RSS Feed

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

God’s Presence: My Anchor Through Any Storm

In Psalm 23:4 it says, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” (NIV)

No one gets through life without setbacks. All of us will face storms from time to time. The real issue is how I respond. When I experience a setback, what happens next? Do the setbacks dominate me? Do I stop trying and give up?

If I’m not careful, setbacks will cause me to make unhelpful decisions:

  1. Drifting from my goals. I hear the little voice inside that asks, “What’s the use of trying?” Then I stop striving for what God has clearly called me to do.

  1. Discarding what I value. Sometimes, after a period of intense pain, my priorities change—I let go of what once mattered greatly to me.

  1. Despairing about my future. I figure I’m doomed, finished, and it’s all over.

People react to crises in one of those three ways. The true test of faith is not how high I jump when I sing praises to God, but how straight I walk when I’m going through the valley of the shadow of death.

I’ll always drift in a storm without the right anchor. And only one anchor will really do.

One of the Bible’s most famous passages says it like this: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4 NIV).

God’s presence is the greatest anchor in any situation.

So when I’m feeling hopeless, I need to remember that God hasn’t left me. I can choose to make him my rock-solid anchor.

No matter how dark my valley, I’ve never been closer to God than I am at this exact moment. It’s tough because I don’t feel his presence.

But it really has nothing to do with how I feel. The Bible says God is there in my darkest valley. That’s reality—whether I believe it or not.

The Bible says, “I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us” (Romans 8:38-39 The Message).

No matter what I’m going through, God and his love will be right here with me. That truth offers stability in any storm.

Even when walking through the dark valley I will not be afraid, for you my Lord are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way. Only one person can walk with me through dark valleys and bring me safely to the other side, the God of life, my shepherd. Because life is uncertain, I should follow this shepherd who offers me eternal comfort. So when things seem dark and bleak I do not need to fear, for God is close beside me, protecting and guiding me. 

Monday, January 29, 2024

Humility Builds Relationships

In Philippians 2:3, and 5-6 it says, “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves . . . You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.” (NLT)

Choosing to be humble is a relationship builder. What is humility? It’s when I honor others above myself, not always demanding or clinging to my rights

Pride, on the other hand, destroys relationships—and it shows up in a lot of different ways. It can make me critical, judgmental, competitive, stubborn, and unforgiving. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride leads to destruction; a proud attitude brings ruin” (NCV). 

Pride is also self-deceiving. When I have a problem with pride, I struggle to see it in my life. But everyone else can see it in me!  

What does pride look like in a relationship? I always offer advice but never ask for it. And I can’t admit when life is hard. Everybody else is saying, “Yeah, this last week was tough.” But I can’t seem to admit I have any problems. 

But how does humility play out in a relationship? Notice the five relationship builders in 1 Peter 3:8: “Live in harmony, be sympathetic, love each other, have compassion, and be humble” (GW). The first four are really built on the last one: Be humble. And it’s an excellent model for relationships. 

How does humility happen? It happens by letting Jesus control my thoughts, heart, attitudes, and reactions. Growing in humility has to include Jesus.

The basic law of relationships is this: I become like the people I spend time with.  If I spend time with grumpy people, I get grumpier. If I spend time with happy people, I get happier. If I want to have more humility, spend time with Jesus Christ in prayer and reading his Word. Just talk to him. He wants a relationship, and he wants to show me how he modeled humility in his life on Earth.  

Growing in humility may seem like a big task, but it’s possible with Jesus. Take the first step toward humility by getting to know Jesus, and he will help me become a relationship builder.  

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Change the Way You Think, Change Your Life

In Galatians 6:7 it says, “Make no mistake about this: You can never make a fool out of God. Whatever you plant is what you’ll harvest.” (GW)

I don’t plant apple seeds and get tomatoes.

In the same way, I don’t plant bitterness and get love. I don’t plant criticism and then get encouragement from others.

Galatians 6:7 says, “Make no mistake about this: You can never make a fool out of God. Whatever you plant is what you’ll harvest” (GW).

Read that again: “Whatever I plant is what I’ll harvest.” If I plant in the soil of my sinful nature and bad habits, I’ll harvest destruction and undesired outcomes. But if I plant in the soil of my spiritual nature, I’ll harvest everlasting life.

God has said for thousands of years that our sins can affect future generations. For instance, when I’m angry and lose my temper with my kids or grandkids, I’m setting them up to lose their temper with their kids. Sins get perpetuated in families, possibly for multiple generations. Not only does it work relationally and environmentally, but it also works physically. Our brains can actually be changed by repetitive behavior, for good or for bad.

Everyone used to think the brain was pretty much set in stone by the time you were an adolescent. Now we know about brain plasticity and how a brain can continue to be molded for the rest of life.

That’s good to know! It means if my brain has been naturally molded toward depression or a quick temper or anxiety, it can change.

But I’ve got to change the way I think. The Bible refers to this as repentance or changing your mind. I can change my mind, and when I do, it changes the way I feel. And when I change the way I feel, it changes the way I act.

So I need to plant in my spiritual nature and watch what amazing fruit God will reap in life.

I shouldn't be misled, I cannot mock the justice of God. I will always harvest what I plant. If I live to satisfy my own sinful nature, I will end up harvesting decay and death from that sinful nature. But if I live to please the Spirit I will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So I should never get tired of doing what is good. For at the right time I will reap a harvest of blessing if I don't give up. Therefore, whenever I have the opportunity, I should do good to everyone, especially to those in the family of faith.

It would be a surprise to plant corn but have pumpkins come up. It's a natural law to harvest what I plant. I'm finding that it's true in other areas as well. Every action has results. If I plant to please my own desires, I'll end up harvesting sorrow and evil. However, if I plant to please God, I'll harvest joy and everlasting life. So today I should consider what kind of seeds I’m planting?

It is discouraging to continue to do right and receive no word of thanks or see no tangible results. But Paul challenged the Galatians and myself, to keep on doing good and to trust God for the results. In due time, I will reap a harvest of blessings.

Every action of mine will have some type of result. Just like the farmer, there will always be a delay in receiving the harvest. Fruit takes time to ripen. Just know that while I’m waiting, God is working. Until then, trust that God is working, even when the fruit is not evident or seen yet. Just leave it to God and let him grow it in his timing.  

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Only One Opinion Matters

In Matthew 5:14 it says, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.” (NLT)

If we’re not sure who we really are, then we can be manipulated and molded by the pressures, problems, and people around usand that leads to stress!

Culture is constantly trying to fit me into its mold. When I’m confused and unclear about my identity, when I don’t really know who I am, it makes me more vulnerable to the culture’s influence. Until I settle in my mind that God loves me unconditionally and that I’m a child of God, I’m going to be prone to stress

Jesus never had any doubts about his identity. In fact, 18 times in Scripture he publicly declared who he was. These are called his “I am” statements, like, I am the Light of the World. I am the Son of God. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I am the Bread of Life. Jesus made it clear that he knew exactly who he was.

In John 8:18, Jesus said, “I testify on my own behalf” (GNT). He didn’t need other people to tell him who he was. He didn’t look to others for validation.

When I depend on other people’s opinions for validation, I won’t be resilient to stress. Because if I don’t know who I am, then other people will decide for me. They’ll force me into a mold, and I’ll get stressed trying to be someone I’m not. I’ll end up pretending and wearing a mask. It will wear me out! This reminds me of Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (NIV)

Jesus knew he was the Light of the World. But he also said the same thing about me: “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14 NLT). I need to realize how special I am. Not because of what other people say but because of what God says. There’s nobody in the world exactly like me.

Can a city on top of a hill be hidden? Its light at night can be seen for miles. If I live for Christ, I will glow like lights, showing others what Christ is like. I hide my light by (1) being quiet when I should speak, (2) going along with the crowd, (3) denying the light, (4) letting sin dim my light, (5) not explaining my light to others, or (6) ignoring the needs of others. I need to be a beacon of truth and not shut my light off from the rest of the world.

I must accept the truth about memy strengths and my limitations and weaknesses. God made me with all of those things, and he has given me everything I need to do his will.

When I accept that, I’ll be secure in my identity and a lot less stressed.