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You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, For You are my strength. Psalm 31:4 (NASB)

One day a Hummingbird got ‘caught’ in our garage. It apparently darted away when we came out of the house and flew into the garage. It couldn’t figure out that if it just flew down a couple feet it could go out the garage door. To rescue the small, frightened animal I took a couple butterfly nets and gently trapped it inside the nets and carried it to safety.

The small, frightened animal couldn’t have known that safety was just a few feet away. It couldn’t have known that the monstrous animals chasing it around its cell were trying to help it. I couldn’t have known that the nets that eventually captured it were meant for good, not evil.

It’s the unknown that scares us most, isn’t it? Like the Hummingbird we can go through life thinking that our safety and protection depends on our own ability to figure things out. But life isn’t predictable, and every net that captures us isn’t for our own good.

Relationships we seek may seem to be safe and fulfilling until the ‘honeymoon is over’ and anger, rage, frustration and abuse set in. Business dealings may seem ‘too good to be true’ and then we find out they were too good to be true and we lose our retirement. Friends and even lovers may pledge their allegiance and later we find out that they are saying things behind our backs, cheating on us or, in some other way, making us out to be the fool. Politicians and bosses make promises to us that turn out to be empty words.

It’s not the nets of entrapment we see that are dangerous, it’s those that are laid in secret that are our biggest threat. Like an animal walking through the forest, unaware of a pit hidden by brush, we fall into situations that catch us off guard. When that happens we end up at the mercy of our captor. The walls are too steep, the darkness to deep for us to find a way out. Desperation, fear and depression join with hopelessness to become our biggest enemies. There’s no way out.

That’s when your Heavenly Father steps in. That’s when God comes to the rescue. There is no pit too deep but that he can’t lift you out. There is no darkness to black but that his light can’t shine through it. The reason you are in the pit you are in is irrelevant. How you got there is of no concern to God, getting you out is his biggest priority.

Whatever pit you find yourself in today, God wants to lift you up. Whatever net has you entangled, he has the power to tear it open and provide your route of escape. You may have spent a lifetime refusing to acknowledge his existence or wandered away from him in the forest. None of that matters. His goal is to free you.

PRAYER: Father God, I’m trapped. The nets the enemy has thrown have hit their mark. The fear and darkness of this pit I’ve dug for myself are too steep. Please rescue me through your love, grace and forgiveness. Amen.

I am innocent, Lord! Won’t you listen as I pray and beg for help? I am honest! Please hear my prayer. Psalm 17:1 (CEV)

He sat across the table from me and apologized. He told me the reasons for doing what he did; that he had no intention of hurting me; that as soon as things improved he’d make it up to me; that he was truly sorry for the way things had worked out.

The human mind is an amazing thing. I sat and listened intently. I looked him in the eye, did all the things a good listener should do in a situation like this. But in spite of the sincerity in his voice and eyes, I remember thinking, “I’m so sorry too. I’m sorry because I don’t believe a word you are saying.”

Was this the ‘proper Christian attitude’? Maybe not. But over the previous several months I’d seen him hurt other people by his decisions. I’d heard him say one thing and do another; make promises that he’d later back out of; fly into rage when someone crossed him. The bottom line is that his actions didn’t match his words.

I wonder how often, during my times of prayer the Father looks on my words and asks a similar question. Barnes writes, “True prayer is that in which the lips “do” represent the real feelings of the soul. In hypocritical prayer the one is no proper representation of the other.”

On a simple humorous scale, I remember praying around the dinner table. The simple “God is great” prayer was taboo. My father would lead us in a ‘real prayer’ because ‘God didn’t listen to those little rote prayers where you say the same thing time after time.’ Yet to this day I can recite the prayer my dad would say because he said the same thing time after time.

When my lips pray for my enemy, do they reveal the real agony of my soul? That agony brought on by the wounds inflicted on me? Or do they simply say some religious jargon based on scriptures that admonish us to pray for our enemies.

When my lips pray for deliverance from some secret sin, some hidden addiction, does my heart echo that desire, or am I already planning my next episode?

When my lips pray for my brother in pain, sin or some other distress, do they portray true human agony over the situation or is my heart rejoicing over my own piety in lifting others to the heavenly throne.

Perhaps the reason we often see so few answers to our prayers is because our prayers not only don’t reflect the will of the Father, they aren’t the true feelings of our heart. The prayer of the psalmist was based on his own honesty, his own integrity before the throne. We have the privilege of going before the very throne of a Father who knows our every thought. God doesn’t ask us to be perfect in our prayers, he asks us to be honest with ourselves and him.

PRAYER: Father, all too often my prayers are ill thought out, repetitious and religious in nature. Sometimes they lack sincerity and honesty because of lack of thought or pride on my part. Empower me in my prayer life to be honest with you and with myself. Thank you that you will listen to my heartfelt pain and honesty. Amen.

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Revelation 12:9 (NIV)

The worst kind of deception is the deception that catches us unaware because it is partially true. Like an apple with a worm in it, what we hear and believe looks good until we make a commitment to it and bite into it. Only then do we realize that it is rotten to the core. Deception robs us of life. Deception robs us of trust. In the spiritual realm it’s like rape because when our naivety is revealed it humiliates us.

Too often, those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers have been duped into slavery by deception. The Apostle Paul, when writing to the Galatians asks the question, “Who deceived you? Why have you returned to the very slavery Christ has set you free from?” (Galatians 3:1; 5:1). He’s not talking to unbelievers here. He’s talking to the church, the body of Christ, disciples of Jesus.

We as believers in Jesus Christ must realize that we are at war. Anyone steeped in the understanding of warfare realizes that there are three things necessary for victory. First one must know his enemy. By that I don’t mean we know the enemy simply by name. We learn his weapons. We memorize how he uses those weapons. We look for weaknesses in his armor, his plan and his tools. We search for the holes in his defenses.

Secondly, we strategize. We come up with a plan that realizes our limitations and utilizes our strengths. Going into battle without a plan is suicide, not to mention just plain stupid. A well formulated plan allows the David’s of the world to defeat Goliath.

Thirdly, the battle is won when, after learning all we can about the enemy, and formulating our plan we go into battle resolved to stick with our plan. Many a battle has been lost because those who have been defeated stray from the plan and are lured into playing the game on the battlefield of the opponent. When we play the game at his level, the enemy knows he has us beaten. It’s only a matter of time before we defeat ourselves.

It’s time to sound the battle cry. The war for our souls was won on the cross once and for all, but we fight daily battles in which the enemy tries to destroy the freedom we have in Christ. Our enemy is Lucifer, the great Satan, the once beautiful and glorious angel of the most high. He was defeated at the Cross. His defeat was finalized when Jesus rose from the dead, but he’s not finished yet. His goal remains the same, to lure us from all the best God has for us.

Satan knows that the best way to keep us from living victoriously is to attack us in our most vulnerable place, the heart. If he can get us to feel badly about ourselves he knows he has a foothold into the other areas of our lives. After all, even Jesus tells us that the two most important commandments are to love God and to love others. What measuring rod does he use for that love? How we love ourselves.

When we feel good about ourselves we take care of ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. When we feel bad about ourselves in those areas it affects how we see God and others. Strong relationships with others begin with a strong understanding and love for ourselves.

Don’t be deceived any longer. Refuse to listen to the lies that Satan tells you. Listen instead to the words of a loving Creator God who is passionate about seeing you through the battles of life victoriously.

PRAYER: Father God. I’ve listened to lies long enough. I’ve bought into what Satan has to say about me. I ask that you would empower me to see myself as you see me. Protect me from enemy attack through your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Lord God All-Powerful, who is like you? Lord, you are powerful and completely trustworthy. Psalm 89:8 (NCV)

Have you ever thought about how many times a day we ‘trust’ without giving it a second thought? When you get out of bed in the morning you trust that your legs will support you, that the floor will be there and won’t give way as you stand. Throughout the day you ‘trust’ the chairs you sit in, the cars you drive and the computers you work on…okay, that one may be a stretch.

Trust in physical things is relatively easy. But when it comes to trusting people it’s a whole different story. Why is that? Because people let us down, pure and simple. Politicians make promises they can never keep. Children make promises they forget about. Even lovers make promises that, for whatever the reason, they fail to deliver on.

Once trust is threatened or destroyed it can be difficult, if not impossible, to restore that trust because failed trust leaves us beaten up, battered and destroyed. A love relationship in which trust has been destroyed leaves you always wondering, always doubting, always insecure in the words spoken and the actions delivered. Lack of trust can drive us to a point in our lives where we sink into a hole of paranoia because we are never sure of what is true and can be trusted, and what is false.

So what are some milestones to build trust on? First of all when building or rebuilding trust we must look at history. What was the person like in the past? Have there been changes (positively or negatively) that would lead you to believe they can be trusted? A person’s past alone doesn’t determine whether they can be trusted or not, but it serves as a benchmark to measure progress towards trustworthiness.

Secondly, do the person’s words and actions in the present indicate a desire on their part to gain your trust? In other words, does their walk match their talk? An addict will always have the potential for a slip up. A child will always be a child and therefore be subject to irresponsibility. A spouse or lover will always have a chance of making some mistake along the way. Even in the times you don’t understand their actions do their actions indicate a desire on their part to gain your trust?

Lastly, and this is a tough question, “Is this relationship worth the risk?” When your personal or emotional safety is in question you have to decide how to keep yourself safe. Even if you love the person dearly, do you love them enough to risk being beaten or even killed? Is the love you feel worth the pain you are suffering? This is a matter of choice. No one can answer this question for you.

The Psalmist says “Lord, you are all powerful and completely trustworthy.” Having a hard time trusting God? Take a look at history. Everything your heavenly Father has ever promised has come to pass, just as he said it would. Even during those times when you didn’t understand his working and the things he has allowed to come into your life, his actions have been for your good to grow you and protect you and bring you closer to him.

Then ask yourself the hard question. “Is he worth the risk?” One time in Jesus life many of his followers became disillusioned and left him. Jesus turned to his disciples and said “Are you going to leave too?” To that question Peter said “Lord, where else is there to go? Who else gives us the things you have given us?”

When we look at God’s working in the past; when we honestly evaluate his present work in our lives; I believe there is only one answer. Trusting God is worth the risk. He’s proven himself time and again and even during those times I don’t understand his actions, I have to admit there is no one else I can turn to.

One last thing. Turn the tables for a moment. Imagine God asking the ‘trust questions’ about you. Have you been consistent in your history or do you constantly fail? Have you made promises you couldn’t keep or had no intention of keeping? Do your actions match your words? If you were God would you be ‘worth the risk?’

Jesus says, “Yes. You are worth the risk. You failed. You are failing. You will fail in the future. But you are worth the risk of my love.” And he proved his love for you by dyeing on the cross to forgive your sins.

PRAYER: Father God, help me to learn to trust you. I’ve been let down by so many people. I’ve been hurt and abused to the point I don’t trust anyone. Thank you that you always do what you say you’ll do. Thank you for thinking I’m worth the risk of your love. Amen.

Listen to the words of the wise; apply your heart to my instruction. For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart and always ready on your lips. I am teaching you today—yes, you—so you will trust in the Lord. Proverbs 22:17-19 (NLT)

In this world of economic and political uncertainty wise decisions are more important than ever. It’s easy to have opinions about how things should be from a distance, just as it’s easy to coach a professional sporting event from your arm chair.

It’s entirely a different story when it’s your job that’s being ‘eliminated due to corporate restructuring’. It’s more crucial to know how to act when it’s your test results or the test results of a loved one that shows a critical health issue. When it’s you sitting at divorce court or in a jail cell, suddenly knowing how to act/react takes on a whole new meaning. The question of the century becomes: “What should I do?”

Wisdom is a combination of life experiences and learning. Experience is a great teacher, but you can’t possibly experience everything you need to in order to make right choices. The need then, is to balance learning through experience with seeking the counsel of those who have either gone through similar situations or know someone who has.

Wisdom can be learned through active listening. “Active Listening” is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, to try and understand the total message being sent. It means you ask questions, confirm facts and take time to ponder the options.

The foundation of wisdom must come from sources that acknowledge the presence of an Almighty, All-knowing and Sovereign God. True wisdom never contradicts God’s law since God is the complete source of wisdom. Wisdom can, and often does, go against religious dogma and tradition. Wisdom regarding life will always, with no exception, turn you towards the cross of Jesus Christ and the empty tomb. Don’t be deceived by clever attempts to show you a different way.

Wisdom is not a natural result of age. Young people can be very wise. Old people can be very foolish. It’s not based on a person’s title, popularity or money The Apostle Paul says “Let no man look down on your youth” (1 Timothy 4:12). It isn’t age, but rather our ability to listen and learn from God’s word and godly men and women that brings wisdom to our lives.

God’s wisdom never fails. We aren’t God. We will fail. Even after doing all the right things there is always a chance that our decision will lead to failure on some sort. That’s when it is important to remember that there is always forgiveness. We can always come to the cross for failing to act wisely but beware of the consequences. The father will forgive and offer second chances but the consequences may follow you the rest of your life. Think and pray wisely before you act.

PRAYER: Father God. There is so much around me that I don’t understand right now. I don’t understand the cruelty and greed of some people. I don’t understand why I can’t get life right. I’m angry about the way things are in my life and see no way out! Please empower me through Your Holy Spirit to listen actively to Godly advice, draw close to you in relationship through The Bible and Prayer, and trust you for the outcome. Amen.

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September 2022
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