5 Strategies for Overcoming Stress Overload

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Stress often gets a bad rap. It’s not always bad. Our goal should certainly not be a “stress-free” life, for that kind of existence would be extremely boring and unproductive.

Just as a guitar string needs some “stress” in order to be in proper tune, so do we. If you strum a guitar string that is too tight, it’s liable to snap. But the same is true if the string is too loose. Whether too tight or too loose, if the string is out of tune it becomes more vulnerable to damage.

Of course, a few people have the gift of perfect pitch, able to keep their strings under exactly the right tension. But most of us need to use a guitar tuner or some other device that lets us know how the string is supposed to sound. Instead of the subjective approach, just tuning the instrument by ear, we need an objective standard to synchronize with.

I hope your life is well-tuned today, with just the right amount of stress. But if you’re anything like me, your tendency is to keep juggling more and more balls until you’re in danger of stress overload. Eventually you hit the breaking point, and it’s like the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Over many decades of life and ministry, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in detecting and diffusing stress overload—mostly because I’ve so often been its victim.

Here are 5 of the top strategies I’ve discovered for overcoming this commonly recurring problem:

  1. Remember that God is God, and you’re not.

This principle is so basic, yet so deep. At the root of all stress overload is the human inclination to forget that God is on the throne of the universe. Throughout the Scriptures, we’re told to be still and know that HE is God (Psalm 46:10). We’re reminded that the government of creation is on HIS shoulders rather than ours (Isaiah 9:6-7). And we’re invited to cast our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7) and find rest for our soul (Matthew 11:28-30).

Not matter how strong, smart, creative, or resilient you might be, you will do a terrible job trying to be God. So if you feel like you’ve been given “more than you can handle” today, it may be because you’re trying to shoulder responsibilities that only God Himself is qualified to handle.

I’ll never forget my Grandma Fraggiotti singing her favorite hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour.” The song’s beautiful message somehow was even more penetrating when sung in Grandma’s distinct German accent.

  1. Recognize you’re not called upon to solve every problem and meet every need.

I’ve often fallen prey to stress overload because of trying to do everyone else’s job for them. Years ago I used to love playing volleyball during our church picnics. I was, in all humility, better than most of the other players, so I frequently tried to cover their positions as well as my own. Although I usually was successful doing this for a while, the ball would typically end up falling right where I myself was supposed to be. I was so overextended covering other people’s assignments, that I too often failed to cover my own.

I love John the Baptist’s reply when people asked about his identity. “I am not the Christ!” he told them (John 1:20). You and I need to remember that profound truth as well. We are not the whole body of Christ, but simply a part. In order to fulfill our true identity, we need to be very clear on who we are NOT.

On several occasions, people tried to get Jesus involved in situations He knew He wasn’t called to handle (e.g., Luke 12:13-14). At other times, He refused to fit into other people’s timeframe, because He realized His time had not yet come (John 7:2-8, John 11:3-6).

You will surely succumb to stress overload if you’re always allowing other people’s procrastination to constitute an emergency on your part. Likewise, you must learn to say “no” when you discern that people have an agenda for you that’s not God’s agenda.

  1. Focus your attention on the needs of today, rather than excessively dwelling on baggage of the past or events in the future.

One of my mother’s favorite Bible verses was Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Much of our stress comes either from trying to change yesterday (which is impossible) or worrying about situations that may or may not occur tomorrow.

Remember: God only promises to give us enough grace and strength for TODAY. When tomorrow comes, we’ll have the strength we need then too. But we’ll inevitably find ourselves overwhelmed if we attempt to shoulder the cares of yesterday, today, and tomorrow all at the same time.

  1. Remember the Sabbath principle.

God designed humankind to experience a rhythm of work and rest (Exodus 20:8-11). You weren’t made to work 24/7, nor even 24/6. You need to get adequate daily sleep and set aside consistent time each week for rest and revitalization.

Stress overload is also reduced when you take time to exercise, have fun, and do other activities that provide “energy in.” Stephen Covey refers to this principle as “sharpening the saw.” Few things are as stressful as trying to carry out our responsibilities in life when we’re feeling drained and empty.

  1. Periodically disengage from the cares of life for several days in a row.

While a weekly Sabbath rest break is vital to overcoming stress overload, sometimes we need more than that. I periodically come to places in my life when I need a personal retreat, vacation, or even a sabbatical.

To paraphrase Jesus’ words in Mark 6:31, “You need to come apart so that you won’t fall apart!” He and His disciples were hard workers, pouring their lives out for others. But He also modeled the importance of regularly getting away from the grind of ministry in order to gain new perspective, recharge our spiritual batteries, and regain our emotional vitality.

My favorite car ever was a baby blue 1976 Fiat. But it was a stick shift, and sometimes I forgot to push the clutch when shifting gears. The result was a terrible grinding sound, as the moving gears collided. I learned a valuable lesson from that car: Whenever I’m about to make a major shift or transition in my life, I need to “push the clutch” and momentarily disengage the gears.

By implementing these 5 strategies, you can experience a life of greater balance, joy, and longevity. Instead of operating on overload, your stress level will become like the strings of a finely tuned musical instrument.

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Rediscovering My ‘True North’

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When I was a kid, we didn’t have all the cool video games and technology of today. Some of my most memorable toys were marbles, magnifying glasses, and gyroscopes.

Recently when I was praying, God spoke a powerful message to me through two of my other childhood toys: a compass and a magnet.

First, I recalled the amazing attributes of a compass. When set on a level surface, the needle rather mysteriously points to “true north.” Somehow the compass detects and automatically points toward the invisible magnet field emitted by the North Pole.

But as I pondered this wondrous ability, the picture changed. I saw a compass surrounded by various magnets. The needle was spinning, no longer able to discern the correct direction of true north.

Like this compass, I realized I was in danger of losing my sense of true north. When I gave my life to Jesus and His Spirit came into my heart, I was given an internal guidance system much like a compass. And whenever I look time to quiet my heart and rid myself of external distractions, my spirit automatically pointed toward the Lord and my true north calling.

However, life is full of external magnet fields. While the compass needle initially points northward, it can be swayed by relationships, addictions, materialism, stress, and busyness. Many of us end up trying to please people rather than God. Or our lives become consumed with the quest for a paycheck so we can pay our bills. Even the good  things in our lives can emit magnetic fields that divert us from God’s highest will.

Let’s be honest: the North Pole is a lot farther away than the external magnets around us. Yes, the Lord is very near to us (and even in us), but the attraction from what we see, feel, touch, and taste can appear much stronger at times. And the voices of people often drown out the voice of the Lord.

So how can you regain your sense of true north if your compass needle is spinning out of control? What can you do when you detect confusion in your heart about God’s plan and purpose?

Periodically, you must leave behind all the external distractions and take a personal retreat. You need to make sure your internal compass needle isn’t being influenced by anything other than the Spirit of God.

When can you take time to do that?

I know, it’s difficult to find time to rediscover your true north. But what’s the alternative? Do you want to continue living a life that lacks direction, impact, and satisfaction?

One of the great benefits of finding true north is that the other directions become clear as well. Once you know which way is north, it’s easy to find east, south, and west. Your relationships and priorities are much easier to sort out once you’ve established which way you’re headed.

When you rediscover your true north, you’ll no longer drift through life like a sleepwalker. No longer confused or purposeless, you’ll gain new appreciation for Solomon’s advice about finding divine direction:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB).

Straight paths are only possible if you’re clear about where you’re going. And your internal GPS will only function properly if you’ve first established which way north is.

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Silencing the Cicadas

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A few months ago, the Holy Spirit spoke a concise but powerful word to my heart during a personal retreat: “Jim, you need to silence the cicadas!”

If you’ve never been around any cicadas, you may want to visit YouTube and check them out. Cicadas are large, ugly insects that cluster together in trees to make an almost-deafening sound, especially at night.

The Lord advises us in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” But how do you do that when you’re surrounded by cicadas?

The cicadas can take a variety of forms today:

  • Our constant connectivity to our phones, emails, and social media.
  • The 24-hour news cycle, which seems to spew out a large percentage of “fake news,” slanted toward the political bias of the network.
  • A society where political correctness is on the rise, while personal analysis and investigation is quickly waning.

Although these surrounding noises are increasingly prevalent, the worst cicadas of all come from our own emotional baggage. It’s one thing to disconnect from societal noise from time to time in order to preserve our sanity. But what about the internal noises that so often threaten our peace and serenity?

Perhaps you’ve never thought of your internal noise as cicadas, but here are some examples:

  • Fears or insecurities that arise and drown out your faith and your ability to take risks.
  • Anxiety that drowns out your enjoyment of today and your confidence in a happy future.
  • Unforgivenss or bitterness that distorts how you see the people around you.

The next time you see me, I encourage you to ask me how things are going in silencing the cicadas in my life. Well, let’s just say it’s an ongoing process at this point…

Before you get too wrapped up in putting together your resolutions and goals for the coming year, you may want to take some time to quiet your heart. Dealing with the pesky cicadas—both externally and internally—is the best way to prepare for a great new year ahead!

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Moon Walking (& Other Life-Changing Discoveries)

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For those of you who feel like you’ve tried everything to lose weight, I have a solution I bet you’ve never considered: Move to the moon!

I’ll admit, it’s not a great environment there. Restaurants and other amenities are sorely lacking at this point.

However, because the gravity on the moon is only 16% of the earth’s gravity, you would immediately experience an amazing drop in your weight. No crash diet necessary. No personal trainer required. While maintaining the same strength, you would be carrying around far less weight.

Pretty awesome, right?

Perhaps you’ve seen the old videos of astronauts walking on the moon. They skip around like giddy gazelles, amazed by their suddenly lightness of being. Even saddled with their bulky spacesuits, they move around like little kids on the playground.

I’m convinced that a trip to the moon would do us all some good. We would soon conclude that we’ve been carrying around lots of unnecessary weight on earth.

And there’s a spiritual point to all of this…

I recently talked to a friend who said his girlfriend seemed to be “carrying around the weight of the world.” That’s a lot of weight!  I thought to myself.

But we’ve all done that at times, haven’t we? We shoulder concerns about our health…our finances…our spouse…our children…our career…our future. Little by little, these weights increase until they’re unbearable, even back-breaking.

Fortunately, God has a solution that doesn’t require migrating to the moon. He says we can cast the weight of the world upon Him! Why? Because He cares about us (1 Peter 5:7). And as the old song says, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” No need for us  to carry it on our backs.

Jesus made a very important offer to those who are struggling under earth’s gravitational pull, “heavy laden” with the cares of this life:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

When I read these beautiful words, I feel like doing some moon walking, don’t you? I want to cast off life’s unnecessary burdens and concerns, learning to frolic again like a little child. And when I do, I know I’ll rediscover an astonishing fact: This is exactly what it feels like to experience the unencumbered joy of God’s kingdom (Matthew 19:13-14).

Moon walking will surely feel odd at first, especially when you’ve lived your whole life as an earthling. But I’m betting we could get used to it. Will you join me?

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One Thing That Changes EVERYTHING

What if I told you there’s ONE simple step you can take that would change EVERYTHING else in your life? I know, you probably would think I’m either crazy or getting ready to launch an infomercial.

But stay with me for a few minutes…

For many years, I’ve known that just about everything we need to know about God, people, or life can be gleaned from the first few chapters of Genesis. But I’ve recently come across a life-changing principle I had previously overlooked there.

Before I share this incredible principle from Genesis, let me point out an indisputable fact of life: Whatever you focus on will grow.

With this principle as a backdrop, we can see that it’s no accident God placed the Tree of Life in the very MIDDLE of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). This tree foreshadowed Jesus Himself, the life-giving one. To study this further, go to the Gospel of John and look at the numerous “life” references about Jesus: water of life, bread of life, resurrection and the life, etc.

And notice this: No matter how many interests and responsibilities you may have, there can be only one MIDDLE in your life. Everything else must take its place in relationship to that inner core of your being. And while Adam and Eve’s focus was on the tree God had placed on center stage, everything else was wonderful in their paradise.

As many Bible teachers have noted, when the serpent entered the picture in Genesis 3, he immediately called into question God’s love and truthfulness. But I had never noticed something else the serpent did: He succeeded in shifting Eve’s focus!

We see this in Genesis 3:3, when Eve tells the serpent, God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

Do you see how profound this shift is? Eve is now focusing on an entirely different tree in the MIDDLE of her world—the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

It seems from Genesis 2:9 that this second tree was very near the Tree of Life, so Eve wasn’t totally wrong in her statement. Yet the consequences of her shifted focus were catastrophic, not just for her and Adam, but ultimately for the entire human race.

Why does it matter which “tree” we focus on? Entire books have been written on this, but here’s the answer in a nutshell: The Tree of Life represents dependence on the Lord as our source, while the other tree represents reliance on our own senses to navigate life and determine right and wrong (e.g., see Proverbs 3:5-8).

So let’s get practical…

What is in the MIDDLE and CENTER of your  world right now? I meet many people who are centered on the problems  they’re facing in their health, finances, marriages, children, careers, emotions, or some other area of their lives. I’m sure we’ve all had that kind of focus at one time or another. But as we see from Eve’s tragic mistake, the things we put in the MIDDLE of our world will inevitably grow until they consume us.

Instead of allowing problems, people, or idols to become our focal point, the Bible repeatedly tells us we need to go back to putting Jesus (the Tree of Life) in the CENTER of our personal world. When that happens, we are promised “perfect peace” (Isaiah 26:3). And we can “cease striving” (Psalm 46:10 NASB), because He is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

But perhaps you are wondering…

What about the problems…the serpent…and the toxic tree that still inhabit parts of your personal paradise? Great question!

When Jesus is once again in the CENTER of your world, He begins the process of making “ALL things new” (Revelation 21:5). When your focus is no longer on your problems, the devil, or other people, you’ll be amazed by the new level of paradise you can experience.

Yes, everything begins to change when that one thing changes. And even before your outward circumstances have been transformed to any great degree, your new perspective will provide peace and hope you haven’t experienced in a long, long time.

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Is CONFUSION Slowing You Down?

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said something profound in a radio interview this week: “You’ll never play fast if you’re confused.” His point was that each player needs to know his assignment…his place…his role…on any given play. Confusion causes hesitation, and hesitation in a fast game like football will likely spell defeat.

But Rivera’s comment has an application far beyond football or other sports. It’s a principle of life, and it applies to me right now far more than I would like to admit.

When I’m clear on my God-given role and assignment, I’m bold…decisive…confident…tenacious. But if I’m confused or double-minded, I’m inevitably timid…hesitant…unsure…and liable to quit when the going gets tough.

This axiom is so important that it impacts every area of our lives: our health, our emotional well-being, our relationships, our career or ministry, and even how we spend our time and money.

So what about you today? Are you walking in CLARITY or CONFUSION?

Perhaps you think confusion is too strong of a word, so let me explain…

“Con-fusion” basically means to fuse together two incompatible things. Sometimes the two things are blatantly opposite: truth and lies, right and wrong, God and Satan, etc.

However, today much of the confusion is more subtle and nuanced. We lived in a confused culture, where a great many incompatible things have been fused together to bring us to where we are today. Although there still are some remnants of a Biblical worldview in our society, most people can’t really distinguish that from what the information they’ve picked up from Oprah, Dr. Phil, CNN, or Cosmopolitan magazine.

Yet when the heat is on and your beliefs are tested, you’ll need to know whether you’re standing on solid ground or whether you’re a victim of confusion. And the truth is that all of us—myself included—have adopted some beliefs that are faulty. The errors seldom are apparent when everything is going our way, but they’re exposed when we face a major trial or crisis.

The Bible says a lot about confusion. “God is not a God of confusion but of peace,” Paul tells us (1 Corinthians 14:33). What a powerful statement! God desires to bring us to a place of peace, while the devil always sows confusion and unrest. That makes it pretty easy to tell who we’ve been listening to, doesn’t it?

And Coach Rivera was correct about how confusion causes hesitation. The prophet Elijah pointed this out to the Israelites, who had fused together worship of Baal with worship of the Lord: “How long will you hesitate between two opinions?” (1 Kings 18:21)

Thankfully, I’m not struggling with whether to worship the Lord or Baal, but I’ve seen recently that I’ve had “two opinions” on some other issues in my life. And I’ve concluded that this subtle confusion has hindered me and slowed me down. At times I’ve even been paralyzed because of uncertainty on my role, my assignment, or my priorities.

So I’m asking God to clear up the confusion in my life—and in yours as well. As we hear His voice again, we’ll return to a place of peace, confidence, and boldness. And we’ll gain new clarity on our mission, enabling us to radically abandon ourselves toward its fulfillment.

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4 Indispensable Ingredients for Holiday Happiness

Seems like everyone is wishing each other a Happy Thanksgiving, but few people stop their hustle and bustle long enough to consider what a happy holiday entails. We pull out our recipes for pumpkin pie, sweet potato casserole, holiday Jell-O, and eggnog, sure enough. But seldom do we take a similar look at the indispensable ingredients for positive time with our loved ones.

You may want to add some additional items to this recipe, but here are 4 ingredients I believe are vital to holiday happiness:

  1. LOVE. People have many different definitions of love, of course. One of the most accurate definitions is “seeking the highest good of other people, even at your own expense.” This sets the standard pretty high, doesn’t it? Love isn’t just a warm feeling, but rather a choice to give away part of your life to others.

The holidays usually provide a real test of whether your love is unconditional or merely reciprocal. Reciprocal love means loving someone back who has already shown love to you. That should be pretty easy! Someone send you a greeting card, so you send them one back.

However, the test of unconditional loves comes when some of the people you’re celebrating the holidays with have hurt you during the year. Can you forgive and keep loving them? Or will your attitude be icy and callous when you get together?

  1. JOY. I am well aware of all the WORK involved in putting together a Thanksgiving meal—both in the preparation and in the cleanup. But hopefully the work can be joy-filled work, complete with some frivolity and outbursts and laughter. The Bible says a “merry heart” is like medicine for the soul (Proverbs 17:22). A person who cultivates that kind of joyful heart will have a continual feast”—never needing to wait for a special holiday to celebrate (Proverbs 15:15).

But let’s be honest: Sometimes the holidays give us special reasons to be sad rather than joyful: the death of a loved one, a marriage breakup, medical concerns, or family members who now live far away. However, that is even MORE reason why it’s so important to tap into God’s supernatural joy, enabling us to dispel any grief or sorrow with a spirit of gratitude and praise.

  1. PEACE. Who wouldn’t like drama-free holidays this year? Yet, since people are involved, you can pretty much bet there will be some measure of drama. The question, then, isn’t whether you’ll be surrounded by some drama at times (you surely WILL be!). The question is whether you will be able to maintain your own peaceful heart, even while many things are swirling frantically around you. If you’re struggling with this, I recommend the prescription found in Isaiah 26:3: You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Keep your heart set on Jesus!
  1. PATIENCE. Lots of things can conspire to test your patience during the holidays. Kids misbehave. People show up late. Turkeys take longer than expected to bake. Husbands seem more intent on watching the football games than helping with the preparations and cleanup.

Since there’s a high probably that your patience will be tested, you might as well take a deep breath and realize there’s no big hurry, after all. And it’s not worth losing your cool just to put someone else in their place (see Luke 10:38:42 if you don’t believe me).

Perhaps you’ve noticed that these 4 vital ingredients are also the first 4 components of “the fruit of the Spirit” described by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23. I point this out as a word of encouragement. For even if you aren’t feeling much love, joy, peace, and patience so far, God offers you an infinite source for finding more. The Christian life is meant to be a supernatural life, and God’s Spirit can fill you will all the missing ingredients you need for a happy holiday season.

Let me leave you with this paraphrase of Galatians 5:22-23 in The Message:

What happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Friend, I pray you have a Spirit-filled Thanksgiving this year. When that happens, your day will be full of love, joy, peace, and patience. What a great new holiday tradition!

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If the World Didn’t Give It to You…

Several months ago, my friend Ron was ecstatic when he met the woman of his dreams at a Christian leadership event. “Jim,” he told me at lunch one day, “meeting Jill was magical…like a Disney movie or something.”

Ron went on to describe all the circumstantial evidence that God had brought this woman into his life. “I’m SO thankful to the Lord!” he exclaimed. “I didn’t have to go out looking for the perfect match. Nor did I have to spend hours on a bunch of dating websites or go on countless dates to find the right person. She was a gift sent from God, right when I least expected it!”

Since it’s hard to talk any sense into a person who’s so in love, I mostly just listened to Ron’s story. But he clearly was convinced this new relationship was heaven-sent, and his heart was definitely all in.

However, when I met with Ron a few weeks later, he was beginning to have some doubts. Although he was still crazy about the woman he had met, he was wondering whether she would love him back after she became aware of his many flaws.

“Jim, I need to lose some weight,” he said with a scowl. “Jill deserves someone who’s in better shape.”

As the conversation continued, Ron went on and on about all the other reasons Jill might reject him in the end. He questioned the size of his house, the make of his car, his wardrobe, and his income, among other things. He was beginning to conclude that someone of Jill’s caliber couldn’t possibly settle for a person with so little to offer.

Again I listened. The more Ron talked, the more I could see he was correct about his limitations.

But then an old Gospel song came to mind: “The world didn’t give it to me, and the world can’t take it away.”

Recalling Ron’s description of how GOD had brought Jill into his life, I said with a grin, “I think I see what is going on here. Although you were totally convinced that the Lord supernaturally brought Jill into your life, now you’re coming up with all sorts of ways YOU must work to hang on to her.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” he conceded. “So what should I do?”

“Well, look Ron, if you weren’t responsible for bringing Jill into your life, then perhaps you need to quit acting as if you’ll only keep her in your life by your own efforts and worthiness.”

Ron looked down for a moment to gather his thoughts. “Jim, I see what you’re saying, but let’s be honest: There’s a real chance she will be disillusioned once she gets to know me better.”

“Very true!” I acknowledged. “But you have to go back to the question of whether God was truly the one who brought you together in the first place. If so, you can relax and be yourself. You’ve got nothing to worry about!”

Still rather exasperated, he replied, “Okay, man, I see what you mean. But what if we discover that God really DIDN’T bring us together?”

“That would be great too, Ron,” I assured him. “Then you can walk away knowing you didn’t initiate the relationship, nor were your flaws the reason it ended.”

At that point, Ron breathed a huge sigh of relief, as if an enormous weight had been removed from his shoulders. He said with a smile, “Wow. That’s awesome. I can just be myself and trust God with the rest. If He truly has brought Jill into my life, there’s no need for me to worry about losing her. And if it turns out He really hasn’t brought her into my life, I don’t have to worry about losing her in that case either!”

So why did I share Ron’s story with you? Because it’s a parable about several different aspects of our relationship with the Lord.

Were we saved by our own efforts? No! Our relationship with God began through His grace alone, on the basis of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). And just as we were initially saved by God’s unmerited favor, we can trust Him to keep on loving us all along the way. Thankfully, we don’t have to fear His rejection when He finds out more about us—because He already knows EVERYTHING about us. (Go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief!)

Ron’s story also reminds us that we can rely on God to keep things safe when we’ve entrusted them to Him. The apostle Paul said it this way, I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day”  (2 Timothy 1:12). Instead of feeling fearful and insecure, treating his relationship with Jill as if it were something quite fragile, my friend should have simply entrusted it back into God’s care.

Finally, what are we to make of Ron’s claim that Jill was a gift from the Lord? Well, the Bible clearly says, EVERY good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17).

Isn’t that good news? Our Heavenly Father doesn’t vacillate. He’s not like a shifting shadow, bouncing here and there. Since He is the SOURCE of every good thing, we can also trust Him to be the SUSTAINER of every good thing. Wow. What an incredible relief.

So take a moment to ask yourself: Is there something you’ve been struggling to entrust to the Lord?  If so, remember: The safest place you can put things is in the loving hands of God.

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The Power of Full Dis-Engagement

One of the top concepts in the corporate world these days is “the power of full engagement.” It’s a paradigm for managing your personal or organizational energy, and I think you would find it very helpful.

But recently I’ve been learning about the flipside of that concept: the power of full DISENGAGEMENT.

Let me explain why this is so important…

My baby blue 1976 Fiat was the favorite car I’ve ever owned. With 5-speed manual transmission and a responsive engine, it was a complete blast to drive.

But sometimes my Fiat was so much fun that I forgot to press the clutch before changing gears. The result was a horrible grinding sound, not to mention considerable embarrassment on my part. And occasionally my failure to press the clutch even resulted in the engine stalling.

Lately I’ve realized that God is getting me ready for a new season in my life, and I’ve thought about the lesson I learned years ago with that old Fiat: If you’re going to make a smooth transition from one gear (or season) to the next, you’d better press the clutch first.

In many ways, this seems a great paradox. In order to be fully engaged with the next gear, you must first take time to be fully disengaged  from your present gear. Shortcuts simply don’t work. In fact, shortcuts will eventually cause permanent damage to the gears.

No one modeled the power of disengagement better than Jesus. When He saw that His disciples were facing burnout because of never-ending activity, He instructed them to “come apart” to a quiet place and get some rest (Mark 6:31 KJV). Then and now, those who don’t intentionally disengage from their daily grind on a regular basis will eventually “come apart” (i.e., fall apart) in unpleasant, unintentional ways.

Jesus realized the POWER in disengagement, especially when we use that time to better engage with our Heavenly Father. We repeatedly see Him disengaging from the crowds, and even from His disciples, to go pray in the wilderness or on top of a mountain. What was the result of such times? Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).

Isn’t that beautiful? After Jesus purposefully disengaged for a while, He was able to reengage with new strength and power.

Today, do you find yourself anticipating a new season in your life, but unsure how to get there? Or perhaps you feel stuck in “second gear,” unable to move on. Or maybe you keep hearing a loud screeching sound every time you try to move from one gear to the next.

If you can relate to any of these symptoms, I encourage you to discover—or rediscover, like I have—the power of full disengagement. Leave your friends and family for a few days. Disconnect from your work responsibilities, your smart phone, and your social media. Find a place to quiet your heart and rest.

As you take time to disengage and be still, you’ll experience the powerful message of Psalm 46:10: He is God—and you’re not! That is really, really good news, isn’t it?

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I would love to preach at your church or conference, be a consultant to your leadership team, or help your organization navigate the waters of transition. You can reach me at info@JimBuchan.com.

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Feeling Overwhelmed? These 7 Tips Will Help

If you’re anything like me, some days you feel like conquering the world—and other days the world seems to be conquering you. Although I usually respond pretty well when confronted with just one problem at a time, it’s overwhelming when the problems come at me from every side. Some days I feel like I’m playing a game of cosmic Whac-a-Mole, with troubles springing up everywhere.

Yet I’m comforted to know that many others have written about days when they were surrounded by problems on every side. For example, King David wrote about being hemmed in by deadly enemies (Psalm 17:9). He described how he cried out to the Lord when his heart was overwhelmed, saying, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:1-2).

King Jehoshaphat was another person overwhelmed when “a great multitude” of enemies surrounded him (2 Chronicles 20). I encourage you to read the entire story for yourself, but here are a few of the key tips for experiencing victory when problems attack you from every direction:

1. Recognize that God is bigger than your problems. When facing overwhelming situations, it’s easy to feel quite small and vulnerable, if not hopeless. But look at how Jehoshaphat focused on God’s power and sovereignty, rather than trying to defeat the enemies in his own strength: “O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?” (v. 6)

2. Reflect on God’s past faithfulness. If you’ve been walking with the Lord for a while, you hopefully have many memories of how He came to your aid during past battles. Jehoshaphat called to mind stories of God’s past miracles and promises, and he prayed, “AreYou not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?” (v. 7)

3. Rely on God’s power rather than your own. In crisis situations, there’s often a temptation to “take matters into your own hands” rather than trust the Lord and ask for His strategies. But Jehoshaphat freely acknowledged that he was powerless to handle things without God’s intervention: “We have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes areupon You” (v. 12). Notice that Jehoshaphat made a conscious decision to fix his eyes on the Lord instead of on his problems (cf. Hebrews 12:2).

4. Cast aside all fear. In a crisis, you need faith. Fear is never your friend. While Jehoshaphat was praying about his dire situation, the Spirit of God spoke an encouraging prophetic word to banish his fears: “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle isnot yours, but God’s” (v. 15). You see, if the battle is YOURS, it’s quite reasonable for you to feel afraid. But when you realize that God is fighting on your behalf, victory is assured, and there’s no need to fear.

5. Listen for God’s strategy. Yes, the Lord will fight our battles, but victory comes only when we listen for, and obey, His strategy for our situation. In the case of this battle faced by the people of Judah, God’s strategy was to send a team of worshipers before the army: “When they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated” (v. 22). In times of trouble, praise is a powerful weapon, both to calm our hearts and to release God’s intervention.

6. Look for the blessings  amid the battles. In this remarkable story, the Lord not only caused Jehoshaphat’s enemies to destroy each other, but the end result was a huge treasure trove of plunder: “When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away their spoil, they found among them an abundance of valuables on the dead bodies, and precious jewelry, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away” (v. 25). When first surrounded by enemy armies, Jehoshaphat probably would have considered it a great victory just to SURVIVE the battle. But God has much more in mind. He wanted Jehoshaphat and his people to THRIVE, becoming far better off after the encounter than before. If you’re going through a difficult trial today, remember that God can use it to give you far greater blessings in the end than in the beginning (Job 42:12).

7. Enter into God’s rest, even if the battle is still raging all around you. The story ends with this beautiful conclusion: “Then the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around” (v. 30). If your battles have been intense and long-lasting, it may be difficult to envision finding a time of peace and security ever again. But God wants to give your story a happy ending, just as He did for Jehoshaphat.

Jesus predicted we would face some pretty overwhelming times in the Last Days, so we shouldn’t be too surprised when that happens. His advice was simple, though. Instead of focusing on the surrounding circumstances, He told us, “Look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28).

The Message paraphrases it this way: “When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!”

So take courage, my friend. When you look up and turn your eyes upon Jesus, you can be sure that help is on the way.

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I would love to preach at your church or conference, be a consultant to your leadership team, or help your organization navigate the waters of transition. You can reach me at info@JimBuchan.com.

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