Balm in Gilead

I saw her walking up the sidewalk toward me. I was out with my dog, and I hoped we would move before she ran into us. I didn’t recognize her, at first. She looked sad. There was no smile of greeting or warmth on her face. But I didn’t know her, so I didn’t expect her to be enthusiastic about someone being on the sidewalk with her.

Then I heard a vehicle approaching, so I turned to look. It was a minivan. The driver waved, and I waved in response. Then I noticed the dog in the window. Oh. It was the neighbor a few doors down. And this was their teenage daughter. The family had come looking for her.

She crossed the street and the van’s side door opened. Before she entered the van, I heard the dad’s voice speaking loud and stern. Unsure of what was being said, and being more sure that I didn’t want to overhear the conversation, I turned my back and tried to hurry my dog along. This wasn’t a conversation I needed to hear.

But the van sat there for a few minutes. Hopefully, they were able to work through their differences enough to have a good evening. I guess I’ll never know. But I hope to see the family’s smiling faces as they walk through the neighborhood soon. They seem to be a pleasant family.

Doesn’t every family have their ups and downs every now and then? Your family life may look perfect on social media and to strangers. But what they don’t know may be what’s killing you. 

Just two days later, another teenage girl in my city ran into her house and grabbed a knife. She ran outside and saw one girl knocked to the ground and then began lunging the knife at second girl. Four shots rang out. The attacker’s life was ended by a police officer attempting to save another girl from being stabbed.

Trouble is running rampant in every city and town. Family members are at odds with each other. Neighbors harbor anger and bitterness against each other for no good reason. 

We are living in troubled times.


The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.
Psalm 24:1


The first brothers in the Bible were not alike. They both offered sacrifices to God. One was pleasing. One was not acceptable. So the brother with the unacceptable gift acted out. He was jealous. In his anger, he killed his brother. Cain killed Abel. Imagine being their parents. The first parents on earth suddenly had their family torn apart by an unnecessary act. Suddenly this family that was created by God was torn apart by evil.

Oh. We could say they had it coming, because Adam and Eve ate the fruit in the middle of the garden. The forbidden fruit. And that introduced sin and evil into the world. So we could blame them. Yes, we could. Ever since that day, evil has not stopped. It’s been running rampant throughout history since the moment they took that bite. So we could say Adam and Eve are to blame. And why shouldn’t evil touch their family in a terrible way after what they did to the rest of mankind. That’s what we could say.

But today, there is evil still running rampant all over the place. It’s swirling around us. Amongst us every day. Sometimes we can see the evil happen. Other times, we’re protected from it.

I think of the story of another family in the Bible. Another family with two sons. The younger son wanted his inheritance while his father was still alive. He wanted his inheritance now. So his loving father gave it to him. The son left home and spent all his money in evil ways. And just when he was out of money and hungry, having to eat food he was feeding to the pigs, he remembered his father. He went home. His older brother, in anger and jealousy, asked why they were celebrating his return. Two brothers who were different had different ways of showing loyalty and love to their father. They were both celebrated by their father in spite of their differences. One thought dead was alive. One who had been faithful was angry and confused.

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. Genesis 6:5

Today in this world there is so much evil. It seems that it can’t be overcome, and it seems to be increasing. Words are said in anger. Attitudes go unchecked. Poor decisions are made. Evil intentions are stored in our hearts. It doesn’t have to be that way. But it is, because this world is full of evil and sin. Yes. It’s because Adam and Eve ate that forbidden piece of fruit. That was the start of the downfall of mankind.

Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? Jeremiah 8:22

But there is hope. There is a Savior. There is a way to live above the evil. There is a balm in Gilead who sets the spirit free.

I know the Bible says we are only evil all the time. And yes, we are. But we have choices. We can choose to step around. To step over the evil. We can avoid evil. We can say no. Families are in trouble these days. This world is not safe. This world is unsteady. Even though this world keeps spinning around as was commanded by God in his creation. This earth and everything in it is the Lord’s. All of the people on this earth are the Lord’s. God’s intent was for us to be his and live for him. But because of that first bite from the piece of fruit, things changed. There is no going back to a pure world. But we can strive for purity in our hearts.

The answer is seeking God. Seeking God with all our hearts. Asking for forgiveness for our sins. Living a pure life. Reading and studying the Bible. Praying. Spending time with fellow believers, those who are as hungry to be in a relationship with God as we are. We can’t do it alone. We need each other. We really do need each other. But we need words of encouragement. Words of love. Words of correction. We need to change our attitudes and our intentions. We don’t have to be evil. We can fight the devil. We can say no to his ways and his schemes. We can end relationships with people who are out to hurt us.

We don’t have to buy into the negativity and destruction that’s happening in this world. We can look for truth. We can know truth and stand for truth. But the truth comes from God’s word. We will always find the truth in God’s word. God’s word never changes. God’s love never changes. He wants all of us to be with him in eternity. Let’s make that choice to live pure lives. To live above the fray of evil. We don’t have to get caught up in that web of deceit and lies and anger and hurt and confusion and fear. Yes, I know that life is uncertain. But God isn’t. God is always certain. God is always sure. God never changes. His love for us is eternal. Let’s give our lives to him so we can live with him in eternity. We are his. Let’s live like it.

Shipwreck

It was a trip for the ages. 

Paul was in prison and had requested a trial before Caesar. That meant he must get to Rome, Italy from Caesarea, Israel. What he didn’t know was that he could have been released from prison if he hadn’t asked for a trial with Caesar. But since he asked, he was sent to Rome.

It was to be a long and dangerous trip over treacherous waters.  On the journey, they met with a huge storm. God spoke to Paul time and again on this journey, so he advised the crew on what to do to survive the trip. The storm lasted 14 days. Imagine. 14 days on a wooden ship in a terrible storm in the middle of the sea. There’s nowhere to go. There’s no chance of escape. They must ride out the storm. Will anyone survive?

When God spoke, Paul listened and shared the message he had been given. God told Paul he would survive the trip and stand in front of Caesar. So Paul was calm. He showed no fear. God was with him. God was for him. Not against him.  Paul listened to God and obeyed. His life was spared. He earned a great reputation on that trip. He stayed true to God during the difficult storm. 

They had started the trip with good intentions. The ship was loaded with provisions and trade merchandise for their stops at different ports. They had even tied a lifeboat and pulled it behind the ship. But when the storm arose and never let up, they had to start throwing items overboard. They had to set priorities on what was most important. In the end, they threw out most everything. Then they realized they were close to land, so they decided to run the ship aground. Their bet didn’t work. The ship hit a sand barge and busted up. 

When the boat began to tear apart, the soldiers thought to kill all the prisoners. But no. The commanding officer wanted Paul alive because he spoke with great wisdom and truth.  So the prisoners were spared.

Everyone had to swim to shore with only the wet clothes on their backs. But everyone survived.

They. Lost. Everything. 

For the full story of Paul’s shipwreck, read Acts 27.


In this way, I will show my greatness and holiness, and I will make myself known to all the nations of the world. Then they will know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 38:23


We may think we’re living in tough times. This past year has been a blur, but yet our eyes have been opened wide. Some people have had the worst year of their lives. They’ve lost much, and there seems to be no end in sight. They struggle to make ends meet. Their kids are still schooling from home. Unemployment has dwindled or dried up. Thousands of jobs have been eliminated. Families have lost loved ones and haven’t been able to say goodbye.

In this life, as believers, we will struggle. But we persevere with God’s help. God is bigger and stronger than all our earthly struggles. He will see us through the best and the worst of times. In this storm of life, God is calling us to go deeper into our relationship with him. Let’s not just serve God on the surface. Let’s not just serve God on Sunday mornings. Let’s be faithful to him when we need him most. He will not waver or falter. Let’s hold onto him.

We will go through rough seasons in our lives. We may stand to lose everything. We may face loss of life and/or livelihood. But we will survive.  In the midst of the storms of life, God is still speaking. He is still guiding us. We must listen closely and do as he says. We must toss aside the things of life that are slowing us down. We must shift our focus on staying close to God and and obeying him.

Do you feel as if you’re in the worst storm of your life? Are waves of doubt and fear crashing in all around you? Do you fear you may not survive this storm? Have you had to toss aside all the extra baggage that you’ve clung to for security and pride? Have you prepared for the storm? Have you dug deep into God’s Word and filled up with His goodness and mercy? Are you ready for the storm that’s brewing?

And just maybe. Maybe it’s time to stop and count the number of times that God has been with us through other storms. Let’s slow down and remember God’s goodness. His faithfulness. Oh. We may not come out of the storm in the same shape we entered it. We may not come out unscathed. But we can survive and move forward one more time. Let’s remember that the God who helped us in the past will help us in the present and in the future. He never changes.

If we listen for God’s voice and obey, we will be safe in the storm. Oh. The waves may roll and the winds may blow. But God is faithful and stronger than any storm we face. We live in confidence of better things to come. We live in the knowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. We don’t have to suffer in shame. We know that on the day of resurrection, Jesus Christ will receive us into his glory. Let’s live with that bold grace and confidence.

This could be your time. That breakthrough could be tomorrow, or it could be next year. But, you have the opportunity to turn however you’re being tested into a testimony. So many heroes were wounded deeply before they were used greatly!

Tim Tebow

Peace in Tough Times

These days are tough times for many people.  Some are afraid to leave their homes.  Others are now homeschooling their kids. People have lost their jobs.  Numbers are going up. Numbers are going down. Patience is running thin. Some are wondering when this craziness will ever end.

Someone in my family was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgery is being scheduled. Another family member has family members who were impacted by the explosion in Beirut. They are safe for the moment, but daily provisions are uncertain. Another family member is recovering from major surgery and doing well with her daily physical therapy.  And she’s seven years old.

There are people who are coping with this pandemic crisis by drinking daily. When that wasn’t a normal thing for them. They’re trying to cope with the unexpected changes in life. Because life isn’t going so well this year.

There are businesses that had great plans for the future but now find themselves in bankruptcy.  There are families who find they can no longer meet their monthly payments.  There are people who qualified for unemployment benefits but haven’t received a check. 

Oh. These are troubled times. 

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.

Zora Neale Hurston

There is a presidential election in less than three months.  The results could send this country and the world into even more chaos. Regardless of who wins. It’s a wait and see kind of year. Everyone is holding their breath and can’t seem to exhale.


And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Colossians 3:15


These are indeed troubled times. 

Sports seasons have been canceled. School semesters have moved online. Church services are streaming live. High school seniors feel their senior year has been stolen from them.

People are searching like they have never searched before. But what are they looking for?

Peace. Freedom. Calm. Structure. Contentment. Understanding. Patience. Relief. Normal.

People want their lives to be normal again. But what does that even look like anymore? Are we looking at a new normal that we just keep fighting?

Have you found what you’re looking for yet? Are you looking in the right place? Do you that know peace can be found?

Did you know that peace is a gift from God? And he is the source of all peace.

What does the peace that comes from Christ even look like? What does that mean?

Imagine if we lived in a world where peace reigned instead of chaos and confusion. Imagine the life we could have. I have to ask myself. Does peace rule every one of my relationships? Do I think peace before striking the first blow of revenge? Or slinging the first word of accusation and judgment? Does the thought of peace guide my conversations and actions? Does peace rule my emotions?

Oh, troubled soul. Peace is a command that God speaks to us. We are called to live in peace with each other. Peace can only be commonplace if it comes from Christ. Nothing else gives lasting peace. Nothing. If we can’t find peace in these troubled days, then we’re looking for peace in all the wrong places.

Because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. Philippians 4:7

Yes. These are troubled times. But peace is possible in the midst of the storm. Spend time with God. Actually, open the Bible and read God’s word. Let it saturate your heart and mind. Trust God. Don’t just say you trust God. Actually let go of your need to control everything and let God do his job. Oh. It isn’t easy. But it is possible. God will give peace in difficult times. He may not do everything the way we want, but His will and ways are perfect. So let’s trust him. And dare to see what happens in our hearts. Even when life isn’t perfect.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Tough Times

Tough times don’t last. But sometimes they do.  What happens then? Are you willing to tough it out? Or will you give up and run in the other direction? But what if God says stay put. You’re right where I want you. You have no reason to run. I’ve allowed for this season to fall on you. And I’ll lift it when the time comes. Until then, trust me.

I mean. Look at Job. His trials lasted for years. And he lost everything. Family. Home. Wealth. He had nothing but his wife and friends who gave him bad advice. Yet his faith in God never wavered. He never turned his back on God. Oh. He questioned why terrible things were happening. And he wondered when they would end. But he kept his eyes on God.

Do you actually trust God? Or do you trust yourself? Are your words always perfectly timed? Are your actions trustworthy? Are your motives pure? You aren’t God. And you know it. So stop acting as if you are.

The God who created the earth in seven days can soothe your aching heart. The God who closed the mouths of the lions can close the mouths of those who speak insults against you. The God who healed the blind man and the lame man can make you whole again. The God who opened barren wombs can heal your broken body. The God who removed the evil spirits from the beggar can heal your anxiety and fears. The God who has taken can also provide.

But what if he doesn’t? What if your enemies continue to speak falsely against you? What if your situation is never made whole? What if your broken body doesn’t mend? What if your anxious thoughts never calm? What if your ship never comes in? What if your tough time becomes a way of life?


The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. 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. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. Psalms 23:1-6


She has an upcoming medical procedure. Uncertainty looms. Outcome to be determined. Fear. Anxiety. What ifs. Unknowns. Life has been good. But now. What if it isn’t? Can her faith hold her through an uncertain future? Will God be enough for her if the diagnosis is disturbing?

Someone else has had a diagnosis. A diagnosis that’s unfamiliar. Yet vaguely relieving. So now she knows what she faces. But others may view her with uncertainty. If they knew. Now she must face a path of healing that will be hard. It will take hard consistent work to regain what was lost. Can she walk that path and do the work necessary to find freedom and wholeness? Can she trust God when at times it has felt that he was far away?

Is God enough if he is all you have? When life throws a curve ball. When authorities make decisions that change the course of your life. When there’s no turning back. Is God enough for you?

God isn’t an emergency room to visit only during a crisis. God is an everyday celebration. A giver of life and a taker of it. He rules the universe. We live at his command. Only thing is. Some people don’t bow down to him. They run or stumble through life on their own power, just to find at the end, they’re lost. They’ve lived lost and it’s too late to be found. It’s only too late once the last breath has been taken. And then eternity has begun and there’s no going back. No. Going. Back.

God is enough. Even during the tough times. Even when all hope seems lost. Even when life has permanently changed. When there’s no going back. When future plans are forever altered. God’s love is still true. God’s plan is still perfect. He will see you through.