man in the dark with his hand on his head

Grace is Enough

God said no. Three requests were made for God to remove a thorn from Paul’s flesh, but each was met with a no. “My grace is all you need,” the Lord told Paul. “My power works best in weakness.”

Are you struggling today?

Life is filled with struggles. Everyone struggles with something, and I don’t know of anyone who enjoys struggling. Our struggles are hard. They cause stress, overwhelming feelings, and anxiety. It seems struggle has a way to latch onto our weaknesses and pull with all its might. Struggle is real, and the Bible has some encouragement for us.

You and I may be struggling with several difficulties today. It could be a physical disability daily. You may be struggling financially. You are out of work, and you are having trouble finding a job. Our struggle may be watching a loved one make mistake after mistake. As we struggle, the Lord assures us, “My grace is all you need. My power is made perfect in weakness.”

God’s grace is enough in our struggles.

Paul was no stranger to struggles. He had been imprisoned, shipwrecked, beaten, and had to spend a day and night in the open sea. He shares his struggles with us, and in 2 Corinthians 12:7, he tells us he has a thorn in his flesh, but he does not reveal the source of the thorn.

There is much discussion surrounding the source of Paul’s thorn. Some scholars believe it was a visual impairment caused either by malaria or his conversion experience in Acts 9. Other scholars believe it was Paul’s past. The fact he could not forget his mistakes from the years gone by.

A better explanation is the source of Paul’s thorn was intentionally not disclosed. He knew everyone struggles with something, so Paul chose not to give us the detailed source of his thorn. One person may struggle with a physical disability, while another person struggles with a cognitive challenge. A third person may have difficulty forgetting his or her past. No matter the source of our struggle, the Bible’s encouragement to us is the same.

2 Corinthians 12 says Paul asked the Lord to take the thorn away, but God answered, “My grace is sufficient in your weaknesses.”

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me…for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

“My grace is all you need,” the Lord says. Through his grace he strengthens us when we are weak. Through his grace he helps us with that physical disability or cognitive challenge present in life. Through his grace he wipes away yesterday’s mistakes and helps us not focus on them. His grace is all we need.

When you and I struggle, the Lord helps us through his grace. Because of the Lord’s grace, our struggles cannot prevent us from doing some amazing work.

Because of grace, our struggles can’t prevent us from doing some amazing work.

God’s grace enabled Paul to overcome barriers and do some amazing work. He authored several New Testament books, started many churches, and introduced countless people to the Lord’s grace.

God’s grace will enable you and I to overcome barriers and accomplish the purpose for which we have been called.

Acting

What is God calling you to do? Allow his grace to help you overcome struggles to accomplish your purpose.

 

 

four people sitting at an outdoor table eating

3 Keys to Remember when Others Judge you

Have you been unfairly judged by others, or maybe even yourself? Here are 3 points to remember.

It was time to choose a new leader. The current king’s reign was coming to an end, so Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to anoint a new king. This was a secret mission since Saul was still on the throne, so Samuel was to anoint the future king at a private event.

Jesse’s family was invited to the dinner. As the family entered, Samuel took one look at Eliab, and thought, “Surely this is the next king. His credentials say he’s qualified.” The Lord told Samuel it wasn’t Eliab, nor was it any of Jesse’s sons who were at the dinner.

Samuel discovered the one the Lord had in mind was not even at the dinner. He was still in the field tending the sheep; he was the youngest, and no one even considered it important for him to be at the dinner. He had to stay behind caring for the sheep.

They sent for the young man, and when he arrived, Samuel was instructed to rise and anoint him. For he would become the next king of Israel.

Substitute a few details, and we see this scene played out in modern times. Resumes and credentials are heavily weighed, while character is a secondary consideration.

We naturally want to place a higher value on things we can see rather than things we cannot see. We value credentials, appearance, and accomplishments because we can see them, but a person’s heart may be a little harder to see so we don’t spend as much time there. The Bible tells us there is a better way; in fact, we are taking an upside-down approach.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height. For I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The Bible suggests we put the heart first in our evaluation of others. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world in which this does not always happen. You and I may be evaluated unfairly; we may even judge ourselves unfairly. When this happens, here are 3 points of encouragement to remember.

1. God sees your heart.

God knows you and me. The Lord knows us better than anyone else, and he sees what is genuinely in our hearts.

  • 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord looks at the heart.”
  • “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards according to what their actions deserve,” says the Lord in Jeremiah 17:9-10.
  • 1 Chronicles 28:9 advises, “…learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him, but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.”

God knows our ideas and motives. He knows what drives us. When others negatively judge us for making decisions, the Lord knows why we made those decisions. The Lord knows our hearts, and he does not judge unfairly. He is fair and just in all he does.

2. God sees our potential.

No one thought David would be the next king. He was not even at the dinner. The family left him behind to care for the sheep. Samuel, Jesse, or no one else realized David’s potential. I wonder if David even realized his own potential. Perhaps the only one who knew what was possible was God.

We have a tendency not to recognize our own abilities. We want to go after that goal, but we don’t think we have what it takes.

You and I desire to accomplish goals, yet we say to ourselves, “I can’t.” We do not recognize our own potential.

God knows our potential though, and if he’s put the goal in our heart, we can trust him to get us there. No one realize David’s potency until he beat Goliath. No one may recognize our potential until you and I accomplish a goal. When you judge yourself unfairly, remember God does not judge unfairly. He is fair and just in all he does.

3. God will prepare you for the next stage.

For the most part, I don’t like clichés, but this one fits. God does not call the equipped; he equips the called. You and I are qualified for the first stage of a project; however, we look down the road four or five stages and convince ourselves we are not qualified, so we do not allow ourselves to act.

We are not the only ones who have ever struggled here. Moses and Jeremiah did, and the Lord responded by saying, “I will give you the qualifications.”

  • In Exodus 4:10-12, “Moses pleaded with the Lord, ‘O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been and I’m not now even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue tied and my words get tangled.’ Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go. I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct in what to say.”
  • Jeremiah 1:6-8 says, “O Sovereign Lord,’ I said, “I can’t speak for you. I’m too young.’ The Lord replied, ‘Don’t say I’m too young for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you and don’t be afraid of the people. For I will be with you and protect you, I, the Lord, have spoken.”

God qualified Moses and Jeremiah, and he will qualify you and I for what he has called us to do.

Many stages of education and training are required to be a doctor, but if God has called you to be a doctor, he’ll get you through the stages. It takes several steps to be a teacher, but if the Lord has given you the desire to teach, he’ll guide you in taking those steps. God qualifies us so we can be in the place he wants us. When you are unfairly told you’ll never be able to accomplish your goal, remember God does not judge unfairly. He is fair and just in all he does.

Acting

What desire has the Lord given you? Make a list of steps you can take toward accomplishing your goal. Start taking those steps, and remember as you go, while the world may judge unfairly, the Lord does not judge unfairly. He sees your heart, knows your potential, and will guide you through the stages to your goal. God is fair and just in all he does.

Know a friend who may benefit from this post? Please share it with him or her.

 

 

snowy road between two trees

Jesus Can Take the Wheel

“Save me from this road I’m on. Jesus, take the wheel.”

Song lyrics have the power to cut right to our heart, and the Bible’s message of forgiveness can be place in lyrics without us realizing we are hearing it. Here is one such song.

BUY Jesus, Take the Wheel at Amazon

Jesus, Take the Wheel by Carrie Underwood reminds us it is never too late for a fresh start. Forgiveness is always there for us. The Lord is not going to run out of grace. A new start is always offered to us.

Perhaps it’s time for a new start. This may be the first time, or it may be fresh start number 100; there is no limit to the number of fresh starts you and I can make. Love is patient and kind. It keeps no record of wrongdoing, so God is patient and kind. He keeps no record of wrongdoing.

The start number is not important. Our past is back there, and we must leave it. Now is what matters, that we make this the start which sticks. Today’s choices will chart tomorrow’s course and determine our destination.

The young lady in the song prayed, “Jesus, take the wheel. Take it from my hand. I can’t do this on my own. Save me from this road I’m on.” If this is you crying out, God promises he will.

a man and woman sitting near a grass field. woman's head is resting on man's shoulder.

5 Reasons to Look Through Appearance to the Heart

What would happen if we looked through appearance to the heart? Here are 5 improvements we would see.

We live in a culture which places a high premium on appearance. An individual is judged on his or her looks or popularity. Leaders and potential spouses are chosen based on looks. Online dating apps use a single photo as the first layer of filtering. If someone doesn’t like your photo, they scroll to the next person. Many decisions are based on appearance.

A guy asks a girl to go on a date based on her appearance. An interview candidate receives points based on his appearance. The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” may be true, but I believe there is a better way. You see, one picture cannot tell a whole story.

What would happen if society readjusted our focus from the person’s appearance to the person’s heart? What would happen if we concentrated on a potential spouse’s personality and emotions rather than looks? What would happen if appearance was not considered in choosing a leader? Here are 5 improvements we would see.

1. There would be a rise in self-esteem.

As a society, we would stop beating ourselves up because we were not pretty enough. We would stop comparing ourselves to others’ social media appearance. Self-esteem would rise as we would be more confident in ourselves.

2. New friendships would be cultivated.

We would not be turned off by someone’s outward appearance; rather, we would take time to get to know our neighbor and may discover he is a cool person.

3. Marriages would last longer.

Psychologists state the key to a long and happy marriage is a deep emotional connection. While dating, if more time was spent connecting emotionally, the relationship would be built on a better foundation.

4. Society would be more at peace.

An increase in self-confidence and happier relationships would bring more peace to the world. Bullies would have friends so they would not feel the need to bully. The color of our skin would no longer cause friction. Peace would result as we looked through appearance to the heart.

5. God’s leaders would excel.

Leaders chosen on character without any consideration to appearance would result in the most competent leader always being chosen. The heart would outweigh the outward ability to capture our attention, be entertaining, or the life of the party.

Acting

Will you join me in setting a goal to pay less attention to appearance and more attention to heart? How do you believe making this shift would change our culture?

 

waves of water crashing into a rocky shore

Remember These 3 Keys When Overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed? These 3 keys can help.

The situation seemed grim. There was no where to turn. The Israelites found themselves sandwiched between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army. How could they possibly get out of this situation? They were overwhelmed, and the Bible uses this event to help us navigate overwhelming circumstances.

Overwhelmed? You are not alone. A study revealed 74% of respondents were overwhelmed to the point of not being able to cope. To go with these 3 suggestions to get through overwhelming circumstances, here are 3 keys to remember.

Moses offered these keys to Israel as they were leaving Egypt. God directed Moses to lead the people on a less traveled path out of Egypt, so they find themselves at the shore of the Red Sea with the Egyptians hot on their trail. The Israelites surveyed the situation and panicked.

“But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm,” states Exodus 14:13-14.

In his statement, Moses gives us 3 keys to remember in overwhelming circumstances.

1. Stay Calm

“Just stay calm,” Moses advises. Stay calm is a message we receive a lot. In emergency training, we are instructed to stay calm. Flight attendants tell us if something happens in flight to remain calm.

I don’t know about you, but I find this hard to do. Our natural reaction in overpowering events is to panic and run. We immediately jump to the worst-case scenario. We’re not going to make it. We’re not going to survive; there is no way this plane is capable of landing in this condition. But, remain calm is the advice we are given.

Captain Sully did. It should have been a peaceful Thursday afternoon flight from New York to Seattle, but less then 5 miles from the airport, the Airbus A320-214 struck a flock of Canadian geese causing dual engine failure. Captain Sully and his copilot, Jeffrey Skiles, remained calm and attempted to return to LaGuardia Airport. It became clear the plane could not make it back to the airport, so the decision was made to land in the Hudson River. The ditching was successful. The 155 souls aboard the flight were able to be rescued by nearby boats. Lives were spared and disaster was averted because of the calmness of Sullenberger and Skiles.

The pilots were in an overwhelming situation, but calmness helped them remember which switches to flip and levers to pull to successfully put the aircraft on the river. Staying calm in life’s storms allows you and me to think clearly; it allows us to respond to the situation rather than react to it. Rather than panic, we should stay calm and allow the Lord to take our hand.

2. Stand Where You Are

“Stand where you are,” Moses tells the Israelites. “Don’t try to run. Just stand where you are and let the Lord work.” This may be one of the hardest points to remember in an overwhelming situation. Our natural reaction is to panic and run; run away as fast as we can from whatever is overpowering us. You and I try to convince ourselves if we run away from the problem, it will leave us alone. Sometimes, this is a great battle strategy. We run from the problem and it disappears.

However, there are other times when running does not work. The situation puts us in the shoes of the Israelites. The Red Sea is in front, and the Egyptian army is behind. We have nowhere to go; no escape route to follow. This is the moment when we need to stand where we are and let the Lord work, and he will.

David stood where he was, and the Lord worked. David found himself standing on the battlefield with the Israelite army. They were overwhelmed by Goliath. Goliath was around 9-foot-tall, and he was a master soldier who had never been beaten. Israel’s fighting men believed Goliath would overpower them, so when he appeared on the battlefield, they would run in retreat. But David offered to stand and fight.

King Saul tried to talk David out of fighting. David could not be convinced. You see, David had been in some tough spots before and the Lord helped him, so David had faith the Lord would help him on this occasion.

“The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine,” David exclaimed in 1 Samuel 17:37.

David prepared to fight and went out to meet Goliath. The giant taunted David, “There is absolutely no way you will beat me!” It does not look good for David in this moment. Goliath is 9-foot-tall, wearing armor, and has someone carrying a shield in front of him. David, on the other hand, has no armor, no one is carrying a shield, and his only weapon is a sling shot and some rocks. Though it doesn’t look good for David, he knows the Lord will work.

David responded to Goliath’s taunting by telling him the battle was the Lord’s. David stood where he was, and the Lord worked. The Lord overpowered an overwhelming situation for David.

You may have no where to go or no escape route to follow right now. Remember, stand where you are and let the Lord work.

3. The Lord Will Guide You

The Lord guided Israel on the exodus from Egypt. He fought for them and when they were standing between the Egyptians and the Red Sea, the Lord guided them in a way no one could have imagined. The Lord divided the water so the people could walk through on dry ground. Amid overwhelming circumstances, Israel was guided by the Lord.

He will guide us in these times as well.

  • Psalm 48:14 says, “For that is what God is like. He is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die.”
  • Isaiah 30:21 says, “Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.”
  • “I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way. I will brighten the darkness before them and smooth out the road ahead of them. Yes, I will indeed do these things. I will not forsake them,” the Lord says in Isaiah 42:16.

I think it is safe to say sometime in life you and I will be overwhelmed. When it happens, stay calm, stand where you are, and let the Lord guide you.

Acting

Ask the Lord to help you remember these keys when you are feeling overwhelmed.

Do you have another key for handling overwhelming circumstances? Please share in the comments.

Please share this post with friends who may find it helpful.

 

Three red heart-shaped balloons

Love is Hard

Did the Bible have to say this?

We watch the news, read the newspapers, and follow social media, and every day we are frustrated at all the hatred in the world. If everyone would just get along, how much better would the world be?

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you; pray for those who hurt you,” Jesus says in Luke 6:27-28.

I like this statement. Don’t you?

I like this statement until I realize Jesus is not just talking to everyone else. He is talking to me also. Love your enemies. Did God really have to put that in the Bible?

God put this statement in the Bible, so the answer is yes, it must be in there.

Stop and think for a moment. How much better would the world be if everyone had sacrificial love for one another? Bullies would not exist. Teamwork would increase in the workplace; backstabbing would stop. Groups with opposing views would compromise rather than sitting in their corners hating each other. The landscape would change drastically.

How to love your enemy?

Here’s how the Bible suggests living out this statement.

Luke 6:31 says, “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”

This is the Golden Rule. If we do not want others to be rude to us, why are we rude to them. If we dislike bullying, why do we bully others. We don’t like backstabbers in our office, so why do we participate? We should treat others the way we desire to be treated.

Acting

How well do you live out the Golden Rule? If you are like me, there’s room for improvement, so set a goal to take a small step toward improvement each day. For example, set your daily goal not to be rude to a cashier no matter how you are treated in line.

Please share this post with your friends who would find it encouraging.

 

Three red heart-shaped balloons

Do you have true love?

Love is more than we realize. Here are true love’s characteristics.

The couple had been married for 5 decades. He suffered from dementia, and her strength was fading, but day after day she cared for his needs. She was not compelled to care for his needs by romance, but sacrificial love compelled her.

Love is more than a deep romantic attraction to someone. While there is a place for such feelings as romance and attraction, The Bible encourages us to reach higher in love to obtain sacrificial love for one another.

It is sacrificial love which compels a wife who has been married for 50 years to care for her husband. It is sacrificial love which sends a husband married for decades to visit his wife in the nursing home every day. It is this love which allows a parent to forfeit sleep to care for an ill child. So, what are the characteristics of this love?

The Love Chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, tells us. We also find a challenge in this chapter. To fully obtain the character described in this chapter is a growing process. I know I have more growing to do. How do you measure up?

Characteristics of Love

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says love is…

Love is patient and kind.

A man was lonely, so he decided to get a pet. He did not want to get just any pet. He wanted a unique pet, so he purchased a Centipede. The pet store put the animal in a box and the man returned to his apartment.

That evening, he decided to go out on the town, so he invited the Centipede along. The man opened the box and said, “Centipede, would you like to go out this evening?”

A couple seconds later, the man asked again, “Would you like to go out on the town tonight?”

Hearing no answer, the man thought maybe the Centipede had trouble hearing, so he shouted, “Centipede, do you want to go out tonight?”

A little voice came from the box, “I’ve already said yes! Be patient with me! I’m putting on my shoes!”

Patience can be hard. We live in a world in which everything is a web search away. We want what we want when we want it, but sacrificial love learns to be patient.

Love is not jealous, boastful, proud, or rude.

Love is not irritable.

“By now he had learned enough to know that when he was getting annoyed at somebody else it was usually because there was something that he himself should be doing and he wasn’t doing it,” says Lev Grossman.

Love keeps no record of being wrong.

  1. S. Lewis comments, “Everyone believes forgiveness is a grand idea until he or she has something to forgive.” Forgiveness is hard but necessary for sacrificial love.

Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices when the truth wins out.

Love never gives up, never looses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

God is love.

1 John 4:8 says, “God is love,” so if God is love, here are God’s characteristics.

God is patient and kind. God is not jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. God is not irritable and keeps no record of being wrong. God does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices when the truth wins out. God never gives up, never looses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

How do you measure up?

1 John 4:9-12 says, “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God but if we love each other God lives in us and his love is brought to full expression in us.”

How do you measure up? Put yourself in the list of characteristics above. Can you say, “I am patient and kind. I am not jealous,”

I need to grow. How did you do? Are there characteristics in which you lack?

Acting

Make a mental note of the characteristics in which you fall short. Ask the Lord to help you grow in those areas.

Have a friend who might benefit from this post? Please share it.

 

storm clouds

3 Suggestions for Coping with Overwhelming Circumstances

74% of respondents reported being overwhelmed and unable to cope. Here are 3 suggestions.

The wind whipped sea tossed the boat as the fierce winds swirled around them. The sky was completely blackened by the thick storm clouds, and the fishermen were overwhelmed by the storm. What should have been a quick and smooth trip across the sea was taking all night and the water was rough. The fishermen were straining at the ores trying to get through the storm, and as each minute passed, the feeling of being overwhelmed increased.

Can you relate? Maybe not to being in a boat amid a storm, but to feeling overwhelmed by circumstances surrounding you. According to a 2018 mental health survey, 74% of respondents reported being so overwhelmed by stress they were unable to cope. So, you are not alone.

According to the study, there were many factors contributing to individuals feeling overwhelmed. Factors included a person’s own, or loved ones, long-term health condition, debt, feeling like messages required an instant response, and younger adults reported being overwhelmed by the pressure to succeed. Comparing oneself to others and low self-esteem were also mentioned as factors.

It may be one of these factors or another causing you to feel overwhelmed, so here are 3 suggestions to keep in mind when feeling overwhelmed.

1. We should focus on the Lord.

Jesus’ disciples can relate to feeling overwhelmed. Matthew 14 records the disciples being in a fierce storm. They had been trying to cross the sea all night, but the boat was buffeted by the waves. Walking on the water, Jesus comes to them, and gives Peter a chance to show us what to do and what not to do in overwhelming circumstances.

Matthew 14:28-30 tells us, “Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink cried out, ‘Lord, save me!”

Peter was in an overwhelming storm, yet he walked on water if he focused on Jesus. It is when he shifted his gaze from Jesus to the waves he began to sink. Focusing on the Lord equals walking on the water; focusing on the waves equals sinking.

When you and I are in overwhelming circumstances, we should focus on the Lord. When we feel we don’t measure up to others, we should remember the Lord loves us, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made. When we feel the pressure to succeed, we should remember what success looks like in the Lord’s eyes. When we are feeling overwhelmed, we should focus on the Lord.

It is when you and I lose focus on the Lord we are overwhelmed by circumstances the Lord can overtake.

2. The Lord will grab hold of us.

Peter is sinking, and cries out, “Lord, save me!” The Lord, in turn, grabs hold of Peter.

“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him…,” says Matthew 14:32.

Jesus grabbed hold of Peter to help him get back in the boat. Jesus will grab hold and help us in overwhelming circumstances.

He grabs hold of us when we believe all options are exhausted and we have no where to turn. He will take our hand and guide us in life’s storms. He grabs us when financial security is gone, physical health is fading, and we are forced into the storm of change.

Who better than Jesus to grab hold of us? In this storm, which is overpowering the disciples, Jesus is taking a walk on the water. In this storm, which is consuming the disciple’s strength, Jesus is about to pass them.

Mark 6:48 says, “Shortly before dawn he went out to them walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them….”

Circumstances we find overwhelming the Lord finds underwhelming. Situations overpowering us don’t even cause the Lord to flinch. When we are consumed by the storm, the Lord is taking a walk. The Lord will grab hold of you and I in overwhelming circumstances.

3. The storm doesn’t last forever.

Peter and his companions were only in the storm for one night. It did not last forever; however, in the middle of the storm, they probably thought it would never end. The disciples would have been exhausted. Hours spent straining at the ores, trying to keep the boat going in the right direction. The elements were physically and mentally demanding, so I’m sure they were tired.

The circumstances which overwhelm you and me will not last forever; however, when they are occurring, it seems like they will never end. We are exhausted. The doctor doesn’t know what to try next. We rearrange our rearrangement of the budget, but we still do not have enough money to pay the bills. We know the situation won’t last forever, but when will it end?

Matthew says the storm ended when Jesus and Peter returned to the boat, and John offers a deeper perspective.

John 6:21 says, “Then they were willing to take him into the boat and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.”

John says the boat reached the shore immediately. For Peter, the darkest, most frightening part of the storm was the last part of the storm. He was closer to shore than he realized. Perhaps the same is true for us.

We may be closer to the end of an overwhelming circumstance than we realize. We may be nearing the end. If nothing else, you and I can honestly say we are one day closer to the end. We are one day closer to the end than we were yesterday.

Meanwhile, the overpowering situation is still swirling around us, and Jesus makes the same statement to us he made to the disciples.

Jesus says, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid,” in Matthew 14:27.

Focus on the Lord. Allow him to grab hold of you and walk with you through the overwhelming season of life. This is not the first time he’s faced overwhelming odds.

This is not the first time the Lord has faced overwhelming odds.

The same day Jesus walked on the water he was faced with the overwhelming challenge of feeding 15,000 to 20,000 people with two fish and a few loaves of bread. The disciples had no idea how to feed that many people with so few supplies, but Jesus did. The Gospel writers tell us there was plenty to eat. Jesus beat overwhelming odds.

Some time after walking on water Jesus was placed in a tomb. The disciples were overwhelmed with sorrow thinking this was the end. But Jesus came out of the tomb leaving it empty. Jesus was not overpowered by death. He knew how to beat it.

Your life may be overwhelming right now. You may be facing circumstances in which you have no idea what to do. The Lord does. “Take courage,” Jesus says, “I am here.”

Acting

Ask the Lord to help you go through the overwhelming circumstances of life.

What suggestions do you have for someone feeling overwhelmed? Please share in the comments below.

Please share this post with anyone you believe would find it helpful.

 

Question mark on a black board

3 Keys for Overcoming Doubt

One of the world’s most loved comic strips is Hagar the Horrible. In one strip, we see Hagar kneeling in prayer, “It is not easy to believe in you God. We never see you. How come you never show yourself?” Next, we see:

  • A flower springing into life next to Hagar.
  • A volcano erupting in the distance.
  • An eclipse of the sun turning the sky black.
  • A star shooting across the night blackened sky.
  • A tidal wave rushing over Hagar.
  • Lightning flashing.
  • A bush beginning to burn.
  • A stone rolling away from the entrance to a tomb.

Hagar pulls himself from the mud, dripping wet, and surrounded by darkness. “Okay, okay! I give up! Every time I bring up this subject, all we get is interruptions.”

This comic strip makes light of a real issue with which many Christians struggle at some time in their life.

Is it true? This is a question many have asked over the years, and it brings to light the reality of doubt. Doubt is a season which many people pass through. When we think of someone who doubted, we probably think almost immediately of Thomas. He is even known as “Doubting Thomas.” Peter also experienced some moments of doubt, and it is safe to assume other of Jesus’ first followers may have had a doubt or two. John the Baptist among them.

Matthew 11:1-6 records, “When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region. John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing, so he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting or should we keep looking for someone else?’ Jesus told them, ‘Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the good news is being preached to the poor.’ And he added, ‘God blesses those who do not fall away because of me.”

John the Baptist is struggling here. Perhaps with good reason, imagine the scene. John has been sitting in a small prison cell for approximately a year. His disciples were talking with John about the rumors of Jesus’ work. He was healing folks who suffered from a variety of diseases and illnesses, he was having compassion on people, and he was approaching individuals with a tender touch. As John was looking through the bars of his jail cell, it seemed Jesus was not bringing any judgment to the world, especially to the corrupted official who imprisoned him. Jesus is not acting in the way John thought the Messiah would, so he begins to doubt. He begins to wonder if Jesus is the Messiah who was to come or if someone else will be coming.

Put us in the scenes of our lives, and doubt begins to enter. We have plans made which we feel are secure, but suddenly life throws a wrench in those plans. We begin to wonder of the Lord’s whereabouts as our plans fall apart. Doubt creeps in.

Doubt enters for the young husband who is struggling just to provide for his family. Doubt enters for the parent whose child is struggling. Doubt enters for the retired couple who is dealing with much more than planned in their golden years. Doubt finds opportunities to walk into our lives.

Doubting and asking questions does not make you a bad person. It is how you handle the doubts and the questions which makes all the difference. Here are 3 keys for handling doubt the right way.

1.      Present your doubts to the Lord

The first key for handling doubts is taking our doubts to the Lord. John’s doubts are real. John doesn’t try to hide his doubts are hide himself from the Lord. He does just the opposite. He goes right to Jesus with the question. We can even say John’s question was blunt.

“Are you the Messiah, or is someone else coming?” This question is to the point. It is not hidden; it is not veiled. It is very real and honest, and Jesus’ response shows us it is okay to directly approach him with our doubts.

Jesus responds to John with much compassion and grace, as if to say, “I understand how you feel, so let me help you through it.” This is not the only time Jesus responds compassionately and graciously to someone with doubts.

He responds the same way to Thomas, who can be classified as the most famous of doubters. John 20:24-29 tells us Thomas was not present the first time Jesus appears to the disciples, and when they report the news to him, Thomas just can’t wrap his mind around it.

Verse 25 says, “But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail scars in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

Thomas’ doubt is not hidden or veiled here; it is real and bluntly presented just like John the Baptist. And, Jesus responds in the same way.

John’s Gospel goes on in verse 26: “A week later the disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”

It is as if Jesus was in the room a week earlier when Thomas expressed his doubt, and Jesus responds compassionately and graciously.

The final statement Jesus makes to Thomas in this moment is, “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:26). The IVP Commentary Series states another way to think of Jesus’ words is, “Stop becoming unbelieving and become believing again.” Our Christian life is a journey of faith and seasons of doubt come, but when they do, Jesus responds with compassion and grace.

You see, it is okay to go directly to Jesus with our doubts. He even defends John. Matthew records Jesus telling the crowd they did not go out into the desert to see a man put on a good show. They went out to see a prophet. During everything John is going through, Jesus still calls him a prophet; “the Elijah” who was to come. John doesn’t lose credibility with Jesus because he presents doubts.

Likewise, we do not lose credibility with Jesus when we present doubts. He knows our hearts and minds anyway, so why try to hide the doubt? Why try to veil the very feeling which the Lord will help us work through? John presented doubts; Thomas presented doubts, and Jesus responded with compassion and grace. We can present doubts, and Jesus will respond with compassion and grace. Stop becoming unbelieving and start becoming believing again. The first key to overcoming doubt is to take it to the Lord.

2. Look Around to Overcome Doubt

The second key to overcome doubt is to look around. Jesus replies to John’s question by telling his disciples to go back and report what they see and hear. Look around at the Lord’s work.

Just step outside and look around at the workings of nature. We find the Lord’s fingerprints all over. According to Amazing Facts, here are a few places we see the Lord’s fingerprints.

 

  • The sun is a certain distance from the Earth. If it were any closer or at a greater distance, human life could not exist.
  • The Earth rotates on its axis at a certain angle. Any change in the degree of angle, and human life could not exist.
  • The air we breathe is 79% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen. The slightest change would cause much difficulty for human existence.

 

These are just a few examples of where we see the Lord’s fingerprints. Look around in nature, and you will find the Lord at work.

Another place we see the Lord’s work is in people’s lives. How many times have you heard those stories where there is just no explanation or things worked out in just the right way?

I’ve heard the story of a son who was going to look at a race car. He was interested in purchasing the car. He and his friends started on their way, and the son realized he forgot to grab an item out of his garage. He returned home to find his dad lying on the garage floor. His father needed medical attention, and had the son not forgotten the item, no one would have known it in time.

I’ve heard a story of a lady attempting to find her sister-in-law to let her know her husband was in the emergency room in serious condition. All she knew was her sister-in-law was running errands. The lady called some local businesses searching but came up empty. After exhausting all other options, she decided to just go driving around looking. She was getting ready to pull off her street onto the highway and guess who went by – her sister-in-law. If either of these ladies had delayed driving even by seconds, they would have missed each other. Everything worked out in just the right timing.

These two stories are interwoven. They are connected by a single family. As they were anxiously awaiting news about their dad, husband, and brother, they were reflecting on the afternoon’s events. And, only one conclusion was logical. The Lord had to be with them.

We all know of stories like this. There is just no explanation except the Lord was at work. “Look around,” Jesus says to John’s disciples. Look around at how you see the Lord moving; look around at how you see the Lord working; look around.

3. Challenge Your Doubts with the Bible

Thirdly, Jesus suggests referring to Scripture to help overcome doubt.

Jesus responds to John’s disciples in part by quoting Scripture. He quoted passages of Scripture which were beginning to be fulfilled. Not every detail of the prophecy John knew had been fulfilled at this point, but it was starting to come together.

Jesus was jogging John’s memory with Scripture. He certainly knew John was aware of the Old Testament passages discussing the Messiah. Jesus pushed John to Scripture to help him overcome his doubts. Allow your doubts to push you to Scripture.

Ravi Zachariah is a well-known defender of the Christian faith. Zachariah has provided many answers to the skeptic’s questions, but he was not always as strong in the faith. Zachariah came from a family with an Anglican faith; however, he was an atheist at age 17. In fact, he swallowed poison and found himself in the hospital where he was visited by a Christian worker. The Christian worker left a Bible with Zachariah and told his mother to read it to him. The worker told Zachariah’s mother to especially read John 14.

Ravi Zachariah was so moved by the words of John 14:19 that it changed his life. The verse says, “Because I live, you will live also.” Zachariah decided to give faith in Christ a shot, and prayed this prayer to the Author of Life, “Jesus, if you are the author of life as it is meant to be and get me out of this hospital, I will not leave one stone unturned in the pursuit of truth.” And, he did. Ravi Zachariah experienced great doubt, and a reference to Scripture helped him overcome those doubts.

Allow your doubts to push you to Scripture. Allow Scripture to challenge your doubts. Allow yourself to be open-minded enough to ponder the claims of Scripture. In doing so, your doubts may start to erode. After all, what do you have to lose besides doubts?

Acting

John the Baptist was a strong person of faith. He was the forerunner for Jesus, yet he had a season in life when he doubted. Doubt is certainly a part of many Christians journey; however, how the Christian responds to doubt makes the difference. These three keys will help overcome the season of doubt.

All three of these keys will only work if there is a willingness on our part to give them an opportunity. If you find yourself in a season of doubt today, why don’t you give them a shot? We asked this earlier, but what do you have to lose – besides doubts?

 

 

brown wooden cross on a hill

3 Questions from Three Wooden Crosses

“It’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you; it’s what you leave behind you when you go.”

Welcome to Music Monday. There are many songs whose lyrics reach out and grab listeners by the heart. They present the Lord’s message to us in a place and way we do not expect to hear it.

With Three Wooden Crosses, Randy Travis takes listeners on a dramatic bus trip. The story of the teacher, preacher, farmer, and sex worker leave us pondering 3 questions.

Does our influence matter?

The preacher may have not reached anyone else in his lifetime but reaching the sex worker had a multigenerational impact.

How powerful are our choices?

One choice changed everything for one passenger on the bus. Her story may be like Rahab’s story. Joshua 2 tells us Rahab made a multitude of bad choices, but she changed the direction of her life with one right choice.

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What are we leaving behind?

This may be the deepest of the 3 questions causing us to take a hard look at our legacy. What kind of legacy will you leave? What do you want to leave behind you when you go?

You and I should answer this question for our lives, but also for the various seasons of life. As we transition from one chapter of life to the next, what do we want to leave behind?

What songs grab your heart? Share in the comments below.