How to live in peace when there’s no escape!

Today’s Reading: Philippians 4:4-9

Key Verse: Philippians 4:9 (NLT)
9  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. 

It’s interesting to me that the Apostle Paul ends the book on the joy of the Gospel by addressing anxiety among believers. Life can be hard sometimes. We can become anxious about our marriage being shaky, our kids going through growing pains, our careers being uncertain, and our finances running out. The truth is, there is no escape from the challenges of life and the effects they can have on us. Anxiety can steal your joy and peace and create unnecessary tension in your life.

Here’s the question: How do we live with joy and peace when there’s no escape from the challenges of life? 

Paul reminds us that we should always rejoice in the presence of the Lord in every circumstance. We should cultivate a praying and grateful heart by thinking about the right things. The wrong things to meditate on are the things that are negative, out of your control, weaknesses, failures and events of the past. The right things to think about are things that are of God; his abiding presence, his unconditional love, his unending strength and power in your life.

Here’s the problem: We stop doing what we know to do when life is good. 

When life is going great we pray less, read his word less, meditate on scripture less and spend less time taking care of ourselves. The result of our inconsistency is a blind-side when something goes wrong.

Here’s the solution: The thing that shapes our lives the most is what we do consistently every day. 

Paul says to keep putting these things into practice. We have to think on the right things consistently, every day. The thoughts you dwell on create your emotions and your emotions determine your actions and how you approach life. The key principle here is to shape your thinking in a way that lines up with God’s word, his character, his presence, his power, and his love for you! But it has to be done consistently – every day!

Keep REACHING FORWARD to God’s best in your life by developing a consistent habit of thinking on the right things. May the God of peace be with you today!

Feel free to share your thoughts.

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Has God been removed from our schools? Really?

WhereisGodI continue to hear and read comments [from professed Christians] about how God has been “removed” from our schools, our Government, the town square and even Christmas! In the wake of the terrible tragedy in Connecticut as well as other school shootings from the past, there are many who have come to the conclusion that God has been removed from our schools, which has resulted in the free reign of evil. There is no doubt that these travesties are evil and innocent people’s lives including children have been cut short on this earth. My heart is deeply saddened and burdened for the families and friends who mourn.

I am also deeply saddened by the number of well-meaning Christians who do not know the character and nature of the God whom they serve. I am appalled that some would think God is bullied around by a law, policy or political agenda. God’s presence is not dependent upon a plaque inscribed with the Ten Commandments or a prayer that’s said at the beginning of a meeting or class. God cannot be pushed around, cast out, or told what to do. We need to get back to the Word of God, engage our faith and stop speaking in error out of our emotions. Here’s the point:

There is no institution on earth that can control the presence or power of God!

God is omnipresent. God is everywhere, plain and simple. God is not so weak that people or governments can tell Him where to be and where not to be. God was here first. Institutions came from God, not the other way around (Rom 13:1).

Where is the presence of God?

  • He is near to all who call on him. (Ps. 145:18)
  • He is near to all who reach out for him. He is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:27)
  • He is where you are. (Ps. 139:9-10)
  • He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Heb 13:5)
  • He is in the valley of the shadow of death. (Ps. 23:4)
  • He is with you when you pass through the waters, the river, and the fire. (Is. 43:2-3)
  • He is present in times of trouble. (Ps. 46:1)
  • He is where two or three are gathered in his name. (Matt 18:20)
  • He is with us always. (Matt 28:20)

Moreover, the Scripture tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, not even angels or “rulers.” (Rom 8:38-39).

The notion that laws or policies enforced by institutions can determine the presence and power of God is ludicrous. The God of the Bible is not weak and limited by the will of man! He is all-powerful; all-knowing; and ever-present!

We don’t have all the answers when faced with situations like school shootings and other tragedies. However, let’s not forget the answers that we DO have. Let’s not minimize the grace and sovereignty of an all-mighty God! Let’s not put him in a box; rather, let’s allow him to rule and reign in our lives as we tell the world of his goodness.

Comments welcome!

Navigating through the fog

In my military days, I was trained during a time when our focus was primarily on jungle warfare. We prepared for battles to be fought on foot in the jungle or dense vegetation as opposed to the desert and mountains of today’s modern battlefield. Navigation in those environments was difficult, but nearly impossible when darkness fell or thick fog rolled in. However, we were trained to navigate through times of limited or no visibility. Often times in Europe, we struggled with darkness throughout the night and dense fog throughout the day that led to extended periods of time with no visibility. Like a pilot who has instruments to help him take off, land and navigate his airplane through the fog, we too had principles that would help us navigate during those blinding periods of time.

I’m amazed at how our lives can be moving along so well and suddenly darkness falls or a dense fog rolls in. Perhaps you have limited visibility right now. We all face these periods in our lives. Sometimes it’s a little foggy and other times it is down right pitch black darkness. Our fog takes on different meanings to different people. Sometimes it’s trying to find vision and direction in life or wisdom for a critical business decision. Other times it might be relationship struggles or depression. Although our fog takes on different meanings, one thing is certain; we will all find ourselves trying to navigate through it, not once, but several times throughout the course of our lives.

How do I navigate through the fog? The principle is this: When you find yourself in the confusion of the darkness or fog, stay close to the things that are sure in your life.

1. Stay close to the plan you had before the fog rolled in. (Note: This can be a life plan, a business plan or a vision plan) Sometimes the plan needs to change, but more often than not there are other factors causing the confusion rather than the plan itself. In other words, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Review the plan carefully and discern whether or not the plan has taken your eyes off of the vision. If the plan is leading in the wrong direction it needs to change. However, if the plan points to the overall vision then stay on course. Something else is happening but you are likely to still be moving in the right direction.

2. Stay close to people that know you well. Withdrawal is NOT the way to “find yourself” in most cases. This is not to say that some time in solitude and meditation is not beneficial; in fact it is. The people that are closest to you know you better than you think. Let them help you navigate the way. They will encourage you and walk with you until the fog begins to clear. This is the time when you need to stop talking and LISTEN for God to speak through the people that have your ear.

3. Stay close to God and His word. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Sometimes it’s our distance from God that creates the fog in the first place. Stay close to God and His word and listen for that still small voice to speak through worship, prayer and meditation on His word. His word is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path.

In the jungle fog and darkness can be a great hindrance, but it can also slow you down enough to keep you from making huge mistakes and inadvertently expose you to the enemy. Don’t fight so hard against the fog. Rather, embrace what’s happening and look for the message God is trying to send you. It could perhaps be the very thing that you need most.

If you stay close to your plan; close to the people who know you well; and, close to God and His word, you can be confident that when the fog clears, you will have navigated your way one step closer to God’s best for your life.

Keep REACHING FORWARD…even in the fog!

Comments welcome.

How to find consistent satisfaction in life.

Most people’s lives are pretty much the same day after day barring a life-altering event such as marriage, divorce, a new job, moving to a new location, and so on. For most of us, however, today is not much different than yesterday. Nevertheless, one day we’re excited about life and ready to conquer the world and the next day we don’t even want to get out of bed. Many of us go through life in sort of an ebb and flow between satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Our lives are inconsistent when it comes to satisfaction, which causes us to seek out that which is missing. The problem is, we never find it. With this in mind, let’s ponder these questions:

  • Why do I feel happy with my life one day and sad the next?
  • Why do I feel good about myself one day and struggle with insecurity the next?
  • Why do I feel confident one day and inadequate the next?
  • Why do I feel loved by others one day and judged by them the next?
  • Why do I feel satisfied in my job one day and question it the next?

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Feelings and ultimately behavior are determined by the tape that is running in our minds.

I am intrigued by the power of the mind. Scripture speaks time and again about the importance of our thoughts. What we think about matters. I’ve learned that in relationships, as well as life in general, that it’s not my circumstances that affects my life most, but what I ‘think’ about my circumstances.

I want to go deeper than mere thoughts. Thoughts in and of themselves will not necessarily effect how you feel. However, the thoughts that you MEDITATE on will not only determine how you feel, but how you behave. One of the Hebrew words in Scripture for meditation means ‘resounding music’. Have you ever had a song stuck in your head that played over and over again? That’s what the word means. I call it the tape that is constantly running in my mind. Everyone is meditating on something.

The reality of our lives is born when the meditations of our hearts come out of our mouths.

The reason we have inconsistency in our contentment toward life is primarily attributed to what we allow ourselves to meditate on. Our hearts follow what we meditate on. Once it is in our hearts it comes out of our mouths and our reality is born. For example, when you constantly meditate on the perfect job, your heart will leave the job you’re in and you will become dissatisfied. You will begin to talk about the perfect job and your reality will be that your current job is no good for you. The same process is true in relationships, areas of insecurity, moral behavior, and many other areas of life. We must replace that running tape with a new one.

How to improve satisfaction is life.

1. Meditate (think on, ponder day and night) on the Word of God. Ensure your meditations and words are pleasing to God. (Joshua 1:8; Ps. 19:14)

2. Meditate on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and worthy of praise, and reject what is not. (Philippians 4:8)

3. Meditate on the will of God not worldly passions. (1 Pet 4:1-2) Meditating on worldly passions will always lead your heart to dissatisfaction and invoke feelings of fear, anger, restlessness, and internal struggle. Instead, meditate and focus on God’s will for your relationships, job, health, etc.

Keep REACHING FORWARD to the satisfaction that can only be found in Jesus Christ. Meditating on Him will lead to a life that gets better each day!