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Archive for June, 2011

Drowning Your Sorrows

June 30th, 2011

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his army God has cast into the sea.” Exodus 15:4 NKJV

“Your obstacle can be the dividing line between your past and future.”

My thoughts today are about “drowning your sorrows.”

An exhausting dream fairly common to people is one of being chased and no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape. I think such a recurring dream is an expression of a person’s subconscious acting out what life feels like for them. There are times you feel like something is after you. It seems that you run hard, but life keeps gaining on you.

Old bills add up with new ones piled on top; aches and pains worry you about tomorrow; old problems are lingering problems today; you pull people toward you, but they push you away; the past you try to forget is a sorrow you cannot escape. Life is not very pleasant lived on the run, always looking over your shoulder for calamity.

Israel had just been released from horrendous bondage and servitude under Egypt’s rule. Read Exodus 12:37-42 NKJV. Then they faced an impassable obstacle, the Red Sea. Worse yet, Pharaoh’s fiercest fighters were in hot pursuit. While they briefly rejoiced in their freedom, an old enemy haunted their trail. Read Exodus 14:3-14 NKJV. Ahead was an uncrossable obstacle; behind and closing fast, was their worst nightmare! Little did they imagine God would make their obstacle become the dividing line between their past and future. Do you need a clear separation from your past?

You know the story; God opens the Red Sea for Israel to cross on dry land, but their enemy still pursued until the waters collapsed and, “Pharaoh’s chariots and his army God . . cast into the sea . . the depths have covered them; they sank to the bottom like a stone.” Exodus 15:4-5 NKJV. Now, the very obstacle that previously blocked their way forward was the instrument God used to separate them from everything they were running from. See Exodus 14:27-28 NIV. They were drowning in their fear of the past and their desperation of the moment until God used the Red Sea to drown their pursuers.

The application is this: God can take the things that repeatedly bring you sorrow and regret to show you His almightiness. Read 1 Peter 1:3-9 NKJV. The thing that relentlessly pursues you, threatening to drag you back into your past, can be what God uses to drown your sorrows triumphantly. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring to you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:13-14 NIV. What are you running from? Stop running; stand still and see what God will do to give you peace and safety permanently, not temporarily!

My prayer for you today is that you will see God’s victory in the midst of every trial.

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Imperfect Knowledge

June 29th, 2011

“Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us . .” 2 Corinthians 4:17 NKJV

“It is foolish to make a permanent decision as a result of a temporary situation.”

My thoughts today are about “imperfect knowledge.”

It is tempting and all too common to jump to a wrong conclusion when you don’t yet have all the information, and maybe you never will have all the information. The Bible is never more true than when Paul writes, “Now we know in part and we prophesy in part.” 1 Corinthians 13:9 NKJV. Wise – and appropriately humble – is the person who remembers there is usually more to know than they presently know.

As wise as Solomon was known to be, still he wrote, “There are four things I do not understand: how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, and how a man loves a woman.” Proverbs 13:18-19 NLT. I think that last one is a common enigma to all! Have you never embarrassed yourself by insisting on your correctness on some debatable point of information, only to find you were wrong? Don’t you hate that? You can’t always know what you think you do. I’m a frequent flier on that route.

There are plenty of areas where I struggle with imperfect knowledge and understanding. I have imperfect knowledge of the ways of God. See Isaiah 55:8-10 NLT. I have imperfect knowledge of Heaven. See 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NIV. I confess my imperfect knowledge of healing. See James 5:14-16 NIV/Isaiah 53:4-5 NIV. But those barely scratch the surface of my lack.

I have imperfect knowledge of affliction and adversity. David struggled with that as well. Read Psalm 78:2-26 NLT. “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. ” 2 Corinthians 4:17 NKJV. How do you even begin to understand that? But you can believe that because you can believe God who has complete and perfect knowledge!

How could anything that hurts so badly be viewed as good for you, ever? I guess that in such a bewildering season a broader perspective is needed. Here’s what I do know. The Bible says affliction and adversity is “light (and) but for a moment.” What can feel like forever is really of brief duration in the overall scheme of life and eternity. Affliction in the confines of God’s hand and providence is “working for (you) a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” The key is your perspective – on the known or not yet known, on the visible now or invisible till then, on the temporal or eternal. Read Romans 11:33-36 NLT.

Really, all of life as you presently know it is temporary and transient. An impulse buy is irresistible, so an unwise debt is made. A job is hard work, so a rash decision is to quit. A marriage isn’t going well, so people file for divorce (by the way, most differences are not irreconcilable!). Your feelings are hurt, so a friend is “defriended,” and not only on Facebook. A teen is struggling to find out who they are, so they’re branded as incorrigible. It is the height of foolishness to make permanent decisions as a result of a temporary situation. Yet people do that all the time; don’t be one of them. And don’t make a permanent decision about things you don’t yet understand. Time and truth can be great teachers, if you are willing to be a good learner.

My prayer for you today is that you live for more than the fleeting moment.

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Experiences and Expectations

June 28th, 2011

“I believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13 NKJV

“Expect good things from God and people, even if disappointed occasionally.”

My thoughts today are about “experiences and expectations.”

Life can be tough, if you are trying to live without any firm conviction of the unchangeable character and unfailing faithfulness of God. When things are a mess around you and nothing seems as you wish it were, where do you look for your North Star? You need an eternal constant that is always a safe and sure point of reference. Things change all the time; God remains as He has always been – the “same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 NKJV.

What is your expectation of God? Others? Many expectations are historically based, meaning that your usual or more recent experiences profoundly influence your level of expectation. That inclination is based on inaccurate assumptions that past experiences indicate future prospects.

Expectations of good or bad seem to predispose a person to notice what they were expecting, or overlook what they do not expect. If you hold negative expectations of misfortune or mistreatment from God and/or others, you are likely to see what you expect.

Life is hard when you lose heart in the moment and sad when you lose hope for what’s ahead. Expecting good from God’s hand will hold your heart secure and steadfast. The Psalmist wrote, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of God in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13 NKJV.

Read the surrounding context of that verse – “surrounded by enemies . . forsaken by mother and father . . false witnesses, etc.” Who wouldn’t be at risk of losing heart in such situations? Yet in contrast to all that, his positive expectation had a clear time frame, “in the land of the living.” Faith’s object must be here and now, not in the sweet by and by.

I think it is better to expect good things from God and people, even if disappointed occasionally, than to expect the worst and be surprised when you were right. Hurt and harm does not come from God’s hand, except in judgment of unrepented sin. The person who has limited or little expectation of good from God may be seeing the facts, but overlooking the greater truth“No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who do what is right. O Lord Almighty, happy are those who trust in you . . And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God. ” Psalm 84:11-12/Romans 8:28 NLT. Let your expectation project your anticipated experience rather than allowing your experience to dictate your expectation.

My prayer for you today is: give God plenty of room for His generous goodness.

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Obstacles and Opportunities

June 27th, 2011

“I call to the Lord for help . . and He answers me.” Psalm 3:4 TEV

“Opportunities often come disguised as obstacles.”

My thoughts today are about “obstacles and opportunities.”

One experience that we all will share in common is trouble. Every person experiences some measure of difficulty, maybe in different form or severity but as our common experience. That admission is not a negative confession; it is just stating an unwanted reality. Rather than being surprised – or shocked – when you experience such challenges, the old Boy Scout motto says it best, “Be prepared!” Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV.

There are varying origins of stressful circumstances. The Bible differentiates between “tribulation and persecution.” Matthew 13:21 NKJV. I distinguish those as troubling situations and troublesome people, similarly worrisome but not the same in nature. You will face both at different times. Sometimes, a troubling circumstance can be the result of your decisions and choices, but usually such moments are just the random occurrence of everyday life. Every problem does not have a malicious source, but any problem can have a disruptive, even destructive, result if not handled in a Godly manner. Cause is not really an issue to solve; your carefully chosen response is where the real answer rests. You can stumble or you can step up.

Trouble will take you somewhere; your reaction determines where. It can stunt your progress, or stimulate it. “Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow; for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” James 1:2-4. NLT. Strong in character and ready for anything; how great is that?

Things are rarely as they first appear. Opportunities often come disguised as obstacles, and usually obstacles and opportunities come as pairs. In my struggles and failures more than in successes, I have learned who I am and what I firmly believe as truth. There are elements of the Kingdom of God – such as His character and power – that you would not know if your life were trouble free.

Paul and Barnabas’ ministry priority was, “strengthening the souls of disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the Kingdom of God.’” Acts 14:22 NKJV. Hardship is not the price of admission to the Kingdom; Jesus paid that price. However, that is the cost of knowing the powerful truths and greater fullness of His rule and reign.

“They say . . God will not help me . . I call to the Lord for help . . and He answers me.” Psalm 3:2/4 TEV. It is not what “they say” that matters. What God says and what you believe matters most. “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” Hebrews 13:5-6 NIV. Here’s what is true: Problems, whatever their source or nature, cannot separate you from God and His loving care. Read Romans 8:35- 39 NLT.

My prayer for you today is to trust God’s Word more than your opinion, or others’.

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A Work in Progress

June 24th, 2011

“But Christ gave Himself . . one sacrifice for all time.” Hebrews 10:12 Living Bible.

“The best of us definitely remains a work in progress.”

My thoughts today are about “a work in progress.”

Have you noticed how hard it is for people to forget what you’ve done, and how you have been? That may not still be true of you now but what you were seems to be what people always remember. A bad reputation is too easily gained and difficult to be changed sometimes. Being your best is so important at all times, however young or old you may presently be.

People know you the way you were; they can’t see inside or know your heart. But God sees inside your heart and knows the depths of one’s soul. The Bible reminds us that “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” See 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV. God knows who you already are in Christ, and foresees who you are becoming in grace, and knows who you have always been in His heart. Admittedly, even the best of us definitely remains a work in progress. Here’s the good news: “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV. God is still working in you, and the best is yet to be. While you and others were looking at your past, God was planning for your future – and it’s glorious!

Read these words slowly, thinking over every word.  I have taken the liberty to personalize it directly to you. “Long ago, even before He made the world, God chose (you) to be His very own through what Christ would do for (you); He decided then to make (you) holy in His eyes, without a single fault – (you) stand before Him covered with His love. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt (you) into His own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for (you).” Read Eph 1:4-8 TLB.

And before you can even ask why, Paul answers your incredulous disbelief: “And He did this because He wanted to!” Enough said! And God decided all of that before the world was made, and before you were even born! What God did is not about you, nor who you are or aren’t, or what you’ve done or failed to do; what God did is all about God and who He is – abounding in grace, love, and mercy.

“But Christ gave Himself . . one sacrifice for all time . . for by that one offering, He made forever perfect in the sight of God all those whom He is making holy.” Hebrews 10:12/14 Living Bible. A friend of mine asked the question, “What can you do with a God like that? You love Him and give your life to Him!” How could it be hard to love and trust a God like that? See 2 Corinthians 5:15 TLB.

Don’t feel badly at others who can’t always see past your past. You probably have struggled with doing that yourself. Your own insecurity and self-doubts are what makes criticism so painful from family or friends. “So stop evaluating Christians . .  by what they seem to be on the outside . . when (you became) a Christian, (you became) a brand new person inside. (You) are not the same anymore. A new life has begun!” Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-18 TLB.

Remember that less than good reputation, which is so easy to acquire? Paul wrote this, “Jesus made Himself of no reputation.” Philippians 2:7 NKJV. I think that was for the purpose of taking upon Himself your reputation and mine, and giving us His! What can you do with a God like that?

My prayer for you today is that you love Him and live for Him all of your life.

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