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Preparing Mentally

You’ve probably heard someone say, “They’re heart wasn’t in it.” You’ve probably also heard someone say, “Get your mind in the game!” In both of these cases, the person was either distracted or they were not prepared for what was going on and they were suffering the consequences. In many cases, it’s very obvious when a person hasn’t prepared mentally for something. They struggle to get through it and they’re not focused. On the flip side, you can see the determination and focus of someone who came prepared with the intent on winning.

So what does that have to do with us? In John 16:33 jesus said, “In this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrow” (TPT). Somehow many of us are surprised when that happens to us. We haven’t prepared mentally for the difficult times that come into our lives. It shouldn’t come as a shock to us when we face troubles. We need to make sure we are prepared for them and that we have the heart to endure them. 1 Peter 1:13 says, “So then, prepare your hearts and minds for action!“

I know what it’s like to not be prepared for troubles and difficulties. You go through a period of being shell shocked and then it’s like you’re spending all your energy trying to play catch up. If we prepare our hearts and minds ahead of time, we get the strength to endure those times. To do that, we need to have a mindset that is ready for battle at all times. We also need to be vigilant in prayer before something happens. When we are prayed up and full of God’s Word, and when we are ready for action, we won’t be knocked out by what the world throws at us. Remember Jesus concluded John 16:33 with, “Be courageous, for I have conquered the world.”

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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Developing Life Flavors

One of the things I enjoy doing is cooking. One of the things I’ve learned is that foods taste better if you take the time to develop the flavors. That means that instead of adding onion and garlic later, I may start with them and let them sauté a bit in order to bring out more flavor. When I create a sauce to cook in, I may let it simmer a little longer so that it reduces. Doing that will intensify the flavor. To turn a recipe into a beloved dish, you have to take the time to develop and bring out the hidden flavors with heat and time. It’s more than simply adding ingredients.

I believe our lives are the same way. God wants to create amazing flavors in our lives that point others to Him. To do that, it requires Him to do things differently than our recipe. It also requires us to be put in the fire, sometimes longer than we care to be there. It’s really our choice how we respond. Do we give Him the freedom to bring out the flavors that are locked inside of us? Or do we allow those times to produce a bitter flavor that turns people away from us and Him? God’s desire is that each one of us would have complex, well developed flavors so that we’re not just another Christian.

James 1 tells us to consider it joy, even a gift, when trials and challenges come at us from all sides. In that pressure cooker, it releases hidden flavors into the world. In verse 4 he writes, “So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (MSG). When things aren’t going right and life is coming at you hard, don’t run away. God is at work in you and pulling out flavors that were locked away and hidden before. He’s not going to allow these problems to overwhelm you. He knows what you can take and how long you can stay there. Trust His judgement and let Him do His Work in your life.

Photo by Daniel Norris on Unsplash

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Tested Faith

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.

I don’t know if there’s a Christian alive who hasn’t gone through a difficult time and wondered why people who are outright evil don’t appear to be suffering. You try to do everything God asks and follow all the rules, yet there is someone in your life living in outright rebellion to God and nothing ever happens to them. It’s unfair. It’s unjust. Why should the godly suffer when we are the ones who try to do right? Shouldn’t God bless us because we are his followers and curse them?

I’ve been caught in that trap before. I’ve questioned God’s decision to allow me to suffer while others enjoy life’s greatest blessings. At times, I’ve felt like my life was worse than Job’s. In the midst of my suffering, I’ve wondered if anyone ever had it as bad as me. I allowed myself to wallow in self pity. It didn’t get Job anywhere, and it certainly didn’t get me anywhere. God didn’t even seem to notice my pity party. I thought, “Maybe I should just live how I want since living right hasn’t gotten me anything except this pain.”

When we act on those thoughts, we fail the test God has given us. I’ve found that God only tests those worthy of taking it. Everything Job went through was a test to prove that he wasn’t righteous only because of his blessings. God was showing that his faith didn’t rely on his health or possessions. It relied on his trust in God even when God was silent during the test. It relied on who He had found God to be in the good times. It didn’t get distracted in the storm.

True faith gets tested. True faith trusts God even when we can’t see Him or feel Him. It’s understandable that we want to compare ourselves to others who aren’t living right, but we are to trust in God no matter what. Psalm 40:4 says, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods” (NIV). We are blessed when we can keep our eyes on God in the midst of chaos. We pass the test when our trust in God outweighs our circumstances. We need to realize God is testing us because we are worthy of being tested.

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

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Choose Joy

I’ve been a sales trainer for a few years, and one thing has been consistent. When some people show up for training, they’re not happy. They want to know if class is really going to take the full time. By the end of class though, many of them change their attitudes. They’ll walk out and say, “Thanks. I didn’t think I needed this, but I learned something.” Our attitude towards training is much like our attitude towards troubles in life. We don’t want them or see a need for them. However, when we’ve made it through them, we find ourselves stronger.

I think James was trying to make that same correlation for us in James 1:2-3. He wrote, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (NLT). Joy is usually the last emotion that I pair with troubles and trials, but James says they’re an opportunity for us to have it.

I’ve said before that joy is not dependent on your circumstances, happiness is. Joy comes from deep within. It looks at your big picture, while happiness looks at the little one. Joy is something you choose to have no matter what. Each of us choose our attitude in our circumstances. If we don’t, our circumstances will choose our attitude for us. In most cases, it chooses the wrong attitude. Choosing Joy gives you the strength to endure whatever comes your way.

The second part of that verse is where we get our Joy from. We don’t look at the current trouble, but the end result. What do trials produce in us? Endurance. Verse 4 says, “So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” If you can train yourself to keep the end in mind, you will learn to handle troubles a lot better. Don’t waste your times of trouble. Use them for what they’re for: growth and endurance. By choosing the wrong attitude, you prolong your time in them, and miss what God has for you. Keep the end in mind, and choose Joy.

Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

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Turbulence Is Good

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.


On a recent flight, the pilot said there was turbulence ahead and that he was going to try a different altitude. We lowered several thousand feet and hit turbulence there. He lowered some more and we hit turbulence there too. He went up some and we started hitting turbulence there. On our whole flight, he was readjusting trying to miss the turbulence, but he was unsuccessful. No matter what we did, we kept hitting these bumps in our path. He finally came over the intercom and said, “As you can see, we are not going to have a smooth flight today. I’ve tried everything and we’re still finding these pockets. We won’t be able to go as fast as we wanted.”

The pilot, like many of us, tried to avoid disturbances in his path. He tried different things to get around them and couldn’t. Our first instinct when there’s a disturbance or turbulence in our path is to try to find a way around it, but is that really God’s desire for us? Are we to avoid problems and things that slow us down? I don’t think so. I dislike them as much as anyone, but I’ve learned they serve a purpose. I may not always see the purpose right away, but I’ve found that God uses them to shape who we are and to change our course. The path God has for us isn’t an easy one.

Jesus was preaching in Matthew 7:14 when He was talking about the path you and I should be on. He said, “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it” (NLT). The Amplified version said it is “contracted by pressure”. That doesn’t sound like we are going to be able to avoid the bumps and have a smooth ride into Heaven. In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” Jesus was pretty open to us about what life will bring as Christians. He said we would struggle, suffer and have tribulation, and also that He would not leave us in those times.

My nephew likes to say, “No pressure, no diamond.” He’s learning at an early age that pressure can be a good thing. It’s what brings out the best in us. God uses pressure pockets in our life to develop qualities that won’t develop any other way. He has us change altitude and course so we can be put into the path of someone who needs our help. There is a purpose and a plan for the turbulence in your life. To avoid it is to avoid what God wants to do in you and through you.

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How To Fight Impossible Battles


In II Chronicles 20, a huge army invaded southern Israel. The king and all the people were terrified because they defeated several strongholds easily. He begged God for help and asked others to pray with him. It sounds a lot like any one of us when we are facing something that seems impossible to beat. Fear is our first response, then we beg God for help. I believe what follows in this story is something we can all learn from in these moments in life. 

The first thing that happened was King Jehoshaphat got like minded people together, fasted and prayed. We are not to fight these battles alone. Fear’s goal is to intimidate you and to push you into seclusion. Don’t let it! There is strength in numbers and in fasting. Get a group of people around you who can fight on their knees and touch God for you. This first step is critical if you’re going to win an impossible battle.

In verses 15-17, God answered those praying. The Word of the Lord came back saying, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (NLT). Things only seem impossible when God is not in the equation. The battles we face are not our own, but they are God’s. We don’t have to be afraid or discouraged at the sheer impossibility of anything that comes our way because God goes before us.

As the army of Israel approached the battlefield, Jehoshaphat spoke in verse 20 and reminded them, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets and you will succeed.” Faith will help us to stand firm when standing is all we can do. We can trust in God, and in His Word, to get the courage to keep standing in the face of impossibilities. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to continue to trust God and His Word so we can see the victory.

Finally, the king appointed singers to praise God and he sent them out in front. At the very moment they began to sing, the Lord gave victory. We need to be able to praise God in advance of victory. We need to honor Him when all else seems to be going wrong. Praise is powerful. It activates our faith and moves our God. If you can’t find it in you to praise, play praise music until you do. Victory is dependent on God, not us. We can praise Him for that. Our impossible battles are no match for a God who says all things are possible. 

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Know Peace


When I was younger, there was a bumper sticker that was pretty popular among Christians. It read, “No God, no peace. Know God, know peace.” I loved the word play there, but I loved the message even more. So many of us struggle trying to find internal peace. We want our chaotic lives and busy minds to find peace. We want the rest that peace brings because a lack of peace in our lives is tiresome.

Each night, I pray over my family that God would give us peace in our hearts and in our minds. I pray that our home would be a place where peace dwells. I know personally the importance of having that peace and a place of peace. I’ve found that we can have peace in our storms, our trials, and in chaos. It starts with knowing God and trusting that He is in control. Once you arrive at that place, you will find peace.

Here are some Bible verses on peace.

1. But give great joy to those who came to my defense. Let them continually say, “Great is the LORD, who delights in blessing his servant with peace!”
Psalms 35:27 NLT

2. Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 GNT

3. Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]
John 14:27 AMPC

4. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 NLT

5. But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].
Galatians 5:22-23 AMPC

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