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Surviving The Dark Valley

In one of the darkest times of my life, I felt like everything was crumbling around me. I couldn’t sleep or eat for days. I laid in bed at night and would repeat Nehemiah 8:10. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Over and over I would say it. Then I started singing it through the tears. It became my mantra. Because of that, even though my world was crumbling around me, I found a place deep within that gave me hope that I would make it through it. Some days I couldn’t see past a minute in front of me, but i knew if God would help me survive that minute, then I could survive the next. God would remind me of Scriptures to hold on to or He would have someone give me one out of the blue. Life was hard, but God provided a way through it and gave me strength to endure.

Psalm 84:5-6 says, “How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord…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 ). This promise is to those who find their strength in the Lord first of all. Every one of us goes through the dark valley of tears. What I love is that God says, “Pick up your shovel during that time and start digging. Beneath all that pain is a pool where you can find strength and refreshment.” We’ve got to dig deeper than the way things appear on the surface. We’ve got to dig deep into God’s Word. We’ve got to dig deep into His promises, and put our roots there. If they’re on the surface, we’ll be blown over like a tree in a hurricane. Our roots cannot remain at surface level in the dark valley of tears.

You can either be defeated in that valley or you can find the brook of God’s blessing. God is pouring out blessings all the time, but we don’t see them because we get too focused on the things going on around us. Lamentations 3:21-25 says, “Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope. The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him” (GNT). You can have hope in the dark valley of tears when you focus on God’s unfailing love to get you through it and His mercy to remind you that this is a season and there are mountain tops still ahead. Trust and hope in the Lord and draw your strength from Him.

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Surrendering Anxiety

Did you know that just being afraid of something is not considered a phobia? The fear must altar your behavior in some way to be considered a phobia. The same is true of anxiety. Many times we may be anxious, but when it causes us to change what we’re doing, we are considered to have anxiety. It shows up in different ways. Many times, we try to altar the situation ourselves, but that can make things worse. We don’t make the best decision when we are worried. I know that for me, it causes me to run through scenarios trying to find the right way to fix it. I lose sleep and can’t concentrate on things throughout my day. In turn, it affects every area of my life until I’m so desperate that I force the issue.

You’ve no doubt heard the Psalm that tells us to be still and know that He is God. What you may not know is that the Hebrew words for be still mean to let hang down; to be relaxed, especially the hands. It can also mean to not make an effort or exertion. Meaning take your hands off the situation and let God handle it. The Passion Translation takes that into account and writes that verse this way, “Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). So many times anxiety has altered our minds to the point that we lose sight of God in our situation. God wants to remind us that He sees us, and knows what we’re going through.

It’s tough to take our hands off the situation. It’s better to ask God for wisdom in how to handle it though. Ask God to give you peace in your mind and clarity of thought as well. Surrender your anxiety to Him, recognize He is in control and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Our behavior change in a situation should not be out of anxiety, but rather out of thoughtful prayer after we’ve handed it over to God. If you want to see God in what’s going on, be still, put your hands down and relax. Breathe. Pray. Listen. Begin to thank God for all He’s done, and all He’s going to do. Your life is in His hands and He is in charge of the outcome. Trust that He will do what’s best and grow you through it. God is at work and it’s for your good.

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Selfish Desires

I’m a firm believer that root of a lot of sin is selfishness. We are constantly trying to repair our own inner brokenness, but we do it at the expense of doing things God’s way. Think back to the Garden of Eden. God planted a garden full of trees and put one in the middle that they could not eat from. Adam and Eve’s desire to be the creator rather than the creation caused them to eat of that fruit. It was their own selfish desire to do things their way rather than God’s way that caused them to fall for the temptation. They knew what the right thing to do was, but they gave in to that selfishness. The problem is, the devil still uses our selfishness to draw us into sin and away from God.

Think about each person in the Bible and how they sinned, and you will almost always find selfishness at the root. David was selfish and wanted Bathsheba rather than the women he was already married to. Jonah didn’t like the people of Nineveh, so he went in the opposite direction of where God was sending him. Cain killed his brother because he didn’t like that God approved of his offering better. The list goes on and on of how we are drawn away by our own selfishness into sin. However, the other side of the coin is that God has a plan that is better than our own. If we will follow it, instead of our own selfish desires, He will prosper us.

Proverbs 28:25 says, “Selfishness only causes trouble. You are much better off to trust the Lord” (GNT). When we do things our way, instead of God’s, we end up more broken than before. The great news is that we don’t have to live life giving in to our brokenness. We can choose the healing that comes from doing things God’s way. You don’t have to understand why He wants you to do something in order to obey. Faith is trusting His plan and His way, instead of yours, even when you don’t understand. When we get better at that, we will begin to live the life we were created to live. The better we understand our own brokenness, the better we will understand where we are tempted to do things selfishly. Don’t fall for the trap. Choose to trust God’s way.

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Acts Of Worship

One of my favorite authors says that he takes off his shoes when he sits down to write because he considers that place holy ground. He says that he worships God with each keystroke. I’ve often thought of that and wondered, “What are my acts of worship? Do I take them as seriously as He does?” I don’t think we have to remove our shoes for every act of worship, but I do think we need to recognize when we are worshiping God. Worship is more than a slow song at church. It’s an act of love done to honor God that’s often a sacrifice of some kind. It requires a conscious effort on our part to put God’s needs ahead of our own.

When’s the last time you worshiped God with your life? Any act of obedience with the right heart is an act of worship. Consider all that God has done for you. There is nothing you can do to repay Him, but you can thank and honor Him by living your life in a way that pleases Him. You can rescue those who are perishing spiritually and physically as a way to worship Him. We don’t worship to earn our salvation though. It is the response of a grateful heart. Each act of worship is different because each of us have different skills and burdens that drive our worship. The important thing is to make sure we offer these things consciously as worship to God. Whether you’re working to end human trafficking, giving your tithe, serving the homeless or staying home to raise your children, do it as an act of worship and God will bless it.

Here are some Bible verses about worshiping God.

1. Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship.

ROMANS 12:1 AMP

2. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.

John 4:23 NLT

3. Worship GOD if you want the best; worship opens doors to all his goodness.

Psalm 34:9 MSG

4. Therefore, I encourage the men to pray on every occasion with hands lifted to God in worship with clean hearts, free from frustration or strife.

1 Timothy 2:8 TPT

5. Let us be thankful, then, because we receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Let us be grateful and worship God in a way that will please him, with reverence and awe.

Hebrews 12:28 GNT

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Breaking New Ground

When you read the creation account in Genesis, it’s easy to think that God created everything with just His voice. “Let there be light. Let there be water. Let the land sprout with vegetation. Let the waters swarm with fish.” But in chapter two we find two things He made by hand. God formed man from the dust of the ground and He planted a garden where He then placed the man. I think it’s significant that out of all creation, He made these with His hands instead of with His voice. They were both made from the ground, but both had to be cultivated. Man needed the breath of God in him, and the garden needed Him to dig up soil so He could plant trees that bore good fruit.

If you’ve ever planted a garden, you know that the hard work begins with cultivating the soil. You have to break it up and churn it so that it is prepared for planting. Our lives are full of uncultivated soil that God wants to plant things in, but we must first be willing to till it. Many times we ask God for more, but we haven’t given Him the uncultivated parts of our lives. We tend to segregate our life into two parts: the part we let God into and the part we want to keep for ourselves. When the later part becomes unmanageable, we cry out to Him in desperation for help, but then promptly kick Him back out once the problem is under control. In reality, we should be seeking His blessings for every part of our lives and giving Him control of everything.

Hosea10:12 says, “Break up your uncultivated ground, For it is time to seek and search diligently for the LORD [and to long for His blessing]” (AMP). What parts of your life are uncultivated right now? If you’re wanting more of what God has in store for you, you’re going to have to clear away the weeds and break up the ground to prepare it for seeds of blessings. Seeds must have fertile soil to germinate in if they’re going to produce good fruit. God wants to have His fingerprints all over your life, but you’re the one who is going to have to give Him access. The Garden of Eden doesn’t just have to exist in Genesis. It can be cultivated in your life when you’re willing to break new ground.

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Being Around God

Have you ever been around someone and thought you knew what they were like? You could have been around them for years, but then you got to know them and found out they were different than you thought. I had a guy at church approach me like that years ago. I had greeted him, been in conversations in a group of people he was a part of and even spoke to him a few times. Then one year I helped take the youth to camp and his teenage daughter was on the trip. He came up to me a week or two later and said, “My daughter says you’re the funniest person she’s met. I don’t get it. I’ve never seen you be funny.” I replied, “You haven’t gotten to know me. You’ve only been around me in certain circumstances.”

I’m afraid that’s how many of us are with God. We’ve been around Him at church. Maybe we’ve felt like He’s spoken to us before, or we’ve been in prayer meetings where everyone is talking to Him. When someone talks about who God is, it may not line up with who you thought He was. It’s hard to reconcile that, but it could be that you’ve just been around God, but have never truly gotten to know Him. You may even be able to tell me facts about Him because you were raised in Sunday School and have attended church your whole life, but if you don’t know Him, you’re missing the point of what He wants.

In Hosea 6:6, God says, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings” (NLT). God is more interested in having a relationship with you rather than you doing all the religious rituals. The way to get to know Him is to be quiet in your prayer time and listen to Him rather than speaking. Another way is to read your Bible with the intent of God speaking something to you through it rather than trying to read a certain amount for the day. Just like any relationship, it takes time to build and it requires you to listen and ask questions. As you get to know God, you might find He’s not like what you’ve imagined He’s like. His desire is for you to know Him. Ask Him today to reveal Himself to you, to speak to you and to take you into a deeper relationship with Him.

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Think Differently

Several years ago, Apple was floundering as a company. They had lost their soul and direction. They decided to bring Steve Jobs back as the CEO to see if he could turn it around. One of the things he did after revamping their product line was to change advertising agencies. The agency that won pitched him the idea of the now famous “Think Different” campaign. The commercial showed different geniuses from history with a voice that started off, “There are people who see the world differently. They see things in new ways.” While the commercial went on to advertise Apple, it’s a reminder that you and I ask Christians are called to think differently.

Proverbs 23:7 tells that our thoughts determine who we are. We must then learn how to control them or at least stop the negative thoughts that lie to us. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us that we must bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. We can’t just allow idle thoughts or negative thoughts to float around in our heads. We must capture them and change them. It’s easier said than done, I know, but it starts with challenging the thoughts that don’t like up with what God says. When those thoughts come in, you counter with who God says you are and what He’s promised to us as believers. God knows that the way to change our lives is through changing our thoughts.

Isaiah 8:11 says, “The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does” (NLT). Why would God do that? Because we are called to be and live differently. We are to be set apart and to see the world in a different way. We are to change culture rather than to be a reflection of it. The only way to do that is to think differently and to see the world as God does. He transforms us by the renewing of our thoughts and in turn, we transform the world. Don’t get caught up today thinking and seeing the world the way others do. Pray and ask God to change how you think and see so that it reflects how He sees it. In turn, you’ll begin to fulfill your purpose and help others along the way.

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