Beautiful Savior

It was his first day in art class. Mark was determined to draw a portrait of Jesus. He began one drawing and then another. After trying time and time again, he decided to place his pallet and brushes on his stool and in defeat walked away from his canvas.

Noticing his despair, his teacher walked to him and asked, “Mark, what is your difficulty?”

“It’s no use,” he said. “I was determined to draw a picture of Jesus. But it’s useless!”

“Why?” asked his teacher.

“Because I cannot make Him beautiful enough,” he said.

Mark echoed the words of the Psalmist: “You are the most excellent of men!”

Years ago someone wrote, “All other men who were recognized as great have been made to look insignificant by what Jesus did in His brief lifetime. All others who were considered wise appear inadequate in their expression of truth when compared to Him. All others who labor to bring healing to the sick cannot match His miracles. All others who attempt to do good for mankind cannot match His deeds of compassion and expressions of concern for the weak and lonely. Those who appear to be perfect eventually show their flaws. There is only One who has ever walked on this planet who deserves the title: ‘You are the most excellent of men.’”

And this “most excellent example of men,” God’s Only Son, lived a sinless and perfect life so that He could become our Redeemer and Savior. There are many ways we can look at Him, but only one way that truly matters: “For the Son of Man came to seek and save.” How do you see Him?

Prayer: We stand in awe, Father, for the beauty we see in Your Son, our Savior. May His beauty be seen in our lives as we surrender our lives to Him. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: You are the most handsome of all. Gracious words stream from your lips. God himself has blessed you forever. Psalm 45:2 

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Recognizing Reality

“People do not learn from mistakes,” said the professor. The class was confused. Most of them had been taught all of their lives that the best way to learn was from one’s mistakes.

As he looked into their puzzled faces, he continued his lecture by asking a question, “How many of you have made the same mistake twice?” Hands went up all over the classroom. “That is precisely my point. If we learned from our mistakes, we would never make the same mistake twice. We seem to learn best when someone provides us feedback. We are not honest enough with ourselves to point out our own mistakes or failures. We do not want to admit them – especially to ourselves even if we recognize them.”

The author of this Psalm recalled two important facts: When the Israelites acknowledged God as their leader and followed Him, they were victorious. “Our fathers advised us,” they said, “that it was not our swords or plans that brought victory.” God spoke to them and they realized what brought about their defeat: they trusted in their own strength! It was their defeat that caused them to be open to God’s “feedback.”

When “we pushed back our enemies in Your name,” he continued, “we trampled on our foes!” What a testimony to the power and victory that is available to us through our God!

Like Israel, we must come to the same conclusion and make the same confession with the same amount of conviction: “In Your name, Heavenly Father, we can trample on our foes.” When we read God’s Word and use it as the standard for our lives, He will give us His “feedback” and provide a path for us to renew our relationship with Him. If we allow His Word to do its work, we will discover our failings and can call on Him for His grace and forgiveness, courage and restoration.

Prayer: We pray, Almighty Lord, for a willingness to realize that apart from You there is no victory over our foes. Lead us in Your strength! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Only by your power can we push back our enemies; only in your name can we trample our foes. Psalm 44:5 

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Facts From Our Fathers

A family was seated together watching a science program on television that described the marvels of the rain forest. Shortly after the beginning of the program, a biologist began a lecture on evolution. Mark, a bright freshman in high school, turned to his father and asked, “What do you think of that, Dad?”

“It’s not what I think, Mark,” he replied. “It’s what I know. It’s quite simple. Something cannot come from nothing. So there had to be Someone somewhere who somehow brought life into existence. It had to be Someone with wisdom and a plan. It had to be Someone with the power to create and control everything. It had to be a God who designed what we see and know.”

Without any doubt, the home was chosen by God to be the greatest center on the planet for teaching and learning. The most formative years of a child’s life are those early years of dependency when they expect and deserve unconditional love and look to a parent for the essentials of life. In the wisdom of God, He planned for the child to be open and filled with trust as their needs for the basics of life unfold and must be met.

One of those needs is to come to know the goodness, greatness, and grace of God. Children are blessed when parents know the book of Books, its message and meaning, its plan and purpose, and are willing and able to share it with their gift from God.

The writer of Psalm 44 in verse one makes this clear: “We have heard with our ears, O God, and our fathers have told us what you did...” How blest children are when they can say with the children of the writer of this Psalm those wonderful words: God is the Lord.

Today most children are left to discover the important lessons of life from teachers who do not believe in our God, the Creator God, the Forgiving, Saving, and Redeeming God. Unfortunately, if children are not taught the truth, they cannot learn the truth. What then?

Prayer: Father, we pray for children who have no one to love them or teach them Your truth. May someone, somewhere, somehow, reach them today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: O God, we have heard it with our own ears - our ancestors have told us of all you did in their day, in days long ago. Psalm 44:1 

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Looking For Guidance?

Chris came home from school with a note describing his involvement in a fight with his best friend, Will. They had a major disagreement over whose turn it was at bat and ended up in the principal’s office.

Embarrassed, his mother decided to lecture him about the importance of settling disagreements without fighting. “I want you to be good!” she demanded.

Looking her in the eye, he said defiantly, “But I don’t want to be good if I can’t have my way! That’s being a sissy!”

Many have an attitude like Chris’. It’s my way or no way. But there was one man who chose to be different. “Send forth Your light and Your truth, and let them guide the place where you dwell.”

The Psalmist who wrote these words was in a difficult situation. He had strayed from God and was well aware of his need for restoration. He had lost his close and personal relationship with God who had been his stronghold. He was struggling in a life filled with darkness. He was well aware that the “light” that guided him was gone from his life, and he was wandering aimlessly, desperately seeking forgiveness and direction. No matter what he possessed or who he knew, there was only One who could help him.

In his heart of hearts, he knew that he needed God’s light to be his guiding light and His truth to be the truth that would lead him to his Redeemer. Without His light to lead him and His truth to transform and restore him, he had no hope. Finally, in desperation, He asked God to give him His light and His truth, knowing and believing that it would lead him into His presence and that he would once again enjoy His salvation.

This Psalm begins with “O God” – a God who seems far and distant. It ends with “My God” – one who personal, powerful, and present in his heart!

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for being the light of our life and for the gift of Your truth that leads us in times of doubt and despair. May we learn to trust. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. Psalm 43:3

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Storms And Struggles

As James was preparing to leave for the weekend, the vice-president called him into his office and asked him to sit down across the desk from him. In a somber voice, he said, “I’m sorry, James, but we are reducing the sales staff and this was your last day with this company. Here’s a severance check that will help you make the transition.”

Now he was not only out of work but facing a difficult job market. He was overwhelmed with the prospect of going home and telling his wife the news. She was a stay at home mom with a child that was paralyzed from an automobile accident. He could not help but ask, “Where’s God in all of this? Is He for me or against me?” Those certainly are fair questions that any rational person would ask.

Life is often one storm after another. None of us can escape the fierce winds, raging waters, or crashing waves. Sometimes they come swiftly. Other times they seem to swell slowly and powerfully. Often a problem that started as a whispering breeze turns out to be a tornado.

The Psalmist said, “Deep calls to deep...all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” It appears as though he is accusing God of a conspiracy. But that is not true. That is not how God works. He wants us to realize that our God is a God who is in the middle, the very center – if you will - of life’s storms, and will never forsake us.

Think of it this way: In the depth of life’s storms and the middle of life’s sorrows, God wants us to call on Him for the promise of His sympathy and support. He is ever-present and all-powerful, and His grace is more than sufficient.

Never forget that whatever we experience in our lives Jesus experienced it before us. Wherever we are He has been and whatever we have to endure he endured. We know that He understands our greatest sorrows and deepest needs and will rescue us. 

Prayer: We are comforted, Lord, to know that You have gone before us, know us and care for us. Assure us of Your presence and power to survive. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:  I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. Psalm 42:7 

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Here's Hope!

Jake Hess, the great gospel singer was known to say, “Things are going to get better, get worse or stay about the same.” How true!

We all seem to face three types of trouble: things that trouble us from the past, things that are troubling us now, and things we expect to trouble us in the future. Trouble, as well as troubles, seem to be a large part of everyone’s life.

David had his troubles, too. On one occasion his troubles were so severe that he was downcast by what had happened in his past and when he viewed his future he became even more discouraged by what he expected would someday happen to him.

However, one day when he realized what was going on in his life as he faced his future, he asked himself two questions: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why am I feeling so disturbed?” The word “downcast” means “to be depressed” and the word “disturbed” means “to growl like a bear.”

When he sensed the extent of his depression, he became alarmed. It seemed like a bear was growling inside of him. But suddenly, he decided to look upward, not inward, and said from the depths of his heart – “Put your hope in God,” not in yourself!

And when he did he shouted, “For I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” His inner feelings expressed themselves in questions of despair and thoughts of defeat. In that moment of loneliness, his faith was tested and tried but not trampled by doubt. Ultimately he triumphed by giving himself some great advice: “Put your hope in God,” he said, “and continue to praise Him!” And he did. And it worked!

Faith and doubt often appear as twins. But when doubt was about to triumph, his faith gave him hope and surged within him, and he overcame the troubles he faced by the trust he had in God. What an example for us to follow: faith and hope and trust in God.

Prayer: Father, in our moments of despair may we turn to You with a never-ending hope-filled trust, that You will rescue and deliver us from harm. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! Psalm 42:5 

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"Soul Food"

“Mother,” cried Sally as she climbed into bed, “you forgot my soul!”

“What do you mean, Sweetheart?” asked her Mom. “I don’t understand.”

“Well, when we said our prayers, you didn’t say, ‘I pray the Lord my soul to keep.’ What if God forgets about my soul tonight? What will happen?”

It is difficult to watch television, listen to the radio, or read a paper or magazine without the ever-present emphasis to lose weight, get in shape, have cosmetic surgery, or try a new shampoo. We are constantly challenged to nourish our bodies more carefully, strengthen our muscles to become healthier or do something to look more appealing.

Certainly, God expects us to care for our bodies. He created us in His image and gave us the breath of life. But too often we are encouraged to care for our bodies at the expense of caring for our souls.

David longed desperately for God’s presence in his life. He compared his need for God to that of a thirsty deer panting for water. “My soul,” he cried, “thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”

The Psalmist had a “thirst” in his soul that could only be satisfied by God’s “living water” – much like a deer panting for water. It’s a condition that is universal in all creation.

God places in each of our hearts a thirst that cannot be quenched by the waters of this world. As appealing as they are – fame and fortune, power and prestige, wealth and well-being – nothing will ever satisfy the thirst that God has planted deep within us. As Jesus said, only those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” and find it in Him, will ever be satisfied. Have you been satisfied by His offer to “come and drink freely?”

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for being the solution to that never-ending, always-present thirst we all desire to satisfy. May we find our solution in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:  I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?  Psalm 42:2 

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Who God Blesses

What do we need to do to receive blessings from God?

Are they automatic? Do we have to be in the right place at the right time? Sit quietly and meditate? Think positive thoughts and pray for wealth without working? Do we claim a promise, then forget it until we get it? Is there something we ought to be doing?

We would all have to agree that God’s blessings are not equally distributed nor given automatically as some would expect. We are reminded of this in Psalm 41. It begins with an insightful statement: “Blessed is the person who has compassion for the poor or weak and does something about it.” God cares for the weak and the poor and the oppressed and is delighted when we do something on their behalf. To emphasize this fact, David says that those who show God’s compassion will be delivered when they are experiencing the difficulties of life. But there is more.

The first Psalm begins with a statement about the person who God will bless: “...the man who avoids contact with those who have evil intentions and instead finds pleasure in the teachings of the law of the Lord.” As we “hide” God’s Word – His law – in our hearts, it will give us light for our lives, guidance for our journey, and directions to our destiny – eternal life with Him. But there is still more!

God’s Word is clear: If we want His blessings then we must follow His instructions. First, when we accept God’s salvation, we will enjoy the blessing of forgiveness and the removal of guilt and fear. Secondly, we will be blest if we avoid the influence of those who are evil and disobey His law. Finally, we will be blest if we do His work in His world by caring for those in need of His love, mercy, grace, salvation, and hope.

Prayer: We all look for Your blessings, Father. May we follow Your Word and walk in Your ways and then as You promised, be blest now and forever. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Blessed is he who considers the poor; The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. Psalm 41:1 

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All Or Nothing -Or - One Touch At A Time

Crowds followed Jesus for many different reasons. Some out of curiosity. Some for His teachings. Some for the miracle of touch that brought healing. He did what no one else had ever done. He brought love and light, hope and healing, truth and salvation.

Keith Miller wrote an interesting book entitled The Second Touch. In it, he spoke of Jesus’ healing of a blind man. There was one occasion when He touched a blind man’s eyes and when he looked around he saw people “like trees walking.” Then Jesus touched his eyes again, and his eyesight was fully restored. It was the “second touch” from Jesus that completed the miracle.

David needed a “second touch.” Feelings of distress and defeat were overwhelming him. But they could not erase previous memories of God’s goodness, greatness, and grace. So he asked God not to withhold His mercy from him and asked God to save him, once again, as he had in the past. Though his sin overtook him, he repented.

He began this Psalm by reminding God that on one occasion he waited patiently and God rescued him and planted his feet “on a rock.” Now, once again, things were different. “God, come quickly! I need You! You saved me before – please do it again. This is more than I can handle. But it is not beyond You.” And God reached out – again

There’s good news here for all of us. David needed that “second touch.” And, later on, he would need “more second touches.” Every time he “needed a touch” he went to God and prayed. And God answered every prayer and gave him many “touches.” That’s the way God works. His outstretched hand is always waiting to “touch us” and retouch us.

When we go to God in prayer, we always expect “all or nothing.” Often, however, our requests are granted in “bits and pieces,” or “one at a time.” Touch after touch after...

Prayer: May we never forget, Father that Your touch comes when we need it most. Increase our faith as we wait for Your “touches!”  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Be pleased to save me, O Lord. Hurry, O Lord, to help me. Psalm 40:13 

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The Call For Courage

One of the major influences in our society today is the emphasis on being “politically correct.” The threat or possibility of offending anyone about anything at any time has silenced many of us. We fear that we will be condemned or criticized. Unfortunately, many Christians now remain silent when opportunities to speak about their faith arise. Rather than defending the gospel, we have become fearful of offending others even if their values are wrong and beliefs unscriptural.

Being politically correct was not a problem for David. In fact, it was the exact opposite. He was not ashamed to speak boldly and publicly about God’s involvement in his life. He had no hesitancy or fear to talk about his relationship with God. Once, at a very special occasion in front of a large crowd, he said, “I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly!” He put his faith on public display.

There was one period in particular when he had been through an intense struggle with God. It must have been both long and difficult. After his patience and perseverance, his respect and reverence for God were tested, his prayer was finally answered.

As he reflected on God’s grace and goodness and thought about His mercy and blessings, he could not contain himself. “I speak of your faithfulness – Your salvation, love, and truth,” he proclaimed. “I do not seal...I could not gratitude.”

If we were talking about this event today, we would say that David “gave his testimony to a large gathering.” However, it was not the size of the group that mattered to David. It was his need “to proclaim” God’s salvation and faithfulness to others. He could not be contained when it came to sharing his faith. We must do the same and share His gifts.

Prayer: Father, give us a courageous attitude and deep desire to share your gifts and greatness, boldly, with everyone, anywhere or anytime! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:  I have told the good news about what is right and good in the big meeting with many people. You know I will not close my lips, O Lord. Psalm 40:9 

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What Does God Want Most?

Often we deceive ourselves without realizing it. Our hearts can be deeply moved when we learn of an urgent need to do something special for our Lord. We gladly give sometimes, to the point when we have to do without. That is God-honoring and will not go unnoticed by Him. We tend to take great satisfaction in knowing we have done His will when He honors, blesses, and encourages us for our faithfulness to Him.

And no doubt there have been times when we have done this, and God has blessed us in ways that we never thought possible. Again, it is His way of blessing us for blessing Him. And heaven rejoices.

But David reminds us that there is something more that God wants from us than any gift we could give Him. He says that “sacrifices and offerings,” even “burnt offerings and sin offerings you do not require.” What is it, then that You want from me, God?”

After a moment of quiet contemplation, he said, “Then I realized” that what You want is ME! And he continued by exclaiming: “Here I am. I have come back and desire to do Your will. Your law is within my heart.” He could not escape God’s power and presence. God’s law was written in his heart, and His Word controlled and motivated him.

David realized that none of his possessions made any difference to God. Nothing he had given or could give to God was of any significance – now or in the future. God wanted him completely to Himself to do whatever He, his Master, had for him to do. David, the Lord’s anointed, finally presented himself in complete dedication to his God.

Prayer: Lord, may Your Spirit trouble our hearts and give us no peace until we surrender ourselves to You to do the work You have for us. Let us be Your gift. Amen!

Scripture For Today:  I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart. Psalm 40:8

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Who Do You Look Up To?

Many celebrities do not want to be held accountable as “role models.” They do want attention and accolades, recognition and rewards, popularity and prestige. But they do not want the “pressure” to have to live lives that reflect integrity and honesty, purity and decency. They do not want, as many of them have said, “to be a role model.” “I want to live my life as I choose.”

Many of us, however, search for “role models.” We want someone to look up to, to follow, to be our hero, our example. Often we think, “If I can see it, I can do it. If there is someone who has already done it, perhaps I can do it too!”

David, in many ways, can be a “hero” for most of us. However, he did not want that responsibility. Not because of the pressure that it would put on him. Instead, he wanted everyone to know that his hero was his Lord, and he wanted others to “hero-up” to Him.

“Blessed,” he said, is the person who “trusts in the Lord,” and does not “look to the proud or turn aside to false gods.” Whenever we look at David, we see a man who knew victory as well as defeat, who sinned and had to plead with God for His forgiveness. He recognized his failures and would never set himself up as a model. And he recognized that there was only One person he could look up to as a model: his Lord and Savior.

When we put our faith in Him, we know that He is not a “false god” living in human flesh. We can follow the Lord confidently!

Prayer: We look to Your Son, Father, as the one who has “been there and done that” yet lived a flawless life filled with purpose. May He become our lifelong model. Amen.

Scripture For Today: Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Psalm 40:4 

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Singing His Praises

“Congratulations” is a word of encouragement that we all enjoy hearing. Being recognized for any of our accomplishments means that someone has noticed what we have done. It usually brings us feelings of worth and value, importance and significance. Often we swell with pride saying, “Look at me! I’m someone doing something special.”

When things had finally stabilized in David’s life, he paused briefly and rejoiced by saying, “He put a new song in my heart.” This was not the first time that God heard and answered his prayers. God had delivered him many times – perhaps more times than he could ever remember. And singing a song was not a new thing for David. It is something he did often. We hear his songs throughout the psalms because thanksgiving and praise were a central part of his life. But “a new song in his mouth, a new hymn of praise.” What could this possibly mean?

All too often we take God’s goodness and grace and gifts for granted. We expect His deliverance from “messy” situations. We expect Him to heal us when we are sick. We expect Him to provide for every one of our wants and needs. In one way or another, He does. He guides us and guards us and gives us what we need. And when He does, we should be sensitive to His love to see and understand it as a new act of deliverance. 

Each day is a new day filled with new gifts because we have never been where we are at this moment in our lives. So, we are to enjoy every day as a new day because we have never experienced this particular day. Each day deserves a new song!

Prayer: Help us, Lord, to stand in awe, be surprised at Your gifts and goodness, and sing a hymn of praise for your greatness and grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:3

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Waiting For Results

Fast food restaurants and high-speed internet access have conditioned us to rush our way through life. We resent deeply having to stand in a grocery line, wait for someone to answer a phone call, or return a message. If it isn’t instant, it isn’t worth “my” time.

But there is value in waiting on some things. Especially waiting for God to work His ways and His will in our lives. It was true for David. It certainly is true for us as well.

“I waited patiently for the Lord,” he said. We do not know what David was waiting for or the problems he was facing. It may be that this time of waiting for a response from God was different from the other times he looked to God for help. But it does not matter. There are many instances in the Psalms when David called on God and He responded immediately and rescued him. But this time, however, was different. He not only waited – but he waited patiently. His anxiety did not overpower him. His needs or wants were not driving him to distraction or irrational behavior. No, his mind was focused on God’s love, grace, mercy, and wisdom. From events in his past, he knew God would respond.

And the results of his patience were, as we would say today, unreal. “He turned to me...He heard me...He lifted me...He set my feet on a rock...He gave me a firm place to stand!” From adversity to abundance! 

In humility and submissiveness, he waited for God. He knew that God had the answer that was in his best interests: God wanted to “make him a man after My own heart.”

Prayer: May we learn from David, Lord, to wait on You patiently, knowing that You are at work in us, for us. May we believe, always, in Your goodness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:  I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1 

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Hope In The Lord

Once, before going into battle, Alexander the Great began making elaborate preparations for a large military operation. He was so uncertain about the outcome of the battle that he gave away his possessions. One of his men, shocked and surprised, went to him in protest and said, “Sir, you are giving away everything you have!”

“Everything,” said Alexander, “but hope.”

Overwhelmed with sickness and facing death, David cried out, “My hope is in You! Save me from all my transgressions!” He realized that despite his vast wealth and power he was morally bankrupt and powerless over his life. He could do nothing to save himself.

But when David came to the end of all his possessions, he found himself at the beginning of what God had – the power to deliver and rescue him. “Save me,” he cried, “from all my transgressions.” His life must have passed before his eyes, frightened him into a sense of reality, and left him in a state of despair and hopelessness.

This verse contains one of life’s most important messages. David, and each one of us, need to be “saved from our transgressions.” Most of us recognize that fact. Knowing and facing that fact, however, is not enough. We must also accept the fact that life is beyond our control – not only our health but the number of days God will grant us. Like David, we must be prepared to face the certainty of death and the reality of judgment.

God used sickness, fear, and aging to get David’s attention. God uses different means at different times to get our attention. What’s God doing in your life today?

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for Your love and the many ways You use to reach us and get our attention. Open our hearts and minds to see and hear You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:  And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. Psalm 39:7

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There Is An End To Life

All of us are confronted by the passing of time – not only those who are elderly. It is an issue that all of us face whether we like it or not. Yet, our culture is in massive denial that everyone ages, and every life will end.

Our elderly now live in “retirement villages.” More cosmetics than ever are sold to “erase” the lines of aging. There are more products now available to “cover” gray hair that once stood for wisdom than the hairs on some heads. We have surgery to remove the signs of aging that are becoming less expensive and more available. But, it is all in vain. Time is the enemy of everyone, and judgment awaits us all.

David was well aware of the fact that his life was passing away. Overwhelmed by its shortness, he cried out, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.” He had some serious questions about life and death and wanted God’s answers. He was aware that his sickness was a result of his sin, and he knew that God was displeased with him and this fact caused him to be alarmed.

So, he wanted a “date” and the “number” of days he had left to live so he could prepare to die. He asked God to give him some assurance of the time he left. Having that information would enable him to “figure” out what to do “next.” But he didn’t get it.

In this simple verse, he admitted that he was frail, that his “days” were numbered, and his “life” short. He knew that one day he would eventually die and certainly face God!

Armand Nicholi said, “Only when we are ready to die can life be peaceful and fulfilled.” Being ready to die means one has peace with God through Christ.  

Prayer: As we face the shortness of life and the reality of death, Lord, may we find peace and hope through Your Son, our Savior. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered - how fleeting my life is. Psalm 39:4 

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Friend Or Foe?

James wrote, “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord!”

God’s power to heal has an important place in Scripture. In fact, of the 1,257 narrative verses in the four Gospels, 484 are related specifically to healing. We believe in God’s healing power and know He can heal. David also believed in God’s healing power and believed that God could heal him. But where did David begin in his plea for God’s help?

David was hanging on to life by a thread. He felt total rejection by God because of a major sin he had committed. It had become a life-defeating burden that was too heavy to bear, too big to overlook, and too obvious to ignore. In fact, he said that God “pierced him and His hand came down hard upon him.” He knew he was being punished by God for sinning against God. Punished, but not abandoned. Punished – yet pursued.

After thoroughly describing his mental, physical and spiritual sicknesses to God, he cried out, “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.” In his wisdom and from his former relationship with God, he realized that God would not bring about physical and mental healing unless David first confessed his sin and need for spiritual healing.

There can be little doubt that sin and physical and mental illnesses are intimately connected. Yet, many only want God’s physical and mental healing. With God, all healing begins with confession and repentance – which brings spiritual healing.

Prayer: When we need healing, Lord, if we have sinned, may we first repent, ask for forgiveness and grace, and then experience Your healing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: But I confess my sins; I am deeply sorry for what I have done. Psalm 38:18 

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Waiting On God

Paul gave the Thessalonians a stern warning: “stay away from every person who is idle and does not live according to His teachings.” So what are God’s “teachings” about those “spaces” in life when nothing seems to be happening? We are to learn to hope in Him, ultimately and completely depend on Him, be loyal and obedient to Him, and have faith and trust in Him, believing that He is working “quietly” in our best interests.

“I know the plans I have for you,” said the Lord through Jeremiah. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Since these “plans” originate with the Lord, we are to place our lives in His hands and with hope wait only on Him. It is unfortunate when we lose patience in Him and move forward on our own, not knowing where we are going. His plans are good plans, well designed and carefully thought out. So, we must wait before Him in silent expectancy.

But we must also keep His ways during these “spaces” by being obedient to Him. While waiting we will surely be tempted to give up or give in and seek a “shortcut” that could lead to defeat and disaster. When we keep or walk in His way, we can be certain that we will end up where He wants us to be not where we think He wants us to be.

Finally, we must “keep the faith.” Perhaps the greatest enemy of waiting on God’s best is the immediate gratification of the fleeting. Waiting and keeping the faith assures us that we will ultimately receive God’s best for us. Living a life of faith is not easy, but always rewarding. 

Prayer: Lord, may we learn to wait patiently for You, stay close by You, hope in You, and enjoy a future with You. Remove our anxiety and doubt. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you by giving you the land. You will see the wicked destroyed. Psalm 37:34 

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Waiting On God

 Paul gave the Thessalonians a stern warning: “stay away from every person who is idle and does not live according to His teachings.” So what are God’s “teachings” about those “spaces” in life when nothing seems to be happening? We are to learn to hope in Him, ultimately and completely depend on Him, be loyal and obedient to Him, and have faith and trust in Him, believing that He is working “quietly” in our best interests.

“I know the plans I have for you,” said the Lord through Jeremiah. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Since these “plans” originate with the Lord, we are to place our lives in His hands and with hope wait only on Him. It is unfortunate when we lose patience in Him and move forward on our own, not knowing where we are going. His plans are good plans, well designed and carefully thought out. So, we must wait before Him in silent expectancy.

But we must also keep His ways during these “spaces” by being obedient to Him. While waiting we will surely be tempted to give up or give in and seek a “shortcut” that could lead to defeat and disaster. When we keep or walk in His way, we can be certain that we will end up where He wants us to be not where we think He wants us to be.

Finally, we must “keep the faith.” Perhaps the greatest enemy of waiting on God’s best is the immediate gratification of the fleeting. Waiting and keeping the faith assures us that we will ultimately receive God’s best for us. Living a life of faith is not easy, but always rewarding. 

Prayer: Lord, may we learn to wait patiently for You, stay close by You, hope in You, and enjoy a future with You. Remove our anxiety and doubt. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you by giving you the land. You will see the wicked destroyed. Psalm 37:34 

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Why Do Good?

“Finders keepers! Losers weepers!”

That statement, which some think comes from an ancient Roman law, has guided the decisions of many children. It has also found its way into the lives of many adults. If someone loses “it,” and someone else finds “it,” what’s the right thing to do with “it”?

In Deuteronomy, the Hebrews were told that they were to care for and return animals, as well as any property that someone might have lost, to their rightful owners. The reason for this rule is that when someone protected and returned the property of another person, that one was kept from being envious and greedy. Envy and greed seem to be the “gateway” to almost every other sin.

“Turn from evil and do good,” advises David. He wanted the “just,” those who lived “moral lives,” to know that the Lord loved them and that He would always be faithful to them. Additionally, David added, that the “just” will “inherit the land” – have eternal life.

How blest we are to know that God wants us to have hope in Him and look forward to being with Him throughout eternity. God has placed within every heart the longing for Someone to bring completeness and purpose into their life. The emptiness, the loneliness, the “desire for something more” that we find in God is the “inheritance” that awaits those “who turn from evil and do good” and find fulfillment and meaning in God.

But there is more to look forward to than our future inheritance. We can look forward to God’s presence, power, purpose, and peace in our lives today and every day. He loves the “just”- those who live lives of fairness and justice because He is fair and just. And He will never forsake the “faithful” because He is faithful. What more can we expect?

Prayer: Thank You, Father, for the gift of Your Son. In Him, we can find power, peace, presence, and purpose for living. May we follow His example. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:  Turn from evil and do good, and you will live in the land forever. Psalm 37:27 

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Falling Is Not Failing

Watching a child take his or her first steps is a marvelous sight to behold. Pictures are taken, memories are created and lives changed.

Recently a mother and father brought their infant son to the Garden for his first steps. After finding the “perfect” location for this historic event, the father gently placed his hands under the child’s arms. As the child looked down at his tiny feet and with uncertainty began to “toddle” forward, the father relaxed his grip. Slowly, as the child began to walk on his own, he removed his hands completely. After a few staggering and uncertain steps the little fellow began to carry his weight on his own two feet. The parents were thrilled!

Suddenly, the child lost his balance and fell to the ground. Rushing to pick him up the father smiled, hugged him, and encouraged him to “try again.” There was no scolding or rejection for falling. Rather, the father lifted him, dried his tears, hugged him, and helped him to begin again.

How like our Heavenly Father. If the Lord is delighted in the way we walk – even though we fail and fall – He will rescue us, lift us, and “make our steps firm.” As long as we do our part to walk in His ways, He will do His part and give us the stability to “move on.”

When we falter and fall, He does not consider us a failure. He lovingly lifts us, tenderly dries our tears, and then carefully watches over us as we struggle to walk with Him in His ways. He will never leave us nor forsake us if we fall.

Prayer: Thank You, Father, for Your care, concern, and compassion that always supports and sustains us. May we trust Your arms to hold us up! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:  The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:23-24 

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The Reward For Being Meek

Who are the “meek” people who will “inherit the earth?” Are they the ones we would classify as weak? Would they fall into a special category labeled “non-assertive?” Is the “meek” person one who has no expectations or goals in life? Have you ever seen an ad in the classified section of a newspaper where an insurance or retail company is searching for sale persons that says, “Only the meek should apply?”

David said, “The meek will inherit the land.” And Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” Who are these “meek” people anyway? Is there any way we can recognize them?

Yes, there is, according to Scripture. The “meek” are the ones who are the opposites of the “know it all” or those who possess a “false-pride.” They are those who many consider being “high-achievers” and that worldly might and power is a reason for living. They present themselves as the ultimate resource of all knowledge, wisdom, insight, and understanding. They consider themselves to be highly sophisticated and “above the ordinary person.” It is those who think they are the “light of the world” – not Jesus.

In God’s Word, however, a truly “meek” person is one whose goal is to know Christ and be dependent on Him. We become meek when we are willing to have Him alter every detail of our self-centered lives by surrendering our wills and our ways to the teachings of God’s Word and ways and having a sincere desire to honor Him in all we do or say.

When it comes to weakness, our “meekness” will allow us to become “strong” in the hands of God. Then He can shape us into becoming who He designed us to be.

Prayer: Lord, fill our hearts with a meekness that opens our hearts to Your Word, Your will, and Your ways. Then, we will experience lives of greatness! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. Psalm 37:11 

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How To Live With Confidence

The sale of self-help books has soared since the year 2006 when sales reached nine billion dollars. The 11 billion dollar industry in 2006 is expected to grow by 5.5% every year. The endless pages offering advice on “how to improve one’s life,” however, do not seem to be making a dent in solving man’s most basic problem: a sinful nature.

David offered an alternative to “self-help.” He wisely encouraged us to seek “God-help.”

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this; He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noon day sun!” Confident living, for the Christian, has a very simple focus and formula: first, commit, and then trust.

Commit, on the one hand, means that we are “to completely and unreservedly rely in and on God.” He is not only to be our Savior but the Lord of our lives. Trust, on the other hand, means that we live life with a vibrant expectation that He alone is capable of leading, guiding, guarding, and directing each step in our lives. We are to look into His Word to find His path for our lives. Committing and trusting in Him and through Him for His will for our lives will empower and enable us to move from self-help to God-help.

And the result will be obvious to us and others. We will radiate the righteousness of God by living a life that reflects His grace and goodness, justice and righteousness, beauty and holiness. We must also be aware of the “integrity” element in our lives. Whatever we do will be done through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and pleasing to God.

Prayer: Give us courage, Father, to look to You to become our “Helper” – to live life according to Your “God-Help” book. It will work if we let it! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:5-6 

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God's Light - Man's Need

Lights shine more brightly when the night is at its darkest moment. Stars illuminate the skies with more beauty and brilliance when there is no glare from the glow of a city.

Light also brings shadows and can cause blindness. Light even creates illusions of things that do not exist – like streams of water on parched desert sand.

But there is one Light that enables us to see the light. It is the Light of God that comes from the Word of God when His Word and His ways are illuminated by His Holy Spirit.

Psalm 36 contains an important theme for the Christian. All too often we willingly accept the teachings of individuals who offer a solution to our problems from sources that are not consistent with God’s truth. David clearly warns us about this problem. He writes that we may unwisely “flatter” ourselves because we are “deceived” by not being able to see the truth and “detect sin.” He offers the solution for the method we are to use to discriminate the truth about sin: “in Your light we see light.”

John emphasized this fact also, “God is light,” he assures us, “and in Him, there is no darkness.” Light represents what is good, pure, true, holy, and reliable. Darkness, on the other hand, represents what is foreboding, sinful, and evil. The truest source of light comes from God’s Word, is true and reliable, and will guide us from the darkness of sin into the Light of God’s love, mercy, grace, and hope. His Light will save us from a life of self-deception and certain death and ultimately lead us into His presence.

Prayer: With grateful hearts, Lord, we thank You for becoming the Light of the world and the Light of our lives. May we see the beauty of Your light. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see. Psalm 36:9 

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The Greatness Of God

Scripture contains many words to describe God. They occur throughout the Bible. In Psalm 36 four short sentences contain four words to describe God’s greatness: Love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice. Then, there is one short phrase that tells us how He applies those characteristics that describe Him: He preserves all He has created. Because of His character, God holds all of His creation together. Creation is through Him and because of Him and was designed to honor glorify Him.

What is so interesting here is that within a few verses David moves from the darkness that possesses the human heart to the light that comes from God. It all starts with His love – a love that will never fail and will never end. God’s love is revealed in His faithfulness – whatever He said He would do He did and will continue to do, always.

If we were not able to depend on God being faithful at all times and in all situations, His love would be worthless. Imagine how tragic life would be, if, when we needed God’s grace or mercy, He was “unavailable” for a day or several weeks. God’s love and faithfulness cannot be separated – they belong together as Scripture has proven!

Yet there is more! God is also righteous and just which affects our salvation. It is His righteousness that allows us to “become righteous” – to move from darkness to light – and have favor and fellowship with Him. If He were not just, some of us might not qualify for His salvation. What if we had to meet certain financial requirements that were beyond us? What if we were disqualified if we could not pass a test that was designed for those with a high IQ? What if we were unattractive or shy or depressed or lame? But, “What ifs” do not count. “Whosoever will does!” So, come and trust Him, now!

Prayer: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for Your grace that is well beyond our ability to understand. May we accept it though we do not understand it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7 

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No Fear!

“Hear ye! Hear ye!” were the words of the “Town Crier” in many English towns years ago. His job was to stand in public places where people gathered and shout or “cry out” official announcements. When there was an important event, he would often ring a bell to get people to gather quickly to listen to what he was sent to say.

David had received an important message from the Lord. It was so important that he “cried out” for the people to listen to him. “An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked,” he shouted. An oracle is an utterance – or a message – linked to God or coming from Him. These were serious words and, as always, reflected the love and concern that God has for people to know Him, come to Him, and worship Him.

David’s message was simple, clear, and direct, “Your ears are not open to God, you flatter yourselves so much that you cannot recognize your sins or hate them.”

But he does not stop there. He continues, “The words that come out of your mouths are deceitful, you are no longer wise or do good.” Quite an indictment.

David’s words were true then and are equally true today. He paints a vivid picture of human darkness that includes the mind, heart, and will. When we do not fear God’s judgment, our egos become inflated, we flatter ourselves falsely and wicked thoughts come out of minds that deceive ourselves and others. When we no longer fear God we are in serious trouble. We must fear Him, remain in His Word, and rely on His strength.

Prayer: We pray, Father, that Your Spirit will convict us of any sin that would deceive us and destroy us. May the truth of Your Word guide and guard us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are. Everything they say is crooked and deceitful. They refuse to act wisely or do good. Psalm 36:2-3 

Unceasing Praise

Sunday evenings were always a special time in our small church in Lorain, Ohio. After singing a few hymns, Pastor Stanley would walk to the pulpit and ask, “Who would like to stand up tonight and thank the Lord publicly for His goodness and blessings during the last week?” We would all wait anxiously to hear what God had “been doing” since last Sunday evening. It was a time of sharing and rejoicing. We were always happy when someone was healed or helped. God got all the credit but we all rejoiced with the one whom He had honored. We believed that when we asked, God would answer. And when He answered, we all enjoyed the results and gave thanks together.

God always heard and answered David’s prayer. But the nature of his prayers or the problems he was facing is not always defined. However, in his concluding remarks, he writes of God being “delighted in the well-being of His servant.” Well-being includes everything and anything that concerns us. Big or little, large or small. Whatever concerns us concerned God first because His goodness and grace have no limit. They exceed our imagination, and unfortunately, in most instances, our faith.

For David, when God answered his prayers, it was the beginning of an important event in his life. He did not go quietly to his room and thank God by himself. No! He insisted on sharing his joy with others and said, “Come and join me. Let those who are happy with God’s blessings on me rejoice with me – all day!” What a way to grow.

After God answers our prayers, let’s get in a group and give Him a “shout!” Amen?

Prayer: Help us, Father, to sing and shout when we see Your goodness and grace at work in our lives. May we praise You loudly and publicly! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: But give great joy to those who came to my defense. Let them continually say, “Great is the Lord, who delights in blessing his servant with peace!” Psalm 35:27 

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Fight For Me, God!

Perhaps the deepest wounds any of us carry are the wounds that come from being betrayed. They leave a bitter taste in our mouths and a desire for revenge in our minds and hearts. When a trusted friend turns out to be an enemy, especially and seemingly without cause, it fractures – sometimes forever – what was expected to be a confidant for life. Trust turns into resentment and what was love seeks revenge. Grief turns into anger and a large hole grows in our heart. We question what to do or how to do it.

What is the best course of action for us to take? Spread rumors about “the enemy?” Seek ways to destroy that person’s reputation? Allow depression to overtake us and hide from the light of day? It’s too difficult to remain calm when our insides churn.

When David was being destroyed by those who he thought were his closest friends and advisors, he turned to God. He did not ask God to forgive them. Nor did he ask God to convict them to make amends to him. No! He asked God to arm Himself with a shield, buckler, and spear and go after his foes. He allowed God to settle the score His way.

And then he asked God to speak to him, bring peace to his heart and assure him that “I, God, am your salvation!” He was angry but trusted in God to make things right.

David had done no wrong in this instance. He deserved to be vindicated. He was aware, however, that if he took things into his own hands it might have been disastrous if he lost control of his anger. So, in his wisdom, he asked God to vindicate him. And God did!

Prayer: Help us, God, to turn to You when we are wronged by others and to trust in You to make things right on our behalf. May we trust in Your fairness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:  Then I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be glad because he rescues me. Psalm 35:9 

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Whenever... For Whatever

Whenever is a gracious word that sounds very comforting when someone offers to help us when we are going through a difficult time. We know that someone will help when we dial 911. Our homes are wrapped in security systems “in case” someone tries to enter if they are not invited in. There are endless “alerts” available to notify someone, somewhere if we fall, encounter pain, or face an emergency. We are to be thankful for these and many other devices, linking us to responders, who are available to help us.

In Psalm 34 we are reminded of the realities of life. “God’s eyes,” says David “are on the righteous,” His “ears attentive to their cry.” So, whenever the righteous cry out, “the Lord hears them.” Not may or might hear them, could or should hear them – but will hear them. We do not have to get in line, dial a number on a phone or tap an icon. Just “call out!” Whenever. David is very realistic about life. He’s been there and endured that. When he speaks about the tragedies in his life, we can enter into his experience with him. Most have walked through the deep valleys as he has and have stumbled through similar shadows. Christians are not given a “free pass” to a life without problems.

But we are given the assurance that God is always present. “His eyes are on us” and “His ears open to us.” So, when our hearts are broken by the tragedies of life, our spirits crushed in grief, our joints ache and our illnesses never seem to end, we are to call on Him. “Whenever” we need “whatever” He’s there to help. Whenever…for...whatever!

Prayer: Thank You, Father, for understanding our problems, hearing our cries, and healing our hearts and bodies. Thank You for “whatever - whenever!” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:  The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help. Psalm 34:15

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Recipe For A Good Day

Have you ever met anyone who awakened in the morning and said, “Today is going to be horrible! I know it. I feel it. It’s in the air!” What a discouraging thought. Yet there are some who say, “Today’s going to be the best day I’ve ever lived. I know God will be with me and bless me in all that I do.” Is there a formula for having good, God-blest days? Apparently so.

David said, “If you want to have good days,” do these three things:

1. Keep your tongue from evil! That may be more difficult than it sounds. James said, “No human being can tame the tongue.” Perhaps the best way to start a “good day” would be to ask God to control our tongue and use it to encourage others and praise Him.

2. Turn from evil and do good! Another way to have a good day is to ask God to make us sensitive to the temptations we are sure to face as the day unfolds. It was Jesus who encouraged us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” He knew that we would have to face temptation every day of our lives so He advised us to ask for God’s help before we faced them. And don’t forget the words of Paul, “It is possible,” he said, “to escape temptation and avoid sin” if we call on God to give us strength before we are tempted. 

3. Seek peace and pursue it. This does not mean we are to surrender and avoid conflict. It means that we can enjoy peace in the midst of conflict if the conflict comes from being obedient to His Word, doing His will, and following the path He has set before us.

Prayer: We all want this and every day to be a good day, Lord. So, we ask that You give us courage and wisdom and strength to obey Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:  Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies! Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. Psalm 34:13-14

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David's "Taste Test"

“Try it for thirty days. If you are not completely satisfied with the results, return the unused portion and you will receive a complete refund!”

“We guarantee that your pain will be gone in fourteen days, and your joints will become pain free and function with no limitations or we will refund the cost of the tablets – plus the shipping and handling charges! How can you lose?”

Guarantees for anything and everything seem to be very popular. Most advertisers, manufacturers and marketing experts have combined their efforts to sell their products and give us the assurance that they will work – or else return them.

But that’s nothing new. In fact a king made that claim about his God years ago. David said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.”

He’d been through sickness and survived. He was hunted and escaped. He was emotionally drained and overwhelmed with guilt. He was so sick that his bones were wasting away. He watched as nations rose to prominence and collapsed. He saw armies that were well prepared lose battles. In fact, if we were to make a list of everything in his life that had gone wrong or if we were to compile a catalog of the disasters he faced and overcame in his life, it would be a book so large that it would be very difficult to carry from one place to another. Yet, with no hesitance he said, “God’s good! Try Him. You’ll see!” What a tremendous offer with guaranteed results!

Prayer: Help us Father, to recognize Your sovereignty in our lives when things seem overwhelming. May we see Your hand at work and rejoice! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him. Psalm 34:8 

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