My drive from Tennessee to Michigan

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Today’s chapter: Matthew 8

This past weekend I relocated from Tennessee to Michigan. The back of my truck was filled with book boxes, which needed to be taken directly to a storage unit because they had to stay dry and I had nowhere else to put them. So I HAD to get to the storage facility before the office closed at 5:00 on Saturday.

Michigan Pix

Fortunately, my wife reminded me on Friday that I’d be losing an hour during the drive because of the different time zone. I set out early enough Saturday morning to have a 90-minute cushion. I thought that would provide me with plenty of margin. But after sitting in traffic due to various accidents and encountering an unexpected road closure, I used up ALL my margin in the first half of the trip.

At 2:00 PM with 3 hours left on my personal countdown clock, my GPS told me I was still 3 hours away. I may or may not have begun exceeding the speed limit at that point.

About an hour later, I noticed my fuel gauge was getting close to ‘E’. I knew I didn’t have time to stop for gas, so I checked the onboard display and it said I could make it 150 miles before running out. I then checked my GPS to see how much farther I had to go: exactly 150 miles. Now I’m praying I don’t run out of gas AND that I don’t get stopped for speeding.

About this time, my bladder woke up and said hello. I said (out loud), “Are you kidding me right now?” My bladder reminded me that I was the one who decided to chug an entire bottle of diet green tea. I quit listening, started eating salty snacks, and decided my bladder would be prayer request #3.

I’m moving to Michigan because I’m convinced God has led me here. But now everything seems to be going wrong as I make the trip. I was a little confused. Was all this trouble some kind of sign? Could it be I had misunderstood God’s will? Why aren’t things going better?

Maybe you’ve been there before. Have you ever tried to follow God in some way and taken a step of faith, but then been bewildered when things didn’t go well? Ever tried to do the right thing and been convinced things it would lead to better times, but then they actually got worse? We expect following Jesus to lead to clear skies, so it’s puzzling when our steps of faith lead us into a storm.

In Mathew 8:23-27, the disciples find themselves on a boat in the middle of a major storm. It’s interesting to note that following Jesus had led them to this point. In fact, it was Jesus’s idea to get in the boat and go to the other side of the lake. So the disciples were in these circumstances specifically because they followed His direction. Even though things look bleak, they could know without a doubt that they were in this storm because it was exactly where He wanted them to be.

Jesus brought them to this crucial moment because He wants them to learn something they can’t learn any other way. He wants them to see and know He is Lord, even when things aren’t going well. He wants them to know they can trust Him with their fears and uncertainty. He wants their faith to be based not on their circumstances, but on His love for them.

When the going gets tough, your faith will be proven one way or the other. You’ll either become bitter or better. You’ll either take a step toward who God wants you to be or your heart will become a little bit harder.

What is happening around you is significant, but it isn’t as important to God as what is happening inside you. Your circumstances are temporary, but your character will last.

So if you’re going through a trial or tough situation, don’t assume it must be because you’re on the wrong path. Perhaps you’re exactly where He wants you to be. Maybe He wants to teach you what you can’t learn any other way.

Perhaps He will speak to your storm and bring peace to your marriage, resolution to your conflict, provision for your needs, or healing for your hurts. Sometimes He moves in miraculous ways and calms the storm. But even if He doesn’t, He is always willing to do the equally incredible miracle of calming you in the storm. So keep your focus on the One who promised to always walk beside you.

DO IT
What is a concern you have that hasn’t been going the way you want lately? Talk with God about it. Boldly ask Him to miraculously bring the calm and peace that only He can. At the same time, allow Him to bring calm and peace to your soul. Allow Him to teach and shape you during this season of your life. Regardless of the path that led you into the storm, know He is with you even when you can’t see Him. Keep your focus on Him.

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PowerBall odds and depending on God

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Today’s chapter: 1 Samuel 22

The PowerBall jackpot has now soared to $1.3 billion. Lottery fever is running rampant. Even Hollywood celebrities are talking about what they’d do if they won the prize.

The lottery mindset is kind of funny. When the grand prize is $10 million, nobody cares. But when the jackpot climbs over $100 million, suddenly everyone takes notice. It’s as if a few million dollars wasn’t worth the drive to the convenience store, but now a $100 million award is a whole different story.

Of course, the odds at this point of having the winning ticket are worse than ever. Statistically, you have roughly the same odds of bowling a perfect 300 game (1 in 11,500) AND losing an appendage from a chainsaw accident (1 in 4,464) AND ultimately dying in an asteroid apocalypse (1 in 12,500). Yes, I seriously calculated that.

David has gone from living palace in the palace to hiding out in a cave. He had been on the fast track and people were writing songs about him, but now he’s in a cave. He used to be the golden boy with lucrative offers to endorse everything from Famous Dave’s barbecue sheep sandwich to Nike’s new Air David slingshot line, but now he’s in a cave. He thought it was God’s will for him to be king, but now he’s in a cave. What once seemed like a sure bet now appears to be the longest of long shots.

The cave is where you end up when your life doesn’t unfold the way you had thought it would. You had plans for happiness and success, but then your circumstances end up very differently.

Maybe you’re in a cave right now. Perhaps you are out of work, coping with financial pressures, reacting to a health crisis, or dealing with a rocky relationship. Whether your journey to the cave was due to your own bad decisions or someone else letting you down, it can start to feel like God has forgotten you. Caves can be incredibly lonely and even seem like they’re going to last forever.

But caves are where God does some of His best work on us. Perhaps it’s because we are finally away from everything that distracts us from His voice. Maybe it’s because when He is all we have left, we realize He is all we need. For whatever reason, God has shaped me during my times in caves like no other times of my life.

If you think about it, the odds of winning the PowerBall are actually the exact same every time. You always have to match all 6 numbers and the odds of successfully doing that never actually changes. Your chances of success are always about 1 in 300 million.

David learned the odds of God accomplishing His will in David’s life hadn’t changed either. Even though his circumstances had temporarily shifted, he was learning some valuable lessons. Perhaps most importantly, he learned he could talk to God about anything.

The odds of God accomplishing His will in your life haven’t changed one bit. God hasn’t abandoned you. If you’ll allow Him, He will use this time in your life to mold you into who He wants you to be. The odds of Him being right beside you and loving you unconditionally haven’t changed, either. May the odds be ever in your favor.

DO IT
Read David’s prayer in Psalm 142 to see the honest prayer David wrote during this time. Then talk just as honestly with God about how you feel about your own circumstances. Not only can He handle the truth, it’s what He wants to hear from you. Then ask Him what you can learn from your time in the cave. Allow Him to shape you into who He wants you to be.

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