A Little Light Changes Everything

-Joe Fornear

Sometimes when times are especially tough, His light shines through … and everything changes! God has always shone into my life through music. During my Stage IV melanoma cancer battle, I had a lot of trouble focusing. I couldn’t listen to sermons or read the Bible, and sometimes I couldn’t even think straight. Yet He still spoke to me, comforted me, freed me – through song. No matter what trouble you’re going through now, perhaps this song will reach you in the same way it moves me now. This is William Matthews singing, Shine On Us, with Bethel Church Worship Band members.

My favorite line from the song, “Every fear, every doubt disappears when You shine on us.”

Let Him shine on you today!

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Getting Carried Away

-Terri Fornear

Surely He took up my weaknesses and carried my sorrows… Isaiah 53:4

Can you imagine this God, Who created zillions of stars and knows about and counts every grain of sand on this earth?Christ carrying cross up Calvary on Good Friday over bright sky

He sees you; Sees me.

  • my weaknesses
  • my pain
  • my sorrows

He reached down and made a way to take them up and carry them for me …
by carrying the cross that day.

I don’t understand how or why that was done, but He changed history that weekend!

It’s how He sees pain and suffering. He’s not behind those!
He decided to carry them for us!

Handover your burdens …

  • your sorrows
  • your pain
  • your weaknesses

He meets our need NOW in His Son’s life,
Who lives for us and through us and in us.

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Slip-Proof Grip

-Joe Fornear

When Someone has a really strong grip on you, YOUR grip strength matters little! This picture and the verses below paint a powerful truth about Jesus’ and the Father’s hearts toward us. Jesus said both He and The Father have us in their hands. Perhaps they see us walking hand in hand with them. They’re delighted to swing us between them. They won’t let go; nor can anyone knock us out of their hands. Safe. Secure. Totally cherished.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. – John 10:27-30

We can use our imaginations to play out all manner of negative possibilities. I struggled with this during my Stage IV battle with metastatic melanoma cancer. Yet, we can also use our imaginations to focus on positive realities! This is not “mind-over-matter.” This is our mind yielding to factual realities. Go for it, in your mind’s eye, see yourself swinging between the huge and loving hands of Jesus and Your Father. They’ve got a good hold on you, no matter what you feel, and even when you’re weary or discouraged. Slip-proof!

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. – Philippians 4:8  

Think about it!

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Grab On!

-Joe Fornear

Last weekend I was giving out Stronghold Ministry gift baskets at a Relay for Life in my hometown of Pittsburgh. My three sisters were with me at the Stronghold Ministry tent and my brother’s band was playing. They announced the time for cancer survivors to take their lap. One of my brother’s friends relentlessly encouraged me to take the lap. In my mind, I wasn’t there for me. Yet to humor him, I hit the track. I had never even been to a Relay for Life, and I was caught off guard by all of the cheering people lining the track. They were acknowledging the difficulty of our cancer battles. I flashbacked 13 years to the pain and powerlessness of my Stage IV journey – and to the amazing support of my family, friends and most of all, of the Lord, My Stronghold.Jesus reaching water - Goodsalt - 6-22-16 - cropped

I cling to You; Your right hand upholds me. – Psalm 63:8

If you’re like me, you have your good days when you feel you can conquer the world. Then along comes a wave of pain or a huge gust of bad news and you get all wobbly. I remember the times of overcoming and the times of sinking – just like Peter.

But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” – Matthew 14:30

Think about it, he actually walked on the surface of the stormy Sea of Galilee! Yet eventually, his faith wavered when doubts and fears crept in and down he went. Isn’t that the rub with walking above your circumstances – consistency?

The good news for Peter, and you and I, is The Master of Storms is always around us. Like a dad who patiently trains his child to ride a bike, He steadies and lifts us up when we fall. So c’mon, let’s take a victory lap while clinging to Him – grab on.

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How to Have Peace Exactly Like God’s Peace

-Joe Fornear

Picture God seated on His throne, high above His universe. Do you see Him as upset, nervous, frantic? Probably not – He’s at rest. This, my friends, is perfect peace. Consider His type of peace:God on throne - small

  • God never freaks out.
  • God never loses His cool.
  • God never “spins” or stews over wrongs done to Him.
  • God chuckles when world leaders conspire against His purposes (Psalm 2:1-4).
  • God, and those who trust in Him, laugh at the future (Proverbs 31:25).

I’ve got good news – this type of peace can be ours because He freely gives HIS peace to those who trust in His Son as their Savior!

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid. – John 14:27

But I don’t want to skip a step for any of our readers. Please understand if you’re new to Jesus that we must first make peace with God before we can have the peace of God. So let’s first believe on Jesus to take away our sin and give us eternal life – more on this here and in this important scripture:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:1

So peace is in a Person – Jesus Christ. During my intense battle with Stage IV metastatic melanoma I often tried (and still try) to find peace solely through a change in circumstances. This makes for some very unhappy days. Yet while I’m seeking Him for circumstantial changes, I believe the Lord wants me to experience His peace along the way. Yes right in the very midst of life’s tribulations!

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. – John 16:33

So may HIS peace be with you!

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When I’m Anxious, It’s Simple …

-Joe Fornear

When I’m anxious, it’s simple, …

  • I’m depending too much on myself.Worry free zone
  • I’ve taken on a burden I was never intended or created to bear.
  • I’m not believing God’s promise that He already has a perfect plan and provision to meet all of my needs.
  • I’m spinning my wheels for no reason, accomplishing absolutely nothing.
  • I’m taking possession and responsibility of a problem God wants me to give to Him.
  • I’m trying to be God. I don’t want to be God. He’s got way too many problems. He collects them.

He’s got me, even when I had Stage IV melanoma cancer. And He’s got you – NO worries.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. – Philippians 4:6

And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? – Matthew 6:27

Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

God is collecting problems again today. So let’s give them ALL to Him. If you’re having trouble letting go, don’t worry, He’ll be collecting again tomorrow.

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Can Little Faith Produce Miracles?

-Joe Fornear

Oh me of little faith. Oh ye of little faith. Oh us of little faith. But is little faith a deal breaker? Does it cancel all hope for answered prayers? I hope not! We need faith not only to believe Him for miracles, but also to cope with the daily difficulties of life. I admit, little faith was common for me during my fight against Stage IV metastatic melanoma and still common twelve years on.mustard seed faith - 5-3-16

Yet there’s some surprisingly good news! Evidently little faith can still produce big miracles – big miracles! Jesus said so – more than once. Now I’m not advocating little faith, but little faith can pick up a mulberry tree or even a mountain and relocate either in the sea!

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” – Matthew 17:19-20

And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” – Luke 17:6

No bigger than the tip of a pencil, mustard seeds are pretty small. So don’t beat yourself up over doubts or fears, just exercise whatever faith you have. Point it in the right direction – toward the Lord – to His powers and abilities. And pray along with me what a father prayed for his son who had been possessed by a destructive demon, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). And the Author and Perfecter of our faith will do His thing within us (Hebrews 12:2).

Lord, we believe theoretically in our minds that all things are possible for You, help us believe unflinchingly in our hearts to pray boldly. Yes, help our unbelief!

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Finding and Being an Oasis

-Joe Fornear

Why is this happening to me? A common human response to difficult times. Oasis in the desertIt’s evidently not a problem to ask this question of God – even Jesus asked on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” It’s also not a badge of honor to refrain from asking why. The Lord wants to show us His purposes in our trials:

No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. – John 15:5

Certainly, one of His goals during trials is to reveal Himself on a level not possible if our lives were trouble-free! This revelation of Him bubbles up and out to those in similarly hard times. Thus, we not only find an oasis in the desert, we become one! Paul certainly believed God was leveraging his troubles in this manner:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-6

The good news is the comfort He provides always matches the level of sufferings endured. And evidently He promises enough to share with others as well! So we receive His amazing comfort not only to alleviate our own pain and grief, but to spread it to others.

I could not “waste my sorrows” and bury the comfort I found during my Stage IV cancer battle. I am compelled to share both the challenges of the rough battle and the Lord’s provision through it all, including His ability to heal. Eventually the Lord lead my wife Terri and I to launch Stronghold Ministry, a care and support ministry to cancer patients and others in crisis. Yet the Lord wants each of us to leverage our troubles in our own unique way. The possibilities and opportunities are endless. If you run out of ideas – write to us and ask about our Stronghold Ministry “Ambassador” project. We can work together.

I get that after the battle subsides, some want to run far away from cancer. But every caretaker or patient is sitting on a depth of insight that only first hand experience can fully comprehend. Why me? Why you? What if He allows our battles, whether it be cancer or another trial, so we will be an inspiration and hope to many in the same ordeal? One helping many – the math alone explains why!

Here’s to leveraging our trials and being an oasis of His comfort to many!

Trading Mourning for Joy

-Joe Fornear

It was the worst of times; it was the worst of times. Did you ever have a season of life that was so miserable that there was little good to say about it?

I’ve had a few trials like that. Certainly my battle with Stage IV metastatic melanoma comes to mind. Sure, good things happened out of it, but during it there were some miserable moments. As bad news piled up, I was completely out of control, depressed and oppressed.

Fortunately, we have a God who traffics in the impossible. In Isaiah 61, Jesus announced His intent for making the impossible possible. And this in the worst of times – trading mourning for gladness. Mourning is grieving over the loss of things we will never get back in this life. Things such as time, opportunities, and of course people. Yet Jesus said He came…

To comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. – Isaiah 61:3

Some questions jump out at me about Jesus’ end goal here. How could we possibly have a mantle of praise in the midst of mourning? Or gladness? Why garlands of victory and celebration (like a Hawaiian lei)?

Well, it must be a supernatural thing. You see under God’s New Covenant, He provides HIS coping powers to us. Tools which transcend our very normal human responses. So now, anything is possible, including gladness in the midst of difficult situations! Consider these benefits found in Christ:

*Joy which cannot even be described in human words, but experiencing it is wonderful!

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. – 1 Peter 1:8

*Peace which is actually God’s own peace and He seems pretty relaxed!

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7

*Love which the brain cannot understand, but it sure fills up the heart!

That you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 1:18-19

*Power which can literally move mountains of fear, anxiety and self-pity!

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. – Ephesians 1:20

With these supernatural tools from the indwelling Christ, mourning does not have to take over our lives. In fact we can face the hardest of times with hope and freedom. He reigns!

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About Those Clouds Following You

-Joe Fornear

A freeing thought today for my friends and their caretakers who are fighting cancer: Go easy on yourself! Goodness & Mercy - 3-16-16

The beatdown of treatments and cancer not only weakens the body, but also the spirit and soul. During an incredibly intense battle, our physical immunities decrease over time, and so do our emotional and spiritual defenses. We may feel overwhelmed by fears, depression, and self-pity, forming a gray cloud which seems to follow us around.

Yet do not fear or be frustrated with your inability to cope, this is where the Lord is holding on to you! He taught me this truth during my Stage IV cancer battle when they gave me just days to live in 2003. He has a strong hold on us! This is why we named our ministry, Stronghold Ministry.

Remember what He tells us through David in Psalm 23:6:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life!

Think above and beyond that gray cloud for a moment. Hovering far above are two huge billowing clouds of pure love – His Goodness and His Mercy. Just as His Presence followed the Israelites in the wilderness in the form of a cloud, these clouds are His Presence with and for us! He follows us to watch over and bless us. So let Him carry you – float you. This is truly a difficult battle, so don’t be hard on yourself, He’s not. Rest easy in His grip, my friends.

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Cry Out to the One Who Heals

-Joe Fornear

This devotional is an excerpt from Joe and Terri Fornear’s book, In His Grip, Meditations with The Great Physician. The book is free to cancer patients as part of our Stronghold Ministry gift basket. Request a gift basket here.

    In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.’” – 2 Kings 20:1–5.

At the point of death, God mercifully extended Hezekiah’s life for 15 years. Certainly his heartfelt prayers made a deep impression on God. Granted, God doesn’t answer all such prayers, but He often intervenes in dramatic fashion.

As long as there are serious illnesses, there will be cries for healing. As long as there are cries for healing, there will be miraculous interventions by the Lord. As long as I have breath, I will encourage the hurting to seek God’s miraculous intervention in their lives. People often report to Stronghold Ministry how the Lord healed them when they were at the point of death, extending their lives for years, just as He did for Hezekiah—and just as He did for me.

I am convinced that God wants to intervene more than we think. May He grant us that small, mustard-seed-sized faith to pursue Him for the impossible. God loves to defy human odds!

Lord, we know and believe You can and want to perform miracles. Please work a miracle in my life.

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Hidden Oasis in the Desert

-Joe Fornear

Could the most difficult times also be the most beneficial? Before you tune me out, I think this is exactly what the Lord says in His love letter to us!

But wait, who volunteers for a desert experience? I didn’t. I was definitely drafted into a journey with God through cancer in 2002.  At the time, I could not foresee any good outcome from my fight with Stage IV melanoma. Ah, but pain skews perceptions. Today, I realize just how busy and productive He was in those desert years.

Desert experiences are perhaps His greatest tool to grab hold of us… and we Him. Even Jesus Himself, before beginning His ministry, was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert where He was tempted by the devil! You may be surprised how many Bible verses describe the desert’s role in our lives. Consider just three verses which reveal God’s goals in our desert experiences… if we cooperate:

  • He produces humility in us in the desert.

And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you. Deuteronomy 8:2

I used to think I was pretty tough until Stage IV melanoma and its treatments re-educated me. I didn’t realize how much pride I had taken in my own strength and abilities to endure in sports, construction and academics. I used to judge on people who struggled with physical, emotional and especially spiritual weaknesses. Yet ironically, I found my own weaknesses were the very pathway to His super-natural strength, giving me far more coping ability than I ever could have mustered on my own.

Thankfully, the desert is not His only tool! Still, I can tell you He shortened the legs on my high horse during my cancer battle!

  • He purifies our desire for Him in the desert.

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. – Deuteronomy 8:3

Jesus said in Luke 17:27 that “eating and drinking and giving in marriage” will be a regular part of life until the end of time as we know it. Yet these routines and special events can be incredibly distracting to the most important issue in life – our relationship with God. So He allowed the Israelites to go through tough times so that they would turn to Him and depend on Him daily. He does the same for us.

I wish I could be on spiritual autopilot to daily draw “life” from the Lord not human accomplishments or earthly pleasures. But nothing draws me to Him like adversity. When I struggle, I turn to Him. I seek Him out and listen to His every Word. He has my attention when I’m hurting.

  • He prepares us for a greater purpose in the desert.

Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. – Isaiah 35:6

Moses, Israel, David, Elijah, and yes even Jesus, all endured difficult times in the desert before the Lord revealed Himself in and through them in incredible ways. This is how a spiritual oasis is born, where others will come to drink. First, we must drink of Him, so soak deep in His soothing comforts.

If you’re in the midst of desert experience, don’t panic, rest assured God knows the desert like the backside of His hand. He’ll guide you every step. He’s doing great things in and through you!

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Love Floats – You!

– Joe Fornear

There is a new 1000 foot glass footbridge in China spanning 600 feet above a valley. above clouds- love- 1-28-16There are videos of people frozen on the bridge or crawling across because they’re so freaked out by the height. For many, 600 feet seems to be quite a long way – but 600 feet is nothing.

Imagine walking across a glass bridge in the heavens, miles above the earth. As you look down and all around, picture the huge expanses not to be clouds and air, but a humongous pool of God’s love for you. Right, that’s a lot of love. Now visualize all of that love enveloping you – and dive in. Let the purest of loves carry you along over your earthly troubles. Go ahead, float there in your imagination for a while…

The good news is you don’t have to pretend this type of love to be true – God says it is true! And some of His freest children, David and Paul, discovered this fact long ago. They call to us today to join them in being caught up by the Lord’s incredible love as well:

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. – David in Psalm 36:5.

(I pray) that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. – Paul in Ephesians 3:17-20.

“Yeah, yeah,” you might say, “I know God loves me.” Yet note Paul insists God’s love “surpasses knowledge.” In other words, it’s something you know and feel, and He wants us be filled up with this love! Words don’t do justice. Paul says it’s incomprehensibly wide, long, tall and deep! That’s a lot of love – extending up into the heavens.

So cuddle up to The One who is crazy about you and cares deeply about everything you face in life. Picture His love melting away each and every fear you’ve ever had. See His love releasing you of all tensions, worries and cares. He’s got you. Exhale. Smile. Soak. Float in His love. Repeat often.

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The Long Arm of the Lord

-Joe Fornear

Some people talk about “The Universe” orchestrating events and ordering or disordering our lives. They try to stay on the right side of it so that good things will happen in their lives. hand reaching outOthers chuckle at an impersonal force controlling our lives, yet see God in much the same way, like some cosmic referee robotically dishing out punishments or rewards.

But the Bible is crystal clear; the correlation between our goodness and good things happening is far from lock-step. And vice versa too – people are not automatically punished when they do wrong… are we? In Psalm 73, David was disturbed by the prosperity of the wicked in the realms of wealth and health (“they have increased in wealth, and there are no pains in their death”), while he had troubles on every side.

There is good news though when bad news comes, like for me when I was told 12 years ago that I had terminal cancer. There is one sure thing, one constant in hardship – God can reach any corner of this universe and make changes there. Call it “the long arm of the Lord”:

Behold, the LORD’S hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. – Isaiah 59:1

After all, He spoke this big old universe into existence (Hebrews 12:3) and one day He will fold it all up like one of those Chinese paper fans and recreate a brand new one (Revelation 21).

Better yet, beyond His ability to save and deliver is His willingness to save and deliver. Note that our verse says He “hears.” In the Hebrew language and culture of that day, this didn’t mean He simply makes note of our cries, like we say, “I hear you.” It means He cares enough to do something about it! He’ll certainly walk us through whatever hardships He allows in our lives. That makes two really sure things, two constants in God’s little universe – He’s all-powerful and He’s all-loving!

So never resist those long and caring outstretched arms. Take your pains, griefs and heartaches with you and curl up with Him, the God of the universe!

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Simply Christmas

– Joe Fornear

As I sat with the Lord a couple weeks ago, I was thinking about the bustle and hustling of Christmas and wanting to rise above all of the noise – with Him. Savior born - 12-21-15And I asked Him for a bottom line about Christmas – from Him. Immediately, a thought popped into my mind that went something like this: “This will ‘make’ your Christmas and give you something to fix on: ‘Without the Savior Jesus, where would you be?'”

I quickly realized apart from His coming and the forgiveness which He later provided at the cross, I would end up spending eternity apart from Him in a place of punishment. Yet Christmas is all about good news for me and for all people of all time:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people, for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:10-11.

It’s really very simple. My greatest need is a Savior, and God the Father provided that Savior on the first Christmas! The good news is actually a person. He saves us from the consequences of our sin, from eternal punishment! In fact He offers everlasting treasures and joy in heaven for those who receive Him as Savior (more here on The Two Ways to Get to Heaven). What more could we ask for this Christmas or any time of our lives? So to cut through all of that Christmas and daily noise, focus on this – life is merry when it’s simply about the Savior.

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