Don’t Worry

Whenever I get overwhelmed by my circumstances, I search the Bible for God’s promises. I try to find people who were overwhelmed too. Some of the greatest leaders of the Bible needed encouragement as much as I do. They looked at their circumstances as well as what God called them to do and I can imagine their panic. We don’t always read that they were panicked, but we see what God said to them and can tell that they were. Joshua is a great example of this.

He had been to the Promised Land, seen the giants and declared that they could defeat them. In Deuteronomy 31 when Moses passes the torch to Joshua, the reality of that prediction fell on his shoulders. He said they could be victorious so God said, “Ok, then you get to lead the charge.” As Moses was passing the torch of leadership to him, he said, “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated… He (God) is right there with you. He won’t let you down; He won’t leave you…Don’t worry.”

Those words weren’t recorded just for Joshua’s sake. They were written to remind you and me that whatever we face in this life, God is with us. We can be strong and courageous. We can be assured that God won’t let us down so we don’t have to worry. There may be an impassible river in front of us today, but God will part it. There may be giants in the land ahead of us, but God will give us the victory. We may see all the impossibilities that stand in our way, but we don’t have to be intimidated.

You and I aren’t the first ones to be lead into the unknown. We aren’t the first ones to have to face giants. What God has done for others in the past, He will do for us. The Bible says that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He does not change. We can fully trust that He will part the waters, knock down the walls, defeat the giants in our life and give us victory. What He requires of us is to have the courage to walk to the waters edge, circle the walls in our lives and face the giants that stand in our path.

When we do our part, He will do His. Our step of faith preceded His provision. He encourages us to be strong and courageous because we need that in order to step out in faith. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t be intimidated by what you see in the physical realm. Our God makes things happen in the spiritual realm that affect the physical realm. We have to trust Him completely and act in accordance with His Word and He will give the victory today. God won’t let you down or leave you, so don’t worry just believe.

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God’s Megaphone

“Pain insists on being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures , speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

C.S. Lewis

Have you ever had pain so badly that it throbbed? I’ve hit my thumb with a hammer before and it felt like my thumb was going to explode. The pain in my thumb was sending signals to my brain, “I’m hurt! Help me!” I held it, sucked on it and then put ice on it until it quit hurting. Whenever I grabbed something for the next few days, I would remember that I hit it because the pain was still deep inside. Eventually it went away and I forgot that my thumb had ever been hit.

When we go through pain and suffering in our lives, it’s a lot like that. Our pain signals us to call out to God, “I’m hurt! Help me!” He then comes to us and helps us in our pain. He speaks to us in those times and shows us things in His Word that we’ve never seen or understood until we were in that kind of pain. As time goes on, the pain goes away and so often, our dependence on God.

When times are good, we tend to forget God. We have no need of Him if we really don’t know Him. He is kind of our 9-1-1 call when we are in trouble. He’s always available, but we don’t call Him until we need Him. When we do call in those times, He does respond, but He wants to be more than your go to guy for an emergency. He wants to be the one you go to in the good times as well. He’s speaking to us in those times as well, but we don’t hear Him because we are too busy enjoying life.

Bad things happen from time to time so that He can renew our relationship. Every time the children of Israel forgot God, He would send the prophets to remind them and to draw them back. When they wouldn’t listen, He would allow them to be taken to captivity until they remembered hat God said in Leviticus 26:3-13. He said if they would listen to Him and obey He would pour out all kinds of blessings on them. He spent the rest of the chapter letting them know that if they forgot Him, He would use pain and calamity to draw them back.

If things are rough in your life right now, chances are that God is shouting to you. He could be trying to get your attention to speak to you. I’m not saying you’ve done something wrong in your life, but maybe God is trying to get your attention. Instead of running from the pain, try stopping, calling out to God for help and then listening. There are things He wants to say to us all the time, but we’re usually not listening until pain is involved. Take time today to listen.

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God Is Your Refuge

September 11, 2001, was a day that no one who was alive will forget. Since it happened, people have placed blamed on the hijackers, the government, Muslims, George W. Bush and God for the attacks. No matter who you believe was behind it, there is evil in this world and it seeks to destroy. On that day it destroyed lives, buildings, families, people’s sense of security, health, hope and trust.

In John 10:10, Jesus said that it is the enemy who comes to steal, kill and destroy. It bothers me when people place the blame on God when bad things happen. That is not who God is. In the same sentence, Jesus said that His purpose is to give a rich and satisfying life. He does not cause bad things to happen to you. James 1:17 tells us that whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father.

Why is it that we blame the bad things on God, but not the good things? Somehow we think that we are responsible for anything good that happens in our lives without the help of God, yet we are not responsible for bad things that happen. The Bible is full of scriptures that show consequences for actions: honor your father and mother so that your days may be long (Exodus 20:12), a man who is diligent in his work will stand before kings (Proverbs 22:29), if you are faithful with the small things, God will make you faithful over many (Luke 16:10) and if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can move mountains (Luke 17:6).

Too often we associate God as someone in the sky who is waiting for us to mess up so He can crush us. Yes, just like there are consequences for good actions, there are consequences for going against what He says too. The difference in what the reality of who He is and who we think He is in those times is that He doesn’t want us to stay in those consequences. He always provides a way of forgiveness no matter how bad the sin. He doesn’t want to leave us there so He has provided a way out. II Chronicles 7:14 says that if we will humble ourselves, pray and turn from our wrong doing, He will hear from Heaven, forgive our sins and heal our land.

God has no desire to leave you in sin or to destroy your life. He wants you to live freely in Him, overcome evil and to walk in forgiveness. Your life matters to Him. When evil seeks to destroy you, your life, your home, your business or your relationships know that you can run to God for help. He is a strong refuge (Nahum 1:7). He is help in time of need (Psalm 46:1). He raises a standard when he enemy comes in like a flood (Isaiah 59:19). He fights for you (Exodus 14:14). No weapon that is formed against you will prosper (Isaiah 54:17). If He is for you, who can be against you (Romans 8:31)?

If you are under attack today, proclaim those promises that God has given you in scripture. I’m not telling you these things out of faith. I’m one who has lived those promises and has seen God do it in my life. I know His Word is true and He can be trusted. I have seen Him be my refuge and fight for me when I didn’t have the strength to. I’ve had the enemy come in like a flood and try to destroy everything. When that happened, I cried out to God who lifted up a standard and held back that waters before they consumed me too. If He did it for me, He’ll do it for you. Ask Him and trust Him with your life.

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Respons-ability

If you know the story of Esther, you know that after she had been made queen, Haman plotted to kill all of the Jews. Since he was the kings closest advisor, the King agreed to what he suggested. In Esther chapter 4, her uncle Mordecai found out that his race was being targeted for genocide. He responded by mourning and fasting. Somehow Esther had not known about the news. It wasn’t until her maidens saw her uncle weeping they told her about it. She then sent someone to find out why he was in distress.

When Mordecai sent word back, he also told them to tell her that she had a responsibility to go before the King to save her people. Her first response was fear. She told him that she couldn’t go before the King or she would be killed. She must have felt that since she was queen she would be saved from the massacre. Mordecai wouldn’t have any of it. He very frankly told her that if she didn’t respond to the challenge so done else would, but she and her family would perish.

Just like her, you and I face situations in our life that we’d rather ignore and hope they go away. The problem is that they won’t in most cases. The longer we wait to respond to them, the bigger they can get. Our ability to respond has to overcome the fear of the situation. Mordecai also sent the encouraging word, “Who knows? Maybe you’ve been put in this position for such a time as this.” He pointed to God’s providence in her life. He began to see why things had happened the way they had so that she could be the answer.

Where you are today and the situations that you’re facing are not an accident or a surprise to God. He has groomed you and placed you where you are because you have the ability to respond the way He wants you too. You could say it’s your respons-ability. You can say, “But I don’t know how to handle this.” James 1:5 says that if any man lacks wisdom he can ask God for it. Proverbs 15:22 says there is wisdom in a multitude of counsel. You can ask God and or others what to do. Mordecai gave excellent advice to Esther.

We never know why we have the burdens of being in difficult situations. Not responding isn’t the right choice. We have the respons-ability to seek wisdom and to respond in a way that pleases God. Difficult situations require difficult choices. In my own life, it’s been those times that have grown my faith the most. I’ve had to step out in faith and trust that God had my back. Esther did too and her people were saved. Life isn’t easy, but you were made for a purpose and are where God needs you right now in order to respond accordingly. Trust what He says and step out. It may be difficult, but doing what He says is less difficult than the results of disobedience.

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Stuck In The Waiting

This is a guest post from a friend and I felt like it needed a second look today.

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God.…
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

T. S. Eliot, “East Coker”

I read these words in Philip Yancey’s book “Disappointment with God”. I was going through a brutal spell in my life. If you’ve read the book, maybe it helped. But it didn’t help me. In fact it just made me feel worse for all the people referenced in the book as well as for myself.

Why do bad things happen to generally decent people? I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever understand this side of heaven. It might be better if I stopped asking. But there are few things that haven’t escaped me. Maybe they were rungs on the ladder that kept me hitting rock bottom. Here they are:

I’m not in control. Even if I was, I don’t know what’s best for me.

It’s true – and actually this struck me when things were going well. What do you do when the things that happened by “chance” turned out better than your carefully laid plans? This had been the case a couple different times and while I was overwhelmed with gratitude, it eerily bothered me. When my tides turned, I realized that it goes both ways. In the end, I’m not God. I don’t know what’s best for me, I can’t see the big picture of God’s plan for me and I can’t control all the outcomes in my life. Living by faith means accepting both the good and the bad and realizing both are temporal. Accepting the fact that life isn’t fair helps too.

Take responsibility. Don’t sabotage myself.

If you’ve ever wondered if your life could get any worse, let me clear that up for you real quick. The answer is always yes. That may sound like a morbid thing to say, but the truth is that we’re always one decision away from making things much worse. And when things aren’t going well, we’re in the DANGER ZONE. Think about it: if you’re stuck in a crummy job, you are only one decision away from not having a job at all. If your marriage is going poorly, you are only one decision or one conversation away from a further setback. If you aren’t married and wish you were, you are one or several decisions away from creating a lot more misery for yourself and others.

It’s tempting to say that “God wills” my circumstances to be what they are and then act like a victim. But actually we’re usually our own worst enemy. Proverbs 19:3 says, “People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord” (NLT). When the chips are down, the temptation is even stronger to make foolish choices that add to our pain.

We can’t always control our circumstances, but in every situation, we always have a choice of how to respond. And that means we have the responsibility to make a good choice, no matter how good or bad circumstances are.

Realize my pain will be able to be used in a positive way in the future.

If someone had said this to me when I was down, it would’ve brought me up real fast… swinging. That’s not what I wanted to hear. But unfortunately, not “just anyone” said these words. They came from Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, recounting his experiences as a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz. They were also shared by psychologists to the survivors of the PanAm Flight 73 hijacking in 1986 as they prepared to board their next flight.

Those folks have “cred” in my book. I may not like the message, but I can take it coming from them. When I’m hurting, the last thing I want is “some perspective,” but even so, they’ve had far worse than me.

If you’re in pain, there is a sense in which you’re alone. Proverbs 14:10 says, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy” (NLT). No one else can walk your path for you and you may not see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know I couldn’t. When we’re stuck “in the waiting,” as Eliot’s poem says, we likely won’t be able to see the redemption in our circumstances. It’s only by faith that we can believe that this too shall pass.

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach and thought leader. Visit him today at NathanMagnuson.com or follow him on Twitter.

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Trust Equals Action

In Genesis 20, there is a story that many of us are familiar with, but we forget about it. Abraham told King Abimelech that Sarah was his sister and not his wife. At this point, Abraham had already been told by God that he should leave the land he was in and head to the place He would show him and he and Sarah had already been told they would have a son. He had already made his mistake with Hagar and had Ishmael. You would think that he had learned to trust God at this point.

Just like you and I, he still had some room for growth in his trust with God. You would think that a man who heard God speak to him, met with angels, watched Sodom and Gomorrah burn and got a woman pregnant when he was nearly 100 years old would be able to trust God. When you hear what Abraham said to Abimelech in Genesis 20:11, you see that he was afraid that people might kill him and take Sarah. He let fear drive his decision making instead of trusting in God.

I’d get upset with him if I didn’t have the same problem. Too many times I hear God speak to me and I let fear take me on a different path or keep me from acting on what God told me to do. There’s the fear of what others will say. The fear of living by faith. The fear of change. The fear of stepping into the unknown. All of these fears repress my desire to do what God asked me to do. I have a choice to make each time that fear steps in. I can listen to it and allow it to keep me from action or I can listen to God and act on what He said.

If Abraham learned his lesson, I can too. It was just a few chapters later when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Without hesitation, Abraham woke up early and began to act on what God told him to do. He acted on God’s word before fear got a foothold in his mind. If we can learn to act on what God says before we allow fear to take over, we will begin to see the hand of God more in our lives. If we can trust God more than we trust fear, there’s no telling how different our lives would be.

David understood this principle too. In Psalm 56:11, he wrote, “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” David had wrestled with fear and trust as well. Ultimately, you see that he learned the principle that you and I can adopt. We need to trust God when He asks us to do something. We need to block out fear so that it doesn’t keep us from accomplishing all that God has for us. In the end, it’s God’s opinion of us that matters, not man’s. Act quickly on what God speaks to you before fear has a chance to rear its head and stop you.

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Made Whole Again

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It’s Free Friday! Today is the day you let go of the things in your life that keep you down or hold you back from all God has for you. To celebrate, I’m giving away a copy of “Free To Live: The Utter Relief of Holiness” by John Eldredge. Keep reading to find out how to enter.

One of the most well known nursery rhymes in the English language is “Humpty Dumpty”. As you know, “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.” I’m guessing Humpty lived out the rest of his days broken or missing pieces. All we know is that he couldn’t be put back together.

When we’ve fallen or have been broken, we are left not feeling whole. A part of us is missing. My wife and I were talking about the grieving process after a divorce where one party left the marriage. It’s very similar to grieving a lost loved one except you still know this person is around. You’ll still see them so you never get closure. You never get put back together again. We feel a similar brokenness when we’ve let down God in a major way. We can feel like there’s no going back and that our soul can’t be put back together again.

Just because all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t seem to out you together again, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. I Thessalonians 5:23 says, “May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it! (MSG)” God can make you whole again. What is impossible for man is possible with God.

While man can’t do put you together by himself, God can work in partnership with men (and women) to help restore you. When someone falls spiritually, scripture says, Galatians 6:1 says, “If anyone is caught in any sin, you who are spiritual should restore him.” God uses us to help that person get back up while He does the mending of the soul. When someone is broken from a divorce, a lost loved one or for some other reason, there are Godly counsellors who help restore you while God finishes the work inside.

There isn’t a person who has ever lived or ever will live whom God cannot restore or put back together again. Even though we feel like we are broken into a million pieces and that we will never be whole again, God is able to do it. That scripture in Thessalonians said that God makes everything holy and whole. He didn’t make exceptions. If you are broken, God can heal you emotionally and spiritually. He can make you holy again no matter what has happened to you or what you’ve done. You simply have to go to Him and ask Him to help. It may take a while, but you can be put back together again,

If you’d like to win “Free To Live” by John Eldredge, then leave a comment on this post or a Facebook post that says you’re broken right now and need prayer or that says you were broken, but now are whole. Tomorrow, September 6th, 2014, I will randomly choose a winner from one of the people who comments today. If you haven’t done so, be sure to sign up to receive these devotions by email and like my Facebook page here.

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