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For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. Psalm 103:14

understandsHave you ever felt like a complete and utter failure? Ever looked at what you are supposed to accomplish and realize that there I no way you’ll be able to fulfill the task before you?

A friend of mine told me about a situation he had to face at a new job he’d recently started. His responsibilities included marketing a particular event and although he did everything he could to promote it, the numbers didn’t look good. In fact they looked horrible.

“I remember losing sleep over the whole situation. Did I do enough? Would my boss see my efforts? Was my job in jeopardy? Those were the thoughts that plagued me throughout the night.”

The next morning my friend got a phone call from his boss. In the course of the conversation his boss told him several stories of his own failures as he started his business. “We’re going to stumble before we walk and walk before we run.”

My friend’s faith in himself and his job were restored that day because he realized that his boss understood what it was like to endure disappointment and failure.

That situation is an excellent example of God’s response to our own weakness. We fail on a daily basis. For some of us those failures are huge and cause destroyed relationships or consequences that will follow us for a lifetime. Some of us struggle with addictions that would embarrass us if they became public. Regardless of how hard we try to change, it’s impossible.

Not only do we struggle with weakness, a natural consequence of those weaknesses is the guilt, frustration and shame that go along with it.

When you look failure in the face for the hundredth time, remember this. You were created by the God of the universe. He knows how work inside and out. The Psalmist writes “For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” (Psalm 103:14)

Of all the reasons I believe God is good, this is perhaps the best one. He knows I’m weak. He knows how I work. I don’t need to explain myself. Even though my actions may surprise me they never surprise him. He understands me better than I understand myself.

God is good. He understands.

PRAYER: Father God. There are so many ways in which I feel too weak to accomplish all I have to do. So many times I’ve failed you, others or myself. Thank you for understanding me in my weakest moments. In Jesus name, Amen.


I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

A particular hamburger chain ran a series of commercials a few years back in which an elderly woman looked into the bun of a competing hamburger chain and asked the question, “Where’s the beef?”

Today, the question may well be rephrased, “Where’s the peace?” It seems as though our world is coming apart at the seams politically, socially and spiritually. Things we once felt secure are, at best on shaky ground. Add to those struggles the fact that cancer, disease and natural disasters seem to be rampant as well and we have a pretty bleak picture of the world as we know it.

I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. Those were turbulent times for our nation. Race riots, drug addiction, war protests and other social upheaval seemed to signal the end of the world…oh, yeah, and God died too! That didn’t help anything at all!

Times of unrest foster fear, worry and despair in all of us. Even those of us who ‘know’ who is in ultimate control question sometimes if he really is aware of what’s going on.

A story is making the rounds about a particular airline that went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure a woman whose son was in a coma was able to change flights (at no cost) and go see her son. The story illustrates how God works in our lives. She had no idea why she was being called off the plane. She had no idea what was going on in the background to get her to see her son. Yet, while she waited for her flight, plans were already underway to help her.

One day Jesus was teaching his disciples about terrible things that would happen to him and them in the future. Then he leaves them, and us, with this two-fold promise: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Later, his disciple, Peter would write, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)

Slide1What lessons can we learn from these two sections of scripture? First of all, trouble in this world should not surprise us. It doesn’t surprise God. In fact, Jesus has already been to your tomorrows. He’s seen the struggles. He’s seen your failures and the failures of those who have hurt you.  He’s not surprised by any of this in the smallest sense of the word.

The second lesson is that He’s already taken care of things. We should be prepared for tough times this side of heaven. Times in which we will fail, or be hurt and misunderstood. There will be times we feel completely defeated. But take heart. Jesus has overcome and through his power working through you, you will overcome too!

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for your promise to see me through what lay ahead. I’m scared, confused and lonely. Empower me with your Holy Spirit to be an overcomer regardless of what I face today. Amen.


This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NLT)

discouragedA friend of mine is a pastor in a small rural church. While the church has been in existence for over 100 years, it had fallen on some hard times and had even considered closing its doors. My friend was a ‘last hope effort’ to survive.

Chris, as I’ll call him, prayed for months that God would raise up some of the men to become the leaders the church needed to be an effective witness in the community. One day, his prayers seemed to be answered. A man we’ll call Thomas visited the church a couple times and then came up to Chris one Sunday after church and asked if they could have lunch. Later that week as they sat a table in the local café, Thomas shared his testimony of how he’d found Christ. Then he asked Chris the $64,000.00 question: “I have never been disciple and don’t know that much about the Bible. Would you be willing to meet with me to help me learn how to do that?

You can imagine the excitement Chris felt over the next months. Thomas continued to grow in his faith and became more and more involved in ministry both within the church and in the community. Then came the heart attack.

I looked at my friend Pastor Chris as his countenance fell. “It took the wind out of my sails big time”, Chris continued, “the hopes I had for ministry seemed to come to a complete stop. I found myself trying to fill the gaps Thomas had left behind. I told God he could take me out of this ministry anytime. I was finished.”

Chris shared with me how discouraged he had been over the next months. There were some small glimpses of joy in the ministry, but most of it was gone. Looking back he realized he’d built his ministry more on a person than on Jesus.

Discouragement can come to us in many ways, as it did with my friend Pastor Chris. It can sneak up on us completely unaware and knock us off our feet. Many of the things we once hold confidence in lose their allure.

Usually discouragement is completely irrational. For example, you may do a project for school in which 100 kids evaluate you. If you get 99 high grades and 1 low grade it’s easy to focus on the one low grade and not the other 99 high grades. It’s the way we are wired. We tend to see the negative far more easily than we see the positive.

Discouragement happens when we lose confidence in ourselves and our enthusiasm disappears. It can be the result of personal attacks, failures on our part or the death of someone important to us. Whatever the reason, discouragement leaves us disheartened.

Imagine what it must have been like for Joshua. Joshua was a Bible Character and assistant to Moses as Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. As they neared the Promised Land, Moses died and left Joshua in charge.

Imagine how Joshua felt. Moses was the only leader he had ever known. Moses was the one that stood by him, trained him, and encouraged him. Moses made all the difficult decisions. Joshua followed his lead. Now it was his time to lead nearly 1 million people into a land known to be inhabited by fierce and powerful enemies. In the midst of this overwhelming challenge, Joshua receives assurance from God that God would be with him every step of the way.

Discouragement comes when we focus on our own ability and see the solution to our circumstances as being dependent on our own power. When relationships fail we tend to be discouraged because we think we are the only ones at fault when, in fact, relationships can only prosper if all parties are working together.

When we fail because of sin in our lives discouragement sets in because we get the notion that being morally perfect is possible and that God is disappointed in our actions. The fact of the matter is we will never be morally perfect and God is never disappointed or surprised by our actions. He not only knows our weakness, he is ready and willing to forgive us and help us through our weakness and use those weaknesses to make us strong.

We can lose confidence in life situations, or ministry (as Pastor Chris did) or our jobs, or classwork because we’ve neglected to seek God’s help or place too many expectations on ourselves. Confidence is also robbed when we compare ourselves to others rather than reminding ourselves that we are created in God’s image as his masterpiece.

Are you discouraged today? Remember that no matter what you are going through, God knows where you are, how you got there and the best way out.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, right now I find myself in a situation I see no way out of. Please forgive me for not trusting you. Please empower me through your Holy Spirit to see the way you have for my escape. Help me to focus on you rather than my circumstances. In your name I pray, Amen.


lonelyTurn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. Psalm 25:16 (NLT)

I don’t get to travel often. In fact it’s rare that I spend a night away from my family. One on occasion though I remember sitting in a hotel room 1500 miles from home. I was there for a conference that I’d looked forward to for months. I was basking in the warm sunshine of the Sunbelt while my family endured the cold winter of the north.

It was a great time. The sessions were everything I hoped for. The networking I did was fulfilling. Yet, the entire time I was there I battled the plague of loneliness. Don’t get me wrong. I was far from being alone. I was a phone call or text message from my loved ones; I was in a conference with loving and accepting people. But feelings of loneliness have nothing to do with the location you are in or the amount of people you are around. In fact, loneliness is worst when you are in a crowd.

One recent study suggests that 60 million people in the United States are affected by loneliness. The late Robin Williams once said, “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.”  But it’s not just people that make you feel alone. One definition of loneliness is “feeling unhappy because of being separated from other people.” Feelings of failure, inadequacy, rejection, poor self-image, anger and many other feelings can lead us to withdraw into the harsh world of loneliness.

Sometimes we are separated from others because of physical distance, as I was at that conference, but other times we are separated from others emotionally. We’ve all been there. Maybe you are there now. No one seems to understand your feelings. Even your closest friends seem intent on ‘fixing you’ rather than just listening to you and letting you sort things out yourself.

While there is no easy answer to the severe feelings of loneliness, I take some comfort in the Bible and in particular the book of Psalms. Written by a man who failed as a father, leader, lover, husband and friend, David writes from the heart about his struggles with the emotional part of life.

In Psalm 25:16, he pleads with God to, “Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress.” You can almost hear the anguish in his voice. Imagine that. At the time he was the most powerful and popular king his nation had ever had. Yet in spite of his power and popularity (the two things we all hope for) he felt complete and udder distress.

David knew that the only place to get relief for his soul was from God. In the same way, the only real way to battle the feelings of loneliness we have is by going to God. Many may say, ‘Why God? How can he understand how I feel?”

The reason God can understand how we feel is because his Son, Jesus Christ, endured loneliness and rejection more than anyone else. His family thought he was crazy. Church leaders constantly hounded him, trying to catch him in some lie so they could kill him (which they did eventually), His friends abandoned him in his hour of deepest need and never did fully understand him. The ultimate rejection, however, came from his own Father.

In our western, 21st century culture we don’t understand the significance of this event, but in the book of Matthew (Matthew 27:45-46) we’re told that God himself ‘turned his back on Jesus’. When God ‘forsook’ Jesus, it was like turning his back on Jesus. In that culture, when a father turned his back on his son it was the deepest and strongest symbol of rejection that could happen. At the point of Jesus’ deepest point of need, even his father rejected him and left him all alone. It’s no wonder some of Jesus’ last words were (to paraphrase) ‘Dad! Why have even you turned away from me? You were all I had and now you are gone!”

Are you feeling completely rejected? Do you feel like no one else cares? Do you feel like your failures are so great that no one can ever accept you again? There’s only one person who knows exactly how you feel because he went through the same feelings. That person is Jesus Christ and he anxiously reaches out to you to comfort, forgive and most of all be your closest friend.

Dear Jesus, you know better than anyone how I’m feeling right now. The feelings of loneliness and failure overwhelm me. Please help me to feel your presence in my life right now and especially during those times I need a friend. Amen.


stonesTell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” Joshua 4:7

My aunt died recently and I was given the honor of leading ‘Celebration of Life’ service for this dear, godly woman. As I heard the news about her passing it suddenly occurred to me that my aunt was the youngest child of my grandparents. Each of my grandparent’s three children died in their birth order. More importantly, I thought about the fact that an era had passed.

It doesn’t seem to matter how old you are, when your parents die you feel like an orphan. Whether you are 15 or 50 you wonder, “What will I do now without mom and dad?” Now, my grandparents, parents and aunts and uncles from that side of the family were gone, with only memories to fall back on.

One wonders if the Israelites felt the same way as they crossed the Jordan River and entered the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The stones they gathered from the Jordan River became a memorial to remind them of God’s promises.

The stones the leaders of the 12 tribes gathered that day were far more than rocks. Each of those stones was a story. Stories of being held captive, abused and feeling abandoned by God.  Stories of watching as, one by one, their parents and grandparents died in the wilderness. Stories of fear, confusion, doubt and grief.

As instructed, the leaders took those stones, those stories as it were, and made them into a monument. A monument to remind the Israelites and their children of the struggles in their past. But that pile of rocks meant one more thing that we must remember in our lives. That pile of stories spoke loudly and clearly the message that God delivers on His promises.

There will be times in our life when we are filled with grief, despair, confusion and anger. There will be times in our lives when we are under physical, emotional or spiritual attack. There will be times in our lives when we will feel completely abandoned by God. There will be times in our lives when we feel we have failed so badly that there is no hope.

That’s when each of us must look at those piles of stones and remind ourselves that God delivers on his promises. There was another ‘pile of stones’ that we look to for this reassurance. That ‘pile of stones’ so to speak is called Golgotha. It held the cross of our Lord and Savior and reminds us once again, that God delivers on his promises.

Each of us is building a memorial for those behind us. May we be building stones of remembrance to lead our children and our children’s children to the promises of God’s deliverance through Jesus Christ. May they be able to say about us that in spite of our failures and in spite of our shortcomings, we showed them the path of deliverance.

The ARC and at many other camps and retreat centers offer us the opportunity to ‘come away and rest’ awhile. It’s often during these times of solitude that we are able to step back and reflect on the stories of our own lives and re-energize ourselves to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

What stones [stories] of remembrance are you building for those coming behind you?

PRAYER: Father God. I praise you for the promises you have fulfilled in my lifetime. Forgive me for forgetting to notice the many ways you deliver me daily. Forgive me for the times my lifestyle has been rebellious. Help me by the power of your Holy Spirit to be building stones of remembrance that will guide those who follow me to you. In Jesus name, Amen.

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