Overcoming incredible odds

15 Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s… 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.” 2 Chronicles 2o:15, 17

When King Jehoshaphat and Judah were surrounded by a great multitude of enemies from Ammon and Moab and others with them in what seemed to be certain defeat, Jehoshaphat “set himself to seek the Lord and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” and all the people “came to seek the Lord” (20:3-4). As Jehoshaphat turned to the Lord in prayer, he focused on the supremacy and ability of God to meet them and deliver them in the midst of their national crisis (20:6-12). He confessed his and Judah’s inability to overcome these great odds against them, yet he said to the Lord, “but our eyes are upon You” (20:12b).

The Lord told the king and all of Judah not to “be afraid” because “the battle is not yours, but God’s” (20:15). God assured them that they would “not need to fight in this battle” (20:17a) because it was His. Their responsibility was to “position themselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you” (20:17b). God’s responsibility was to do the fighting in this battle.

Has God ever lost a battle? No, of course not! He never loses. He has a 100% success rate. He bats a 1000. He always wins when He fights against an enemy. The question is, “Will we let Him fight for us?” Will we turn the battle we are facing over to Him?

How did Jehoshaphat position the people to watch God fight for them? Instead of taking up military weapons, he put the choir in front of his army to “sing to the Lord, and … praise the beauty of holiness, …saying: ‘Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever’ ” (20:21). As they sang praises to the Lord, “the LORD set ambushes against the people” who came against them and “they were defeated” (20:22). When God heard their praise in the midst of this crisis, He responded to their circumstances and brought them victory.

What battles are you facing right now that seem hopeless? Is the battle in your marriage or family? Your job or school? Your finances? Your health? Your witness for Christ? A habitual sin? God says it is now His battle in your marriage or family. It is His battle at your job or school. It is His battle with your finances or your witness for Christ. It is His battle with your habitual sin.

The Lord says to lay down your weapons (e.g. your anger, clever words, manipulation, obsessing, running, worrying, etc.) and trust Him to fight this battle for you. Put yourself in a position to see God work. Instead of trying harder, be still and trust Him to work on your behalf. Instead of working harder, watch Him fight for you. He is already at work to bring victory.

Then praise Him for what He will do. You may say,“I will praise God after He answers my prayer.” If you wait to praise God until after He answers, is that faith? No. Anyone can thank God after the fact. Faith is thanking God in advance, praising Him in advance that the odds will be overcome, that the solution will arrive, that the miracle will take place. When we start to thank God in advance for what He is going to do, we are going to see some very amazing things happen.

Prayer: Almighty God, I want to acknowledge that the battles I am facing right now are far beyond my ability to overcome them. Right now I want to tune into You, Lord, and see these battles from Your point of view. I know that nothing is impossible with You. You have helped me so much in the past and now I am trusting You to help me now. I am handing these battles over to You to fight. They are now Yours, not mine. I am laying down my weapons and trusting You to win this battle for me. Much of the battle is within me. I am my biggest problem. Please change me wherever You need to. Lord Jesus, I want to thank You in advance for the victory You are going to win. Thank You that I can trust You to do what I never could. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How does God want us to respond to His intimate concern for us?

“19 Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God! Depart from me, therefore, you bloodthirsty men. 20 For they speak against You wickedly; Your enemies take Your name in vain. 21 Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? 22 I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:19-24

How does God want us to respond to His intimate concern for us (by creating us and planning out our lives)?

1. By disassociating from evil (139:19-22). First David says, “Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God! Depart from me, therefore, you bloodthirsty men” (139:19). David uses very strong language here. He wants God to kill the wicked. Have you ever prayed this way to the Lord? David is giving his anger to God as he prays. He wants nothing to do with the wicked in view of God’s loyal love to him. The reason for this is given next. “For they speak against You wickedly; Your enemies take Your name in vain” (139:20). David was opposed to God’s enemies because they spoke against the Lord with wicked intent and for deceitful ends.

Then he writes, “Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies” (139:21-22). David affirms his loyalty to God by rejecting those who have rejected the Lord. We are to completely disassociate ourselves from those who reject God and rebel against Him as we consider that they are our enemies as well. For example, those who kill unborn children have rejected the Lord and His handiwork. We can disassociate from the evil they commit by supporting political candidates who respect and defend human life in the womb, and thereby show our loyalty to God.  Another way to show our loyalty to God is…

2. By being open to and led by Him (139:23-24). We need to be accountable to God because our hearts are self-deceived (cf. Jeremiah 17:9). We trick ourselves into calling evil good. David prays to God, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties” (139:23). Thus he ends this psalm like he began it—with a reference to God’s searching knowledge. David wanted God to “try” or test him, as a refiner tests metal, to show that he was loyal to the Lord. Since God knows all, he would know David’s anxious thoughts. Likewise, we are to ask God to examine our thoughts and motives which may not be thoroughly committed to Him.

Then David prays, “And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (139:24). David is asking the Lord to see if there is anything in him that is hurtful to the Lord. And if there is, he asks God to guide him in the right way. Have you prayed like this recently to the Lord? The more we understand God’s intimate love and concern for us, the more we will open our hearts to Him. He will not reject us nor condemn us for our struggles. He already knows all about them. He understands us better than we do, and He still loves and accepts us. Knowing this invites us to approach Him honestly and openly.

Prayer: Father God, the more I understand and believe Your intimate concern and love for me, the more I want to be loyal to You. You deserve my very best, not my leftovers. Forgive me for closing my heart off to You; for thinking that Your love and concern for me are imperfect like my own love and concern for You. The more I embrace You and Your outrageous love for me, the more I want to disassociate from evil and embrace what is right in Your eyes. Because You know everything about me, and still love and accept me, I come to You with an open heart right now asking You to show me if there is any area in my life that is not fully committed to You. If there is anything in me that is hurtful to You, please show me and guide me in the right way. I also want to pray for unborn children in the world right now. Please show their mothers that they are carrying a human being inside of them that is made in Your image. Direct these mothers to give birth to their children. Help those who are overwhelmed with their pregnancy to choose life and put their children up for adoption rather than destroy Your handiwork. Please bring Jesus’ peace and forgiveness to those who have already aborted their babies. May they find everlasting life and forgiveness through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Please bring an end to the slaughter of unborn children. I beg You, Lord, to forgive our nation’s sins, our church’s sins, and our own sins. Please lead us in Your everlasting way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Why does God know me so well?


“13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. 17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! 18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.” Psalm 139:13-18

The reason God knows me so completely and thoroughly (139:1-12) is because He formed me in the womb and scheduled the course of my life (139:13-18). God “formed my inward parts” – the real me. He “covered” or wove my veins and arteries (139:13). Notice the word “me” in reference to the embryonic development of a baby. This is a person in the eyes of God, not a piece of tissue or a glob of cells. Do you realize that at the embryo stage of development, your arms, legs, eyes, ears, brain, heart, liver, and lungs were already developing? Your chromosomes were all set to make you a boy or girl. If we could read God’s plan in our DNA, we could tell even at this stage whether we would be tall or short, have light or dark skin. We could tell if we would talk and sing with a high or low voice, and many other things. God knit our body parts together according to the plan He wrote in our DNA code.

We are not the product of a series of genetic mistakes as evolution teaches. We did not evolve from dead stuff to a living being. No. We are the result of an all-wise and all-powerful Creator who carefully formed us in the womb. This is why God knows me intimately because He carefully formed me in my mother’s womb.

This is why I will praise God because I am the product of His awe-inspiring handiwork (139:14). Are you able to say with David, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well”? God’s written plan for you in your DNA is unique. There is only one you. Your face, your features, your voice, your style, your background, your peculiarities, your abilities, your smile, your walk, your handshake, your manner of expression, your view point – everything about you is found in only one individual since humankind began – you!!! You will not find another you throughout human history. Why? Because God wanted you to be you and no one else! Your mold was broken, never to be used again.

When was the last time you praised God for you? All of you? When was the last time you praised Him for your looks, abilities, mannerisms, etc? Let me encourage you to look in a mirror today and say, “Thank You, Lord, for making me, me!” Praise Him because you are a product of His awe-inspiring handiwork!

When David says, “My frame was not hidden from You” (139:15a), the word “frame” refers to his bones or skeleton. When he says, “When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth” (139:15b), he is referring to the fact that the development of a human being is hidden to the human eye. Even though he was unseen to the human eye, he was still a person (“I”). In David’s day there were no sonograms or ultrasounds like we have today. So you could not watch the development of a baby in the womb. God alone saw the development of a person in the womb. Thanks to technology today, we can observe the prenatal development of children and see that they are fully human from the moment of conception.

When David says, “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed” (139:16a), he is referring to the egg cell stage of development. Life truly begins at fertilization when the sperm and ovum meet to form a single cell. All the characteristics of each person – sex, eye color, shoe size, intelligence, etc. – are determined at fertilization by the baby’s genetic code in his or her chromosomes. Every person begins as a separate single cell. Nothing new is added but oxygen and nutrition. All of us, from the moment of fertilization were a unique human being never to be repeated in all of history. When an abortion is performed, the abortionist is slapping the hand of God and destroying our Maker’s handiwork. He is destroying a person, a human being.

During the egg cell stage of development God scheduled the course of my life. “And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (139:16b). God planned all the days of our lives including all the things that would happen to us before we were even born. That is how special each of us is to God. Each of us began as an idea in the mind of God. He was thinking about us before our lives began. Since God is the One who has planned a human life, it is not our place to decide when that life should end. Only God has the right to give or take life (Deut. 32:39).

The “thoughts” God has toward us probably refer to His forming of our bodies and planning our lives (139:17-18). These thoughts God has toward each of us are “precious” and innumerable. Do you ever feel alone and insignificant? All of us can and do. Please know that God is always thinking about you. Why? Because He is your loving Creator. The best parents in the world cannot give constant attention to their children twenty-four hours per day, but God can. He is with us all the time giving us His whole attention. The Lord is constantly thinking an uninterrupted stream of loving thoughts toward us as though nobody else in the world existed.

How can God be personally involved with over 7 billion individuals at the same time? I do not know for sure, but I do believe it is no problem for the Creator of the universe. Perhaps the answer is in the speed of His thought. There are approximately 7.8 billion people in the world today.[1] God created things in nature that pulsate at incredible speeds. I learned recently that strontium atoms vibrate 430 trillion times per second.[2] If God thinks that fast, He could think of 55,128 loving thoughts toward you and every person on earth every second. Who knows how He does it. Just enjoy it!

Do you ever wake up in the morning feeling insecure? David reminds us, “When I awake, I am still with You” (139:18b). God has not only been thinking loving thoughts of you throughout the night, but when you wake up in the morning, He is still there with you giving you His loving attention. Let’s take a moment to worship our all-loving, all-wise, and all-powerful Creator.

Prayer: Precious Lord, I bow before You as my Creator God. You know me so intimately and thoroughly because You painstakingly formed me in my mother’s womb. I am fearfully and wonderfully made by You and I praise You for this. Thank You for making me, me! Thank You for my face, my eyes, my ears, my nose, my voice, my background, my peculiarities, my abilities, my smile, my walk, my handshake, my mannerisms, my view points. Thank You for everything about me. Thank You for planning the course of my life with Your innumerable loving thoughts toward me. Knowing how much You love me and care for me invites me to trust You every moment of my life. I look forward to spending today with You. Help me to see myself as You do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

[1] https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

[2] https://www.vox.com/2016/5/26/11784888/atomic-clock-strontium

Is God Someone you run from or to?

7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’ even the night shall be light about me; 12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.” Psalm 139:7-12

After describing God’s intimate and thorough knowledge of him, David felt surrounded and controlled by God (139:1-6) and sought to flee from God’s presence (139:7). When someone knows us so well, we can also feel threatened and insecure because we fear that he or she will reject us. So we try to get away from them. But we are reminded in this Psalm that there is nowhere we can go to escape God’s presence.

Even if I go vertically to the highest (“heaven”) or lowest place (“hell”) in the universe, God is still there (139:8). Though I travel horizontally at the speed of light from the east (“take the wings of the morning”) to the far side of the Mediterranean Sea in the west (“the uttermost parts of the sea”), even there God “shall lead me” with His left hand and lovingly “hold me” with His “right hand” (139:9-10). Even though God knows everything about us – our actions, thoughts, motives, and speech – He still loves us and accepts us unconditionally, and He wants to guide us. He always offers a helping hand to us no matter how we have responded to Him in the past. Instead of running from God we can run to Him and enjoy Him!

We cannot hide from God in the dark for “the darkness and the light are both alike to” Him since He is all knowing and present everywhere (139:11-12).

Prayer: Lord God, I can be such a goof ball at times thinking I can escape Your presence by staying busy or traveling fast for great distances. What is even more absurd, is thinking that Your complete knowledge of me will be used against me instead of expressing Your love and acceptance of me. Thank You for comforting me today with the image of Your gentle and loving guidance. With Your left hand You gently lead me and with Your right hand You lovingly hold me. Instead of running from You, I want to run to You and soak up Your grace. You are a good good Father who knows me and loves me far beyond what any human being ever could. You are so so good. All glory to You my Daddy in heaven! In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

How does God feel about you?


1 O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before,and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.” Psalm 139:1-6

I would imagine that most of us have been to a funeral where we hear people say some very positive things about the person after he or she is dead. But you do not have to die before you can hear God say some beautiful things about you. Psalm 139 is a very descriptive Psalm written by King David that expresses how God feels about you and me. For the next four days or so, Lord willing, I am going to look at this Psalm.

Today we will discover just how important we are to the Lord. God knows every minute detail about us because we are so important and valuable to Him (139:1-6).

“Lord, You know me as well as if You had diligently and thoroughly investigated me” (139:1). God has “searched me” like a miner searching for minerals or a lawyer investigating legal facts.

“Lord, You know everything I do while sitting down” (139:2a). The words “sitting down” and “rising up” are a merism which refers to everything between sitting down and rising up.

“Lord, You know what I intend to do long before I ever do it” (139:2b). The word “thought” can also include intentions or motives. The word “afar” is speaking of distance in time. God knows what we are going to think long before our thoughts are even developed.

“Lord, You know everything I do publicly and privately as if You had painstakingly sifted and separated each act from another” (139:3). God knows everything I do publicly on a “path” far from home and privately (“lying down”) in my home. The word “comprehend” (zarah) refers to winnowing or sifting. God’s concern for me is reflected in His intricate involvement in knowing everything I do. If God did not care about me, He would not pay so much attention to every detail of my life.

“Lord, You know all my ways because before I speak, You know exactly what I will say” (139:4). God knows what I am going to say before I say it.  

“Lord, Your intimate knowledge of me makes me feel surrounded and controlled” (139:5). The word “hedged” is a military term used of an army surrounding a city on all sides. God’s thorough knowledge of me causes me to feel completely encompassed (“behind and before”). It seems like God has “laid” His “hand upon me” so that He makes me do whatever He wants me to do. Your intimate knowledge of me is a threat to my autonomy and wanting to act independently. Your control springs from Your complete knowledge of me.

“Lord, Your thorough knowledge of me is beyond my power to escape” (139:6). The word “wonderful” (pili or pali) means difficult or incomprehensible. God’s thorough knowledge of David is way too much for him! It is “high” like city walls that are too high to be captured. When David said, “I cannot attain it,” he meant that he could not overcome or get away from God’s complete knowledge of him.

Someone who knows all about us may reject us or expose our weaknesses, and this is scary for us to consider. We may feel overpowered and out of control. This was how David felt when he wrote this part of Psalm 139.

On the flip side, the fact that God is so interested in knowing everything about us shows how valuable we are to Him. You may feel unimportant and insignificant because no one seems to pay attention to you here on earth. But stop right there! God is crazy about you, so much so, that He has done a thorough investigation into your life. And He knows everything about you. You are not some piece of tissue or collection of chemicals. You are the object of God’s care and concern. This is why He has painstakingly sifted and separated every thought, action, word, and motive in your life. YOU … ARE … VALUABLE … TO … GOD!!! Let this soak into the depths of your soul. No one cares more for you or has more interest in you than God!!! Spend time with Him and get to know Him. Let Him show You how important you are to Him.

Prayer: Precious Father God, thank You for showing me how important and valuable I am to You. You know everything about me – what I do publicly and privately, what I think and say, and even my motives. Such complete knowledge of me, Lord, makes me feel surrounded and controlled. My tendency is to run from someone who knows me so well because I fear rejection. I fear that no one could love me as I am. But Your knowledge of me is not intended to scare me, but to show me how valuable I am to You. Thank You for showing me this today. Help me to believe it so I will stop trying to prove my worth through what I do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Two Roads in Life

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” Psalm 1:1-3

The Psalmist tells us that we will be “blessed” (1:1) by God when we avoid the following subtle attacks of the enemy and the world in which he rules. Notice the progression of verbs: “walks… stands…sits.” Listening to the “counsel” or advice “of the ungodly” while walking with him slows us down to “stand” or fellowship with “sinners,” resulting in assuming the position (“sits”) of “the scornful” who despise God. God reminds us that we will be “blessed” by Him when we do not pay attention to the advice (“counsel”) of those who do not seek to please God (“the ungodly”), when we do not fellowship (“stands”) with those who are established (“path”) in a sinful lifestyle (“sinners”), nor assume the position (“sits”) of those who despise or detest (“the scornful”) God.

All Christians are capable and vulnerable to being drawn away from God by the world and all its lusts. It begins with slowing down enough to listen (“walks”) to the world’s advice. We may be exposed to this advice in our schools, work places, on the internet or TV, in politics, or among our families or friends. The counsel of the world may say:

– “Everyone is doing it so it must be okay.”

– “It won’t hurt anyone because no one else has to know.”

– “It is the greatest sign that you are loved.”

– “It will help you forget about your pain and problems.”

The longer we listen to this counsel, the more we will slow down (“stands”) to focus on what is being taught. More lies will be introduced to us at this stage from those who are established (“path”) in a sinful lifestyle. Lies that say:

“It feels so good it must be okay.”

“My loneliness and pain are gone.”

“I feel loved and accepted.”

In the final stage, we assume the position (“sits”) of those who despise God and His ways (“the scornful”). We embrace lies that say:

– “I don’t need God or Christians any longer.”

“I don’t care what the Bible says. It is full of errors.”

“If God really loves me, He would not let me experience so much pain and suffering.”

– “Since life is so short, I might as well enjoy myself and live it up.”

Verse two begins with a very important word – “But.” The Psalmist introduces a very significant contrast. Instead of paying attention to the world and all of its allurements (1:1), the blessed person craves (“delights”) for “the law of the Lord” (1:2). The word “delights” (chephets) means to “desire or bend toward” much like a house plant that bends toward the rays of sunshine coming through a window to receive its nutrients. He “meditates” or ponders God’s Word “day and night” so that he is able to receive all of it’s life-giving nourishment (“like a tree planted by the rivers of water”) that he needs. As he focuses on God’s Word, the Lord produces “fruit in its season” that remains (“whose leaf shall not wither”) and makes him “prosper” in all that he does.

Every Christian has a choice between two roads in life: the road of the godly or the ungodly. The road of the godly focuses on the unchanging Word of God which leads to many blessings including life-giving nourishment, fruitfulness, and prosperity from God. The road of the ungodly focuses on the world and all its lust which leads to instability (“the ungodly…are like the chaff which the wind drives away” – 1:4), condemnation and guilt (“the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment” – 1:5), and eternal ruin or loss of reward (“the way of the ungodly shall perish” – 1:6).

Prayer: Father God, help me to avoid the way of the world and all its lusts by staying focused on You and Your Word at all times, knowing that Your Word gives me the nourishment and stability I need in changing times. This nourishment produces fruit that remains, so that whatever I do for You, shall prosper both now and in eternity. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can we silence our condemning hearts when we pray?

20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” I John 3:20-22

The apostle John has just finished talking about how practical acts of love can give believers assurance that they “are of the truth and shall assure our hearts before Him” in prayer (3:17-19). But sometimes when we kneel before the Lord in prayer, we may feel like failures trying to love one another compared to how Jesus has loved us without limitations. We may have a sensitive conscience that condemns us for having done too little, or for not making up for past failures. Our sinful flesh may even suspect ourselves of impure or unworthy motives when we try to love others. This kind of self-condemnation can lead us to think that God could never answer our prayers. No doubt, Satan, who is the accuser of believers (Rev. 12:10), is happy to see Christians approaching God in prayer with a condemning heart that lacks the assurance that God will answer their prayers. He knows if this is not addressed, shame will set in and isolate the believer from God and others.

John counters a self-condemning heart by reminding us that “God is greater than our heart” (3:20a) which may forget how we have loved “in deed and in truth” (3:18) in the past. But what our heart does not take into account, God, who “knows all things” does take into account (3:20b). God remembers the times we have loved others even though our hearts may be inclined to ignore this. During these times when our hearts condemn us, we need to speak the truth to our hearts and assure them that “God is greater than our hearts” in that He “knows all” about how we have loved others in the past. So when we approach God’s throne of grace in prayer (Heb. 4:15-16), John wants us to remember that God takes into account (even if our heart does not) “all” that we have done for Him in love.

When we come before God in prayer with a heart which “does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (3:21). The word “confidence” (parrēsia) refers to freedom to speak, boldness, or fearless confidence before God when we pray.

John goes on to say that we can have a more confident and effective prayer life when “we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (3:22). Just as an earthly father has great delight in the obedience of his children, so too, does our heavenly Father as well. He loves to answer the prayers of His obedient children who ask for what pleases Him.

Dr. Tony Evans tells the story of being in Columbia S.C. to preach at a crusade at the University of South Carolina’s football stadium. Twenty-five thousand people had gathered for the evening session, but news reports indicated a serious thunderstorm was on the way. In fact, the storm was expected to hit at 7:00 pm—the exact time the meeting was scheduled to start.

When the sky grew darker and darker, the organizers didn’t know what to do at first. Eventually, they called a prayer meeting. When the preachers and other Christian leaders came together, Tony says that all the preachers prayed “safe prayers” – prayers where God would look good either way it went. Lots of comments about the Lord’s will and so forth. Then, a short little woman named Linda spoke up, asking, “Do you mind if I pray?” Linda’s prayer went something like this:

“Lord, Your name is at stake. We told these people if they would come, they would hear a word from God. If they come, and it rains, and You control the weather, then You look bad… because we told them that You wanted to say something to them. Therefore right now I command You, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to stop the rain for the sake of Your name!” The preachers opened one eye and started looking at one another and said, “Whoah!”

Everyone took their places under the dark, threatening sky. The leader of the crusade told the people, “We will go as long as we can.” Umbrellas sprouted up among the crowd. Linda was on the stage and a man next to her opened his umbrella and offered to shield her as well. Linda said, “That’s okay. I don’t need it.”

Tony says he and his wife watched as the rain clouds came up to the stadium and then split in two. The storm rained on both sides of the stadium and came back together on the other side. All of those gathered for the crusade stayed dry. They all witnessed a miracle!

When we focus on the fact that God is greater than our condemning hearts and He answers those who are pleasing and obedient to Him, we will have the kind of boldness that Linda had at that crusade. We will be able to approach Him without fear or hesitation.

Prayer: Father God, often times when I approach You in prayer I do not believe You will answer me because my heart condemns me. Help me to believe that You are greater than my condemning heart and know all the things I have done for You in love. I want to love You more and obey Your Word more so I may grow closer to You and deepen my communication with You. Please grant me Your boldness to pray in a way that honors You above all else. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Begin your day with prayer

“O Lord, be gracious to us; We have waited for You. Be our arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.” Isaiah 33:2

As the faithful remnant of Judah watched the destructive and treacherous Assyrian army approach Jerusalem (33:1), they prayed to the Lord to be “gracious” (compassionate and understanding) to them, not harsh or impatient with them (33:2). They had looked eagerly (“waited”) in faith for the Lord to intervene and penetrate the darkness of night at the dawn of the morning with His strength (“arm”) in a new and living way. They could be excited about the start of each day because God was their “salvation” (deliverance) from their “time of trouble” with the Assyrians.

Do you sometimes have difficulty waking up in the morning to face the day? Perhaps you have changes to deal with at work or there is a person you must face with whom you have an unresolved conflict? Maybe you have been struggling with depression and your mind tends to wander while you are still in bed? Instead of counting your blessings, you are counting your curses?

Whatever challenges you are facing, start your day with the Lord who is “gracious” and kind. God understands you and your circumstances better than anyone. This is why He can be so gracious and compassionate with you.

Do you “wait” expectantly for the Lord each morning, anticipating His strength (“arm”) to penetrate the darkness in your soul or in the world in which you live to deliver (“salvation”) you from “trouble” whether it is from your own actions or the actions of others? The Lord is waiting to assist you in the morning. Will you check in with Him through prayer?

To help the truths of this verse sink in to your heart and mind, kneel before the Lord and slowly read this verse aloud attentively. Then write the verse out in your journal and read it aloud again. Read the verse aloud again, asking “Where am I in this passage?” Replace the personal pronouns in the verse with your name. For example, I would pray, “O Lord, be gracious to Jeff; Jeff has waited for You. Be Jeff’s arm every morning, Jeff’s salvation also in the time of trouble.” Personalizing the verse in this way helps the Holy Spirit apply these truths to the emotional center (limbic system) of your brain.

Read the verse again noticing what word or words jump out at you, grabbing your attention. Focus on those words for a while. Finally, read the verse again and write out what you have observed. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see how this applies to your life. Doing this will help renew your mind with the truth of God’s Word. Then you can write out a prayer to the Lord that helps you apply the verse to your life.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You that I can start every morning afresh knowing that You are gracious and strong to deliver me from trouble whether it is the result of my own decisions or the decisions of others. Nothing is too hard for You. Help me not to underestimate Your power to change me or my situation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Where do we turn when we feel threatened?

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

In American society as people become more and more broken, they are turning to “quick fixes” to numb their pain. These “quick fixes” are often addictive. They may be a feeling, a behavior, or a substance. Instead of turning to the Lord when we are hurting or threatened, we turn to that which leads us farther away from the Lord.  

The more broken and vulnerable we feel, the more easily we are threatened. In Psalm 46, the Psalmist was feeling extremely threatened as he faced dangerous calamities such as a storm-tossed sea or an earthquake (46:2-3) or even opposition from God’s enemies (46:6, 8a, 9). Instead of turning to an idol or to his own fleshly desires to comfort himself, he chose to turn to the Lord Who was his “refuge” and “strength.”

The word for “refuge” (machaseh) refers to a shelter from danger or a place of trust. God was his refuge. The Psalmist was not threatened by God’s presence. The Lord was no danger to his well-being. Instead, God provided safety for the Psalmist and He wants to do the same for you and me.

When the Psalmist says God is his “strength,” this word (oz) refers to a mighty fortress or stronghold. This verse may have inspired Martin Luther to write the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” When our faith rests in God, He gives us the security we long for in the face of danger. He defends us from the attacks of the enemy.

Sometimes we face physical dangers such as a gunman opening fire on a church or a terrible winter blizzard. But sometimes the dangers we encounter are of an emotional or spiritual nature. Certain triggers in our lives such as a smell or a sound can access feelings and even memories that cause us to feel very insecure and threatened because of unresolved trauma in our lives. Where will we turn when these triggers take place?

The Psalmist encourages us to turn to “the Lord of hosts” (46:7, 11), the Commander of heaven’s angelic armies, Whose abiding presence in our lives is a great source of safety and security. God is a “very present” (meod matsa) or abundantly available source of “help” (assistance) during these threatening times (46:1). Those we would normally turn to for safety and security (ex. police, family, friends, etc.) are not always available to help us at the moment of our need. But God is “abundantly available” for you and for me. He is never too busy or overwhelmed running the universe to give us His assistance in our time of need.

Two artists set out to paint a picture representing perfect peace. The first painted a canvas depicting a carefree boy relaxing in a boat on a little placid lake without a ripple to disturb the surface. The second artist painted a raging waterfall with winds whipping the spray about. But on a branch of a tree overhanging the swirling waters a bird had built its nest and it sat peacefully brooding over her eggs. Here she was safe from her predatory enemies, shielded and protected by the roaring waterfall. This is real peace – the result of remaining calm in the midst of raging trials and difficulties in life. And this is the peace and calm that the Lord of hosts can give to us when our faith rests upon Him.  

Let’s make 2020 the year we turn to God for the safety and security we need during times when we are threatened. His abiding presence is more than enough to calm our fears and strengthen our faith.

Prayer: O Lord of all of heaven’s angelic armies, thank You for always being available to give me the safety and security I need when I feel threatened. Your comforting presence motivates me to rest in Your loving arms even when my world seems to be falling apart. Although my emotions and circumstances are always changing, Your abiding presence in my life calms my fears and bolsters my faith. You alone are worthy of my complete trust and allegiance. I love You precious Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.