Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Downcast Soul

“Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:11 CSB)

Emotional, spiritual, or relational trauma can sometimes leave us depressed. These kinds of trauma produce a “disconnect” where the “why” question becomes paramount. Why am I feeling this way? Why has God not acted? The latter question, more accurately stated, would be, “Why has God not done what I want Him to?” On top of that, the enemy, Satan, comes and taunts us with, “Well, if God really loved you, He would take care of this problem for you. Where is He anyway? Why doesn’t He do something?”

Depression comes from a variety of sources. Sometimes it comes from anger that we do not handle very well and end up directing it inwardly toward ourselves. That may not seem apparent, but in reality that is what sometimes happens. Sometimes it comes from relationships that turn sour and end up hurting us emotionally. Sometimes depression is more “clinical” in nature, caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, and these often need to be treated medically.

With regard to depressions that are more traumatic in nature, the result of broken relationships, or the result of not growing adequately in spiritual matters, or the result of a spiritual oppression from the forces of evil who challenge God, the Scripture offers us an approach. This approach is essentially spiritual in nature and relates as well to the human will, to decision.

The way out begins with the realization of spiritual need. The first verse of Psalm 42 reads, “As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God.” When we begin to realize that our true need is for God, to give Him our worship and praise, then we see a point of light in the darkness that, in reality, is the light at the end of the tunnel.

We then find the path into the light with a decision, stated this way, “Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.” We make a conscious and intentional decision to put our hope in God and intentionally give Him our praise, which flies in the face of the “enemy.” We intentionally put our hope in God and trust Him to lead us out of the darkness.

Today, if you are struggling with some personal depression, maybe what you need is to first realize that your greatest need is for the Lord, and to then decide within your own heart that you are going to put your hope in Him and give Him the praise of your heart.

Father, Help us to remember this day how much You love us, and how You have demonstrated that love for us. Help us to worship You and put our hope in You. Amen.

Friday, June 29, 2007

No Place for Pride

“A person should consider us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of God’s mysteries. In this regard, it is expected of managers that each one be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2 CSB)

There really is no place for pride among the people of God. There is a great tendency toward pride, but it is unwarranted. None of us has anything that we have not received from God. Thus, there is no basis for pride.

Some would argue, “I have worked hard to get what I have and where I am. It wasn’t just given to me. I spent many years in school and countless hours of training. I think I deserve a little credit here.”

Jesus told a parable once about a wealthy farmer who had such a bumper crop one year he decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. He said to himself, “Man, I’ve got it made now. Time for me to sit back, relax, and take it easy.” That night the Lord said to him, “Fool! Tonight, you will die. Then, those things you’ve stored up and thought were yours, whose will they be?”

Here is a simple reality: God is in control of every breath you and I take, and we exist by His grace. Everything we have comes from His grace. Indeed, we may participate in His processes, but in reality everything we are and everything we have is derived from God.

Thus, we each have a “stewardship” from God. As believers, we are servants of Christ, and as His servants we are managers or stewards of His truth. As our Lord, He is the One who evaluates our service to Him, our stewardship, and in our evaluation there is only one thing He is looking for: have we been and are we being faithful in carrying out our stewardship? That is His evaluation of us.

We must not give pride a place to rest. Rather, in humility before God, we must seek to be faithful to Him.

Lord, Help us in this day to displace any pride that may be in us, and help us to simply be faithful to You as good stewards of Your grace. Amen.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Three Little Pigs

“No one can lay any other foundation that what has been laid – that is, Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-13 CSB)

“Once upon a time, there were three little pigs.” You know the story, but did you know there is a biblical basis for it?

The three pigs were each given the same amount of money and were told to spend it wisely and go out to build their own houses. One bought straw and built a house of straw, which could not withstand the big, bad wolf’s attack. One bought sticks and built his house with them, but his house could not stand against the wolf’s attack either. The third bought bricks and built his house of brick, and that one did hold up against the wolf’s attack.

Paul says that there is one foundation only – Jesus Christ. Each of us builds a life and ministry on that one foundation. The work we do and the life we live will be tested with fire. So, it is important to build with materials that will hold up through the test, so that the work we do will be preserved, and so that the Lord will be honored by it.

Here is a list of building materials that will last and endure the test of fire: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. These materials are available from only one Source – the Holy Spirit.

There are other materials that appear to be sturdy and suitable, items like: aggressiveness, hard-work, self-expression, knowledge, and wisdom. There is nothing wrong with these, but the problem is that they are actually just tools and not building materials. The problem comes when we use them as building materials. But there is no substitute for the real thing.

The test of fire is coming, so be careful about the materials you build with and then how you build.

Lord, Help us to be good stewards of the opportunities You make available to us. Help us to focus on excellence and that which most glorifies You. Amen.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Spiritual Wisdom

“Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, in order to know what has been freely given to us by God. … But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:12, 16 CSB)

People have personal areas of interest, as do churches. The Corinthian church had a particular interest in “wisdom.” Their interest was not in wisdom in the generic sense but in the sense of the mystical. In their case, we find a church that allowed itself to be influenced by the culture of the day. Greeks, as Paul noted earlier in his letter to the Corinthians, are fascinated by wisdom and philosophy. Thus, many of the church members brought that interest with them into the church, and that impacted the fellowship. Some of the members believed that wisdom and knowledge was the way to the understanding of life.

Paul acknowledged that wisdom and knowledge and understanding are good things, but he was determined that Greek ways and understandings would not become a dominant theme of the church. For Paul, the only wisdom that had real value was spiritual wisdom, and that wisdom came from one source only: the Holy Spirit. The proponents of Greek wisdom were, in fact, promoting a prideful view which said, “I have wisdom, and you do not. I know the way, and you do not. Therefore, you must do what I say.” What Paul taught was that every believer has “spiritual wisdom,” or wisdom which comes from the same Spirit who dwells in each of us.

Paul said that the Spirit of God searches everything, even the deep things of God. He said that just as the spirit of a man is the only one who knows what is in a man, so the Spirit of God is the One who knows the heart concerns of God. Thus, the Holy Spirit imparts to us “the mind of Christ,” and enables us to understand what is important to God and how we should thus live. This kind of wisdom is the kind that counts, because it is eternal and spiritual in nature and not based on an IQ. In fact, this kind of wisdom is only available to those who receive the Spirit of God into their hearts and minds. It is not obtainable by human intelligence.

Today, while we acknowledge the importance of education, learning, knowledge, and the logic of philosophy, let us also affirm that spiritual wisdom is far superior in that it comes from the Holy Spirit, who knows the mind of Christ and instills that in us. May we march to the drumbeat of the Spirit of God and not according to the drumbeat of the world’s values.

Father, We celebrate the spiritual wisdom that You impart to us. Help us to use it today to help us live the kind of lives that glorify You. Amen.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Scandalous Cross

“But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.” (1 Corinthians 1:23 CSB)

Crucifixion expressed the epitome of human brutality. It was a form of execution reserved for the worst of criminals, designed to make a clear statement to onlookers. It was pure brutality, intended to inflict the maximum amount of pain, suffering, degradation, and humiliation on an individual for as long as possible. Death was inevitable and rarely quick.

We tend to view the crucifixion of Jesus as something the Jews and the Romans did to Him. To be sure, they are the ones who crucified Jesus. The reality, however, is that you and I are the ones who actually did it. Our sins nailed Him to the cross, and that is the brutal truth of the crucifixion. Just as a photograph is a representation of a physical reality, so the crucifixion of Jesus is a representation of an awful reality regarding our sins.

Ever since the gospel message was proclaimed, people have tried to explain away the cross or otherwise deflect its impact. The Jews did not like the idea of the cross very much. They demanded signs from God to prove truth, to show that the cross was a necessity, and they considered the cross a “stumbling block.” The word translated as “stumbling block” literally gives us our word “scandal.” The cross was scandalous to them because the law said, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” How could it be that something considered cursed by God could actually be the instrument of man’s redemption? Many Jews thus “stumbled” over the cross.

The Greeks were into philosophy and wisdom, ideas and concepts, things that make sense, that had some logic to them. From that viewpoint, the idea of crucifixion did not fit and made no sense at all. How could such a brutal event possibly help someone understand the rudimentary tenets of life and logic and produce a better life? Thus, many Greeks also “stumbled” at the “foolishness” of the cross.

In reality, Christians are left with the raw truth of the cross. The message of the cross – the sin of man confronted by the love of God – is the only one we have. For those of us who have received the message and are being saved, the cross is the power of God. And we dare not make any attempt to dilute it. To pander to the world’s demands to “soften” the message of the cross would be to rob it of its power. That we must not do. We preach Christ crucified.

Father, Remind us today that we live in a world that needs to be offended by its own sin, and help us to remain fully true to the message You want preached. Amen.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Transitory Nature of Life

“Lord, reveal to me the end of my life and the number of my days. Let me know how transitory I am.” (Psalm 39:4 CSB)

Something in us really does not enjoy thinking about the end of our lives. The morbidity of such thoughts is distasteful and unpleasant. We would prefer not to think about them at all.

So, why on earth would David pray and actually ask God to reveal to him the end of his life and the number of his days? Maybe the answer has nothing to do with morbidity at all. Maybe it has more to do with life.

What would the impact be on you to have a greater realization of the transitory nature of your life? What would your response be if you know just how temporary your life is?

At least somewhere near the top of the “list of impacts” would be to focus on what really matters most in life and way less effort and time on what matters less.

Knowing and loving God, walking with Him from moment to moment, and living out His will for our lives so that He is honored is what matters more than anything else. Acting out our faith in Jesus and our love for Him is of supreme importance, and that comes to the forefront when we are confronted by our transitory nature.

Very similarly, understanding how temporary we are would greatly impact how we relate to our family members and others. There is a great deal of nonsense that occurs relationally among family members and among Christian brothers and sisters at times. It is nonsense because it really makes no sense. To be sure, strife and stress do occur among relationships. Interestingly, relationships can, at the same time, create both our greatest joy and our greatest pain. But allowing strife and stress to go on makes no sense. The only thing that does make sense – in light of the transitory nature of our lives – is forgiveness, reconciliation, and making things right, as much as it depends on us. We who have been forgiven by God and reconciled to Him know that we must do the same for one another. This God expects of us.

Maybe David was right on target when he wrote this prayer.

Lord, We add our voices to David’s in this prayer. Teach us also how transitory we are in this life. Help us to live our lives focused primarily on what matters. Help us to not postpone what needs to be done in this day. In Your Name. Amen.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Angry Enough to Spit?

“Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him; do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way, by the man who carries out evil plans. Refrain from anger and give up your rage; do not be agitated – it can only bring harm. For evildoers will be destroyed, but those who put their hope in the Lord will inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:7-9 CSB)

In case you haven’t noticed, we live in a world that is rife with sin. Evil is abundant everywhere. At times, some areas of our society pride themselves in flaunting their sin, reveling in it, and their great thrill seems to come from inventing new avenues that lead to the self-expression of sin. If that is not demonic, I don’t know what is.

What is truly disturbing is when those who do evil prosper at the expense of godly people. Those who revel in sin rejoice anytime they can succeed in leading astray those who are trying to live a godly life. Such people even consider themselves agents of enlightenment, while in reality they are further spreading a shroud of darkness and death.

People who are truly godly are enraged by this. They do not understand how God can allow such things to happen. They find themselves becoming more and more irritated, agitated, and angered.

Here is a reality to be reminded of, though: God also is irritated, agitated, and angered by evil, and sooner or later, one way or another, He is going to put a stop to it all.

Because this is true, David has some advice for us in Psalm 37. He advises that we not be agitated by evildoers, because they will wither quickly like grass and will ultimately wilt. He suggests that we continue to do good faithfully. As a matter of choice, he advises that we come before the Lord in silent worship and trust and wait expectantly for Him to take action in His time, and that we give up or lay aside our agitation, anger, and rage, which only succeed in bringing harm to us anyway. We are to counter by putting our hope in the Lord.

Here is how Paul says it in the New Testament: “Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 CSB)

Lord, Help us to not allow ourselves to focus on the evil that is all around us, but help us instead to be people of compassion and love who focus on good and on doing good to counter the evil in our world. Help us in this day to live as an example of faithful godliness, and to come before You in quiet worship. Amen.

Friday, June 22, 2007

God without Limit

“Lord, Your faithful love reaches to heaven, Your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountain, Your judgments like the deepest sea.” (Psalm 36:5-6 CSB)

The human mind tends to be finite. We normally think in limited and concrete ways. Our minds prefer concepts and ideas that are measurable, so when it comes to understanding God or some truth about Him, we find that somewhat of a challenge. The finiteness of our minds is challenged when we come before the eternal and unlimited God.

God has no limitations, except for those He may have chosen. David captured four unlimited truths about God that help us to know Him better.

First, he says, “Lord, Your faithful love reaches to heaven.” So, how far is that? This means that the love of God is without limit. You and I can count on the fact that God loves us, because His love is always there, unending, unlimited.

Second, he says, “Your faithfulness [reaches] to the skies.” Again, this is without limit. God is faithful. That is who He is. He always has been, and He always will be faithful. He keeps His word. He fulfills His promises. He is faithful in everything He commits to us. He is trustworthy.

Third, David says, “Your righteousness is like the highest mountain.” God always has and always will do what is right. That is because He IS righteous. Because He is, whatever he does is always the right thing to do, regardless of what any of us may think about it. God’s righteousness is without limit.

Fourth, he writes, “Your judgments are like the deepest sea.” No one can fathom the depths of God’s judgments. The decisions of God are far beyond our ability to comprehend. That is because they are based on a knowledge that has no limit. God is all-knowing. Therefore, His decisions and judgments exceed our intelligence.

The God we serve, the God we walk with, and who walks with us, is without limit. He is God. We are not. So, we walk with Him in faith, trusting Him each step along the way.

Father, In this day, may Your unlimited nature once again challenge us and expand our understanding of who You are, and may we know that, with all certainty, You love us, You are committed to us, Your actions will be the right ones, and that Your decisions will be based on limitless knowledge. And may we in turn love You, follow You with total commitment, act in ways that glorify You, and trust Your decisions. Amen.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

True Wealth

“I always thank my God for you because of God’s grace given to you in Christ Jesus, that by Him you were made rich in everything – in all speaking and all knowledge – as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you.” (1 Corinthians 1:4-5 CSB)

Wealth is relative. It is based on a perspective, but whose perspective. An ant that has stored up food underground for the winter might consider itself wealthy. Some people consider big corporation CEO’s wealthy. In the eyes of some, America is a wealthy nation, while other countries are not seen in that light. Who determines what wealth is, and what criteria establishes that? If we go by the world’s standards, then God is the One who is wealthy, because in reality it all belongs to Him. His word is the final one on the subject.

Paul wrote to the church at Corinth and said to them (and now to us) that they were rich. His criteria was not the world’s, however. That is because the world’s standard for wealth is at best temporary. The criteria Paul used was spiritual in nature. They were rich in “all speaking and all knowledge.” They were wealthy in terms of spiritual gifts, not because they earned it, but because they were “made rich.” God’s grace resulted in their spiritual wealth.

Money is no requirement for true wealth. True riches are those that are lasting, that endure, and that kind of wealth is not really attainable. It can only be given, and God is the One who gives it.

Recall what Jesus taught. “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, whether neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) And also remember, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” (Matthew 6:33)

If you want to have a life that represents true wealth, then seek those riches that endure for all eternity.

Father, Help us to understand Your perspective on what constitutes real wealth, and help us to seek after those riches and not be deceived by the world’s standards. Amen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Adversary versus Advocate

“Many adversities come to the one who is righteous, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” (Psalm 34:19 CSB)

“What have I ever done to deserve this?” This is a question we sometimes hear from one who is trying to follow the Lord who suddenly experiences a trauma in life. It may be caused by the loss of a loved one, or some bad news about health, or the loss of livelihood, or some such trauma. The thinking behind this question is, “If I try to live a good life, God will protect me from really bad problems.” That is a myth. It is not real, and it is not true. In fact, based on what the Word teaches, just the opposite is true. Look at what it says, “Many adversities come to the one who is righteous.”

An adversity is what you have when something does not go as well as expected or hoped. For example, if someone takes a prescription medicine and breaks out in a rash, it is called an “adverse reaction” (or allergic reaction). The medication did not achieve what was intended.

You can take this to the bank and deposit it – if you try to live your life rightly and do what is right, you are going to experience many adversities. That is because you have an adversary named Satan who despises righteousness and who will do whatever he can to keep you from it. This is a spiritual reality.

Fortunately, however, there is the other side of this which says, “But the Lord delivers him from them all.” Satan may be our adversary, but Jesus is our Advocate. He delivers us from evil. Satan is no match for Jesus. It’s not even close. That would be like comparing an ant to an elephant. Jesus wins every time.

Jesus said, “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33 CSB) God’s word to us is to understand that adversities are going to come into the lives of His people, but we cannot allow them to conquer us. Just the opposite, with courage we are to overcome them. We have the power to do this simply through the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts. He gives us courage and stands with us through any adversity, and He leads us to victory.

Lord, Fill us with Your Spirit and enable us to face any and all adversities we may experience in this day. Help us to remain faithful throughout and trust in You for deliverance. Amen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Fix for Broken Hearts

“The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 CSB)

There is much hurt in our world. Every day we encounter people who are “the walking wounded,” often without knowing that they are. Sometimes it may be apparent in their faces, and sometimes they mask it well. Very likely, there have been days or times when we ourselves have been among them.

We all experience hurt or pain in life in some way, whether physical or emotional or relational. We all learn to cope with our life experiences as best we can. But sometimes people go through events or experiences that are truly devastating. We may ourselves be the cause of this with our own sin, and if that is the case, we can find forgiveness from the Lord through repentance and faith. But sometimes devastation comes at the hands of others. These are the kinds that leave people battered and bruised and unable to get up, for some time at least. These are the folks who meet the criteria for being “brokenhearted.”

So, what does “brokenhearted” mean, as David expressed it? It means that someone’s heart is broken. It does not work anymore. The parts are there, but it no longer functions. It’s broken.

In a more literal Biblical sense, the word “heart” refers to the human will. To have the heart to do something is to have the will to do it. But when the heart is broken, that means someone has become so crushed in spirit that he or she cannot muster up within themselves the will to continue forward.

David knew very well what he was talking about. He had to flee for his life from a raging madman. They took his house and his wife. They chased him out into the desert and pursued him relentlessly. Everything of worldly value was stripped away from him, and his life was only a few steps from being snuffed out. And this went on for years. He was himself brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. But, he did not give up hope. Why not? Because the Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit.

Lord, In those events or seasons when it feels like our hearts are broken and our spirits crushed, help us to remember that You are near, and that you can and will rescue us. You do this not because of our merit, but because of who You are. Thank You for the encouragement of Your word to us today. Amen.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Word and Deed

“Who is the man who delights in life, loving a long life to enjoy what is good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech. Turn away from evil and do what is good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:12-14 CSB)

Do you want to live a life that is personally fulfilling? Do you know anyone who doesn’t? That’s almost like asking someone if they want to breathe. Everyone wants a life of personal fulfillment and significance, and yet all too often such a life seems somewhat elusive to many. King David suggests two guiding principles that help.

First, watch what you say. “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech.” In the New Testament, James writes, “And consider ships: though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. (James 3:4-5) The Hebrews saw words as almost living entities, having a life of their own. Their concept was that a word spoken could take on an almost living quality and have an impact on other people. A word once spoken could not be retrieved and put back in the mouth. Once spoken, it was too late. Words definitely have impact. For example, consider these words: “Stupid!,” “Idiot!,” “Worthless!,” “Ugly!” And consider these: “Beloved!,” “Friend!,” “Brother!,” and “Sister!” It is important to watch what we say and how we say it, that is, to think about what we are going to say and consider its consequences before we say it. Thoughtful communication is the best kind.

Second, watch what you do. “Actions speak louder than words,” we often say. Paul says, “Everything that is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23) Faith is not just a belief system; it is a personal relationship with Jesus. Faith is walking with God. Those who walk with God “turn away from evil and do what is good.” They also “seek peace (shalom) and pursue it.” A life of personal fulfillment flows out of actions that purposely turn us away from evil and toward what is good. Thus, it is important to watch what we do, to be intentional in how we live.

“And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17 CSB)

Maybe a good goal for each of us today would be to watch what we say, and watch what we do. In that, may we each find personal fulfillment.

Father, Guide us today in our words and in our actions, that our lives may bring glory to You. Amen.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

From Fear to Fear

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him from all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues him.” (Psalm 34:4-7 CSB)

There are two kinds of fear, both of them emotional responses. One kind of fear is preventive in nature, designed to protect, while the other is more proactive in nature, resulting in blessing.

The first kind of fear deals with potential loss and is a response to everything from insecurity to life-threats. It varies in intensity and strength depending on the cause. Some people, for example, are mildly uncomfortable in high places, while some are deathly afraid of them. Such fears can serve to prevent injury, but they can also paralyze. Not all fears are founded in reality but originate in our perceptions, and that is when they tend to paralyze. Even when a fear is based on genuine threat, it can still paralyze us and keep us from acting in trust toward the Lord.

The second kind of fear is a response to the awesome power and presence of the Almighty God. This “fear” of God is not so much the fear of loss but is more of a sense of worshipful submission to absolute power and holiness that emanates from our Heavenly Father.

Our need is to move away from the fear that terrorizes and paralyzes and toward the “fear” that actually delivers us from those fears. We do this very simply by first turning to the Lord, by going to Him in faith, by crying out to Him. We seek His deliverance from fear and from its cause. And secondly, we open our eyes to a spiritual truth, that “the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear” the Lord. Our genuine humility before God and our worship of Him leads us to understand that God will take care of us in any situation we face. Thus, it is to worship that we go.

Father, Teach us the simplicity and the impact of this truth, that Your presence and Your grace are all we really need to face that which produces fear in us. Amen.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Convenient Praise?

“I will praise the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. I will boast in the Lord; the humble will hear and be glad. Proclaim with me the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt His name together.” (Psalm 34:1-3 CSB)

It is easy to praise God when it’s convenient. Or scheduled. It is not so easy when you feel like your life is falling apart. A distressed life can easily morph into a distracted life. Pain demands attention and strongly dislikes being ignored. It intends to have its “pound of flesh,” so to speak.

What we do in response can shape our life directions. We can sink into the whirlpool of dismay and allow it to suck the life out of us, or, we can take hold of the life-saver God provides and let Him pull us to safety.

Praise is a life-saver. How so? Praise brings God into focus and challenges our perceptions. Some consider that escapist, but just the opposite, it puts us in touch with true reality. Praise of God takes us toward the greatness of God and reminds us that nothing ever takes Him by surprise. It testifies to us that He is fully aware of every detail of our lives. Praise teaches us that whatever His purposes, He will somehow act redemptively in our lives and ultimately bring positive from the negative, substance from the ashes. And beyond this, God will use the experiences we go through as a testimony to others as a means of encouraging them. That is what David means when he says, “The humble will hear and be glad.”

Praise is what recalibrates life’s perspectives. That is why it is so important that praise be constant, continual. Praise changes everything and especially us. And it thwarts the purposes of the enemy to destroy us.

“Proclaim with me the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt His name together.”

Lord, May our praise of You never be routine, and may it never be limited to convenience or schedule. In all of our life experiences, may we continually give You the praise of our hearts, so that we may then gain hearts of wisdom. Amen.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Our Source for Help

“We wait for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our hearts rejoice in Him, because we trust in His holy name. May Your faithful love rest on us, Lord, for we put our hope in You.” (Psalm 33:20-22 CSB)

When times look bleak, what do you do? When your life as you know it, or your personal welfare, or the welfare of your family members comes under a dark cloud of threat, what do you do, and where do you turn for help?
Some turn to themselves for strength. This is probably the first and most natural course to take, depending on how someone perceives the severity of the crisis. Folks who do this think that if they can just hold on a while longer, that this will be enough to see them through the crisis.
Some turn to those they see as stronger than themselves, hoping that the support and help of others will carry them through.
People tend to seek whatever they think will work in order to get themselves through times that are bleak and full of threat and crisis. There is nothing wrong with someone acting in their own strength to resolve a problem. There is nothing wrong with seeking the help of others when crises arise. The difficulty comes whenever the crisis spins out of control and becomes unmanageable. What if nothing works? What then?
The soul that is wise looks beyond immediate crisis to the only One who can truly sustain, to the One who provides genuine, unbreakable strength. The Lord, and only the Lord, is a help and shield during a real crisis. Only He is trustworthy, and that is because of who He is. A wise soul sees the truth of this and makes a conscious decision to put his or her hope in the Lord.
We wait for the Lord.

Father, Would you help each of us today to remember the truth that in You alone we find genuine hope, and that You alone are capable of sustaining us during the crises of our lives. Help us to not only remember this, but to purposely put our hope in You and wait for Your help. Amen.

Friday, June 8, 2007

We're relocating!

Some may have heard, and some may not have. Jane and I are relocating from Chiang Mai to South Carolina. We will be in South Carolina as of June 13, 2007, and you can contact us by email in the normal ways you do, either at or Let us hear from you!