Note: Pray first before you start this devotion. Ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the name of our Savior, Christ Jesus. Mastermind Imagine you own a house. Every day, you take the same route from the street to the front door— straight through the yard. Over time, a well-worn path scars your front lawn. Your mind is a lot like that front lawn. It is intricately and mysteriously tied to the electrical chattering between the neurons in your brain. The communication paths used most become strong and reinforced. Some of those paths help you learn math and laugh at jokes. But some create scars. They wire you to shut down, react in violent rage, or become addicted to harmful substances and behaviors. As our Creator, God understands the complex relationship of our minds to our brains. He also created your mind to be much more than the brain’s system of electrical impulses: it is your sense of self, your identity, your memories, hopes, and dreams. And in that, there is hope. When you choose to follow Jesus, your old, scarred self is made new. God’s Holy Spirit gives you miraculous power to master the scarring paths you’ve been a slave to. I know, because I’ve been there. I was wired to shut down when triggered by unanticipated changes and social situations. I was a slave to anxiety. It took years to identify the scars in my mind, and even longer to realize I wasn’t doomed to follow the same path time after time. There was freedom when I confessed my weakness to God and to trusted friends who spoke God’s truth into my life. I’ve sought counseling, medical help, and searched God’s Word for a new path I could follow. I daily meditated on 2 Timothy 1:7 to prove to myself I wasn’t a slave to the scar of anxiety, but instead master over it. Triggers still come up, but the old path is weak. I am the master of my own mind through the power of Jesus Christ. You can be master, too. As you read today’s passages from the Bible, think of ways you’ve already been transformed by God’s Holy Spirit. Ask Him to reveal areas where you are still a slave to your old ways instead of to God’s Holy Spirit. Pray and ask God to show you the new path He has for you, and talk it over with a trusted friend. —Samantha, Mastering Scars Through Meditation on God’s Truth Prayer 1: Jesus, help. Help me to see the scars in my mind. Help me to make the choice, moment by moment, to stop ruminating on negative, hurtful, familiar lies. Help me to choose to take a new, truthful path in my thoughts. And, then, help me to take Your path again and again. Prayer 2: God, I am constantly facing distractions that try to pull me away from You. Please help me to intuitively discern what to pay attention to, and what to avoid. Help me become the person You made me to be. I want You to transform me by changing the way I think. In Jesus’ mighty name I pray. Amen. Understanding the concept of sovereignty will solve a very big issue for you and for most people. It is the issue of trust. It is difficult to trust God when or if you do not believe He is sovereign. When things happen in your life that are painful or seem confusing, it is easy to lose trust in God’s control and His goodness when you do not fully grasp His sovereignty. But once you grab this truth and hold onto it tightly—the truth that He is ruler, controller, sustainer and authority over all—then the seemingly disconnected happenings of life are woven together into a tapestry of His perfect timing. The meanderings which seem to take you from place to place on the pathway of your days now lead somewhere. And while you may not see the destination or be instantly relieved of the difficulties, your trust in His providential care and sovereign rule will give you the ability to rest rather than fret, be still rather than be anxious, or even praise rather than complain. When you understand His sovereignty in the midst of not understanding what He is doing right then, you will learn how to see God in a way you’ve never seen Him before. You will discover the power of His presence and the purpose of His plans. In Times of Trouble. Seek God in every season of life. Ecclesiastes 3:1 AMPC states that there is a season for everything. When you follow God’s Word and you’re led by His instruction He becomes your refuge and safe place. Let His Word guard your heart. Let His Word shield your heart at all times. In times of trouble — He will guide you. Let His Word comfort you and keep you in times of duress. His Peace will go with you through the valley. His Peace will comfort you and shield you from the waves of life. Choose not to focus on the storm — focus on God. Prayer 3: Father God, in the Name of Jesus, You are my refuge. You are my secret place. You are my Strength and comfort in the time of the storm. You are my Strong Tower. In You will I trust. Father, there is no weapon that is formed against me that will prosper — for You are with me and You are for me. Father I surrender myself to You. Father, I cast my cares upon You for I know that you care for me. There is no storm that can defeat You. There is no weapon that can outrank You. There is no ploy or plot that can outmaneuver You. You are my Lord and I find safety and refuge in You. I will serve You alone. I dethrone every idol that I have exalted on the throne of my heart. No one can compete with You. No one compares to You. You are my Lord and I surrender to You forever. In Jesus Name. Amen. How To Stop The Worry Cycle On Day 2, we learned a lot about worry. So, now that we know, what do we do? We have to recognize when we’re worrying and replace those uninvited thoughts with ones that not only bring a good return but help us live in peace. Pray Instead In Philippians 4:6-7, we’re told not to be anxious or worried but to pray instead. Easier said than done, isn’t it? Author Max Lucado said, “No one can pray and worry at the same time.” We typically choose worry instead of prayer. It’s more natural for us. Let’s change that and make praying our go to instead of letting worry overwhelm us. The more we pray, the less we’ll worry. Entertain Healthy Thoughts Worry often causes us to think about what-if scenarios that may never happen. When we do this, we must arrest our thoughts and stop them in their tracks. Imagine yourself literally grabbing that worrisome thought from out of thin air. Instead of going back to that thought, use God’s Word to supply you with truth because it’s our source of hope. Live Grateful Most people who live in gratitude are typically joyful. And you know what else? They don’t usually spend their time worrying. So, look for ways to be grateful. Maybe it’s a daily journal where you write down a few things each day. And every day we can thank God for His creation, for it reminds us of just how awesome He is. Finding freedom from worry takes time. We’ve created the habit of worry, so let’s un-create it by employing these ideas. Even though this takes time, it doesn’t mean you won’t find success. When you stop worry in its tracks and pray instead, that’s success! If you fail on the next thought and worry instead, show yourself some grace. Simply start over. The more honest we are about how much we worry, the more we can eradicate it from being a normal part of our lives. Worrying is normal, so let’s strive to go against “the norm.” Let’s choose to pray instead, entertain healthy thoughts, and give God thanks for the blessings in our lives. Reflect Think of the one thing that you typically worry about the most. If it’s caused by something you’re listening to or watching, consider limiting or eliminating that source. Come up with a prayer for this particular worry. Whenever that thought comes to mind and you’re tempted to worry about it, voice this prayer instead. Don’t be discouraged if you have to do this 50 times a day. Change your mindset and recognize that you’re praying 50 times more a day! Fill Up To Pour Out. Being filled with the Spirit is simply this — having my whole nature yielded to His power. When the soul is yielded to the Holy Spirit, God Himself will fill it. — Andrew Murray The reason we need rest is because we have been working or exerting energy in some way. And just because we learn how to rest and may feel rested, doesn’t mean we will stay that way. We will work again. We will help others again. We will be emotionally drained again. Getting rest for the sake of rest is not the whole point. We rest and get rest so that we can work again. There is a beautiful ebb and flow of working and resting; of being filled up so that we can pour out. As we’ve discussed, meditating on God’s Word, journaling, and disconnecting from things that distract us are practices that fill us back up. We find rest as we do these daily. Just like our physical bodies need ample hours each night to recover, our spirits do as well. We can’t expect to have strong, vibrant spirits without investing in them. We can’t think that one week of vacation will carry us through for months and months. We must make daily deposits in our rest bucket to endure. And we have to be paying attention when too many withdrawals have been made. In his book, Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Refueling Your Passion, author and pastor Wayne Cordeiro tells about a dream he had. A woman approached a farmer at his farm and asked him for something he didn’t have. He said, "Come back tomorrow, and I'll have more." She was upset but it didn’t bother him. He just kept working. People came to his farm everyday and when he was out of eggs or milk, he would simply say, "Come back tomorrow, and I'll have more." Pastor Cordeiro shared this newfound view he had after the dream: I don't have to tie myself to an imaginary, unrelenting cycle to produce more, make more or try to outdo last week's numbers. I have just so much time in the day, and I want to do what I can with all my heart involved. When the clock runs out, then I’ll say, "Come back tomorrow, and I'll have more.” We wake up each day with a certain amount of mental, emotional, and physical energy. When we have poured out everything we have to give, we must rest. When we are in this empty state, there is less of us to get in the way of His work in our lives. Lean in, be still, and rest. This is the most opportune and appropriate time to be filled up with God’s Spirit. Keep Believing: The Witness of Abraham Hebrews 12 begins with the word “Therefore.” “Therefore” in Hebrews 12:1 points us back to the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11. This great cloud of witnesses offers us profound encouragement in our run of faith. It’s the stories of Noah’s ark, Jacob’s wrestling with God, Moses’s leading his people to freedom, and Gideon’s little army. These were all witnesses of God’s power and goodness to His people in the unlikeliest of scenarios. They were all pressed to their limits, hit the wall of desperation, and had to fight the temptation to give up. And as a result, they experienced God’s deliverance in amazing ways. Let’s start by looking at the witness of Abraham: Keep believing. Hebrews 11 records this about Abraham and Sarah: By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. (Hebrews 11:8–9) Imagine what it would be like to follow God your whole life, get married, do well in your work, and reach old age. Imagine you’re seventy-five years old, and you’ve lived in the same place since birth. And now imagine God appearing to you and saying this: “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1–3) And one more thing: You don’t have any children. How exactly are your offspring going to be a great nation? Despite these great odds stacked against them—unable to conceive, seventy-five years old and sixty-five years old, with no idea of where God was leading—Abraham and Sarah showed no signs of a lack of faith. Maybe they were confused and thought God spoke to the wrong people. Perhaps Sarah questioned whether the Lord had indeed spoken to Abraham at all. Looking through their own eyes, they could not see where they were going—much less why they were going. But looking through the eyes of faith, they could see that God was leading them, and that was enough for them. You are not too young or too old. You are not too broken for God to use. You are not worthless or beyond hope. Abraham and Sarah call out to you today, “Keep believing! Don’t give up!” A Good Word Maketh Glad. “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.” Proverbs 12:25 KJV Choose not to let the spirit of heaviness weigh you down. Choose to surrender to God. Let Christ lift every burden. Choose to worship God. Don’t worship the weight and bondage of the past. Choose to redirect your focus and worship Christ. When you begin to focus on and magnify the cares and worries of the world, they will begin to weigh you down. When you choose to focus on your worries, cares and anxieties they will begin to lord over you. Don’t let the cares of this world grip and lord over your heart. Choose to redirect your focus. Choose to focus on God and not the weight of the world. Proverbs 12:25 NLT declares, “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.” Let the Word of God feed you. Let His Word encourage you. Let His Word build you up. Let His Word strengthen you. Let His Word direct your path. Don’t let your cares, worries, doubts, fears, frustrations, failures and shortcomings become your lord. Don’t let the weight of the past torment over your thoughts. Pass the test — release the past and worship God. What’s weighing on your heart? What are you worried about? What are you concerned about? What wakes you up at night? Don’t let the weight of the world entangle your heart. Let Christ rule and have total access to your heart. Who has access to your heart? What’s sitting on the throne of your heart? Are you worshipping your worries? Are you feeding your cares? Surrender to God and let the Word of God heal you from the inside out. “Anxiety in a man's heart weighs it down, but an encouraging word makes it glad.” Proverbs 12:25 AMPC The Goodness of God Jesus told us we would face trouble, but He promised to walk with us through the fire and carry us. In the middle of a storm, we can have joy and peace as we anchor ourselves in the unchanging goodness of God. Jesus came to earth to reveal the Father. He told his disciples, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” (John 14:9). When Jesus died on the cross and took on all that we deserved, He demonstrated the heart of the Father. When He healed every person that approached Him, whether their faith was great or small, He displayed the kindness of the Father. Jesus revealed the mercy and grace of the Father when He told the woman who was caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more,” (John 8:11). Jesus represented the Father in how He dealt with sickness, demonic torment, conflict, and crisis. He showed us a Father who is good. There is a battle over our minds and hearts, to taint our affections towards the Father and distort who we know Him to be. The belief in the goodness of God is a cornerstone and foundation for knowing and trusting Him deeply. If His goodness is not our cornerstone, conflict will cause us to question or accuse God. God is not the author of evil, but a Redeemer, who turns evil situations around for good. God fiercely pursues us and chases us down with His goodness, regardless of our current state. He longs to fill our lives with His goodness and joy. In order to make the goodness of God our lens in the midst of hardship, we have to constantly renew our minds, recalling the testimony of His goodness that has stayed constant throughout all of history. “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” Psalm 119:24 Testimonies are our counselors, they instruct us and teach us about the goodness of God. When we hear a testimony of God bringing breakthrough to someone who went through our same problem, that testimony becomes an invitation for us to experience the same breakthrough. There is power in remembering what God has done—it renews our minds. It brings us back, and centers us on the goodness of God that has been chasing us down the entire time. All my life you have been faithful All my life you have been so, so good With every breath that I am able, I will sing of the goodness of God Pray & Reflect When we are faced with hardship, there are three questions we can ask ourselves to turn our gaze back onto what God is doing, and remember His goodness. Take time today to meet with the Lord and ask these questions. Do you see? Can you see the goodness of God in your life, despite the bad? Take a moment to find evidence of His goodness throughout your week or your day. Do you hear? If you can’t see the goodness of God, can you hear what He’s saying to you about your situation? Do you remember? If you can’t see God’s goodness, and you can’t hear what He’s saying, you can always remember what He has done for you in the past. Take a moment and reflect on all that God has done for you in the past months or years. Celebrate His goodness in those moments by thanking Him and bringing Him an offering of praise.