There’s a worship song out that says, “This is how I fight my battles. It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you.” I love that song because it’s a great reminder of the power of praise. It also reminds me of a time when I was in high school and I came under a spiritual attack that presented itself in a very physical way. A guy I knew attacked me in my home. One of my parent’s friends was there at the house and walked in at just the right moment. She told me to go collect myself. I went to the bathroom and began to praise because I recognized what was happening. When I came out, I was ready for battle, but God had already delivered me from the situation.
The story was similar in 2 Chronicles 20. A massive army came out against Israel. They prayed and fasted Seeking God’s help. They still had to go to battle, but they understood that the battle belonged to the Lord. On the way, the king consulted the people and they decided to send singers out in front of the army who were worshiping God. Verse 22 says that the moment they began to praise, the other army started fight among themselves and killed each other until no one was left. It took Israel 3 full days to gather the plunder left behind by the army. The Israelites were so grateful to God for the victory, they named the place “The Valley of Blessing”.
Verse 26 says, “On the fourth day they gathered in the Valley of Blessing, which got its name that day because the people praised and thanked the Lord there. It is still called the Valley of Blessing today” (NLT). If you’re in a valley facing defeat, spend time praising God. Not only does it invite His presence into your situation, it gets your focus on Him rather than your problem. Praise is a powerful weapon that we must learn to use in our darkest moments. People all throughout the Bible used it (Joshua at Jericho, Paul and Silas in prison, etc), we should be too. You may not feel like praising God in your current situation, but that’s precisely when you need to. There’s power in praise.
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Have you ever had someone in your life who constantly reminds you of your past mistakes? Sometimes it’s a spouse, a friend or a family member, and sometimes it’s your own voice in your head. They seem to bring them up at the most inopportune moment. No matter what you do, because of them, it’s like you can never move on. You’d like to move on and forget it ever happened, but they’re there to make sure you never forget. It’s difficult to move forward when you’re constantly looking backwards. Your past becomes like a ball and chain that impedes your progress.
That’s what shame does. I believe many of us live with it constantly holding us back. “No one will accept you if they knew about… You can’t go back to church now. You’ve been gone too long. You don’t deserve to be happy. How can you call yourself a Christian?” Shame is a master manipulator who hits below the belt in an effort to kill our desire for growth. Understand this: SHAME IS NOT FROM GOD! These voices and thoughts are not God speaking to you. He loves you and wants you to succeed and grow and move forward. He wants to set you free from shame, and it starts with you refusing to listen to that voice.
I love Zephaniah 3:17. It says, “The LORD your God is in your midst, A Warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with joy; He will be quiet in His love [making no mention of your past sins], He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy” (AMP). God is a warrior who is fighting for you to win this battle. He loves you and doesn’t bring up your forgiven past. He rejoices over you and delights in you because you are His child. That’s who God is. It’s time to kick the voice of shame to the curb and to embrace God’s voice. Anytime those other thoughts come in, push them out. Don’t entertain them. Open your Bible and replace them with what God really says. You are forgiven. You are accepted. You are loved.
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Throwback Thursday is a new 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.
My three year old son surprised me the other day. We were sitting down talking and he wanted to get my attention so used both hands to grab my face to look at him. He said, “Joshua 1:9, Dada.” It took me a minute to figure out what he was talking about, but then I remembered it was his memory verse a few weeks back. I thought for a second how they had taught him, then I recited it to him, “Do not be afraid. God is with you.” He smiled and said, “Yeah. God is with you. Joshua 1:9.”
What a great promise to us to hold on to. The full verse says, “This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” This was God speaking to Joshua before he entered a land of giants and walled cities that he was to conquer. It was 40 years earlier that he had been there as a spy and was outvoted 10-2 because the people were afraid of what they saw. I’m sure the ones who were scared told their kids what the Promised Land had in it. They might have been afraid of what their future held.
Like them, you may be looking at your future and are starting to feel scared. There are uncertainties, giants even huge walls up around the things you feel like God has called you to. When you look at those things, you may be wondering, “How can I accomplish that?” The path to it may be unclear. There may be huge obstacles in your way. But if God has called you to do it, there are no walls high enough that He can’t push down. There are no walls thick enough that He can’t break. There is no enemy strong enough to keep you away from all He has promised. He just needs you to step out in faith.
That’s the hard part. The scary part. When that fear arises, go back to Joshua 1:9. God commanded us to be strong and courageous. He didn’t merely suggest it. He told us not to be afraid or discouraged by the obstacles in our way because He is with us. He doesn’t expect us to do these things in our own strength or abilities. He will do the work as long as we are willing to cross the Jordan and enter the Land of Promise. Our step of faith pushes back fear and activates God’s strength. Don’t hold back because of fear. Go and conquer all that God has for you.
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In 2 Chronicles 20, several armies joined together to attack Judah (lower Israel in the divided kingdom). King Jehoshaphat was terrified and not sure what to do when he heard the news. He immediately sent out word to all the towns to send people to Jerusalem to fast and pray. While they were assembled, he prayed aloud for everyone to hear. In verse 12, he prayed something that is key for all of us to pray in such situations. He said, “We do not know what to do, but we look to you for help” (GNT).
Then, the Spirit of the Lord came on a Levite named Jahaziel. He spoke several things to them, but the part I want to focus on comes from verse 15. He said, “The Lord says you must not be discouraged or be afraid… The battle depends on God, not on you.” That should offer relief to you and I. The battles we are facing don’t depend on our ability, but God’s. We don’t have to be afraid of what we are facing because our God is bigger and more powerful.
The Israelites had to show up to the battle in order to win it according to the prophesy. The same is true for us. To calm his men down, King Jehoshaphat told them, “Put your trust in the Lord your God, and you will stand your ground. Believe what His prophets tell you, and you will succeed.” Faith is more than just showing up for the battle. It’s trusting what God says despite what you see. If we want success, we have to trust His report more than what our eyes and others tell us.
What happened next is incredible and also a great lesson for us. The king ordered that they praise the Lord for the victory before the battle! When they began to praise, it threw the enemy into a panic and they defeated themselves. They renamed the valley “Baracah” which means the valley of praise. Praise is one of our most powerful weapons. We need to use it before our battles because God dwells in the praises of His people. God can turn your valley of fear and desperation to a valley of praise if you will look to Him, depend on His ability, show up for the battle, and praise Him.
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In 2 Chronicles 14, the Ethiopians brought a million man army up against Israel. King Asa only had about half of that. He didn’t wait for the Battle to come to them either. He rallied his troops and went out to meet the Ethiopian army. After he got to the battlefield, he prayed, “O GOD, you aren’t impressed by numbers or intimidated by a show of force once you decide to help: Help us, O GOD; we have come out to meet this huge army because we trust in you and who you are. Don’t let mere mortals stand against you!” (MSG) The next verse says that the Lord defeated the Ethiopian army right in front of Asa.
As I read this story, I was reminded that many times when we look at the battles we face, we are outnumbered, outgunned, and often surrounded with seemingly no way out. I’m sure Asa’s scouts told him how big the Ethiopian army was, but he still showed up for battle. Half of any your victory is simply showing up for the battle. When everything inside screams run, we’ve got to show up or we’ll miss seeing what God can and will do. If we want to be victorious, we can’t run from our problems. We’ve got to face them head on.
The other thing I was reminded of is that our battles are not our own. Asa fully trusted God to bring the victory. He didn’t look at the battlefield through his eyes. He saw it through God’s eyes. When he prayed, he already saw the victory because he trusted in what God would do. You and I need to change the lenses that we look at things through. Victory isn’t brought about by our might or our power, but by God’s Spirit. You shouldn’t be intimidated by how big your problems are. They should be intimidated by how big our God is. Show up, pray and watch God fight for you.
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Yeas ago, I lived in Cairo, Egypt. About once a month or so, I would take a train to the Lillian Trasher Orphanage in Asyut. That part of Egypt is pretty radicalized and is unsafe for Americans to travel to. I would always have to buy my tickets in advance so they would know I was coming and could be prepared. On my first trip, I didn’t understand what was really happening, but I noticed two guys in my section of the train that stood out.
Their clothes weren’t thin, worn out or dirty. They also had a bulge at their right hip. Everyone in that section felt their presence. I was a little uncomfortable so I switched cars. They followed me. I made sure they were aware that I knew they were there, but it didn’t phase them. It turns out that they were secret police who were there to protect me. When we arrived, they ushered me off the train and guarded me until the local police arrived and escorted me to my destination.
It’s not every day that you and I get to experience having body guards, but you’ve probably seen someone who had them. Those guards make their presence known, and intimidate anyone thinking of messing with that person. I believe God does that for us. When we live in His presence, He walks beside us guarding us against spiritual attacks. Does that mean we won’t be attacked? No. It means He’s there to fight for us so we won’t be moved.
In Psalm 16:8, the writer puts it this way, “I am always aware of the Lord ‘s presence; he is near, and nothing can shake me” (GNT). Knowing we have God near us should give us the courage to do the things He’s called us too. Many times we feel insecure or unsure about doing those things. It’s time we become aware of God’s presence in our lives and become bold as lions. You may come under attack, but when God is with you, you will remain unshaken.
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When things go wrong and your world starts to fall apart, it seems everyone is full of advice on where to go and what to do. David faced something similar in Psalm 11. His response was, “I trust in the Lord for protection” (NLT). They thought he should take flight to the mountains for protection. They painted a picture of a world that was collapsing and wanted him to trust in something else for protection instead of God.
David again responded in verse 4, “But the LORD is in his holy Temple; the LORD still rules from heaven. He watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth.” He knew that no matter what comes our way, God is still on His throne in Heaven. He is still in charge of everything, and nothing happens without His knowledge. David didn’t allow the circumstances around him to move Him from a place of security with the Lord.
When things get hairy, if we don’t take flight, our other natural instinct is to fight. David found his peace in knowing that the Lord provided his protection and that kept him from making the mistake of fighting or taking flight. He knew that God would fight on his behalf. Verse 6 says, “He (God) will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked, punishing them with scorching winds.” The Lord vindicates the righteous and fights for them.
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you want to fight or take flight, find your peace in trusting God for your protection. Don’t listen to those who would coax you out of that secure place. The only real protection we have is in the Lord. Other options may sound like a good idea in the heat of the moment, so decide now that you won’t take flight from the Lord’s protection or fight a fight that is His.