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FORGIVE WHO? FOR WHAT?
Pope John Paul II was one of the most notable leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1981 the Pope made a trip to a prison to speak with the man who tried to assassinate him and tell him that he forgave him. In 1984 the Pope appeared on the cover of TIME with the would-be assassin, shaking hands with him while his other arm was around his shoulders. Underneath the photo were the words “WHY FORGIVE?” in bold letters.
Strangely, the Pope asked readers to “pray for my brother whom I have sincerely forgiven.” Some condemned the Pope. Others agreed with the Pope. Still, others could not understand the reason the Pope did such a thing: offer to forgive him.
For most of us, forgiveness is not easy to do nor pleasant to think about. Some of us might even enjoy the resentment and anger that grows within us when we have been wronged. Some speak of their anger as a sign of strength and power. Yet?
Paul said when we accept and understand God’s mercy and forgiveness, He expects us to forgive others just as Jesus did to those who crucified Him. Furthermore, because God through the death of Jesus has forgiven us, He expects us to forgive others as our Savior has forgiven us. When we willingly forgive others, we begin to understand the cost of our salvation.
Prayer: Father, we pray for the willingness to forgive others who have wronged us even as our Savior willingly forgives us. May we show Your love by forgiving others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Ephesians 4:32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
FINDING LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
We’ve all experienced it. Sometimes feared it. Always recognized it. Occasionally wanted it. Most often found our way out of it. But, have you ever tried to define it? Or explained it?
A quick and easy answer would be: “The absence of light.” When darkness surrounds us, we need light to discover where we are and where we want to go.
Another question might be: Do we need darkness? Perhaps, some might say, “We need it for rest and peacefulness.” But, consider the fact that we also need it to see the stars.
There are times in all of our lives when we are going through what we might call the “deepest darkness imaginable.” Suddenly, a glimmer of light appears before us. And then it grows and grows, and then becomes larger and larger. Finally, we are surrounded by light.
Isaiah had a unique experience with darkness. It kept him from seeing God at work in His world and in his life. But, one day everything changed and he wrote, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord.” After his vision, he was able to recognize the presence and power of God and see His light. And after that experience, he became a mighty prophet and counselor to kings and prophesied many signs that described the coming Messiah. From the darkness that once surrounded him, he then experienced God’s redeeming light.
It worked for Isaiah. It will work for us if we seek His light!
Prayer: Open our eyes, Lord, that we may see Your light and find the path You have prepared for us. Help us to seek Your light when we experience dark times in life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Isaiah 6:1-4 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord.
DON’T LEAVE SHORE WITHOUT HIM
A young ensign was completing his first deployment aboard a large destroyer. He had performed all of his duties in an exemplary manner, and as a reward, the captain gave him permission to “get the ship underway.”
In his excitement and enthusiasm for being given such an honor, he went through every procedure carefully, wanting to further impress his superiors. However, in taking advantage of this new challenge, he broke an old tradition. As he was steering the ship out of the harbor, the First Officer quietly said to him, “Ensign, you have overlooked one of the unwritten rules of the sea. Make sure the Captain is on board before you get underway.”
There are times in all of our lives when we are so anxious to “get underway” that we leave our “Captain” standing on the shore. We all face days of uncertainty with tasks that seem beyond us. We are overwhelmed by new opportunities that are unfamiliar to us and demands that have defeated others around us. So, unprepared and uncertain, we “get underway” without God “at the helm.” Then we discover that we are in a sea with waves that would turn our lives upside down and winds that take away our breath. Unfortunately, we often “leave shore” without our Captain. Fortunately, when we return “to shore,” we find Him there waiting to take the “helm” of our life and save us. The winds and waves obey His voice!
Prayer: Lord, may we realize that we are not safe unless You are at the “helm” of our lives. Without You steering us we place ourselves in harm’s way. Save us! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Psalm 139:10 Even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.
DON’T STOP NOW!
Some time ago it was my privilege to be the commencement speaker at a high school graduation. At the end of the service, the students came forward and walked up to the headmaster to receive their diplomas. As he shook their hands, he looked into their eyes and said softly to each one of them, “Don’t stop now, keep moving forward!”
Great advice – not only for the graduates but for everyone, every day. Whatever we do, wherever we go, we must keep on keeping on. We must keep forgiving! Keep growing! Keep helping! Keep loving! Keep witnessing! Keep serving! Keep worshipping! Keep working! Keep laughing! Keep moving forward! We must never stop doing good, but keep on keeping on!
If this is important for life in general, it is even more important in the life of a Christian. Paul said that “I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be.” “Keep working” means “Keep on keeping on doing good!”
What great advice Paul offers us. Nothing must ever interfere with, nor cause us, to take our eyes off of knowing and serving Christ. We must focus on Him, and His will for our lives, as Paul did, to win the race and receive the prize He will award us by being faithful to Him.
Prayer: Help us, Heavenly Father, to focus on “the prize” You have for each of us, as we run life’s race. Help us to keep focused on You as we grow into Your likeness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Philippians 3:8-14 Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
DO WHAT IS NEEDED
The bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was a tragedy that struck at the heart of America. The disaster prompted many individuals and teams from across the nation to set aside whatever they were doing, and help meet the needs of the survivors.
One rescue team had been working for hours and finally, after being overcome by fatigue, stopped to rest at 2:00 a.m. Sitting there quietly in the darkness, they heard a strange sound – one they could not identify. When they stood up and turned around, they saw an elderly lady sweeping bits and pieces of debris into a neat pile.
“Where are you from?” asked a member of the rescue team.
“Dallas,” came the reply. “I can’t do very much but when I offered to help, they told me the most important thing I could do was to help clean things up. So I got a broom and started to sweep.”
Life is always filled with opportunities to serve others. Whenever we do what needs to be done, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, and do the best we can do, we honor God and bless His name. We must not compare our work with the work of others if we are doing what God has called us to do. If our heart is right, our work will be right, and God will bless it.
Prayer: Help us, Father, to honor You by helping others in their times of need. May we use the gifts and skills You have given us to do whatever we can to serve others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Galatians 6:4 Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.
It was the day before the most important football game of the season. Sitting in his office, the coach received a phone call from the dean informing him that his quarterback was disqualified from playing. He hurried to the dean’s office to protest the news.
As he sat across from the dean, frustrated and angry, he questioned the decision. The dean said, “He sat next to an honor student in an exam, and his answers were identical to hers – word for word.”
“Maybe,” said the coach, “the honor student copied the quarterback’s answers.”
“No,” answered the dean. “The honor student wrote ‘I don’t know the answer’ for the final question, and your quarterback wrote, ‘I don’t know either.’”
There is no room for opinions in honesty. We either are or are not honest. There are some who try a little “sleight of hand” by deceiving others to gain an edge or advantage. They may call it “clever,” “smooth,” “slick,” or say “it’s OK this time.” That is not how God sees things. He sets clear standards and easy-to-understand rules to guide us and guard us in every area of life especially this one: His Word says, “Good people will be guided by honesty.”
Prayer: Help us, Father, when we are in threatening situations, to have the courage to be honest! May we honor You, and “speak the truth in love!” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 11:1 The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights.
Paderewski was a great Polish pianist. But when he first chose to take piano lessons a teacher said to him, “Your hands are too small. You will never be able to master the keyboard.”
Caruso was one of the greatest tenors who ever lived. When he went for his first voice lesson in Italy, the teacher said to him, “Your voice is like wind whistling through a window.” He refused to give him voice lessons.
Alexander Graham Bell spent years working to develop and perfect his telephone. When he displayed it to a group of people, they said, “You are a fool with a useless toy.”
As Christians, we must learn to look at criticism as a “challenge and call to courage” and turn to the Lord as our guide and guard. If we are grateful for the skills and talents God has given us, we will accept every challenge as an opportunity to “become better” as a gift to honor Him for the gifts He has given us. The choice is ours: We can choose to rise to the occasion, meet it and be victorious, or give up in fear because we do not trust in Him to give us victory over our opportunities. The God of our salvation and hope promises us that with His help all things are possible. We must accept, trust, and act in His strength, wisdom and power, not ours!
Prayer: Lord of our lives, whenever we face an obstacle, may we see it as an opportunity to turn to You for grace and guidance. All things are possible through You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Colossians 1:11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy.
A GOOD NAME FOR THE NEW YEAR
“Mr. Edison,” said his secretary, “we just had a customer call and complain about a defective battery that we manufactured.” Surprised at the news, Thomas Edison wondered what might have caused the problem. Realizing that other batteries would have the same problem, he wondered what he should do.
Discouraged, but not defeated, he began a large advertising campaign, asking people to return their defective batteries for a complete refund. The amount involved in the transaction was staggering. However, the money he lost meant nothing to him after he compared the cost of the recall to the value he placed on his name and reputation.
It is critical for Christians to have an honorable and respected name. Whatever we do, whatever we say, or wherever we go, we are representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we fail to live lives of grace and beauty, honesty and integrity, purity and righteousness, our witness will be disregarded, our motives questioned, and our testimony impaired. And, when that occurs, God’s name is dishonored, and His message disgraced.
Living righteous lives will eliminate our need to worry about being exposed or not living up to what God expects of us. He calls us to live lives that are consistent with His Word, to follow Him and His eternal directions carefully. Great riches are worthless if we get them dishonestly or by deceiving others. “Earning” a good name by honoring God is worth much more than money.
Prayer: Father, we ask You to work in us and through us so that we may represent You faithfully in all we do and say. May we earn a good name to honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 22:1 Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.
LOOKING FOR GOD IN 2020
“You chart the path ahead of me and tell me
when to stop and rest.
“Every moment you
know where I am.” Psalm 139:3
“The Lord says, “‘I will guide you along the
best pathway for your life. I will advise you
and watch over you.’” Psalm 32:8
“Because of Christ, we have received an
inheritance from God, for He chose us from
the beginning and all things happen just as
He decided years ago.” Ephesians 1:11
“The Lord will work out His plans for my
life – for Your faithful love, O Lord, endures
forever. Don’t abandon me, for You made
me!” Psalm 138:8
“Seek His will in all you do and He will
direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:6
Prayer: Grant us wisdom, give us faith, increase our trust, and watch over us each day, Father, as we seek Your plan for our lives. May we follow You always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scriptures For Today: - Psalm 139:3: Psalm 32:8; Ephesians 1:11; Psalm 138:8; Proverbs 3:6
SOME FINAL WORDS
Often what we find depends on what we look for. Here are a few things to look for in the days we will face in the year to come:
Look for God’s presence. When fear grips us or failure would defeat us, or if life’s challenges seem to be larger than we are, or the nights are longer than usual, remember, we are never alone if Jesus rules and reigns in our lives. He promised that “He will never leave us nor forsake us.” When life turns to shambles, He will wrap His loving arms around us and protect us because He is with us.
Look for God’s power. The psalmist said that “God is our refuge and strength.” Often we look to people for insights and advice when we are faced with difficult problems. But their solutions are never as good as the solutions that come from God. God is the greatest asset any Christian has but we must go to Him and draw from His strength and power.
Look for God’s provision. “My God shall supply all your needs.” Though we may fail Him, He will not fail us. Though we may fail to claim His promises, it does not mean they are not available. If we look to and trust in Him, He will not let us down.
Prayer: Father, we look to You in faith believing that You will meet our every need if we trust You. Lord, help our unbelief! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scriptures For Today: 1 Kings 8:56-58; Psalm 46:1-3; Philippians 4:19