He knows

When everything around us seems to be going wrong, sometimes it can be difficult to believe in a good God. Where is He when children are starving? Where is He in the violence? Where is He in the political turmoil?

He’s right where He’s always been. Waiting.

Many people are inclined to believe that a God that would let the world destroy itself is either one that doesn’t care about humanity or one that doesn’t exist at all. But that’s not how this faith thing works. You see, God first loved His creation so much that He let them choose whether or not they would love Him back. He still lets us make that choice.

Picture a person you barely know. Maybe someone you’ve heard something about. Now imagine finding yourself in trouble. You know that person has the ability to help you, but you don’t know them. They don’t know you. Would you expect that person to come to your rescue? When that person doesn’t come to your aid, would you be angry with them? Of course not! So why would anyone make the same demands of God?

God is more than able to help anyone in any situation. He knows your circumstances better than you do, but He is not going to step in uninvited.

The Lord is good. When trouble comes, he is a strong refuge. And he knows everyone who trust in him.

Nahum 1:7 (NLT)

A person who takes refuge is a person who flees a distressing situation and runs toward a place of safety. In order for anyone to take refuge in God, we must go to Him.

God knows your struggles. He knows every difficult situation you have to face. He also knows your joys and your triumphs. He knows you. So, if you ever wonder why you can’t find God in your situation, perhaps it’s time to bring your situation to Him.

Daily Bible reading: Nahum 1-3, Revelation 13

Lay ’em down

Forbes magazine recently called the Needtobreathe the most popular band you’ve never heard of. (If you’ve never heard of them, find their music and listen to all of it.) Today’s reading reminded me of a song from their album The Outsiders, Lay’ Em Down. The bridge goes like this:

We’re all tied to the same old failings
Finding shelter in things we know
We’re all dirty like corrupted small towns
We’ll bring our troubles
Bring our troubles
And lay ’em down

Now you may say, that’s not me, I’m not dirty or corrupted, but in some way or another, we all are. We all fail. We all have troubles. But it doesn’t have to end there.

I took my troubles to the Lord;
I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer.

Psalm 120:1 (NLT)

From hangnails to hangovers to hangups, God wants us to lay all of our troubles at His feet. He’s the God of the great, big stuff, but He’s also the God of the tiny, little things, too. Look at it this way, if He cared enough to make fleas and amoebas, he really does care about the tiny little things. He cared that I had a splinter in my finger that was making work uncomfortable and he cares that you feel alone, without anyone to lean on.

In trouble—every trouble, big or small—we should be looking to God.

I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made the heavens and the earth!

Psalm 121:1-2 (NLT)

Whether you are a saint or a sinner, lost or found, rich or poor, bring your troubles. Come lay ’em down. God wants them so you don’t have to bear them.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 120-123, 1 Corinthians 6

A word of encouragement

Who doesn’t need or want a little encouragement every once in a while (or all the time)? We feel good when someone gives us a pat on the back, tells us we’re doing a good job, or sends a text just to say they’re thinking about us. But what about those days when those things don’t happen? What about the days when we could really use that encouraging word and it doesn’t come? What then?

It sure would be nice if our frame of mind wasn’t so dependant on outside reassurance.

I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are discouraged take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.

Psalm 34:1-3 (NLT)

It’s interesting that, in all these lines about praising God, David inserts something about the discouraged. He saw a relationship between praising God and a happy heart.

What if, when we’re feeling a little down and tend to focus more inwardly, we turned it around? What if we took the focus completely off of ourselves? Think about this, when you’re worshipping God, praising Him, speaking about His greatness, what’s your mental state like? Do you feel burdened, in need of a pick-me-up? No. It’s pretty difficult to stay down when you’re lifting God up.

When we turn our focus on to God and His greatness, first of all, our troubles become very small. Second, we allow our spirits to commune with His Spirit—our helper and comforter. Our affirmation doesn’t need to come from outside sources—it shouldn’t come from outside sources. We have the ability to lift ourselves out of the gloom and into the glorious light of God.

How can we be anything but encouraged when we shift our focus from our inward troubles and outwardly praise the Lord, speak His praises, boast in Him, tell of His greatness, and exalt His name?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 34-35, Acts 22

Hope

Yesterday we talked about trials and the fact that, as Christians, we can expect to have to endure them as David did. All the time. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Check out the first few verses in today’s reading in Romans:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access, by faith into this grace in which we stand , and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5 (ESV)

Suffering produces hope. Sounds counter intuitive if you ask me. But that’s skipping out the middle part. Suffering to endurance to character to hope. It makes sense. Look at David. His trials caused him to lean more heavily on God. Each time he came against a wall, he laid his worries, his complaints, his pain at God’s feet. Each time he made it through, it became easier to make it through the next storm. He endured. And, because he weathered the storms upright, he became a man of greater faith and greater character. When he came out the other side, he had more hope in the One who brought him through.

It becomes easy to see how people can become discouraged and downhearted. If you have no faith how can you ever have any hope that things can be different? How can you ever grow in endurance and character if you’re always parked in the middle of a storm without anyone near who can stand and command the wind to cease?

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 73-74; Romans 5

Delight

The English language really is a wonder. We have so many words that mean so many things. The language is constantly evolving and new words are added all the time. However, some words have also lost meaning. We tend to replace some words with others and make words that don’t really mean the same thing interchangeable.

When you think of delight, is it temporary or permanent? Is it affected by circumstance or state of mind? Delight. Joy. Happy. Content. We often use these words in place of each other. But what does delight really mean?

DELIGHT is a more permanent pleasure than joy, and not dependent on sudden excitement.

A high degree of pleasure, or satisfaction of mind; joy.

With that in mind, take a look at some of the verses in Psalm 37.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.

Psalm 37:11 (ESV)

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
When he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.

Psalm 37:23-24 (ESV)

None of these references have anything to do with being happy. No outside force is implied when David tells us to delight in the Lord, in abundant peace or God’s ways. Even in the hard times, as David explains, if we delight, if we find our joy in God and His will, His ways, we will find the blessing of peace.

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

Psalm 37:39-40 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 36-37; Acts 23:1-11