Tag Archives: peace

Fighting the Real Enemy

The friendly snowman in my photo reminds us all to “Stay Safe”.  This has become one of the mantras of our time. For many, the COVID-19 virus is the lurking enemy of their nightmares, exposure to the virus is their worst fear, and a vaccine has become their only hope of salvation.

One of the devil’s classic strategies for keeping humans locked into a cycle of endless strife is to get them fighting the wrong enemy. In the early years of our marriage, Marion and I had our share of marital discord. For a time there seemed to be no way out of this cycle. Thankfully, those years are long gone. We have learned to live in harmony with each other.

One of the keys to peace was the insight that our marriage partner was not the real enemy.  It was our own pride, selfishness and self-will that lay at the root of almost every conflict.

I don’t want to get COVID-19 any more than you do. But I am more concerned about the impact of fear-dominated thinking than about the impact of the virus itself.

No-one wants to suffer needlessly. Avoidance of suffering is a basic survival instinct, and the fear of suffering and death holds great power for many. Yet the New Testament depicts this fear as a form of slavery, and holds out for us the prospect of a life that is no longer ruled by this fear. Jesus willingly entered into suffering to set humanity free.  He overcame the fear of death by looking to the One who could save him from death.

Many see Jesus as an inspiring example. But are we willing not only to admire him but to embrace the cross as He did? His counsel to us who still battle the fear of suffering and death is simple. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.

If we make it our highest goal to save our own life – to stay safe, to avoid pain, to avoid all risk, to somehow escape suffering and death- then there truly is no hope for us. That way is a dead end. We will have a miserable, self-focused, love-starved, fear-addicted life and die defeated, without hope. In the end we will lose our life and inherit eternal death.

If we want to live a life worth living, we must honestly reckon with our fear of death and then overcome that fear by entrusting our lives to the One who overcame death for us. Jesus, the Prince of Life, gives us the power to live by a different standard. Through Him we can overcome our fears, live in hope and continue to walk in love, choosing to serve others and hold out His light in the midst of the gathering darkness of this age.

I don’t especially want to get COVID-19, or pass it on to others. But I have a greater fear than the fear of getting COVID. I don’t want to waste my life. So I will take reasonable precautions to avoid getting sick, but my main focus will be on loving and serving the Lord, and loving and serving others in His name. That’s the only way to live a life that’s worth living – a life ruled by love, not fear – and stay safe for eternity.  It’s the only safety that really counts.

Stay safe – stay close to Jesus.


Nuggets of Hope 27 – Are you listening?


Hey you. I have some things to tell you. Secrets. Things that can help you.  Are you listening? This is really important.


This is a time of many opinions, much commentary, many unknowns and uncertainties, many claims and counter-claims, much fear and anxiety, much suspicion and accusation, much unrest and contention.

In the storm of words, it is a great gift to be able to quiet one’s thoughts by giving our attention to the Holy One.

Before I was born again, I could not do this. I was a young United Church pastor – attempting to be a shepherd to others although I did not yet really know the Good Shepherd. I was driven and anxious much of the time. I wanted peace – wanted it desperately – but I could not think my way into it.

I found that the way to peace was through surrender of my will to Jesus Christ and baptism with the Holy Spirit. Right away my life became much simpler as I no longer felt compelled to solve every problem or come up with a solution for every situation. There was such freedom in not being responsible for everything.

I am very grateful for those who trained me, early on in my walk with Christ, in learning to listen to the quiet whisper of Holy Spirit speaking to my spirit.

Nowadays, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am finding that to stay healthy I need to practice a few simple disciplines.  Physical exercise, prayer, Scripture, work, rest.

One of the most important is to pay more attention to the voice of the Lord than to the voice of man.

From the time I was a young child I always wanted to know what was true and what was false. I also have a strong sense of justice and hate to see lies and wrongs prevail. These are good qualities but I have found that in order to stay in God’s peace – which is the place of order and productivity and fruitfulness and life and hope – I need to discipline myself to listen to His voice in preference to all the other voices. When I forget this, even for a short time, I pay a price. When I remember it, peace returns and I am able to see clearly again because I have heard the voice of the One who is True.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Jesus, John 10:10

My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways …
as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God, Isaiah 55:8-9

The Lord knows the thoughts of man,
That they are a mere breath.
Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord,
And whom You teach out of Your law;
That You may grant him relief from the days of adversity,
Until a pit is dug for the wicked.
Psalm 94:11-13

The Holy Spirit is such a blessing to me. In an instant He can cut through the confusion of human voices and give me His perspective. He doesn’t answer all my questions but He directs my attention to the one thing that I need to pay attention to in that moment. This brings rest to my thoughts and keeps me stable, focussed and productive.

One of my favourite Psalms speaks of the secret counsel of the Lord which is available only to those who fear Him. It is like the counsel that one gives to a trusted friend. I need that secret counsel on a daily basis, to guide my life, to show me His ways and keep me from trouble.

I daresay you need that daily counsel of the Lord as much as I do.

Are you listening?


Nuggets of Hope 23 – Keeping the Peace

The job of a hockey official is not always easy – especially during the Stanley Cup playoffs which we are currently missing. One of the more challenging aspects is keeping the peace between opposing players who get a bit hot under the collar in the heat of the game.

The COVID-19 pandemic, like a hockey game, could be likened to a battle between two opposing forces. But as with a hockey game, there are often various secondary skirmishes that take place on the sidelines. People have different points of view on the origins of the virus; the actions of government, public health and law enforcement officials; the wearing of masks; the rules for social distancing; the extent to which one should disinfect all surfaces – and they express them with great passion and conviction. This often leads to useless arguments.

Christians are not immune from such conflicts. We can get drawn into them like anyone else. Writing to the church in Colossae, Paul had this to say on how to avoid needless and unproductive quarrels.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. (Colossians 3:15)

The literal meaning of the Greek word for “rule” refers to the function of a referee or umpire in an athletic contest. Part of the assignment of officials at sporting events is to keep the players from fighting with each other. Hockey officials usually do this by trying to talk the players down. However the players don’t always listen. Sometimes they just seem to be intent on a fight.

Handled constructively, the expression of different points of view can serve a positive purpose. Unfortunately, some are so committed to making their point that their statements are like declarations of war, seemingly calculated to provoke an explosion. Even those who frame their comments in an entirely reasonable tone find that they sometimes land in a minefield of emotion and the result can be a raging conflict.

I have learned that although I have freedom of speech, it’s wiser to remain silent when a productive dialogue seems impossible to achieve. Even valid insights are of little value if they are hurled at others like weapons of warfare – or even if they are uttered peaceably, but unlikely to be well-received because of the mental state of the hearer.

A wise man wrote that one who is able to rule his own spirit is better than one who can capture a city. I have found that when I take time to listen to Holy Spirit He always leads me into the peace of Jesus.

The other day I went for a bike ride after a long day. I was feeling worn down from work but also from hearing too much information and too many opinions. The Internet can do that to you, especially during a contentious time like this. I told Jesus that I needed Him to speak to me. I think He already knew that, but I needed to say it because I needed to position my heart to listen. It was a beautiful afternoon and as I cycled alongside farm fields, I saw a small bright yellow goldfinch flying just above the drainage ditch. The beauty immediately caused a prayer of thanks to rise from my heart.

I heard the Spirit ask me a question.

Who made all this?

You did, Lord.

The turmoil that I had been carrying in my heart subsided as I recognized the amazing wisdom and power of God that is displayed in His creation. I saw again that God, who made all things, will bring in His Kingdom in His time. He uses storms like the present COVID-19 crisis to bring the nations to submission. Some recognize this and some fight it. I am asking the Lord to discipline and instruct my heart so that I am quick to recognize His wisdom.

We have to choose to abide in the peace of Jesus. It doesn’t come automatically. We can choose to recognize His authority over our lives, and allow His peace to rule our thoughts. When we do this, the result is a fruitful life and open doors to share the life, peace and joy of Jesus with others. This is the wisdom on which I choose to build my life. Nothing else will last. His ways alone will endure.

Come, Lord Jesus.




Nuggets of Hope 19 – At All Times

Do you praise the Lord at all times?

That’s what David vowed to do after God rescued him from the crafty Abimilech.

I will bless [praise] the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make its boast in the Lord ;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
Psalm 34:1-2

Twenty-eight years ago today my daughter Bethany was born. It was a day of great rejoicing. Marion and I had not planned on a fourth child but God saw fit to intervene. We had also not expected to have a daughter. I remember the Holy Spirit speaking to me and telling me that He was giving me what I had desired but had not asked for. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and praised the Lord.

Five years ago today my daughter-in-law Carmen lost almost all of her small bowel. I will never forget the phone call from my son Joe telling me that she was about to have surgery and might not survive. I left my desk, went for a long walk and prayed as I have seldom prayed before. I knew that Carmen’s life was ultimately in the hands of the Lord.  That was a hard day, but God has shown himself faithful. I don’t say this only because she survived – although I am very thankful that she not only survived but is now thriving. Even if she had been taken from us, God would have shown himself faithful. He is always faithful to His good, eternal purposes. That is who He is.

We don’t praise the Lord only or primarily to get things from Him, although praise does release God’s blessings into our lives in a powerful way. We praise Him because He is worthy of our attention, worthy of being the primary focus of our lives. There is no-one else more worthy of our loving, appreciative, thankful attention. But we also praise and worship God because we need to.  It’s good for us. Praising and worshipping God has a wonderful way of putting things into perspective for us. As we lay down our concerns and forget ourselves in praising and worshipping Him, everything else takes its place.

Not many months after surrendering my life to the Lord and going through my first series of severe tests after coming to faith, I remember being at a Christian family camp where Harold Harding was ministering in teaching and personal prophecy. I do remember some of what he said – in fact his personal prophetic word to me had a profound impact on me – but what had the greatest impact was his habit of pacing up and down the platform, praying over and over again “Thank you Lord” as he waited for prophetic words to come. I saw in him qualities of perseverance, constancy and steadiness that had developed over a lifetime of both blessings and trials. He looked for the hand of God in both, and so his life remained stable and fruitful until the day he passed into the presence of Jesus.

There’s something very stabilizing about praise. At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is shaking the nations, and we can all feel its impact in multiple ways, one of the best things we can do is to turn our attention to God and praise Him. When we turn our attention away from ourselves and our concerns, and away from the opinions, judgments, mistakes, achievements and social media pronouncements of others, and fix our attention on the Maker of the Universe, we soon begin to realize how very small people are and how very big God is.

Paul wrote to the young church in Corinth during a time when they needed a dose of encouragement due to a crisis in their life together. He reminded them of their foundations.

Now it is God who makes both us and you
stand firm in Christ. He anointed us,
set his seal of ownership on us,
and put his Spirit in our hearts
as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22

When we turn our attention to Him and surrender to His good work in our lives, God puts a firm foundation under our feet, and He anoints us and seals us with His Spirit – the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and empowered Him for his ministry. None of this is from us. It’s all from God. He redeems us from the pit and gives us stability and hope, He gives us the power to live a new life, and He gives us the promise that His good work in us will be completed and that we will get to share in His eternal inheritance if we remain faithful.

It’s good for us, sometimes, to be reminded of the losses that others have suffered. It was good for me today to be reminded of the pain that Carmen has been through and the grief, sorrow and travail that so many of us experienced as we were waiting anxiously for news about her first and second surgeries during that horrible period of testing five years ago. It’s also good to remember our joys, as Marion and I take delight in remembering Bethany’s birth twenty-eight years ago today. But it’s even better, having revisited both past joys and past sorrows, and having taken stock of present challenges like the current pandemic, to turn our faces and our hearts to the God of the universe who alone is worthy to be worshipped and praised.


Nuggets of Hope 3 – Not Guilty

Not guilty.

That’s what God, the Judge of all the earth, will say on the Last Day to all those who have put their hope in Jesus, the slain Lamb of God.

In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, I am offering these brief reflections as a way of finding hope by turning our attention to God. Today I want to focus on the good news that those who have put their hope in Jesus have peace with God because of the Lamb’s sacrifice.

In Romans 5:1, Paul writes these powerful words.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

First, he says we are justified. That means we are declared innocent.

COVID-19 is something we can’t control. But what about the things you can control?

If you think of your actions and life choices as articles of clothing, are there things you don’t want to be wearing when you stand before God? Being justified means that instead of wearing those things, you can wear the purity and goodness of Jesus. The Bible depicts this as a clean white robe of righteousness. It’s been assigned to you as your inheritance.

Second, he says that we are justified by faith. Not faith in ourselves, not faith in our own intelligence or hard work, not faith in our spouse or our children or in the medical system or the government, but faith in Jesus. He died for us so that we might live free of regret, free of shame, full of confidence in God’s love.

Third, he says that because of this we can have peace with God. How wonderful in times like these to know that you can come to God humbly for mercy and help in time of need, and you don’t have to wonder whether he will welcome you.

I am so thankful to have this inheritance of peace with God. It’s available to you as well. All you have to do is ask.

God bless you.



Perspective on the eve of an election

Tomorrow the people of Ontario will choose a new provincial government.

This has been one of the most hotly-contested and tumultous elections I can remember. We live in a time of increasing social contention. Many people have strong views on the policies, promises, values and convictions of those who desire to govern us, and those views do not always align with others of equally strong conviction.

It’s right that we should take this decision seriously. The opportunity to choose who will govern us is a privilege that we ought not to take lightly. Wise leadership is in everyone’s best interest. One observer put it this way :

When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, 
    but with a [leader] of understanding and knowledge,
    its stability will long continue. (Proverbs 28:2 ESV)

So what if you “lose” – the government that emerges is not the one you voted for? Or what if you “win” – you get the government of your preference — but two years later you find them to be a disappointment?

When considering politics I am often reminded of the words of the Psalmist,

Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God. (Psalm 146:3-5


It is indeed a privilege to be able to choose our leaders. But even as we do this, let’s remember that they are just as weak and fallible as we are. They may have many excellent qualities but they are still very imperfect, as are we. Whether we are pleased or disappointed in our current – or subsequent – government, let’s remember that our hope for a truly just society rests not on the abilities of the current crop of politicians, but on the character and promises of a covenant-keeping God who has promised to bring in His Kingdom at the end of the age.

There’s great peace in remembering who is ultimately on the throne. When He comes, he will make everything right.  In the meantime, while we wait for that Day, let’s remember to pray for the leaders we elect. And let’s remember that civic virtue and social justice are everyone’s business. It’s up to you and me to improve the society we live in, remembering even as we do our best that our hope is in the Lord, not in ourselves. And so, no matter the outcome of the election, we can always be full of hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God bless you as you vote !



My dream date with Justin Trudeau

A few nights ago I had a dream. It wasn’t one of those confusing dreams that you can only half remember. The main lines of it were crystal clear.

In my dream, I was at some sort of public event (a dinner or conference of some sort) with Justin Trudeau. At this event, I had an opportunity to talk with the PM face to face. He made time to chat with me at some length. My dominant impression of him was that of a sympathetic, respectful, idealistic, engaging and likable man, who took what seemed to be a genuine interest in me and my concerns. 

As my conversation with the PM came to an end and he moved on to other things, I realized with some chagrin that throughout this conversation my focus had been entirely on myself and my own goals and concerns. I had taken time to talk with the PM about my views on various matters (I don’t remember details of what I said), but I had not offered to pray for him or asked him about his needs or concerns, or the needs of his family, so that I could pray for him with more insight.

On realizing this, I tried to contact him again so that I could ask him about his needs and how I might pray for him, but his attention was now elsewhere and I no longer had access to him. My opportunity for direct contact was over and I realized that if I wanted to offer to pray for him, I would have to send an email, which would almost certainly be handled by a member of his staff and would probably not get his personal attention.

Then my dream came to an end, and I awoke.

I knew that this dream was significant, so I asked God for insight, and He spoke to me with unmistakable clarity.

My dialogue with the Lord about this dream follows.  Some of this input from the Lord came immediately, as I journaled the dream that morning, and some came on further reflection. I have added links to Scripture references that undergird what the Lord showed me about this dream.

Father, what do you want to say to me about this? Why did I have this dream?

Because I want you to prioritize prayer for Mr. Trudeau and not focus on trading or expressing negative views of his leadership with fellow political conservatives. Like most people, your tendency is to think of the Prime Minister in terms of his office, not as a man. You think of what he can do for you and what you want him to do differently. You do not think about his personal needs, especially his need for salvation and a relationship with Me.

Many of your concerns about his leadership and his policies are justified, but I don’t want you to focus on this. That is not what My people are called to. You are called to pray. The governments of this age will inevitably fall short, but he is a man who has very genuine spiritual needs and he is spiritually open and hungry and has a soft heart. So pray for him. Pray for him as if it matters. Don’t just pray that he will change his political views. Pray that he will see Me for who I am, and turn to Me in genuine humility and repentance. When Paul the Apostle had access to the governor and the king, he testified. He didn’t plead his own case or try to influence the governor’s policies. His concern was for the salvation of the men in whose presence he found himself. So should yours be. Pray for your Prime Minister. He is first of all a man like you. Pray that he will put his hope in Me. That is all that ultimately matters. If Justin turns to Me, many other things will change as well. But I don’t want you to focus on that. I want you to focus on cultivating a heart of mercy towards him as a man – a man whom I love, a man for whom I gave My Son’s life, a man who is despised and mocked by many of My people who should instead be praying for him as a man in need of My salvation. 

I knew that I had been rebuked by the Lord. Over the past few days, His rebuke and his appeal to my heart have prompted the following further reflections.

By and large, most North American Christians have drifted far from the spirit of the New Testament in the way we relate to the governments of this age. When we see unwelcome changes in our culture, or when we have concerns about the direction of the nation, our tendency is to find fault with the government of the day and those who hold influence in our society. And indeed, at one level there may be much to criticize. But what Biblical support can we find for this posture? None whatsoever.

We are instructed to honour rulers, to pray for them, but not to put our hope for change in them. Our hope for change lies in the coming Kingdom of God in which Jesus our King will rule a restored earth from Jerusalem. Most of us don’t live as though we actually believe this. We live as though we believe that it’s up to us to rule the earth now, and we become offended when the government of the day doesn’t cooperate. But this is not New Testament Christianity. It is something else.

I believe the end of the age is approaching, and the Lord is purifying His people and calling us back to our true identity. Part of that identity is that we are a people of prayer whose hope is in the Son of David, the Messiah of Israel who is coming to rule the earth. When our hope is in Him, then we are free to love others without becoming offended with their failings. This includes government leaders. Our first responsibility towards them is to love them and pray for them.

I know all these things – I have known them for years – but I am guilty of allowing myself to be influenced by the political spirit that characterizes so much of the North American church. There is so much bitterness, resentment, anger and judgment in the attitude of many Christians towards government. Many of us are fearful of the changes that we see in society, and we have allowed our fears to influence our thinking, instead of keeping our hearts anchored in the peace that comes from God’s sure and certain promises.

I believe it is time for the church to renounce our idolatry of political power, repent of having placed our hope in the governments of this age, and place our hope once again in the Jesus of the New Testament. It’s time for us to be imitators of Him – to devote ourselves to His ways of prayer, servanthood and love. That is our true identity and calling.



Lay down your weapons

Peace on earth.

The angelic promise of peace and good will is the theme of countless Christmas cards, carols, sermons, hopes and prayers.

Everyone says they want it. Yet the dream of world-wide peace seems as far off as ever.

Over the past few days, I’ve had occasion to reflect on the fragility and imperfection of human relationships. Most of us prefer harmony to conflict, but genuine harmony can be elusively difficult to attain.

As I lay in bed this morning pondering this mystery, I saw in my spirit a picture of Jesus approaching a fortified tower.

The tower was crumbling as its lonely, embattled inhabitant struggled to maintain the illusion of control. Jesus was approaching with far superior power, supremely confident in his victory. He had the ability to destroy the fortified tower in an instant. Yet he held in his hands an offer of peace.

The vision was open-ended. It was like one of those stories where you get to make up your own ending. Would the man in the tower come out from behind his crumbling defenses, lay down his useless weapons, and accept the offer of peace? Or would he continue to try to shore up his once-proud tower, maintain his brittle independence to the bitter end, and die a violent, useless, unnecessary death?

The man in the tower is every one of us.

To a world where strife is a constant, Jesus does offer peace – but that peace carries a price tag. For many, the price is more than they are willing to pay.

The price is surrender.

Surrender of our pride, our fears, our independence, our superiority, and our judgments.

Surrender to His Lordship, His mercy, His kindness, His inevitable victory.

For all who will accept the offer to lay down their weapons, there are two rewards. One is immediate, the other comes later.

The immediate reward is that we get invited into God’s training school. Life with Jesus in this age is a process of preparation, as we allow our bridegroom to woo our hearts, take us by the hand and teach us how to love. He is preparing His beloved ones for the Age to Come, when the promise of world wide peace will finally be fulfilled.

The ultimate reward is far more glorious than we can imagine. Instead of the futile little tower of independence and pride that we once left behind, we will have a place of honour in His Kingdom, in a restored world where there is no more war, pain or death.

One day, he will come in great power to establish that Kingdom openly on the earth. On that Day, there will be no more opportunity to surrender.

But today, He is waiting, calling, pleading, inviting. This is the day of salvation, of invitation, of mercy. Today, He is calling us to come out from our futile towers of independence and pride and fear. Today, He is calling us to let Him teach us the ways of His goodness and mercy and truth.

This is the peace that Bethlehem’s  child offers.

Immanuel – God with us.

If you hear his voice, will you lay down your weapons? Will you let Him lead you into the way of peace?

The wolf will lie down with the lamb, and a little child shall lead them.




God’s hands

It has now been two months since my most recent IT consulting contract came to an end.  Since then, I have been on an enforced vacation.

Well, of course it hasn’t all been vacation. There have been days that were almost entirely filled with activity related to my life as an IT professional – reading, emails, phone conversations, resume tweaking, setting up my new laptop to run Oracle. But those were brief bursts of activity in a time that has for the most part been very quiet and restful.

You’d think I ought to be worried about the lack of work. The reality is, for the most part I have been remarkably free from worry. In large measure this is because Marion and I have been down this road before. I’ve had several interruptions in work since I started doing IT contract work more than 13 years ago, and the Lord has never left us high and dry. So when He whispers into my spirit that I don’t need to worry, I can draw on a fund of experience to remind me that He is faithful.

That’s a good thing, but it’s not the only thing that the Lord has been speaking to me about these past few weeks.

Marion, Bethany and I returned from Minnesota a little over three weeks ago. Especially since then, I’ve sensed the Lord’s restraining hand, keeping me from becoming too active in chasing work or creating projects for myself. Yes, I’ve set goals and worked at them. In fact, I’ve completed a number of items on a to-do list that included the yard, the house, the cottage and the trailer. But the item on my to-do list that the Lord seems to keep highlighting, especially in the last couple of weeks, is the imperative of using this time to dig deeper in my relationship with Him.

A couple of weeks ago, Marion and I spent the better part of four days following a conference on the free IHOP-KC web stream. We were both fully convinced that we had been directed by the Spirit to set aside this block of time. It soon became apparent why this was so important. We were both deeply impacted by the worship and the powerful teaching. God was getting our attention. For me, I realize the time since then has been different. It is as if I were a little child again, and my Father had picked me up, gently but firmly, and set me down in a protected place, free from distractions, where I could focus on getting to know some aspects of His plans, His purposes and His nature that I needed to see in a fresh, more focussed way.

Last night at our life group meeting, Marion described how sometimes, when dealing with a three-year-old who is easily distracted or just not listening, you need to take her aside, cup her face in your hands, put her face right up against yours, and speak gently but firmly to be sure that you have her attention. I have the sense that this is how God has been dealing with me the past while. This time off work feels like the provision of God – a time set aside for me to refresh some old things and look at some things from a perspective that I hadn’t really considered before.

The Bible tells us that for those who have been actively resisting God, falling into his hands is a fearful thing. God is capable of being quite terrifying. John’s Revelation calls Jesus the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and he’s not a toothless, stuffed toy sort of lion. Like Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia tales, he’s a bit unpredictable and can be wild at times. But to those who have willingly placed themselves in His huge hands, His touch is amazingly kind and gentle.

Kindness is always Father’s preferred way of dealing with us. It’s how he treats everyone who is willingly responsive to Him. Yet even in the gentleness He is also very authoritative.  I am so grateful that my Heavenly Father, and my Lord Jesus, and the Spirit of Holiness, are so much bigger than I am. It brings deep peace to my soul every time He sovereignly reminds me of both His power and His mercy.

Although I don’t have a contract offer yet, in my spirit I sense that this quiet episode will soon be over, and that before long I will be back at work again. I want to retain the fruit that has come from this time that the Lord set apart for me. I am so glad that he has picked me up, set me down in a quiet place, and directed me to set aside distractions and seek His face. Lord, give me the grace to be faithful and to respond to you with my whole heart and life, in a way that is worthy of You and that causes my life to shine with more of Your glory.



What, me worry?










What, me worry?

When I was a boy, this slogan was made famous by the fictional character Alfred E. Neuman, who graced the cover of Mad Magazine. Many years later, Hilary Clinton used the now-famous slogan to caricature President George W. Bush’s approach to economic policy, clearly implying that disaster was looming and Bush was ignoring it.

Whatever you think of Clinton, Bush, Obama and US politics, the slogan suggests an unthinking, uncaring approach to life.  What, me worry?  What could possibly go wrong?

Although I found Neuman’s carefree approach to life appealing, as a young man I was never much good at the “not worrying” thing.  Looking back, I realize that much of my thought life in those days was negative.  I worried about many things.  In my case, it wasn’t so much that I worried about things that would happen to me. I worried about bigger things.  Before I had children, I worried about the state of the world, poverty, environmental problems, war, peace and so forth.  Once I had children, I began worrying about their lives.  I wanted to be a good Dad and felt responsible for how their lives would be affected by powers that I had no control over – sickness, war, economic problems and so forth.

Some people will tell you that you can conquer worry by making a decision not to worry.  I never found that worked very well, because for me, worry was linked to my over-developed sense of responsibility.  I felt responsible for everything. For this reason, I was also constantly plagued by feelings of guilt and failure.  Slogans like “What, me worry?” or “Don’t worry, be happy” might have been appealing, but they weren’t how I lived my life.  I was much too responsible for that. Far better – so I thought – to go on living under my cloud of worry, doubt and fear than to be an irresponsible fool.

As you can imagine, I became very difficult to live with (just ask my wife).  Not only that, all this worry, guilt, doubt and fear wasn’t doing much for my ability to actually do something constructive about the things that I worried about. Of course, I would have denied most of this if you had asked me.  I was addicted to worry, and that’s what addicts do – they deny their addiction.  It’s part of the Devil’s deception – although I didn’t see that the time, because I didn’t really believe in the Devil – or in my own need for help, either.  I came from a line of strong-willed, capable, opinionated Dutchmen.  Others might have problems, but not us.  Others might need help, but not us.

Whenever I met people who had a simple faith in Jesus and were full of the Holy Spirit, I recognized that they had a joy and peace that I craved.  I wanted the joy and peace, but mocked and caricatured the simplicity of their faith.  Yet the mocking voice wasn’t the only one inside my head.  There was another voice too – a voice that told me, with increasing insistence, that what they had was exactly what I needed. Eventually I met someone whom I would allow to help me, and under his influence, I surrendered control of my life to Jesus.  I didn’t understand all that was happening at the time, but I knew this was something I had to do.  It was at that moment that the worry and fear, anxiety and guilt began to lose control over my life.  A few months later when I was filled with the Holy Spirit, I took another big step forward into freedom.  Some time later, I was baptized in water.  This was the death blow to my old identity as a worrier.  I now understood that I was a new person with a new identity, and that the old Peter had been put to death and buried.

Still, it sometimes seemed that he wouldn’t stay buried.  I wish I could say that the change was immediate, but that wouldn’t be truthful – and maybe it wouldn’t be all that helpful either, because I’ve found that many people are just like me.  At times things seemed to be getting worse before they got better.  Looking back, I now see that in reality the Holy Spirit was showing me things that had always been there, but which I previously had been unable to see, admit or face. I was like a new recruit who has left civilian life behind and joined the army.  From the time he puts his uniform on, he is a soldier, but he still has to learn to think like one.  In the same way, as a former addict to worry, I had to train my mind to think in new ways, and this was not an instant process. Learning to think like a believer takes time.  Surrendering to Jesus, and allowing His Spirit to rule and guide my life, were the keys to my freedom.

Today, many years later, I can truthfully say that worry no longer has any control over me.  Does that mean I never worry?  No, that would not be honest.  All of us are tempted at times, and one of the main ways we get tempted is by negative thoughts.  So, at times I am tempted to worry about various issues, and occasionally I don’t recognize the temptation right away, so I have to battle with worry for a while.  But I no longer spend most of my time worrying, because I have learned that it is unproductive and unnecessary.  As soon as I realize that the demon of worry is rearing its ugly head, I know what to do.  When I recognize what voice I’ve been listening to, I can change channels, and listen to the voice of God instead.  I can do this because I now have a new identity.  My identity is no longer that of an insecure, anxious worrier.  My identity is that of a warrior – a conqueror, a son of God who is destined to live and reign with Jesus.

But what about that overdeveloped sense of responsibility?  What about all the things that I once felt responsible for?  Well, one of the amazing freedoms that has come from walking with Jesus has been the ability to distinguish between things that I am truly responsible for, and things that I am not responsible for.  I now know that I do not have to fix the universe.  Jesus has already looked after that.   He has paid the necessary price for all things to be restored.  I do have people and situations that God has assigned to me, but I don’t have to handle them on my own.  In every situation that I am truly responsible for, I also have authority from Jesus to do whatever He directs me to do.

This is so wonderfully freeing.  There are many things that I can’t control, but every time I am tempted to be anxious, I only need to remind myself that I have a good and trustworthy Lord, and the future is in His hands. I am a child of God.  If you have put your hope in Jesus, so are you. Jesus and the Father aren’t sitting in heaven worrying about how they are going to manage things.  Victory over the darkness has already been won.  Even though the battle is still ongoing, the outcome is certain.  Everyone who trusts in Jesus gets to share in that victory.

What, me worry? No way.  I’m not playing that game any more.  I have better things to do.  I get to be like Jesus, share in His life and His victory, and invite others – like you – to walk in His freedom.  Even after many years, I am still learning to walk in this new way, but I have found that it’s way more fun than worry, and way more productive too.  Wanna come along?  You’ll never regret it.