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Encouragement Archives

December 14, 2003

Servants at Opportune Moments

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. Genesis 14:18-20

Three verses. The account of Abram's meeting with Melchizedek king of Salem is told in only three verses. Yet this man, Melchizedek, is one of the few men - if not the only man - to whom Jesus is compared. The writer of Hebrews call Jesus a high priest in the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was no ordinary man. He was a king, and he was a priest. But even more importantly, he was used by God to bless Abram, the man selected to be father to God's chosen people.

When I read this story of Abram's meeting with Melchizedek, my first question is: What is so significant about this meeting? Abram was returning from a battle to save the life of his nephew Lot. He brought home the people and belongings taken from Sodom. Bera, king of Sodom, had come out to meet Abram when Melchizedek brought out bread and wine. What is so significant?

Consider the circumstances. The whole scene is frocked with turmoil. These kings had been subject to that king, so these kings rebelled. Then that king got his friends together to take all the people and possessions away from these kings. What a mess!

All Abram wanted was his nephew Lot. He had been up all night chasing Kedorlaomer, and I expect that Abram was exhausted, physically and emotionally. It seems that Melchizedek's entrance came at just the right moment to encourage Abram and remind him to not get caught up in the games kings play. Thankfully, Abram seemed to get the message. He gave ten percent of everything to Melchizedek and kept nothing for himself.

Lord, do I take the time to recognize Your servants who come at opportune moments - to remind me not to get caught up in the games people play? Thank You for pushing through the turmoil to bless me. Help me to respond as Abram did - with return blessing and praise.

Father, may You be blessed today!

December 21, 2003

Choices that Will Bring Blessing

Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his daughters lived in a cave. Genesis 19:30

Lot lost everything.

God had spared his life. His daughters were alive, but his wife was gone. All the riches of his youth were destroyed when the Lord rained down burning sulfur on the plain, where Lot had chosen to settle. His pursuit of more and his tolerance of the wicked left him alone, penniless, and afraid. What might have happened if Lot had chosen differently or shared the Lord with the people of Sodom?

The angels told him to flee to the mountains. He begged them to let him run to a very small town for safety. He ran to Zoar. Eventually, grew so afraid that he left the town to live in a mountain cave.

What a way to live after a life of luxury! Then to have your daughters get you drunk and take advantage of you in order to bear children – Lot’s life is a sad story.

How did it go so wrong?

Lord, the choices we make have such impact. If Lot had chosen differently, he may not have lost so much. Help me to make the right choices – choices that will bring blessing in my old age. Help me to seek You, Jesus, and to share You with those I meet.

December 30, 2003

A Woman of Action

Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”

“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself. Genesis 24:64-65

Isaac needed a wife, and God had a plan. As the story unfolds, we meet her. She is Rebekah.

Rebekah was a woman of action. Everyone around her seemed to doubt and delay. But she never hesitated to step into God’s will. On, there is so much I can learn from her.

The servant Abraham sent to find a wife for his son Isaac was full of doubt from the very beginning. He questioned Abraham saying, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Even after praying to the God of his master Abraham and seeing his prayer immediately answered, he hesitated. Rebekah did exactly what he had asked; she offered to draw water for his camels. Yet, the servant stood and watched to see if she would draw all the water she had promised. When Rebekah told him there was room in her father’s house for him to stay, the servant stood at the spring and waited. Rebekah’s brother Laban eventually found him and declared, “Why are you standing out here?”

Upon hearing the servant’s story, Rebekah’s brother and father responded with a quick reply: “Take her and go.” But the next morning when it was time to leave, Laban and his mother hesitated saying, “Let the girl remain with us ten days or so.” God’s will stared them in the face, and they delayed.

Rebekah didn’t delay, however. She left that very day with the servant on the long journey to Canaan. And when she saw Isaac from a distance, she again acted quickly.

She was young. Isaac was almost 40 years old. Yet she didn’t hesitate. Immediately, she covered herself with her veil – as a bride would for her bridegroom. Right away, Isaac took her as his wife.

Oh, to be so enthusiastic about God’s will! Lord, I wish I were so quick to respond. Rebekah was an amazing young woman. Not once did she delay. I so often analyze the consequence. My doubt becomes obvious.

Help me, Spirit, to understand and respond. Give me wisdom. Give me courage. May You be pleased with my faith.

Give me faith, Lord.

January 2, 2004

A Father's Power

Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?” Genesis 27:36b

Oh, what power we have as fathers to instill hope and a future for each of our children. The power of a blessing is something that is not well understood in our time. Fathers continually neglect their responsibility to bless their children, and entire generations wander about – unsure of their place in this world.

We all know the story of how Jacob stole the blessing from Esau. Rebekah schemed so her favorite, Jacob, would be blessed. There is deception throughout the story. But I believe at the heart of the matter, the primary responsibility for the pain that was caused lies with Isaac. It was his favoritism of Esau that made the situation what it was.

Isaac favored Esau, and his blessing reflected it. EVERYTHING was given with his blessing. Isaac left nothing for his other son, Jacob. When Esau discovered what had happened, he cried out, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”

Now, wouldn’t Jacob have been asking the same thing? The tradition was to instill a blessing on the firstborn. But Isaac didn’t get it: he had the power to bless both his sons! He chose one over the other, and it backfired on him.

Why is it that men still don’t get it? When I gained the courage to look my father in the face and say, “I needed more from you,” all he could say was, “I did the best I knew how to do.” I understand that. I accept that. My father still cries over the blessing never given by my grandfather. But he still has the power! He just doesn’t get it. He didn’t have much to start with, and he thinks he as given it all away. But God gives us so much more! All we must do is ask for it.

Father, You know how I have longed for my father’s blessing. How is it that as a grown man I could get so excited by his arm merely squeezing my side two weeks after I asked for more from him? I wouldn’t call it an embrace, but I recognize it as my father’s attempt to bless me.

Help me, Lord, to pour blessing on both my children. I may not have received enough from my father to go around, but You have more than I could ever ask for! Bless my children, Lord Jesus. Lay Your hands on them. Use them for the glory of Your Father in Heaven!

January 18, 2004

Looking Beyond the Misery

When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house, "Why are your faces so sad today?" Genesis 40:6-7

Joseph's life seemed pretty rotten. He was sold into slavery, and now he was imprisoned in the dungeon of a house he once managed. But despite his circumstance, Joseph was a compassionate man who could look beyond himself to the concern of others.

The king's cupbearer and baker were thrown in the same prison with Joseph, and Joseph was assigned to watch over them. One day Joseph noticed a difference in their countenance. They were unusually sad. Both men were distraught over dreams they had the night before. Joseph trusted the Lord, and he interpreted the dreams.

How amazing that Joseph even cared enough to ask! What would have happened if Joseph had been so focused on his own miserable circumstance that he didn't notice the sadness of these two men? The dreams would not have been interpreted. Eventually, the men would be gone from prison. The baker would be dead, and the cupbearer wouldn't have a story to tell when the time was right.

Lord, help me to always be aware of the needs of others despite my circumstance. Too often I am only focused on me and how I may feel, when there are others in need of encouragement. Forgive me for living a selfish life for so long. Give me the patience I need to bear the prisons into which I have fallen in my life. The day will come when I will be completely free. Until then, let me make a difference for those in my path along the way.

February 3, 2004

Close and Personal

Then the Lord said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering." Exodus 3:7

God was concerned about the Israelites. He saw their suffering, but it was not from a distance. It was up close and personal. He was intimately aware of the pain they experienced, and He could stand it no more.

Why do I sometimes fall into the modern belief that like Bette Midler's song God is simply watching everything from a distance? He is not that kind of God! He stands next to me at every moment. He was there when, as a child, I felt all alone. He is there when, as an adult, I feel all alone. Every twinge of physical pain, He feels with me. Every twinge of emotional pain, He suffers as well. He is THAT close!

Lord, I need Your arms about me. You are the God of all the universe, yet You choose to love me intimately. The stress of each day would destroy me if You were not here. I need to be close and personal with You today.

February 12, 2004

Impending Danger

Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the Lord hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. Exodus 9:20

Not everyone in Pharaoh's palace had a hardened heart. Some of Pharaoh's officials began to believe each time Moses shared what the Lord had said. When God warned Pharaoh about an impending hailstorm - the greatest to ever strike Egypt, some ignored the warning. Others heard it and took immediate action.

Lord, sometimes when I hear the warnings of impending danger, I immediately respond. Other times, I ignore the warning - only to be hurt in the end. Help me to fear You. Help me to run when I must and to stand when You determine it.

Thank You for Your Spirit. Without Him, I would be destroyed by the enemy.

February 23, 2004

And Also Bless Me

"Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me." Exodus 12:32

No matter how hardened a man's heart may be, his deepest desire is to receive blessing. Pharaoh fought the Lord. Through each and every plague, he grew defiant. He continued his refusal to allow God's people to leave Egypt to worship. When warned of the final plague that all the firstborn of Egypt were to die, Pharaoh had lost all sense. His people were suffering, and he refused to avert their pain. Stubbornly, he stared down the God of the universe. The result was death. Not a single household in Egypt was left untouched.

In the pain of this plague, Pharaoh broke. He asked Moses and Aaron to take the people and leave. In the middle of his command, there is a small request that could be easily overlooked. Pharaoh said, "And also bless me." Despite the anger, despite the pain, Pharaoh - like every one of us - longed for blessing.

Lord, every man stubbornly fights You at some time. For years, I have struggled with a battle for my very soul. The enemy has kept me enslaved to the trappings of my flesh. All along, like Moses, I have made a plea for freedom. Yet, like Pharaoh, I have refused to grant it. Living both sides of the story, I have been the captive and the captor. My human nature is a powerful foe.

Yet through it all, I have longed for Your blessing.

Isn't it amazing how a man steeped in sin still cries out to be blessed?

Father, Your mercy is great. Through all my stubborn failures, You hear me. You have heard my cries: "And also bless me!" Thank You for loving me still. Thank You for pouring out the blessing of Your Spirit. Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son - the Lamb of God.

March 1, 2004

In The Trenches

So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. Exodus 17:13

Whenever I've read the story of the Israelites' battle with the Amalekites at which Aaron and Hur lifted up Moses' arms, I have seen it as a testament to friendship. Two man gathered around another to support him. Moses' arms grew tired from holding up the staff of God, so he sat on a stone while Aaron and Hur raised his hands.

But the story isn't about Moses.

The story isn't about Aaron and Hur supporting Moses.

The story is about these three men coming together to support Joshua.

Joshua is the key character in this story. Yes, Aaron and Hur helped Moses, but the three of them were determined to help Joshua. How do we miss that part of the story? How do we not see that their whole job was to help Joshua succeed in battle - not so simply succeed themselves?

God even told Moses to write the story down and to ensure that Joshua hears it. Joshua is the one whose success was celebrated - not Moses. Moses was merely the conduit for God's power.

Lord, sometimes I miss the point. Sometimes I feel like I should be like Aaron or Hur standing beside and supporting my friends when they need me. But all along, I have forgotten the initial purpose. It isn't only to support the one raising his hands; it is to support the one in battle.

Is there one that I have neglected in prayer? How many friends do I have in the trenches of battle who cry out to be remembered? Or am I like Joshua - the one in battle hoping to be remembered?

Remember me, Lord. Don't let my victories be forgotten. Continue to send Your strength through my friends, so we can someday celebrate the victory before Your throne.

March 12, 2004

On The Inside

"Overlay the frames with gold and make gold rings to hold the crossbars. Also overlay the crossbars with gold." Exodus 26:29

God often uses His most precious material on the inside of things, where few can see them.

When God gave Moses the design for the tent that would be the tabernacle, He provided painstaking detail about how it was to be made. What strikes me the most is not the finely ornamented curtains that drape around the sides, but the frame that held it together. How many tents have you seen that have a frame overlaid with gold? The frame is hidden away. It supports the tent on the inside of the structure. No one would see it, except maybe the priests. Yet, the entire frame was to made of acacia wood and covered in gold.

Isn't that like God? He does His finest work on the inside.

Lord, You have used Your most precious possession to build the framework of my life. You used the blood of Your Son. My heart has been overlaid with the redemption that comes from the blood of Jesus Christ.

Do I take the time to recognize that? Did the Levites marvel every time they fastened together the golden framework of the tabernacle? Did they take it for granted?

Gold! He used gold on the inside where few could see!

Father, thank You for sparing no expense on the frame. Help me to live a life that is worthy of Your sacrifice. Help me to shine like gold on the inside, so Your Son might be glorified on the outside.

March 22, 2004

The Source of Knowledge

"...and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts - to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship." Exodus 31:3-5

Have you ever wondered how men figured out certain things? How did the first potter learn that clay can be molded and fired to make something that can last for generations? How did the first weaver figure out how to turn thread into cloth? Today, men study from other men, but there were not always schools. Men lived off the land, and what they learned was with their own two hands.

God answered the question about how men gained their knowledge when He appointed Bezalel and Oholiab to oversee the craftsmanship for building the Tent of Meeting and all its contents. These men were experts. They could tell you how the ark of the covenant was built; they could even point out those little imperfections that every artist sees but no others can. But they didn't do all this on their own. Bezalel was filled with the Spirit of God. The skill that he and Oholiab shared came directly from the mind of God.

Since the very beginning of time, man has been learning new things, but the knowledge we gain comes from God. Sometimes, we forget that, and we think more highly of ourselves that we should.

Lord, I acknowledge that every skill I have comes from You. It is tempting to hold the praises I receive when others compliment my talents. Help me to always speak the truth: it is Your handiwork and inspiration - not my own.

March 29, 2004

Willingness

All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought the Lord freewill offerings for all the work the Lord through Moses had commanded them to do. Exodus 35:29

The tabernacle was to be an intricate work of art. Every article was designed by the very mind of God. The most skilled craftsmen in Israel were to take part, yet everyone in the community had the chance to participate.

It wasn't skill that God wanted; it was willingness. All who were willing gave freewill offerings. These individuals were just as much a part of building the tabernacle as were the skilled workers in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship.

Lord, sometimes I feel like I have nothing to contribute to Your work. My skills are less than perfect; my perfectionism holds me back. Yet perfect skill is not what You require. Willingness is all You ask.

Help me to be willing. Help me to be a part of Your work today.

April 8, 2004

Enjoying Sacrifice

If someone's offering is a fellowship offering, and he offers an animal from the herd, whether male or female, he is to present before the Lord and animal without defect. Leviticus 3:1

Some offerings are meant to be shared and enjoyed together. The fellowship offering was this type of offering. Although the fatty portions of an animal were to be burned on the altar, the meat was shared and enjoyed with the priests.

Lord, sometimes I struggle with believing that You want us to enjoy giving and sacrifice. The enemy would have me believe that to give of myself is a miserable thing; this makes sin more attractive. Giving of ourselves doesn't mean we will receive nothing. Quite the contrary! We gain so much.

Help me to give and receive today. Be real to me. I'm lonely for Your presence.

April 15, 2004

No Turning Back

"You must stay at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting day and night for seven days and do what the Lord requires, so you will not die; for that is what I have been commanded." Leviticus 8:35

It was happening. The ordination process had begun, and there was no turning back. The priests were to be consecrated, or the worst could happen; they would die. For Aaron and his sons, they had two choices: give it all, or lose it all.

There are few things in life that require such commitment. Two come to mind - having a baby and going to war. Although I have never gone to war, I can remember my military days of preparing for it. Even as a personnel officer, death can be a reality. Enemy lines can quickly shift, and friendly fire can bring disaster.

I also remember the commitment it took to have children - not so much mine, but that of my wife. Despite the amount of warning, there is a point when the reality of childbirth starts to overtake a first-time parent. The baby that has been ever-present yet unseen can no longer stay hidden. There is no turning back... excitement and terror are strange bedfellows.

My guess is that Aaron and his sons experienced similar excitement and terror. The God of the universe had chosen them for His service. There was no turning back.

Lord, help me sieze the commitment that is required to follow You. To be holy requires two choices: give it all, or lose it all. I confess that I haven't been as committed as I should be. The boundaries have been taken lightly; the invisible enemy line has shifted, and without Your intervention, the friendly fire will no longer be friendly. Give me the courage today to move forward.

There is no turning back.

May 13, 2004

Specifics

Assign to each man the specific things he is to carry. Numbers 4:32b

We serve a God of specifics. Many would like to believe that He is merely "out there" somewhere, never concerning Himself with what is happening around us. I believe He is involved. I believe He has something in mind for each of us. I believe the greatest satisfaction in life comes from serving God in the simple tasks to which He has called us - even if it is like the Merarites, who were assigned to carry the tent pegs from the tabernacle.

Lord, You assigned specific things to the Levites. I believe there are many things that You have assigned to me. Help me to not get distracted by the other tasks that continually come my way. I long to be happy in this life. Help me to find joy - even in the mundane.

June 9, 2004

To Catch His Eye

The Lord said to Moses, "Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned away my anger from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them." Numbers 25:10-11

How much difference can one man make? Too often, the number opposing what is right can be so great; those who would choose correctly are overwhelmed.

Many of the Israelite men were opposing what they knew to be right. The Midianite women were too desirable to resist. What would it hurt to worship their gods as long as they got what they wanted? In their eyes, it wasn't hurting anybody... or so they thought.

God's zeal burned against the people. As had happened before, the nation was struck with a plague and many began to die. Before He stopped, twenty-four thousand Israelites were dead. If not for the action of one man, all the people might have been killed on that day.

The one man who made a difference was Phinehas, the grandson of the Aaron the priest. The zeal Phinehas displayed that day was enough to catch the eye of the Living God. It was enough to save an entire nation.

Lord, I want to have the zeal of Phinehas. He had such passion for righteousness! His action saved so many. I want to make that kind of difference in the world. But first, it needs to start at home. It needs to start in me.

Father, help me to seek first Your kingdom and all its righteousness. Make me a man who will do whatever it takes to face the enemy and arise the victor. Make me a man with zeal for You. Let me catch Your eye.

June 16, 2004

Not One Was Missing

Then the officers who were over the units of the army - the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds - went to Moses and said to him, "Your servants have counted the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing." Numbers 31:48-49

Twelve thousand men went to war with Midian. Twelve thousand men came home. Can you imagine what it would be like to come out of battle and realize that not one soldier had been killed? This was truly an amazing experience for the Israelites, and the commanders knew it. Upon realizing this had happened, they took all the gold they had acquired as plunder - 420 pounds of it - and gave it to the Lord.

Lord, do I recognize the miracles around me? The past few days have been filled with frustration over some broken promises at work, but I think the biggest challenges have been overcome. Thank You, Lord, for meeting me in the midst of the turmoil. Help me to gain control over the overwhelming tasks. In Your strength, I can also be strong.

I love You, Lord.

July 20, 2004

Reinforcements

Then the officers shall add, "Is any man afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too." Deuteronomy 20:8

Attitude make a huge difference when facing the challenges of life. And the attitude of one can make a difference for the entire group. One disheartened person can bring down the whole. It is better to send one away that for all to be destroyed.

But Lord, what if going home isn't an option? How can the whole group be encouraged to stay in the battle? We are in a spiritual battle that never seems to end. Leaving doesn't seem possible. Satan and his henchmen appear to be at every turn. To retreat could bring disaster. What are we to do?

Pray for reinforcements.

Lord, send in Your warriors to fight the battle. Renew my heart, so I might follow You with my whole mind and body.

August 13, 2004

Faith in the Impossible

Then he told them, "How draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. John 2:8-9a

How would it feel if you were asked to do something that seemed impossible?

Jesus told the servant at the wedding in Cana to draw from a jar that he had just filled with water and take it to the master of the banquet. If I were that servant, I would have been more than a little nervous. He must have been thinking, "This is water! The master of the banquet is going to be rather upset, and who do you think will catch the brunt of it? Certainly not this man from Nazareth!"

But we know what happened. The water had miraculously turned into wine. What a relief it must have been. What faith it took to say to the master of the banquet, "Sir, take a drink of this."

Lord, I feel like every day is filled with impossible things. You ask me to live a life that glorifies You. But with my human nature, it is a miracle that I don't ruin Your reputation on a daily basis. The truth of the matter is: turning from sin in our own strength is impossible. The only hope we have is the power - the miracle - of the Holy Spirit.

Help me to have faith, Lord - faith to walk in the truth that every day is a miracle in small, subtle ways. Help me to make the right choices and to say to those who thirst for You, "Take a drink. You will never thirst again!"

August 23, 2004

In the Light of Day

Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light." John 11:9-10

Jesus made many statements that provide great meaning and insight to life. However, there are times when His response just doesn't seem to answer the question that was asked.

In this story, Jesus had received word that his friend Lazarus was sick. Rather than leaving for Bethany right away, Jesus stayed where he was for two more days. When the time came for Him to leave for Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead, for he had already died, His disciples questioned His judgment. They were worried about going to Judea because the Jews had recently tried to kill Him. Their question was, "Are you sure you want to go back there?" Jesus answered them by talking about day and night - light and darkness.

Where did this come from? What does walking in the light of the day have to do with going back to Judea?

I think Jesus was giving His disciples words that would soon be encouraging... if they had only heard it. Yes, the Jews wanted to take His life. Jesus knew this. Yet He refused to lurk about in the darkness. Every step He took was taken in the light of His Father's will. Although Jesus understood this, His disciples had not yet learned it. A day was coming very soon when His disciples would choose to hide in the darkness of the night. I believe what Jesus wanted to tell them was, "I know what I am doing. Every moment of my life is spent following the One who sent me. Don't be afraid when the worst appears to happen. Look to the One who gives light, for I am the light."

Lord, there are times that I just don't comprehend Your will. It seems that the worst could happen - that I could lose everything I have if the enemy has his way. But You always know what You are doing. Every step taken in faith brings me closer to Your will. Even if that will is death on a cross, Your plan is to prosper us.

Give me eyes to see and ears to hear. Help me to face Your will - in the light of day.

September 15, 2004

Making the Pieces Fit

The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God. 1 Corinthians 8:2-3

The longer I live, the more I am convinced that I know absolutely nothing about anything. Every day I seem to be searching for the truth - that one piece of knowledge that makes all of life make sense. Maybe if I could find that one missing piece, all the problems of life would disappear, all the struggles in life would be overcome.

But there is nothing we can discover, no mere piece of knowledge that will solve every problem or overcome every struggle. Nothing we could learn or comprehend will fix our brokenness. Yet most of us spend our entire lives looking for that one idea that will make it all fit.

The only truth than makes it fit isn't a thought or an action. It is a person. His name is Jesus Christ. Loving Him opens the door to a relationship with the One True God, the Creator of everything seen and unseen, and He knows how it all works. There is no problem He cannot solve - no struggle He cannot overcome. To know Him and be known by Him is all we really need.

Lord, I keep trying to figure out how to fix everything that is broken in my life. Forgive my arrogance, for I live as if I can do it without You. Intervene in my life, Lord. Make all the pieces fit. I seem to waste so much emotional energy trying to solve every problem and overcome every struggle in my own strength. Make Yourself known, Lord, so today You might be glorified - so all the pieces would finally fit.

I am in Your hands.

October 10, 2004

Saved through His Life!

For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:10

I wonder if the Lord gets tired of my constant whining. Most days I am so consumed with being righteous that when I miss the mark, I tend to sit and pout. It is as if I am saying, "I just can't do it! I will never get this right. The temptations are too big. Maybe I should just quit!"

Well, yes. I can't do it. I will never get it right, and the temptations are too big. But quitting is not an option, because in Christ I can do it. I can get it right, and the temptations aren't too big. Rather than pouting, I should change my thinking. When I fail, which is more often that I would like to admit, my words should be, "How did I forget? Jesus died for me; I am saved. Jesus lives with me; I am still righteous."

Simply because we fail, the truth isn't changed. We are made righteous by Christ's blood, and this righteousness is not negated by our actions. I am not saying sin should be taken lightly. But we must understand this: there is nothing we can do that will make Him leave us. Once He saves us, we are saved indeed. With this understanding, we can walk in His life. His death has already done its work. We no longer need to be made clean because we already are!

Lord, forgive my forgetfulness. I am righteous - not by my actions, but by the blood of Your Son. Help me to walk as a righteous man does. How much more am I saved by Your life!

Live in me today.

December 20, 2004

Thanks!

Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me. Psalm 50:14-15

Have you ever struggled to figure out what to give someone? We all have. A time for gift-giving often brings out the question, "What do you want?"

God has told us what He wants from us, but are we really willing to give it? He can always be honored by this gift, but do we give it to Him as much as we should?

This gift is thanks.

Daily, He delivers us. Too often, we take Him for granted. Too many days go by without praise going where it is due.

Father, thank You. Thank You for loving me so much. Help me to show my gratitude in what I do and in what I say. May my words and actions bring honor to Your Name.

March 2, 2005

Life is beautiful!

I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave. Psalm 86:12-13

I will never forget the contrasts. My father-in-law had died. As I walked into the funeral home to see him for the first time, life was so beautiful. The sun was warmer that I had ever remembered. The flowers were more vibrant than I had ever seen. The sky was such a clear blue - the kind of blue you only see in West Texas. How could it be that the death of someone so dear could make life seem more precious?

Anyone who has faced death would probably tell you: Life is beautiful! It is a precious gift from the Creator, the very Breath of Life.

But it hasn't always seemed that way.

Those who know me well would tell you, I too often forget the beauty of living. Maybe it was years of being invisible - lost in the crowd of a large family. Oh, there were moments when I felt others noticed me, but even today, my mother tells me, "I love all my children." Rarely, do I hear the words, "I love YOU." Me - one child - an individual! I am not merely a part of the crowd.

Too much of my worth in life has come from what others think. At times, the enemy has convinced me that I am worthless - that I am invisible - that I would be better off dead. For years, depression has plagued me. Even with all my achievements, my wife would tell you I have spent many a day in the depths.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

God is all about life. His greatest desire is to deliver me from the depths of the grave. He has been there. He knows firsthand what death looks like. He doesn't want that for me. Great is His love toward me. Never have I felt that He has lost me in the crowd.

I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever. You are worthy of all praise. You make life beautiful!

Yet, when I forget, O Lord, deliver me from the depths of the grave.

April 8, 2005

Don't Do It Alone

Many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin. Psalm 106:43

How am I going to do it? How am I going to keep from wasting away in my sin? So many times, I have believed God's promises and soon forgotten them. Like every man before me, I am bent on rebellion, and the battle with my human nature rages on.

I will soon be 43-years old. It is tough to believe; I am middle-aged. How did I make it this far? In my younger days, I never thought I would live past 40. Despite the image I wanted to portray, I never saw much hope. Thankfully, my outlook is changing. It has taken me a long time, but I'm finally starting to see God's method to all my madness.

But how am I going to do it? Barring any unforeseen detours on the road of life, I have half my life yet to live. How will I make it another 40-years without really messing up?

Well, I can tell you how I can't.

I can't do it alone. Like any daunting task, it takes help. To successfully finish this race, it will take others working and walking alongside.

At my office, we are facing an enormous task. Construction has begun on a new facility that will house a variety of medical clinics. The idea of moving six different clinical operations into a new four-story building is completely overwhelming, even if it is over two years away.

Yesterday, my supervisor commented in a planning meeting that there is too much for one person to manage. It will take others stepping up to take responsibility. To successfully complete this endeavor, it will take others working and walking alongside.

This is our only hope. We need others beside us, encouraging, helping, sometimes standing in the breach. Without the help of those around me. I will waste away in my sin.

Do you understand how wonderful life is in these end times? Jesus gave us salvation. He sent the Holy Spirit. He established His Body, the church, so we would not face life alone.

Lord, I'm tired of living my life like I'm alone. Thank You for giving me a hope and a future. The next half of my life seems to exciting. Give me the ability, the knowledge, and the chance to make a difference in the lives of those who are trying to do it alone. I want to stand in the breach. I want to see Your kingdom.

July 20, 2005

What's your focus?

They said to Joshua, "The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us." Joshua 2:24

Isn't it amazing how forty years in the desert could change the heart of a nation? Desert experiences tend to do that.

The Israelites were now facing the greatest challenge of their lives - to cross the Jordan and seize God's promise. This same challenge was their parents' downfall. Forty years earlier, a group of cowardly men brought back stories of giants. Now, the stories told by those who returned were filled with hope. Their focus was completely different. Not once did the spies refer to the difficulty before them. Their entire focus was on the Lord, on His power, and on His ability to keep His promises.

So, what will be my focus?

Will I focus on the giants of my past - the very giants that were my parents' downfall? Or will I focus on the giants of the faith? Will I put my trust in the God of promises? Can I fully believe that He will never break His promise - even if all I seem to understand is promises broken?

Lord, the desert experiences make me stronger, yet I am weary of them. My heart longs to live in the lushness of Your promise. Help me to understand how the enemy melts in fear every time He hears of Your plan for me. The attacks I face are indications of the enemy's weakness. If he didn't fear losing, he would have nothing to do with me. Help me to cross over into Your will, to destroy the giants, and to take hold of Your promise. Help me to trust you. Be the focus of my heart today!

October 20, 2005

Step Out into the Open

Jonathan said, "Come, then; we will cross over toward the men and let them see us." 1 Samuel 14:8

Feeling compelled to face the enemy, Jonathan took his armor-bearer and headed to the Philistine outpost. Here he was, the oldest son of the king, the man who would have been king had his father not dishonored God, and he chose to leave the protection of the camp. It quickly became apparent that the Lord was guiding Jonathan, for he and his young armor-bearer killed some twenty Philistines who had taunted them. Their small effort to engage the enemy sparked a great confusion, and turmoil broke out within the Philistine army. God used the actions of two to bring about deliverance for Israel.

Although Jonathan knew God was with him, he did something that I'm not sure I could have done. He stepped out into the open. He could have chosen to secretly creep up on the enemy, staying hidden however possible. But the quickest way to reach the enemy was through the middle of a ravine; with a cliff on both sides, he would have been completely vulnerable, yet he didn't let that stop him. The Philistines could have easily killed these two tiny men who stepped into their sites.

If they had know what was going to happen, the Philistines would have been wise to take advantage of their position. But in their arrogance, they taunted Jonathan, and Jonathan knew the Lord had given them into his hand.

Father, why is it that the greatest victories come through making ourselves the most vulnerable? In order to heal, a cancer patient must face death by allowing medicine or radiation to kill good cells along with the bad. In order to heal, a broken man must allow his brokenness to be seen by those who can help. Help me to embrace my vulnerability. Help me to courageously step out into the open - to put myself in the enemy's sites. Then give me the strength to fight. Strengthen my armor-bearer, so he can kill the enemies who fall before me. Deliver us from this enemy who seems too great to conquer. No army can stand against You.

January 21, 2006

The Enemy's Words

"It may be that the Lord will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today." 2 Samuel 16:12

David understood what it was to be distressed. In order to avoid a bloody confrontation with his son Absalom, who was determined to seize the throne, he left Jerusalem in a hurry.

As if this wasn't enough, along the way David encountered Shimei, a member of King Saul's tribe. One can only imagine the things he said. The words Shimei used were probably sharper than the stones he threw.

Yet David received them without anger. He accepted all of this as part of God's plan. How could he reject what God had allowed? David trusted that God could repay him with good if He chose to do so. It seems David learned the hard lessons of seeking personal gain and control.

Lord, I feel distressed this morning. The enemy has been hurling harsh words of self-doubt at me since before the day began. He keeps telling me I am too small to accomplish anything. He keeps saying that I don't deserve to be noticed - that I should accept a life of invisibility, and anything I do will only leave me embarrassed and ashamed.

Why does he want to discourage me? What is it that You have planned?

Help me to accept the curses of the enemy - not as truth about my future, but as a reminder of what life is like without You. Am I too small to accomplish anything? You bet! Will I find myself embarrassed and ashamed because of the things I say and do? Probably so. But with You, no word will fall to the ground. No deed will go unnoticed.

May Your will be done. And if I am privileged to play a part in it, I thank You. What a blessing it is to be near You, Almighty God.

March 16, 2006

Futility of Thinking

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. Ephesians 4:17

There is a great difference between friendly counsel and insistence. With counsel, freedom is granted to decide as one sees fit. Insistence, however, brings with it an expectation. If any other choice is made, disappointment will most certainly result.

In his letters, the Apostle Paul urges many things. Rarely does he say, "I insist!" In this passage, however, his friendly counsel is replaced with insistence. Interestingly, his insistence isn't about any type of physical action. There are plenty of times he said, "Stop gossiping! Stop stealing! Stop fighting! Stop chasing after your lusts!" But did he insist upon these things?

Paul had a knack for hating the sin and loving the sinner. Perhaps, it is due to his own sin. He considered himself the worst of all sinners because he persecuted the church. At the center of Paul's theology is a primary theme: God's grace. God's grace covers all our choices - even the bad ones. It wasn't like Paul to say, "Do this because I said so!" This time was unique, and his insistence wasn't about what one "does" but what one "thinks."

Futility of thinking won't get us anywhere.

Will I ever overcome my sin if I continue to think I will never overcome it?

Will I ever realize the calling on my life if I cannot comprehend the hope of what God has given me?

How I think controls who I am. How I think controls who I become.

Lord, my whole life has been plagued by futility of thinking. How did I become such a pessimist about myself when I am so often optimistic about others? I can see a wonderful future for so many other people, but I struggle to believe it for me. You have great plans. Help me to see it. Help me to believe it. Help me to think it.

July 23, 2006

Pray It Over and Over

Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. Mark 14:39

I spoke with a man the other day who told me how he had once turned his back on God. After years of praying and not receiving the healing for which he had hoped, he gave up. He felt God would never answer his prayer, and he decided to face the world on his own. Thankfully, he has returned to the One who can heal him.

If anyone were going to receive an immediate response to prayer, I would think it would be Jesus. But the night He was betrayed, He prayed the exact same thing over and over, "not what I will, but what You will."

Why do we so easily turn our backs on God when He doesn't give us the things for which we ask? He knows what is best for us in order to accomplish His purpose. Sometimes it involves frustration, pain, and even death. If we stay with Him when we face these things, we find the strength to endure. Running away only prolongs the pain.

Father, forgive me for running from Your will. Help me to embrace Your plan. Help me to continue praying. Not my will, but Yours, O Lord.

June 12, 2007

The Gifts of His Ministry

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. Matthew 4:23

Jesus started His ministry by teaching, preaching, and healing. Teaching for our minds, preaching for our spirits, and healing for our bodies - He came for the whole man. Knowledge, inspiration, and health were His gifts.

Lord, tonight I am concerned for a friend whose body needs to be healed. Jesus, You healed every disease and sickness. Nothing is too great for You. The doctors are confounded, but You are not. You know the cause, and You know the cure. Touch my friend. He has served You for so long. Show him Your great and mighty love. Thank You for his continued prayers for me. Help me to not cease in my prayers for him.

About Encouragement

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The Potter's Hand in the Encouragement category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Confusion is the previous category.

Forgiveness is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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