The God of Much More

by Sue Likkel

Amaziah asked the man of God, “But what about all that silver I paid to hire the army of Israel?” The man of God replied, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”  2 Chronicles 25:9 NLT

Somewhere between being a naturally frugal person and struggling with financial fear, I sit snuggly. Not deviating from those two spaces, I weigh purchases carefully—sometimes with trepidation. Growing up, I wasn’t poor, but I remember things being tight and the anxiety it caused my parents.

Our third child’s birth necessitated my taking time off work, and at the same time, a job opportunity came for my husband that he couldn’t pass up. However, this meant our checking account was dangerously low for years. I watched my spending even more closely, and many times the Lord provided just what we needed on the very day we needed it.

During that time, my gas tank was once on fumes and I didn’t know where the money was going to come from to fill it, but then I was asked to make something for someone who was willing to pay more than it was worth. (My gas tank was filled because of a quiche that day.) Many times, my debit card was declined at the grocery store, yet we never were without food. Sometimes a friend just showed up with gallons of milk. Thankfully my kids could wear hand-me-downs from relatives, and my boys were blissfully unaware of the brand of shoes they wore.

I can relate to Amaziah having spent lots of money but getting no return. Seems a reasonable question to ask: What about the money I spent? But the response is so beautiful: You have no idea how much more God can give you.

In my lean years, I often visualized an enormous heavenly warehouse. The floor of the warehouse had a huge trapdoor and frequently God would rain down material needs. I saw it in real time, not just with me but with others, too. He is a God of bounty.

I admit that every once in a while, I forget that visual. It’s true that I don’t always need to “get.” The Lord knows when a “no” is the best answer, but He also knows that I think too small most of the time. He is able to give “much more” than I expect.

Authors and speakers encourage us to dream big! It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s awfully scary, isn’t it? I mean, what if we fail? Or we’re rejected? Maybe these things will happen, but God has our back there, too. Mostly, we think too small, and God is wanting to give us the world.

A lovely image has floated around the Internet for years. A little boy is clutching his teddy bear, face down, saddened that the man kneeling in front of him wants to take it. But we can see this is Jesus, and behind His back is a bigger, newer teddy bear, one of great value.

Jesus stretches out His hand to us, too. He has something wonderful for us, if only we’ll trust that what we are clutching isn’t all He has in store for us. Maybe it’s not raining teddy bears, but certainly, whatever it is that we’re clinging to, He wants to give us much more.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Sue Likkel is a reader, writer, speaker, and teacher. A lover of words, she has spent decades in the classroom teaching English to middle and high schoolers. A child of God, she’s humbled and grateful for all He has done for her, like guiding her through challenges and blessing her with rich experiences. Native to Michigan but residing most of her life in the Pacific Northwest, she enjoys both the beaches and mountains with her husband, kids, and grandkids.

Join the conversation: What can you turn over to the Lord, so He can do exceedingly more than we can think to ask?

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Writing Our Own Michtam

by Terri Gillespie

In a day when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. Psalm 56:4 TLV

Today’s verse is categorized by David as a michtam. In Hebrew, a michtam is a special type of psalm. The word is only used 6 times by David and generally recounts his scariest experiences, where his life was in immediate peril and only a miraculous intervention by God could save him.

That oh-so-important context truly deepens the meaning of today’s verse. David shares how he felt when captured by the Philistines — his old enemies. Even in his fear, David goes back to what he knows. Worship. This reminds us of a simple, but important truth.

We can cower in our fear and be paralyzed or take those fears to our Heavenly Father. Maybe it’s time to shed our need-to-appear-holy masks and be real. 

No matter what our circumstances, our Father isn’t intimidated by our emotions — He gave them to us. He just wants us to bring them to Him and not try to hide them. Joy. Fear. Anger. Doubt. Pain.

You have recorded my wanderings. You put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book? (Psalm 56:9 TLV)

Abba knows we are dust (Psalm 103:14), He knows everything that causes us pain. I think sometimes, we try to hide our pain because we think God will be disappointed in us. Or people will think our faith is weak. We aren’t strong enough. Didn’t have enough faith. Or GOD isn’t strong enough.

David lays it all out there: expresses the pain and doubt and anger. Then, what does he do? He goes back to what he knows. His vows (vs. 13) and his experiences of God’s deliverance in the past (vs. 14), so that he can say — in his pain and fear — these words:

In God—I keep praising His word—in God I trust, I will not fear. What can mere flesh do to me? (v. 5)

He repeats this statement of faith later (v. 10-12), with more enthusiasm.

I wonder. Since most of us aren’t being chased by Philistines or threatened by real giants, what would our michtam look like? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I’m being chased by a hoard of troubles. Can we take that fear and uncertainty and turn it into worship? Write our own michtam?

I am afraid and feel abandoned by those around me, Abba! They taunt me, and it makes me angry. I feel betrayed. There’s nothing I can do! Yet there is! God, I praise You! I trust You! So, I don’t have to fear. Flesh can torment me, but my spirit is Yours for eternity.” –a Michtam of Terri, when she was afraid of the pain in her body and the disappointment of others.

Let’s not be captured by the scary “giant” but take our fear and pain to our Heavenly Father, turning it to worship. At least, let’s try. And keep trying. Because the more we try, the easier it will be to pause and “write” our michtam.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Award-winning author and speaker, Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, messages, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, because of His Son Jesus. Her newest novel, Sweet Rivalry, released in October. https://authorterrigillespie.com/terri-gillespie-books/sweet-rivalry/

Sweet Rivalry is the story of twins separated by a troubled mother. One twin is lovingly raised by her grandmother who owns a small-town bakery. The other sister is raised by an addict mother. They discover one another through a televised baking competition. But will rivalry break them apart again?

Join the conversation: Can you try writing a psalm or michtam of your own today? I would be honored if you will share it.

Snakes, Pumpkins, Porches, and Fig Trees

by Patti Richter

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24 NIV

Porches want pumpkins in autumn, no matter the temperatures. In the South, without much color in the trees in early fall, we depend on pumpkins and chrysanthemums to announce the season.

I’m a fair-weather gardener, so it takes a fine October day to bring out the ounce of Martha Stewart in me. It was just that kind of balmy weather when I grabbed my old metal bucket and filled it with essentials: garden shears, watering pitcher, and fertilizer. But a strange notion stopped me short of the front door:  There’s a snake on the porch.

My well-worn garden clogs stood waiting for my feet to move.

I don’t like snakes, even the harmless, beneficial ones. But I hadn’t seen one for a long time, and I’d never seen one on my front porch, so why would I think there was a snake there now?

I pushed aside the gauzy window curtain next to the front door. All clear. Even so, I felt uneasy. I parked the bucket right there and resumed household chores instead.

Later, I peeked out the curtain again—nothing but pumpkins. As I reached for my bucket, the compelling thought returned: There’s a snake on the porch.

Perplexed, I went to sit down on the left end of the den sofa—my regular place of prayer. “Lord, this is so strange,” I said. “Are you warning me about a snake?”

An unexpected “answer” came as I suddenly recalled my last snake sighting—many months before. I’d been standing on the back patio with our terrier, Rufus, when he practically flew down the steps and into some Nandina bushes. Then, a long snake darted out of the bushes and into the yard, with Rufus searching frantically along its path. As I watched—knees knocking—I realized that old “snake in the grass” saying was true. The serpent remained perfectly still and hidden before suddenly racing toward the fence and slithering beneath it to the neighbor’s yard.

For days after that encounter, I’d been afraid to cross the yard to tend my flower garden. Finally, I sat on a patio step and prayed: “Lord, I want to work in my garden. Could you please keep me from coming upon a snake?”

Now, sitting on the sofa, I realized I’d forgotten all about that snake prayer. I lingered there a while, amazed at a God who not only hears us but answers our smallest prayers—even the ones we forget about!

The apostle John shared the story of Nathanael, a would-be disciple of Jesus, who wondered how Jesus knew all about him. “’How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel’” (John 1:48, 49 NIV).

Like Nathanael, we may underestimate the Lord’s knowledge of our every move and our every word. We may be surprised or shocked to realize he answers our prayers—especially those little ones that seem too small for him to care about.

With such a loving God, why should we fear snakes or anything else?   

On that October day, I finally went to retrieve my bucket, peered through the curtain again, and opened the front door cautiously—only a few inches. But I was just in time to see a rather cute little snake glide out from behind a pumpkin and harmlessly away.

This article brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.

Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: With what fears do you struggle?

Kick Evil to the Curb

by Ronda Wells

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12 KJV

After the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, I became a hypervigilant news junkie, glued to the screen for every update. Having two school-aged children, my anxiety grew. I found relief when police began to wander the halls of their schools.

Two years later, 9/11 happened. I had walked into the hospital surgical waiting room to support a friend during her mom’s surgery and wondered why everyone was huddled around the TV. Then, along with millions around the world, I watched as the second plane hit the other tower, and as each tower fell.

One woman in the waiting room never looked up nor said a word. She knitted the entire time, seemingly oblivious to the disaster in view ten feet away. She never acknowledged it. I couldn’t believe her total lack of emotional response; and I judged her for it.

Mass shootings have become part of our collective consciousness as a country, a national PTSD of sorts. Every time one has happened, I have watched in anger, frustration, helplessness, and anxiety. And now that I have a young grandson, I wonder: What if it had been his elementary school?

Of course, I know God is in control. Of course, God is not the author of evil—we are, following our nature corrupted in the Garden. Of course, Satan is behind it all.

But then came the attack on schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas. After a pandemic that took a terrible toll on us yet again. And I’d had enough.

I prayed for the victims and their families. I prayed for the family of the shooter. I prayed Jesus would again say, “It is finished” and descend through the heavens to end all this madness. Then I turned off the TV.

I realized all along I had been giving shooters and terrorists exactly what they wanted—my attention. I was also giving Satan what he wanted, too. I fell victim to his spirit of oppression after terrible evil happens in this world.

I’ve changed my mind about the lady who knitted through 9/11. For all I know, she was praying silently the entire time. She surely heard the news; but perhaps she recognized there was nothing she could do at that moment. She may have focused on her immediate concern for someone in surgery. Maybe she had the right focus.

We can’t control terrorists and sociopaths, but we can control our responses.

Will I still do what I can to spread the good news of the gospel? Certainly. Will I work for peace and health among those whose lives I touch? Absolutely. But from now on I will ban from my life any fear surrounding such evil events.

I urge everyone to put evil in its place and kick it to the curb—out of your life. The next time a mass casualty occurs, I will turn off the TV, pray to God Almighty, donate where I’m led, and move forward with my life.

Jesus already won our fight against Satan by dying on that cross. Our most powerful weapons are faith and prayer. Will you join me?

Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NASB

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the Author: Doctor by day, writer by night, Dr. Ronda Wells is an award-winning author who has written inspirational fiction for over twenty-five years. She has helped numerous other Christian writers with creating authentic medical scenes for their books. A lifelong Hoosier, Ronda is a wife, mother and grandmother who lives in Mooresville, Indiana, and loves to travel. She writes fiction and non-fiction stories that illustrate extraordinary faith among the conflicts of ordinary life. Her contemporary inspirational novel, Harvest of Hope, is currently under consideration with a publisher. Visit her website to read a bonus chapter at www.rondawellsbooks.com or connect with her via Linktree at https://linktr.ee/rondawellsbooks.

Join the conversation: How do you deal with the tragedies that have become all too common in the news?

The Desert: Where Peril Meets Peace

by Sandi Banks

Did you know there are people who actually love the desert? My dear friend Susie is one of them, and she was determined to turn this mountain-stream girl into a desert-lover. She invited me on a grand adventure—a day in the Arizona desert.

Stepping out of her Volkswagen bug, Susie and I began our trek across the barren wasteland. As I gagged and dragged my body through the dry, dusty air, I envisioned ravenous vultures circling overhead. (This does happen. I’ve seen it in the movies.)

I tried putting on the proverbial rose-colored glasses, but no amount of positive thinking could hide the prickly, parched, and colorless surroundings.

“Honestly, Susie, everywhere I look I see … well … brown.”

“Ah … but consider all the shades of brown,” she countered.

I could do that. Milk chocolate. Dark chocolate. Fudge Dreamsicles.

Okay, so brown can be good. But when it accompanies the blistering, cracked, harsh and hostile? Not to mention the slithering, scaly and scorching? I don’t think so.

Being an optimist by nature, surely, I’d find some redeeming feature, right? Something living among the dead? A tiny rose amid the thorns?

No sooner had I pondered these questions than a jumping cholla cactus latched onto my hand and, within seconds, thrust its fish-hook-like barbs into my skin. The harder we tried to remove it, the deeper it dug. We had to leave our grand adventure in the dust to seek help.

Alas, the desert was not for me. Or was it?

Years later, as I began a deeper dive into the Bible, I gained a new perspective on the desert, and its relationship to God and His people.

I learned that the Hebrew word for desert is the same basic word for speak. I discovered how often God spoke to His servants in the stillness and desolation of a desert to give them a greater vision of Himself or the work He had for them to do. And I marveled at the goodness of God toward His wayward children in the desert.

Moses’ song in Deuteronomy 32:10, 11 (NLT; bold added) reminded them and reminds us:

            He found them in a desert land, in an empty, howling wasteland. He surrounded them and watched over them;             he guarded them as his most precious possession. Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them in and carried them aloft on his pinions.

What a beautiful picture of their Father God, shielding them like a loving shepherd, guarding them as the apple of His eye, and protecting them like a mother eagle through the perilous desert. The Lord alone guided them. And He alone guides us today.

We may be in our own kind of “desert” right now: confined to a prison of fear or failure; suffering the devastation of a broken heart or broken home; grieving painful losses; struggling with shame or forgiveness; facing “impossible” circumstances. But no matter where we are or how we got there, God is with us. He cares. He guides. He encircles us—not like a vulture we fear, but like an eagle we trust.

I wonder. What if we were to invite our loving Shepherd into our desert, and trust Him to lead us through the barren wasteland, and to an oasis of His healing, refreshment, contentment … and life?  

I believe we could all learn to love the desert as we keep our hand in His and allow our God of Peace to guide us, especially through the prickly parts.

[From] A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah:  You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Sandi Banks is an author and devotional writer for numerous publishing houses. As a storyteller, she draws upon her years of ministry and travel in 40 countries, living abroad, leading Bible studies, and hosting Summit Ministries’ worldview conferences. Her passion is bringing the hope of Christ to hurting women through writing, speaking, and mentoring. Find her at sandibanks.com

Join the conversation: What have you learned from God in the ‘desert’?

Praising God in the Dental Chair

by Heather Norman Smith

Please help me, Lord, I prayed. Please make this easy.

My dentist visits are times of fervent prayer. During even the simplest of procedures, I almost always end up crying from anxiety, at least a little, and it seemed the recent visit to fill two cavities would be no different. As the dentist came at me with the needle, I prayed harder in my mind. Please help me get through this. My prayer was desperate, pleading.

Then something life-changing happened. The dentist poked the needle into my gum, and I stopped praying. I quit begging God to help me. Instead, I began to thank God for being so good. I changed my prayers into praises, and the panic lifted—it dissolved and floated toward the heavens with my words of adoration. It was the most painless injection of Novocain ever. So, I kept praising, right through the drilling, and the result was nothing short of miraculous.     

You are magnificent, marvelous, wonderful, worthy. Magnificent, marvelous, wonderful, worthy. Over and over, I offered those words silently. At some point, I remember thanking God for a good dentist who could fix my teeth.

In a gentle voice, the dentist encouraged, “You’re doing good,” as he worked. He always says that because he’s kind and genuinely empathetic about my anxiety. But for the first time, I actually felt like I was doing okay. Not just getting by. Not just managing. I was good. 

A verse rang in my mind. “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1b KJV). Though the praises weren’t actually coming from my mouth—a little hard to do when your teeth are being drilled—they were there in my heart, thanks to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, Who knew what I needed to do. God had heard my original request to make the visit easy, and He used my praises to accomplish it.  
  
I’ve visited the dentist a lot over the past year, since I finally decided to prioritize oral health over my fear, and I’ve still got a few visits left to get all the problems corrected. But if I can just remember my “secret weapon,” I don’t think I’ll dread the next appointment quite so much. Now to try praising the Lord in an elevator… 
 
What makes you panic? What causes you distress? Maybe praise is your answer, too. 

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Heather Norman Smith is an author of Christian Fiction set in her home state of North Carolina. Her goal is to entertain and encourage while illuminating the redemptive love of God. Learn more about her work at www.heathernormansmith.com and her Amazon author page.

Join the conversation: What brings on anxiety for you? How do you manage it?

Stalked by a Mountain Lion

by Linda Evans Shepherd

One summer afternoon, I found myself hiking up a mountain road alone. My young husband and friend had run ahead to secure a spot for our tents in an upper mountain valley. Paul assured me that he would return shortly.

But as the shadows stretched, I begin to worry. Where was my husband? Why hadn’t he come back for me? Had something happened to Him? At first, I was mad that he left me alone in the wilderness. But after a few hours ticked past, my anger melted into fear.

That’s when the lengthening shadows taunted me with the growl of a mountain lion, hidden in the boulders a few yards above me.

I knew I couldn’t outrun the beast, and any attempt I made to flee would tempt him to believe I was easy prey. So I did the only thing I could: I continued walking with my hands above my head, trying to look like a large, scary creature. Even though I was dizzy with fear, I added a deep growling yell to let the cat know my creature persona was not to be messed with.

At my sound, the mountain lion stopped growling, and I kept moving forward, hiking with hands up as though I was a bear. But where was my husband?

I soon found myself surrounded by darkness in a grove of trees and I was too tired to go on.  I had no idea if the lion was still stalking me and my husband still nowhere to be found.

I sat down, leaning against a tree.

That’s when someone call my name!  “Linda?” I had made it to the edge of basecamp, where I found my husband doubled over with altitude sickness, too sick to hike back down the trail to search for me. Our friend had recovered enough from this same illness to find me.

As I think about this story, I can’t help but compare it to what we are going through today. We clearly understand the dangers around us; wars, rumors of war, sky high gas prices, inflation at the grocery store, and dips in the stock market. 

Fear growls at us at every turn.  And we can’t help but wonder, Where’s Jesus?  Isn’t our bridegroom coming back to rescue us? Is He leaving us to face the darkness alone? 

In times like these we should lift our hands above our heads and use our voice to sing praises to God. As we resist the enemy in this way, he will not devour us but will flee.

Even when the darkness blinds us, God’s presence is with us. And one day, we’ll be with Him forever. In the meantime, it’s time to replace the batteries in our flashlights, because we don’t know how long this dark night will be. When His light is with us, we can always see our way to take our next step in the growing shadows.

“Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour.”  I Peter 5:8 GW

About the author: Linda Evans Shepherd is the author of 38 books, including her latest, Prayers for Every Need, and is the publisher of Arise Daily and Leading Hearts magazine. She’s the CEO of Right to the Heart Ministries.

Join the conversation: How are you handling all the fears of this decade?

Walk in Wisdom

by Shirley Mozena

Lord, what fools these mortals be!  Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. Proverbs 28:26 NIV

I’m a reader. I love the printed word and can’t get enough of it. When I want to escape into another world, I pick up a novel. Sometimes I read one more than once if the writer is good. One book, I always return to is—you guessed it, the Bible. There is much richness and comfort in those ancient words.

It seems to me our world is going crazy. Every day, something new is taking place. What you believed would never happen, happens. Sometimes, I get afraid. Will our country last? Will we be safe? Then I get on my knees and ask God to give me strength. I ask God to give me wisdom. I ask God to help me not to fear.

Do you ever get in a crowd and wonder if you will get out? How about a traffic jam? Do you feel that you will be there forever? I imagine that’s how Jesus felt when He was constantly pressed on from every side.

While studying the book of Mark with a friend, we read about the incident where Jesus calmed the storm after a long day among crowds. He and the disciples went out onto the lake to get away. As they traveled, Jesus lay back and took a nap. He was God, but also human, and He was tired! But then a storm came up and “nearly swamped” the boat. The disciples, who as fishermen were very familiar with boats and water, were very afraid and woke up Jesus. And even though they had witnessed many of Jesus’ miracles, He now did something astounding that terrified them in another way.

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:39-40 NIV).

Can you imagine this? I know about being in a boat and being scared by waves. I’ve crossed the Columbia River Bar, entered the ocean in a small boat and felt fear. The waves were sometimes enormous and seemed like they would crash right into our boat. But the boat just rose up on the swell and came down on the other side.

The disciples were afraid too, but the rough water did not scare them as much as the power of Jesus’ words. They now understood He had power over nature. I believe they realized, yet again, Who was with them.

God.

Wow! Does that bring you back to our world like it did me? The wild waves of crazy leadership. Despots desiring more power? Lies everywhere? It brings me back to Proverbs 28:26 (NIV), which tells us “Those who trust in themselves are fools…”

Last night, I was disconcerted. Restless. I couldn’t put my finger on my emotions. I guess I’ll admit it: I was afraid. Afraid for my country. For our world. For the powerless against the powerful. And then, I reflected on the story of Jesus stopping the storm. I prayed for strength. For more belief in my unbelief. And for my fears to be banished.

Lord Jesus, help me to not fear. To remember Who is in control of our world. Who is never afraid. Who controls the wind and waves. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shirley Quiring Mozena is a writer, blogger, and national speaker for Stonecroft. She has written three books, Second Chances, Beyond Second Chances: Heartbreak to Joyand recently published, Second Chance at Love: Navigating the Path to RemarriageHer work has appeared in newspapers and magazines.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with fear?

Walk in Wisdom

by Shirley Mozena

Lord, what fools these mortals be!  Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. Proverbs 28:26 NIV

I’m a reader. I love the printed word and can’t get enough of it. When I want to escape into another world, I pick up a novel. Sometimes I read one more than once if the writer is good. One book, I always return to is—you guessed it, the Bible. There is much richness and comfort in those ancient words.

It seems to me our world is going crazy. Every day, something new is taking place. What you believed would never happen, happens. Sometimes, I get afraid. Will our country last? Will we be safe? Then I get on my knees and ask God to give me strength. I ask God to give me wisdom. I ask God to help me not to fear.

Do you ever get in a crowd and wonder if you will get out? How about a traffic jam? Do you feel that you will be there forever? I imagine that’s how Jesus felt when He was constantly pressed on every side.

As I studied the book of Mark with a friend, we read about the incident where Jesus calms the storm after a long day among crowds, so He and the disciples went out onto the lake to get away. The story goes on that Jesus lay back and took a nap. He was God, but also human, and He was tired! But then a storm came up and “nearly swamped” the boat. The disciples, who as fishermen were very familiar with boats and water, were very afraid and woke up Jesus. And even though they had witnessed many of Jesus’ miracles, He now did something astounding that terrified them in another way.

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:39-40 NIV).

Can you imagine this? I’ve been in a boat and was scared by the waves. I’ve crossed the Columbia River Bar, entered the ocean in a small boat and felt fear. The waves were sometimes enormous and seemed like they would crash right into our boat. But the boat just rose up on the swell and came down on the other side.

The disciples were afraid too, but the rough water did not scare them as much as the power of Jesus’ words. The fact that He had power over nature. I believe they realized, yet again, Who was with them. God.

Wow! Does that bring you back to our world like it did me? The wild waves of crazy leadership. Despots desiring more power? Lies everywhere? It brings me back to Proverbs 28:26 (NIV), “Those who trust in themselves are fools…”

Last night, I was disconcerted. Restless. I couldn’t put my finger on my emotions. I’ll admit it: I was afraid. Afraid for my country. For our world. For the powerless against the powerful. And then, I reflected on the story of Jesus stopping the storm. I prayed for strength. For more belief in my unbelief. And for my fears to be banished.

Lord Jesus, help me to not fear. To remember Who is in control of our world. Who is never afraid. Who controls the wind and waves. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shirley Quiring Mozena is a writer, blogger, and national speaker for Stonecroft. She has written three books, Second Chances, Beyond Second Chances: Heartbreak to Joyand recently published, Second Chance at Love: Navigating the Path to RemarriageHer work has appeared in newspapers and magazines.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with fear?

The Fight

by Fran Caffey Sandin

For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 ESV

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? How do they work out for you?

January initiates a fresh year, an opportunity for setting goals, and making changes. Unfortunately, my resolutions only last a few days. So, I make plans and take one day at a time, keeping in mind that God is with me, helping me to be flexible and aware of the needs of others while working toward personal goals.  

The book of Nehemiah describes how, following captivity and wanderings, the children of Israel returned to Jerusalem. Having viewed the destruction, and inspired by God, Nehemiah challenged the people to rebuild the broken walls and the gates destroyed by fire. The people responded favorably and replied, “Let us rise up and build” (Neh. 2:18 ESV). They began the good work, looking to the future.

But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah, the Ammonite, and Geshem, the Arab, heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed them. Nehemiah responded to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper” (Neh. 2:20 ESV).

This was an opportunity to start something new, but already opposition had arisen against the enormous project as, one by one, the gates were being replaced and the stone wall gradually gained height. When Sanballat heard about their continuing progress, he was furious and doubted the Jews could restore the wall from all the rubble. Tobiah joined in the mocking.

Meanwhile, the priests and men were working with all their hearts, but Sanballat and Tobiah plotted together to cause trouble and fight against Jerusalem. These enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work” (Neh. 4:11 ESV).

When that news reached Nehemiah, he expressed faith to his workers, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (Neh. 4:14 ESV). He had stationed some families with their swords, spears, and bows at the most vulnerable areas of the wall. Aware of the constant danger, Nehemiah ordered half of the men to do the work and the other half to protect them with their swords and weapons. Each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. The wall was completed in 52 days.

Victorious God! When the enemies saw what happened, they were afraid and lost their confidence.

As believers in Jesus Christ, our sword, the sword of the Spirit, is the Word of God, the Holy Bible. Our adversary, the devil, Satan, is a liar, deceiver, and makes plans for our destruction. Jesus used the Word of God to defy the devil’s schemes (Matthew 4: 1-11), and so can we.

We see the evil around us, but we fight for our families, our children, our brothers, sisters, our homes. Let us learn from Nehemiah and face adversity by expressing faith in Almighty God. We can use our spiritual sword, His Word, to defeat the evil one whose goal is to discourage and silence us. Let us stand firm in 2022. Now that’s a resolution worth making!

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Fran is a retired nurse, organist, mother, and grandmother living in Greenville, Texas. She has authored See You Later, Jeffrey, Touching the Clouds, and has contributed to thirty books. She and her husband, Jim, have traveled to many countries and states. Her latest book, HOPE on the Way, Devotions to Go— contains 52 devotionals for those who love to combine faith and adventure. HOPE on the Way was acknowledged for outstanding Christian Literature both in the Devotional and Christian Living sections by Joy and Company in Arlington, Texas. Visit Fran’s website at www.fransandin.com.

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