Shelter from the storm.

My wife loves the snow. She was born in Wisconsin, so sub-zero temperatures are nothing to her. I’m a fan of snow myself, but until I met her, the idea of cross country skiing during a snow storm in -40 degree weather never appealed to me. While that may sound crazy to some, it was one of the most memorable experiences we’ve ever had as a couple.

However, sometimes, rather than plunging into the storm head-on, you need to find shelter from it. Psalm 9:9-10 (NLT) gives an example of the shelter that God provides. “The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.”

It can be difficult when you’re in the middle of a storm to see God’s hand in it, but believe me when I tell you, that He is present. Even when we’re struggling to find the reason, He is there. Remember that God is sovereign, and He sees and knows everything that you’re dealing with.

Another one of David’s psalms speaks to the Lord being our shelter. Psalm 36:7 (NLT) says, “How precious is you unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.” That word all means exactly what it says. Everyone who believes in God can find shelter from the storms in their lives.

Psalm 61:1-4 (NLT) reads, “O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings.” If you’re struggling to find shelter from the storm, turn to God, for He is always there.


Keep reading.

Do you know what John 3:17 says? How about Romans 8:29? We’ve heard Philippians 4:6 (NLT) which reads, “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” But what about Philippians 4:7? Any idea what that verse says?

One of our problems when reading and reciting the Scriptures is that we stop short of what a particular passage truly means or says. Everyone, even those who don’t study the Bible have some idea what John 3:16 (NKJV) says; “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begottenĀ Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

That’s a wonderful verse of Scripture that offers a fantastic promise and hope. But don’t miss what follows in John 3:17 (NLT), “God sent his son into the world not to judge the world but to save the world through him.” While verse 17 doesn’t change the message of John 3:16, it certainly adds context.

We talked earlier about Philippians 4:6, but let’s look at Philippians 4:7 (NLT); “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard you hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Talk about a meaningful verse! I strongly encourage you to read more than just the popular verses of Scripture. While it’s important not to worry and instead be prayerful, knowing that doing so brings us a peace which exceeds anything we can understand makes me want to abandon all worry, tell God what I need, and thank Him for all He’s done.

Don’t be afraid.

It can be a bit confusing sometimes when reading Scripture. We’re told to fear God, but we’re also told not to be afraid. Psalm 23:4 (NLT) reads, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”

However, in Deuteronomy 6:13 (NLT), Moses says, “You must fear the Lord your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name.” So, how are we to fear God yet not be afraid?

There’s a stark difference between being afraid and fearing God. Think of fearing God, not so much as quaking in your boots, but rather a deep adoration and respect. God is so awesome and powerful, that you should bow before Him and offer praise. Fear itself refers to the dread one feels when facing something absolutely terrifying.

When a fierce storm threatened to sink the disciples and their boat, Jesus displayed His power and reassured His followers that they had nothing to fear. Matthew 8:26-27 says, ‘Jesus responded, “Why are you so afraid? You have so little faith.” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?’ they asked. Even the winds and waves obey him?”‘

Fear is a natural human response when you’re faced with terror, danger, or an impossible situation. We’re afraid of sickness, poverty, and even death. But, do you remember what the angel said to the shepherds in Luke 2:10 (NLT)? ‘The angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.”‘ When you walk with God, there’s no need to be afraid.

One bad apple.

One bad apple spoils the bunch. How many times did you hear that from the mouths of your parents while you were growing up? How many times did you scoff at it only to look back now and think, “Wow, they were right.” God’s Word offers similar counsel.

Proverbs is a great section of Scripture to find truth, discernment, and wisdom. So many verses throughout the book speak to the contrasting lives of those who are wise and those who are foolish. One such verse is Proverbs 13:20 (NLT) that reads, “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get into trouble.”

The older I get, the more I find this Proverb to be 100% accurate. We don’t like to feel alone. We want to belong. The problem is, sometimes, we want to belong so badly that we set aside what we know to be right and follow those who will lead us down the wrong path. That’s a dangerous road to pursue, especially if that path is absent of God.

Deuteronomy 6:5-6 (NLT) tells us, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.” This is a call to action. We’re told to turn away from the things of this world and love God. That’s difficult to do if you associate with fools.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NLT), “Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for bad company corrupts good character.” If you’re walking with someone who doesn’t know the Lord, use caution. While we’re called to be witnesses for Christ, be sure to keep your feet on solid ground and don’t be tempted to run with fools.

Are you a people-pleaser?

Oh boy! This one will certainly be convicting for me. Yes, I admit it, I’m a people-pleaser. I don’t like conflict. I want everyone to get along. There are times I sacrifice my better judgment so as to avoid a confrontation. It’s oftentimes very hard for me to say no, and I feel uncomfortable when I know someone is angry with me.

Sound like you? The apostle Paul says that if we’re to serve Jesus Christ, we need not concern ourselves with pleasing others. In Galatians 1:10 (NLT), Paul writes, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

As Christians, we’re called to speak the truth. The truth is God’s Word. We’re not to sugarcoat it or tickle someone’s ear with a message that omits the truth. We’re to boldly proclaim the truth that is written within the pages of Scripture. The hard thing for a people-pleaser to understand is that by doing so, not everyone is going to like you.

Remember what Jesus said in John 15:18-19 (NLT). “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”

Jesus chose you. Now that’s an encouraging thought. Seeing as how we were chosen by the risen Savior, perhaps it’s time for you and I to stop trying to please people and start pleasing God.

Stop trusting yourself.

Do you ever find yourself lost, searching for answers? Sure you do, we all do. Here’s the bigger question; do you try to find those answers on your own or do you trust in God to give you the answers? That’s tough, right?

We struggle more often than not to allow God to solve our problems because we’ve become convinced in our advanced day and age that we can solve everything on our own. Everything has become easy and convenient. So much so, that we now assume every problem can be solved with the click of a button or the downloading of a new app to our phone.

The problem with that type of thinking is that we lose sight of God’s power when we consistently act as though we can solve everything through our own power. How wrong we are. Romans 11:33-36 (NLT) tells us of God’s sovereign power:

“Oh how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.”

Stop trusting yourself and starting trusting God. He is the best source for truth, wisdom, knowledge, and strength. Proverbs 16:9 (NLT) says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

Be strong and very courageous.

The first several verses of Joshua 1 are some of my favorite in all the Bible. After the death of Moses, God passes the baton to Joshua. It was his charge to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River into the land that God had given them. In Joshua 1:7 (NLT), God tells Joshua to, “Be strong and very courageous.”

The Israelites had just lost their leader, Moses. Deuteronomy 34:8 (NLT) tells us that, “The people of Israel mourned for Moses on the plains of Moab for thirty days, until the customary period of mourning was over.” We’ve all been there, right? We lose something or someone of great importance and go through a period of mourning.

However, at some point, it’s time stop mourning and start living. And when I speak of living, I’m not speaking of living for ourselves, but living for God. It’s not uncommon for people to see or read this section of Scripture and stop right there.

Let’s read Joshua 1:7 (NLT) again, but let’s finish the entire verse. ” Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in all that you do.” So, not only is it important to be strong and courageous, but we must follow the instructions God has given to us.

Let’s read just a little further into the Book of Joshua. Verses 8 and 9 of chapter 1 (NLT) read, “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

What an encouraging thought. Pick up a copy of the Bible daily. It has the power to change your life. Read, pray, and obey! Only then will you have the courage to stand tall.

When, not if.

Sometimes it’s not a question of if, but when. This is no more clearly spelled out than in the Book of James. If you’ve never read James, I urge you to do so. It’s one of my favorites in all of the Bible. However, I must warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart. The Book of James is very heavy and very convicting.

James 1:2 (NLT) reads, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” You probably have to do a double-take after reading that sentence, huh? How in the world can troubles be a joyful occasion?

The next verse tells you, “For you know when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” James is basically saying that when, not if, but when troubles come your way, consider it a joyful experience for God is testing you in order to shape you into the person he desires you to be. God is putting us to the test, hoping we’ve learned to rely on Him rather than ourselves.

Do you rely on God or do you rely on yourself? When trouble comes, do you try to overcome it through prayer and obedience or through your own power? It’s okay, you can answer honestly. There are many times that I’ve tried to “fix” the problem on my own as well. However, the Bible tells me to turn my attention to God and allow him to fix it.

James 1:4 (NLT) goes on to say, “So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” I told you it was heavy. James is saying there will be adversity, pain, struggles, and loss. It’s done, not as punishment, but to shape you into the person that God desires you to be. And when He’s done, you will be perfect in God’s eyes.

May love be your highest goal.

I had the privilege this past year of marrying my best friend. There were certainly some touch-and-go moments as we were preparing for a destination wedding amid a global pandemic, but we made it work and everything was perfect. However, something really stuck with me during the ceremony.

As is the case at many weddings, our pastor cited 1 Corinthians 13, a chapter of Scripture that focuses on love. We’ve all heard it, right? 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 (NLT) says, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable and keeps no record of being wronged.”

While all that is true, our pastor cited the following chapter as well; 1 Corinthians 14:1 reads, “Let love be your highest goal!” Whoa! That’s good, right? Those six words have stuck with me from that day, and I’ve tried to put that into practice regularly. I’m a very goal-oriented person, but I’d never thought about making love a goal in my life.

The Apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 4:8 (NLT), “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” Another verse of Scripture from 1 John 4:7-8 (NLT) says, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Jesus said in John 13:34-35 (NLT), “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Let’s go show the world that we are followers of Jesus Christ. May love be your highest goal today, tomorrow, and beyond.

Don’t let it control you.

Sin is a word we’d rather not speak of in today’s society. I think of it oftentimes like Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter…”He Who Must Not Be Named.” However, we cannot just ignore it, for the Bible tells us in Genesis 4:7 (NLT) that “Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you.”

That’s an eerie thought, isn’t it? But how true it is. We don’t like to admit it, but we have a deep-seated sinful nature that dates all the way back the Garden of Eden. Ever since Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, sin has existed in the world.

Despite our desire to do good, acting in the flesh, we’re powerless to control the sin in our lives. That sinful nature lives in us, and as Paul says in Romans 7 (NLT), “…because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” But, there’s good news, and it’s found in the next chapter of Romans.

Romans 8:3 (NLT) reads, “The Law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent His own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.”

A few lines later, Paul tells us how to cast off the shackles of sin. Romans 8:6 (NLT) says, “So letting your sinful nature control your life leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” Allow the Spirit to guide your steps so that you may walk in peace.