The Secret to Overcoming Your Troubles

I love the wisdom of Dr. Seuss. He had a way with words that cut to the chase. Take this quote for example.

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have trouble with me!” -Dr. Suess

Can you just see one of his characters standing with a huge ball bat in his hand, poised to take on whatever is coming his way?

Of course, as Christ Followers, we don’t go out and buy a big bat. We have no need of one. We are already equipped with everything we need to face whatever comes our way.

This life is full of troubles. Everyone I know is going through something. And the troubles do seem to come from every direction. Sometimes we just want to raise the white flag and say we surrender, we give up, we’re tired and can’t fight anymore.  But we need to take the words of the good doctor and stand our ground, facing our troubles with confidence.

Since we don’t have need of a big bat, what do we have to fight against these troubles? We have a sword. According to the Bible, we have been given armor and a sword.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”Ephesians 6:17 (ESV)

We only need one weapon. The rest of that passage talks about items that are for protection. The only weapon we need is the sword of the Spirit which is God’s Word.The key to success is that we take the sword. We can’t just leave it lying on the ground and expect it to help us win the battle. We must take it up and use it with skill that comes from practicing with it daily.

When we have the sword and face our troubles, God has promised us the victory. And remember, we will never have to fight alone. God has promised to be with us.

So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”Hebrews 13:6 (ESV)

Pick up your sword and move out with confidence. The victory is yours!

Open Your Hand

There’s a story in a book called “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls that tells how you can catch a raccoon with a shiny object inside a log. You cut a hole it the log just large enough for a raccoon’s paw and put the shiny object inside. When the curious raccoon puts his paw inside the hole and grasps the object, his paw is now too large to come out of the hole and he is trapped because he refuses to let go of the object.

It’s an interesting story which some say they have proven to be true and others say is just an old tale with no truth to it at all. Either way, it’s a good picture of us, God’s children.

There are many things that we hold onto. It might be events from our past  or unconfessed sin that we can’t seem to let go of. Those things torment us and keep us trapped. The enemy uses guilt, regret and shame as his chief weapons to keep us from letting go.

There are other things that have a completely different kind of hold on us. We might be clinging to what others think of us or habits we just can’t seem to break. We might be holding onto possessions or status. It might be greed, or a stubborn heart that motivates us to hang on, refusing to let go no matter what.

But God wants to set us free from this trap. He has a plan for each of us and we don’t always understand it but if we know God at all, we know that He is good and anything that he asks us to let go of will be replaced with something much better.

I want you to try a little exercise with me. Make a tight fist with your hand, palm side up, and just look at it for a moment. Now think of a problem or circumstance that you are struggling with and picture it within your clenched fist. If you hold onto it, God can never do what He wants to do with it. If you are holding it, you are allowing it to hold you.

Now, open your hand and ask God to take it from you and do with it what He chooses. By letting go, you have freed yourself.

What are you holding onto that you could give to God? Open your hand!

Proverbs 23:26 Give me your heart, my son, And let your eyes delight in my ways.

God, Show Me Truth

A while back I had an experience that has become all too familiar. We all have our spiritual Achille’s heal. Mine happens to be the fear of being rejected. I can trace this back to elementary school. I’ve prayed and I’ve asked God to remove this from me, but like Paul, I seem to have a thorn that won’t go away.

This most recent challenge came on a Wednesday night as I sat in our women’s Bible study. I happened to be sitting near the door, and halfway through the evening, I had the nearly uncontrollable urge to bolt out the door. I heard the lie, “You don’t fit in.” And I also knew that at least one person in the room was, in fact, avoiding me. Of course, she was sitting directly across the room from me in the circle. The pressure to leave was almost insurmountable. I say “almost” because this is a familiar tactic the enemy uses. Instead, I fought to stay engaged and managed to finish out the evening.

On the way home, my emotions let loose and I cried as I drove. But, what I have learned is that while God hasn’t chosen to remove this challenge from me, He has promised to use it for my good. After many years of struggling, I learned a secret weapon that I now employ regularly. As I drove and cried out to God what I was feeling, I finished by saying, “God, show me truth.”

Almost instantly, my tears ceased and I felt a calm settle into my heart. I asked the Lord for truth and He was pleased to show it to me. The issue that night was about what I would be doing the next day. It was about something new that I was going to begin that was completely unfamiliar. I was moving forward with something God had called me to do and the enemy tried to distract me. But his tactic didn’t work because I had my secret weapon.

God’s truth will always overcome Satan’s tricks. No matter what way he comes to attack, you can always ask God for truth and He will answer. Then you can use that truth to have victory over the enemy.

It works every time.

“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” – Psalm 25:5(ESV)

Do You Need to Vent?

Do you sometimes find yourself in a situation where you just need to vent? Maybe things haven’t been going your way for a while and you are frustrated or angry about your circumstances. Maybe you need to get some things out of your system so you can take a deep breath and move on. You need someone to talk to that will listen and help you release all that’s been upsetting you.

According to the dictionary, the word vent, when used as a verb, has two meanings. The first is to “give expression or utterance to.” God understands our need to talk through our problems and He puts people in our lives that we can trust to listen to our venting and still love us. We weren’t designed to keep everything bound up inside.

The second meaning of vent is to “expose to cool or cold air so as to cool or freshen.” The vent in your car does a great job of providing fresh, cool air when you need it most. It sure feels good on a hot day.

I think both meanings apply to our need to vent when things aren’t going so well. On one hand we need to express what’s troubling us and on the other hand, we need a fresh perspective.

The important thing to remember here is that when we vent, we are seeking to get rid of what is stale and be refreshed. Only vent to people who will steer you toward a fresh touch from the Lord.  The Holy Spirit is the only true source of refreshment.  He’s that fresh breath of God. Sometimes we need another brother or sister in Christ to walk along with us for a little while, but they can never refresh us like God can.

“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.”  Ephesians 3:16(NASB)

It’s not just about venting what is stale, it’s about breathing in a new perspective from God.

Why You Don’t Want a Spiritual Makeover

These days you see the word “makeover” in so many places. People crave the possibility of being made into someone who looks better, acts better or handles life’s responsibilities better. You can have many areas of your life made over, all it takes is the motivation to do it, or to allow someone to do it to you or for you. Usually it’s a simple several step process. You see the before and after pictures and your response is, “Wow! what a change!”

Makeovers can be great. A fresh start with your finances, a new look to your home, a new hairdo and makeup job to make you look years younger. Those can be great things but what is the goal? To make your life better? To make you feel better about yourself?

Jesus came with a different goal in mind. He didn’t come to heal the world, although He did heal many people. The reason He didn’t heal everybody is because His goal wasn’t to heal us all and “fix” the earth. His plan wasn’t to make things better.

Jesus healed and did miracles to show us what He was able to do, what His power was like. He fixed things to show us that He is powerful enough to make new what sin has destroyed. But He doesn’t do it with a makeover. He does it with a DO OVER.

What Jesus did on earth was to show us the way to the Father. When we repent, we don’t get a makeover, we get a do over. Jesus will make us new on the inside. It’s what man longs for. The relief from the weight of our sin.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Are You Hanging Out With Tax Collectors?

In the second chapter of the book of Mark, we find the story of Jesus eating with the tax collectors at Levi’s house. The Pharisees were appalled that such a “religious man” would be found among sinners and tax collectors.

Don’t we get the same response today? What if you are called to minister to someone who frequents bars. What if you are caught coming out of a bar by the modern day “religious community”? Isn’t there an opportunity for judgment? Don’t you wonder if people will talk?

Jesus is very clear with his answer to their criticism. He tells them in verse 17, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

If Jesus was called to sinners, so are we. He was sent to them and He sent US to them. How are we supposed to reach them if we don’t send time with them? If we don’t go where the lost are because we are afraid of what people will think, how will they ever hear the Good News?

Who do you spend most of your time with? The people who are already saved or those who desperately need to hear the gospel?

Do you spend time with tax collectors? Jesus did.


Waiting for My Ship to Come In








Have you ever heard someone say that they were waiting for their ship to come in? In current culture, the saying means that they are hoping for something good to happen in their life that they have no control over. A hope that good fortune will visit them and all their problems will be solved.

The origin of the saying isn’t clear. It could have come from the days when merchant ships were coming into port every day and you never knew when the one that held your supplies would arrive or if it would ever arrive. Maybe it was overtaken by pirates or sank in a violent storm. With no communication between ship and shore, no one could know for sure if their investment had arrived until they saw the ship coming into port.

The story in Matthew 8 tells of a time when the disciples wondered if their ship would come it. They weren’t just looking for some investment to pay off. Their believed their very lives were at stake. They were in the boat, the storm came up and Jesus was where? Asleep. Didn’t He care what was happening to them or that their lives were in danger? But the scripture tells us three things. Matthew 8:18 tells us “He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea,” verse 23 says, “when He got into the boat His disciples followed Him,” and verse 28 says, “When He came to the other side.” It doesn’t seem that Jesus had any doubt at all about whether His ship would come in.

Maybe you are in the boat that’s tossing and rolling in a violent sea. Maybe it looks like Jesus is asleep. Doesn’t He care what’s happening in your life? Is He going to wake up and do something before it’s too late?

Remember the story in Matthew. Jesus commanded they cross the sea. He got in the boat and the others followed because they trusted Him. He knew they would reach the other side; there was never any doubt in His mind. Only when the waves looked too high and the storm too strong did the disciples get concerned. They looked at the storm and not their Lord to define their situation.

The storms in life may be overwhelming sometimes. You might wonder if you are really going to make it to the other side. But Jesus hasn’t left you. Keep your eyes on the horizon. The shore will come into view and you will land safely because Jesus is in the boat.

Are You Peculiar?








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If you asked most people to define the word “peculiar” you would get some variation of this: “something or someone who is odd, strange, unusual or weird.” Most people would not appreciate being called peculiar. It definitely has a negative connotation in our current culture.

But looking at the 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, I find the following:

Peculiar – One’s own; belonging solely or especially to an individual; not possessed by others; of private, personal, or characteristic possession and use; particular; individual; special; appropriate.

Our modern culture has shifted this word, peculiar, to mean something to be avoided or kept at a distance. No one wants to be called peculiar. They don’t wish to appear odd or strange. Most people would rather blend in and be inconspicuous.

But in the King James version of 1 Peter 2:9 we read, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” This doesn’t mean strange or weird, it means they belong to God. Peculiar comes from the Latin word peculium which means “private property.”

We are a peculiar people! We belong to God. We are His and no one else’s. He claims us as His own. And maybe to the world that looks strange or weird. If belonging to God makes me seem strange to the world, so be it!

If following after Christ means you stick out and look different than the world, is that okay with you? How peculiar are you willing to be? Will you stand firmly on the fact that you have been chosen by God, no matter how that looks to the world?

What’s In a Name?








“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Those are Shakespeare’s words. Actually Juliet said them. Would a rose smell as sweet if it were called something else? Say, a skunk cabbage or a stinking corpse lily? It’s hard to imagine.

Have you ever thought about the importance of names? People pay a lot of attention to names. Just look at Hollywood. Would a movie starring Archibald Alexander Leach and Doris Kappelhof have been as successful as one starring Cary Grant and Doris Day? And somehow a gun fighter played by Marion Michael Morrison wouldn’t seem as threatening as one played by John Wayne. Maybe it’s a good thing they changed their names!

Speaking of name changing, there are many examples in the Bible where God or someone else changed a person’s name. Frequently it was to signify a change of heart or a redirection in his or her life. Abram became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. God chose those names to call Abraham and Sarah into a new direction as parents of a new nation. Naomi changed her own name to Mara to describe how bitter her life had become. Simon became Peter, the rock on which God would build his church. All of these are quite significant events.

Another significant event is marriage. The tradition of most English-speaking countries has been for the woman to take her husband’s name when she marries. There is no real proof as to why this tradition began, but there is speculation that it was similar to the name changes in the Bible. A new bride has had a redirection in life. She is now one with her husband and shares his name. It is definitely a change of heart when two become one and the name change is one way to acknowledge its importance.

Biblical names had great significance. The meanings of many names turned out to be prophetic in nature. Many Christian families today take seriously the naming of their children and seek God’s direction before deciding on what name they will give each child.

There is definitely power in names. But there is one name which is above every name. One name that all of creation must bow to. One name that has the ultimate power.

Jesus.

Call upon His name when you feel stressed, when you need comfort, when you need power. Call upon His name when you are discouraged, when you are sad, when you are afraid. He is there and the power of His name is available to you in every situation.

“Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”
Philippians 2:8-10 (NASB)

Made From the Dust

I’m sure you’ve hear people say that they have “felt like dirt” or have been “treated like dirt.” We immediately understand the implication. It means they have not been treated as they think they deserve.

But the truth is, that’s exactly what we are. Genesis 2:7 says, God formed man of dust from the ground.” And Genesis 3:19 says, “For you are dust and to dust you shall return.” That sounds pretty clear to me. Why should we think we deserve to be treated like anything more than the dust that we are?

Ah, but here is the amazing part.  God knows we are dust; after all He’s the one who made us. He knows our limitations. But He doesn’t treat us like the dirt.

I would encourage you to take some time today and read Psalm 103. It’s full of encouragement that God sees us as we really are but treats us as something much more valuable. Psalm 103:14 sums it up quite well when it says, “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.”

Our Heavenly Father will never treat us like dirt even though that’s exactly what we are. He has compassion on us and loves us. We are part of His creation…we are His.