Tag Archives: surviving melanoma

Giant Down in the Valley

-Joe Fornear

We all spend time in The Valley of Elah. There, giants are found. David faced and took down the giant, Goliath, in The Valley of Elah, (1 Samuel 17). His victory came within minutes of first witnessing Goliath’s taunting of “the armies of the living God.” In contrast, we’re told his brothers and the Israeli army spent the previous 40 days in that valley cowering and running from Goliath!

“The Philistine came forward morning and evening for forty days and took his stand.” – 1 Samuel 17:16
“When all the men of Israel saw the man, they fled from him and were greatly afraid.” – 1 Samuel 17:24

So what distinguished the one who overcame his fear from the ones who cowered under it?

  • The fearful ones focused only on human sight.
    The men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who is coming up?” – 1 Samuel 17:25​

They saw Goliath’s size and strength and did their math. They surfed the internet, read statistics, and focused on human “probabilities” of winning. They looked merely to their own human resources – no wonder doubt paralyzed them. During my intense battle with Stage IV melanoma, I learned the hard way what a difference focus makes!

  • The one who overcame focused on faith.

David “saw” his God as far bigger and greater than any obstacle, be it a lion, a bear, or oversized human.

Now am I saying if we have enough faith, we’re guaranteed God will answer every prayer? Clearly, God responds to faith! Yet He is not bound by it. He does, however, guarantee victory over fear!

But how did David develop this type of faith?

  • David knew Who God was.
    “I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts” – 1 Samuel 17:45​

David “saw” God as commander over the “hosts,” all the angelic armies of heaven. Many Bible students believe the reference includes the vast arrays of the heavens, all the starry hosts (Genesis 2:1). These are the lights of the night, the trillions upon trillions of stars He flung across the heavens in an instant.

  • David knew who he was.
    “I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts” – 1 Samuel 17:45​

David confronted Goliath in the Lord’s “name,” with His full authority. David represented God on that battlefield and he knew God had his back.

  • Though David used human tools with the five rocks and sling, He knew the Lord was ultimately He Who wins a fight.
    “The LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S” – 1 Samuel 17:47​

God allows taunting, destructive Goliaths in our lives to demonstrate His love and power. Perhaps you’re facing a giant now – cancer, a financial crisis, a troubled child or relationship. Put down the giant of fear by God’s incredible power, knowing God has your back!

Do you know “The Two Ways to Get to Heaven“?

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The Master’s Cleanse

-Joe Fornear

A touch from God often comes with a taste of tears. Those mighty men and women of the Bible, those vaunted “saints of old,” they endured stretches when tears were so frequent, they called them “food.” Most often we read this as a bad thing, but tears can be cleansing … and good. I busted down more than once during my intense battle with Stage IV melanoma and it helped to know tears are common and have a purpose. Yes, my male friends, even for us.

The Psalmists of the 42nd Psalm let us in on their “desert” struggle. Their thirst for God entailed wondering if He was even there! I’ve wondered at times myself. Perhaps you wonder today. Maybe like the Psalmist you’re on a “salt water cleanse” of tears now.

  • “My tears have been my food day and night” (Psalm 42:3).
  • “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?” (Psalm 42:5).
  • “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Psalm 42:9).

But surely that’s not all there is – just knowing we’re as emotionally stuck as the next guy or gal? No way! The Psalmists proclaim, there’s hope, much hope! Heck, there’s always hope.

Yet hope is a choice. It’s a fight of faith. Don’t let the enemy tell you there is no hope, that God is not there. That He’s abandoned you and there is no coming back from your circumstances or the circumstances of someone you love! The Psalmists encouraged their own souls with the facts, and they set aside those negative emotions and lies. Tell yourself the truth and refocus:

  • “Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence” (Psalm 42:5).
  • “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
  • “Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night” (Psalm 42:7-8).

Those who are in Christ are perfectly united with Him, so we cannot even be separated from Him (for more on union with Him go here). “The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him”  (1 Corinthians 6:17). As He is the Bread of Life, His Presence is a food we can definitely feed on. His goodness fills us up deep in our spirits and changes our “countenance” – our moods. Our souls are lifted by wave upon wave of His love washing over us.

Also, when times are tough, know that He cries with you. He tastes your tears. He’s on a salt water cleanse with you – He is after all, “The Tear Collector!” And He wants you to know this desert experience is temporary – it will NOT last long. Cease squirming, running, turning, numbing or shaking your fist at Him, or others. Let Him comfort you and lift you up. You’re one with Him and He with you!

*Join Joe & Terri Fornear on 3rd Tuesdays of each month at 7:00 pm CST on Joe Fornear‘s Facebook page for our one-hour online prayer meeting. Joe’s FB page is here, add him as a friend to get notifications for this event and for other encouraging posts. Let’s find out together the difference prayer can make! Next meeting on May 16th. See past episodes in February and March and April.

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Dare to Err on the Side of Belief With Us

– Joe & Terri Fornear

​Jesus made many claims about the power of prayer, most of which challenge our conceptions of … everything! Consider just one “outlandish” statement in a long list of His amazing quotes on prayer:

“Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.” – Mark 11:23

After reading this verse, some readers may have stopped reading already. Some may have had a huge letdown in their spirit. I understand, you’ve prayed and prayed and so far – nothing. “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick” (Proverbs 13:12). True, hope can be scary and false promises can be manipulative, but do we really want to explain away Jesus’ promises? I felt the tension during my battle with Stage IV “terminal” cancer. The doctors gave me days to live in May of 2003, would I dare believe God would heal me by “telling” the cancer to leave?

Through a mix of doubts and boldness, Terri and I, and faithful friends and family decided to err on the side of belief. After all, Jesus always seemed to be moved to miracles by faith. He was clearly disappointed, even perturbed by doubt.

What about you, what mountains do you face? Do you have a flicker of hope to explore the realm of what is possible through perseverance and sheer obedience to pray like He commanded? Let’s journey together to plumb the depths of prayer and His supernatural power. Join us Tuesday, March 21st from 7:00 to 8:00 pm CST! Terri Fornear and I will be live from my Facebook page praying for the impossible! To get notifications of all our LIVE video events, become a Facebook friend of Joe Fornear here.


*Please note – until further notice our monthly 3rd Tuesday Stronghold Ministry Praise and Prayer Meetings will be on Facebook LIVE! 


Why are we switching our Prayer Meeting to Facebook LIVE?

Last month, we held our prayer meeting on Facebook LIVE (see the video replay here) and discovered excellent connection with hundreds of cancer patients, their networks, and friends of Stronghold! The power of prayer was multiplied as we prayed for one another! All together we became what Terri Fornear called “a house of prayer”!

We’ve often said about our monthly prayer meeting, “Some of the people who need this prayer meeting the most can’t be here.” This is true for several reasons:

  • Some are quarantined at home to protect their immune system
  • Some are hospitalized
  • Some are feeling ill or weak due to treatments
  • Some don’t know what to expect
  • Some live out of town!!

So join us online as we bring our Prayer Meeting TO YOU!

Tuesday, March 21 (3rd Tuesdays) – on Facebook LIVE from 7:00-8:00 pm on Joe’s Fornear’s Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/joe.fornear. More info:

  • Become “friends” with Joe Fornear on Facebook to get notifications of our live events.
  • Join in for the entire hour from 7-8:00 pm CST … or any length of time!
  • Be ready… between now and Tuesday’s online gathering write your request on Joe’s Facebook post about this meeting!
  • Invite those that are sick, shut in, or wanting to be touched by God!
  • Be ready to listen and be quiet together as we hear HIS encouragements through each other. During the LIVE event, write in verses, prayers and thoughts which fan faith, hope and love.
  • Let us know when He answers your prayer! “See” you tomorrow night, Tuesday, March 21!

Check out last month’s video – click on pic or link below!


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Christmas and Cancer

-Joe Fornear

The Christmas season can be really rough when you’re fighting cancer or grieving great loss. I remember the beginning of my cancer battle on December 23, 2002. I was recovering from a rough surgery to remove a large mass of an unknown cancer from under my arm. The next day, while still feeling the anesthetic and loaded up on pain pills, I forced myself to attend church on Christmas Eve. This was after all the church I had planted and pastored for 12 years. I wanted me and everyone to feel … normal. But normality had gone, and I should not have gone that evening.

My doctor called the next day on Christmas Day to deliver my diagnosis. He was heading out of town for a break and had to wait for the pathology report himself. Still, it remains a painful memory – it “ruined” my Christmas. Then I knew I needed to pick up the phone to tell my parents and siblings that I too had melanoma. I say “too” because my dad was in his last weeks fighting the same disease – metastatic melanoma.

Now I share all of this to connect with those of you who won’t be going to holiday parties or church or who are even in the hospital reading this. You might feel like everyone’s having fun and enjoying themselves and you’re left out and hemmed in to loneliness and darkness. I felt those feelings that Christmas in 2002. But there’s hope – lot’s of it. I so I want to try to help you and me focus on the most important thing about the Christmas season and life, Jesus. Isaiah 9:2 says,

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.

This passage is part of one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry about Christmas, or about anything really, from Isaiah 9:1-7. It sets the context of the oppression and burdens that the people were under when Jesus was born into their country. Yet we too can experience His light and the release from burden and oppression from Jesus! So I want to unwrap this incredible gift of a Person from this passage to help us focus on what it’s all about. Drawing from Isaiah 9:6 & 7 (below in red), I intertwine some brief commentary on what He means or can mean to us (in green).

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;”
Jesus is the Father’s beloved child and Son whom He joyfully gifts to us to become our Savior, Lord, Brother and Friend! Quite a lot of hats He wears and He wears them all extremely well. He is the very best gift God could have ever given!

“And the government will rest on His shoulders;”
He’s got broad shoulders and can carry every load. In this day of flawed leaders, He is and will be the perfect leader of all nations and all beings – including the angels!

“And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,”
He knows exactly what we need. He knows how to let us know what we need. He knows how to teach us to cope while we wait.

“Mighty God,”
He is not a merely a man who understands us, but He willingly shares His Divine power to enable us to cope with humanly impossible circumstances, like cancer, like grief.

“Eternal Father,”
He’s been around forever so He knows how to parent and provide for you and I, His dearly beloved children.

“Prince of Peace.”
He instills, even installs, His perfect peace into our innermost being. He’s the author of the peace which surpasses understanding. It doesn’t make sense to most people!

So though your life might be very difficult right now, seek to set your focus on THE gift, Jesus Christ, and what He has done for you and how much He loves you. You may just find that this Christmas is the deepest and most meaningful of your life!

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Beyond God With Us

-Joe Fornear

During the Christmas season, much is made about Jesus’ name, “Emmanuel,” which means He has come to be with us. And rightly so! It was an incredible expression of love and humility to leave heaven’s comfort to live among us. But there is so much more to the geography of His Presence. 

Diving deeper, we learn He lives “in” or inside of those who believe on Him as Savior (more here on how to believe on Him and invite Him inside you). So, double wow! He came to live on the planet AND to reside within you and me! But wait, there’s more …

Deeper still, not only has Jesus come to live among us and in us, our union with Him is so complete that Paul wrote,

For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. – Colossians 3:3-4


I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. – Galatians 2:20

It’s almost like we’ve partaken of the divine nature ourselves! Wait, that’s exactly what Peter wrote,

He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature. – 2 Peter 1:4

Our complete union with Him is such an amazing gift to enjoy at Christmas and every day. Let’s explore what this means in our daily lives:

  • Though we may be physically alone, we have the Great Companion to accompany and even more to complete us. We’ve arrived!
  • Though we feel overwhelmed, we have the Great Enabler infusing us with power to take the next step. We’re more than conquerors!
  • Though we beat ourselves up over our sin and weakness, we have the Great Encourager to root for us and lift us up. We are free from sin and condemnation.
  • Though we’re frustrated by our circumstances, the Tranquil One provides us perfect peace deep inside. I found this so true at those times when I leaned on Him during my battle with Stage IV metastatic melanoma cancer.

All of this happens internally! He doesn’t “come down” to earth to answer our prayers now – He springs up from within us to act on our behalf. Him and I are never separate! You and Him are never separate! I want to quit seeing Him as “out there,” rather He’s one with me – “in here”!

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PUSH – Pray Until Something Happens

-Joe Fornear

Someone once told me they “tried” prayer to change some unpleasant circumstances and it didn’t work. I think we’ve all been there. I certainly have. After asking God to intervene over and over with no change, it’s tempting to move on to other solutions. Yet hang on, there’s a better way.

In my last Grip message, “We Can Live in the Eye of the Storm,” I covered how we can thrive in His peace in the midst of harsh circumstances. I also promised to discuss another big mistake we make in the midst of unanswered prayer. Here it is: We quit praying too soon! We can resign ourselves to a powerless, miracle-free life! What if God wants to remove the trial altogether in response to our prayers?

First, let me stress there’s been enough damage from overstated teaching on prayer and I don’t want to add. I’m not saying if we pray long enough and right enough we’re guaranteed to get the desired answer. Yet, in my view, there’s actually more understated teaching on prayer. (More on this point next time.) It’s undeniable though, Jesus and our Father urged us to persevere in prayer – don’t ever quit. One assumes for good reason. Consider these verses:

  • And he told them a parable that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. – Luke 18:1
  • Pray without ceasing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17
  • Rejoice in hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. – Romans 12:12
  • To this end, we always pray for you, that our God will count you worthy of His calling, and that He will powerfully fulfill your every good desire and work of faith. – 2 Thessalonians 1:11
  • I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined to me, and heard my cry. – Psalm 40:1
  • Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. – Colossians 4:2
  • 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. – Philippians 4:6-7

There’s a raw simplicity to Jesus’ counsel on prayer. In my opinion much of the confusion during harsh trials is reduced when we simply follow His direction. During my Stage IV cancer battle, I may not have understood why the trial was so intense, but I knew how He was asking me to pray. The bonus of persevering in prayer is He often answers later in the game; that is “late” from the human perspective. So let’s persevere in prayer up until the final whistle blows. Let’s PUSH – Pray Until Something Happens!

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Living in the Eye of the Storm

-Joe Fornear

So you’ve hit up everyone you know to pray for your physical healing from cancer. Perhaps deep in the night you’ve cried out to God for a better marriage. Maybe you’ve practically begged God for a different job. And a few might be interceding for all three of these at once! Yet often requests go unanswered.

So now what? When God allows troubles to linger, are we stuck in hopelessness, doomed to misery?eye-of-storm

Fortunately, Jesus spoke to this in His final days on earth. He said tribulations are an inevitable fact of life in this world, but we CAN have peace in spite of these troubles!

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

He made it crystal clear in advance – He will not answer every prayer to remove our trials, though of course He could. Yet He promises to forever provide us with an inner serenity so that circumstances don’t dictate our moods and well-being. We can live in the eye of the storm – in Him. Though frankly there were times I was overwhelmed, there were also several times I experienced this peace during my intense battle with Stage IV melanoma.

If you’re like me, when seeking peace in this life you make a huge but common mistake. It is insisting, even demanding, that peace must come through the removal of obstacles. Yet Jesus is offering His overcoming peace in the very presence of life’s pain and difficulties.

So join me in asking Him to teach us how to latch on to Him and His peace in the midst of trouble. This is one prayer that He’s guaranteed to answer! Next time I’ll discuss another big mistake we make in the midst of unanswered prayer.

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Where Is God While My Heart Breaks?

-Joe Fornear

I hear it in your voices. I read it in your emails and notes. I see it in your eyes. Your cancer battle is a beat down. Mine was too. If it’s not the cancer wreaking havoc, it’s the treatments. You might be wondering, “Where are You, God?” I have wondered.

As we’ve mentioned over and over in our blogs, and in our books, if we’re feeling forsaken in the midst of pain and grief, we’re in very good company. Even Jesus felt forsaken, but you know what, He was the only one Who ever was truly forsaken. The rest of the Father’s children have just felt forsaken. Jesus literally was forsaken as our sin fell on Him and He was punished in our place. This so we would never be forsaken. He says He never leaves us, right?broken-hearted-9-13-16-small

When Jesus started His ministry on earth, He gave us His “mission statement.” He succinctly told us what He wanted to accomplish among us and in us. His first priority – no surprise here – was to preach the gospel, to deliver His good news (more on that good news here).

His 2nd priority? To bind up the broken-hearted. This is what He does. It’s Who He is. It’s why He came! His mission statement and promises:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners… – Isaiah 61:1

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. – Psalms 147:3

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18

So, “Where is God while my heart breaks?” The answer is simple – He’s not far away – He is near! So don’t drift away from Him in disillusionment and numbness. Draw near to Him, He has drawn near to you. We can believe it because He promised, so don’t believe your emotions or lies in your head. This, my friends, is where He is while our hearts break. Meet Him at a location near you.

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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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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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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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