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Stress and Distress

October 31st, 2017

When Life is not easy God’s grace is sufficient

“As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.” Psalm 119:143 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“stress and distress.”

You and I live in a world of unceasing and increasing stress. Stress is harmful. Stress does a lot of things, none of which are helpful. Stress accelerates your heart rate, increases blood pressure, manufactures anxiety, creates mental and emotional exhaustion, steals peace of mind, and destroys health. Stress is from the emotions you feel when the pressure seems overpowering. Hurry and worry result.

The eventual consequence is distress. Naturally, everyone would prefer no problems. No worries. No uncertainties. But no troubles equal no growth and result in little or no faith. Written years earlier, these lyrics provide a faith perspective about problems, “If I never had a problem, how would I know that God could solve them; I’d never know what faith in God can do. But through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus; I’ve learned to trust in God. I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.” (Through It All, Andrae Crouch).

The Psalmist, David wrote, “As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.” Psalm 119:143 NLT. God’s Word and truth is where you find wisdom. Don’t wish your problems away. Learn from them. Learning brings enlargement. The truth you learn by personal experience is truth that you will not soon forget. Life is better when you experience truth firsthand rather than trusting secondhand opinions from others.

Whenever David experienced distress, he also discovered something more about his God. God was there and His love did not wane, nor were His grace and power diminished. In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as, “distress,” describes, “pressure or narrowness of room.” Trouble narrows your view, appearing to lessen your options and exaggerating your distress.

The Psalmist cried out to God, “When I call, give me answers. God, take my side! Once, in a tight place, You gave me room; now I’m in trouble again. Grace me! Hear me!” Psalm 4:1 MSG. A more current expression would be this, “between a rock and a hard place.” Today, we call that stress. You won’t find rest and understanding until you turn to God. Why does it take us so long before we look to the only One who is all-knowing and always has sufficient grace and power?

Could there be times that God does not quickly deliver you from your distressing situation but allows circumstances to grow increasingly uncomfortable and confining until you will look to Him, and listen to Him, and embrace and obey His good will? “Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is.” Romans 12:1 NLT.

Even when in distressing times or circumstances, be confident. God can enlarge you in your distress. “God, You have freed me when I was hemmed in and enlarged me when I was in distress.” Psalm 4:1 AMP. His grace can give you needed relief, providing room to breathe and believe again. His power can push back the realities that press too tightly upon you, allowing you room to recover and regroup.

Life is not fair, but God is eternally loving and just. When life is not fair, God is righteous.  God promises, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV. When life is not easy, God’s grace is sufficient. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT.

Today, I pray for you to call on God in your distress and lean on Him in your weakness.

Christian Communications 2017-0707

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Inadequacy or Sufficiency?

July 21st, 2017

In your inadequacy, you discover God’s sufficiency.

 “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today ask that you consider, “Inadequacy or Sufficiency?

Problems are a part of life. In life and its myriad of circumstances, people are prone to measure problems and the probability of success according to their present resources and personal abilities. There will be times when you feel inadequate. However much experience and expertise you acquire, there will still be challenges for which you are inadequate. That is reality, but neither weakness nor prediction of failure. It is not failure when you face a problem you cannot solve, a need you cannot meet, or a habit you cannot conquer.

It is failure when you try to accomplish those things in your own strength and resources, without including the One who is greater than the challenge before you. “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.” Psalm 145:3 NIV. With boldness, Paul differentiated between his own inadequacy and the unfailing sufficiency of God, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5 NKJV. Sufficiency always and only comes form God.

History, as well as Scripture, is filled with examples of ordinary people who recognized their limitations and realized God’s extraordinary grace and power. Hudson Taylor, the great British missionary to India in the later 1800’s, wrote, “Many Christians estimate difficulty in the light of their own resources, thus they attempt very little and they always fail. The real giants have all been weak people who did great things for God because they reckoned on His power and His presence to be with them.” Hudson Taylor achieved remarkable things because he was confident that a great God was with and within him and offered himself for God’s use.

When God chose you and me, He knew what He was doing and what He was getting. The Bible speaks plainly,“Few of you were wise in the world’s eyes, or powerful, or wealthy when God called you. And He chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. So that no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NLT. And God was clear about His purpose, “That you may know what is . . the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.” Read Ephesians 1:18-21 NKJV. The power of His Resurrection confirms His sufficiency.

You discover God’s sufficiency when you accept your inadequacy. The process is this: “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV. God’s abundant grace empowers your effective ministry to others, but is not for your personal embellishment. Paul’s testimony was, “The Lord said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV. Because God knows our weakness, He releases His strength to accomplish through us what we could not achieve without His empowering, “. . according to His working which works in [us] mightily.” Colossians 1:29 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to trust and find that God is within you, and He is enough.

Christian Communications 2017

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Weakness and Strength

June 20th, 2017

Weakness does not limit God as much as your proud strength.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Weakness and Strength.”

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in [your] weakness.” Hebrews 11:34 NIV. 

We have a three year old great grandson, who is a typical boy, full of energy and self confidence. His insistent, “I can do it myself,” is part of his ample vocabulary. Of course, there is more that he can’t do than he knows. But his growing confidence is important as he tries new skills and challenges, and grows by his discovered abilities and exposed inabilities. In life, he will recognize that he needs and wants help. Obviously, with assistance he can do more than he is yet capable of doing without our help. Independence is not limited to preschoolers. He will learn that he needs help, and he will discover that he learns and achieves more when he accepts help.

We are all a mixture of weaknesses and strengths. And you possess more potential than you have yet comprehended. You are more capable than you have imagined or chosen to believe about yourself. I have observed that people who achieve remarkable things may not have been others’ obvious choice to do so. The difference is this. In God, they learned He could turn their weakness into His strength.

The Bible describes ordinary people making extraordinary achievements, “Who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.” Hebrews 11:33-34 NIV. Without God, they could have done none of those things.

Paul wrestled with some malady that he felt limiting. Desiring to serve God more fully, he earnestly and repeatedly sought God to remove the source of his self-perceived weakness. Finally, he understood when, “The Lord said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’” Paul discovered, Therefore, . .  when I am weak, then I am strong.” Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV. That may seem to defy logic, as we understand it. Your weakness does not limit God as much as your proud strength can. Will you dare to believe that God is almighty enough to be undiminished and unhampered by your weaknesses, inadequacies, and limited abilities? “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Ephesians 6:10 NKJV.

Consider this. You are more limited by reliance on your perceived strengths than God is limited by what are your known weaknesses. When you understand your lack and limits, you will rely more upon God. However, when you feel self-sufficient like my grandson, you insist, “I can do it myself.” Weakness and strength are not mutually exclusive, as is often assumed. Everyone of us is ordinary. But our God is extraordinary. The secret is to entirely commit your ordinary self to an extraordinary God; “To Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory.” Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to have persistent faith in our God Who is Omnipotent.

Christian Communications 2017-7307

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Breaking Points

April 11th, 2014

“We should trust not in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:9 NKJV.

A breaking point may actually become your breakthrough.

My thoughts and comments today are about “breaking points.”

Breaking points are times when you come up empty – no further resources, no fresh ideas, no better options, and you are left with nothing in reserve, financially, mentally, emotionally, or physically. At the end of yourself, you will meet God there. You are not alone. The prophet Elijah was at a breaking point – in fear for his life, fleeing from an angry monarch, drained physically, feeling alone and abandoned, and wishing to die. Read 1 Kings 19:1-20 NIV. Elijah was empty and exhausted – disappointed with people, discouraged by threats to his safety, and depressed about the future. That’s what a breaking point looks like – until you meet God there. Let’s consider some practical truths for such moments.

Quitting is not an option. If you think giving up is a viable option, you will eventually find an excuse to do so. My dear friend, Kenny, often reminded me and others, When you find yourself at the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hold on tightly till help comes. The Bible says, “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” Hebrews 10:35-36 NKJV. Perseverance is a virtue. “Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us . . do this by keeping your eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish . . so that you do not become weary and give up.” Hebrews 12:1-4 NLT.

Don’t pick up what is not yours to carry. Over-involvement in too many things or assuming too much responsibility for too many people soon becomes an unbearable burden. Keep the load light, and remember, As your days so shall your strength be.  Deuteronomy 33:25 NKJV. Jesus will give you wisdom and daily strength if you, “[Cast] all your care on Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NKJV.

A breaking point may become a breakthrough. Paul found the renewed strength and assurance he needed, when at his own breaking point God said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT. That discovery is life changing when embraced in faith. Read Hebrews 11:32-35 NLT. In God, your breaking point may be preparing you for a breakthrough. When you can’t be strong, let God be strong in you.

With a future dire and uncertain, Paul affirmed this practical, liberating truth, “We were burdened above measure, beyond strength, so that we despaired even of life. We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should trust not in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in Whom we trust He will still deliver us.” 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 NKJV. Think about your Heavenly Father as, “God who raises the dead.” If God can do what is impossible, the most extreme circumstance can still be alive with hope. “What is impossible from a human perspective is possible with God.” Luke 18:27 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you are always preparing yourself for a breakthrough.

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Sufficiency

October 7th, 2013

“As your days, so shall your strength be.”  Deuteronomy 33:25 NKJV.

God’s sufficiency is proportional to your daily necessity.

My thoughts and comments today are about “sufficiency.”

Some days can feel overwhelming, too tough and too long. Problems can seem unrelenting, clouding perspective and challenging perseverance. Burdens are exhausting and worry is fatiguing. There are times when you are unsure if any strength remains. In 2000, when my Mom was in hospice care for seven weeks, I felt absolutely drained. My heart was heavy; my soul was weary. There was a tiredness I had not known before. Day by day, I felt more and more emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually depleted.

Then into my growing darkness, God spoke. No, it was not audible; at that moment, I was too fragile for that. Into my weariness, God spoke this life-giving truth, “As your days, so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25 NKJV. In those seven weeks, I was strengthened and sustained daily by God’s words to me. Later, I found those words in Moses’ final blessings to the tribes of Israel, just before his death. In blessing Asher, Moses said, “As your days, so shall your strength be . . the eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:25/27 NKJV. Reliable commentary on this verse explains God’s promise as two-fold.

(1) In God, your strength is sufficient for the extent of your days. David’s personal testimony is this: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” Psalm 37:25 NIV. Whatever the length of your years, God’s strength and supply neither diminishes nor is exhaustible, and is provided life-long.

(2) In God, your strength will be appropriate to the content of your day. God’s strength and sufficiency is proportioned in its graces and comforts to your daily necessity. “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” 2 Corinthians 1:5 NIV/1:8-10 NKJV.Whatever your trials or difficulties, God always gives ample grace to support you in them and bring you through them.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread . .” Matthew 6:11 NKJV. Bread is representative of the all basic requirements of daily life – all that provides, nourishes, enriches, and sustains life and well-being each and every day. Supernaturally,God provided manna to Israel with instructions. Read Exodus 16:16-23 NIV. Daily, God provided enough. Notice particularly, “. . Everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered little had enough. Each family had just what it needed.” Vs. 18 NLT.

God’s supply is always sufficient. The lesson to be drawn is that God’s provision is always ample, yet your efforts without His blessing and provision will lack. See 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NKJV. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work . . that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV/Ephesians 3:19-20 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you find God’s grace, love, and power sufficient.

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