Danger of Giving into Pain

If you’ve ever suffered with chronic pain, you know how debilitating it can be. How many people have developed opiate addictions in their effort to get free from physical pain? Emotional pain can likewise spark overreactions, leading to tragic consequences. Constant pain can be so overwhelming, people can despair of life. But pain can also be a blessing in disguise. Many years ago, the pain of a broken heart brought me to a crossroads of either taking my life or crying out to God. He heard my pain-filled cry and separated me from unhealthy friends. Within a few months I surrendered my life to Jesus. Today, let the pain in your life bring you to the end of yourself and the beginning of a liberating relationship with the God who will not just allow you to survive, but help you learn to thrive.

God Waits Beyond Our Comforts

The other day, when I was listening to the Book of Exodus, it mentioned this verse, “Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the LORD went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp.” (Exodus 33:7 NKJV) Hmm? “Far outside the camp…” It reminded me of the effort needed to meet with God. We have to leave our tents, our comfort zones, in order to meet with God. He’s not an addendum on our list, a byproduct of something greater. He’s the main event. Either He’s first, or He’s nothing. My wife wants to be first in my life, and she’s a frail human. If anyone deserves our complete attention, it would certainly be the Person who created us for Himself. 

Living in Neverland

Walt Disney created an imaginary place, where Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, and Lost Boys lived. It was called “Neverland.” The name reminds me of the faraway place many of us feel like we’re living in, because of the pandemic, and economic and cultural upheavals. Our lives seem to be in free fall. “Free fall” can be defined in three words: “rapid uncontrolled decline.” We’re in a free fall, where we seem to never land. Many of us are living in Neverland. What if this unfamiliar season is the new normal? What if we each have to learn to live in Neverland, to grow in Neverland, even to thrive in Neverland? I believe that God wants to meet us in Neverland. And, if we trust and follow Him, over time, the New Normals that seem so foreign, may even become dear friends.  

Our First Encounter with Jesus

My twin brother, Joseph, founder of Forward Edge International, writes what I believe best defines the most significant moment in a person’s life. “Whether we know it or not, our lives have been leading up to one, significant moment: our first encounter with Jesus.” This begs the question: have you had your first encounter with Jesus? If not, then you’re still waiting to begin the most significant relationship you can have in life. And there’s no One who wants a relationship with you more than Jesus. Your first encounter with Him will be the beginning of finding why we’re alive. We’ve each been created for one purpose, to become like our Creator. And this can only happen if we completely surrender our lives to the One who loves us most. If you haven’t done that, Jesus is a prayer away.

Going Back in Time

All of us would like to go back in time, to make right something we did wrong, or to try and make something bad, good. But, most of the time, that’s not possible. What’s done is done, and we can’t get a do-over. But, God’s provided a silver lining. C.S. Lewis expresses it this way, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” If you really think about it, God has solved the riddle of life for us. His blood forgives, His Spirit heals, His will restores, and His presence comforts. Dying without regret is not just a hopeless dream, it’s God’s will for each of our lives. Let the death and resurrection of Jesus cover your regrets, allowing you to live and die forgiven. 

Don’t Go Through Life Alone 

A friend went into the wilderness to go fishing, on a day trip. It took him a few hours to hike alone to a remote mountain lake. Though he was an experienced fisherman, the first time he cast his line out, he hooked his upper lip. No matter what he did, he couldn’t remove the hook, and so had to hike all the way out to see a doctor, without even fishing. When he told a few of his friends about it, we had a good laugh, but frankly, he wasn’t laughing when it was happening. I’ve often wondered if his situation could have been resolved. If he only had a friend with him, he might have spent that day fishing. God knows, But, it affirmed for me what the Bible says, and I deeply believe. “It’s not good for a man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) 

Buying into Your Future

In chapter 32 of Jeremiah, God told Jeremiah to buy a piece of land in Jerusalem shortly before it would be captured by the Babylonians. Jeremiah knew full well that this calamity was about to happen, but God still had him invest in the future of his people. When Suzie and I each received the Lord in the early 1970’s, America was in great turmoil. As new Christ followers we had discussions about the viability of getting married and having children. But, we decided to believe the words of Jesus, “Occupy till I come…”, rather than bow to the fear of the future. Jesus also said, “Go into every nation…” not hibernation. If God tells you to, “Get married! Have children! Buy the land! Raise a family!” then, obey Him, and you’ll never regret it. He truly is the God of happy endings!

The Gift of Being Least 

Most of us will at times think that God could never use us to do something significant for Him. We’ve seen this feeling as a liability, but God sees it as an asset. There’s no problem thinking we can’t do it, as long as we believe God can. God loves to choose the insignificant. Gideon felt he was the weakest, and least significant person in his family. Paul the Apostle considered himself “…less than the least of all the saints.” (Ephesians 3:8) Bethlehem was the least of all towns. (Micah 5:2) When Saul thought he was the least, God was able to make him king of Israel. Jesus said, “…the one who is least among you all is the one who is greatest.” (Luke 9:48) The key to being used by God is to learn to stand in weakness, walk by faith, and believe that God created you for a marvelous purpose.

When We Need to Run 

Recently, I experienced sharp pains in my back on my daily walks. In particular, when going up steep inclines. One day, I decided to run up the steepest portion of a hill. Ironically, when I ran, the pain subsided. This made me reflect on a revelation beyond the experience. Haven’t there been times in my life when I’ve been meandering along without a sense of urgency, and then sensed God challenging me, “Stop casually walking and begin to run with conviction.” In retrospect, I’ve found this running with passion occurs most often during hard seasons in my life. I’m merely walking through a challenge, and God wants me to run through it. It reminded me of this scripture, “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:29, NIV)

Do’s and Don’ts of Life

The motive of my heart best reveals whether my actions are birthed in integrity or vanity. The reason I do something should be because I love God. Likewise, the reason I don’t do something should be because I love God. The do’s and don’ts, can’s and can’ts, either begin in the heart of God, or they will fizzle in the mind of man. The psalmist wrote, “…you desire integrity in the inner man.” (Psalm 51:6, NET) “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (Psalm 139:23, ESV) King Solomon wrote, “People may be pure in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their motives.” (Proverbs 16:2, NLT) And, “The integrity of the upright guides them…” (Proverbs 11:3, NIV) The reason why I do something is even more important than what I do, because God says He will judge the thoughts and intents of our heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Where Could We Go Without God? 

I went many places during my late teen, and young adult years without any awareness of God. To say I lived, “Godless” would be accurate. Ultimately, living without God brought me to the end of myself. Finally, at a desperate moment, I cried out to the God I didn’t believe in, and within six months I got radically saved. I’ve been captivated by God’s presence ever since. I think of the words Moses said to God, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.” Even though I don’t experience God’s presence all the time, it is God’s presence that changed my life and is what I long for. (Exodus 33:15) If you and I are true followers of Jesus, and we have tasted and seen the Lord is good, then may we never wander too far from His marvelous presence.

Remember Your Creator

All of us have suffered from spiritual amnesia. We’ve forgotten who we are and been too blind to see what God has done for us. Thousands of years ago, the wisest man who ever lived wrote, “Remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well…” (Ecclesiastes 12:6, NLT) Beautifully said! Remember! Sadly, we all tend to forget, only to be reminded by wakeup calls that are often painful. Jolts that jar us. Tragedies that could have been avoided. Train wrecks precipitated by disobedience and birthed in rebellion. God, help me to remember! Don’t let the cord of my life snap and the golden bowl of the precious relationship I have with You be broken.