Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Ceaseless Prayer

Our Bible says much about prayer. It informs us about how we are to address God and that we are to pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. We are also directed to pray with and through the guidance of and in the power of the Holy Spirit. In Psalm 88, however, we read that the writer tells us what he does when he prays: “I call to You, O Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to You.” Not a day went by in his life that he literally did not cry out to the Lord.
The writer of this Psalm was in constant contact with his Lord – Yahweh, He identified Him not as a god who was removed from his life, who lived in a distant location, who may or may not be available when he faced difficult times or wanted to worship Him. Indeed not. His God was a personal, present and powerful God who was always by his side. And his God was a God who he could speak to as though he was speaking to a friend and companion who was beside him waiting to be involved in a conversation.
What an impressive picture for us to place deeply in our minds and hearts. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing and whatever time it may be – day or night – Yahweh is by our side and we can call upon Him as our friend.
Notice, however, his body language when he prayed: “I spread out my hands to You.” Hands that were “spread out” because when he prayed he expected God to respond immediately to his request just as any friend would do to a friend in need.
And he did this “every day.” As Jesus would one day say, “Give us this day” what we need for just “this day.”
Prayer: Father, Give us a “daily faith” – a faith that has no limits and a faith that knows You will hear and answer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 88:9b Lord, I have called daily upon You; I have stretched out my hands to You.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Almost/Not Yet

Most of us have a memory or two of family trips we took when we were children. Excitement filled our hearts as we left on our journey. Then, after awhile, boredom and restlessness sets in and everyone becomes anxious and angry and we wondered why we ever left home. No matter where we were going or how long it took, someone would ask the question, “Are we there yet?” It is a question that is handed down from one generation to the next and one family to another. It’s part of life.
And the answer was and still is the same: “Almost” or “Not yet.” It reminds us of the fact that life is indeed a journey and we are never sure where or when it will end.
It is difficult to face the uncertainties of life wondering when there will be some final resolution to the issues that surround us and threaten us constantly. We are troubled when we see injustice and feel deceived. We want to be free from the fear and threat of terrorism and enjoy the reign of peace and joy. We hear of wars and rumors of wars. We are forced to face the fact that conflict and crises pervade our world and disturb our lives. And the peace that the leaders of this world promise us never comes.
So we call on God and ask, “Are we there yet? Is it time for Your return?” And He answers, “Almost. Not yet. My time has not come. You and I still have work to do.”
We as Christians have His light in this darkness and His hope in the midst of despair. It is our responsibility to share this gift of light and hope with others so they can pray with us...
Prayer: “O Lord, the God Who saved us, day and night we cry out to You. May our prayers come before You; turn Your ear to our cry!” Grant us Your peace through Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 88:1-2 O Lord, God of my salvation, I have cried out day and night before You. Let my prayer come before You; Incline Your ear to my cry.

Monday, January 29, 2018

A Birth Certificate From God

Not long ago I lost my billfold and all of its contents. It was simple to call the bank that issued me my credit card and ask them to cancel it. But when I went to get a new driver’s license it took much more than a phone call. I had to produce three different documents – including my birth certificate. Fortunately, I was able to locate them with no difficulty. However our birth certificate is the most important of all when it comes to proving our identity.
But a birth certificate that says we are heaven-born and heaven-bound is certainly the most important. In Psalm 87:6 we read that "The Lord will write in the register of the peoples this one was born in Zion" – referring to the community of believers – which for us is Heaven.
One night after dark a religious leader named Nicodemus went to visit Jesus. As their conversation unfolded Jesus said, "No one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again."
"Nicodemus," Jesus said, "your earthly birth record will not allow you to enter heaven. You need a birth certificate that has been issued by God!"
At birth, we are born into an “earthly family” because we have an “earthly father.” However, when we accept Christ as our Savior, we are born a “second time” – we are “born again” – and God becomes our “Heavenly Father.” Then we become a member of God’s family and enjoy the benefits and blessings of God as our Heavenly Father. Jesus said, “I am the WAY” – the only way there is – to be born again and have the honor of calling God our Heavenly Father.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for inviting us into Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 87:6 The Lord will record, When He registers the peoples: “This one was born there.”

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Glorious Things!

The Psalmist wrote: “Glorious things are said of You!"
John Newton once was a slave trader. After becoming a Christian he became a powerful preacher, a leader in the fight against slavery and a famous hymn writer.
One of his hymns contains those Glorious Things!
"He whose Word cannot be broken" reminds us of the faithfulness of God – a centerpiece of the Psalms. In psalm after psalm we hear the echo of God's faithfulness giving strength, hope and encouragement to the children of Israel. Though they often abandoned God and at times paid a dear price for forsaking Him, He was there every time they called on Him and immediately answered their cry.
"Well supply thy sons and daughters, and all fear of want remove." There never was a time in their history that God did not feed them, go before them or watch over them. When they looked to Him for forgiveness, and repented of their sinful ways, His mercy met them at their point of need and His blessings followed. He was with them to meet their needs, remove their fear and grant them the desires of their heart.
"Grace which, like the Lord, the Giver, Never fails from age to age." If there ever was a time in the history of our nation that we needed to be reminded that God's grace would "never fail" it is now. Everywhere we look, we see a need for His love, mercy, grace, salvation and our nation's restoration. It is not His glory that has vanished – it is our unwillingness to share His grace with others.
Prayer: Lord, how disappointed You must be when You see what we can do to share Your grace, yet do nothing. Forgive us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 87:3 Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God! 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Why?

One of the most irritating, aggravating, frustrating – and yet stimulating – questions is – “Why?” It angers parents and annoys teachers. It disturbs moments of quiet reflection when we think we have the answers to "everything" then we realize we don't. It bothers us deeply when we are asked "why" did you do this or "why” did you do that. It seems to be planted deep within the brains of children to make us defensive or angry or even feel stupid.
But "Why" is an important question. It can force us to look at what we have done or what we are about to do. It can, in all reality, keep us from doing wrong or encourage us to do what is right.
David addresses the "Why" question quite frequently. In Psalm 86, however, he makes an observation and then answers it with "why."
He wrote, "I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever." Then he adds the why for us: "For great is Your love toward me; You have delivered me from the depths of the grave."
"Praise" and "glorify" are a most important part of our worship. When we look at these two verses together, we find an important reason to remind us why we worship God: it is because of His love and mercy.
We may not know what he is referring to when he said that "God delivered me from the depths of the grave."
And perhaps that's good. What's don't matter – God does! There are many days when we feel we are about to be "buried alive.” Then, God delivers us, and it's time to worship.
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for the endless times You rescued us from disaster. May we always praise Your name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 86:12 I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And I will glorify Your name forevermore.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Only Way

A welfare worker, visiting in the home of one of her clients, discovered a crippled child that had never gone to school because he was unable to walk. Her compassionate heart was deeply touched by his condition and she decided to do something out of the ordinary for him.
Initially, she took him to a distinguished orthopedic surgeon who performed several procedures to correct the problems in his legs. Then a podiatrist corrected the problems with his crooked feet. Little by little he learned to walk and run and play. He also learned to read and write and make enough progress to attend school with his friends.
One day, in telling this story to a group of her friends she said, "He is now a grown man. And I want you to tell me where you think he is and what he is doing.”
After a few moments her colleagues began to reply: "A doctor?" asked one. "No," she responded. "A minister?" wondered another. "No," she replied. "I know," said a third, "a welfare worker because of your influence on his life."
"No," she said with tears in her eyes. "He is now in prison serving a life term for murder. You see, we spent all of our time in teaching him how to walk and run, read and write, but we did not teach him where to walk and what to read and who he should communicate with."
David prayed, "Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name."
Prayer: Father, write on each of our hearts the words of Your Son: "I am the way, the truth and the life!" In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 86:11 Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Kingdom Work

What happens when God's people do God's work? Can what we do provide evidence to His mercy and grace? Can those around us actually see Him by what we do?
The Psalmist said that "Surely His salvation is near those who fear Him, that His glory may dwell in our land."
In other words, when people become born again – accept God's salvation through faith in Christ – there will be evidence of God's Kingdom on earth. Christians will busy themselves in working with the needy, bring hope and help to those who are suffering, seek justice for those who are wronged and establish rules that are just and fair.
In Psalm 85:11 we read, "Faithfulness (to God's Word) will spring forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven." If we believe the Word of God, we are to live the Word of God and that means we are to do whatever is within our power to establish His Kingdom on earth.
Whenever people’s hearts are right with God, we see God-things happen. The abolition of slavery and the end of child labor followed a resurgence of faith in God. The Salvation Army came to life when General Booth was convicted that God called him to “bring God's love to the needy”. Seeing children, who were neglected, ignorant and hungry burdened Robert Raikes to start "Sunday" school. Many educational and charitable institutions came into existence because God's people saw God's children in need and were convicted by His Spirit to do something about it. Good deeds and showing compassion are evidence that righteousness on earth comes from Heaven!
Prayer: Help us, Father, to see what You see and then become Your hands and feet on earth to show Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 85:11 Truth shall spring out of the earth, And righteousness shall look down from heaven.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

God's Peace

There is an interesting theme that runs throughout the Bible. It is the if/then theme. If we are obedient to God, then we can be confident of His blessings, favor, gifts and a sense of His presence in our lives. If on the other hand, we are disobedient and willingly disobey His laws and teachings then we will experience guilt and a separation from Him.
Certainly the feelings of separation can be a good thing. It is God within us stirring up the gift He has given us – the gift of the Holy Spirit who is to guide us and guard us. When we become "disconnected" from God, He is there to "alert us" of impending dangers and convict us to return to the path and plan God has designed for us. He is eager to do His work if we are willing to allow Him to do so.
Our Psalmist reminds us that God "speaks peace to His people and to His saints." His peace is what brings us "wholeness and completeness" and unites us with Him. It dissolves the fear we have of Him and removes the guilt that we carry within us from being disobedient to Him.
So our Psalmist wisely adds, "but let them not return to their folly" – or perhaps a more appropriate translation of the word "folly" is "stupidity." What might this mean?
Often we become "presumptuous" and assume that we deserve God's blessings. We take an inventory of our lives and things appear to be "just about as wonderful as wonderful can be." We have no "fear" of God and take His goodness for granted. "What stupidity!" says the Psalmist. "Be careful of falling into Your past sinful ways."
Prayer: May we be constantly alert, Lord, to any sin that will separate us from You, Your peace and blessings. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 85:8 I will hear what God the Lord will speak, For He will speak peace To His people and to His saints; But let them not turn back to folly.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Hope's Foundation

Many of us have struggled through difficult times and painful days. We recall with pleasure what God has done in the past with gratitude – knowing that it was His mercy and grace that enabled us to get through lengthy days and long nights. Because of those memories, we now base our hope in Him that He will shepherd us through dark valleys and sunless days.
In Psalm 85 our author is apparently reflecting on a loss suffered by Israel in a military battle. They looked at their loss as punishment from God. But the Psalmist does not focus on the loss, he focuses on the fact that God has brought them out of captivity in the past and forgave them of their sins. With confidence and boldness he says, "Restore us again, O God, our Savior."
The message for us to take away from this Psalm is that in times of depression, defeat and darkness we must remember God's grace in the past and pray in the present for His restoration.
Sometimes when we look at our past and are buried with the guilt of our sins we are fearful of going to God and asking for His grace. We feel that we are undeserving and unworthy. We approach His throne of grace in fear and trembling, wondering if we have any right to ask for forgiveness, cleansing and restoration.
But when these thoughts plague us, we must remember that God's judgment is always tempered by His mercy and He will always forgive us, restore us and revive us again. Forgiveness is always available when we ask for it!
Prayer: Help us, Father, to remember Your blessings in the past as we pass through the problems we face today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 85:4a Restore us, O God of our salvation,

Monday, January 22, 2018

And In Conclusion...

We are all familiar with the Beatitudes of Jesus in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. But Psalm 84 contains three beatitudes.
The first talks about our relationship with God – about being with Him and worshiping Him and praising Him. "Blessed," said the psalmist, "are those who dwell in Your House; they are ever praising You." Indeed, we are truly blest that His invitation to us is "Come, now is the day of salvation" – an invitation to be with Him today and every day throughout eternity. To dwell in His presence forever.
The second beatitude we find is "Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage." Throughout this life we are not on our own to struggle with the difficulties of life. His strength is always available to us when we are weak, weary and worn out. He knew pilgrimage would be long and difficult, so He made Himself available to us whenever we call on Him.
And, perhaps the last beatitude actually sums us the other two: "O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in You."
A young college student was at home dying from cancer. He had been heavily sedated for days. Every now and then his Mother would sit by his bedside and ask, "Dennis, are you here?" He would answer her, "Yes, Mom, I'm still here." On the day of his death, however, he responded to her question, "No, Mother I'm going home."
Above his bed in an empty room are the words: "I hear you, Christian, happy, unafraid, For you hear a song from the other side of death."
Prayer: Thank You Father, for being our dwelling place. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 84:12 O Lord of hosts, Blessed is the man who trusts in You!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

God's Grace

Every now and then it is good to take a "morning inventory" and reflect on the grace of God.
This morning when I opened my eyes I thanked God for protecting me while I slept. As I turned off the alarm clock, I thanked Him for sounds and my hearing. As I rested for a moment before I got out of bed I could feel my beating heart which He kept going while I slept. As I stood up, I thanked Him for my balance, healthy legs and my slippers. As I took a shower, I thanked Him for the warm water, shampoo, soap, a towel and a mat on the floor to keep me from slipping. Then I continued by thanking Him for a mirror, razor, deodorant and on and on until I thanked Him for all of the articles of clothing He provided for me to wear today.
And then I thanked Him for the words of the psalmist that reminded me of His promise: "no good thing will He withhold from those whose walk is blameless."
It was then that I had to pause in deep humility and gratefully thank Him for His love and grace that I do not deserve. It is so easy for me to accept the gifts of God – including my salvation - without realizing that everything I have, ever have had, or will have are gifts from God.
As I reflected on that verse the word blameless kept ringing in my ears as though it was my friendly alarm clock. I, of all people, am certainly not blameless. As I meditated on the word blameless for a few minutes and thought about everything I am or have, it's not because I am blameless. It's because of His unending love and grace!
Prayer: Thank You Lord, for loving us, saving us and giving us everything we have. May we be ever grateful! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 84:11c No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Speaking Of Grace...

The word grace in Scripture is used in many different ways. In the Old Testament it is often included with "grace-words" when the writer is speaking of God's loyalty or forgiveness, His steadfast love or loving-kindness. It is also used in association with relationships, such as the relationship of a superior to an inferior. And this is noteworthy: An inferior cannot show a superior grace. In other words, we cannot show God grace. Everything flows from His grace and there is nothing we have that did not come from Him.
In the New Testament the word for grace is charis – a word used when speaking of forgiveness. From it comes our word "charity" – giving something to someone when they do not deserve "it" or cannot get "it" themselves. It also implies being "gracious" – which is, grace in action.
Showing God's grace is what Christians are to do after they accept God’s grace. And unless we show it we might question whether or not we really have it!
For example, when we are saved by grace we are to become gracious and act differently. Cruelty is to be replaced with kindness, anger with acceptance, rejection with reconciliation and giving instead of always getting.
Grace is certainly a comprehensive word. It is as wide as the world. Remember what Jesus said: "God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him shall be saved."
Our indebtedness to God for His grace is beyond us. Our indebtedness to show His grace to others is within us.
Prayer: Your love, Father, is beyond our comprehension and Your grace can never be understood – only accepted. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 84:11b  The Lord will give grace and glory;

Friday, January 19, 2018

A Meditation That Matters

Our minds want to wander. What they settle on in their journey from one destination to another is intriguing and telling. The Bible says that "Old men dream dreams and young men see visions." But it does not tell what the dreams or visions are. It depends on the individual.
One day a psalmist unveiled both his dream and his vision: "Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere, I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked."
We often hear phrases about "spending quality time with loved ones" or "living a quality life." But unless we define quality in scriptural terms, "quality" may not be what "quality" is.
Our psalmist wants us to know that even standing at the edge of the temple is better than being inside the tent of a wicked person. Why is this so? It is because of God Himself! Simply being in His presence is a reward.
For the psalmist it is not the beauty of the place but the beauty of a Person. "God is a sun and a shield," he declares, referring to the absolute glory of God as a person and protector of those who serve Him. With His love upon us and His glory around us, we can be assured that He will not withhold any good things from us if we walk with Him and live lives that are blameless – or lives of integrity.
But along our way in this walk with Him, He will give us "grace and glory." Glory refers to His "grace" that He gives to those who are His own. It is His grace that saves us with the faith He gives us because of the love He has for us!
Prayer: How blest we are, Father, that we are invited into Your Kingdom through Your love, mercy and grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 84:10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Life After Life

A group of visitors once asked an eighty-two-year-old his age. After answering their question he said, "I'm going to live until I die. And then I'm going to live forever!"
Is it possible that he had Psalm 84 in mind and was reflecting on the words of the psalmist: "They go from strength to strength – or they make their way – till each appears before God."
God expects us to care for our bodies – He created them and entrusted them to us to do His work well. The story is told of two camels who deeply loved their masters.
While carrying their cargoes across the desert one decided that he would eat little so he could save his master money. He soon became weak and disoriented and thieves took advantage of his master when he died – beating him and taking the cargo. The other cared for both his master and his strength. He ate wisely and passed triumphantly across the desert.
We weaken ourselves spiritually by not nourishing ourselves with "soul-food" – God’s Word. Because God made us for Himself, we must bring His life into our life through the Word of Life – Christ our Lord. He alone can satisfy the hunger in our hearts and the longing in our souls.
Jesus met these needs when He said, "I am the Bread of Life! No one coming to me will ever be hungry again. And those who believe in Me will never thirst, either."
Age does not matter. Life does. And life begins with the Lord. Believe in Him! He will nourish body and soul.
Prayer: We look to You, Lord, for our strength. The journey before us is uncertain – not our God who guides us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 84:7 They go from strength to strength; Each one appears before God in Zion.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Source Of Happiness

A man whose wealth exceeded his common sense was once asked, "How much money does a man need to be happy?" His reply was quick and honest: "Just a little more!" Many "things" promise satisfaction and happiness at a distance. But as possessions increase and wealth accumulates, expectations once valued are never fulfilled.
It is different with those who seek the Lord. In Psalm 84 the author wrote, “Blessed – or happy – are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on being with You and following You on life’s journey."
Happiness is not found in what we have but Who has us. Christianity is not about our possessions but what we possess in Christ and the fact that He possesses us. A true believer, an honest disciple or a sincere "follower of the way" is one who recognizes that the Lord is all-powerful and gives us the strength we need to live the Christian life.
And living the Christian life will bring true blessings and genuine happiness to the one who walks with God. Those who live the Christian life as described in His Word will find fulfillment and completeness in Him.
One translator studied this verse for years and finally decided that it would best be translated, "How enriched are those who draw their strength from You, whose hearts are focused on You."
Those attempting to draw strength from the "things" of this world will be left weak, weary and worn-out. And anyone whose heart is focused on what is seen will discover that their vision will not survive reality or eternity.
Prayer: Give us discerning hearts and minds, Father, to recognize and choose that which is eternal and of God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 84:5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Lovely Dwelling Place

It was Sunday morning and James said to his mother, "I don't feel good." Worried she asked, "Where don't you feel good?" Quickly he replied, "When I'm in church."
One psalmist wrote, "How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God!"
What was it that made the "dwelling place" lovely? It was the presence of the Lord. But anywhere a believer is can be a dwelling place where we can find the presence of the Lord. Wherever we are He is and we can commune with Him and express the desires of our heart.
Many believe that God can only be found in church when they "report" for worship. For some it may be once a week or twice a month. For a few, worship only happens on special days or occasions. Every attempt is made to "discharge" all of their obligations by making one or two trips to church in any given year.
But if God is not worshiped seven days a week it does not seem reasonable that we will truly worship Him one day a week or once a year. Worship that is worthy of Him is something we who are His children are to do consciously and constantly every moment of every day. It does not matter where we are or what we are doing. We are to offer our words and our work, our hearts and our habits to Him as gestures of love and adoration.
Worship is not something we do; it is the way we live. Worship is presenting all that we do as a sacrifice to Him.
Prayer: Lord, may we gladly present all of us – whatever we do, wherever we are – as a gift of ourselves to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 84:1-2 How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints For the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Trying To Escape God

TRYING TO ESCAPE GOD
God seems to appear when we least expect Him. He certainly will not be confined within the walls of a church or restrained within the rituals of a religion. He is, after all, God the Creator, Sustainer and Savior. He makes Himself known when and where and as He pleases.
Once, during the transatlantic crossing of a large ocean liner a major storm erupted, breaking the silence of calm seas. A huge wave swept over the bow of the ship and swept a sailor into the raging waters. His cry for help went unheard.
Far away in Philadelphia his Christian mother, who was sound asleep, suddenly awoke with an urgent desire to pray for him. Even though she was not aware of what had happened or his threatening situation, she prayed for his safety with urgency and intensity. She then returned to bed and fell asleep with peace in her heart.
Weeks later her son returned home, opened the door and shouted, "Mother, I'm saved!" Then he described what had happened: how he had been swept overboard. As he was sinking in the swirling waves he remembered thinking, "I'm lost forever!" He remembered a hymn he once sang in church about looking to Jesus to be saved. He cried out, "O God, I look to Jesus to be saved," and another wave swept him back onto the ship.
When he finished his story, his mother told her story. They then thanked God for the storm that saved his soul. As the Psalmist wrote, "Pursue them with Your tempest and terrify them with your storm." Our God is amazing.
Prayer: Thank You, God, for what You are willing to do to save the lost. We will never understand Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 83:15 So pursue them with Your tempest, And frighten them with Your storm.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

When God Is Silent

For thirty-five years a man had faithfully served as a "Keeper of the Lighthouse." In addition to the bright light swirling through the darkness, a warning gun was fired automatically every five minutes. He had heard its "shot" so often for so long that it did not disturb him.
One night while he was asleep, the gun did not fire as it normally did. He awakened with a shout and said to his wife, "What happened?"
Our psalmist prayed for many years. God had always answered his prayers. One day, however, his prayer was answered with silence. So, he cried out, "O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still."
Sometimes God is silent because He is testing us. One night a storm arose and high water started to flood their little boat. Jesus was sound asleep. In fear, the disciples awakened Him shouting, "Doesn't it bother You that we are about to perish?" Calmly He rebuked the wind and the waves and things settled down. They had faith in His power but it was a limited faith. After they tested Him and saw what He could do, their faith became firm and their trust in Him complete. He was silent up to a certain point because He wanted to strengthen their belief in Him.
Sometimes God is still because He has something to teach us. When He is, it is a signal from Him that we are to search our lives to see what has separated us from Him.
Isaiah said, "Your sins have hid His face from you, so that He will not hear you." But with our confession comes His cleansing and the restoration of our communication.
Prayer: When we cannot hear Your voice, Father, may we realize it is because of our sins and need forgiveness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 83:1 Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, And do not be still, O God!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Accountability

There was a time on earth when there were no nations or governments. People did as they pleased. As a result, God's creation – the human race – sank into disgraceful depths of despair. God wanted to solve the problem so He covered the earth with a flood in judgment. Then He put government in the world to restrain wickedness. That first government came from God and every government ever since, has come from God.
Why? Because no one has any authority except from God. Whether those who govern us are good or bad, right or wrong, gracious or greedy – they are there because God put them there. Some use their power to do God's will. Others use their power in an attempt to go against God's will. Whoever serves the people as leaders serve as He pleases with His permission.
Yet, it follows that those who refuse to obey the laws of God will ultimately be punished for their disobedience. Perhaps they will get away with it here, but certainly not in the "hereafter."
"God presides in the great assembly," wrote Asaph, the author of Psalm 82. And he concluded, "He gives judgment among the 'gods'." In other words, if those whom God has placed in positions of leadership as rulers or judges do not rule with God’s laws and commandments as their guide they will face His judgment.
Not long ago, one ruler who was dying cried out, "Now I must face the Judge. This is what disturbs me." We, too, must face this Judge. What will we face on that day?
Prayer: Lord, may we live our lives realizing that someday we will stand before You as Judge of all we have done. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 82:1 God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods.

Friday, January 12, 2018

It's All About Choice

A reader recently wrote and asked a question that many of us ask at one time or another: "If there is a God, and if He is a good and loving God, why does He allow sin and suffering?"
A simple answer is that God gave each of us, from Adam and Eve, to the newest born baby, the opportunity and responsibility to make and live with choices and consequences. But there is a liability that came with this freedom. Even though we can make a poor choice, God will not interfere with our freedom to make it. Unfortunately we all live with the choice that Adam and Eve made: it introduced sin into the world and we have to live with their choice.
But it seems that we all make decisions that are not in keeping with what is in our best interests. Consider the history of Israel. The psalmist wrote, "My people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts."
Without choice there could be no love or liberty, grace or goodness, caring or compassion. We are free to choose what is right and righteous or what is destructive and devastating. This is true of individuals and nations alike. We have sin and suffering because of wrong choices.
And why do we make wrong choices? Again our psalmist has the answer: "If my people would but listen to me...I would subdue their enemies."
We make wrong choices because we do not listen to the Word of God and follow its directions.
Prayer: We pray, Father, that we will allow Your Word to speak to our hearts, guide our decisions and bring hope. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 81:11, 12 “But My people would not heed My voice, And Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, To walk in their own counsels.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

What's In Your Mouth?

Few of us enjoy going to a dentist. The first words we usually hear are, "Open your mouth wide, please." Most of us from our previous experiences with dentists would rather keep our mouths shut.
When the Psalms were written there were different ways to show favors to individuals. For example, if a king wanted to extend a favor to a guest he would sometimes say, "Open your mouth wide," and then fill it with gems or sweets.
Our King said to us in Psalm 81, "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it!" What an unusual statement. Yet, when we think of it, our King's love is limitless and His might is measureless and His knowledge of our needs is ever on His mind!
What an encouragement to pray. When we pray we open our mouths and express our needs and desires to God. If, when we pray, we are earnest and expect God to hear us and if we have been obedient to His teachings and if in our prayers we are asking Him to bless our requests in a way that will honor Him, surely He will respond positively to our requests.
God is able and anxious to meet our every need. If we have a loved one who has not accepted His grace, or if we have a need for food on our tables, or if we have a spouse or parent or child who is suffering with a disease that some say is incurable – are all gifts He is willing to grant us. We most never forget that God is able and anxious to hear us and help us if we "open our mouths wide in prayer."
Prayer: Give us faith, Heavenly Father, to accept Your Word as "truth we can believe in" whenever we pray. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 81:10b Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Wonder Of Worship

Many anthropologists who study human behavior say that the one universal behavior is worship. There seems to be an internal compass in everyone, everywhere that says, "There is someone, somewhere who is greater, more powerful than any of us here or all of us combined.” Man seems to be incurably religious – having a deep desire or need to have a god. Shrines and idols of all shapes and sizes are as old as history. And if people do not worship the God of the Bible they will make a god of themselves or another object.
A story is told of a British scientist who had a famous chameleon named "Billy the Lizard." Before he left for a vacation he asked his butler to take special care of him while he was away. When he returned home, he went to Billy's cage but did not see him. He went to his butler and demanded an explanation.
"Sir," said his butler, "it was this way. Some of the villagers wanted to see Billy. So we put him on a piece of red cloth and he turned red. Then we put him on a green cloth and he turned green. Then we put him on a piece of striped cloth and he exploded. What can I say?"
"Hear, O my people," God said to the Israelites, "I will warn you...You shall have no foreign gods before me!" It is almost impossible to believe that after all God had done for Israel He had to warn them about worshiping idols.
Is it any different today? Not really. The problems we face in the world today are not political problems but spiritual problems. We worship too many "foreign" false gods.
Prayer: Guard us, Father, from allowing the "things" of this world to become our "gods" and take Your place. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 81:9 There shall be no foreign god among you; Nor shall you worship any foreign god.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Revive Us!

Many lament the spiritual decline in our nation. We see a culture in decline and the rising tide of secularism. We know that our God is powerful – that He can dominate the lives of those who profess to love Him – if they will only allow Him. He is willing and able. But we must become willing and available if we want renewal and revival. The responsibility is on us. The possibility is with Him.
God's children in all ages come close to and then turn away from Him. It's as though at some point in time God becomes a liability, a burden, an interferer in the lives of those who profess Him as Lord. He seems to get in the way or He keeps them from enjoying the things in life that bring delight and pleasure to so many.
But this God, our God, is willing and waiting on those who are also willing to "call on His name." And that just may be the problem.
In Scripture, name always refers to the nature or the character or the identity of the person. And when we think of the name of God we must always associate it with holiness, purity, righteousness, sacrifice, justice, mercy, grace, love and compassion.
The writer of Psalm 80 asks "revive us," or "quicken us" and "restore us that we may be saved." Surely, God will do this because He wants to do this. But we cannot expect Him to do this unless we are willing to identify with His character and repent and become as He is. If we want revival it must begin with each of us!
Prayer: Help us, Lord, to recognize that each of us is responsible to You to repent if we want revival in our land. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 80:18 Then we will never abandon you again. Revive us so we can call on your name once more.

Monday, January 8, 2018

He Never Quit!

We are reminded throughout God's Word that He has given us the gift of choice and its consequences. Nowhere are we told that we cannot choose our destinies. But we are told that our choices determine our destinies.
Even a casual reading of the New Testament tells us that there were those who followed Jesus because they wanted to get something from Him for selfish reasons. We read that when things looked horrible at His trial those who had been with Him for years fled for their lives. In His days of glamour and glory they were close by His side. There were others who wanted to be with Him but they refused to make any sacrifices and went their own way.
A graduate of a Midwestern university was just an average student. He played sports but never made any of the varsity teams. He was never elected to any office and did not make it far up the corporate ladder. When war broke out he was among the first to volunteer. After completing basic training he was sent to a war zone in France.
One day in combat he was serving alongside a soldier in the French army. His comrade was severely wounded and with no thought of himself, he made a decision to get him help. Unfortunately, he did not succeed and was killed on his way to find a medic.
The French Government learned of his act of bravery and awarded him The Croix de Guerre – Cross of War. And his alma mater posted a plaque in his honor that read, "He played with the scrubs for four years – but never quit."
The psalmist said, "We will not turn away from You" by quitting.
Prayer: Give us courage, Father, to stand with You and for You when we are tempted to turn from You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 80:18a Then we will never abandon you again.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Traveling In The Wrong Direction

G.K. Chesterton was a famous English writer. He is held in high esteem for his poetry, respected for his work as a journalist and his works in philosophy. He was once named by Time magazine as a "man of colossal genius."
Once, while traveling on a train, he became so engrossed in the book he was reading that he forgot his destination. As the train made its last stop, the conductor went to him and said, "Sir, this is the end of the line."
He frantically searched his pockets for his ticket but could not find it. Not being able to find it, he looked bewildered and confused. Sensing his predicament, the conductor asked, "Where were you going?"
After a lengthy pause he said to the conductor, "I can't remember. I'll have to phone my wife and ask her."
The writer of Psalm 80 recognized that the children of Israel had abandoned their relationship with God. With a heavy heart he prayed, "Restore us, O God, make Your face shine upon us that we may be saved." Realizing that they were going in the wrong direction he asked God to "restore them and save them." And He did!
Throughout history, from the dawn of Creation until this very moment, God has never abandoned anyone. It is always the other way around: we have abandoned Him.
A mother received a letter from her son in prison. In his despair he wrote her and said that he got into trouble because God had abandoned him. With a heart filled with love and sadness she wrote, "Son, if you do not feel the closeness of God it is because you have left Him."
Prayer: We thank You, Lord, for Your promise that You will never leave us nor forsake us – no matter what! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 80:3 Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Cleansed!

Recently there was an article tucked away in a newspaper about a young girl in Georgia who feels no pain. She suffers from a rare congenital disease that affects the nervous system. She and other individuals who are born with congenital insensitivity must be carefully guarded. They must be taught that fire burns or that if they fall a bone might be broken or if they are struck in the head it may result in a concussion. It is frightening to think of them having to live with no warning system to alert us to pain or sickness. It requires them to be under constant surveillance for their own protection.
There is another insensitivity, however, that is more serious – it is becoming insensitive to sin. Our minds become numb to the dangers of sin as we see degrading pictures of people improperly exposing themselves to attract attention to their sensuality. Or the constant stories of the happiness and pleasures that come from drinking alcoholic beverages. Then there are the endless stories about children being born out of wedlock to famous Hollywood celebrities and attractive pictures of them being praised and celebrated. Children, not old enough to understand God's plan for marriage, are taught that it is appropriate for families to have two moms or two dads. What was once identified as wrong is now right.
But thank God that His Spirit is alive and anxious to convict hearts and change lives. "Deliver us and forgive us our sins for Your name's sake," said the psalmist. If we awaken to the danger of sin and confess, God will forgive us.
Prayer: Open our eyes and give us sensitive minds, Father, to the things of this world that will destroy us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 79:9 Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the glory of your name. Save us and forgive our sins for the honor of your name.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Heart Transplants

Following a horrible accident, one of the victims who was in critical condition was medevacked to the emergency department of a hospital in a large metropolitan city. As the staff was removing his shirt, they noticed the name "Jesus" tattooed across his chest in large red letters. Quite amazed the ER nurse said to the attending physician, "From the way he looks and how he's dressed and his lack of cleanliness, I would assume that the name 'Jesus' on his chest is only skin deep."
 If we who are Christ's disciples are to be worthwhile witnesses of God's Message, His name on us must be more than skin deep. It must be heart deep. Not only is His name to be on our lips but penetrate every area of our lives. Not only should it come out of our mouths, but it should be obvious in everything we do. The psalmist said, "But they would flatter Him with their mouths, lying to Him with their tongues, their hearts were not loyal to His covenant."
 Perhaps we can understand what the psalmist was talking about when we think of those who sing, "I Love to Tell the Story" but never witness to anyone. Or, someone who sings, "Have Thine Own Way Lord" with everyone but me. Or, "Take My Life and Let It Be" – yes, let it be right where it is – please don't bother me. I'm too busy.
 Unfortunately, the church has far too many members who say one thing with their mouths and another thing with their lives.
 We need to "transplant" His heart in our hearts.
 Prayer: Grant us, Father, a heart like Jesus, the mind of Christ and a life that is controlled by the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
 Scripture for Today: Psalm 78:36 But all they gave him was lip service; they lied to him with their tongues.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Can God Really?

"Can God really clean up the mess in my life? Am I so important to Him that He would hear my voice above all the other voices that call on Him every day? Do I make a difference to Him when so many others seem to have more significant issues than I? Should I really bother Him if I don't really have much faith? Can God do a few miracles for me? If I don't have money to give will He still hear me?"
We often hear of God's power but question whether or not He can do what He says He is able to do. Sometimes when we ask the question can God we do so with hope and other times with hopelessness even resignation wondering if He really is a can do God!
In Psalm 78:19 our writer makes an interesting statement: "They spoke against God" because they questioned His ability when the Israelites who were walking in the wilderness had no food. They even asked, "Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?" They questioned God's ability to do something when they saw nothing. But God can do anything with nothing. Perhaps they forgot about Creation: "In the beginning God created" everything – and He did it from nothing. Nothing!
God has unlimited resources and might that exceed anything we can imagine. And we must not forget His unlimited love! So, when we add His resources to His might and mix in His love then add His wisdom with the plan He has laid out for each of us, it is not "CAN GOD” – it is GOD CAN! Our God is a CAN DO GOD!
Prayer: Father, may we realize that the only reason our prayers go unanswered is because we lack faith in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 78:19 They even spoke against God himself, saying, “God can’t give us food in the wilderness.