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

20140825_073143My family and I love to camp. One of our favorite spots to spend a few days is in extreme northern Minnesota. Just miles from the Canadian border, we are without electricity except for our camper batteries, have no cell phone signal and are 50 miles from the nearest hospital. We enjoy taking the boat out, playing games, taking naps and just getting away from all the stress of the ‘real world’ in our hidden paradise.

The only connection we have with the world outside is a weather radio that we listen to each morning so that we know what to expect weather-wise in regards to going out on the lake or taking hikes through the forest.

Last summer, on the day before we were going to leave, we listened to an ominous forecast on our weather radio. Severe weather was bearing down on us from the west. There were reports of damaging winds, funnel clouds and torrential rains. Maps we had with us verified that we were in the path of the oncoming storm.

Knowing the storm was at least an hour away, we made sure to put away anything that might become destroyed and packed away everything we could in preparation for the oncoming storm as well as our journey home in the morning. Then20140824_195154 we climbed up on a rock and watched the sunset and approaching clouds.

We were nervous. The unknown frightened us. We made contingency plans for the possibility of having to evacuate the camper due to severe weather. Fortunately, the worst of the storm went south of us and we got nothing but plenty of loud thunder, bright lightning and heavy rain.

The oncoming storm reminds me of stress. Stress is, I believe, really as symptom of other emotions. We become stressed when we worry about financial struggles. We become stressed when we are discouraged about the doctor’s report. We become stressed when we fear the consequences of poor choices or relational breakdowns.

We see the storm clouds on the horizon. We know the possibilities of disaster even though, in reality we are uncertain of the exact outcome. We take every precaution we can and then do the only thing left: wait.

When the uncertainty of life bears down on us and we are unsure of the outcome or whatever it is we face, we have a place where we can go for cover. That place of refuge is God’s Word and his many promises to us.

Sometimes, when people are stressed they look for temporary fixes. That’s why airports often have bars close to the gates. Alcohol doesn’t take away the fear, but it deadens it for a while. For some new relationships, shopping, taking a trip or watching porn is an escape. There can be all sorts of things you can do to try to deaden the impact of stress on your life. But they are all temporary fixes.

Dealing with stress

  1. The next time you are stressed, take some time to reflect on exactly what the basis for your stress is. Is if fear? Is it guilt? Is it worry? Is it procrastination? What is the cause of stress in your life.
  2. Secondly, go to God’s word or, if you are unfamiliar with God’s word or don’t know where to start, find someone who can help you in this area.
  3. The third step to dealing with the storm of stress is to give over whatever is stressing you to the promises of God.
  4. Lastly, seek Godly wisdom on how to deal with the storm. Sometimes it’s just a matter of waiting to see what happens, like we did in our camper that night. Other times there may be things you need to do like confess a sin, re-focus your lifestyle, ask forgiveness, etc.

True joy comes when we rest in the promises of an all-loving, all-powerful God whose desire is for each of us to live in peace. Jesus said “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27(NLT)

PRAYER: Jesus, I thank you for the many promises you have given us through your word, the Holy Bible. I thank you for the fact that you know exactly what I’m going through and for the promise that you not only know the outcome, you will walk me through it. I give this stress over to you based on the promise of peace you have given me. Amen.


I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” Jeremiah 31:25 NIV

It seems like we are deluged with pictures and stories of the horrific famine that is ravaging parts of our world. The pictures and stories anger us. They rip our hearts out and make us question why. Why does God allow this? Why don’t we do more to stop the carnage? Why are those people who withhold assistance allowed to continue to do so? Why….?

Latest estimates tell us that roughly 1/3 of the world will go to bed hungry tonight. Every 3.6 seconds someone dies from hunger. Want a better perspective of that gruesome thought? This Sunday while you sit in your comfortable 1 hour church service, 17 people will die of starvation.

These statistics are staggering. It may be of some comfort to know that comparatively few people die of starvation in the U.S.A., but it’s of little comfort.

Harsh as those statistics are, there is another statistic that’s even more staggering. It’s a type of starvation that will never make the news. Those who suffer from this type of starvation often suffer alone. Its effects are rarely noticeable. Some who have noticed have openly chastised these victims for their plight! Not only do they suffer from the starvation, they are blamed for their condition. Such is the plight of those who suffer from starvation of the soul.

Disease and starvation of the physical body is easily seen, but those who suffer from starvation of the soul, suffer in silence. They live in a world where nothing seems to go right. Relationships fail. Attempts at success are met with failure and on those rare occasions when they do succeed there is no one there to cheer them on. All of us long for someone to slap us on the back occasionally and tell us we did a great job. Soul starved people long for that but rarely see it.

The people of Israel knew what that was like. They had all the assets of the God of the Universe at their fingertips but never figured out how to make it work. They tried and failed and suffered the consequences. But there was hope. Jeremiah tells them that someday God would revive them, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.

That refreshment comes through Jesus. Regardless of how deep your pain is, Jesus is there to comfort. No matter how dark the bruises of your heart, he is there to pour the soothing oil of his grace over them.

Jesus came to refresh us. It’s really a pretty cool word picture. The word would be better translated as ‘satiates’ (full to the top) or ‘inebriates’. You read that right. ‘Inebriates’. The same word we use to describe someone who has turned over control of their bodies to alcohol or drugs.

Each of us struggle in some aspect of life. It may be in our relationships. It may be with our jobs or our thought life. The bruises of an abusive past or the ghosts of our abusers may haunt us. Jesus came to refresh, to encourage, to make us so drunk (if I can be blunt) on his love and forgiveness that the pain of our starvation is filled and we can approach each new day filled to contentment.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I pray for those who are struggling physically. Let us not forget their plight or fail to meet their needs as best we can. But I pray as well for those suffering from starvation of the soul. May they find contentment and filling in you. Amen.


5/19/2012

I pray that the Lord will listen when you are in trouble, and that the God of Jacob will keep you safe. Psalm 20:1 (CEV)

There are times in our lives when we feel completely alone and overwhelmed with the battle before us. The uncertainty of the future and the rugged trail of the present seem to keep us from making any headway at all on the journey.

Sometimes, in the midst of the turmoil, there are no easy answers. Sometimes when life seems at its lowest, there are no clearly defined routes to victory; no words of comfort. During those times it’s nice just to have someone to listen to us. We don’t need solutions (although they’d be nice). We don’t need sympathy or advice. We’d just like to know we are heard. We’d just like to be assured that our thoughts, the deep feelings of the heart are being listened to without judgment.

Other times, listening isn’t enough. We need a defender. We need someone who will come to our aid and fight the battle for us. Our strength is gone, our will to continue is waning, and our hope of victory is dim.

It’s as though the battles we fight are two-fold. One the one hand attacks come from within, from the depths of our very soul. Doubts about our faith seep like cancer into the very sinew of our being. Questions of our worth and value linger in the corners of our minds. Accusations and our past haunt us.

On the other hand, we are in danger physically. Financial woes keep us trapped. Family and relational stress weaken out resolve to even try to reconcile. Health and old age remind us that some of our dreams are no longer accessible.

It’s during these times that the God of Jacob comes to our aid. Jacob, the man who wrestled with God and refused to give up until he was blessed. His blessing carried with it a limp for the rest of his life. A reminder that his battle was huge, but he won. A reminder that his God was a God you could get down and wrestle with over the issues of life.

Jacob, the man who approached a brother that tried to kill him. Jacob was vastly outnumbered. Esau was powerful and heavily armed. Jacobs’s strength that day wasn’t his own; it was the strength of his God.

The Psalmist reminds us in his prayer that we have a God that will listen to our deepest longings and struggles. We are loved passionately by a God who honors those of us who would dare ‘wrestle with him’ into the dark hours of the night. We are protected by a God who put his very life on a cross to guarantee our eternal protection.

Today, whatever trial you face, may you know that the God of Jacob is with you to listen, to protect and most of all to forgive.

PRAYER: Lord I thank you today that you listen to me in my hour of need. I praise you for the protection you offer in my time of physical and emotional danger. Help me to be ever aware of your presence today as I travel this journey. Amen.


“I leave you peace; my peace I give you. I do not give it to you as the world does. So don’t let your hearts be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NCV

It will happen all across the world today. Some places will have seen it by the time you read this. In a variety of ways, places and circumstances, ‘the ball will drop’. As people watch it drop they will celebrate the dawn of a new year.

Some will use this as a new beginning. Old habits will be left behind forever (or temporarily at least), diets will be started (or restarted), resolutions will be pledged, prayer vigils for world peace, eradication of hunger, and a variety of other causes will be staged.

But in all the hysteria, in all the celebration, lurking in the corner of people’s minds will be the monster called fear. Oh, he may lay low for awhile, a day or two, just to make you think that things really will get better. But he’ll be back. He may come in the way of a terrorist attack or natural disaster for a world-wide effect. He may come more subtly too. You could lose your job this year or a loved one or…the inevitable, this could be the year others lose you.

I don’t mean to be some Debbie-downer and spoil your celebration today. I do really hope that each of you will have a happy, blessed and safe New Year. There is one way we can all assure ourselves of a happy New Year regardless of what goes on around us and that is to claim the promise Jesus gives us.

Jesus was well aware of what lay ahead for his disciples when he made this promise. He is well aware of what is in store for you this year too. When Jesus promises peace his promise isn’t for external peace, but for a peace deep inside our soul. It’s a peace that comes to us regardless of the external events of our lives.

So, while I sincerely wish all of you a Happy New Year, my real prayer for you is that you will have a Peaceful New Year grounded in the fact that Jesus Christ loves you, gave his live for you, and promises that no matter how bad things get in 2012, he knows what lies ahead and promises to walk with us along the rugged, painful and sometimes terrifying journey. Jesus is the only real source of peace you will ever find and ever need.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus you’ve heard all the prognostications for 2012. Better yet, you’ve been there and back. My prayer for this world is that we will find the peace you have promised by putting our trust in you. May each of us live a life of peace grounded in you so others will find the way to peace with you as well. Amen.


Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Matthew 6:21 (NLT)

A group of us were enjoying coffee and dessert. Most of us were college students from a small group at the church I attended, but one couple was middle aged. Both husband and wife were well established in medical careers. They were very wealthy compared to any of us college students!

The very fact that the two doctors were even there seemed out of place. We were sitting in a small apartment in an area of the city that was old, rundown and not very safe. This couple currently lived on a beautiful hobby farm where they had several horses and a beautiful view of the valley.

In the midst of the laughter and meaningless chatter one of our group asked what she thought was a simple question. She asked the couple, “What do you think was the happiest time of your lives?”

I was expecting to hear about the birth of their first child or perhaps finishing school, or getting that first job. When the question was asked the couple smiled and looked at each other. The wife spoke first and after all these years I think I could quote her. Their story went something like this.

“Without a doubt the happiest time of our lives together was when we lived over onthird avenuein a small duplex. When we got married and decided to go to medical school we borrowed enough money from my parents for down payment. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We bought the place and rented out the other side for enough to make the mortgage payment. Even though we had the house ‘paid for’ we really had very little else to our names. We couldn’t afford a TV until we happened to find one in a trash dumpster. It worked okay, but needed a good slap on the top once in awhile.”

It’s been years since that conversation took place but it still reminds me of the important things in life. We measure happiness in life by the number of toys we have, the size of our yard or the amount of money in our retirement account. The words of King Solomon still ring true when he said (my paraphrase) “I didn’t spare myself anything but soon found I had nothing when it came to peace and happiness, I found it only comes from within.”

If your heart is centered on the things of this world like wealth, pleasure and power you will never be satisfied. Your ‘happiness’ will waver depending on circumstances.

But if your heart is centered on building a pure and healthy relationship with God you will find that the things the world finds important for success, happiness and comfort lose their luster. A close walk with God and living in the forgiveness and grace Jesus offers is the only real treasure that will last.

Seek a relationship with the God of Genesis above all others. Cherish the time spent in prayer and Bible study. Seek out those who will help you in your walk. It’s the best way to a healthy heart.

PRAYER: Father God, my own words convict me. There are so many times I’m drawn aside by the desires of this world thinking they will bring comfort and happiness. But their comfort is weak and temporary and often leads to painful consequences. I ask that through the power of your Spirit I would draw closer to you and nurture this treasure I have in Jesus. Amen.

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