Tag Archives: tough times

Under The Press


As many of you know, I went back to Israel this past summer. One of the most visited places in Jerusalem has to be the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s filled with Olive trees as pictured here. On this trip, I discovered that the name Gethsemane means the olive press. We got to see an olive press to understand how it crushes the olives to make oil. That first pressing of the Olive is holy and belongs to God. I think that’s important to know when considering what happened there the night before Jesus was crucified. 

Matthew 26 tells us that Jesus went there with the disciples and that grief and anguish came over Him. In verse 38, Jesus said, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me” (GNT). He was being pressed like an olive in that moment. His prayer in the next verse is what I want to focus on today. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what you want.” 

Each of us have times in our lives when we are being crushed by problems and things going on. Just like Jesus, our first instinct is to pray, “Father, if it’s possible, get me out of this!” We cry and we pray for God to help us. But what if God wants to use that time to create a holy offering in your life? What if He is allowing you to be crushed so what’s inside comes out? I’m sure the olives in the press don’t appreciate the stone mill rolling over them, but what comes out is more useful than just the olive by itself.

Jesus understood this. That’s why His next breath was, “Yet not what I want, but what you want.” Instead of praying for God to get us out of the press, ask God that His will be done instead of ours. James 1:12 says, “Happy are those who remain faithful under trials, because when they succeed in passing such a test, they will receive as their reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.” Remaining under the press, like Jesus did, is the way to receive the life God promises us. 

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Is It Well?

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 “It Is Well” by Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence. Keep reading to find out how to enter.

I was 23 when my mom passed away from cancer. I remember praying every day for her. There were no social media sites around to get tons of people to pray, but there were email lists. I sent emails to everyone on my list asking them to pray for her. I had faith that God would heal her. As I was going about my business at work one day, I answered the phone. My brother told me to get home as quickly as possible. In a panic I began trying to hurry things along. I then realized I hadn’t hung up. I held the phone to my ear to see if he was still on the line. I heard my dad say, “Don’t kill yourself getting here, son. She’s already gone.”

A day or so later, I sat down to write an email to all those who were praying. As I wondered what to write, the words of an old hymn came to my mind. “When peace like a river attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well.'” I began to write to the people who had prayed so diligently to thank them for their prayers. I let them know that she had passed, but also that it was well with my soul. As much as I wanted her to be healed, I understood that God’s reasons were better than my own.

We each have a choice when something we really, desperately want to happen doesn’t. We can choose to be bitter at God over it or we can choose to say, “It is well.” It doesn’t mean that I agree with the decision that God made. It simply says, “I trust you, God even when I don’t agree.” We somehow think that our selfish desires are more important than His holy plan for the world. We argue, scream and fight with Him when things don’t go our way. We sometimes see it as Him attacking us or mocking us, but it’s the farthest thing from it. He sees the whole picture from eternity’s perspective. I see a pixel of it from a moment’s perspective.

I don’t know why God does what He does. I don’t know why things happen that hurt us. I simply know that nothing happens in my life without Him knowing about it. He knows what I need to go through today to prepare me to be the person He needs me to be tomorrow. He knows what I need to go through now so I can help someone in the future. I can get through my grief. I can rise from the ashes of a life that has been burned to the ground. I can rebuild what has been torn down. With that in mind, I can find the courage to say, “It is well.”

If you would like to win “It Is Well” by Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence, go to the Devotions By Chris Facebook page here and “like” it. I will randomly pick one person tomorrow (July 26, 2014) who has liked my page. If you have already “liked” my page, you are already entered for this drawing. I would appreciate it if you would invite your friends to like my page so they can receive encouragement from God’s Word too.

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Stand Strong

One of my favorite people in the Bible is Gideon. I’m reminded of his story so often because I find myself in need of all the lessons it teaches. In Judges 6, the Bible explains that times were bad in Israel. The Midianites were destroying crops, killing animals and harassing the Israelites. There wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop them. The Israelites lived in fear because of all the bad things that were happening. If they had grain, they had to thresh it in hiding. If they had goats, they had to keep them hidden. Anything in the open would be taken.

Gideon was threshing his grain in the bottom of a wine press so no one would see him. An angel appeared and called out to him, “Mighty hero, The Lord is with you.” Gideon, who was hiding because he was afraid of the Midianites, didn’t think twice about the angel calling him a hero. What caught his attention was that the angel said, “The Lord is with you.” He took a double take at the angel and must have thought this guy didn’t know much. How could he say that when so many bad things were happening?

He confronted the angel and asked, “If The Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” Have you ever felt that way? When everything in life is going wrong and you feel abandoned by God. It’s an uncomfortable place. A dark place. Fear of the future grips your mind. You find yourself constantly worrying about things that you have no control over. You feel like God has forgotten you or worse, abandoned you in need. Your mind tells you that God doesn’t care. That He doesn’t see you in your pain.

In this verse, the angel reminds us that God’s presence in our lives isn’t proven by our circumstances. Our lives can be falling apart and God can still be with us. We’ve somehow come to believe that God is with us when things are good and has abandoned us when times are bad. His presence is with you no matter what. He is with you even when you can see His hand or feel His presence. He is with you when your life is so dark that you can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. He is not only with you, He’s preparing you for greatness in those times. Greatness doesn’t come from an easy life. It’s forged in the darkness and in the fire.

Whatever you are facing today, I say to you, “Mighty hero, The Lord is with you!” You may not feel like a hero, but you’re still standing through everything. You may not feel like The Lord is with you, but He has never left your side. He has been standing next to you through everything you have faced and everything you will face because He will not abandon you. He will not forsake you. He will not forget you. He will deliver you when the timing is right. He will lead you to better times when you have learned all He wants to show you in the dark. Stand strong today because The Lord is with you.

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Walking Through Death Valley

Psalm 23 is probably one of the best known chapters in the Bible. It’s one of the first ones we memorize as kids. It’s in almost every funeral scene on TV and in the movies. They always quote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” When we hear it so many times or have it memorized as kids, we lose deeper meaning in it because it is in our rote memory and not in our hearts.

I recently read that chapter in the Message to see a different angle beyond my rote memory. I saw something I had never caught because I had always looked at it or thought of it in King James English. If we look at the scripture quoted above and the end of the one before it in the Message, we see, “(You) send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk by my side.”

What I see in that is the “right direction” that God sends us in can lead us through Death Valley. We like to equate good times with being in God’s will and bad times with being out of it. Here we see that the direction God sends us in can lead us through difficult times. The good news is also that we don’t have to be afraid in those times because God is by our side. He’s there walking through the valley with you.

I know I’ve shared this before, but this made me think of the promise God spoke to me as I walked through the darkest valley of my life. He said, “I have not left you, nor forsaken you. I am by your side walking through this with you. I’m not in front of you or behind you. I am by your side walking with you.” I had never seen that word from Him in connection with this scripture until now. I just knew that when He spoke it, my fear of an uncertain future left.

The Amplified version refers to Death Valley as “the deep, sunless valley.” In those dark days when there is no light, no future, no promises to hold onto; God is there walking with you. He sees the road and uses His rod to protect us and His staff to guide us. When there is no light, you learn to fully trust Him to get you through Death Valley. You rely on Him to show you where the path is that leads out of that valley. Your faith and trust in Him grows deeper than it ever could in the light on a mountain top.

If you’re in Death Valley today, don’t assume it’s because you’ve taken a wrong turn. Even Job’s friends tried to convince him that he had hidden sin that caused his time in the valley. He was one who was upright and walked through Death Valley with God at his side. You can too. God is by your side in that deep, sunless valley today. He’s there to protect you and to guide you. Don’t leave His side. He hasn’t left yours. The “right direction” will soon lead you out of this temporary time in the valleys it’s a deeper trust in Him.

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