Friday, September 06th, 2013 | Author:

Do we have to do everything “right” for God to work on our behalf?

Fear was one of the main emotions I dealt with during Joe’s cancer battle. It crept in… telling me I needed to do everything “right” so God would get this monster out of our house.fearless kid on bike - 9-6-13

  • We needed to get the right information from the Doctor.
  • We needed to get a quick and correct diagnosis – we had to act fast and get the treatment exactly right.
  • We needed to pray “right” so God would answer.
  • We needed to confess every sin so He would be gracious (a new way to earn grace – smile).

I felt so responsible for making things happen and I was so afraid we were going to mess up.

I still go through these thoughts and feelings when things in my life are scary. The lie that keeps knocking at my door is that His work on the Cross is not enough. He doesn’t accept my powerlessness, my weaknesses.

I know this is insane thinking, but it feels like reality.

Yet the Lord comes to me in the middle of this whirlwind. I hear Him asking me to call Him, Abba Father, or my Shepherd, or my Deliverer, or my Savior. He wants to give Himself to me. He wants me to see Him, and really hear His love shouting out to me through His gift of Jesus’ act on the Cross! He gave up His perfect Son for imperfect people who would receive His gift and not try to earn His love through perfection and performance.

He opens my eyes to His love. He begins to cast out the voices that block love. He pursues the darkness that I have sat in. He surrounds me with songs of deliverance (Psalms 32:7). Deliverances from the liar that is more interested in setting up a “false god” in my mind – a god of self-reliance and independence.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for  power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Father, teach us to block and reject lies about Your love and grace for us.

~~~~~~~~~~

-Find out how to receive the free gift of eternal life – The Two Ways To Get To Heaven.
-If you’re fighting cancer, please write and let us know how we can pray for you. We want to be “in your corner.”
-In His Grip
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All materials in this blog copyright (c) Joe & Terri Fornear. Scripture quotations from the NASB.

Friday, August 23rd, 2013 | Author:

I hear it often, “God never gives us more than we can handle,” but is it true? The answer may surprise you.chain with life preserver as a link

I just celebrated my ten-year-anniversary of being cancer-free. Praise the Lord for that! Today, my Stage IV “terminal” battle seems so far away, yet I cannot shake the overwhelming sense of powerlessness that often enveloped me in those days.

Paul shared this feeling of powerlessness, but he discovered the perfect mindset to overcome as well:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;  indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead. - 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

God allowed Paul, and He allows us, to be in way over our heads, so we might find new levels of dependence on Him. Only then will His power and life be released in and through us. When His power is displayed in this way, we are transformed. As a result, we know Him better, and others can find Him through us – despite our weakened state. As God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you; My power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:8). Paul responded back, “I therefore rejoice in my weaknesses for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So yes, God does give us more than we can handle, but only so we can handle much more eternally significant matters – through Him!

  • So don’t be surprised at the intensity of your battle – He’s strengthening your faith in Him for eternal purposes!
  • So don’t beat yourself up if you can’t handle things – you’re not supposed to in your own strength!
  • So don’t pretend to be strong and in control when you’re not; embrace your weakness!

Father, help us really “get” how and why You work Your power into our lives.

Friday, August 02nd, 2013 | Author:

The storyline of one TV show is not so different from that of hundreds of people who are diagnosed daily. A 50-year-old father and husband is informed his cancer is Breaking Well - 7-31-13inoperable, so he launches a plan to secure his family’s financial future. What is unusual – this high school chemistry teacher uses his expertise to cook and sell a very potent brand of methamphetamine. To preserve and expand his growing nest egg, he plunges deeper into violence, and gradually embraces a drug kingpin’s lifestyle. Thus, the name of the show, Breaking Bad.

Fighting cancer has a way of breaking people. The battle changes us, leaving us above all things – different. The only question is – which direction will we break?

  • Will we allow faith or fear to reign over our lives?
  • Will we allow pain to drive us to the Lord or to drift us away from Him?
  • Will we treat people better or end up bitter?
  • Are we open to leverage our experience to help others or will we leave the battlefield asap?

In his considerable sufferings, which included stonings, beatings and physical illness (Galatians 4:13), Paul the apostle learned to break well.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Paul saw past the tyranny of the short-term demands of his pressing needs; excruciating pain; and the deliberate cruelty of others. He saw unseen but lasting realities of a loving God who has our backs; an incredible glory to be revealed; and an unfaltering hope that ultimately the entire universe will break well. In the meantime, we can trust Him in the confusion of our battles, and we too can break well.

Father, our battles are fierce, so we need Your grace and strength to respond well – we thank You for being here for us.

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 | Author:

I have been trying to consistently take my little Westie dog (Flurry) for walks each day. She is such a happier animal when I do. Our walks consist mostly of me tugging her when she wants to stop and put her little mark on a moment of space. She usually wins. The other day she kepWestie - blog - 7-18-13t tugging and barking at me, trying to get me to go to be where she wanted me to be. I just looked at her and asked, “Who is taking who for a walk here?”

I had a picture of myself talking to myself. That’s how I feel when I sense things need to change – “I need to change.” I want to control the change.

I seem to go through three steps. First, Awareness that I need to change, and I want the change, and cry out to God for the change. This step puts me into the powerless position to receive from God. Acceptance is the next step – accepting God’s love for me right in the middle of my “tugging” time, but I want to skip it. I want change NOW! I want to take the Action step – NOW! Yet I first have to take God’s love for me in the acceptance stage. He accepts me when I cannot change. He loves me when I am powerless. He even loves me when I keep doing “it” wrong. He’s waiting for me to know His unconditional love in Jesus – a love that even sees enemies and takes up for them.

For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! – Romans 5:10

I consistently pull my own chain to change. I don’t want to sit in GRACE. I want to make the change and be proud that I did it. Like Flurry, I want to be in control of my walk. Especially the parts that make me look good. I want to spend time fixing up my messes. I love Jesus’ love for me. He waits until I wear out. He loves me through my self-efforts and somehow HIS GRACE and Acceptance changes me.

Flurry always moves on and I love my little dog even during her times of tugging…

Wednesday, July 03rd, 2013 | Author:

The Single Most Destructive Attitude We Can Have – Part 4 – Resenting Yourself

If resentment is a bad idea, self-resentment is an even worse one. We get beat up enough in life without piling on ourselves. If you’ve done some royally dumb things in your life, you’re not alone. There is an app for that – the application of the mercy of God to our sin.nails- forgiven - 7-3-2013

If we are in Christ (find out how to get there here), He does not hold our sins against us, so why should we? All punishment has fallen on Jesus Christ, The Innocent One, so that we could be made truly innocent. And no, God is not punishing you with the difficult circumstances in your life. If anything, He is trying to draw you deeper into His love and mercy!

As we celebrate freedom this week in the U.S., choose spiritual freedom instead of guilt. Choose His commendation over self-condemnation. Choose His abundance and not self-imposed bondage. Grab on to these freeing forgiveness verses:

  • Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account. – Romans 4:7-8
  • He made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
  • As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. – Psalm 103:12
  • I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. – Jeremiah 31:34
  • “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they were red like crimson, they will be as wool.” – Isaiah 1:18
  • He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. – Micah 7:19

Oh, and if you’re still having trouble forgiving yourself, remember God applied these merciful statements to murderers, adulterers and idolaters. His mercy is always greater than our sin. So do yourself a favor – just take the free gift of His mercy!

Hopefully, this series on resentment has helped release you from resentment – the single most destructive attitude you can have. If so let us know you liked it.

Friday, June 07th, 2013 | Author:

The Single Most Destructive Attitude We Can Have – Part 3 – Resenting Caretaking

The type of resentment which might be most difficult to admit is resenting caretaking. Let’s face it, the futility and helplessness of simply observing someone facing a major crisis can be overwhelming. But frustration is compounded when a caretaker invests massive amounts of time, finances, energy and emotion.Dealing w Feelings

Job’s wife was not the first or last caretaker to crack under the strain. In hopes of ending the string of tragedies visited upon her family, she snapped at her sick husband: “Do you still hold to your integrity, curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Clearly, bitterness had crept in — she even resents the fact that he was coping well!

I can’t blame Mrs. Job though. Caretakers often journey through suffering under a different set of rules than patients. Consider three contrasts:

  • Patients have no problem “making it all about me,” while caretakers feel guilty even considering their feelings, so they usually just suppress them.
  • Patients loudly proclaim that they “want their life back,” as I did during my battle, and most onlookers totally understand. Yet such statements from a caretaker will usually be considered self-centered.
  • Common courtesy is to ask people how they are doing, but if you’re a caretaker, you will first be asked about the patient. Your well-being is either an afterthought or overlooked altogether.

So how does a caretaker handle an impossible load? The answer must be to tap into the supernatural. Human love has its limits. Divine love does not. He wants to give us His love to flow through us to others. Just ask and keep asking — moment by moment.

To help unravel the feelings and frustrations of caretaking, we offer a free new resource written by a caretaker for caretakers, patients and really everyone with feelings. My wife, Terri, recently published a book called Dealing with Feelings, A Journal of God’s Promises. This book will help you separate the lies from the truth about God. Lies can creep in during hard times. It is a tool to get to the root of your emotions to resolve them Biblically. As Jesus said in John 8:32 & 36, “The truth will set you free… and if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

So send us your address and we’ll send you Dealing With Feelings for free. If you insist on paying something, just make a donation to Stronghold Ministry. And hug a caretaker today!

Father, Your Son endured the ultimate suffering for our sin, and You watched – You understand this pain. Give us Your supernatural enablement to watch and graciously help when our loved ones suffer.

Monday, May 20th, 2013 | Author:

The Single Most Destructive Attitude We Can Have – Part 2 – Resenting People

forgiving - 5-20-2013It’s true – “To err is human,” and to be wounded by humans is equally unavoidable. I’ve never met a cancer patient who hasn’t endured a thoughtless comment, gross incompetence, or the neglect of friend or family. It’s easy to develop resentment, especially when you’ve never been more reliant on others’ support. So how do you handle the emotional scars of your battle?

Consider Job’s situation. I wonder which aspect of his living nightmare was most painful. Was it losing all ten of his children, his livestock and his servants in a single day? Was it the tormenting boils that covered his skin from head to toe? Or was it the counsel of “friends,” who insisted the calamities were God’s payback for his sin?

Interestingly, before God restores Job’s health, family and fortunes, He asks him to pray for the well-being of his friends, releasing them from the scars they inflicted. After all, the Lord did not want Job’s nightmare to continue. Whether real or imagined, revenge only breeds more pain. So don’t release the Kraken… on yourself! As the Lord clearly warns:

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. – Ephesians 4:26

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. – Hebrews 12:15

So how do we get free of resentment? Keep in mind the second half of the old adage, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” As with all matters of righteousness, we are powerless to produce forgiveness. Yet at our invitation, the Lord can extend His grace in us and through us toward others. So turn to Him for the power to forgive.

Next time we’ll discuss the resentments that can spring up while taking care of others. For more on how to forgive – check out my Bible study on Forgiveness.

Father, grant us the grace to forgive others, just as You have forgiven us in Christ.

Monday, April 29th, 2013 | Author:

The Single Most Destructive Attitude We Can Have – Part 1 – Resenting God

While fighting cancer, caretaking, or just navigating everyday hurts, one attitude will bring more pain and sadness into our lives than any do not enter signother – resentment. I know this from years of pastoring; counseling patients, caretakers and married couples; and of course observing the disastrous impact of my own bouts with bitterness.

In future posts, I will address resentments toward others, toward the sick people we care for, and even resentment toward ourselves. Yet first I want to focus on an unexpected target of resentment – God.

Resentment Toward God

Perhaps you’ve lashed out at God, or witnessed someone rail against Him, yet often resentment toward God is more subtle. Now I’m not backtracking from my theme from last week – that grieving and mourning loss is appropriate. Again, King David, Job, and Jesus all lamented their circumstances. But there is a line we can cross from grief into resentment. Despite a flood of anguish from devastating personal tragedies, Job managed to walk the line: “Through all of this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (Job 1:22). In other words, Job did not charge God with being evil or unjust. How do we recognize the lines?

  • Demanding answers from the Lord as if we are the final judge of Him.
  • Commanding the Lord to change a situation because we “deserve it.”
  • Numbing ourselves to Him – shutting Him out of our lives. I must admit at points during my battle with Stage IV metastatic melanoma that in my disappointment, I shut God out (more on this in my book, My Stronghold). In the final analysis, passive indifference is not much better than open defiance.

So what do we do with resentment toward God? Admit and confess our feelings to Him and a trusted person. Ask Him to help us release all bitterness and to help us resolve the tensions that led to the bitterness in the first place. When we let go of rotten anger, we may begin to make sense of His purposes for allowing hardships… and to feel His soothing love again.

Father, thank You for Your graciousness in overlooking our bitterness, and for helping us to resolve it in a healthy manner.

Monday, April 15th, 2013 | Author:

In my posts, I mostly address needs of cancer patients. That’s because I know that experience well. It’s not because I think they’re the only ones impacted by cancer! So this week I conducted a caretaker survey in hopes of identifying their greatest needs. Actually, I only interviewed one caretaker, but she’s a very good one ­– my wife, Terri. I asked what advice she would give to those who want to help a helper. Feel free to respond back or comment with your thoughts. Terri’s input: “First, just listen. Then, let me grieve. Then, cast the burden on the Lord together.”

Three ways to take care of a caretaker – with my comments:caretaker hands

1) Listen.
Ecclesiastes 3:7b – “A time to be silent and a time to speak.”

When caring for caretakers, resist the temptation to be profound. Sometimes we try to alleviate deep pains and life-threatening concerns with a spiritual platitude or two. Even if true, these attempts fall flat as people tend to minimize the severity of a medical prognosis or the turmoil they bring. Many times it is more about timing. Caretakers will usually care to listen when care has been shown through listening.

2) Let me grieve.
Matthew 5:4 – “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

There are monumental life events for caretakers and their families which are lost forever in the midst of a cancer battle. Mom, Dad or both may miss a first grade graduation party; or miss an entire season of their child’s sporting events; a wedding or a funeral, like I missed my dad’s. Students’ grades suffer. Incomes decline just as expenses increase. Holidays are shrouded by sadness. Caretaker’s needs go unmet as attention is focused on the patient’s survival. So do not gloss over these losses. When a caretaker recites them, they are not engaging in self-pity, they are processing reality. In fact, when grievances are not validated, self-pity is more likely to result.

3) Cast the burden on the Lord together.
Galatians 6:2 – “Bear one another’s burdens.”

After listening and validating the pain and concerns of a caretaker, now it is time to cast these on the Lord – together. A burden shared is a burden lightened. He cares for us deeply and prayer really does make a difference. Philippians 4:6–7 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Do you know a helper you can help today?

Caretakers – what would you add to this list?

Father, thank You for providing people to help us when we suffer! Train us to see their needs — not as an after-thought — but as a primary focus of our concern.

Monday, April 01st, 2013 | Author:

He raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
- Ephesians 2:6
Easter tomb empty - small

It seems fitting on April Fool’s Day and the day after Easter, to emphasize an overlooked benefit of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some might say it is too good to be true, but though today is 04-01-2013, this is no April Fool’s Day message.

Most Christians agree that when He rose, He defeated our most formidable enemy, death, but also the lesser enemies of fear, worry, sin, demons and satan. These all have been rendered powerless over us… unless of course we unnecessarily yield to them. Ephesians 3:18-21 lays out this victory won for us through God’s raising of Jesus:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

But as the infomercial guys say, “But that’s not all — there’s more!” The Father not only raised Jesus to be seated at His right hand in the heavenly realms, He also raised and seated all future believers in Christ, which means we who believe now:

He raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus - Ephesians 2:6

So what does this mean for us? The significance of Jesus’ seating at the right hand of the Father was about His authority over enemies. The same is true for us, if indeed we’re seated with Him and we are! We have been given the authority and the ability to say no to fear and worry, temptation and sin! We have access to the exact same resurrection power so that we can have the strength to rise above our circumstances! Perhaps we should reserve Easter Monday to celebrate our seating with Him in the heavenly places! Will you join me?

Father, cause us to grasp and claim all that You have said and written about us. Help us trust Your Word above our feelings or experience to embrace the total deliverance You have freely given us in Jesus Christ!