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We’ve never done well with choices. Ever since Adam and Eve chose the fruit over obedience mankind has consistently chosen self-gratification. Ironically, satisfying our physical desires never lasts. The body constantly demands more to fill the emotional side of us. It’s a futile attempt because nothing we can see, taste or touch will satisfy forever. Someone once said that within the soul of every person is a God shaped hole. The only thing that will fill the void is Jesus. But here’s the kicker. You have a choice. Will you continue to try to fill the void with the temporal or will you choose the narrow road and follow Christ? It’s your choice and your decision will determine your level of satisfaction and contentment.

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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.


And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. 2 Corinthians 1:11 (NLT)

do by selfMy daughter showed her independence at a very young age. When it came time to put her coat on she would refuse help by stating in a very emphatic way “Do Byself” which translated as “I’ll do it by myself!” She had far more confidence in herself than we had. We learned early on to give her a couple minutes to get ready because it took her longer without our help.

As parents the idea of independence can be bittersweet for some of us. On the one hand, we all obviously want our children to grow up to think for themselves and be independent. But on the other hand, in reality, during those times of solitude we have to admit it’s hard to see them get to the point when ‘we are no longer needed’. For example when we see our ‘little girls’ or ‘little boys’ drive away in the car for the first time alone.

Independence is a good thing in many areas and our society applauds it. But there are some times when independence isn’t profitable. In the mid-60’s Simon and Garfunkel made a song popular that celebrated independence. “I am a Rock” proclaimed the gospel of not needing anyone for anything. An Island is completely self-sufficient. A Rock can’t be hurt by feelings of inadequacy and can weather even the most violent storms.

While the words made for a good song, independence in the spiritual realm isn’t profitable or even wise. The Apostle Paul and his troop of missionaries/ministers was going through a terrible ordeal. They were under constant attack to the point where they feared for their lives. In spite of the danger, they survived and Paul gave credit for their survival to the power of prayer and not just the prayers of his men, but the prayers of others that knew of him and lifted him up to the Father.

Somehow in the Christian life we’ve bought into the idea that to ask for help is a sign of weakness. Or maybe it’s the fact that we’ve been burned by ‘well-meaning friends’ who take our private requests and make them public or use them as a soapbox to try to fix us. (If you aren’t sure what I mean, read the story of Job and his ‘helpful friends’.)

Once our trust in others has been damaged by others it’s admittedly hard to ask for help. Especially in the matter of prayer when our requests are sensitive. There is perhaps no one in the Bible with a more fiery personality than the Apostle Paul. He was a man’s man. He was a leader. He was about as independent as they came. However, when it came to spiritual matters, I doubt very much that Paul had a ‘Do Byself’ attitude.

Paul knew the importance of surrounding himself with trusted people who would lift him to the throne of grace for strength, wisdom and protection. Each of his prayer partners had a part in his ministry as he states in today’s verse. It’s as if Paul is saying, “many people will be thankful because you prayed for us.”

Have a struggle coming up that you don’t know how to handle? Not sure what the future holds or which direction you need to turn? Surround yourself with people you can trust to pray for you objectively and without judgment.

PRAYER: Dear God. I don’t always ask for help very well. I have far too much confidence in my own abilities. I hesitate to ask others to pray because I don’t want to look weak. Provide me with people I can trust to strengthen me through prayer. Give me the courage to ask for help when I need it. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


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.


Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. Proverbs 12:25 NLT

worryWhen I was growing up I remember singing an old chorus that went something like, “Why worry when you can pray, trust Jesus, He’ll be your stay. Don’t be a doubting Thomas, trust fully in his promise? Why Worry, Worry, Worry, Worry, When you can pray.”

Cute little chorus and I remember enjoying singing it often. Then life set it. I became a grown-up. I watched the news; I fought valiantly (and often lost) battles with temptation; People let me down, ridiculed me, misunderstood me and put way too many expectations on me. I made stupid mistakes and waited for the consequences to set in. I think that’s why I worry.

Worry is really nothing more than a form of idolatry. Worry says, in a sense, “This is too much for me to handle, therefore it must be too much for God to handle. I’m doomed!”

King Solomon was right when he wrote in the book of Proverbs, “Worry weighs a person down…” Those of us who struggle with worry know the feeling. Worry is like a downward spiral. The more we worry, the more stress we bring on ourselves. The more stress, the more worry. We lose sleep, which causes stress which causes worry which causes stress which…well, you get the idea.

Worry robs us of the joy God intended us to have. Worry affects our relationships. Those who are chronic worriers become ‘Debbie Downer’ type people. Worry can cripple our creativity and steal away our ability to reason wisely.

So, what can those of us who struggle with worry do? First of all (and this may seem obvious to you), Pray. Jeremiah 33:3 says, ‘ Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.’  (NLT)

God repeatedly tells us in his word that we will have struggles. We will be persecuted, mistreated, misunderstood and even killed. But he also assures us that nothing can happen outside of his permissive will. He tells the prophet Jeremiah to ask him and he’ll reveal to him all he NEEDS to know about tomorrow. Key word there is NEED. Jesus says, don’t worry about tomorrow. Work on today. Tomorrow is already taken care of.

When the enemy of worry attacks, what should you do? Here are some things I have tried to do. (I’m still working on these.)

  1. Is this something that will definitely happen? (Psychologists tell us that nearly 80% of the things people worry about are things that will never happen)
    1. If Yes, move to step two.
    2. If no, the chances are unlikely that this will happen, Pray that God will release you from this bondage of worry and help you trust in him.
  2. If what you are worrying about is likely to happen then ask yourself if there is anything you can do about it.
    1. If Yes, move to step three.
    2. If No, Pray that God will release you from the bondage of worry. The enemy wants to constantly question God’s promises to you. (Garden of Eden ring a bell)
  3. If what you are worrying about is real and there is something you can do about it strategize ways in which to take action. Four areas of your own life to consider in the strategy are:
    1. Communication: How is my prayer life? Am I really in touch with God on how I should act/respond to this crisis?
    2. Circumstances: What have I learned in the past about this type of situation?
    3. Counsel: Who am I listening to? God sends people into our lives to help us through the tough times. The enemy sends people into our lives to mess with our minds. Seek counsel from those you can trust and who have shown by their lives that God is working in them and through them. This may be a pastor, a friend, or if the problem is severe enough, a professional counselor. It’s amazing to me how we are more than willing to go to a medical doctor for physical ailments but those ailments of the heart we tend to think we can heal ourselves. Get help if you need it from a professional.
    4. Conscience: What does my gut tell me? After you have spent time with God listening and sharing your heart; after you have pondered the wisdom gained through your past; after you have sought godly counsel, there will still be times you need to rely on that gut feeling you have. When you are in tune with God, this is often the Holy Spirit speaking to you.

Why worry? We have a loving heavenly Father that wants to see us through the tough times in life.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, please forgive me for my lack of faith and the idolatry that keeps me from trusting you. Thank you that you know my heart, my needs, my fears and my frustrations far better than I do. I pray against the demon of worry in my life and ask that based on your power you remove it from me. Amen.

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