OUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO HIM

When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. [Psalm 91:15 (NLT)]

mockingbirdWhen we moved to our small Midwestern town over fifty years ago, we paid our utility bills at the local drugstore and I longed for the “good old days” when we sold our northern home recently. Trying to update our information and go completely paperless, I attempted to access our various accounts on line, meaning I had to remember (or create) a wide variety of user names and passwords. If I managed to sign in, I’d get to the security questions and discover that my favorite color or dessert is not what I thought it was! Once past that hurdle, I had to prove I wasn’t a robot by deciphering those squiggly letters and numbers (a near impossibility)!

When I couldn’t accomplish my task on line, I’d resort to a phone call. It would be answered with a computerized voice offering a list of options, none of which ever seemed quite right. Another robotic voice would then ask a series of questions (“to better serve your need.”) Eventually, after being put through several programmed interrogations, I’d be put on hold. When I wasn’t being told how important my call was, I was subjected to a loop of horrible music and advertisements for additional services (along with the helpful suggestion that I go to the company’s website which, of course, I had already tried.) Occasionally, a voice would tell me how much longer I would be in the queue before an operator would be available. When I took the option of having them call me back, the call never came! Once, after holding for what seemed an eternity, I got disconnected! When I finally spoke with a real person, it was often someone in a distant land whose accent baffled me as much as mine baffled his.  We’ve all been in similar situations. We cry out, “Is there no one there who can hear me, who understands my problem, who cares, or who can help?”

Thank you, God, for never requiring me to log on to your heavenly site. Thank you for not requiring an account number, a user ID, a password, or a security question. You always know who I am, where I am and what it is that I need. Thank you for being available 24/7, never putting me on hold, and always returning my call. Thank you for understanding me, even better than I do myself. Thank you for speaking softly yet clearly to me. Thank you for never passing me off to someone else and, most especially, thank you, God, for never dropping my call!

And He knows my name. Every step that I take,
Every move that I make, Every tear that I cry,
He knows my name. When I’m overwhelmed by the pain
And can’t see the light of day, I know I’ll be just fine
‘Cause He knows my name – He Knows my Name! [The McRaes]

I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers! [Isaiah 65:24 (NLT)]

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IT COULD BE WORSE

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God. [Psalm 42:11 (MSG)]

cardinalThe story is told of a circuit-riding preacher who never failed to thank God for the day’s weather. One Sunday, after battling through wind and sleet to his preaching appointment in a distant town, the congregation wondered how he could be thankful in such dreadful weather. When it came time for prayer, however, he said, “This is a wretched day, dear Lord, no doubt about it. But, we thank Thee, Lord, that every day isn’t as bad as this one!”

There certainly are times when it is difficult to praise the Lord, and not just because of the weather. We’ve all had days, weeks, months or maybe even years, when every time we turn around, something else seems to have gone wrong. A financial, health, family or business crisis seems to lurk around every corner. In fact, it’s so bad that the light at the end of the tunnel is just an oncoming train! God knows, it’s not easy to get through those times. It is tempting to stop thanking and start complaining: to allow our prayers to reflect our circumstances rather than our faith.

Another story is told about Matthew Henry, a 17th century preacher and Bible commentator. One evening, on his way home after preaching in London, Henry was accosted by four thieves. His response is said to have been this prayer: “Lord, I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.”

While I would prefer to be neither, I have to agree with Matthew Henry that I’d rather be the one robbed than the robber. At least the robbed has not offended God or his fellow man. As these two stories illustrate, there is always something for which to be thankful, if only because it could be worse!

Father, forgive us if we lose sight of you when we are beset by trouble. Give us the ability to rejoice, not for our difficulties, but for the knowledge that we are not alone and that you are greater than any problems we may encounter. Give us thankful hearts for all of your mercies—even when that means we’re thankful that we were the ones robbed rather than the robbers or that every day does not bring a raging storm! When necessary, remind us that it could be worse!

Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer, but richer for having made it. [A.W. Tozer]

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (MSG)]

Thank God! Pray to him by name! Tell everyone you meet what he has done! Sing him songs, belt out hymns, translate his wonders into music! Honor his holy name with Hallelujahs, you who seek God. Live a happy life! Keep your eyes open for God, watch for his works; be alert for signs of his presence. [Psalm 105:1-3 (MSG)]

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SEEKING ADVICE

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. … Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others. … The godly give good advice to their friends, the wicked lead them astray. … Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise. … Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble. [Proverbs 1:7,12:15,12:26,13:10,13:20 (NLT)]

Jenny Lake - TetonsUnder King Solomon’s reign, the temple and palace were built in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, to accomplish this task, the people were severely overworked and heavily taxed. When Solomon’s son Rehoboam became king, the populace pled with him to reduce their taxes and ease up on the labor demands. The sacrifices they’d endured during the building of the temple could not be sustained forever. They pledged to be Rehoboam’s loyal subjects in return for his lightening their load.

Rehoboam asked for three days to consider their request. First, he conferred with his father’s experienced advisers who suggested honoring the people’s request. They counseled that a king’s subjects will remain loyal to a ruler who shows concern for them, saying that, if the king served his people well, his people would be his servants. Motivated by power and greed, however, Rehoboam disliked their farsighted advice; he was not about to serve anyone. Ignoring his father’s proverb about walking with the wise, he asked his friends for counsel. While the elders served the needs of the people, these young men only served Rehoboam (and themselves). Echoing Pharaoh’s response when first approached by Moses, they recommended making even greater demands on the populace, which is what Rehoboam did. As a result, the already unstable kingdom of Israel became divided into Judah in the south and Israel in the north and the two nations remained at war throughout Rehoboam’s reign. That wealth that was so important to the new king? Within five years, Judah was invaded by the Egyptians and all the treasures that had been accumulated by Solomon were lost.

Like Solomon’s son, there are times we need advice. The most knowledgeable counselor available is God and Scripture. Since God often speaks to us through others, however, we need to choose our earthly advisers wisely. Unfortunately, like Rehoboam, we often go to the people who will tell us exactly what we want to hear and not what we need to know. We need the good judgment to know when we are hearing wise or foolish advice.

Father, remind us to come to you when we have a question and give us the discernment to recognize your answer.

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” [Psalm 32:8 (NLT)]

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A WORKER’S PRAYER

For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. [Romans 14:7 (NLT)]

Lord, speak to us, that we may speak in living echoes of your tone; … Oh, lead us, Lord, that we may lead… Oh, feed us, Lord, that we may feed… Oh, teach us, Lord, that we may teach The precious truths which you impart;… [Frances Havergal]

campionAt last Sunday’s worship, we sang Frances Havergal’s beautiful hymn “Lord, Speak to Us, That We May Speak.” First published in 1872, the hymn originally had the heading “A Worker’s Prayer,” and made reference to Romans 14:7: “none of us lives to himself alone.” It is a simple prayer that God will speak to, lead, feed, teach and fill us so that He can use us in the service of His kingdom. Busyness had taken over my days and, having fallen behind in my writing, my supply of devotions was running dangerously low. Indeed, I needed Him to speak to me so that I could speak!

As we sang Ms. Havergal’s straight-forward and expectant prayer, I felt the Spirit’s convicting voice. Rather than prayers asking God to speak, lead, feed, teach, or fill me, I’d simply been pleading for more time to get everything done that needed to be done. I realized my problem wasn’t lack of time, but how I was spending that time. We certainly can’t hear the news without turning on the TV, learn French without attending class, get to a new destination without consulting the GPS, be nourished without sitting down to eat, or recharge our phones without plugging them in! How can we expect God to speak to us, let alone lead, feed, teach or fill us without spending quality time in prayer or taking the time to read more than a few Bible verses? Yet, that is exactly what I’d been doing. I recalled the words of Martin Luther who, when asked what his plans for the day were, is supposed to have replied, “Work, work, from morning until late at night. I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” I came to understand that, by putting God at the top of my day’s “to-do” list, I’d be more productive rather than less.

Last Sunday’s sermon was about fulfilling our God-given purpose of communicating the hope and love we have in Jesus and, while all Christians share that purpose, the way we fulfill it differs from person to person. Nevertheless, none of us can accomplish God’s purpose without His speaking to, leading, feeding, teaching and filling us! He’s more than willing to do His part; the problem comes on the receiving end—we must be available to listen, follow, eat, learn and receive. Often, we’re not! So distracted by the business and busyness of life, God ceases to be our priority.

Havergal’s hymn is, indeed, a worker’s prayer. As we submit our lives in worship and service to God, let our morning prayers echo her beautiful words: “Oh, fill us with your fullness, Lord, Until our very hearts o’erflow In kindling thought and glowing word, Your love to tell, your praise to show.”

It’s not enough to splash a little prayer on in the morning or to run through a sprinkler of God’s mercy now and then. It’s not enough to double our spirits in an hour of worship on Sunday or to dash into a drizzle of teaching every month or so. Our souls need to soak in God’s presence. It’s no luxury, this time we spend in the healing waters of God’s grace. It’s neither excess nor indulgence to immerse ourselves in communion with our creator. It’s a spiritual necessity if we want to become the people God has created us to be. [Penelope J. Stokes]

Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. [Isaiah 55:2-3a (NLT)]

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ONE BOX AT A TIME

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. [Matthew 6:34 (NLT)]

Steamboat SkiA few years ago, while skiing, I got lost during a snowstorm and ended up on a double-black diamond run. In knee-deep powder, I faced a narrow steep trail that was covered with ferocious-looking moguls. Looking down at the daunting terrain, tears filled my eyes. Picturing all that could go wrong, I wanted to quit but, unless I planned on staying there until the spring thaw, I had no option. If I wanted to get to the base, I had to get down that run and so I prayed for guidance. Words spoken by a ski instructor came to mind: “You can get down anything if you take it one turn at a time.” While I couldn’t picture doing the whole run, I could picture making just one turn and so I made that turn. Then I made another and another and got down that intimidating slope simply by taking one turn at a time.

I thought about taking life one turn at a time as I looked at the pile of boxes in our garage. How will we fit them all into the pod and cars, let alone unpack them at the other end? Even though I know the answer, the task is daunting. Nevertheless, I know it can be done—one prayer and one box at a time!

Sometimes, looking at the big picture is overwhelming and we end up conceding defeat without even trying. For example, we have friends who desperately want to down-size but, apprehensive about the enormity of the task, still remain in the house they want to leave! When they wonder how to get rid of all their furniture, shred years of old files, clean out every cupboard, pack up and move, my answer is to do it one chair, one stack of paper, one shelf, one trash bag, and one box at a time.

It’s not just moving that can seem overwhelming. “How will I ever get through the terrible twos?” cries the frustrated mother; she does it one temper tantrum at a time. “How will I ever get the Bible read?” asks the new Christian; he does it one page at a time. “How will I get through several months of chemo-therapy?” asks the patient; it’s done one session at a time. How do we climb to the top of a mountain, get through a lifetime of sobriety, face the loss of a spouse, or endure chronic pain? We do it one step, one day or even one hour at a time. As insurmountable as any challenge may seem, it is merely a succession of small manageable bits and pieces. How do we do it? We do it one prayer at a time.

As He did with manna for the Israelites, God will give us what we need for the moment and that’s all we really need. We don’t have to become anxious about finishing when what we need to do is just get started and, once started, move forward, a step at a time. We aren’t alone; He’s right there with us and, when we tire, we can rest in God’s presence until He strengthens and restores us enough to continue. Our progress may not be fast or graceful and there may be a few stumbles or setbacks along the way. Nevertheless, with faith in every step, it will get accomplished, whether it’s one turn or one box at a time.

If you’re running a 26-mile marathon, remember that every mile is run one step at a time. If you are writing a book, do it one page at a time. If you’re trying to master a new language, try it one word at a time. There are 365 days in the average year. Divide any project by 365 and you’ll find that no job is all that intimidating. [Charles R. Swindoll]

God is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t worry. [Deuteronomy 31:8 (MSG)]

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WHERE IS HE?

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, “Where is this God of yours?” [Psalm 42:1-3 (NLT)]

white-tailed deer - FloridaNot so long ago, it was hard to face my computer with any enthusiasm. Every beginning led to a dead end or took me down a rabbit hole of confusion. The paragraphs over which I’d struggled had come to nothing and my hours at the keyboard seemed an exercise in futility. It’s as if I had little scraps of useless fabric but couldn’t find a way to quilt them together. I wondered where God was when I so desperately needed His guidance.

The best place to go when feeling hollow or hopeless is God’s word and Psalms is where I usually begin. David certainly had plenty of times of downheartedness and he wasn’t afraid to express his exhaustion, frustration, or despair and yet there always seems to be a ray of hope in his words. I turned to Psalm 42 and, having hit a “dry spell,” I knew what the psalmist meant when comparing himself to a deer panting for water and thirsting for God. Like him, I felt like I was dying of thirst.

It was the psalm’s mention of enemies with their taunts of, “Where is this God of yours?” that really hit home. I don’t share David’s flesh and blood enemies but all of us share a common unseen enemy: the doubt and anxiety that comes from spiritual depression.

The palmist asks why God has forgotten him and I think we all know that feeling. While I can get it when I’m staring at an empty page, that sense of desolation may visit others as they wait for the return of a prodigal, sit in a hospital room, endure chronic pain, look at the empty chair once occupied by a spouse, or have too much month left at the end of their money. We’ve all had times when it feels like God has turned a deaf ear to our prayers or has closed His eyes to our situation.

“Where is this God of yours?” is the enemy’s voice. Wanting us to lose faith or wallow in despair, he causes us to question God’s presence in our lives. God hasn’t forgotten about us; even the psalmist, as depressed as he was, acknowledges that God pours out His unfailing love each day. Nevertheless, sometimes, it feels as if God is looking the other way. Feeling defeated, discouraged, lonely, weary, or insecure, it’s easy to forget that our feelings can’t always be trusted. God, however, always is steadfast and trustworty!

In a gentle reproach, the psalmist asks why he is so downcast and reminds himself of the hope he has in God. That we don’t sense God’s presence, feel His love, see His hand, or hear His voice doesn’t mean that our loving God isn’t there. When asked, “Where is this God of yours?” let us never forget that He dwells, not just in heaven above, but also in our broken spirits. There always will be dark valleys to traverse but we are never alone; we have hope in God and, for that, we praise him.

A loss of the present sense of God’s love is not a loss of that love itself; the jewel is there, though it gleams not on our breast; hope…expects the promised boon though present providence stands before her with empty hands. [Charles Spurgeon]

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! [Psalm 42:11 (NLT)]

Copyright ©2019 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.