“Do You have a Prayer List”

How do you go about your personal prayer life?  Do you have a regular time of day, when you stop and spend time with the Father in prayer?  How long do you spend in prayer? What method do you use as a reminder of those that have requested prayer?  How do you remember those that are in need of prayer, that may not have talked about it publicly — but you know of their needs?  Do you have a number of churches, or preachers, or individuals; that you pray for on a regular basis?  After you are through praying, do you have an epiphany — and remember someone (or something) that you forgot to mention?  Do you take the time to list all the things that the Father has given to us, or blessed us with, during your prayers?  How often do you spend time just praising God for Who He is?

I have always struggled with having the kind of prayer life that I wanted?  I willingly confess, that there have been times that my prayer life has been better, and it has been worse.  Probably, I’m not the only one that can make that confession!    Over the years I have struggled, looking for the best method of practicing my prayer life.  I have trusted things to my memory (and that option gets worse all the time), and always struggled to always remember everything.  I have used a list, or lists, and prayed for everything that was on the list, which worked out pretty well (if you can remember to keep your list(s) updated.  What has always worked the best for me, is a combination of a list, and a worksheet — where I write out my prayers, and the people, things, and situations that I am to remember in prayer.

At this particular time in my life, I am struggling with finding the time to pray like I want to pray.  Most everyone knows, that I had “gastric bypass” surgery a little over two months ago.  Well, I am very much a person of routine, and the my mornings were pretty scheduled — and worked really well for me.  Now, I spend 45 minutes to an hour, walking early every morning, and am tired when I get back — and so my mornings are not going like I want.  This morning, as I was reading through Philippians, I was challenged, and encouraged, to redouble my efforts to find a schedule that works for me.  Observe what the text says:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.  (Philippians 1:3-11, ESV)

It is always encouraging for me to read the prayers of Paul!  I don’t know what method that he used in his practice of prayer, but he prayed for everyone and everything!  I want my prayer life to be modeled after Paul’s.  If you notice in this prayer, his prayer is full of joy because of his friendship and partnership with the saints in Philippi, and for that he is extremely grateful (who in your life, in your spiritual family, causes your prayers to be filled with joy, when you think of them).  But not only is he grateful for that joy: he prays that their love may abound, that they will approve what is excellent, and be pure and blameless.  I want to be that kind of prayer warrior, for those that I know and love.

Just reading Paul’s prayer, and thinking about how he prayed, motivates me to do a better job!  How about you?  Peace.

 

“I Want to be a Prayer Warrior”

There have been several “Mother’s Days” where I have used the words to a song called “If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again” in the sermon.  It is more well known as a country song, that has been recorded by George Jones, Loretta Lynn, and Alabama; but the first time I ever saw it was in an old, old hymnal.  J. W. Bahlman, was an elder of the North Main church, in Winters, Texas; and had been leading singing since he was a young teenager.  He had attended a Stamps-Baxter singing school in Dallas very early in his life, and paid the school’s enrollment fee by cleaning the meeting place every night.  For several summers, probably around the ages of 12 to 14, he traveled with a preacher by the name of L. W. Hayhurst, leading the singing for gospel meetings.  You could not hardly name a song that J. W. could not lead, and he had a bunch of old paperback song books that he had collected over the years.  He found this song in one of those books, we printed copies of it, and he said that he could lead it.  Mother’s Day came, and he did get the song started, but I don’t know if anyone was singing by the time it was over.  Everyone, it seems, had tears in their eyes; and was really struggling to get the words out (including J. W.).  The prayers of a mother, are so indicative of the love that a mother has — that it touched the hearts of everyone.

Later in my life, I found out that when I was going through a period of rebellion in my life at York College, my mother was praying every night, “Lord, make him a preacher.”  Most people, were just hoping that I would be around at 30.  In my opinion, there is no greater evidence of love for another person, than to be praying for them.  We can all think of those people, that when we listened to them pray, you could just tell that it came from the depths of a heart-filled with love.  That prayer was not a religious duty to them, but it was their privilege and their joy to empty the feelings of their heart at the throne of the Father.  I am always blessed by following those people in prayer as they lead me.  May God bless us with more prayer warriors like this.

All of these thoughts came racing through my mind, as I was reading in Luke 11, this morning.  Notice what the text has to say:

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying.  As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Jesus said, “This is how you should pray.”

“Father, may your name be kept holy.

  May your Kingdom come soon.

Give us each day the food we need,

and forgive us our sins,

     as we forgive those who sin against us.

And don’t let us yield to temptation.”  (Luke 11:1-4, NLT)

The first thing that jumped off the page at me, was that there must have been something about the way that Jesus prayed, that the disciples noticed.  It must have been something that they really wanted in their lives.  Something so important, that they asked Him to teach them to pray, so that they could have it in their lives.  It may have been the relationship with the One that He prayed to, it could have been the intensity of the words that He said, or it may have just been the calm and peace that was there as He spoke to the Father.  Whatever it was they saw, they wanted it!

I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with saying the words to this “model” prayer, but I really don’t think that Jesus was giving the disciples the exact words that He wanted them to repeat over and over.  He was sharing with them, the things that they needed to be concerned about.  His model prayer taught them to be adore our God, and praise Him for who and what He is.  He also taught them to be aware of the spiritual blessings that are available, and pray for their increase upon God’s creation.  The disciples were also instructed to be aware of the physical needs that they had, and, by implication, of the  needs of those around them.  They learned that they needed to be aware of the shortcomings and failures in their lives, and appeal to the Father for forgiveness.  As a part of that forgiveness, there were acts of obedience and trust that they should exhibit (as evidenced by the ability to forgive those that sin against us).  Finally, they were taught that living for Jesus was a struggle, and to appeal for help in the fight against the evil one.

It would really be a blessing, if I could tell you that my prayer life is all that I want it to be.  There have been times in my life, when it has been close to what I wanted; but it is my inconsistency that plagues me.  Oh, in the mornings, as I walk, I talk to the Father; but the time when I get alone with God and empty the feelings of my heart, about the sins of the world, my family, my church family, and my own struggles and failures — I am not where I want to be right now.  I want to be a prayer warrior!  For my God and His influence in this world; that His salvation, and the Spiritual blessings in Christ, may be more of a reality to people; that those who suffer pain, disease, and have to do without the physical necessities of this life can find comfort; for my sins that are constantly are with me, and the ability to demonstrate grace, trust, and love to everyone around me; and, finally, that we can keep the evil one on his backside, and defeated in the spiritual war that is going on around us.

Would you pray for me, and my desire to be a prayer warrior?  Would you join me in this effort, as we appeal to the Father to make a difference in this world?  Peace.

“When Do I Say, ‘Thank You’?”

As a child of the 1950’s, there were some things that my parents insisted that I learn:  things like, children should be seen and not heard; you always said “Yes Ma’am and No Ma’am, and Yes Sir and No Sir;” a gentleman always opened the door for a lady; and that when a couple walks down the street — the man is always closest to the road.  One thing that was drilled into my head, was to always say “please” when asking for something; and “thank you” when you received it.  I would not be surprised that many of you reading this, were taught many of those same things –and other things very similar.  We were expected to be polite and have good manners.

One of the things that I have “learned” (probably knew, but had forgotten) is that what my parents taught me about saying “thank you” — that is NOT how you pray!  I’m sure that because of the way that we were taught, we ask God for something; and if and when we received it, we tell Him “thank you.”  Right?  Well, the Bible teaches us that we are to be thankful when we ask!  Thankful that we know that the Father hears us, and that He will answer our prayer.

Psalm 54 is a really interesting chapter, that demonstrates what I am talking about.  The first two verses say:

O God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might. O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth.   (Psalm 54:1-2, ESV)

In verse 4, the writer remembers that God has always been there for him:

Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.    (Psalm 54:4, ESV)

But verse 6 makes the point:

With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.   (Psalm 54:6, ESV)

Basically what happens, is David confesses his need for God, and is confident that God will hear and answer because of His unfailing love and faithfulness, and IMMEDIATELY begins to thank God for answering his prayer.

Is that not what Paul says to do in Philippians 4:6, when he says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication WITH thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.   (Philippians 4:6, ESV)

So Mom, Dad, I’m not going to wait for God’s answer to be grateful.  I’m going to start thanking Him for hearing and answering when I ask.  His answer may not always be exactly what I want– BUT HE WILL ANSWER!  And you can thank Him for that!  Peace.

 

(Well, things are still a little bit of a turmoil in my house.  The painters think that they will be through today, so things may start getting back to normal tomorrow.  Again, this is an entry from earlier, March 18, 2017.  It was the first post after I got back from a week of  traveling, and not many people saw it.  I hope that it is a blessing to you.  Bill)

“You ever felt Guilty”

In the mid-1980’s, there was an ice cream that was trying to make a big splash in the American market, Frusen Gladje.  This morning, I thought about that company, and I could not remember the name of the company; but I did remember their commercials, and the slogan for the company.   There was one particular commercial, where a woman is sitting on the floor, behind a coffee table, with a spoon and a container of the ice cream, and says “I ate it all, and I don’t feel guilty.”   The commercial would then cut to a picture of their ice cream, with their slogan emblazoned across the screen, “Enjoy the Guilt.”  You can still find those old commercials on youtube, but you can’t find the ice cream in stores.

The problem with that slogan is that “guilt,” by its very nature, is not enjoyable, under any circumstances.  Edgar Allen Poe understood that part of human nature, in the 1840’s, when he wrote the short story “The Tell-Tale Heart.”  You remember that story?  A man carefully planned a murder so that he would not get caught, and, if I remember correctly, cut the body into pieces and buried it beneath his floor.  His guilt led him to hear the beating of the heart of his victim, until it drove him crazy.  King David, in Psalm 32, described  the effects of guilt this way:  When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long.  Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.  My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.  (Psalm 32:3-4, NLT).  I don’t know if you have ever struggled with guilt like that, but it is a very oppressive feeling.

In my devotional reading this morning, Mark 6, there is a story of another king who is consumed by guilt.  Look at what the text says:

When Herod heard about Jesus, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has come back from the dead.”  (Mark 6:16, NLT)

You may remember the story, Herod had arrested John because his wife was angry with John.  John had told the truth about their marriage relationship, and Herod’s wife was not only angry — but she want wanted to have him killed.  But, she didn’t have the power to do that, but she got her opportunity; when Herod made a foolish vow in front of his guests — and his wife took advantage of it.  He regretted what he said, but felt as if he had to uphold the vow he had made; because of the people that were there.  So, when he hears about Jesus, his guilt makes him think that John has come back to life.

Guilt is a powerful emotion, and not one that we can get rid of easily.  Even Christian people, that understand the sacrificial death of Jesus, the power of His cleansing blood, and the grace that God shares — still, at times, struggle with the guilt of something in their past.  In one of the churches where I preached, there was an individual that came to talk to me once or twice a year, about the guilt they felt for something that they had done 30 years earlier.  I would try to explain to them that God had forgiven them, and they really needed to learn to forgive themselves.  But, you know that is easier to say than do, sometimes.   We can know what the Scripture says:  …the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (I John 1:7, NLT); or, For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.  (Colossians 1:14, NLT).  But knowing that, may not help us to feel any better about ourselves.

What we need, what we are really looking for, and what Paul talks to us about is found in these verses:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7, NLT).

May God help you to find His “Peace.”

 

(For the past 5 Fridays, I have been writing about my journey of (1) recovering from gastric bypass surgery, (2) losing weight, and, (3) the movement to reclaim my health.  Obviously, I am not doing that today.  I have an appointment at the Roller Weight Loss Clinic next Wednesday, and I will have another column next Friday (7-14-17), and I will share some of the things they said, and how my journey is progressing.  Bill)

Spiritual Vulnerability

There have been times in my Spiritual life where I have felt incredibly weak and vulnerable.  Usually those times are periods of great stress — for example, when my Dad was in CCU, right before his passing; or when mother was in hospice care.  Those times are the ones that seem to be so demanding, or filled with so much concern; that what should be the most important, gets pushed down the list of priorities.  Now, I’m not saying that you forget about God, or sever your relationship with Him; but you get so out of your routine, and feel so physically challenged, you allow yourself to be exposed to the enemy.

There was a short period of time in 1986, when I was physically, emotionally, and Spiritually drained.  I’m sure that many of the members of the North Main church in Winters, Texas (that have been around for a while) will remember the period of about two weeks, when that church got punched hard.  Four of our ladies were in a tragic car accident that caused the death of all of them, and then it seemed like there was a death, or tragedy, every day in that church (or a close relative of a church member) for about two weeks.  If I remember correctly, I preached 5 or 6 funerals in about 8 days.  At the end of that time, I was spent.  You would think at times like this, you would pray even more; but you get so out of your routine, and mentally occupied and physically busy — that something suffers.  Sadly, it can be the wrong thing that suffers.  Thankfully, the elders were perceptive enough to know that I needed some time to recharge, and they gave me a weekend off to do nothing but heal.

What made me think of all this, was as I was reading Mark 1 this morning, these thoughts raced through my mind.  You remember the series events:  Jesus was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum on a Sabbath, went to Simon’s house and healed his mother-in-law, and then after sunset many sick, diseased, and demon-possessed came to the house for healing.  You want to talk about a long day, that had to be one; and Jesus must have known it was going to be that way from that time forward.  So, what did He do the next morning:

Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.  (Mark 1:29, NLT)

Jesus spent time with the Father because of the day that He had just experienced, and (I believe) in anticipation of what was about to begin.  He knew that physically, emotionally, and even Spiritually; He needed for His relationship with the Father to be at its strongest.  That is a lesson that we all need to learn.

Since May 12th, my schedule has been all out of whack.  On that day, Malia and I left for a week’s vacation in Florida.  10 days after getting back, I was scheduled for surgery.  Since that time, my routine has been messed up because of my morning post-op exercise.  It takes a while to develop a habit, but it sure doesn’t take long to break one.  This devotional thought is for me this morning, as I have allowed my morning time of prayer to suffer.  I have not quit praying, but the extended period of time where I wrote out my prayers — focusing on praise, thanksgiving, naming others that need the Father’s blessing, and the confession and requests for what is going on my life — I have allowed that to slip.  This passage this morning, was a reminder to me; I have to take time to do that.

Would you pray for me, and if you need to incorporate a period of prayer time in your life — join me in approaching the Father.  I know that we will all be better off because of it.  Peace.

“Do You Know Who You are Talking To”

The Lord has blessed my life in so many ways; ways that I did not understand, appreciate, or deserve while they were happening.  One of the ways is by the good people that I have had the opportunity to know, and who have touched and influenced my life.

In my reading this morning I was reminded of a couple of men, that you may not know (or remember), but were a blessing to a lot of people.  These two men are A. R. Hill, Sr. and Tab Hatler.  These are the only two men, that after they had led a public prayer, someone remarked to me — “You can tell they know who they are talking to.”  There are a lot of men who will tell you that leading a public prayer is one of the most difficult things that they are ever asked to do.  So, what a wonderful thought and expression, to know that the prayers that were led blessed the people that heard them.

This morning, I want to encourage you to read Psalm 142 and Psalm 143.  Don’t necessarily try to understand what David says — but just FEEL the relationship that he has with God by what he says.  Let me mention just a couple of lines:

With my voice I cry to the Lord; with my voice I make supplication to the Lord.  I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.  (Psalm 142:1-2, NRSV)

I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.  (Psalm 143:6, NRSV)

My prayer is that I may continue to develop that kind of relationship with Jehovah.  I believe that I would rather have people know by my prayers, that I know WHO I am talking to, than compliment me on a good sermon.  Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook, April 22, 2016.  I am reposting it here, as a part of the Psalms on Saturdays.  It is my prayer that it will be a blessing to you.  Bill)

Psalm 22 — “Knowing What’s Best”

The “musing” begins this morning with a quote from that great theological teacher, Garth Brooks.  One of his songs has a line that says, …some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.  Looking back over my life, I can see and remember things that have worked out for the best, even when that was not what I was asking God to do — and it has happened over and over again.

The problem is, I did not see it that way when it was happening.  Often, I was distraught because things did not work out the way that I wanted them to, or the way that I prayed that they would.  I’m sure that many of you can identify with those memories, and, in fact, may be dealing with some of those thoughts right now.

What I want you to know, is that those thoughts are not new with me, OR  you.  As far back as King David, those thoughts have been prevalent in the lives of God’s people.  Psalm 22 is a chapter, in my opinion, where David wonders if God even cares what happens to him.  Listen to what he says in the first two verses:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?  O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer; by night, and am not silent.  (Psalm 22:1-2, NIV)

In verses 7 and 8, he laments that all of those around him, mock and insult him — because of his faith in Jehovah.  Then he cries out again, Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.  (Psalm 22:11, NIV).

Can you identify with those feelings?  I know that I can!  I can remember the tears, the sleepless nights, the worry, and the pain — when things were not working out the way that I thought they should.  There are times when you think, “If God really loved me, He would help me with this.”

The problem was, I thought I knew what was best for me!  The reality was, I really didn’t!  Even in Psalm 22, David realized this:

For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted ones; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.  (Psalm 22:24, NIV).

He goes on to say that …dominion belongs to the Lord… and …future generations will be told about the Lord.  I must continually remember that God does hear me, does care about me, and knows what is best for me — even, when it may not be what I think is best.  Isn’t that what faith in the Creator is about.

Tim Keller, in his wonderful, little devotional book on Psalms, has a very relevant prayer for what we are talking about (even though his prayer is for a different psalm).  He says, “Lord, so much of my worry stems from a proud belief that I may know better than you what needs to happen.  Teach me to cast my burdens on you — leaving them in your power and wisdom.”  (The Songs of Jesus, April 28, page 118).  Peace.

 

(The next 3 or 4 mornings, my devotional thoughts will be from the Psalms.  The will be devotionals that were originally posted on Facebook — this one is from 4/28/16.  I have a doctor’s appointment this morning, in Fayetteville at 8.  Tomorrow morning, one of our church members is having 2 stents put in his legs, to improve circulation, at 7.  Then Friday morning, we will be leaving for Florida at 7.  I hope that these thoughts, though old, will be a blessing to you.  Bill)

Psalm 141 — Wrestling with the Enemy

It seems as if almost everyone has a “guilty pleasure”.  Now I am not talking about something that is wrong (as in sinful), but something you would just as soon not be public knowledge.  Many of these “guilty pleasures” have to do with food — like peanut butter and dill pickle sandwiches; peanut butter, honey, and banana whipped into a spread (and put on anything), brown beans on chocolate cake; vanilla yogurt mixed with frozen blueberries and grape-nuts, or any number of other concoctions that we could list.  Now, I’m sure that you are thinking that those things I listed, are some of my guilty pleasures — but they’re not.  Well, one of them is, but not the one that I want to mention in this devotional.

My “guilty pleasure” is that I have been a professional wrestling fan for most of my life.  I don’t know where it started, or how it started; but I can remember living in Fort Smith and watching  wrestling on the old black and white TV.  During that same period of time, one of the few memories I have of my Dad’s mother, was watching wrestling with her.  She didn’t just watch, she got involved.  She would scoot up on the edge of the chair and lean closer to the TV — grunt, groan, and (every once in a while) punch trying to help the good guy win.  About the time that I started high school, I lost interest (or it wasn’t on television) and don’t think I started watching again until I was at the Bible College in Alabama in the ’70’s.  It was there that I started watching Georgia Championship Wrestling, which eventually evolved to World Championship Wrestling.  It is embarrassing to say, but I know more about wrestling, and wrestlers, than anyone really should.  Just so you will know, I know (and have known most of my life) that the matches are predetermined — or fake, if that is the term you want to use.  But for years, I have described them as a soap opera for boys and men.  They tell stories about good guys and bad guys, how they swap back and forth, and the plots they can weave with the characters.  The really good wrestlers, are the ones that can tell a story not only with what they do in the ring; but can stir the audience with what they say.

But this morning, I am thinking about another kind of wrestling — wrestling in prayer!  There are a couple of New Testament passages that talk about the wrestling that the Christian is involved in.

Ephesians 6:12 (ESV), For we do not WRESTLE against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places,

Colossians 4:12 (NIV), Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings.  He is always WRESTLING in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

This morning, as I was reading Psalms 140-145 for my Tuesday Morning Bible Class, I read the prayer of one who was wrestling in prayer.  In Psalm 141, David offers the prayer of a man that is tormented by the evil that he sees, and confronts him.  What I want to do, is just point out a few of the verses and the struggle that he has in this prayer.

Psalm 141:1 (NLT), O Lord, I am calling to you.  Please hurry!  Listen when I cry to you for help!  Lord, please pay attention to what I am saying!  Will You please recognize how much I need You, RIGHT NOW!

Psalm 141:2 (NLT), Accept my prayer as an incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.  Please, Lord, see this prayer as a sacrifice from my heart.

Psalm 141:3-4 (NLT), Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.  Don’t let me drift toward evil or take part in acts of wickedness.  Don’t let me share in the delicacies of those who do wrong.  Sounds like the prayer that any of us, who struggle with temptation and sin, could pray regularly.

Psalm 141:5 (NLT), …But I pray constantly against the wicked and their deeds.  We are involved in a “spiritual war”, and the enemy in that war is strong than we are.  We can never be victorious in that war, with the all-powerful God fighting on our side.

Psalm 141:8-9 (NLT), I look to you for help, O Sovereign Lord. …Keep me from the traps they have set for me, from the snares of those who do wrong.  Again, this is a prayer that we all need to pray, as we face a culture that is full of evil, that is trying to pull us away from the relationship with our God.

I want to be a wrestler — not for the WWE, but for God.  I want to be a prayer warrior, that confronts the spiritual forces of evil, not only in my own life — but for others that struggle with sin in their lives.  This is one of those Psalms, that we can pray for ourselves everyday.  Peace.

Psalm 31 — Communicating with God

Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. … (Exodus 33:11, NRSV).  Every time I read that passage, I am overwhelmed by what it says.  The relationship of Moses and Jehovah was one that we can only imagine, and long for.

Do you have a place, and a time, where you meet God?  I am not talking about seeing Him face to face like Moses.  I am not even talking about hearing Him audibly.  I am talking about a time and a place where He speaks to you through His Word, and you talk back through prayer.  A time and a place that when you are through, you feel as if you have really communicated with the Father, and have strength to make it through the day.

Psalm 31:3-5 says, You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.  Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord faithful God.  Moses could not have led the people without the Father’s help (Exodus 33:16).  I am not sure that we can make it through life successfully, without a regular time alone with God.

I would like to tell you that I communicate successfully with God every morning — that I feel as if I have been in His presence, and know that I have heard Him, and that He has heard me.  Some morning, just because of the frailty of the flesh, it just doesn’t happen.  But there are mornings, when it does; and those days are much easier to make it through.  Because He really is our rock and fortress, He will lead us and guide us, and we can find refuge in Him.  Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook, April 4, 2016.  It is being used here as one of our “Psalms for Saturday.”  It is my prayer that it will be a blessing for you today.)

Luke 1 — “Trust Me”

Somewhere around 10 years ago, I had a growth (cyst, tumor, ?) under my arm that was about the size of a baseball.  My primary physician was not too concerned about it, but sent me on to a surgeon to get it checked out. The surgeon was also not too concerned, telling me that he was convinced that it was not a malignant tumor.  As anyone would, I asked what he thought we should do about it, and he replied “If it were my body, I would want it out.”  So, we began to schedule a time for the surgery and make preparations.  When we got through with all of that, and he was about to leave the room, I told him that I had a question that I needed to ask.  He wanted to know what it was, and I asked — “Are you any good?”  He looked at me, smiled, and replied “I’m the best;” and turned and walked out.  At that point, it really didn’t matter to me if he was the best or not; what mattered was that I wanted (needed) to trust him.  For me to be able to trust him, I had to know that he was confident in his ability.

Have you ever stopped and considered how many people, and things, you trust every day?  From the time you get up in the morning, until you go to bed at night; you trust a multitude of people and things.  Just consider, you trust:  that the alarm will go off; that the shower will have hot water; that the food you eat for breakfast will not be carrying some virus/disease; that the people you meet driving down the street will stay in their lanes; that people will stop and go at the intersections like they are supposed to; that the pharmacists will fill the prescription correctly; that the gasoline “pump” is dispensing fuel not water; that the GPS will take you where you need to go; and on, and on, and on.  Do you get the idea?

How many television shows, and/or movies, have you seen where one person looks another and says, “Are you sure this will work?”  Generally, what they are asking is about something that does not seem likely, or maybe even impossible.  Usually we laugh apprehensively, or flinch, because we know what the other person is going to say — “Trust me!”  Most likely, up to that point, they have done nothing to be deserving of that trust.  Trust is usually given because someone, or something, has earned it.  We have tried them, and they have proven to be reliable.

This morning, in my devotional reading, I came across a verse that spoke to me about trust.  The context of the verse is when Gabriel appears to Mary, and tells her that she is going to give birth to the Messiah.  Naturally, she has questions, “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34, NIV).  The angel explains how God is going to do this, and how that her relative Elizabeth, who had been unable to conceive, was in her sixth month of pregnancy.  The last line of what he told her, stood out to me.

“For no word from God will ever fail.”  (Luke 1:37, NIV)

What a powerful promise — God will do what He says He will do!  Gabriel is assuring Mary, that Jehovah God can be trusted!  He could be trusted then, and He can be trusted now.  Begin your day, each day, knowing that.

There are a lot of people that have struggled with this, and some have even lost their faith completely.  They have come to the conclusion that God cannot be trusted, and, usually, the next step to not trusting in God is to believe that He is powerless, or He is not there at all.

I would be the first to admit that I am just an old, country preacher; and I do not have all the answers — I am just a pilgrim struggling through this difficult land — and, I have not had all the pain and turmoil that others have had.  There have been sermons preached and books written, by those far more qualified than me.  It would be absurd for me to say that I have the answer in a short devotional thought, like this one.

But I do want to encourage you to remember four things.

#1. God never said that nothing bad would ever happen to us.

#2. Sometimes we don’t know what is good, because we don’t know what God knows.

#3. God did say that He would always be with us (Hebrews 13:5).

#4. God did say that He cares about us (I Peter 5:7)

Difficult times do come, and God is saying to us “Trust Me.”  We may not see Him working it out the way that we would like; but we can have confidence that He is there, and that He cares.  Because He made a promise to Mary, that applies to us: For no word from God will ever fail.  Peace.