He’s Always A Step Ahead (1)

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‘Before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.’ Isaiah 65:24 NKJV

When Wilda Lahmann’s husband woke in the small hours of the morning gasping for air and clutching his chest, there wasn’t time to wait for an ambulance. She got him into the car and he slumped against the door. She writes: ‘Fifteen miles to the hospital…we’re not gonna make it. Please send help, Lord! A mile down the road I saw something. Were my eyes playing tricks? It was an ambulance with a paramedic standing beside it. Was he waiting for us? Who could’ve known to call? I slammed on the brakes and ran screaming for help. They started treatment immediately and rushed Randy to the hospital. The next three days were touch-and-go. I never left his bedside, praying he’d wake up. When he did, he asked, “What happened?” “You had a massive heart attack. Another minute or two and who knows?” “You called the paramedics?” Randy asked. “No,” I replied. “They were responding to an accident at that intersection. They even called headquarters to confirm they had the right location. Then we came along seconds later.” Fifteen miles on empty roads in the middle of the night; Randy’s heart attack would’ve been fatal if the paramedics hadn’t been there. I’d say they were in the perfect location.’

Often in a crisis there’s no time to call the pastor or your prayer partner. That’s when it’s good to know God said, ‘Before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear.’ He’s on the job 24/7, redeeming ‘your life from destruction’ (Psalm 103:4 NKJV) long before you even know you are in trouble!

Don’t Proceed Without Peace

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‘To be controlled by the Spirit results in… peace.’ Romans 8:6 GNT

When your thoughts, actions and plans are approved by God, He’ll confirm it by giving you an inner ‘knowing’. (See 1 John 2:20) The Bible says: ‘Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers].’ (Colossians 3:15 AMP) When you’re being led by God, you’ll have a sense of peace even in the midst of difficult circumstances. His peace is like a baseball umpire who decides what’s ‘safe’ and what’s ‘out of bounds’ for you.

But beware of false peace. Sometimes your desire to do a certain thing will be so strong that it will actually produce a false sense of peace that comes from your own excitement about the idea. As time passes this false peace will disappear and God’s true will, will emerge. So wait for it. As a rule you should never move too quickly on important decisions. The Bible says, ‘To be controlled by the Spirit results in… peace.’ So don’t proceed if your inner peace can’t hold its weight against what you think or hear. You don’t have to explain to others why you don’t have peace about it; indeed, sometimes you won’t know why. Just say, ‘I feel it’s not wise for me to do this at this time because I don’t have peace about it.’

There’s power in having peace. And one more thing: once you know that you’ve heard clearly from God, do all you can to keep your peace and don’t become anxious.

Be Teachable

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‘That the Lord…may show us the way in which we should walk and the thing we should do.’ Jeremiah 42:3 NKJV

Twelve bees were placed in a jar in a darkened room. A light was beamed onto the bottom of the jar, and then the lid removed. Instinctively, the bees flew toward the light and couldn’t escape. So they died trying to buzz their way through the bottom of the jar. Next the researchers took twelve common houseflies and repeated the experiment. Within seconds the flies had found their way out of the jar. Now, bees are more intelligent than flies and their survival instincts are better. Yet it was those very instincts that doomed the bees. There’s a lesson here. You may be very intelligent, yet your preconceived notions can doom you to failure in life. Assumptions, rigidity and force of habit can cause you to keep doing things that don’t work and make no sense.

Dr. James Dobson says: ‘Until 1992 I wrote books with pencils and yellow pads. I did that for years after word processors were available. The twentieth century was almost over before I decided to join it.’ Are you afraid to abandon an old belief system, or learn a new skill or tackle a new project? When you’re finished learning, you’re finished! The only real limitations are those we place on ourselves by refusing to learn. ‘Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.’ (Proverbs 9:9 NKJV) ‘The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.’ (Proverbs 18:15 NKJV)

Don’t let your fears and preconceived ideas keep you from growing; be teachable.

Prepare Them For Adolescence

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‘Children are known by the way they act.’ Proverbs 20:11 NLT

When you see signs of adolescence in your child, it’s time to talk with them. As the parent of a preteen, your task is similar to that of a football coach who’s trained his squad all through the late summer and early autumn. Now the first game is about to occur, when direct coaching is not going to be possible. So the coach gathers the players in the dressing room and makes one last speech before they take the field. He reminds them again of the fundamentals of the game, and gives them the old pep talk about winning.

Similarly, as the parent of a preteen you’ve been teaching them through preschool and primary school years about right and wrong, what to believe, and how to behave. Now the big contest called adolescence is about to begin and your team will take the field. From that point forward, very little parental advice can be given.

A Christian psychologist recommends that parents take an eleven- or twelve-year-old child on a ‘preparing for adolescence’ trip, during which moral values and family principles are repeated and emphasised: sex education and the physical changes of adolescence, the approaching social pressures, and other fundamentals that should be discussed. When you’ve done this, you’ve two things left to do: (1) Assure them you love them and will always be there for them, and that will never change. (2) Pray for them every day. And don’t just pray, have confidence in the power of your prayers: ‘The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.’ (James 5:16 NLT)

Dealing with the Devil (4)

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‘The devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain.’ Matthew 4:8 NKJV

Temptation 3: The Bible says, ‘The devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan!…You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.”’ (Matthew 4:8–10 NKJV) Paraphrased: Satan said to Jesus, ‘If you serve me I’ll help you rise to the top.’

When your ultimate ambition is to glorify God, you’re being led by God. But when your ultimate ambition is to glorify yourself, you’re being led by Satan. And he’ll appeal to your pride, for pride is at the very core of his being. His fall from the number-two spot in Heaven was preceded by these lofty aspirations: ‘I will ascend to Heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ (Isaiah 14:13–14 NIV) Satan wants to take God’s place, but God isn’t moving. Satan covets God’s throne, but God isn’t abdicating. Satan wants to win you to his side, but God will never let you go.

The truth is: You can’t defeat Satan in your own strength, but you don’t have to. The Bible says, ‘Let us… feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it.’ (Hebrews 4:16 NCV)

Dealing with the Devil (3)

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‘If you are the Son of God, jump off!’ Matthew 4:6 NLT

Temptation 2: The Bible says, ‘The devil took Him…to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, He will order His angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”’ (Matthew 4:5–7 NLT) Notice, Satan will misquote the Scriptures. So when you do battle with him you need to be able to say as Jesus did, ‘The Scriptures also say.’ Jesus defeated Satan by using Scripture correctly—and that’s a secret Satan hopes you never discover. So arm yourself with God’s Word. Load your pistol with Scriptures and keep your finger on the trigger.

Notice where this temptation took place: in church [the temple]! ‘If you are the Son of God, jump off!’ In church, of all places, Satan will urge you to do tricks, impress others with your service, make a show of your faith, call attention to your good deeds and manipulate your way into a position of prominence. God has called you to be a servant, not a star. Kneel, don’t strut. ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honour.’ (1 Peter 5:5–6 NLT)

When Satan told Jesus to jump into the arms of God, Jesus refused. Not because God wouldn’t catch Him, but because He didn’t have to prove anything to anyone, much less the devil. And you don’t either.

Dealing with the Devil (2)

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‘Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.’ 1 Peter 5:8 NLT

When Jesus fought the devil in the wilderness, Satan never landed a single punch. Three times Jesus told him, ‘It is written.’ (Matthew 4:4710 NKJV) And with those three solid right hooks, Satan went down and couldn’t get up.

Let’s look at each of the three temptations. Temptation 1: ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.’ (Matthew 4:3 NLT) Note Satan’s twofold attack: (1) ‘If you are the Son of God.’ Satan will make you doubt your salvation, your Saviour and your righteous standing before God. (See 2 Corinthians 5:21) He’ll remind you of all your flaws and failures. He’ll tell you, ‘The Christian life is too hard; give up!’ That’s a lie; don’t believe him. Yes, the Holy Spirit will point out your character defects so you can overcome them. But you’re not saved by your own goodness. ‘By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.’ (Ephesians 2:8 NKJV) (2) ‘Change these stones into loaves of bread.’ Forty days of fasting had left Jesus famished. His stomach was empty, so Satan began with the topic of bread. Where are you empty? Are you hungry for attention, craving success, and longing for intimacy? You must be aware of your weak spots and bring them to God before Satan brings them to you and says, ‘Meet your own needs. Take matters into your own hands. Leave God out of the picture.’ No, if you could live the Christian life without God, you wouldn’t need Him!

It’s the life that’s totally dependent on God that defeats Satan’s strategies every time.

Dealing with the Devil (1)

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‘We are not ignorant of [Satan’s] schemes.’ 2 Corinthians 2:11 NAS

The devil is thrilled with the current skepticism with which he’s viewed. The more we doubt or downplay his existence, the more he’s free to hurt and hamper us. Jesus never doubted the reality of the devil. The Bible says, ‘Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.’ (Matthew 4:1 NKJV) But Jesus was victorious. And He proved that God uses Satan’s schemes to strengthen us.

Times of testing are actually times of spiritual training. ‘My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when… trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.’ (James 1:2–4 GNT) God loves you too much to leave you undeveloped and immature. ‘Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children… If you are not disciplined… then you are not… true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us… How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! … God disciplines us for our good… that we may share in His holiness.’ (Hebrews 12:7–10 NIV)

Paul says, ‘We are not ignorant of [Satan’s] schemes.’ In the film Patton, the American general counterattacks Field Marshal Rommel’s troops during World War ll. In the thick-of-battle scene, Patton shouts, ‘Rommel… I read your book!’ Patton had studied Rommel’s Infantry Attacks. He knew the German leader’s strategies and planned his moves accordingly. And when you become acquainted with Satan’s moves you can stop him cold in his tracks.

Let God Be God

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‘Casting down imaginations…’ 2 Corinthians 10:5 KJV

How does God provide for us? One day at a time. Do you remember the Israelites in the wilderness? God fed them faithfully each day by sending manna from Heaven. But some of them wanted to make sure they’d have enough for tomorrow, revealing their lack of trust in God, so they gathered more. But God would only allow them to collect enough for each day; when they tried to collect more the excess rotted. Understand this: when you worry over the future or things you can do nothing about, it’s like trying to store up manna for tomorrow. Before you know it you feel rotten. God wants you to give tomorrow’s concerns to Him because they’re too big for you. You only receive enough grace for today, so stay in the moment.

Question: Are you being tormented by the ‘what ifs?’ What if I get hurt or become ill, or the company downsizes and I lose my job? What if people don’t like or accept me? What if I can’t find someone to love me and I end up alone? What if I’m not hearing from God and I make a big mistake? The Bible calls this ‘imaginations’—you’re literally imagining the worst case scenario. Paul says, ‘Cast it down,’ for if you don’t you’ll live in dread concerning things that haven’t happened—and probably never will. What if you ‘figure it all out,’ then God surprises you and does something different, something better? All that time would be wasted.

Haven’t you already wasted enough time worrying? Here’s an idea: this year why don’t you just relax and let God be God in your life?

Recognize Your Calling

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‘It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil His good purpose.’ Philippians 2:13 NIV

By recognizing and fulfilling your God-given assignment in life you free yourself from a sense of failure, and are able to stop worrying about what others think. Why? Because your self-worth no longer depends on people but God!

However, you must do these three things: (1) Be honest about your gifts, and recognise your limitations. Don’t go through life as a stranger to yourself. Honestly assess your strengths and limitations; ask the hard questions and be willing to live with the answers, even if it means letting some things go. Each of us has been given a calling in life, and happiness belongs to those who find and fulfil that calling. (2) Allow God to work on you. Sometimes amateur potters limit the potential of clay by seeing it only as a flowerpot. But a master potter sees much more—he or she knows what it can become. Watch them; they don’t merely impose a shape on it, they release the shape that’s already within. And that’s what God does with us. (3) Recognise your source. Fulfilling your life’s assignment begins with identifying the desires God has placed within you. ‘It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.’ (Philippians 2:13 NIV) Who’s at work within you? God! Where do your desires come from? God! Where do your abilities come from? God!

Make knowing God and walking in step with Him be your highest priority every day.