The Thoughts That Preoccupy Us…

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Psalms 145:17-21 (KJV)

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
18 The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.
19 He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.
20 The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.
21 My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.

If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?

Your answer reveals a lot about who you are.

The psalmist writes, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4).

There is nothing wrong with desires–they motivate us to achieve great things.

But not all of our yearnings come from God.

Consider your aspirations and what they say about who you are:

Do you hope for a position of authority in order to be in control?

Longing for personal advancement in order to manipulate others reveals a lack of integrity, whereas a godly person craves righteousness.

Do you dream about wealth and fame?

Perhaps there’s a void in your spirit that you’re trying to fill. But only God can meet the insatiable needs of the human heart.

Are you afraid to ask the Lord for what you want?

Maybe you think He won’t listen, but God tells us to approach His throne with boldness and confidence (Heb. 4:16).

If the Lord doesn’t respond affirmatively to your prayers, ask Him to make your desires conform to His will. Whatever you do, don’t take matters into your own hands and go after what you want.

There is always a high price to pay for rebelling against God.

God cares for us bountifully, but that doesn’t mean we can expect Him to deliver whatever we want, whenever we want it.

Only when our dreams align with His plan for our lives does He fulfill them.

The thoughts that preoccupy us are an accurate barometer of the state of our relationship with Christ.

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When He Needs To Get Your Attention…

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Judges 7:1-7 (KJV)

1 Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.
2 And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
3 Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
4 And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.
5 So he brought down the people unto the water: and the Lord said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink.
6 And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.
7 And the Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place.

Have you ever felt backed into a corner, with the odds stacked against you?

In situations like that, Christians too often refuse to acknowledge an important truth.

That is, they fail to recognize that God may actually be orchestrating their challenging circumstances.

You may think, No way. God protects me from such things. The world and Satan are doing this to me.

Perhaps.

Yet maybe, just maybe, God is trying to tell you something—and He first needs to get your attention.

Time and again in Scripture, we see that the Lord uses difficulties to build our faith. It’s easy to trust Him when things go our way.

However, God often removes comforts and false securities from our lives to remind us that He is the true source of our strength.

Consider today’s passage, in which Gideon was ready to lead a powerful militia of 32,000 men into battle against the enemy. However, the Lord stepped into the situation two different times, whittling the Israelite army down to less than one percent of its original size. We may have replied, “What? It’s impossible to defeat enemy forces with just 300 men!” That’s probably true; 300 men alone couldn’t do it.

But the Lord could.

When the odds are not in your favor, don’t think that God has abandoned you.

Your money, your success, and even people you thought were friends may disappear, but those wouldn’t win the battle anyway.

Stand your ground and stay focused on the Lord. With everything else stripped away, you’ll be amazed at what your heavenly Father will achieve.

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Keeping Joy When Difficulties Overwhelm…

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Galatians 5:16-26 (KJV)

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

As believers, we all want the fruit of the Spirit, but how can we know if we truly have it?

Even unbelievers can display these qualities when conditions are positive. This nine-fold fruit of the Spirit is not what we do, but who we are, and it is primarily on display in Christians when circumstances are unfavorable.

Two characteristics help us recognize these traits in our lives.

Fruitful believers are not controlled by their environment.

Everyone experiences trials and pain, but those who are filled with the Spirit do not lose His fruit because of their situations. They keep their joy even when difficulties overwhelm.

If someone speaks harshly, they respond with kindness. Because the Holy Spirit is in control, He is free to produce His fruit no matter what the circumstances are. Even though such believers may feel pain, anger, or a desire for revenge, they choose to trust the Lord to protect them and direct the outcome.

Fruitful Christians recover quickly after a fall. 

These believers are not perfect, but they are sensitive to the Spirit’s conviction and are quick to return to the Lord in repentance.

In fact, they are actually grateful for the correction and praise God, not only for revealing their weakness but also for drawing them back to obedience.

No one produces these amazing qualities in himself.

Trying harder to be godly will never work.

Character transformation occurs when we submit to God, giving Him complete control of our lives.

Only then will the Spirit be free to produce fruit that remains even in the deepest, darkest storms.

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Selfishness In Our Prayers…

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1 John 5:14-15 (KJV)

14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

Since praying is such a common practice for believers, over time it’s easy to fall into habits that result in a lifeless and empty prayer life.

Instead of a dynamic conversation with thoughtful requests and active listening for God’s response, our prayers can seem more like grocery lists.

Because communication with the Lord is such a vital part of the Christian life, we occasionally need to step back and examine how we’re doing.

Begin by asking yourself these questions:

How effective are my prayers?

Is God answering my petitions, or does it seem as if they never go past the ceiling?

Who am I praying for?

Are most of my requests for myself or others?

What am I asking the Lord to do?

Have I looked in the Word to see what He wants, or am I trying to get Him to intervene according to my plans and desires?

When do I pray?

Is it only during emergencies or when I need something?

If you discovered any selfishness in your answers, you’re not alone.

Most of us struggle to enter God’s presence with our eyes focused on Him instead of our needs. But the only way we’ll be able to pray with impact is to fill our minds with Scripture so we can find out what the Lord wants to do.

Your prayer life can become effective and dynamic if you’ll approach the Lord with a clean heart (Psalms 66:18), align your requests with His will, and believe He will do what He says (Mark11:24).

Then you’ll be able to pray with absolute confidence knowing that He will hear and answer your petitions.

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Spiritual Fruit Takes Time…

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Ephesians 3:20-21 (KJV)

20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Let these words slowly sink into your understanding:

“able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (v. 20).

What an amazing description of God’s ability to work within us.

Yet so often our focus is mainly on what we want Him to do around us: If He would change this situation or fix that problem, then my life would be better.

But He invites us to think and ask bigger—He wants to change us!

The Holy Spirit has more than enough power to transform lives from the inside out, but working change within is usually a slow process.

Spiritual fruit takes time to grow and mature.

That’s why we need patience and faith to believe He is working even when we don’t see the results right away.

God is never in a hurry and will never give up on us.

The Lord has a purpose for your life, and He is constantly working to achieve it. Although He has an individualized plan for each one of His children, He also has an overarching goal—to conform every believer to the image of His Son Jesus Christ.

In order to accomplish this, He may have to bring us through some struggles and heartaches.

It might make no sense to us, but God knows exactly what He’s doing.

What would you like to see the Lord do within you? As you read the Scriptures, look for qualities that God considers precious, and ask Him to work them out in your life.

Then rely on His wonderful promise to do even more than you have asked or imagined.

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Are You Too Busy For Him?

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Psalms 143:5-12 (KJV)

5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.
6 I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.
7 Hear me speedily, O Lord: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.
8 Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.
9 Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me.
10 Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.
11 Quicken me, O Lord, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.
12 And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.

What do you think about when you wake up?

Are your thoughts instantly focused on the day ahead, or are they centered on the Lord? Although most of us have busy lives that consume much of our time and attention, the most important and time-saving part of each day is that spent in quiet solitude with God.

Yet many believers feel so rushed that they don’t think there’s time for the Lord.

They immediately jump onto the treadmill of life and then wonder why they’re so frustrated, confused, and dissatisfied. Even if their desire is to follow God, they don’t know where He’s going since they haven’t stopped to get directions for the day.

There’s also a disconnect because they’ve ignored their relationship with Him.

No one can have intimacy with Christ without daily communication.

Perhaps the problem is our own human logic.

We think spending time reading the Bible and praying each morning will result in having less time and lower productivity.

However, when we seek Christ’s direction and wisdom for the day and invite Him to control our lives, He’ll accomplish more through us than we can do by ourselves. He’ll give us wisdom for good decisions, increase our strength and energy, and free us from time-wasting anxiety.

Are you too busy for the Lord?

If so, you’re denying yourself the blessing of an intimate relationship with Christ.

When you make time for Him, He’ll fill you with peace and joy, guide your decisions, grant you wisdom, empower you to obey, make you more productive, and comfort you with His love.

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Comfort in His Understanding…

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Hebrews 4:14-15 (KJV)

14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Whenever disaster happens in your friends’ lives, it is natural to try to comfort them in any way you can.

But how many times do you feel as if you’ve said the wrong thing?

Sometimes expressions of consolation create even more pain. For example, the well-intentioned words “I understand” feel empty if the speaker has never actually experienced the situation.

Yet we all long to feel understood.

And it helps to know individuals who have endured circumstances similar to ours. Today’s passage reassures us that Jesus truly understands because He experienced struggles like ours.

The writer of Hebrews refers to Jesus as our High Priest. Each year the man who was chosen to serve in this capacity would enter the Holy of Holies and there, in God’s presence, offer a sacrifice for sin (Lev. 16).

The priest was the Jewish people’s bridge to God. Christ not only took on this role, but He Himself also became the sacrifice when He died on the cross. By doing so and dying in our place, Jesus endured every possible sin. Now He sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven and intercedes on our behalf.

That in itself is encouraging.

 But even more than that, we know Jesus truly understands our pain and our weakness.

For example, a single parent who has suffered greatly can be assured that Christ also knew betrayal (when Judas turned against Him), loneliness (when Peter denied knowing Him), and depression (when facing separation from His heavenly Father).

If you feel alone in the hardships you’re facing, recall Jesus’ trials, hurts, and temptations.

You’ll find comfort in His understanding.

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You and Your Situation…

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Nehemiah 2:1-10 (KJV)

1 And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.

2 Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,

3 And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?

4 Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.

5 And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.

6 And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.

7 Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;

8 And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.

9 Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.

10 When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.

After Nehemiah heard about the desperate condition of the Jews who had returned from exile to Jerusalem, his heart was burdened (Neh. 1:3-4).

By getting his attention in this way, the Lord could reveal what He wanted Nehemiah to do.

Scripture doesn’t spell out the man’s reaction on realizing that he was to be a part of the solution, but we can imagine a sense of inadequacy probably engulfed him.

How could he possibly help? He wasn’t even near Jerusalem, and as a servant of the king, he didn’t have the freedom to pack up and leave.

But whenever God puts a burden on our hearts, He will open a door to accomplish His will.

In this case, the Lord used Nehemiah’s sad expression and desperate prayer to prepare a pagan king to send him on his mission.

How do you respond when you sense the Lord is calling you to a task that seems beyond your abilities?

Do you list all the reasons you can’t possibly do it?

 God already knows everything about you and the situation.

He’s not asking your permission to proceed; rather, He is calling you to move forward with faith and obedience. He didn’t make an error in choosing you for the task, but you will make a huge mistake if you refuse to do it.

God will equip you for whatever He calls you to do.

Because the Holy Spirit dwells within every believer, we have all we need to fulfill the Lord’s mission.

Instead of letting inadequacy hinder you from obeying, let it drive you to your knees so you can arise with renewed insight and power.

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