Faith in Difficult Circumstances

Psalm 119:134 – “Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey your precepts.”

Sometimes it tough to be a Christ-follower. I was meeting with a former student of mine earlier today. He’s home from college on his Christmas break. He talked to me about the difficulty of walking with Christ on his campus. He is constantly made fun of because of his belief in Christ. The guys on his college campus are constantly trying to get him to reject his faith and lower his standards. He spoke with me about how hard this has been.

And, he reminded me of today’s verse. He is clearly being oppressed. That oppression has made it difficult for him to keep walking in his faith. His way of dealing with this has been to be in constant prayer, to e-mail close friends asking them to pray, and to hang out a lot with one Christian friend. He told me that God recently answered his prayer. He has a new roommate, has found a good church, and is growing in his walk with Christ.

Before he left I told him that God is seldom early but He is never late. God answered his prayer in God’s time. That meant a lot to this student.

As you go through hard times, remember that God is there. Keep following Christ, even in the dark times. He will come through, in His time.

Dear God,

Today is the last day of 2007. It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone. Help us to walk faithfully with You. Help us to obey Your commands. Help us to reach out to You when we feel like life is too tough. And, help us to always remember that your ways are worth following.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

A Fresh Start!

Psalm 119:133 – “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.”

I love this verse! David’s call for God to direct his footsteps is followed by his declaration that he wants no sin to rule over him. Talk about a powerful twosome! Think about what your life would look like if you really let God direct your footsteps? Would it change things? Would you be living your life differently? If so, then maybe 2008 is the year to allow God to begin to direct your footsteps. Better yet, start today. On December 30, 2007, let God be the One who directs your life.

New Years Day is a natural time for people to reflect upon their lives. They take a look back at the prior year, take a look forward, and if they are smart; they take a look within. What does your look within say to you? How are things with you and God? How are things in relation to sin? David pleaded with God not to let a sin control him. Do you know why he did this? Because, David understood what it was like to be controlled by sin. He had done terrible things that he was ashamed of. We all have. As you enter 2008, how about asking God not only to direct your paths, but to help you gain victory of a specific sin? A friend I have says that we all have at least three sins that continually creep up in our lives. For some it’s pride. For others lust. For some it’s jealousy. For some it’s lying. What is it with you? Tell God. Admit to Him that it’s wrong. And ask him to give you a fresh start.

I had the privilege of preaching in my church today. After one of the services an elderly gentleman came up to me and asked if I believed that God could forgive him for his sins? I told him that God could absolutely do that, and that God wanted to do that. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Scripture tells us that God separates our sins as far as the east is from the west. We read that our Heavenly Father, who is Almighty, can actually forget our sins. He chooses to do so. When He forgives us, we are clean before Holy God. So, start fresh. Ask God to give you the victory. May no sin rule over you in 2008!

Dear God,

It’s easy to let sin rule our lives. We don’t necessarily think that we are running toward sin, but left to our own, we do. Help us to not let sin rule our lives. Help us to allow You to direct our paths. Do Your perfect work in our lives.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

A Beautiful Promise

Psalm 119:132 – “Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.”

There are thousands of people around the world who make a habit out of claiming the promises of Scripture in their prayers to God. Maybe you are one of them. I know that on many occassions I have been one of them. There is nothing wrong with praying this way. In fact, it is a beautiful way to communicate with God. Just make sure that as you claim God’s promises in your prayers that you are not making God out to be some kind of a cosmic genie who will grant your request because you have followed the correct formula in getting His attention.

That said, Psalm 119:132 is a beautiful promise of God. And, David, prays like one of those people who like to pray asking God to deliver on God’s promise. The promise is that God always has mercy on those who loves His name.

That is not to say that God will not at times, correct us. Mercy is sometimes giving us what we can’t see that we need. Mercy is not always the easy way out.

Aren’t you glad that we have a God who acts in perfect mercy? When He lavishes us with His mercy, it is an act of love, not judgment. His mercy, as freeing as mercy can be, may sometimes feel like punishement. God had mercy on King David when He confronted David with his sin through the prophet Nathan. He also had mercy on David when he allowed the ruddy teenage boy to defeat the warrior/giant Goliath. These are two very different ways of showing mercy, but they ultimately led to a deeper walk with Christ and a better life for David.

God will always act with mercy to those who love His name. Are you a child of God today? Do you love His name? Rejoice that God is acting with mercy towards you today. Not the least of which is the mercy of salvation.

Dear God,

You act in perfect mercy towards Your children. You are the Beautiful Redeemer. Thank You for redeeming man. Help us to reach out the world around us with Your perfect love.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Lessons From My Dog

Psalm 119:131 – “I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.”

About 1 1/2 years ago, my brother Randy phoned to let us know that he and his son had become allergic to the new dog that they had bought. He knew that our son Chris wanted a dog for his tenth birthday. Chris was now nearing eleven-years-old, and there was no dog in his horizon. Randy asked if we would consider taking their dog, as a gift, for Chris. We did. And, wow, did our life change.

Dogs are a tremendous responsibility. There are vet bills, and kennel bills. There are late night runs to pick up dog food, because we need to make sure that Muffy (that’s our dog’s name) gets fed. There are walks in the neighborhood to make sure that Muffy gets her exercise. There are endless games of fetch. She loves to run after a tennis ball, and will do so as long as someone is willing to throw it to her. Then there are the unexpected runs through the neighborhood, when Muffy flies through the front door because it’s been kept open too long. She loves the game of run away from my owners, and see if the rather large dad in the house can catch me. At least, that’s what I think she calls it.

One day, when Muffy was still a puppy, and wanting to wake up at 5:30 AM, I decided to take her for a walk. We wanted the kids to stay asleep. So, I started the walk. Her little legs were running ahead of me. She wanted complete control of where we would go. I had decided to take her on a two-mile loop through the neighborhood. She had other ideas. So, I went with it. We walked, and walked and walked. 6 1/2 miles later we arrived at Wooddale Church. It’s a drive that I take almost every day of my life. But, until that point, I had never walked it. It was the furthest Muffy had ever walked.

She was panting by the time we reached the church. As good as the exercise was for her (and for me) she was exhausted. Her mouth was agape. Her tongue was out. She was panting. She was desperate for some water. She had even lapped some up in puddles along the way. She was also ready for a break. I held her in my arms when we arrived at Wooddale. I found a bowl and filled it with water. She lapped it up. I filled it again, and she lapped it up again. As I held her, she was content. She just wanted to relax.

In Psalm 119:131, David talks about opening his mouth and panting for the Lord’s commmands. He paints the picture of a thirsty animal, who won’t be satisfied until his thirst is quenched. It’s the type of passion that God wants us to have for His Word. He desires our worship and adoration. He desires our time. He wants us to want Him.

And, just like my dog was satisfied with water, and being held in her master’s hands; so will we be satisfied as we are held in our Master’s hands. In John 4, we read the story of Jesus and a Samaritan woman, who is drawing water from a well. Jesus tells her that He is thirsty. She offers Him a drink. In the climactic verses of the text, Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

Christ wants to satisfy your longing soul. Three chapters later, in John 7:38, Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

May you have streams of living water flowing in you.

Dear God,

We tend to chase after so many different things to find satisfaction in life. Help us to remember that true satisfaction can never be found apart from You. May we experience the streams of living water that you talked about in John 7:38. May the satisfaction in our lives, make You look good to the world around us. May we be satisfied with nothing less that You, and You alone at work in us.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.