Friday, May 30, 2014

Closer Than You Think

Little Harry was saying his prayers before climbing into bed. In a very soft voice his mother said, “I can’t hear you!”

“I wasn’t talking to you, Mom,” he responded. “I was talking to God. And I don’t have to yell because He’s closer to me than you are and I know He’s listening!”

The Psalmist reminded us that “The Lord is near to all who call on Him, who call on Him in truth.”

Here are three guidelines for our prayers:

Make them simple. Our prayers ought to be as natural as breathing. Think of praying as a conversation with God. When children call on their father for help, they don’t use long, drawn out sentences with words that don’t make any difference. They get right to the point.

Make them sincere. We must be genuine when we go to Him in prayer. Included in this part of our prayer life would be honesty and openness. God will not put up with trying to “hide the truth” when we call on Him for help. Trying to say “It’s Your will, Lord,” when we know it’s “our” wants, won’t work. Being open with God means that we must confess our sin and ask for Him to forgive and cleanse us when we pray.

Make them specific. If you order an item on-line, it has a number to go with it. When we order from a menu, we “specify” what we want. Jesus said, “If you ask for anything” - implying a specific, identifiable item or need – “I will do it or get it for you.” Or, “Get to the point!”
God is close, compassionate, considerate and caring.

Prayer: Father, may we realize the power of prayer and the need to be simple, sincere and specific in our prayers. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 145:18 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

God's Intentions

The young couple had been married for less than a month. One evening after taking his bride to dinner, the husband nervously asked, “Dear, you wouldn’t be offended if I pointed out a few of your flaws and faults, would you?”
“Why, of course not, Andrew,” she responded. “After all, those little defects kept me from getting a better husband.”

We all have defects – except our Lord. The Psalmist reminded us of this when he wrote, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and loving toward all He has made.”

Before the sixteenth century, the word “righteousness” was spelled, “rightwise.” It meant “one who is as he ought to be.” Our Lord is what God intended Him to be. He committed no sin. He did not violate anyone’s rights. He wronged no person. Whatever He did was right. He was “rightwise.”

Our English word “holy” is closely related to the idea of being “whole” or “complete.” Three feet is a “whole” yard. One hundred pennies are a “whole” dollar. Our Lord approached nothing or no one half-heartedly. He never held anything back for Himself. He was totally committed to whatever He did to the glory of God. Every obligation He had to His Father was “complete!”

Not a one of us is who or what God “intended” us to be. We are not who we “ought” to be in God’s eyes. Nor are we “whole” or “complete” as God designed and created us to be. We have all “fallen short” of His intentions.

But through Christ our Savior we can be!

Prayer:  Thank You, Father, for providing a way for us to become who You intended us to be through Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 145:17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Helping Hand

Years ago there was a picture of a mother and father walking down a beautiful pathway holding the hands of their two small children who were walking with them. Underneath were the words, “Their Future is in Your Hands.” That is true in a certain sense and to a certain degree.
But David realized there was another hand that was far more important than the hand of any parent: “You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” What did he mean?

God is sufficient to save. When he began to sink in swirling waves, Peter shouted, “Save me, Lord!” And He did. Immediately Jesus saw a person who was in need and He reached out and saved him. He did it for Peter and He will do the same for anyone who willingly calls on Him for salvation.

God is sufficient to supply every need that we have. Our God is a good and gracious God who is willing to meet the needs of those who depend on Him. God not only saves us by His grace, but His Word assures us that “God will supply our every need according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” God does not give grudgingly, but generously, because His grace is endless!

God is sufficient to sustain us. Jude assures us that “He is able to keep us from falling and present us before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy to His Father.” Are there any other words that bring more comfort in times of anxiety, adversity or abandonment?

Prayer:  Great is Your faithfulness, O Lord, to save us, supply our every need and sustain us each day of our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 145:16 You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

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.

Friday, May 23, 2014

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 publically 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.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

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.

Monday, May 19, 2014

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?

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,

Friday, May 16, 2014

Are You Listening Hard, Lord?

Eight-year-old Greg was having a difficult time with his prayers one evening. It seemed the more he prayed the less God listened. Finally, in desperation he said, “OK God, when is the best time I can talk to You? I know You are always listening, but when will You be listening hard for someone who lives in Augusta, Georgia?”

God is always “listening hard” no matter where we are. And He is never so busy caring for His creation that He forgets where you are or what you need. He is always thinking about us and is aware of every need we have or ever will have.

We may talk to Him for a minute or a moment, an hour or two, or an entire day and night. But there is one important matter about prayer that we must never forget.

It is always good to begin everything with God in prayer. If we go to Him before we begin a plan, make a decision, attempt to solve a problem or try to manage our finances, the best He has to offer us will be ours.
“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You; show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my voice.”

This is obviously a very important key to success. It is a comforting fact to know that when we awaken in the morning God’s unfailing love is there waiting for us. And when we put our trust in Him and ask Him to show us the way He has planned for us, we can be certain that He will do just that because of His unfailing love! If we would only lift up our voice to Him, He will give us all we need.

Prayer:  Lord, You offer us so much, and we ask for so little. Help us to look more to You for everything we need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 143:8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Searching, Everyone Is Searching

Not everyone knows what they are searching for. Most people seem to have an “emptiness” that they can’t fill. Search as they do and try as many different things as they can, travel to far distant places and ask one person after another for help, the emptiness lingers on and there seems to be no solution.

We all have this “built-in-thirst” that the world cannot quench. It begins at birth and for many, it is still there at death. It comes from our Creator and was placed in us by Him for a reason. He put his “built-in-unquenchable-thirst” within us to cause us to seek Him with all of our heart.

But most people do not understand what they are looking for or why. All they know is “it” is there: that life is empty and meaningless and purposeless. There is a feeling deep inside that there is more to life than what they have discovered. So, the search is on.

When a person begins this search, it grows until the emptiness, hopefully, is filled and the “right” thing found. A certain king describes his search like this: “I spread out my hands to You; my soul thirsts for You like a parched land!”

And God made this promise to the searcher: “When you seek Me, you will find Me if you search for Me with all your heart.”

God will fill every longing in every heart if we turn to Him in faith believing. And when we find Him, we are obligated to Him to help others fill their needs with Him.

Prayer:  Father, You have created us for Yourself, and our hearts will be restless until we open them to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 143:6 I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

God's Bridge

Mr. Rushing was a great Sunday school teacher who had a real gift to get his eighth grade boys class involved in the lesson. One Sunday, he decided to ask a question to get them involved in the lesson. “If gold stood for good deeds and grey for bad deeds what color would you be?”

“I’d be streaky,” answered Ron. “I’ve done a bunch of things that are really bad. As a matter of fact, I would probably end up looking kind of blurry.”

No doubt all of us end up looking rather “blurry.” We all fall short when measured against God’s definition of “good.”

God is holy and we are unholy - or “sinful.” There is a great space between the righteous Creator - God - and guilty sinners – “us.” We may try to build a bridge of good works and kind deeds from where we are to where God is. But sooner or later the works and deeds would fall short of the gate into heaven and we would find ourselves “out there” dangling in space. In words that are clear and impossible to misunderstand the Psalmist wrote, “For no one living is righteous before You.”

But God built a bridge from where we are to where He is. It is called “the cross of Calvary.” It’s where His Son hung on a cross one day until He was dead. Then, He was laid in a tomb until His Father brought Him back to life. And it is this “bridge” - this cross of Calvary - that we “cross” by faith alone.

Any person at any time from any place can cross this Bridge of Faith and be cleansed of sin and made righteous.

Prayer:  It seems impossible, Father, that all we have to do is to reach out, grasp Your hand and cross that Bridge. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 143:2b for no one living is righteous before you.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Who Cares For The Lonely?

Some time ago, the body of a man was found in a deserted building in New York. In his pocket was a note that read, “I’m nobody. Nobody cares for me. I’m like the shell of a peanut on the walkway in Yankee Stadium. So, I decided to stomp on myself once and for all.”

There is no feeling that runs so deep, is so acute or more widespread than loneliness. The feeling of being abandoned or uncared for or unloved is one that grips the souls of far too many - even the Christian.
We read in the Bible of a man who had been forced to run and hide from others to save his life. Years later he wrote, “Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for me.”

His words are all too familiar and his feelings universal.

But notice: He looked around but he did not look up. Had he done so he could have discovered someOne who cared deeply for him, was looking for him and loved him. This One not only cares, but He did something to show us that He cares.

The Bible states that, “Since God did not even spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?”

Remember the story of Noah in the ark, Job in the pile of ashes, Moses being hid in a basket, Jonah in the belly of a fish, Daniel in the lions’ den and Paul in prison?

He carefully cared for them and He will also carefully care for us!

Remember: “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

Prayer:  In moments of loneliness, Lord, may we look upward and find Your outstretched arms waiting for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 142:4 Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me, I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.

Monday, May 12, 2014

What To Do With Trouble

A young businessman, deeply troubled, went to his pastor. After a deep sigh he said, “I have some huge problems. I don’t know what to do, and I need your help. Will you pray with me?”

What a great way to look at problems: through the eyes of prayer. That was what David did. “I pour out my complaints before Him; before Him I tell my trouble.”

Whatever may have been troubling David was not as important as going to God in prayer. He did not go to his friends and complain. He did not go to the leaders of his army and gripe. Nor was he paralyzed in confusion or fear. He did what every godly person does: go to God and pray. And it was not an insincere prayer or a prayer that was meaningless. David “poured out” his complaints and troubles. He left his troubles, so to speak, “on the floor.” He kept nothing inside of himself. He put it where God could see what was troubling him.

Far too often we go to others and complain about our troubles knowing that they can do no more than listen or offer us sympathy. Sometimes we sit and sulk and feel sorry for ourselves. Other times we climb into bed and try to hide from them by falling asleep - only to awaken and see them before us on the ceiling.

David did the most sensible thing that any of us can do: Go to God and “pour out” our “troubles” and look to Him for His wisdom, guidance and solutions. He knows the answer before we even identify the problem. So, it makes good sense to go to Him first!

Prayer:  It is so strange, Lord, that we often look to others for help rather than You. May we look to You first. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 142:2 I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Criticism - Good or Bad?

Criticism can be very beneficial. It can help us correct a problem or avoid making the same mistake again and again. Or it may damage or destroy the hope that is within someone who is trying to do something good but makes a few mistakes along the way.

When the great Polish pianist, Paderewski, first chose to study the piano, his teacher embarrassed him and said, “Your hands are too small. You will never be able to master the piano.”

When the great American evangelist, Moody, closed a service, a critic said, “I counted eighteen mistakes in your grammar tonight.” Thinking for a moment, Moody graciously replied, “I am using all the grammar I know for the glory of God. Are you doing the same?”

The criticism directed at Paderewski and Moody did not cripple them, it challenged them. History records their stories and though they had their problems they went on to great things.

Criticism properly given and directed at something a person has the ability to change or improve on can be a gift from God. David wrote, “Let a righteous man strike me - it is a kindness; let him rebuke me - it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it.”

People who love us will want the best for us. They will offer us suggestions on what we can do to improve our witness, service or testimony to the Lord. It is important to listen patiently, willingly and openly. Notice one word: “righteous.” People who are right with God want our best.

Prayer:  Lord, we ask You to bring people into our lives who will help us to become our best and become like You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 141:5 5 Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness; let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Strong Heart

After walking for what seemed to be miles, a boy stopped at the corner of an apple orchard to admire the beautiful apples. The owner of the orchard noticed him and asked, “Son, are you trying to steal my apples?”

“No, sir,” he replied, “I’m trying not to. But my trying not to is losing to my wanting to.”

It was that way with David. Deep in his heart he wanted to do what was right. But one day he realized that his friendship with evil men was a strong force that was often more powerful than his desire to do the right things.

As his walk with the Lord grew stronger he began to realize that there was a power beyond human power and if he wanted to, he could choose victory over defeat by depending on that power. He was able to move from being overcome by their power to overcoming temptation and sin by calling upon God’s power.

So, he went to God in prayer and asked, “Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in evil deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies.”

One of the most powerful thoughts that the devil places in our minds is that we are human and that God realizes we may be overcome by temptation and sin. It’s so easy to rationalize sin’s power and our weakness.

But Paul refused to accept that excuse. “There is no temptation that is more powerful than God’s power. And He’ll provide a way of escape if you want it,” he added.

Prayer:  Lord, help us to confront our excuse of being human as a reason to sin. May we run to You for safety. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 141:4 4 Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Watching Our Words

Years ago, while serving as a Navy chaplain, I was ordered to “park my car” in a specially designated area and stand beside it. I was rather amazed that a chaplain and an officer would be subjected to such scrutiny. I had my uniform on with the proper “symbols” to announce my status. Why I, of all people, was being searched, I asked. Looking at me as he would have looked at any other person, he said in a quiet, yet stern voice, “Just a routine matter, Sir.” Only later was I told that a critical item was missing from the armory. He was ordered to carefully guard against anything leaving the installation without the commanding officer’s approval.

David went to God with an unusual request: “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep a watch over the door of my lips.” David knew that he might say something that could be dangerous and destructive to others. But he had a solution: Ask God for a guard to control his speech. He did not want any evil words to exit his mouth that could harm others. No doubt he had been harmed by the words of others and knew how painful harmful words could be.

Jesus said, “Nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him unclean...for from within, out of a man’s heart, come evil thoughts (that) make a man ‘unclean.’” Jesus knew how to stop “harmful words and deeds.” Keep them away from me and me away from them.

David was aware of this. So, he also asked God for something else that was very important: “Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil.” Why? Evil in - evil out.

Prayer:  Lord, Your advice is so practical and purposeful. May it “take over” our hearts and keep us from evil. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Help Wanted Now!

It is easy for us to imagine that someone who was a king, especially King David, had everything he wanted right at his fingertips. But that image is incorrect according to Psalm 141. David appears to be in trouble.
Hear his cry: “O, Lord, I call to You, come quickly to me; hear my voice when I call to You. May my prayer be set before You like incense.”

David was not hesitant to request and receive an immediate audience with God. “I call to my voice.” There was no doubt about God’s availability or that someone would be ahead of him for one reason or another waiting for an audience with God. God is always available to hear our voice and attend to our needs whenever we call on Him at any time from anyplace.

David also knew that there was nothing or no one that could stop God from helping him. “Come quickly to me.” No doubt he had gone to others for help and they were either unable or unwilling to help him. His situation was critical and he needed God’s assistance. Obviously, he had turned to others with no results. Now it was time for him to turn to God.

David was also aware of God’s acceptance of him and his needs. “May my prayer be set before You.” He had no doubt that God was there for him. He was not afraid that his concerns would embarrass God or surprise God or be of no interest to God or be beyond His power. He knew that whatever he needed would get God’s attention!

Prayer:  How blest we are, Father, to know that we all have equal standing before You and every need is acceptable. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 141:1, 2 1 I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Justice For the Poor and Needy

Have you ever been told the reason an ostrich hides its head in the sand is because it is frightened? If you have and you believe it, you have been led astray. They do, however, run in circles when they are frightened. And the male ostrich will dig a hole that is six feet by eight feet for the female ostrich to lay her eggs in. This is where the fable of the ostrich hiding its head seems to have come from.

There are times, however, when most of us “feel” like hiding our heads underneath a pillow or standing behind an object where no one can see us. Often we are filled with a sense of inadequacy or “beneath others” because everyone seems to have more than we do or be more than we are. Or, perhaps, we feel “poor” in the sense that we have not been blest by God as much as others.

David had a solution for this “feeling”: “I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor; and upholds the cause of the needy.” In other words, David wants us to know that things are like they are because God designed them as they are for His purpose. If we feel poor - or lacking, - God will “make things right” because He is ultimately responsible for everyone being treated rightly and with justice. Our God is a just God and will not allow His own to suffer unfairly. He is at work working His will.

David also wrote that “God will uphold the needy.” It may be that when our needs exceed our resources He is trying to get our attention to trust Him. His love always surrounds us as His plan to make us Christlike unfolds.

Prayer:  Lord, when things aren’t right it does not mean that You are treating us wrong. It means it’s time to trust You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Psalm 140:12 I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Asking God For a Favor

Some time ago a clergyman shouted with all of his might, “God, damn America!” Standing behind his pulpit with his colorful clerical robe and embroidered stole, his rant and rage shocked many who saw him on television.

The longer I watched and wondered, the more his words confused and disturbed me. I could not help but think about the impact this would have on those who were in his congregation or watching him on television or read his words in newspapers and magazines. Surely some would be as disturbed as I was. But, there would be others who would agree with him and cheer for him.

Most often when we and others call on God it is for a favor or something we cannot do. It could be for healing, a financial need, a loved one who has wandered from God, or insight or wisdom. Then there are others who call on God because they want Him to use His power to do things that are destructive - like “God, I hate America so much that I want You to use Your power to hurt people I can’t.”

David spoke of them: “They speak of You with evil intent; Your adversaries misuse Your name.” We need to remind ourselves that God will only answer our prayers if our requests are consistent with His name or in keeping with His character. He is not available to hurt or harm His children or His creation or to satisfy our anger or do our “dirty work” or evil intentions.

God is always there, willing to hear our requests and answer them in the way that will bring honor and glory to Him. If we call on Him “with evil intent,” He will not hear us.

Prayer: Lord, grant us purity of heart and mind when we approach You in prayer. May our requests honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 139:20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Great Escapes

“Jet away from it all” was a successful advertising campaign of a major airline a few years ago. “If you need to get away from it all, we can help you make it happen” was the intent of their message.

Many people, however, spend their entire life trying to “get away from it all.” But is “it” the problem? Some move from one job to another. Others from one spouse to another. Then there are many who “bar hop” - looking for the perfect drink and a place to make friends and find consul. Confused minds and broken hearts often cause people to seek help from others who have no hope to offer.

“What’s going on?” we might ask.

It’s like a person who has been injured and is in so much pain that they can’t be still. They try to “walk it off” only to discover that the pain and injury are inside and follow them wherever they go.

So it is with life. “What’s going on” is that we cannot run away from our problems! They follow us wherever we go.

If we want relief from the pain and problems of our past, it is possible. If we choose to carry the guilt and grief that trouble our minds and disturb our peace it is because we want to. Life is choice.

The Psalmist wrote, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?” The guilt and grief, pain and problems that trouble us during the day and keep us awake at night is God’s Spirit convicting us of our need to repent from our sinful ways. It is Christ pursuing us wherever we go - calling us to “come back.”

Prayer: Thank You, Father, for loving us so much that You refuse to give up on us. Teach us to hear Your voice. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 139:7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Being Alone Is A Choice

We all enter this world alone and we all depart this world alone. But we do not need to go through life alone.
A visitor walked through the Garden and then came into the office. After sitting quietly for a moment he began to weep loudly, his body trembling. “You know,” he said, “I am so alone and so misunderstood. I wish I belonged to somebody, anybody. I hate life with all of its bitterness and loneliness but I am afraid to die.”
Continuing on he said, “I have wealth and property, success and influence. But I would rather feel accepted by someone, anyone in exchange for all of my possessions.”

Unfortunately, he was not aware of our Father. The Psalmist said, “O, Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely, O Lord.”

Many lead lonely lives because of a fear of being known - or as some might say, “being found out.” This comes from a fear of not being acceptable to others for who we are or what we might have done in the past. “If you know me,” so it seems, “you probably won’t like me.”

Perhaps that may be true of people, but not God! He has searched us, knows everything about us, and in spite of it all loves us so much that “He gave His only begotten Son to die on our behalf so we can be saved.” And if we accept His salvation, He’ll never leave us nor forsake us.

Prayer: Thank You, Father, that You offer us a love we do not deserve and Your salvation that we cannot earn. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 139:1, 2a-4b You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you, Lord, know it completely.