our valleys and turn them into blessings. We don’t have to be terrified of them because the battles that we face there are not ours, but God’s. He is the one who goes before us. He’s the one who fights on our behalf. We look at the odds and think, “There’s no way.” God looks at the odds and think, “Nothing is impossible for me.”

I like that King Jehoshaphat had the people meet him in Jerusalem. The very name of that city means “God will see to it”. They were reminded of that while they were praying and fasting about what to do in the valley. They knew they were out numbered. They knew there was no way for them to win the battle. Fear had taken over. In the middle of all that anxiety, God reminded them that He would see to it. All they had to do was show up ready to fight. When they acted in obedience to the Word of God, their enemies were defeated and they gathered the spoils. What should have been a valley of defeat turned into a valley of blessing.

You don’t have to be afraid of whatever valley you’re facing today. God sees that the odds are against you. He sees the impossibility of your situation. He wants you to turn to Him in prayer so He can remind you that He will see to it. He will be the one who goes before you. He will be the one who says, “This is my battle not yours. Show up for the fight and watch what I do.” As verse 20 says, “Believe in The Lord your God and you will be able to stand firm.” No matter what enemy rises up against you, God will see to it that the place you are afraid of will be turned into a valley of blessing.

Photo by lucas Favre on Unsplash

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.

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Test Time

In high school I had a teacher who seemed to relish giving tests. He wore his “test tie”, which was the ugliest, most distracting tie you can think of, and it clashed with his outfit usually. He also would wear a red contact lens in one eye. As he passed out the test, he would close the other eye and give each person a hard gaze with the red one. During the test, he would often each chips when the room was quietest. When people would look up, he would say, “Oh! Is this bothering you?” Every once in a while he would also let out a random sinister laugh. To be honest, I looked forward to test days because I thought it was hilarious. He also was always good about preparing us for the tests. If you had taken the time to prepare, you would have been able to pass despite the distractions.

While some people cracked under his antics, most of us did well. Those that cracked were always given the opportunity to make it up by correcting their mistakes or asking for help during the test. I don’t know that God relishes having us go through tests as much as that teacher did, but He knows they are necessary to our growth and development. He prepares us for them and gives us every opportunity to pass them. When we fail in them, He’s always there to guide us and to help us endure them. He knows what your limits are better than you do, and He uses times of testing to stretch us beyond what we think we know or can handle. He also gives us enough grace in those times to sustain us as we learn to lean on His strength.

Here are some Bible verses on testing.

1. We all experience times of testing, which is normal for every human being. But God will be faithful to you. He will screen and filter the severity, nature, and timing of every test or trial you face so that you can bear it. And each test is an opportunity to trust him more, for along with every trial God has provided for you a way of escape that will bring you out of it victoriously.

1 Corinthians 10:13 TPT

2. Blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] is the man who is steadfast under trial and perseveres when tempted; for when he has passed the test and been approved, he will receive the [victor’s] crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

James 1:12 AMP

3. My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

James 1:2-4 GNT

4. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

Hebrews 2:18 NLT

5. There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Romans 5:3-5 MSG

Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

All Access Pass

Have you ever met a person that you respected or admired, then got to have a real conversation with them? Then, at the end of the conversation, they gave you their number and said, “If you ever need anything, reach out to me.” I’ve had that happen a few times. I still have their cards, but I can tell you I’ve never called them. I’m too afraid that I’ll be seen as someone who abused the privilege of having access to them. I don’t want them to think I’m bothering them with a stupid request. So I hang onto my key to access them without ever accessing them.

The crazy thing is that many of us have that same attitude when it comes to accessing God. We think He’s got bigger problems to solve than ours. We reason that He doesn’t want to be bothered with our needs. We then try to justify, “He probably wouldn’t answer anyway.” So we hang onto our access to God, but we rarely access Him. I’m here to tell you that Jesus didn’t rip the veil between man and God for us to not use that access. He invited us to come boldly into the Throne Room.

1 Corinthians 4:8 says, “You already have more access to God than you can handle” (MSG). Think about that. You and I have more access to God than we can handle. Access that He expects us to use. Whatever failures you point to, God can forgive. Whatever wisdom you need, God can give. Whatever problems you’re facing, God can resolve, but you have to access Him. You can’t just sit back and do nothing. Use your “All Access” badge, get into the Throne Room of Heaven and let God know your request.

God is able to handle the toughest problems of this world and your greatest need at the same time. You don’t need to feel ashamed or timid in approaching Him. His ways are not our ways and His wisdom is not our wisdom so He may answer in an unexpected way. Present your needs to Him without telling Him how to solve them. God is deeply concerned about the things you’re concerned about, and He has the power to resolve them. Don’t believe the lie that you need to leave Him alone. You have the access, now use it.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Today’s Doubting Thomas

Most of us know the story of Thomas after Jesus was resurrected. Other disciples had seen Jesus but he had not. They kept telling him that Jesus was alive, but he knew what he had seen. He watched as they beat Jesus with a whip that had 9 strands on it with chunks of glass. He saw them put the crown of thorns on His head and then nailed His hands and feet to that splintered wood. He was even there when the soldier took a sword and rammed it through the ribs of Jesus. He heard Jesus say, “It is finished.” You couldn’t tell him that Jesus was alive after that.

Can you blame him? It’s easy to sit here two millenniums away and call him “Doubting Thomas”. Would you or I have been any different? Are we any different now? Thomas allowed circumstances to dictate his faith. He had also walked with Jesus and watched as He healed people with leprosy, issues of blood, lameness, mutism, deafness and all kinds of incurable diseases. He even watched on a few occasions as Jesus raised people from the dead. Yet here he was listening to others as they said they had seen Jesus.

Many of us have walked with Jesus too. We have seen what He has done in our lives, can point to healings that we’ve witnessed and watched as The Lord touches the hearts of the worst among us yet we still don’t fully trust in Him. We allow circumstances and things going on in this world to rob us of our joy, hope and faith. Our faith rises and falls on what happens around us. It is far too easy to forget what God has done in the past when there is a mountain ahead.

It’s no wonder that Thomas uttered the famous words, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.” We do the same. We just say it different. “God if you’re really there and if you can really hear me, I need you to do…” It’s a good thing that God is patient with us. When Jesus saw Thomas, He didn’t mock him or ask why he didn’t believe. Instead, Jesus walked up to Thomas and gently said, “Thomas, put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” (John 20:27 NLT)

I think that’s what Jesus would say to us today. Don’t be faithless any longer. Don’t allow what you’re going through cause you to forget what He’s done for you in the past. He is patient and kind. Slow to anger. He is talking to you this morning and is inviting you to trust Him. He is in control even when it doesn’t feel like. He sees you where you are and knows your fear. He is deeply concerned about you and wants to show Himself to you and to provide the opportunity for you to touch Him. Thomas had to reach out and touch Him to believe again. Will you reach out today to touch Him in order to believe again?

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.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Finding Strength In The Lord

One of the Bible Verses I memorized as a kid in song form has helped me through some pretty tough times. If you grew up in church, you probably know this little song too from Nehemiah 8:10. In some of my most painful, sleepless nights, I’ve laid in bed singing, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” When I’m too mentally tired to fight any more or begin to feel defeated or overwhelmed, I sing this little song to remind myself that I can’t win the battles I’m facing in my own strength. I need God’s help and His strength in the toughest of times. I can have tears streaming down my face and begin to look for God’s joy that’s not circumstantial. He gives strength in our weakness and helps us to rise up like eagles, to keep running and not grow weary and to walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).

Another promise to us who find our strength in the Lord comes from Psalm 84:5-6. It says, “How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord; within their hearts are the highways of holiness! 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). Each of go through the valley of tears in our lives. Some of us spend longer times in that valley, but we’re encouraged to keep looking to the Lord for strength during these times to stay renewed and to keep us moving forward, especially when we feel we have nothing left in the tank. God wants us to dig deeper inside to find those pools of refreshing through our pain and sorrow.

The brook of blessing refreshes us in the valley. It gives us hope that God still sees us and hasn’t forgotten us in those dark times. He reminds us that we are His and He’s giving us the chance to experience the depths of grace most people will never know because they only see the pain. But we have a peace that passes understanding knowing that our trials produce endurance, character, and a hope that will not leave us disappointed (Romans 5:3-5). We also know that His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), but we have to look past the pain to see that He is doing something in us that can’t be done any other way. He’s showing us we are capable of enduring anything when we find our strength, hope and joy in Him.

Photo by Benjamín Gremler on Unsplash

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized