Sunday, November 27, 2011

Feeling Poor?

By Dave Branon

Read: Psalm 86
I am poor and needy. —Psalm 86:1
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 30-32; 1 Peter 4

In one way or another, we can all relate to Psalm 86:1 where David says, “I am poor and needy.” Even the richest among us should understand that poverty and need relate more to the spirit than to the wallet. When billionaire Rich DeVos speaks to groups he often says, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.”

Psalm 86 tells us that the help God provides is not measured by a monetary ledger sheet. When we acknowledge that we are poor and needy, it’s not so God will lavish material riches on us. No, we do so to open the door to other, more valuable treasures.

Here’s what God does for the poor and needy. He will “preserve” our lives and “save” all those who trust in Him (v.2). He will be “merciful” and “ready to forgive” (vv.3,5). He will listen to and answer prayer (vv.6-7).

But we’re not to take God’s blessings without giving back. We have a responsibility to learn God’s ways, walk in His truth, “fear [God’s] name,” praise the Lord, and “glorify [His] name” (vv.11-12).

Do you consider yourself among the “poor and needy”? If so, welcome to the club. Let’s not forget all the spiritual blessings God has for us and the godly response we should have toward His generosity.

We’re thankful for the blessings, Lord,
You give us day by day;
Now help us show our gratitude
By walking in Your way. —Sper

The poorest man is he whose only wealth is money.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Singing Bowl

By Julie Ackerman Link

Read: Deuteronomy 4:32-40
We therefore ought to . . . become fellow workers for the truth. —3 John 1:8
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 27-29; 1 Peter 3

Artist and scientist Michael Flynn designed a singing bowl for display in ArtPrize, an international art competition held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The bowl requires no electricity but it does require something that is in short supply: cooperation.

As I observed people trying to make the bowl sing, I was surprised that none of them bothered to read the directions about rocking it gently. Instead, impatient to make music, they kept trying their own ideas. After a few minutes they walked away frustrated and disappointed, as if the bowl was defective.

How many times, I wonder, do we become frustrated that life isn’t working the way we think it should? We keep trying ways that seem right, but things keep turning out wrong. Instead of following God’s Word, we continue trying to find our own way.

The singing bowl reminds us that we can’t expect life to go well if we ignore the instructions of the Designer (Deut. 4:40). Failing to obey divides us from one another and separates us from God. To fulfill His plan for the world and make the way of salvation known (Ps. 67:2), we need to follow His instructions about living and working peacefully together. When life doesn’t go well, it may be that we’ve stopped following God’s plan.

Sure it takes a lot of courage to put things in God’s hands,
To give ourselves completely, our lives, our hopes, our plans;
To follow where He leads us and make His will our own;
But all it takes is foolishness to go the way alone! —Kline

Life is a beautiful song that God is teaching us to play.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Finding Hope

By David C. McCasland

Read: Psalm 42:1-11
Why are you cast down, O my soul? . . . Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him. —Psalm 42:5
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 24-26; 1 Peter 2

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota found that almost 15 percent of American teenagers felt it was “highly likely” that they would die before their 35th birthday. Those with this pessimistic outlook were more likely to engage in reckless behavior. Dr. Iris Borowsky, author of the study published in Pediatrics magazine, said: “These youth may take risks because they feel hopeless and figure that not much is at stake.”

No one is immune to feelings of despair. The Psalms express repeated pleas for help when life seems dark. “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence” (Ps. 42:5 NASB). In a defiant step of faith, the psalmist tells himself not to forget about God, who will never forsake him.

Curtis Almquist has written: “Hope is fueled by the presence of God. . . . [It] is also fueled by the future of God in our lives.” We can say with the psalmist, “I shall yet praise Him” (v.5).

No follower of Christ should feel reluctant to seek counsel for depression. Nor should we feel that faith and prayer are too simplistic to help. There is always hope in God!

My sheep I know, they are My own,
I leave them not in trials alone;
I will be with them to the end,
Their Hope, their Joy, their dearest Friend. —Anon.

Hope for the Christian is a certainty— because its basis is Christ.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unexpressed Gratitude

By Cindy Hess Kasper

Read: Psalm 107:31-43
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! . . . Let the redeemed of the Lord say so. —Psalm 107:1-2
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 18-19; James 4

The whole reason for saying thanks is to let the giver of a gift know how much you appreciate something. Author G. B. Stern once said, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”

When our son was young, he sometimes needed to be reminded that avoiding eye contact, looking down at his feet, and mumbling some unintelligible words was not an acceptable “thank you.” And after many years of marriage, my husband and I are still learning that it’s important for us to continually express our gratitude to each other. When one of us feels appreciative, we try to verbalize it—even if we’ve said it many times before about the same thing. William Arthur Ward said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

Showing our gratitude is obviously important in human relationships, but it’s even more essential in our relationship with God. As we think about the many blessings we have received, do we express our thanks to Him throughout the day? And when we think of the amazing gift of His death and resurrection for forgiveness of our sins, do our hearts bubble over with awe and thanksgiving? (Rom. 6:23; 2 Cor. 9:15).

Take the reminder in Psalm 107:1 to heart each day: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!”

How great should be our gratitude
To God our unseen Friend!
The volume of His gifts to us
We cannot comprehend. —Hess

God’s highest Gift should awaken our deepest gratitude.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Companion On The Road

By David H. Roper

Read: Matthew 4:18-22
Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers . . . . Then He said to them, “Follow Me.” —Matthew 4:18-19
Bible in a year:
Ezekiel 5-7; Hebrews 12

I love to walk Idaho’s paths and trails and enjoy its grandeur and picturesque beauty. I’m often reminded that these treks are symbolic of our spiritual journey, for the Christian life is simply walking—with Jesus alongside as our companion and guide. He walked through the land of Israel from one end to the other, gathering disciples, saying to them, “Follow Me” (Matt. 4:19).

The journey is not always easy. Sometimes giving up seems easier than going on, but when things get difficult, we can rest a while and renew our strength. In Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan describes the arbor on Hill Difficulty where Christian caught his breath before continuing the climb. His scroll provided comfort, reminding him of the Lord’s continual presence and sustaining power. He got a second wind so he could walk a few more miles.

Only God knows where the path will take us, but we have our Lord’s assurance, “I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20). This is not a metaphor or other figure of speech. He is real company. There is not one hour without His presence, not one mile without His companionship. Knowing He’s with us makes the journey lighter.

When life becomes a heavy load
An upward climb, a winding road,
In daily tasks, Lord, let me see
That with me You will always be. —D. De Haan

As you travel life’s weary road, let Jesus lift your heavy load.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It’s All About Him

By Anne Cetas

Read: John 3:22-36
He must increase, but I must decrease. —John 3:30
Bible in a year:
Jeremiah 48-49; Hebrews 7

When Sheri got engaged, her single friend Amy celebrated with her. She planned a bridal shower, helped pick out her wedding dress, walked down the aisle just before her, and stood by her side during the ceremony. When Sheri and her husband had children, Amy gave baby showers and rejoiced in her friend’s blessings.

Sheri told Amy later, “You’ve comforted me during hard times, but the way I especially know you love me is that you rejoice with me in my good times. You haven’t let any jealousy hold you back from celebrating with me.”

When John’s disciples heard that a new rabbi named Jesus was gaining followers, they thought John might be jealous (John 3:26). They came to him and said, “He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” But John celebrated Jesus’ ministry. He said, “I have been sent before Him. . . . The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled” (vv.28-29).

An attitude of humility should also characterize us. Rather than desiring attention for ourselves, everything we do should bring glory to our Savior. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (v.30).

Not I but Christ be honored, loved, exalted;
Not I but Christ be seen, be known, be heard;
Not I but Christ in every look and action;
Not I but Christ in every thought and word. —Whiddington

If we want an increase of Christ, there must be a decrease of self.