The Citadel of Aleppo, located in Syria, is considered the oldest fort still in existence. It is situated on a mound where people have lived since about 3,000 B.C. Throughout the history of humanity, people have built forts for protection from their enemies and wild animals.

Many forts were protected for a while, but nearly all eventually fell, leaving their owners beaten, killed, and stripped of their property. But this is not the case for those of us who have entered the fort of God.

But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.

Psalm 59:16

I think, as Christians, we understand that God is our hope and our salvation, but do we “leave money on the table?” Do we receive only some of God’s provision and fail to glean all of His promises that He has made available to us? Do we understand God as a fort where we can enter and find refuge?

Are we distressed? Do we feel as the apostle Paul did?

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

2 Corinthians 4:8–12

We must take refuge in God’s fort when hard times come, and they will come for each of us. And where is HIs fortress? It is in Jesus, our Lord, the Holy Spirit who lives in us, and our attentive Father who is ready to hear and answer our requests.

Jesus didn’t fold up God’s fortress and take it with Him when He ascended back into heaven. Jesus asked His Father to send us the Holy Spirit, and He did! God’s fort and refuge are still here, still ready. It has never been overthrown and never will be. Do you need relief? Then enter Jesus, for He is the Rock of our salvation (Psalm 62:6). He is our fortress and refuge.

Memorino, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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rain on a car wibdshield

Rain Clouds

Ecclesiastes 11:1 is a famous verse. It’s one of those verses that has become part of the American narrative and has spawned at least one Christian song. The verse states: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.

The meaning of this verse is a challenge – it’s not talking about soggy bread. Generally, it is interpreted: “The passage as a whole communicates the principle of doing as much good as you can, knowing two things: the results are in God’s hands, and you don’t know when you yourself will be in need of someone else’s generosity.[1]

However, today, I would like us to consider Ecceleasties 11:3–4:

3 If the clouds are full of rain,
they empty themselves on the earth,
and if a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
4 He who observes the wind will not sow,
and he who regards the clouds will not reap.

Now you may say, “Gary, I don’t get it.” Well, there is a nugget of wisdom here that is of critical importance right now. Right now, the world appears to be a scary place.

Get On With It

If you observe the wind and regard the clouds, if you watch the news and listen to your neighbors, their fears and warnings of uncertain times can paralyze your thinking and easily give you an excuse to do nothing, and that is not how Christians are called to live.

Remember Christ’s parable of the house built on sand and the house built on the rock (Matthew 7:24–27)? The rock is a “type” for Jesus. Jesus is our rock. The rain (v3: clouds are full of rain) will not overcome us, rather, we are the overcomers.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 5:2–4

Listen to the Holy Spirit, pray, talk with faithful believers, and, with prudence, do the work Jesus has called you to. Don’t let “weather forecasts” prevent you from doing God’s will. “Don’t let him [Jesus] find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. (Mark 13:34-36 NLT)” You can hear the song “Cast Your Bread On the Water” here:

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

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Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay


Worry and Fear

A Fish Story

I once was fishing with another guy when his hook snagged me while casting. It stuck right in me, and pain exploded when he dropped his pole to “help” me. As I face today, I have some needs and many desires. All of these have snagged me like fishing hooks.

Worry About Worry and Fear about Fear

When I pray, do I allow thoughts and feelings that deny God’s provisions? Fear that our government will fail. Fear that my income will become worth-less due to inflation. Worry about a church that God laid on my heart. Worry about a former pastor that fell into sin. Worry about how much longer my car will last. Worry about worry, and fear about fear. How can I be this way!?

You see, in a much less important way, I am acting like the Apostle Peter when he got out of the boat and walked on water. But, seeing the storm, he began to sink. My condition is not life or death, but my concerns are: Can I just rest in Jesus? Can I write more? Am I being redundant? Am I a good teacher:

He [Jesus] said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.

Matthew 13:52

Good News

Jesus is my friend that sticks closer than a brother. He mediates for me to Father God. And my Father gave me the Spirit of God to live in me. Jesus has made sure that I am fully equipped and have an open line to Almighty God. I have access to anything I need to do the will of God. It’s all at my disposal. And by faith, I can receive it. Therefore, I lack nothing.

I know my concerns are foolish. My good news is that the Spirit of God is helping me. He adds to my groanings and delivers to God articulate, faith-filled prayers from me. I know because my mind is being transformed and less cluttered, and my faith is being rejuvenated. This old man is still strong in my spirit; my faith in God has not wavered. And, guess what, the same is available to you!

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

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downtown sign saying "expect delays"

Every Delay is a Good Delay

Can you call your mayor’s personal phone number? What about your governor’s private number? Can you give Vladimir Putin a call? My guess is that your answer is “no” to all three of these questions. How amazing is it that we can’t talk to children of Adam and subject to God’s will, but we can talk to God, Himself!

When my wife and I were missionaries in Eastern Europe, we quickly learned to live with delays. And, when anyone told us, “No problem!” we knew it would be a big problem, and that seemed to happen daily! Slowly, through these delays, we learned that delays were often very good. We learned that how we saw our problems and needs disagreed with God’s intent.

When we finally realized that delays were good, we began saying, “Every delay is a good delay.” This phrase has become part of our family’s lingo. At the heart of most delays, we can find God applying the brakes on our requests. Sometimes, God allows delays for reasons only He knows. We see this in the life of Daniel when he was visited by an angel:

12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia,

Daniel 10:12-13

There are some “I don’t know why” delays, but God is sovereign, so His will is never compromised. When we experience a delay, we can rest in our trust in God. God is not playing with us as we do with cats. I once had a cat named Max. I’d exercise him with a laser pointer. He never could catch the red spot on the floor because it wasn’t real. That’s not God’s relationship with any of His children. If God delays an answer, then that delay is good. We know this is good because Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18) Therefore, whatever God does is good.

“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”

Psalms 31:24

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group of kids walking

Walking in Christ Jesus

I’m still reading through Deuteronomy and learning so much. Today, I started in Deuteronomy 12. The first verse read:

“These are the statutes and rules that you shall be careful to do in the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth.


The books of Moses are filled with warnings. If we jump ahead, we find: “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 14:21)

Living Every Moment

I think that we don’t fully understand how important it is to live every moment in obedience to Almighty God. These warnings – we also find them in the New Testament – are not from a mean, cruel God. They are born out of God’s love for us. Do you doubt that? (Read this, it may shock you.)

25 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.

Deuteronomy 14:24–27

Does that sound like a cruel god? No! God’s continual warnings are like a parent that is teaching their child how to drive a car. “Oh, slow down! Easy on the brake. Watch out, you’re going to hit that mailbox!!!!” As followers of Jesus, we must listen to the Holy Spirit or we will hit that mailbox.

We Don’t See Reality

We see with the eyes of Adam; we rarely, if ever, see what really is happening. There’s an account in 2 Kings 6:16–20 when the bad guys, king of Aram, decided he were going kill Elisha. So, he gathered his troops and surrounded the city where Elisha was. Elisha’s servant woke up early in the morning and looking outside the city walls saw the town surrounded by every modern weapon of the day. He was terrified!

On the other hand, when Elisha looked out towards the bad guys, he gave them no mind. The servant was now terrified and confused. So, God allowed Elisha to do something supernatural. Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened to see the true reality.

17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

2 Kings 6:17

What Elisha’s servant saw is the true reality and the in which we live moment by moment. Jesus said, “*If you love me, you will keep my commands.” He didn’t say that as a cruel taskmaster. He said that as Lord of our lives. He sees what we don’t. Being God, Jesus sees the end from the beginning. His words tell us that He knows that we are but dust, yet He loves us so much that He suffered shame, beatings, abandonment, torture, pain, and death. Why?

Good News

Because Jesus sees what really is going on; we don’t. We are like the blind leading the blind. So, when we read God’s commands, warnings, punishments, and statutes that leave no wiggle room, let’s remember that we really have no idea what we are facing, but Jesus does.

Jesus asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit to His followers that we would have supernatural help; help from Almighty God. So, the next time you or I want to complain to Jesus, “Why is it that things are ok for others, but withheld from us?” Let’s just skip that and thank Him for leading us through this life that is mostly hidden from us.

Today, I pray for you:
24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.” ’
Numbers 6:24–26


Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

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broken folding ruler

A Lesson from a Broken Ruler

This picture is of Dad’s folding ruler. It’s designed so each section snaps into place as sections are folded or unfolded. As a kid, I was always fascinated by this device. And as I matured, I used this tool when helping Dad. One warning Dad always assailed me with was, “Don’t flex it or it will break;” then one day I broke it. It was an accident, but I certainly knew that if I flexed it, it would break; and break it did.

Dad didn’t get angry, though the flame started. He rarely ever got angry, and he never lost his temper. Still, he’d had that tool for at least forty years before his son broke it. Being a child of the Great Depression, he kept the tool and continued to use it. Eventually, I inherited it. I love this tool.

If Dad told me once, he told me a thousand times to not bend the ruler. One day I did and it broke. It’s been broken for fifty years. From this sad event, I learned that a thousand warnings can be undone by a single mistake. And once it’s broken it stays broken. This is the way trust is.

All the times we are trustworthy may never be remembered but break someone’s trust once, and he or she will never forget it. And, like this old folding ruler, it stays broken. Oh, the folding ruler could be mended, but the scar would remain.

Likewise, the injured party may forgive, may reconcile, maybe even trust us again. Paul’s trust in the disciple Mark was restored (2 Timothy 4:11). But broken trust is never forgotten; at best, it leaves a scar. It’s always the quiet one in every room we enter.

Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

Matthew 24:42

We should seek Jesus and receive His salvation. We should seek forgiveness for any trust we break. Amen.

Photo by me 😀

pic of a young lamb

Trusting Jesus

Now God tucked away a tiny little phrase in the book of Jeremiah that will become immense within anyone that pauses to absorb what He said. Here’s the verse:
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD…” – Jeremiah 17:7

Did you catch that? The phrase, whose trust IS the LORD.” How profound is that?! God is so meticulous with His glory (Isaiah 42:8) that even the trust we use to trust in Him, He gives us! Let me say that a different way.

God wants to bless His children, so He blesses us when we put our trust in Him. And the actual “trust” we use IS the LORD; it’s not even our trust. Therefore, two marvelous facts can be seen from this simple truth. We need never fear that we are unable to trust God because He is our “trust.”

1. We need never fear that our trust is insufficient, weak, or lacking for our need because it’s not our trust.

2. God, Himself, is in whom we trust, and our trust, itself, is the LORD.

In and By

This truth of God being in and by something can be found in everything. This is truth because Jesus is preeminent in everything:

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”

Colossians 1:16-18

Trusting Jesus

Jesus doesn’t want us to worry about our ability to trust Him and He doesn’t intend for us to struggle to trust Him. What He wants is for us to trust Him, regardless of what happens in life. It really is just that simple.

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

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man facing music stand with music book guide inside building


For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.Romans 12:4

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.Colossians 3:16

Rhythm and Syncopation

These preliminaries settled, he did not care to put off any longer the execution of his design, urged on to it by the thought of all the world was losing by his delay, seeing what wrongs he intended to right, grievances to redress, injustices to repair, abuses to remove, and duties to discharge.

For some, birthdays, ours and others, create an annual rhythm. Bills and doctor visits may be a syncopation for some. School classes, school breaks, school beginnings, and endings create rhythms that reverberate throughout our nation. Sunday church, Wednesday prayer, monthly small groups have traditionally formed a comforting and strengthening cadence for us.

There are rhythms more complex within each of us than any hip-hop song could express, for deep within each Christian lives the Holy Spirit, our metronome: He defines our meter and changes it to syncopate with all within the Church, the Bride of Christ. The chorus of the Church that our heavenly Father hears is like the London Philharmonic Orchestra tuning and preparing for a concert. Even within the midst of perceived chaos, beauty, and anticipation are felt by the performers and the hosts of heaven.

Jesus, our Conductor

Soon, Jesus, our Conductor, will take the stage, will look at His Church, bringing all the Church into unity, strength, and elegance. Then he will take the podium. A quiet will roll throughout heaven, and Christ Jesus, our Lord, will present His Bride to His Father.

For most people in America, the familiar rhythms of our lives are in shambles this year. We have waxed nostalgic toward even rhythms that previously we saw as annoyances. This year’s IRS tax season changed. Our daily commutes to work changed. Visits from cranky in-laws may have dwindled. Indeed, 2020 has been a year of abrupt disruptions, leaving us to struggle to find new rhythms and rhythms that don’t come naturally.

One of the many mysteries of music is that a strong voice, be it human or an instrument, can break through discord and mold the individual voices into a unified melody, harmony, rhythm, and meter, causing the musical score to sail to astonishing heights.

Trusting the Conductor

Many rhythms live in our lives. Their confluence creates a familiar song for each of us and all of us. Let’s look forward, trusting that the Conductor knows what He’s doing. Rest in Him, and we shall be part of the most beautiful concert ever presented to God in heaven and His heavenly host.

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a small pond surrounded by trees

You Need a Log

In the wilderness of Shur, the Israelites had no water. At Marah, they had water, but it was bitter (poisonous); so that they could not drink it. 

We find this account in Exodus 15:23-25 (ESV): When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

God Leads us to Bitter Waters

There’s a great lesson (probably several) in this brief passage of Scripture. God often leads us to “bitter water,” not to be cruel but to use us for change.

Moses and all of Israel arrived where God led them, but what they found was unsuitable for them or anyone. Immediately all of the Debbie Downers began complaining. Wow, if you’ve ever been in a leadership role of any kind, you know how “helpful” whining and complaining is to solving problems!

We’re There for a Reason

Nevertheless, God put His people there for a reason. And He will do the same for each of us. Why? Because God chooses to use His children to affect change; to transform bitter waters into sweet waters. We are well equipped for these assignments because the Holy Spirit lives within us, and He intends to use us to point people to Jesus.

No, we don’t walk around with blessed logs that we’re to through into bitter situations (there’s a lawsuit). What God does is show us the tool, the instrument of change, the “log” that He has prepared to transform situations, problems, people that are poisonous into something wholesome, healthy, and refreshing.

Don’t Panic

Don’t panic, don’t join the complainers but pray, seek God’s will, ask for the Holy Spirit to show you the “log” that is needed and then act in faith and watch God work. When once you’ve experienced this, you will desire God to lead you to the next crises; well, maybe not, but you’ll sure be ready!

Photo by Alfred Kenneally on Unsplash 

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It will be okay

It will be okay

It will be okay. I know. I have a bunch of kids. God blessed my wife and me by spacing most of their births apart by several years. But, just for His fun, we finished off our family with unplanned twins. I’m sure God got a big kick out of that! Although I do have to say that the twins were and are a great blessing to our family.

One of my “Dad” sayings is that the teenage years are for parents so when the time comes for their little bundle of joy to leave the nest, the parents say, “Bye!”

I commend you to God and to the word of his grace

Still, parents are concerned when they send their naive child out into this world filled with evil. I’m sure this is how the Apostle Paul felt when he left the church at Ephesus for the last time. Paul called the Ephesian elders to him and taught them. And, in Acts 20:32 (ESV) Paul says, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

A Biblical mechanism is at work in Acts 20:32. Depositum fidei is the Latin term for this mechanism. Our Christian translation for depositum fidei is “substance of faith” or “treasury of revelation.” However, the implication is a bit deeper. Depositum fide stems from an ancient estate and trust law and probably has something to do with “good faith” or “earnest.”

“Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers” states, “Teachers are to “commit” the truth they have received to others (2Timothy 2:2), and the truth so committed is the depositum fidei which they thus hold, as it were, in trust (2Timothy 1:14).” Therefore, Scriptural truth is the “substance of faith” or “treasury of revelation.” This truth from God abides within teachers. And, they hold this “trust” to place, engraft or implant God’s truth in people who are sanctified (i.e., set apart for God).

Quick and Powerful

As for “the word of grace, which is able to build you up” this is undoubtedly the same “word of God, quick and powerful” of Hebrews 4:12.

So, Paul was saying to the Ephesian elders that even though he would not come back to Ephesus. And the Ephesian church was surrounded by evil people with the desire to rip apart their infant church, they would be okay. For, the church had the presence of God, and they had the word of God’s grace which in itself contains life to build up their church and to give them an inheritance in the kingdom of God.

It will be okay. For every Christian child, friend, loved one, or missionary,  that launches out or is left behind, we “should together share the conviction that each of us is safe because God and the ‘word of His grace’ will go and remain with us.” – MacLaren’s Expositions

Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

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