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

You may like: Speak Faith

Steep Mountain Road

Practical Faith

In the opening paragraphs of 2nd Corinthians, the Apostle Paul tells us something surprising. Here’s what he wrote:

8 We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die.” 

2 Corinthians 1:8–9a NLT

Practical Faith

We would have lost much of the New Testament if Paul had died. But God brought them through what appeared to Paul and his companions as certain death. We may be tempted to discount Paul’s statement since he is an Apostle, but we would miss God’s message for us. We find God’s intent in the following verses.

9 But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again.” 

11 “And you are helping us by praying for us.” 

2 Corinthians 1:9b–11 NLT

Paul found God to be reliable. This is practical faith. It’s easy for us to pray and trust God to help the orphans in Syria, but when it comes to our life-or-death situations, we quickly find out how well we’ve learned to trust God for immediate and practical matters. 

My Telephone Poll Story

Once, when I was a missionary in Eastern Europe, I was in the back seat of a very old Mercedes Benz full of people. The driver had little experience driving, but he decided to drive up a small mountain to get a telephone pole-sized log.

We strapped it to the roof of his car. As I sat down in the backseat, I had a bad feeling about this adventure. The Holy Spirit often prepares me for bad situations. Oh, I forgot to tell you the car had a manual shift (stick shift) transmission. Our driver started the car and immediately began going backward – he put the car in reverse – and he didn’t stop!

As the car sped faster and faster in reverse, we passengers began yelling instructions. Our frantic instructions accomplished one thing; the car stalled. This might have been good, but the driver held down the clutch while trying to start the vehicle.

So, as we free-wheeled down the side of a mountain, backward, with a telephone pole strapped to the roof and passengers screaming in multiple languages, my trust in God didn’t waiver; the driver was another matter!

We had picked up quite a bit of speed as we rapidly approached a jam-packed highway. Oh, the road was on the side of a high mountain. The lane we needed to end up in was the one that would take us down the mountain to a small village at the bottom. 

It was as if we were in a 1930s Laural and Hardy movie. Cars were whizzing down the highway while we bumped and bounced toward it. And just like in the film, a gap opened right when we sprung upon the pavement. Thankfully, the driver steered us, so the front of the car pointed down the mountain.

Praying for Others

Sitting in a dead car on a busy highway is not the time to learn how to pray. It’s time to pray. We made it to the village – that’s another story – and we all lived to tell our versions of what happened.

For me, the most important verse in today’s Scripture is verse eleven: “And you are helping us by praying for us.” Praying is very practical; it is based on practical faith. When we pray for the orphans in Syria, God hears us, and with the measure of faith we have, He measures out His help. You see, God answers our prayers, no matter how small or far away the need is. So when it comes to practical faith, remember this verse:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippians 4:6

Photo by Henry Lo on Unsplash

You may like: 

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

You may like: Spiritual Sweat

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

You may like: The Seasons of God

Bicycle Vintage Bike Old Retro Style Hipster

Foolish Confidence

When I was a kid, one of my uncles had a large farm in central Indiana. I always enjoyed our visits there, partly because of the terrain. When we reached the turn-off to his home, we were confronted by a one-car (wagon) wide path that was quite long. The fun part was that the path started at the top of a large hill and immediately went down, like one of those thrill rides at a county fair! At the bottom was my aunt and uncle’s home and barn.

The Family Reunion

One summer day my aunt and uncle hosted a family reunion at their farm. While the menfolk waited for the reunion feast (this was a long time ago) they played horseshoes and all of the cousins played in the lush grass at the bottom of the hill. At some point, one of the cousins suggested that we ride bicycles down the side of the hill – every kid is crazy, some just hide it better than others.

The idea was to go a little way up the hill and then fly down on the bicycles! This sounded fun since the long grass made for difficult peddling. There were two or three bicycles so more than one kid could go at the same time.

Going Down the Hill

I was among the youngest of the cousins, not counting babies. Still, even at six or seven, I knew I could do this despite having not yet learned to ride a bicycle – silly rabbit. So, when it came to my turn, I took the bicycle all the way to the top of the hill. I was going to have the ride of my life! I nearly did.

I felt no fear. When I walked the bicycle to the top of the hill I pointed the bike towards the bottom, jumped on, and pedaled (as if I wouldn’t have enough speed from gravity). Down I went, fast and faster. Quickly I couldn’t keep up with the rotation of the pedals. Then the handlebars started wobbling. Finally, about halfway down, I flipped. The bike was riding me down the hill!

When I reached the bottom of the hill I was a beat-up little kid. No significant injuries. but the bike had “taken the starch out” of me. That was the day I learned about foolish confidence.

Foolish Confidence

As I was reading my Bible today I came across this passage:

“This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
yet after them people approve of their boasts.”

Psalms 49:13

How many times have we heard people boast about how they will live after they die. I heard a song by Willie Nelson called, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” There is no doubt that Willie has great talent and seems to be a down-to-earth guy, but the message of this song is foolish confidence.

My point is not to pick on Willie Nelson. Instead, my point is that we need to be on guard against foolish confidence. “Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.'” (1 Corinthians 1:31) And, let’s not forget “The Seven Sons of Sceva.”

In Acts 19:11-20, Luke records an event where seven unsaved sons of a Jewish priest tried to cast a demon out of a man using the name of Jesus. It didn’t go well. The demon told the son, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” After that, things rapidly went downhill for the sons of Sceva.

Good News

For Christians, we are called to walk in faith, share the Good News of Jesus with everyone, and learn the voice of the Holy Spirit. If we do these things then we will act in faithful confidence instead of foolish confidence.

You may like: Trustworthy Words

Hands Hand Folds Woman Finger Work Together Pray

Pray in Faith

As Christians, we have faith for salvation, and we often pray in faith for the needs of others and for our welfare. Our prayers are sincere and grounded in our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Yet, it has been my observation that many use “according to God’s will” as an excuse for God not answering their prayers, instead of recognizing God’s will as a way of bolstering our faith in God for our request.

Jesus gave us His name to use when we bring our requests to the Father. “In that day you will ask nothing of me [Jesus]. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.John 16:23 This is not a “name it and claim it” promise. Jesus is giving His believers a new way to pray to deal with the new relationship believers now have with God and to deal with the new challenges that came with the birth and growth of the Church. Still, Jesus gave us a more intimate relationship with the Father.

God is Reliable

“God… calleth those things which be not as though they were. (Romans 4:17) When we pray, we should not confine our prayers within boxes of existing facts and conditions. No matter the size of our problem, God’s power to deal with it is greater. And God never forgets anything, including our prayers. We may forget that which we cried out to God, but He hasn’t.

Our God is reliable. Consider these two verses:

  • “…the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” Revelation 13:8
  • And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. Mark 15:24

The word “slain” means “kill (a person or animal) in a violent way.” No matter what you believe about how long creation has existed before that Jesus was already the Lamb of God that was violently killed. Since God calls things that are not before were, Jesus was called “slain” eons (the longest portions of geologic time) before the physical act of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Good News

Just as God had said, so God’s declaration was fulfilled. My hope is that in this brief Bible study, we see that we are to pray, trusting in the reliability of God’s relationship with us. That God is not constrained and what God declares will be accomplished. Our Savior deeply desires for us to use our faith. When Jesus spoke about His return from heaven back to earth, He said, “…Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:8

The good news that we see in these verses is that we need to pray in faith. God doesn’t need or want us to tell Him how to answer our request. We should not doubt when we use the name of Jesus in our requests to the Father. Jesus wants us to live by faith. And we shouldn’t use “God’s will” as an excuse for lack of faith. God answers in His time and in His way. We need not apologize for God or doubt God. We simply need to make our requests known to the Father, pray in faith by the Name of Jesus, and rest in God, who calls things that are not as though they were.

Image by Jenny Friedrichs from Pixabay

You may like: Sloppy Prayers

picture of a Bible

The All of God

Have you ever noticed how often the word ‘all’ is found in the Bible? I was reading Psalm 31 this morning and noticed the ‘alls.’ It made me curious, so I did a quick search. There are 4,638 Bible results for “all” from the English Standard Version of the Bible. That seems like a lot, so I began thinking of places in Scripture where my life depends on God’s all.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26

Reliability From “All”

In the book of John, there are 49 “alls”. For example, concerning Jesus, “All things were made through him” (John 1:3)” and “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) If we jump over to the book of Romans we see, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) and “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14) In 2 Corinthians 1:3, we see that God is the “God of all comfort.In 1 Peter 5:10 we learn that God is “the God of all grace.” 

From the ‘all’ of God, we find reliability. We rarely talk about God’s reliability, but it is the reason we can trust the Father, receive Jesus, and walk in the Spirit. God is not arbitrary. He doesn’t change. Neither time nor circumstances can change God, for He is sovereign. The “alls” of God is great news for us!

Good News

How could we have an intimate relationship with God if we couldn’t trust Him? That doesn’t work for people, and it doesn’t work for faith in Jesus Christ. God is “all in” for His creation. He is “all in” for you. So, because of the ‘all’ of God, we can trust Him, rest in Him, and be confident that He will resurrect us. For God is “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:10) I would call all of that good news!

Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

You may like: All Truth

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

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

You may like: God of the Quiet

steam engine with conductor

The Little Train That Wouldn't

We are all probably familiar with the children’s story of “The Little Train that Could.” It’s the perfect story for young kids, and the moral of the story is exceptional – you can’t overcome unless you try. When you try, it may seem impossible, but ignoring the crowd and pressing on, you can overcome difficulties. 

As I said, it’s a great story. But have you heard the story of the little train that wouldn’t? There’s a good message in this story, too.

The Little Trains

The air that morning was crisp, so Mr. Conductor pulled on his denim jacket over his striped blue overalls. Putting on his conductor’s hat, he cocked it ever so slightly to the right and then walked out of the train station. Mr. Conductor ambled over to the switchyard early that morning. The train tracks looked so bright and shiny because of their daily use. On today’s crisp, sunshiny day, the polished tracks looked like silver ribbons scattered across the switchyard. They made Mr. Conductor very happy.

All the little trains were polished and repaired the night before. All were ready for service, and all were on their own train tracks. All were in the same excellent condition. Mr. Conductor looked them over, and they made his heart feel good. He loved these trains.

When the trains saw Mr. Conductor, they each cranked up their engines and tooted their horns. They were excited to begin the day’s assignments. Mr. Conductor read out loud the train schedule so each little train knew the part they would play in making their customers happy and Mr. Conductor proud of them.

The train engines Juan, Amy, and Jimmy each heard their names as Mr. Conductor read off the day’s schedule. The little engines were eager to get started. Juan had a hefty load to deliver to Awesome Creek. Amy had a load that would easily break, so she would need to use all of her skills to make her delivery to Fine’n Dandy. And Jimmy was given just one rail car to pull. It was small and would be easy to deliver to Master’s Crossing.

The Little Trains Begin Their Adventures

Mr. Conductor was careful to get each train engine connected to their rail cars. Stepping back, Mr. Conductor was filled with pride for each of the train engines. Looking at his pocket watch, he saw it was time for them to get started, so he changed the signal on the railroad tracks to “Go.” Juan immediately groaned under his heavy load, but he knew Mr. Conductor wouldn’t give him more than he could pull, so Juan tugged and pulled, and soon he was heading down the tracks.

Next, Amy began her journey. Amy had to be very careful as she started pulling her fragile load. Slow and steady was the only way she would be able to deliver her cargo unbroken, but she wasn’t worried. She, too, knew that Mr. Conductor would never ask more of her than she could endure. So, ever so slowly, Amy began her journey.

By this time, Mr. Conductor had walked back to the train station. He hadn’t stood outside watching the little trains because he trusted them and he knew they each had received the best assignment for them.

When Mr. Conductor sat down in his office chair and looked out of his office window, he was concerned. Juan and Amy were already out of sight, but Jimmy hadn’t moved at all! Mr. Conductor hurried out of his office to the railroad track that Jimmy the little Engine was quietly sitting on.

Trouble In The Trainyard

“Jimmy,” Mr. Conductor called out, “why haven’t you started your trip to Master’s Crossing? You’re going to be late and disappoint the mayor and townspeople.” Jimmy huffed and blew out a massive blast of steam, but he didn’t say anything. 

Mr. Conductor asked again, “Jimmy, why aren’t you going to Master’s Crossing?” Jimmy replied. “Mr. Conductor, I don’t think I can, and I don’t want to get in trouble with you. If I pull this load, I may not get to Master’s Crossing on time, or something in my cargo might get broken.” 

Mr. Conductor was sad. He said, “Jimmy, you’ve made me sad because you don’t trust me to take care of you. You know I gave you this assignment because I know what you can do. Why would you doubt me?”

Jimmy, the little train engine, was sad because he knew Mr. Conductor was right. Mr. Conductor called out to Jake, the engineer, and some trainmen to disconnect the rail car from Jimmy and connect it to the little train engine, Raj. Then Mr. Conductor asked Jake, the engineer, to please park Jimmy back in the rail yard. Jimmy would miss out on his adventure today because he wouldn’t trust Mr. Conductor.

Matthew 25:29 (ESV) – The parable of the talents
For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Photo by Claud Richmond on Unsplash

You may like:

Science is not God

I was reading a prayer that Martin Luther King Jr. prayed. That man could pray. In his prayer, he prayed:

We are mindful, O God, that man cannot save himself, for man is not the measure of things and humanity is not God. Bound by our chains we know we need a Savior. We thank thee, oh God, for the spiritual nature of man. We are in nature but we live above nature.

One of the myriad things that trouble me is the idea that science is above God. If given a choice between trust in science or trust in God, I think most people in Europe and America would choose science. Not Martin Luther King Jr., though, because science is the study of nature, but man is above nature for he has a spiritual nature.

However, the message of God’s desire and intent to reconcile humanity back to Himself is consistent, clear, and coherent, and cohesive from Genesis all the way through the Book of Revelation, spanning thousands of years.

I closely follow science on my other blog, National Tech Front, and only theoretical scientists speak in absolutes (those are the Sheldon’s of the world). The scientists that work in the applied sciences nearly always couch their comments in “should,” “perhaps,” “maybe,” and “expected.” They understand that humanity knows almost nothing about God’s Creation. 

A quick example of the instability of science can be found in the study of DNA. Nearly all scientists have (had) reached the point where DNA was old science, that was until 3D VR of DNA (“Step inside your DNA”). Oops,  genes are also turned on and off by physical interaction between specific parts of DNA. Well, that wasn’t expected!

However, the message of God’s desire and intent to reconcile humanity back to Himself is consistent, clear, coherent, and cohesive from Genesis all the way through the Book of Revelation, spanning thousands of years. So, who should we place our faith in? Should it be science with its instability or “Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26:4 NIV)

“I think we often don’t trust God because we measure Him with the yardstick of man.” – G.W. Moore 

Photo by Bruno Aguirre on Unsplash and Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

You may like:

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: