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4 Reasons for a Faith Mindset in 2023

No matter what happens in the coming year, it can be a happy one when you stake your hopes for the future on the 4 reasons for a faith mindset outlined below. The chaos of the past three years cannot help but give us pause...

Anxiety and Giving Up Control

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6 ) Why is it when we try to give control over to God as this verse instructs, we still find ourselves worrying? The problem is that we are...

When It’s Time to “Move On!”

A fact of life is that times and seasons change. Sometimes brooks that sustain us dry up requiring us to leave things behind if we are to possess God's best. Is God drying up things in your life? Is He causing you to look...

Check Out My Book on Prayer!

My book on prayer can be purchased on Amazon or Barnes & Noble websites, plus a Kindle version is also available from Amazon. IGNITING AN IMPASSIONED PRAYER LIFE – How to Develop the Energized, Extended, and Sustainable Life of Prayer You’ve Always Wanted. Do you wish...

January 11th, 2023 · by Tom Stuart · Overcoming, Relationship with God

In over your head? Jonah was. His testimony is a classic description of that predicament. “The waters engulfed me to take my life; the watery depths closed around me; the seaweed wrapped around my head” (Jonah 2:5 BSB).

We All can Identify with Jonah

It’s easy to identify with Jonah if you think back to situations in which you made decisions and commitments that you regretted. They were times when you realized the price being extracted from you was more than you had the wherewithal to pay, and you were sinking into hopelessness and despair. Maybe you are experiencing something like that right now.

In Jonah’s case, the circumstance engulfing him in which he was fighting for his very survival, was because he had chosen to run from something God had asked him to do. But more often the messes we find ourselves in are a result of simply choosing to do something God has not asked us to do. And to be honest, sometimes, even when we are doing God’s will, the circumstances we face can overwhelm us.

A Key Truth about the Nature of God

No matter what the cause, when fighting, yet failing, just to keep our heads above water, desperation sets in, as it did for Jonah. What he did, despite the shame and regret for the error of his ways, in the face of what would seem to be their just consequences, reveals a key truth about the nature of God and Jonah’s relationship with Him.

The pivot point for him, as it should be for anyone drowning in such a distressful predicament, was his choice, despite whatever got him there, to humble himself and call out to God for help. Here in Jonah’s own words is what he did, and God did in response. “In my distress I called to the LORD, and He answered me. From the belly of Sheol I called for help, and You heard my voice” (Job 2:2 BSB).

It illustrates how a humble cry for help, in whatever distressful situation we may find ourselves, will always be heard and answered by God. In response God not only removes the stigma of our guilt and shame, but also extends His hand to deliver us from whatever hell we may feel ourselves sinking in to. God is not a respecter of persons and is merciful to all. His promise of deliverance is to all who call upon him. Three different places in the Bible plainly declare this truth about God. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32, Romans 10:13, & Acts 2:21).

Let Nothing Prevent Your Cry for Help

We must always be mindful therefore that things can never be too bad, nor can we ever be too bad, for God not to answer our cry for help. “Nothing,” the Bible tells us, “can ever separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus” So, never hesitate to “call upon the name of the Lord” if you find yourself in over your head, in circumstances of your own making or from causes beyond your control.

4 Reasons for a Faith Mindset in 2023

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December 30th, 2022 · by Tom Stuart · Featured, Overcoming, Relationship with God

Happy New Year! No matter what happens in the coming year, this greeting can be your reality when you stake your hopes for the future on the 4 reasons for a faith mindset in 2023, outlined below.

The Sunday leading up to New Year 2020, just two months into my serving as the interim pastor of Life Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, I preached a sermon entitled “Viewing Life with 2020 Faith.” Little did I or anyone know that within three months a worldwide pandemic would strike with disorienting challenges and devastating consequences. Nor could we have imagined how severely, not only our faith would be tested, but also our hope in God, and love for one another.

Among other things it reminded us of the precarious uncertainty of New Year’s expectations. Plus it rudely awakened us to the adjustments required in maintaining a clear-eyed, 2020 faith perspective when life altering events are thrust upon us.

The ensuing chaos of the past three years cannot help but give us pause as we stand on the threshold of 2023. Looking ahead, while hoping for something better, we can find ourselves suppressing the fear of something worse. Given therefore, what appears to be a cosmic shift in the times and seasons in which we live, might God be alerting us to shift in the way we anticipate and approach the future?

Jesus’ Critical Advice for the End Times

Jesus, in His teaching predicting the signs that will usher in the end times and His return, gave some very critical advice to His followers. It could not be more relevant for the days in which we are living.

A succinct summary from Luke 21 underscores the following seven ways in which to navigate our uncertain and unparalleled future.

  1. “Watch out that you are not deceived” (vs. 8).
  2. “Do not be frightened” (vs. 9).
  3. “Make up your mind not to worry” (vs. 14).
  4. “Stand firm, and you will win life” (vs. 19).
  5. “Be careful not to be weighed down” with the pleasures and anxieties of life (vs. 34).
  6. “Lift up your heads” and look for your redemption (vs. 28).
  7. “Be always on the watch, and pray” to escape what is happening to stand in Jesus’ presence (vs. 36 – all NIV).

As we can see, surviving, and even thriving, in changing times primarily has to do with a shift in our attitude. It demands a commitment to readjust our mindset from gullibility to being discerning, from fear to faith, from being wishy washy to decisive, and from being so easily distracted to being alert and watchful.

4 Reasons for a Faith Mindset

Establishing such a mindset, as Jesus so clearly stated, specifically when addressing worry, requires making up one’s mind! In short that means preparing for whatever challenges the future may bring by deciding ahead of time, how we will choose to react if and when they appear. The following verses in Psalm 112 (ESV) outline four foundational beliefs upon which a faith mindset in facing the future depends and is maintained.

1). Reverence for God is the key to understanding the times.

vs. 1 “Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!”

Since cataclysmic events seem to be happening somewhere in the nation or the world on almost a daily basis, reckoning with that fact is the starting place in our preparedness. Like the sons of Issachar who came to David, as he assumed the responsibility as Judah’s king at Hebron, we need to first understand the times in order to know what to do (1 Chronicles 12:32). As we see in verse one above and its preceding verse in Psalm 111:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and the benefit of that wisdom flows out of a reverent walk of obedience with Him.

2). Light triumphs over darkness for the upright.

vs. 4 Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.

No matter how dark the circumstances, walking uprightly with the Lord ensures that the light of His grace and truth will not only sustain us, but empower us to share His love and good news with others.

3). Those who are His will not be shaken.

vs. 6 For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.

We have this amazing promise that nothing will ever be able to move us off the firm foundation of our relationship with God who is our rock. Knowing that we will have a testimony of God’s faithfulness beyond whatever trial we must face gives us strength to endure it.

4). A mind fixed on Jesus need not fear bad news.

vs. 7-8 He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.

What a gift to have a heart that is secure in the Lord. Based on the preceding promises, it enables us to firmly fix our minds on the Lord and not our circumstances. It gives us a mindset that is fear proofed against bad news, enabling us to trust the Lord to reverse and redeem whatever comes our way for good.

Given the 4 reasons above for a faith mindset in 2023, I again wish you a Happy New Year!

5 Ways to Identify with the Christmas Story

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December 24th, 2022 · by Tom Stuart · Overcoming, Relationship with God, Relationships

The familiarity of the Christmas Story can sometimes cause our eyes to glaze over and make us miss spiritual insights and applications God desires to reveal to us. A fresh way to look at it is to consider the unexpected journeys a number of the cast of characters ended up taking. From Mary and Joseph to the shepherds and Magi, each one had their lives interrupted with a call to take journeys to unexpected places they never would have planned to go. In the process, God’s redirection positioned them to fulfill His divine plan and purpose for them. In some cases it even preserved their lives. Examining those unexpected journeys helps us to find ourselves in their journeys and gives us 5 ways to identify with the Christmas story.

This holiday scene in Fergus Falls, MN, could almost pass for Bedford Falls, the setting of the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In that movie, the main character George Bailey finds himself in desperate financial straits and despairing of life itself. It is only the miraculous intervention of an angel named Clarence that redirects him from his suicidal course. Enlightened by this encounter, as to the meaning and purpose of his life, He returns home. There, to his surprise, he finds the entire town has rallied to bail him out. His angelic visitation was not unlike all the supernatural visitations in the nativity story. Thanks to it he was saved from missing out on both a life defining event and the discovery of the “Wonderful Life” God had planned for him.

Let us therefore revisit the nativity story and specifically look at those visitations that arrested people in their tracks and redirected them on unexpected journeys. In so doing we discover the following five ways you and I can likely identify and recognize our own “George Bailey-like” story.

1. Mary’s Journey to Elizabeth’s (Luke 1:24-45) – When the angel Gabriel interrupted Mary’s life with the startling news that she was chosen to be the mother of God’s son, he also told her of Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy in her old age. As relatives and now sharing a similar encounter with God, Mary “hurried” to visit her. Although it was an unexpected eighty mile journey on foot from Nazareth to Ein Kerem near Jerusalem, her joy to find mutual encouragement spurred her on. At their greeting, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth spoke a prophetic blessing over Mary. And Mary in return broke forth into praise and worship in what has come to be known as the Magnificat or Song of Mary. What has God recently done in your life that is worthy of sharing with others? Who has He put upon your heart that He would have you reach out to for mutual encouragement?

2. Mary and Joseph’s Journey to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7) – There are times when God uses unwanted, inconvenient circumstances for His perfect timing in fulfilling His promises to us. That was the case when a worldwide census forced Joseph to make an eighty mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem with Mary in her ninth month of pregnancy. Further hardship faced with even the denial of a room at the inn. They nonetheless persevered and were richly blessed at journey’s end with a perfect and much celebrated birth. Has the path you’re treading upon, perhaps a trying and foreboding one, been forced upon you? Persevere in it. Trust God to help you overcome every obstacle. In the end, like Mary and Joseph, you’ll experience His redemptive blessings.

3. The Shepherd’s Journey to Bethlehem (Luke 2:9-20) – On an ordinary night, an extraordinary announcement interrupted the shepherds in their routine and sent them scurrying off to Bethlehem in search of the Savior. Although they were not by nature seekers, God chose to break in upon their lives with an invitation to seek Him. Their interest piqued, they “hurried off” like Mary on an unexpected journey. In this case it was a short distance into the town of Bethlehem where when they found Him they believed in Him. Fired up by their revelation they went out spreading the news with everyone they met of their life-changing encounter. Has God ever sent someone into your life announcing good news that prompted you to drop what you were doing? Did it cause you to make a decision to redirect your life in pursuit of Jesus?

4. The Magi’s Journey to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12) – God uses a diversity of means to interrupt life as usual and get our attention. In the case of the Magi, who were seekers after truth on a quest for knowledge through the study of the heavens, it was a revelation. He revealed to them an unusual star that beckoned them in pursuit of the one born King of the Jews. It took them from Babylon to Bethlehem. It was an arduous journey of more than 700 miles, which may have taken many months. Undeterred, they were finally rewarded in their relentless pursuit. Delighting to see the Christ child face to face, they fell before Him in worship and lavished their gifts upon Him. Has God given you a heavenly revelation calling you to seek after Him? Like the Magi, are you committed to pursuing Him, until you’ve given your all to come and worship Him?

5. The Holy Family’s Flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-23) – The joy of the visit of the Magi with their gifts was short lived. After their departure, God, through an angel, warned Joseph in a dream to flee in the middle of the night to Egypt. It resulted in a three year delay in their return to Nazareth. The dramatic turn of events, due to Herod’s intent to kill the Christ child, necessitated an unexpected 450 mile journey. Thankfully, provision for their escape was already supplied by the Magi’s gift of gold. Where God guides He provides. And with God, detours are not dead ends, but paths to blessing. Those things which are an emergency for us, are no surprise to Him. The next time you are caught off guard by a threatening situation, pause and consider, God has already gone before you to make a way where there seems to be no way.

Conclusion: All of these unexpected journeys were initiated by the inconvenience of an interruption, accompanied by a heavenly call to set aside previously laid plans. Each journey however, proved to be a great blessing to those who embraced it. Where could you find yourself in the Christmas story? With whom can you most identify in how God has intervened in your life? What blessings can you see God has ordained for you through the journey He’s led you on? What do you believe was His purpose in it all?

Lord, give me joy and perseverance in the unexpected journey You set before me. Thank you that it is for my benefit and blessing, and for leading me into a closer relationship with You. Amen

December 14th, 2022 · by Tom Stuart · Featured, Overcoming, Relationship with God

Just how does a person give anxiety to God? This verse contains the key and it has to do with giving up control of the outcome to Him.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 NIV

Our anxieties are often over things that are way beyond our ability to control. Why then is it when we try to give control over to God as this verse instructs, we still find ourselves worrying? The problem is that while we are praying we are often still clinging to our ideas about how things ought to go. In doing so we are secretly continuing our attempts at control and essentially saying to God we know a better way. Getting rid of our anxiety when we pray begins by giving up our ideas and desires about things in deference to God. That is why thanksgiving is a necessary ingredient in eliminating worry. It expresses the relief we feel when we’ve finally given up control and have decided to let God resolve things His way.

Father God, I surrender all attempts on my part in trying to control the outcome of the things that are making me anxious. I give the control to You and with thanksgiving rest in the fact that You have heard my prayer and are taking care of these things that concern me. Amen

Beautiful In Its Time

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December 5th, 2022 · by Tom Stuart · Growth & Development, Overcoming, Prayer, Relationship with God

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV

One of the most prominent things we see in the Bible that God has made “beautiful in its time” are each of His promises. In the fullness of time – from the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, to the birth of Jesus – we see God’s perfect timing in bringing to pass what He has promised. It’s important to remind ourselves of this truth, especially when growing weary in praying and waiting for God to answer our prayers or fulfill a promise He has given to us.

The timing of His promises is just like seeds sown. There is an inherent germination time that must pass before being brought to fruition. That is why the Bible encourages us to have faith and patience regarding God’s promises, and to see the beauty in the unfolding of their fulfillment (Hebrews 6:12). A wonderful patience building chorus about God making all things beautiful in His time is the song “In His Time” by Maranatha Music. It is a heartfelt confession about yielding to His timetable and asking God to teach us His ways day by day as we wait. You might want to play it and make it your prayer and meditation today.

Father, You make all things beautiful in your time. Help me today to trust You, to yield to Your timetable, and to wait patiently for You to fulfill Your promises in my life. Amen