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Courage and Fear

January 2nd, 2017

Courage and fear are mutually exclusive

 “Jesus came to them, walking on the water.” Mark 6:48 NLT

My thoughts and comments today are about “courage and fear.”

Life involves some frightening moments. A new year may include new uncertainties, challenges you must navigate with faith rather than fear. Or you may carry concerns with you from the year just concluded. A change of calendar does not exempt you from the same or similar concerns. And a new year may introduce problems you do not anticipate. There is good news for either possibility.

Mark records an instance of miracles on either shore of the Sea of Galilee, as well as a harrowing night of panic, fear, and despair of survival between those miracles. Read Mark 6:45-56 NLT. In the first miraculous event, at the end of a day of teaching and ministry Jesus fed a crowd of thousands with just a boy’s small lunch. In the second, Jesus healed many of the sick and suffering who were brought to Him. Between these two exhilarating experiences was a perilous, night time journey across about four miles of the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus had sent His disciples ahead of Him while He remained to pray. In the dark of night in the middle of Galilee, the disciples encountered a life-threatening storm – too far to return to where they were safe, yet too far to journey on to where they would be safe. Men, well acquainted with the sea, despaired of survival. Mark described them as, “in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves.” I love the description of Jesus’ arrival, “Jesus came to them walking on the water . . then He climbed into the boat and the wind stopped.” Who walks on water except God? Who commands the wind and sea and they obey?

I observe two things. The wind and waves that threatened and frightened them were exactly the elements that carried Jesus to them. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV. When Jesus comes, the frightening elements are calmed and profound peace displaces fear. You can face any storm with Jesus alongside.

The Psalmist knew the only Source of true peace, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me . . Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.” Psalm 61:2-3/23:4 NKJV. In His presence, you are always safe.

In whatever circumstance, now or in the unforeseen days ahead, you will discover Jesus alongside you. What frightens you today? World events? Health issues? Marriage challenges? Family concerns? Job insecurity? Inadequate finances? Uncertain future? God will come to you, even in the turbulent waters that threaten. Courage and fear are mutually exclusive. Fear will overwhelm you unless faith displaces fear with courage.

Today, I pray for you to discover a new courage in whatever you encounter on your journey.

Christian Communications 2016

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Feeling Overwhelmed

February 3rd, 2015

I will cry to You, Lord, when my heart is overwhelmed.” Psalm 61:2 NKJV.

When life seems more than you can handle, kneel and pray.

My thoughts and comments today are about “feeling overwhelmed.”

Have you ever seen the panic and fear on the face of a child in water who suddenly realizes they can’t touch the bottom, or when a gulp of water causes them to gasp for breath? In a moment, their illusion of safety is swept away. Panic happens to adults as well. At such moments, efforts are desperate and exertion is usually misspent. Panic prompts self-preservation without producing safety.

Fear comes suddenly, often overwhelmingly, usually irrationally. Feeling overwhelmed is not a good feeling. Fear can rise from imagined dangers, as well as dangers that are very real. There will be times you will find yourself in situations beyond your ability to handle, suddenly realizing you are in unfamiliar territory. Everyone has experienced multiple times like that, such as: a student unprepared for the final exam, a new mother with a crying infant who refuses comfort, a young husband discovering he is not loved as he loves, a wife realizing her husband has been unfaithful, a businessman staring at a debt he cannot pay, a person stunned by an adverse diagnosis, an investor who risked more than he could afford, or a homeowner facing foreclosure. Those are real, everyday crises.

Life will sometimes seem unmanageable. The unpredictable interrupts; the unthinkable intrudes. No one is exempt from such realities – neither the wise, the rich, the strong, nor the Godly. What will you do when overwhelmed? Where do you turn for help? To whom will you look for answers and direction? At such moments, beware of despair. Even a great king felt overwhelmed,  but David knew what to do. “I will cry to You, Lord, when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever. I will trust in the shelter of your wings.” Psalm 61:2-4. Read Psalm 91:1-9.

When life seems more than you can handle, kneel and pray. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” Proverbs 18:10 NIV. Prayer, not despair, is the answer. “When you are in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you are in rough waters, you will not go down. When you are between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end – because I am your God, your personal God, your Savior . . So don’t be afraid, I’m with you!” Isaiah 43:2-5 MSG.

If God can create the world out of nothing, He will supply your need. If God can provide for a multitude in a wilderness, He will give you what you lack. If God can construct a dry path through the Red Sea, He will make a way for you. If God can feed thousands with a small boy’s lunch, He will turn your little into enough.  If God knows the unknown and unknowable, He will provide the wisdom you need. God’s Word is ever true; “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. “ Philippians 4:19.

EDL theres hope

Today, my prayer for you is that when you know God can, you will trust that God will.

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Resilience

March 31st, 2014

“Paul got up and went back into the city.” Acts 14:20 NIV.

Resilient people are irresistibly joyful and ultimately successful.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “resilience.”

In life, it is not what happens to you that’s so damaging; it’s what happens in you. There will be people who go out of their way to cause others needless pain. Hurting people hurt others. They wound with hurtful words and walk away – or punish others for their own unhappiness – or are unkind when they don’t have to be. They leave pain in their path. You can retreat; you can resist; you can resent. Or you can respond with faith and confidence in God. But you can’t change them.

What you decide and do after what happens to you is what’s most important. I love people who develop resilience as a character trait – “the ability to recover, bounce back, or to be flexible.” Resilient people are ultimately successful; they bend rather than break. There is an interesting account from the earliest years of Paul’s ministry. Read Acts 14:19-22 NIV. “Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.”

Paul was savagely stoned, dragged, cruelly dumped, and left for dead outside the city. Then an amazing thing happened. “He got up and went back into the city. The next day he left . .” That’s resilience only God can provide you. Paul met life on his own terms; he would leave in his own time. There are times that there is not much else you can do except get up, dust yourself off, treat your wounds, and walk away from the hurt and hurtful. You may have a limp but you still have your life. The bad thing that happened to you need not be the end of your story. See Romans 12:21 NLT.

The Apostle Paul was resilient, therefore his words ring true, “We have this treasure [the light of the knowledge of the glory of God] in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:6-9 NIV. Whenever you are having a pity party, read Paul’s personal diary. Read 2 Corinthians 6:3-10/11:23-28 NKJV.

Resilient people are irresistibly joyful. “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Romans 5:2-5 NIV. See James 1:2-4 NIV.

Responded to joyfully and expectantly, God will make suffering productive rather than destructive. Draw strength and inspiration from Jesus. “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Read Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you are not overcome with the evil others do.

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Thanksgiving Dinner

November 27th, 2013

“[God] prepares a banquet for me . . and fills my cup to the brim.” Psalm 23:5 TEV.

There is no situation in which God is unable or unwilling to provide for you abundantly.

My thoughts and comments today are about “thanksgiving dinner.”

I love this time of year. Autumn brings a change of season introducing Thanksgiving Day and leading to the joy-filled celebration of our Savior on Christmas Day. Thanksgiving Day is celebrated with family traditions and traditional foods – roast turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce, giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, candied yams, warm dinner rolls, and of course, pecan and pumpkin pie, all enjoyed at a seasonally decorated and well-appointed table. But first, each family expresses thankfulness to God for His provision and for one another.

David, the Psalmist, enjoyed “a thanksgiving dinner” of sorts, which he describes in the most familiar and beloved of his psalms, Psalm 23. Giving thanks to God, David wrote, “You prepare a banquet for me . .  You welcome me as an honored guest and fill my cup to the brim.” Psalm 23:5 TEV. In unexpected times and places, God prepares and provides for him. David dines with a heart of thanksgiving for the ample provision of God in every situation and circumstance. There is no situation in which God is unable or unwilling to provide for you abundantly. Our God“. . is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20 NKJV.

From the life of Elijah, let me share three examples of “a thanksgiving dinner.” In a severe drought and resulting famine, God sent Elijah where He alone could provide for him. Read 1 Kings 17:1- 7 NKJV. “Hide by the Brook Cherith . . you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded ravens to feed you there.” God provided “a banquet” by natural means delivered in unexplainable ways; scavenger birds brought bread and meat morning and evening. Unusual circumstances don’t matter – when God “prepares a banquet . . and welcomes you as an honored guest.”

In a worsening drought for three years, God redirects Elijah to a widow in Zarephath. Read 1 Kings 17:8-16. Her meager resources exhausted by the famine, she shared with Elijah what little remained, which was then miraculously replenished daily as long as the drought endured. I believe Elijah gave thanks. God provided “a banquet” by a miraculous multiplication of her meager resource. Insufficient resources are irrelevant – when God “prepares a banquet . . and welcomes you as an honored guest.”

And lastly, from an angry queen seeking his death, Elijah “arose and ran for his life.” Read 1 Kings 19:1-8. Running scared and disheartened, Elijah collapses in exhausted sleep until awakened by an angel with fresh bread and water prepared, and “Elijah went in the strength of that food forty days and nights, as far as the mountain of God.” God provided “a banquet” by supernatural provision in desperate circumstances. Debilitating fear and despair disappear – when God “prepares a banquet . . and welcomes you as an honored guest.”

With the Psalmist, I have found this true, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” Psalm 37:23-26 NIV. At this Thanksgiving season, I am grateful that Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” a prayer He never fails to hear. Whatever the challenge or pressing need of your present situation, you have ample reason to trust God and give Him thanks for His faithful and sufficient provision – today, and every day.

My prayer for you today is that you find reason every day for thanksgiving to God.

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Out of Options?

July 9th, 2012

“He prayed that he might die.” 1 Kings 19:4 NKJV

When you are through with your options, you are ready for real solutions.

My thoughts and comments today ask “out of options?”

Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” The verse is a bit shocking; “[Elijah] prayed that he might die.” 1 Kings 19:4 NKJV. He was full of fear and tired. This prophet had been powerfully used by God on Mt. Carmel. Kings feared him; a nation revered him; but a queen despised him. “[Elijah] ran for his life . . a day’s journey into the wilderness.” You can never run fast enough or far enough to get away from your fear and despair. Really, if Elijah wanted to die, Jezebel would gladly have accommodated him.

So soon after a great victory, he no longer had the will to live. Extreme highs and severe lows are not always far apart. Elijah felt alone in his task, his life threatened by Jezebel. He was exhausted physically, wrung out emotionally and mentally, and weary and confused spiritually. He had nothing left. Read 1 Kings 19:1-4/10. Elijah was running on empty, literally. Elijah didn’t feel he could face another day. Life had become more than he could bear.

Let’s be practical; God always is. The recovery of Elijah began simply enough, with rest and nourishment. This was not the time for further depletion. Before you try to figure it all out with worry-filled days and sleepless nights, give yourself a time for recovery. Then God provided supernatural sustenance for forty days, until he finally came “as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.” See verses 5-8. Elijah ran from Jezebel, but at least he ran toward God. Along the way and at Horeb, God met Elijah, quieting his inner turmoil long enough to hear a fresh assignment. God has more for him. His life wasn’t over; a new chapter was yet to be written. See verses 11-18.

When you have gone as far as you can go with the strength you possess, what do you do? Inevitably, that is a common dilemma. From that point, your success or failure is found in your answer to that question. There will be a moment when what you’ve been doing is no longer working, when what you have is no longer enough, when what you know is not what you need to know. Sometimes, life seems to offer a dead end; going back isn’t an option and going forward doesn’t feel possible. Ever hear someone describe their situation as being “between a rock and a hard place?” Sometimes God allows you to get yourself into tight places until you will turn to Him. Ever been where you think you are out of options? When you are through with your options, you are ready for real solutions. God is your best option.

Out of options? You are in good company. The Apostle Paul described an experience when he was, “. . burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NKJV. Maybe what he learned from that personal experience convinced Paul to pray for the Christ-followers at Ephesus, “to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man . . to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Read Ephesians 3:16-20 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you find God when you are searching for answers.

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