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STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE
A raging sea, a violent storm, a broken mast and a twenty-foot swell capsized the small ship. A survivor in a small rowboat was struggling for his life – looking for a hope. Suddenly, through the dark clouds he sighted a lone star shining brightly. Rowing with all his might, he said to himself over and over, “If I lose that, I’m lost!”
What an appropriate scene for us to visualize when all seems lost and storms of life refuse to give way to calm seas. Wave after wave rises and falls while the wind grows stronger and the night darker. We strain and we struggle against all odds, to survive. Is the sun gone from my life forever? Will I never see another blossom? Will the clouds never allow the stars to shine again?
Often, we fix our eyes on things that give us no hope or people who do not care for our best. The “immediate” is right here right now, and that’s all that matters! So we “reach out” and grab anything that is available.
However, there is a better way to respond when life has turned us upside down. The Psalmist wrote, “The eyes of all look to You in hope.” There are those who “wish” for better days when things are bleak and black. And then there are Christians who have hope!
The difference between a “wish” and “hope” that comes from faith in Christ is quite significant. A wish is a “desire” or a “dream.” But when we who belong to God say we “have this hope,” it means that because of His faithfulness we have the confident assurance that we can trust the Lord to save us and sustain us in life’s darkest hours.
Prayer: Lord, as unworthy and undeserving as we are, we know that You will rescue us if we have faith in You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 145:15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.
NEED HELP IN GETTING BACK UP?
Not long ago, shortly after spine surgery, I was walking from one room to another with a cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. Although I knew my balance had not returned to its pre-surgical state, I would not allow anyone to help me. Suddenly, I tripped, spilled the coffee on myself and my book and was lying flat on my face wondering what happened.
As I lay there, I soon realized that “pride,” no doubt, contributed to my fall more than my inadequate balance.
Struggling to get up, my wife asked if she could help me. I said, “No, I can do this by myself!” When I realized how weak I was, and that I could not get up by myself, I finally asked for her help. Sitting in my chair, I realized that this was another example of my pride and unwillingness to ask for help. First, I fell when I refused her help. Then I refused her help a second time to lift me.
As I thought about my experience some time later, Psalm 145:14 came to mind: “The Lord ‘lifts’ all those who fall; and lifts all who are bowed down.” Reflecting on that verse, I came to realize that we often “fall” in our daily spiritual journey because of pride and vanity. Even after we fall, we often refuse to turn to God for His strength, believing we “can do it on our own,” without His help.
“I can do all things,” Paul said, “through Christ.” He was a man of strength and courage, vision and victory. Yet, he realized that what God called him to do was well beyond his strength. He needed Christ’s strength to do Christ’s work. Are you down? Reach out for God’s hand!
Prayer: Lord, we often fail and fall because of our pride and vanity. May we realize we need You to stay “upright.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 145:14 The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
AN EVERLASTING KINGDOM
World events, at times, are overwhelming. The moral and spiritual decay, the expansion of religions that would eliminate Christianity, the rise of secularism and “political correctness” have dimmed the voice of believers and the increased number of martyrs has raised the question: “Will Christianity survive?”
Absolutely! The Psalmist long ago assured us that: “Your Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom and Your dominion endures through all generations!”
Nearly two thousand years ago some tried to do away with Jesus. They nailed Him to a cross. Sealed Him in a tomb. Surrounded that tomb with guards and proudly said, “This is the end of Him.” They thought that they had rid the world of His presence. But they were fooled. He came back from the dead and became the Living Christ! He was victorious over sin and death and became our Savior.
Robert Ingersoll, the atheist, held up a Bible and declared, “In fifteen years this book will be in a morgue.” Fifteen years later it was he who would be in a morgue.
Islam swept across the Middle East in the 7th century determined to destroy Christianity. A Christian church in Damascus was turned into a mosque. Today, the words, “Thy Kingdom, O Christ, is an everlasting Kingdom and Thy dominion endures throughout all generations” are inscribed over the entrance.
One day there will be no kingdoms but God’s Kingdom. It is not about endurance, but who will be its citizens!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, give us courage to speak Your truth to do all that we can to expand Your Kingdom! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 145:13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.
GOD IS GOOD
Only God can be called “good.” And His very name comes from His “goodness.” When “good” and “goodness” are shortened, we end up with “God.”
Everything that comes from God – His creation or consul, His laws and love, His promises and provisions – must be good because the nature of God Himself is “good!”
God is not good to us if we are good, nor does He treat us bad if we are bad. Those who say, “God won’t be good to you if you are bad” do not understand God nor who He is.
The Psalmist did. He wrote, “The Lord is good to all!”
We recognize God’s goodness in the way He provided for our salvation. After a young Brahman interviewed a missionary, he said, “Hinduism has many things which Christianity has. But there is one thing which you have that we do not have – a Savior.” We have a Savior because of God’s goodness. It was His goodness that flowed from His love that He sent His Son to be our Savior. Only a “Good God” would make such a supreme sacrifice to make salvation possible which is available “to all!”
We realize God’s goodness in the way He met the needs of everyone. The food that grows in fields, on bushes and branches, vines and beneath the soil was first planted by God for everyone. The water, which God gave us for survival, falls on the “just and the unjust.” Why?
Again, the Psalmist said: “His tender mercies are over all.”
God is good. But one day, all will stand before Him in judgment and be asked: “Is my Son your Savior?”
Prayer: Lord, we recognize Your eternal goodness and grace and ask Your forgiveness and cleansing for our sins. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 145:9 The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.
WHAT’S SO AMAZING ABOUT GRACE?
Shortly after John Newton turned eight years old, he was orphaned and became a “wanderer.” He eventually began working on ships and the sea captain became his “father.” It was not long before he joined the Royal Navy. Dissatisfied, he deserted his post, was caught, put in irons and whipped publicly before being thrown in prison.
Leaving prison angry and defiant, he signed on with the lowest of all seagoing ships – one that carried slaves.
Aboard the new ship life continued to deteriorate. The wife of the captain treated him with great disdain. When meals were served, his food was thrown on the floor and he was forced to eat like a dog. If he refused to eat, he was beaten. He finally escaped, made his way to shore where he built a fire and attracted a ship that rescued him.
John could hardly read, but his knowledge of the sea and sailing ships earned him a promotion. One day he served the crew too much rum and they became drunk. It so angered the captain, that while brutally beating him, John was knocked overboard. But instead of allowing him to drown, he threw a harpoon at John and rescued him. The harpoon speared him and as a result, he carried a scar the rest of his life.
On a voyage from Brazil a severe storm nearly sank the ship. Newton became so frightened that he fell on his knees and asked God to save him. Years later, reflecting on his sordid life, he again fell on his knees. This time to write the great hymn, “Amazing Grace,” to honor “The Lord who was gracious, compassionate, and slow to anger.”
Prayer: Father, “sin is sin” and all of us have compiled our own list. We thank You that Your grace exceeds every sin! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 145:8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.
A teacher asked his fifth grade science class a rather probing question: “What’s the most powerful combination of words?” “Atomic power,” shouted one. Another, raising his hand shouted, “Nuclear power.” A third said, “Water power.” The class went silent.
Finally, from the back of the room a student held up his hand and said, “Please, Sir, those are powerful words, but I think that the most powerful combination of words is Almighty God.”
“Almighty” means just that: “having all might.” One who is designated as “almighty” is one who others believe can do anything. Nothing is beyond that one and no one can even challenge the power vested in that one. Only God Who is the Creator of the universe and everything in it can do anything. His ability to do, control, sustain and work out His purposes is far beyond the power of our minds to understand. It is only something we can accept or reject but never challenge with our finite thoughts. In the final analysis, whatever His wisdom may plan, His might and power are able to perform.
But what do these lofty thoughts mean for us? After all, if we accept the fact that God is Almighty, what real difference does it make to anyone?
The answer is simple and profound: This mighty and powerful God loves us and has sent His Son to save us from ourselves and eternal damnation. He gives us the option to call upon Him not only for salvation, but help in times of need, cleansing from guilt and freedom from fear.
Prayer: How wonderful is Your name, O Lord, and how mighty Your thoughts, deeds and love that You care for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 145:3 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH BEING HAPPY?
A friend sitting next to me in church one Sunday commented, “Larry, if you turn around and look at the people here this morning, it looks like they all have stomach aches, a sore tooth, are facing a prison term or are here under duress.”
Actually, I didn’t have to turn around and look. I noticed it when I walked into the sanctuary. Someone once said to me that “Of all the groups of people in the world, Christians seem to be the most unhappy. They seem to be joyless and miserable. If being a Christian is so terrible, why don’t they give up their faith and try something else?”
Some Christians are like a person with a headache: They don’t want to give up their head but it hurts to keep it. Can we expect others to want to become Christians if we appear to be miserable and hopeless? Things are bad without Christ. Why invite Him into my life if things will only get worse?
“Blessed – or happy – are the people whose God is the Lord.” To experience the fullness that the Lord has to give us requires that we surrender our lives to Him and become dependent on Him for all things. Some who profess to be people of God do not experience the blessings of God – or are not happy in their Christian faith – because they try to live the “half-life.” Half a “conversion” is like half a life boat: it won’t save you!
Happiness, or God’s best blessings, will not come to the half-hearted Christian. Caleb had the secret: “I wholly followed the Lord.” What a difference it can make. Try it!
Prayer: Help us, Lord, to “give it up” and surrender all that we are and all that we have to You and enjoy life! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 144:15 Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.
WHAT GOD CAN DO
Has anyone ever looked at you and said, “You’ll never change! You’re hopeless! I can tell you are going no place in life.” Painful words that many of us have heard at one time or another. And, no doubt, there were times when we might have thought the “charges” were accurate, based on the number of times we’ve started something in our lives that ended in disaster.
Imagine a king feeling like he was almost “unfit for duty.” First he wrote, “Part Your heavens, O Lord, and come down…reach down Your hand from on high…deliver me and rescue me…” Imagine a king feeling so alone and abandoned – even by a God he worshiped – that he could not feel His presence at all. Things must have been about as bad as they could get.
But they didn’t stay that way. God intervened – as He can and will – when our king or any one of us comes to the end of our strength and goes to Him for His!
God answered his cry and blessed him so mightily that he picked up a ten-stringed instrument and with it sang a “new song.”
God wants to give us the desires of our hearts. Our every need is important to Him: large or small, significant or insignificant. They all matter to Him! He is our Father and a father who loves his children, as God loves us, does not want His children to go without.
When God answered his prayer, the first thing he did was to praise God and give Him His due recognition. Might God not bless us because we are so ungrateful?
Prayer: Father, it’s so easy to live thankless and greedy lives. Make us aware of Your gifts. Give us grateful hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 144:9 I will sing a new song to you, my God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
DOES GOD ACTUALLY CARE FOR US?
Most of us are rather strange. We want to live long lives, but develop habits that shorten them. We want to be free, yet we make ourselves slaves to sin. We could be saints, but we choose to be sinners. We desire immortality but refuse it because we reject Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord – the only path to eternal life.
Long ago, David the Psalmist asked, “O Lord, what is man that You care for him, the son of man that You think of him?”
Often we neglect to think about the fact that we were created by God in His image. We did not evolve from nor ascend from some lower life. We are different from all animals in many ways – physically, mentally, socially – but most of all we have a spiritual nature that no living animal has.
We are what we are because God made us the way that we are. If God wanted us to be different from the way we are, we would be. What we do matters to God. What happens to each of us matters to God. We are created in His image and that of itself makes us uniquely different and special – especially to God.
This puzzled the Psalmist. So he decided to ask God, “Why bother at all with the human race?”
Years later the question was answered: because He loves us. Remember what Jesus said? “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Man: different by design. Different because of God’s love.
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for a love that is eternal and the opportunity to enjoy a life that is eternal. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 144:3 Lord, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them?
LEARNING TO DO GOD’S WILL
Little eight-year-old Betsy knelt beside her bed with her mother to say her night time prayer. “I’ve had a good day today, God. I hope You’ve planned another good one for tomorrow.”
Does God have a special plan for each little girl, old man and young lady? A plan for each of us? Really?
Before construction workers begin working on the foundation of a building, an architect has drawn elaborate plans that describe every little detail of the building. The same is true of building a ship, planting fields of grain or laying out the route for a highway. First the plan then the product. It is inconceivable that God would have no plan for man – the crowning achievement of His creation.
Even a superficial reading of the Bible reveals that all of the men and women of the Bible were guided by God’s plan for their lives. He had a plan for each of them, and He has a plan for each of us, as well.
Perhaps, the question is not whether or not He has a plan for us, but whether or not we even want it. Many try to outsmart God with their plans and end up as failures.
David prayed, “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” He believed that God had a plan for his life. Yet, he also knew that his willingness to follow it was much like the relationship between a teacher and student. He had to be “taught” to follow that plan. Quite often students have to go through a “time of testing” before they get the answers correct. But in the end, a “passing grade” is worth it all.
Prayer: Lord, may we accept the plan You have designed for each of us and follow it willingly each day of our lives! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 143:10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.