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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.


“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Sometimes we get the idea that ‘Bible People’ were somehow a different species of animals. Not really human, not really susceptible to the same emotions, struggles and trials we have. They were from a different time with fewer struggles, they had a closer handle on life and faith…and God. Some of us even write them off as good characters from some novel. Not real, even though realistic.

Fact of the matter is, the stories of the Bible are stories of real people with real struggles surprisingly like our own. Sure, they didn’t have internet or electricity. They didn’t have to worry about a global economy. High gas prices wouldn’t be developed for centuries. But don’t let that keep you from the realization that these are real people with real problems.

They still struggled with relationship issues like divorce and dysfunctional families. There were still time issues and disease to contend with. Politics were just as dangerous as they are today, maybe even more so for some. There was worry and racism and gossip and religious intolerance.

So how did they manage? How did people like the Apostle Paul deal with the issues in his life of several near death experiences, enduring the verbal attacks of people who he sought to love and extend the Grace of God too? Where did he turn when tempted to lash out or lust attacked, or disappointment set in? What encouraged him when he was afraid of the future?

Paul tells us that he learned the secret. There were times in his ministry when people around him supported him emotionally, physically and spiritually. During those times he enjoyed the comfort and contentment of having a warm place to sleep and a full stomach.

There were other times when the hunger was unbearable. The only thing that hurt worse were the accusations, the harassment and the lies that were told about him. There were times he felt completely alone and wondered if his work of ministry was worth the pain.

So what was this secret of Paul’s stability? He learned that in times of need or times of plenty it was his reliance on Christ that kept him strong. The human soul was never created to endure life struggles alone. By our very essence we need a helper to keep us strong during the tough times. Sometimes that strength comes from leaning on others, but there are times when the only solace we have is in Christ. He longs to comfort you, embrace you and lift you up.

Regardless of what you are struggling with; or what others have done to you in your past; or what worries you about the future, Jesus Christ came to strengthen your heart to endure. He didn’t come to remove the trials; he came to walk through them with you.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for the power you have to support me. During the trying times may I remember that it is you, only you that I need to make my way through life. Amen.


For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 2 Timothy 1:6

I could sit for hours by a campfire. I love to watch the flames dance as they change color. I enjoy the warmth and comfort they give me on those chilly or downright cold nights in the woods.

One night, while camping, my family and I decided to leave the warmth of our campfire to walk down by the lake we were camping at to look at the stars. There is no comparison to a starry night when you are 50 miles from the nearest small town and hundreds of miles from any large town. I always stand in awe of my God and Father when I look into his heavens.

Eventually, the coolness of the night had its effect on us and we decided to return to the fire. The flames had died down and there was nothing left but some glowing embers. I took a few small pieces of wood, laid them on the coals and began to fan the embers. Within minutes the flames had returned and the warmth of the fire was doing its work on our cold bodies.

The Apostle Paul was writing to his young protégé, Timothy. Apparently, for some reason Paul remembered the tears Timothy shed. Were they tears of loneliness in ministry? Were they the tears of a young man missing his teacher? Had Timothy gone through the loss of a friend or family member? We don’t know. But what we do know is the Paul encouraged Timothy to remember. He reminded him of his faith, the faith of his family, the strength of his God.

There are many times in our lives when the flames of God’s spirit can grow dim as a result of the struggles of family, work, or relationships. The quiet of the wilderness can fail to squelch the call of worry, doubt, guilt and frustration.

That night by the lake my spirit was restored by gazing into the heavens and remembering whose child I was. My heart was warmed by the reminder that this great God that hung the millions of stars in place stoops down to wipe my tears; offers a shoulder to cry on; offers forgiveness of my guilt.

Don’t allow the flame of God’s Holy Spirit to grow dim during the struggles of life. Focus on the facts of God’s love for you. Enjoy the warmth of his strength in your life. There is nothing you are going through that he has not sanctioned. There is nothing you have done, or can do that will keep him from offering you the warmth of his love.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, there are so many times that the trials of life keep the flames of your love and grace from reaching me. Let me sense your Spirit flowing through me so that I can be a light and shed the warmth of your love to others in need. Amen.


So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”Romans 8:15

Psychology Today says of guilt, “Guilt and its handmaiden, shame, can paralyze––or catalyze one into action. Appropriate guilt can function as social glue, spurring one to make reparations for wrongs. Excessive rumination about one’s failures, however, is a surefire recipe for resentment and depression.”

Guilt almost always focuses on the negative, even though it can have positive outcomes. We’ve all been there. Dealing with feelings of regret, failure and fear over decisions we’ve made and choices from our past that haunt us daily. Those times when we’ve been awakened in the night by worry or come to a point during the day when we look around ourselves and ask the questions. How did I get here? How will I get out?

Guilt has been used for centuries to control behavior and to protect the status quo. “Wait until your father gets home!” too many of us remember hearing.

“If you don’t behave the police will come and take you away!” (I actually heard a young, frustrated mom say to her very two-year-old acting two-year-old. I shudder to think how that child grew up looking at law-enforcement.)

“If you don’t go to church and read your Bible you will go straight to hell!” (Okay, maybe it was never verbalized like that, but the message was clear.)

God hates divorced people and gay people and anyone that does wrong things. (One of my personal ‘UN’-favorites.)

The most unfortunate thing about guilt is that it has been used for centuries as a motivator by organized religion. I use the term ‘organized religion’ to clearly differentiate those systems from what we commonly refer to Christianity. Christianity can be a religion; in fact most people refer to it as a religion. In reality however, True Christianity is more about relationship than it is about rules and religion and…guilt. Every religion known to man speaks of personal responsibility and punishment. Only Christianity speaks of unmerited love and forgiveness.

The Apostle Paul, the Apostle of grace, writes in his letter to the believers in Rome, ‘We have not received a spirit of fear!’ (My paraphrase) That means fear motivated by guilt and remorse has no place in the heart of a repentant believer in Jesus Christ. The church may wield the sword of guilt to chastise us and keep us in line, but grace trumps that sword.

What a blessed truth. Guilt has no more hold on me, just as a child enjoys all the rights of being an heir. We no longer need to live under the oppressive hold of guilt in our lives. We are free. We are children of God and as such can address the creator of the universe as Daddy. What a blessed promise!

PRAYER: Father God, Daddy. I claim the forgiveness you have given me through your son, Jesus Christ. I will no longer allow guilt or shame to have control over me. I’m your child and eternally thankful for that. Amen.


They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.” Genesis 42:21 (NIV)

It’s a story I have heard from my youth. Joseph, just a boy of perhaps 18 was a dreamer. He was the favored son of his father and a source of contention among his brothers. So much so that when the opportunity came, these brothers sold their brother into slavery and told his father that he’d been killed by some unknown, but savage beast.

The disadvantage to seeing the end of the story is that you forget to contemplate what was going on emotionally for those involved. Judah, the ringleader of the brothers wanted Joseph out of the way once and for all. Rueben fought for the integrity of family and his father.

Imagine for a moment, if you will, the anguish of Joseph that day. We remember him more as the good looking and wiser ruler that led Egypt through famine and won the safety of his family. But that day near the old well, it was a different story.

Don’t forget for a moment that the story of Joseph, like any story in the Bible or any other book is a story about real people with real feelings and real emotions. These were the guys Joseph played football with on Sunday afternoons. These were the guys that Joseph learned tending livestock from. These were the guys who helped him put the first worm on his hook and cheered as he pulled in his really big fish.

As Joseph was led away behind the caravan of camels it wasn’t just his brothers he saw disappear over the horizon, it was everything he remembered. He left the arms of his father to deliver food and to the best of his knowledge would never see dad again. Some of us have an adventurers’ heart. Launching out into the great unknown has a certain romance to it. The adventurer chooses to leave the well-known for the unknown. That can’t be said for Joseph. As he was led away he saw his very future being ripped from his hands.

Fast forward now twenty years into the life of Joseph. Somewhere in his life Joseph made a decision to trust God. Read his story in Genesis and you’ll see the presence of God in his life mentioned repeatedly. Whether it was before he was sold into slavery or after, somewhere along the line Joseph made a decision to make the best of every situation and to realize that regardless of what happened God was in control. Because God was in control his ‘duty’, so to speak was to serve this God to the best of his ability.

Like Joseph, there are those times when life deals us a horrible hand of cards. There are those people and those events that seem destined to ruin us and destroy us. But we don’t see the end of the story. We must focus on a God we can trust to know better than we do how life should go. We must rely on the one who sees the end of the story to get us through the middle chapters.

PRAYER: Father, during those times when life seems hopeless and I’m not sure I can continue on, help me remember how you used the abuse Joseph suffered to save the lives of his family. Help me serve you faithfully during my distress. Amen.

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