Heath Ledger’s Death Is A Wake Up Call

Psalm 119:154 – “Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise.”

Hollywood actor, and native Australian, Heath Ledger was found dead today in his Soho neighborhood apartment in New York City. His death will dominate news headlines for the next several days. Extremely talented, blessed with financial success, fame, and a little girl, Ledger seemed to have it all. Early speculation is that Ledger took his own life. It may have been an accidental overdose of prescription medication, but whatever the cause, people all over the world are asking the question, “Why?”

We may never know. I never met Heath Ledger, but I’ve read a lot about his life. He, like many celebrities got a lot of publicity. His September separation from Michelle Williams had to hurt. A friend of his told US Weekly earlier today that Heath was getting deeper into drugs. His friends were worried. He said they could see it coming. The only thing that brought Heath joy was his two-year-old daughter.

It’s sad. I hate seeing people come to this point. I had a girl in my office recently who had come to the end of her rope. She was addicted to drugs, making horrible choices, and in her case not sure of what to do. I’m glad she reached out for help. If she hadn’t, I’m afraid that she would have been in the same spot as Heath. Today, she is receiving treatment and care for her addiction, and more importantly is rediscovering the love and grace of her Savior.

There will be some Christians who will point fingers today and say that Heath is dead because he didn’t have Christ. But, there are Christians that struggle with drug addiction too. There but for the grace of God go any of us. If today you have made it through life without addiction, praise God. And, pray for those who struggle. Pray for the millions of Heath Ledgers that are out in the world tonight and desperately need the grace and healing touch of our Savior. Maybe this is the week you say, “Enough is enough! Too many young people are making terrible choices in regards to drugs. I’m going to do something about it.”

What can you do?

1) Pray. Pray for healing. Pray for a solution to the drug epidemic in the world. Pray for those who are caught in the grip of addiction.

2) Give. There are a ton of great organizations that are working with addicts. In the Twin Cities, Teen Challenge is a faith based organization that has worked with thousands of addicts. Consider giving a financial gift to help them in their ministry.

3) Volunteer. Maybe you think you can’t make an impact in the life of an addict. You’re wrong. Organizations like Teen Challenge, Tree House, and others could use people just like yourself to help. I can use people who are willing to mentor and come alongside of teenagers who are involved in drugs and need a positive mentor in their life.

4) Ask for Wisdom. God will tell you what your role should be. It may be something completely different.

David prayed that God would preserve his life according to His promise. Had Heath Ledger known God, and had Heath reached out, God would have reached back. Is it possible that Heath did reach out? Sure. But, he needed help. Sometimes God chooses to give that help through His people. Keep your eyes open. There are lots of Heath’s around. There were dozens of people who died because of overdose today. The death of a famous person puts it in the forefront. Let’s not forget the opportunity we have to be life preservers.

Dear God,

It’s sad to read of the death of someone so talented and so young. It’s sad to think that a little girl won’t get to grow up with her Daddy. It’s sad to think that there are dozens of people today who also died of drug overdoses. It’s sad to see the toll that drugs has taken on our society. Bless Heath Ledger’s family today. Surround them with people who know You. Let them experience Your grace. Be with his little girl. And, help us to have our eyes opened to the hurting. Preserve our lives according to Your blessing, and allow us to be a blessing to the world around us.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Deliver Us!

Psalm 119:153 – “Look upon my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law.”

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

We’ve all heard that question, phrased in one way or another, several times in our lives. And, it causes us to wonder.

Just today I received an e-mail from one of my dear friends. This guy has been through it. Financial and health crises have eaten away at him, and I’m sure there are days where he wonders if God is really there. He is one of God’s choice servants in this generation, but the spiritual warfare that he is going though is just intense. Like David, I think that he must cry out at night, “Look upon my suffering and DELIVER ME!

Deliverance. It’s a beautiful word. It carries with it the connotation of a prisoner being set free. And, like a prisoner, is how so many of us feel as we face challenges in our day-to-day lives. Sometimes God is the only one who can deliver us from the trials we are in. Today, you may need to ask for His deliverance. He wants to hear about your desires. He wants you to tell Him. Let God know that you need to hear from Him. He awaits. And, He is the ultimate deliverer.

Dear God,

You delivered Your people out of bondage to the Egyptians. You can deliver us from our bondage. Help us to trust You and to walk in Your paths. You are our Rock and our Salvation.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

What Kind of Learner Are You?

Psalm 119:152 – “Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever.”

What kind of learner are you?

In recent years a number of studies have been done in the area of learning styles. There are auditory learners and visual learners. There are experiential learners and those who learn best in the traditional classroom. I think I’m just a slow learner. You know, one of those people who needs to hear or experience the lesson a number of times before finally understanding it.

King David wrote about a lesson that he learned long ago in Psalm 119. It was an important lesson, but I’m not sure that David learned it right away. David’s life story and the style of his writing indicates that while this is a lesson that he learned long ago, it wasn’t one that was learned the first time he heard it. The lesson? God established His statutes to last forever. Is it an important lesson? Absolutely. Many of us try to take shortcuts in our walk with Christ. We read about His desires for our life, and we think that we can bypass those desires and live the way that we want to. Sometimes the results actually seem to benefit us. And, we ask, “What does God know?” But, anytime we choose to go against God’s desires for our life, there is a cost. It may not be one that we immediatley pay. And, God, in His grace, may grant us mercy. But, in most cases, we will pay if we choose to ignore God’s statutes. His law hasn’t changed. God is passionate about us following Him. May we do so. And, may we learn the lesson of God’s laws sooner rather than later.

It’s been 152 days so far through Psalm 119. You’d think we would have learned the lesson by now. We may even be tired of reading about God’s law. But, David was serious. He wanted us to understand the importance of holy living. He wanted us to understand how important God’s law really is. I hope you are rediscovering God’s perfect law. It’s for His glory, our protection, and so that we can experience life to the full. May you be a fast learner!

Dear God,

Forgive us for being so slow in learning the lesson that You want us to learn. Your statues are good. Your law is for Your glory, our protection and so that we can experience life to the full. Help us to remember that. Help us to be quick learners. We want to be Your best students. Help us to pursue You.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

God Is Here and God is There

Psalm 119:151 – “Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true.”

You know one of the things that I love about God? He is here. He really is. And, He is with you. I’m in Eden Prairie, Minnesota as I type this. You may be in California, Guatemala, Australia, China, or another part of Minnesota as you read this and God is there. I love the doctrine of the omnipresence of God. And, I love the fact that Satan is not. He’s not omnipresent. He’s probably not here or there. Satan can only be one place at a time.

Yesterday’s verse covered the fact that David was concerned that the evil were near him. There are always evil people around. If you believe in spiritual warfare, and Scripture teaches that there are demons at work behind the scenes, then we must believe that demons are around as well. If you are a Christian, a demon cannot possess you. But, they are mighty oppressive. And, isn’t it good to know that as hard as they try to oppress us, God is here. God is more powerful than any of Satan’s hoard. He wants us to know that He is here. He tells us to draw near to Him and He will draw near to us.

I think it’s possible for God to be present everywhere, but not be near to us. What do I mean by that? I mean that God is present, but His presence does not mean that we have a close relationship to Him. He wants that. He wants to commune with His creation. But, the Creator will not force the created to draw near. That is up to us. And, David knew it. That’s why when his enemies were all around he was at peace. He was, after all, a man after God’s own heart. “Let the enemies come after me!” David must have thought. “Let them hit me with their best shot! God is on my side. God is by my side. God is near!”

Aren’t you glad?

If you don’t know Christ, this would be the day to let Christ in. Draw near to Him. Confess your sins. Ask Him to be your Savior and Lord. Tell Him that You need what only He can offer. Draw near, and He will draw near to you.

Dear God,

Thank You for Your presence. In our dark days, we need You. We need Your peace. We need Your power. We need Your strength. We need Your mercy. We need Your goodness. We need Your gentleness. We need You. We draw near. And, we await.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Another Friday Night in America

Psalm 119:150 – “Those who devise wicked schemes are near, but they are far from your law.”

It’s the weekend, and in the world of so many people that means that temptation is ratcheted up a notch. Tonight college students and high school students all across America will be faced with fierce pressure to conform at parties. Tonight will be a night where some married men and women will be tempted to stray. Tonight will be a night where a business owner will be tempted to cut corners. Tonight will be a night where thieves will attempt to rob. It’s another Friday night in America.

The Psalmist said that those who devise wicked schemes are near. Things haven’t changed much in 3000 years. There is no shortage of those who would seek to do that which is evil in the site of God. And, those people are far from God’s law. But what do we do when the people devising to do evil are you and me? How do God’s children battle the evil desires that well up within us. Lest we become too proud of our position in Christ, remember just how easy it is to fall into sin. We must walk through this life with our eyes open. Temptation is most powerful when it catches us unaware. We need to be held accountable. We need to walk our walk with people who will uphold us in prayer. We need each other. And, we need to be real with each other. May we not be the wicked of whom David speaks in this verse. Pursue Christ with everything that you are, and everything that you have, and everything you hope to be.

Dear God,

We want to be people who passionately pursue You. Help us to stand up to temptation. Help us to walk in Your ways. Help us never to be the evil ones that are spoken of here.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

What Is Your Voice Saying To God?

Psalm 119:149 – “Hear my voice in accordance with your love; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your laws.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer lately. And, one of the questions that I’ve had is, “What is my voice communicating to God?” Have you ever wondered that? David asked God to hear his voice in accordance with God’s love. Perhaps he said that because he realized how out of touch with God’s desires that his voice could be at times. I believe that is true in my life. And, yet, we know that as out of touch as our voice can seem to be with God’s desires God still wants to hear it.

How do you approach God in prayer? Several years ago I was at a conference in California where Louie Giglio was giving a key note address. As he spoke, Giglio talked about how God was teaching him about how selfish Giglio’s prayers were. We ask God to bless us, and we are already so blessed. We ask God to keep us safe, but God never promised us safety. Somtimes God calls us into the danger zone. We ask, ask, ask, and treat God like a cosmic genie. He is no genie. He is God. Sure, He wants us to ask, but that is to be balanced with the thanksgiving and adoration that God is due.

What is your voice saying to God?

Dear God,

You are our Holy, Sovereign God. Forgive us for coming to you with voices ready to talk, and ears shut. Help us to be people who are ready to listen to what You have to say. Help us to remember Who it is that we are talking with. Thank You that You care. Thank You that You want us to ask. And, thank You that You want to bless. Help us remember just how blessed we already are. And, help us to desire more of You and less of us.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Meditating While Keeping Watch

Psalm 119:148 – “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.”

David, the King, was a soldier first. In fact it was because of all those that he had killed that God told him that he would not build the temple. He was used to staying up during the night. Soldiers would stand watch throughout the night, watching to see if the enemy was coming near. David uses the picture of staying up during those watches to speak of meditating upon the promises of God. What do you spend time meditating on? David understood the importance of keeping his mind fixed on the things of God.

As you go through your day today, meditate upon this verse. Think deeply upon what it is that God is trying to teach you. Spend time meditating uon some of your other favorite verses. Standing watch must be a harrowing experience. I’ve stood watch in a few capture the flag games and become nervous. I can’t imagine standing watch in the middle of a battle. The fear could be crippling. But, David knew that the fear became less crippling when God was acknowledged. We need God to help us in life’s darkest days. We need his guidance and His wisdom. Meditate upon His word today.

Dear God,

You are so good. Your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light unto our paths, help us to follow it.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Hope in The Word

Psalms 119:147 – “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.”

Just a few moments ago, Senator Barack Obama declared that he was a Christian during the Democratic Candidate Presiential Debate in Las Vegas. He was responding to rumors that had been spread about him on the Internet. The rumors had been inferring that Obama was a Muslim who swore on the Koran and refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Obama said the following, “I am a Christian … I have been sworn in with a Bible … I say the Pledge of Allegiance. … In the Internet age there are going to be lies that are spread all over the place. … Fortunately, the American people are smarter than folks give them credit for.”

I hadn’t heard about the Internet rumors before this evening. But when I did, it got me thinking about the role of the Bible, and why leaders swear upon it. And it brought today’s verse back to my mind. King David declared that he put his hope in God’s Word. Perhaps our leaders, when they take an oath of office upon God’s Word should think about the significance of what it means. Like Israel’s greatest King, our leaders ought to put their hope in God’s Word. We live in uncertain times. All generations have. God’s Word brings stability in this era of uncertainty. It also brings hope for a future that is better than anything that we can imagine.

Put your hope and trust in God’s Word. It is worth building a life upon.

Dear God,

Your Word is indeed powerful. It inspires the soul. It brings hope. It is that which makes most sense in a world that makes little sense. Help us to make it a priority in our lives. Change us according to Your Word.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Access Granted

Psalms 119:146 – “I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes.”

I want to focus on the first five words of this verse. Do you realize how amazing these words are? David had an opportunity to call out to the God of the universe. He had access to the Creator. He had access to the Almighty. He had access to the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He had access to the Holy One of Israel. He had access to his Heavenly Father. He had access.

This summer my daughter and I took a tour of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was a great day. We both love history and the Ford Museum is full of it. In the middle of the museum is an exact replica of the Oval Office. I lived outside of Washington D.C. for three years in the early 90’s, but never saw the inside of the Oval Office. The Oval Office was reserved for those with access to the President. I don’t have that kind of access. But, like David, I do have that kind of access to the throne room of heaven. I can call upon God! Me — Brian Schulenburg! I’m a nobody. I don’t deserve this kind of access. And yet, God gives it to me, and to you. I’m not sure that the President of the United States particularly cares what I have to say, but God does. He wants to hear from me. And, he wants to hear from you.

You’ve been granted access. What will you do with it?

Dear God,

I’m blown away that I have this chance to speak with You. It’s You! It’s really You! Thank You for loving me. Thank You for caring. Thank You for being there when I call. And, thank You for calling me. You are more than I can fathom, more than I can imagine. You are so good. Thank You for granting me access to You. Thank You.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Lifestorms

Psalm 119:145 – “I call with all my heart; answer me, O LORD, and I will obey your decrees.”

We’re just finishing up our Snow Camp ’08 at Covenant Pines Bible Camp. It’s been a great weekend. We didn’t have any snow storms when we were up here, but you could say that I heard a lot about lifestorms. I know that it’s not a real word, but I think it should be. A lifestorm could be defined as a difficult period or trial that one goes through, where it can be difficult to see God at work.

One of the highlights of Snow Camp is when our seniors share about what God is doing in their lives. This year will always stand out as one in which our seniors were particularly vulnerable. Many of them talked about their doubts. Many talked about the struggles that they have to believe that God is who He says that He is. And, many of them also talked about how they continue to seek God with all of their heart.

Like David, these young people are passionate about finding God. It’s easy to forget God’s faithfulness to us. A lifestorm can come our way and derail our walk with Christ. If it seeems like God isn’t at work in the storm, then we let go of Him. But, God never lets go of us. God didn’t let go of David and He won’t let go of you.

If you are struggling seeing God in your life, do what David did. Plead with God, calling out to Him with all of your heart. God promises us that we will find Him when we seek Him with all of our heart (Jeremiah 29:13). Seek Him, today!

Dear God,

It’s hard to trust you when we go through the lifestorms. I don’t know why that is. It should be that You are all that we can trust. You have shown Yourself faithful in the past, and You will in the future. Every breath that we have is a gift from You. Help us to remember that life is not about us, and all about You. May we glorify You in our lifestorms.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.