Oh, Save Me From Them All!

Turn to me and have mercy,
For I am alone and in deep distress.
My problems go from bad to worse.
Oh, save me from them all!

Feel my pain and see my trouble.
Forgive all my sins.
See how many enemies I have
and how viciously they hate me!
Protect me! Rescue my life from them!

Do not let me be disgraced, for in you
I take refuge.
May integrity and honesty protect me,
for I put my hope in you.
(Psalm 25:16-21)

Whenever someone in my family is down in the dumps and complaining about their circumstances, we refer to it as having a “pity party.” It’s a gentle way of poking fun at the person and reminding them to not wallow in their misery. Most of the time, that nudge is enough to snap us out of our self-indulgence and make us reconsider just how petty some of our complaints can be.

However, occasionally things come along that are legitimately devastating…the loss of a job, the betrayal of a confidence, a family member struggling with addiction, a negative report from the doctor, the death of a loved one, etc. When this type of situation comes along it can knock the breath out of us, figuratively and literally. I remember a time in my own life where I was so overwhelmed by a situation that it manifested in physiological symptoms. I couldn’t breathe and I felt like the world was spinning out of control.

As I struggled to come to grips with the situation that was before me, a wise person instructed me to read through the Psalms again. Growing up in a Christian home, I had read through the Psalms several times in my life, but it wasn’t until I read them in a time of anguish and desperation that I truly appreciated them. As I read through the book it was as if all of the hurt and pain that I couldn’t articulate was poured out on the pages in front of me. There were times when I would try to pray, and not knowing what to say, I would simply pray the lines that had been written thousands of years before I was ever born.

The Psalmists, and David in particular, provided a road map to lead me out of the despair that I was feeling. In these verses, you can find the totality of human experience, the highs and lows, from jubilation to misery. But the thread that ties them all together is the consistent acknowledgement of the might, justice, grace, mercy and sovereignty of God.

When the sun is shining and things are grand, we can thank God for His blessings on our life. But when we are crushed by the weight of circumstance or reeling from the attack of enemies, we can turn to God as our refuge and strength. He is the source of help and hope that will never fail us. This knowledge is our anchor. It is a fixed point that we can use to orient ourselves and begin to make sense of all that we are going through.

We all face adversity in our lives; it is as certain as death and taxes. While some of those situations can be overcome with grit and determination, others are simply beyond anything that we can handle on our own. When you face these circumstances, I encourage you to do as David did…turn to the Lord. Put your hope in Him, and He WILL save you from them all!

Prayer: Father, You are our refuge and strength, the hope of our salvation. When we are faced with situations that are beyond our ability to handle, let us rest in the knowledge that You are Sovereign and Your love for us is never-ending. With You on our side, we don’t have to worry or be afraid of anything. We thank You for all that You do on our behalf. Amen.

“Awake, Oh Sleepers…Arise!”

(1 Corinthians 15:51-56, NLT) 51 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

55 O death, where is your victory?

    O death, where is your sting?”

56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

From November 2013 through May 2014 was a very difficult time in my family.  We were faced with mortality and grief in various undesirable ways.  In November 2013, my grandmother passed away after suffering from a massive stroke that hit her three years prior to her death.  The following April, my grandfather (who had lived with Alzheimer’s Disease for 7 years) made his grand entrance into Heaven.  Then the very next month, my dad was diagnosed with advanced, rapidly progressing, Alzheimer’s Disease.  To say that we felt devastated doesn’t quite encompass the depth and magnitude of our anguish. 

I could write page upon page about the crippling effects of dementia (as well as other types of neurological diseases) on the victims and their families.  It is a certain, and often slow, death. 

And there it is, the thing we most fear will happen…death.  Our humanity causes us to accept death as final.  In our minds, it is the end.  When a loved one passes on, people tell you that it’s not goodbye…not the end…and you nod and feign your resolve and agreement, but in that moment the only thing that you can truly feel is the emptiness and pain left behind, and the only thing that you believe is that you’ll never see that person again.  We are humans, and to us…death stings. 

To us, death feels like a punishment, because we have to go without someone that we love…missing that person and holding fast to our memories, hoping to never forget anything.  In our grief, we are blinded by emotions and we forget the truth of God’s word about death.  We are hurting, so we don’t understand or remember that because of Christ we have a HOPE that goes beyond mortality. 

13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.  (1 Thessalonians 4: 13-14)

Though we can’t accept it in the hours of distress and pain, the truth remains that death is only temporary.  It isn’t the end for those who are in Christ.  Essentially, our mortal lives are but a progression toward our own individual appointed times.  So we have to get out of our heads when it comes to the dread and anguish associated with death.  Death has no sting or victory…not because we don’t have to experience it and deal with it, but because we have a promise that far outshines anything this life, this temporary existence that is riddled with heartache and difficulties, has to offer us.  This life is not purposed to benefit us.  It’s not about you or me.  Every moment spent breathing air is a gift…not because this life will be the pinnacle of your existence, because it just isn’t.  It’s but a vapor that lasts mere moments in the span of eternity.  It is a gift because we have been created and chosen to be a part of something bigger than ourselves…to live outside of our own needs and serve a purpose in God’s plan for humanity.  So when we have lived that out, when we have given our lives to Christ and done our best to serve God’s plan, we don’t have to fear what comes next.  We naturally miss our loved ones, but what purpose does it serve to give ourselves over to the emotions of grief, sadness, and distress? Having victory over death isn’t cheating death, because we don’t have that power.  The victory is in knowing that even when the wages of sin is death, we don’t have to pay that price because Christ did when He went to the cross.  His sacrifice gives us the victory that comes from not fearing our exit from this life. 

Watching someone that you love suffer through a disease is not easy.  I see my dad, who is reduced to the mindset of a young child…unable to care for himself…no longer able to think rationally and independently, and I hurt.  My humanity aches at the thought that soon we will no longer have him with us here at part of our lives.  Yet there is this other part of me, driven by the truth of God’s word…by His promises, that longs for the day when my dad is free from his humanity and transformed supernaturally into his heavenly body that will never die.  He’s earned that.

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, sometimes our fears are born out of the unknown.  We don’t know what to expect out of death, other than grief, so we are fearful of it.  Help us to remember that mortality is but a present trouble.  Help us to fix our eyes on the unseen…the glory of Heaven.  When we are Heavenly-minded, we are able to see beyond the here and now.  When we fix our eyes on You and Your ways, we are able to move beyond our emotions and accept our human experience for what it is…temporary.  Thank you for this gift…for choosing us to live for this time.  Amen.

Faith. Hope. Action.

 

This week, I went to the store and bought something that I would typically never buy. I actually bought it to illustrate a point for my Sunday sermon and what I’m about to share with you now.

As I hold it in my hand I realize it could possibly change my life.

  • It could provide financial resources.
    • It could buy my meal today.
    • It could make my mortgage payment.
    • It could pay off all my debt.
  • It could allow me to experience much needed rest.
  • It could provide momentary happiness.

However, this same piece of paper could be worthless and serve no purpose except to fill my garbage can. What is it? It’s a lottery ticket. There are three elements required to determine its value.

  • Faith = Evidence
    • I must believe in the lottery system (I don’t)
    • I’ve witnessed others who have won the lottery (I have)
    • The numbers participating speaks to its legitimacy (They do)
  • Hope = Expectation
    • It could alleviate pressure
    • It could provide financial benefits
    • It could make me popular
  • Action = Execution
    • I’ll have to buy one
    • I’ll have to scratch it off
    • I’ll have to verify its authenticity

If this lottery ticket produces the maximum benefit, it can have a positive affect on me physically and emotionally. In other words, it could provide a positive benefit to 2 of my 3 compartments. However, at its best payout, it cannot help me spiritually.

All humans are body (physical), soul (emotions), and spirit (God in me). Since the lottery ticket has no power to help me spiritually, there must be something else.

There is. His name is Jesus. And, He has power to help me in ways far superior to a lottery ticket, or anything else for that matter. But, the same elements that determine the value of the lottery ticket also determine the value of Jesus.

  • Faith = Evidence
    • (1 Corinthians 15:1-20 ESV) “1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
  • Hope = Expectation
    • (1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV) “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
  • Action = Execution
    • (Romans 10:5-13 ESV) “5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

And that is why the call the gospel the good news!

Eat Honey!

(Proverbs 24:13-14 ESV) My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.


I love sweet stuff. I get it from my dad. He taught me to love jelly doughnuts. Coconut cake. Lemon poundcake. Chocolate chip cookies. Pie. Cobbler. Oh my goodness… I feel justified (and just a little bit spiritual) because I like the taste of honey. Scripture says its drippings are good to the taste. So, that settles it.

WISDOM: The soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.

The writer of the Proverbs compares the benefits of wisdom to the taste of honey. Wisdom doesn’t just drop out of the sky though. It must be sought. It materializes in the daily experiences of life, and when it is found it produces great blessings which have a positive impact upon the soul.

It is easy to observe the condition of the world and get a little worried about the future. I recently read a news article that reports the majority of US citizens believe the days of the “American Dream” are gone. Financial disaster. Incurable diseases. Terrorism. It all adds up to what could become a hopeless mindset. But, for the child of God, the appropriate implementation of godly wisdom will result in a hopeful anticipation of the future. That’s how we are able to expect the best at all times.

(Psalm 42:11 ESV) Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Godly wisdom is relevant to everyday living, in every nation of the world, to every generation. It is one of the sweetest blessings given by a loving Heavenly Father to His precious children. Find it! There will be a future. God said it. So, that settles it!


PRAYER: Father, I’m expecting the best in every situation because of the hope You give. I pray for applicable knowledge and appropriate wisdom for every circumstance I face. My hope is in you! There will be a future! Amen.

Full Assurance of Hope

(Hebrews 6:11-12 ESV) And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

February 15 will always be a bittersweet day for me because it is the day that my mother passed away. She had suffered with  Alzheimer’s in the latter years of her life. Had it not been for the debilitating effects of the sickness, she was otherwise as healthy and strong as could be. In fact, on several occasions her physicians pronounced her perfectly healthy and declared, “She’ll live forever. She just won’t know it.”

I remember feeling so sorry for her at times. I was convinced that she had to be suffering terribly. But, then she would do something funny and just break out in this big smile that ended in a full on laugh. On warm days, we would sit together on the deck and listen to the Southern Gospel station on Pandora. Though Alzheimer’s had taken her ability to speak, she would mouth the words to songs that she remembered. It was delightful to listen to her “grunt” the songs, clap her hands, and stomp her big ‘ol Pentecostal feet.

One day while interacting with mom, it dawned on me that she was very much aware that Heaven was near. Though her body was limited by earthly limitations, her spirit was full of hope. She was not doubtful of the outcome. She knew she was nearing death, but her faith remained fully assured of hope until the end. I don’t remember a time that I thought she was emotionally frustrated with her situation. She maintained a beautiful spirit until the end.

In this passage of Scripture, the writer of Hebrews encourages the Believers to have that kind of hope. He told them to observe the example of those who had already inherited the promises through faith and patience. In fact, he told them to imitate them. No doubt, we will all face circumstances that could throw us off course and cause us to become sluggish. But, if we earnestly contend for our faith, we too, shall inherit eternal life.

Thanks mom, for reminding me of that.

PRAYER: Father, I intend to make it! I’ve come too far to turn back now. With your help, I will not allow the circumstances of life to cause my faith to become sluggish. But like so many others who have completed their earthly journey, I intend to have the full assurance of faith until the end. Amen.

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