Warning Signs

Mavericks

Maverick’s is a legendary rocky beach—located about 25 miles south of San Francisco near Half Moon Bay—where usually only veteran big-wave surfers dare to surf.

That’s because it features some of the craziest and largest waves in the world.

Maverick’s notoriously “renegade” waves gain momentum thousands of miles out to sea and cause powerful swells to slam into Pillar Point, a reef off a small peninsula, where the ocean floor rises abruptly from a depth of over 100-feet to only a few feet.

To the sheer amazement of onlookers, the geology and geography of Maverick’s shoot the swells to the height of eight-story buildings. So, if the waves don’t kill you, the rocks will probably hurt you. That’s why only courageous or crazy surfers take on Maverick’s!

In March 2011, a big-wave surfer from Hawaii wiped out just before dark. They say 35-year-old Sion Milosky was thrown into the ocean by a huge wave. Then, a second wave hit and held him under water for a long time. Sadly, he drowned, leaving behind a wife and young children.

Why would surfers defy such a dangerous stretch of ocean—and risk so much when the hazards of Mavericks are well known? They ignore the warning signs posted on the beach.

The Bible is chock-full of God-inspired warnings that caution and challenge us to live wisely and righteously in a world that’s overwhelmed by deceived people and dangerous forces.

Looking ahead, Timothy warns us about what we can expect during the “last days,” as the final curtain starts to close on Planet Earth. His first-century warning is rather timely:

“But mark this:  There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power” (1 Timothy 3:1-5).

That’s a graphic and accurate description of our twisted world today!

Timothy also urges us to avoid such unruly and unrighteous people:  “Have nothing to do with them.” (1Timothy 3:5). Matthew says, “Watch out that no one deceives you.” (Matthew 24:4). In a nutshell, don’t allow anyone to deceive, disrupt or destroy you.

But at the same time, God tells us to love and influence unrighteous people, while proclaiming the gospel—and he urges us to live distinctly and righteously, while reflecting our Savior. Truly, it’s a high calling with life-changing opportunities and eternal consequences.

That’s why we must heed God’s warnings, reflect our Savior and love people with authenticity—as we live righteously in a dark, deceived and depraved world.

 

 

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Caught by an Avalanche

French Alps Mount Maudit

Twenty-eight experienced mountaineers were climbing in the French Alps, attempting one of the most dangerous ascents in all of Europe, when they were caught off-guard by an avalanche.

They were surprised and hit by a fast-moving wall of snow that was 60-feet high and 500-feet wide, as they traversed the icy 14,649-foot ridge of Mont Maudit (meaning “cursed peak”) on their way to the summit.

Eight of the climbers were killed that day, after being buried and swept more than 600 feet by a towering wall of snow. They died on the mountain.

Nine were airlifted to a hospital with cracked ribs and broken bones. Two others were missing and presumed dead, but later hiked down the mountain and walked into town. By nightfall, local authorities had accounted for every climber.

I wonder what it’d be like to get buried by an avalanche and survive to tell your story.

Experts say an avalanche is a cascading mass of at least 100,000 tons of snow sliding down a mountain that can reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. That’s a lot of fast-moving snow!

Maybe you’re feeling like an avalanche is chasing you downhill today. Perhaps you’re freaked out and frantic because of your awful predicament. Somersaulting out of control and gasping for air. Trying to hang on and ride things out.

When life shoves us to the ground and knocks the wind out of us—we often get angry, confused and disoriented. Sometimes, we get overwhelmed by anxiety, discouragement and fear. Other times, we imagine and assume the worst, and give up.

Sometimes, David reacted that way, as he struggled with challenges and circumstances. But he also confidently declared, “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength” (Psalm 18:30-32).

As David wrestled with the stuff of life, he learned to trust God.

Do you trust God when life slams and surrounds you with an avalanche of lousy circumstances, topsy-turvy emotions or ornery people? If you struggle with that kind of a response, try this:

Expectantly cry out to God. Trust his unchanging Word. Anchor your hope in his grace and care. Rely on him for peace and perspective. Experience his constant presence, power and protection.

Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” That’s why we can always trust God—no matter what’s happening around us. He’ll never let us down.

Navigating the Pits of Life

Sinkhole 300 Feet 2007 Guatemala

You probably know what it’s like to fall flat on your face. You’re stunned and embarrassed for a while—with nothing to say and nowhere to hide.

I’ve tripped and skinned my knees. I’ve lost my footing and somersaulted head over heels. I’ve skidded across the road under a big Kawasaki. I’ve been tossed by an unruly horse. I’ve crashed my mountain bike on a country road.

But I’ve never been tossed into a hole in the ground—and left there. Hurt. Scared. Confused.

Joseph’s jealous brothers threw him into an empty pit in a faraway field. Jeremiah’s loud-mouth critics put him in a muddy cistern near the city gates. Daniel’s dishonest associates concocted a plan that forced the king to toss him into a lions’ den.

The psalmist David wrote about the pits of life because he felt the pain of getting stuck there. He cried, I sink into the miry depths, where there is no foothold …” (Psalm 69:2). He struggled with circumstances, emotions and individuals that discouraged and trapped him.

But David also rejoiced, as he remembered God’s rescue. He wrote, “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my felt on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand” (Psalm 40:1-2).

David’s frequent experiences with the pits of life should encourage us. His raw emotions and honest talks with God should reassure us that it’s okay to feel, struggle and question—as we go through the pits of life and find ourselves down and out.

Remember—when we get knocked down or stuck in a tight spot, God is there. When we fall down and get hurt, God is there. He cares—and he’s ready to rescue and strengthen us.

God is all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere present at once. He’s sovereign over all things—and in control of all things—even if it doesn’t look or feel like it to us. He allows or causes “in the pit” circumstances to build our character and endurance.

God is everywhere present at once. He’s always with us—and that’s why he goes and stays with us inside every pit, just as he did with Joseph, Jeremiah, Daniel and David. You can read more about their “in the pit” stories in Genesis 37, Jeremiah 38, Daniel 6 and Psalm 40.

Honestly, the stuff of life can drop us into a pit at any moment. Maybe you’re stuck in a pit right now. Maybe you’re going to sink into a pit soon. Either way, God is with you.

Corrie Ten Boom wrote, “There is no pit so deep that God is not still deeper.” That’s what I call correct pit theology. God is always with us. No matter what happens.

Our strong Papa goes into “the pit” with us. He isn’t distant. He’s right there with us. He sees our circumstances and feels our emotions. He isn’t detached. Our tender Papa cares about us.

That’s why we can rely on him—anywhere, for anything and at any time!

 

 

 

Shelter in the Storm

God is My Refuge Ps. 91

Most of us look for shelter from the storms of life. Some find it. Others don’t. But one thing’s for sure: everybody struggles against life’s storms—and nobody sidesteps them.

But God isn’t alarmed. He knows everything. He sees our struggles and feels our emotions. He knows our name and understands our story. On top of all that, God cares!

People everywhere are struggling with the stuff of life. They’re confused and hurting on the inside. They’re wondering if anyone sees and cares.

They live inside our home. Next door. Down the street. Around the corner. In your church. At work. Across your city.

We may know little or nothing about their circumstances, but they’re struggling nonetheless—just like us.

All of us need encouragement. Hope and perspective. A buffer zone from the harsh realities of life. A safe place to rest. Someone to stand up for us. Someone to sit and cry with us.

At times—we’re vulnerable and weak. Just barely hanging on. Tired and run down. Alone and afraid. Overwhelmed. Desperate and discouraged. Ready to quit.

So, where can we turn for shelter—and to whom can we run for strength?

David declared, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty … he is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1).

God is our shelter. No matter how long the storm rages, we can trust God. He won’t abandon us. He won’t jump ship. He won’t leave us in a lurch.

God stays with us through thick and thin. He offers shade, protection and rest. He’s our strong fortress. We can count on him—and run to him. He’s our unmovable rock.

Remember, God may not change our circumstances. He may not tweak anything. He may not lift us out right away. He may not respond or rescue, as we’d like.

But no matter what happens—we can trust God’s wise perspective, experience his mighty power and enjoy his constant presence.

David prayed, “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings” (Psalm 61:4). That’s what we need to pray and do. Every day. All day long. No matter what.

Are you caught in a storm today? Do feel like you’re going under? Are you getting slammed by the stuff of life? If not, now is the time for you to get ready because a storm is on its way!

Friend, we can choose to stay in God’s shadow—and take shelter beneath his strong wings. We can enjoy his presence, rely on his protection and experience his power!

 

 

Frazzled But Not Forsaken

Good Samaritans

I’ve struggled with fatigue, failure, and frustration that left me feeling weary and teary. Frankly, that can pull you down, and take you out—if you let it.

Twice, I’ve been so exhausted, burnt out and overwhelmed by stress and “stuff” that I’ve collapsed and hit the wall—and had no choice but to rest and sleep for days.

Both times, I foolishly ignored the warning signs, disregarded my apparent vulnerability, and refused to get professional help. I jeopardized the well-being of my family and job—and allowed the tyranny of the urgent to sap my energy and scuttle my strength.

Frazzled and overwhelmed, I finally just wore out. I had nothing left to give.

But fortunately—along the way, I’ve learned to adjust my pace so I can finish strong in my race. I’ve discovered how to slow down, rest up, and look around. I’ve shuffled things to recharge my batteries, renew my mind, and rebalance my emotions.

I still struggle. It’s part of life—and why I ask God to rejuvenate and strengthen me.

The tough warrior-king David struggled, too. He wrote, “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow …” (Psalm 6:6-7). He fought exhaustion, sadness and stress.

David had fierce enemies who wanted to kill him. Trusted advisors who tried to betray him. Close friends who plotted to ruin him. One son who conspired to dethrone him.

I’m sure David was flat-out tired of struggling and fighting. He wanted to give up and go away, but he didn’t. Instead, he kept asking God to strengthen and rescue him.

David prayed, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help.” (Psalm 69:1-3). He cried out to God for help.

David also declared, “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters … he rescued me because he delighted in me.” (Psalm 18:16-19). He acknowledged and felt God’s strong hand and sustaining help.

Know this, my friend—no matter what’s threatening to slam you down and take you out, it’s no match for our mighty God who strengthens and saves.

God sees and hears you—and he’s more than able to rescue you. Just cry out to him!

Storms Go Away But God Doesn’t

Avalanche

For two years, I lived on the outskirts of Portland—about 50 miles west of Mt. Hood, a craggy mountain that juts out of the Cascades and towers over the city.

At an elevation of 11,249 feet, Mt. Hood is the highest mountain in Oregon and home to twelve glaciers. It’s blanketed with snow for most of the year and often obscured by clouds.

I trekked around Mt. Hood many times. I went on day hikes, weekend outings and week-long expeditions. During the winter and summer. Through the snow, wind and rain. On clear and cloudy days.

I climbed icy ridges. Scrambled over large boulders. Forged fast moving rivers. Hiked grueling switch-backs. Skidded down rocky slopes.

Mountain climbing is exhilarating, unpredictable and dangerous. The weather can change suddenly. Temperatures plummet. Snow avalanches. Lightning strikes. Winds gust. Rocks fall.  Ice melts. Rivers flood.

Storms can sneak up on you—out of nowhere. At any time.

Maybe you’re caught in a storm today. Facing financial hardship. Juggling lots of debt. Grieving the loss of a loved one. Feeling the pain of an ugly divorce. Bruised by the words of a friend. Anxious about losing your job. Fighting a terminal illness.

Captain Joshua felt the storms of life—just like you. He fought fierce enemies and battled discouragement and fear. But God walked with the weary warrior—and encouraged him.

God promised Joshua—and you and you, “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you … be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6).

God is climbing with you.

He’s at your side, on your left and your right. He’s walking point and watching over you. He’s taking every step with you—and somewhere along the way—he’ll take your pack, lighten your load and encourage you.

The Bible says, “When the storm has swept by … the righteous stand firm forever” (Proverbs 10:25). God says your storm will eventually go away. Some way. Some day.

That’s why you can trust God—and anticipate the coming of that amazing calm.

Remember, God walks with you—everywhere you go. God strengthens you—during the storm and after it blows away.

Will you trust God today?

 

 

Caught in a Storm

perfect storm

In October 1991, a horrific sea storm—stronger than any in recorded history at that time—hit off the coast of Massachusetts.

Actually, this “perfect storm” was three storms converging into one, causing sailors and boats to encounter enormous waves—some taller than 100 feet. For even the most experienced crews, it was terrifying.

A few years later, I sat on the edge of my seat, watching “The Perfect Storm” movie, based on the true story and starring actor George Clooney. The epic storm was intense on the big screen, but it wasn’t real—because I experienced it inside a theater, not at sea.

Like everybody else, I’ve been slammed hard by the awful storms of life—and discovered my “boat” was badly broken—and I was bruised.

I’ve struggled with frayed nerves, frazzled emotions and frantic thoughts. I’ve also experienced anxiety and fear that I exchanged for God’s peace.

Paul taught, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Isaiah declared, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

God promises perfect peace to anyone who trusts him and asks for it. That’s how we can eject our anxiety and enjoy God’s peace—in the midst of the fiercest storm.

We can trust our awesome Father—no matter how long or loud the storm rages—because he’s trustworthy. All-powerful. All-knowing. All-wise. Everywhere present at once.

That’s why we can confidently toss our anxiety and fear to him. Share what we’re thinking and feeling. Experience his peace. Relax in his presence. Rely on his protection. Sense his power.

Long ago, a wealthy rancher discovered God’s peace, after he’d lost almost everything—including his family, health, employees, possessions and livestock. At first, Job angrily questioned God and bitterly complained.

God listened patiently to Job—and then responded persuasively. Job 38:1 says, “Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm.”

As Job listened to God, he caught a new perspective—and decided to trust God. That’s why he could declare, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:2, 5).

God met Job eyeball to eyeball in the storm—and used that encounter to quiet, comfort and transform his aching heart. Job learned to trust and rely on God—no matter what!

 

Surrounded

Mountain Climbing

One winter, we left Timberline Lodge at midnight and started climbing an icy ridge toward the summit of Mt. Hood, a mountain standing at 11,249 feet—about an hour east of Portland.

It’s the highest peak in Oregon and the fourth highest in the Cascade Range—and home to 12 named glaciers and snowfields.

Led by an expert mountain guide and roped together, we took off for the distant peak. It’s a long climb—and we had to reach the peak and get back to the lodge within eight hours—before the snow and ice on the ridge started melting in the sun.

After a few hours of climbing, the weather suddenly changed—as often happens in the mountains. Light winds and snow flurries turned into a full-blown mountain storm.

The snow started blowing sideways—and within moments, we were caught in a white-out. That’s when a snow storm becomes so intense that you can’t see your hand in front of your face. You can’t see anything but white. You’re blinded.

Trusting our experienced guide, we sat down in the snow to wait out the storm—for what felt like an eternity. After the storm subsided, our guide decided we couldn’t safely continue climbing. So, we started an early descent to the lodge—disappointed but alive.

God is the most trustworthy guide to follow through the storms of life.

God won’t ever let you down. He’s reliable and vigilant. He’ll never abandon or forget you. He’s the only one in whom you can put all of your trust.

David wrote, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber. The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going …” (Psalm 121:1-3, 7-8).

David faced a lot of storms. He was outnumbered and attacked. Harassed and hassled. Bruised and badgered. Afraid and anxious. But repeatedly, he trusted God.

God is far wiser and stronger than the most expert mountain climber. He guides and protects us. That’s why we can confidently trust and follow him through every storm.

Psalm 123:1-2 says, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”

God surrounds you. He’s all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere present at once.

Will you trust and follow him?

 

Overwhelmed

Surfer Dog

I grew up as a Southern California beach bum with shaggy hair and cheap sunglasses. Flip flops and OP trunks. Waxed surfboards and gnarly waves. Beach blankets and bikini babes.

All summer long—I’d hang out with my buddies at the beach and cruise the California coast—from Mission Beach to Huntington Beach and back.

Sometimes, we’d bodysurf at The Wedge—a stretch of dangerous surf along Newport Beach, where monster waves slammed us onto an unforgiving sandbar.

I got scared in that unpredictable surf—because of a dangerous and deadly undertow.

One day at The Wedge, as I struggled against crazy riptides and got pounded by rough surf, an unusually strong undertow caught and pulled me down and out to sea. It held me under water for what felt like an eternity.

After a minute or so, my lungs were screaming. I was almost out of air. But I stayed focused on relaxing and riding it out.

I felt helpless, as the ocean tossed me around like a rag doll—and I wondered if I’d make it back to shore. Finally, I surfaced and gasped for air.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the stuff of life—and barely hanging on?

The strong warrior-king David got slammed by the tough stuff of life. He often struggled with anxiety, discouragement and fear—and unashamedly cried out for help:

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me” (Psalm 69:1-2).

Like David, we struggle to keep our heads above water—and wrestle with our circumstances and emotions—when life overwhelms us.

But our mighty Savior doesn’t struggle like us. He’s our strong lifeguard.

He rescues us from the waves that submerge us. Stops the tsunamis that threaten us. Quiets the earthquakes that rattle us. Silences the storms that terrify us.

One day, Jesus took a nap in a fishing boat, as he sailed across a lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a big storm hit—and as the gale-force winds started howling, Jesus kept snoring.

But the terrified disciples couldn’t sleep. They woke Jesus—and then watched, as he silenced the storm with a single command, “Be still” (Mark 4:39).

Our Savior is never overwhelmed. That’s why we can trust Jesus, call for his help and expect his rescue. That’s why we can rely on his presence, experience his power and anticipate his peace.