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Thursday, April 28, 2022

Lord, reading the Psalms we see our similarities with the ancient psalmist. Like us, he had his spiritual highs and lows. Like us, he exalted in his mountaintop experiences and wept in his valleys of despondency. All in for You one day but hiding from Your presence the next. Yet the psalmist knew how spiritually healthy it was to be transparent with his feelings and be willing to voice his emotions. This openness wasn’t just for his benefit—it’s for all Christ-followers.

The psalmist was familiar with the blues. When he wrote his famous recipe for praising our way out of the dumps, (Psalm 103), was he recalling the earlier time when turmoil raged within his soul? Like us, this broken world can beat us down. Nonetheless, despite this low point in his life when it appeared all his friends abandoned him, he found the strength to trust You, Lord God. Discouraged? Greatly. Depressed? Oh my, yes. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” he cried. (Been there? I have.) Even though God seemed to be silent, he knew his only option was to, “Put my hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God,” (Psalm 43:5). And he did. As his praises rose, so his spirit rose out of depression. His joy returned.

Lord, in my low points, may I too “praise You, my Savior and my God!” Amen.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Lord, the psalmist demonstrated we overcome our down-in-the-dumps attitudes by canceling our pity-party, and choosing to bless and praise You instead. Once he cleared his mind of the clutter, and silenced the voices declaring his guilt and failures, Your Spirit reminded the psalmist of all You had done for him. “Bless the Lord, oh, my soul,” I can hear him praying aloud. “And may I never forget the good things You have done for me” (Psalm 103:2). What better way to begin our climb out of the dumps than by blessings and praising the Lord for what every Christ-follower knows: “You have forgiven all my sins,” (v3).

Distractions and pressures of living in this broken world tend to cloud our consciousness of who we are as believers. Reminding ourselves, and the devil too, that our sin debt is forever settled because of Your cross, Jesus, creates a “blues-buster” moment. Think about it. We’re no longer alienated from God. We are His children. Rest assured, our heavenly Father allows nothing in our lives to be in vain, but if we’re cooperative, He uses these down times to develop more of His image in us.

That is so much like You, Lord God.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Lord, was the psalmist having a bad day? Was he singing the blues when singing the blues wasn’t cool? He knew what would bring him out of the dumps, but the battle raged in his mind. Surely God’s Spirit said, “Praise Me, your Lord. Give Me thanks.” Did his soul resist? “I don’t want to praise the Lord. I’m happy celebrating my pity party.” God’s message was clear when He finally got through to his stubborn soul. “I didn’t command You to praise Me if you felt like it. Your feelings don’t matter. I said to praise Me in all your circumstances.” Apparently the psalmist had enough and ordered his soul to give praise to the Lord.

“Bless the Lord, oh, my soul. And all that is within me, praise His holy name,” (Psalm 103:1).

That “all that is within me” part included his non-compliant feelings. It also included the subtle rebellion hidden in his heart that pushed back on God’s commands for obedience from time to time. The psalmist could throw his pride into that group as well, since it fought God daily for control of his soul. Lord, I can hear the psalmist declaring out loud Your precepts as he reaffirmed his daily, conscious choice to surrender every area of his life to Your Lordship (Psalm 119:13). In essence, the psalmist stated a rock-solid truth how You call every Christ-follower to order their lives: My relationship with God is not based on feelings, but on the truth of who God is and His plan for my redemption from sin through His son Jesus.

Lord, whenever I’m tempted to “enjoy” a bad day, help me order my soul into joyous, nonstop praise. By Your authority and power, Jesus. Amen.  

Monday, April 25, 2022

Lord, Genesis 2:7 details how You “breathed Your breath of life into his nostrils and man became a living person.” We are created in Your image, like no other living being. No bird or animal has Your breath or Your spirit—only mankind. Since my near fatal bout with covid, may I never take lightly that it’s Your breath in my lungs. I’m much more aware of my choices how I use “Your” breath. Forgive me, Lord. To my shame I have not always used Your breath in ways that honor You.

In his pragmatic book for living the successful Christian life, Your earthly brother James addressed this flaw of believers and non-believers. How is it, Lord, that out of our mouth comes both blessings and cursing, good and bad? (James 3:10).

It takes just as much of Your breath to praise You in my circumstances as it does to complain. In fact, it probably takes more breath to gripe than thank You for working behind the scenes on my behalf. With the same amount of Your breath, I can encourage someone struggling with a life issue as I can to criticize that poor soul battling a demon I’ve never dealt with. Instead of slamming that irritating person I want to avoid, may I use Your breath to pray for them so I’ll see them as You do. May I speak blessings over them and not “I hope they stump their toe” stuff.

Ii is my choice, I will choose to join with all creation, “Let everything with breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6). Amen!

Friday, April 22, 2022

Lord! Help! Here they come again. Help me keep my cool and be gracious. Believers and non-believers alike have them — difficult people who somehow manage to “push our button.” We see them coming and our first instinct is to find someplace to hide. Dealing with difficult people is unavoidable, but for the believer, You have something else in mind besides hiding. We don’t chase after them, You deliberately bring these people into our sphere of influence. Teach us how to deal with those self-centered, obnoxiously prideful, snobbishly condescending, or just plain rude, people. Help us control our self-control to guard our tongue, especially since our carnal nature can bring out the worst non-Christlikeness in us. As believers, we can’t believe these are just random “run ins.” Lord, You allow these encounters to develop our spiritual “fruit,” our “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,” and the biggie— “self-control,” (Galatians 5:22,23). Even though we practice the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12), not everyone will respond in kind and not all encounters may not unfold as we’d like. Nonetheless, we honor You by responding as You did, Jesus, when You dealt with such people.  Open our eyes to see them not as some annoyance but someone who needs an encounter with You.

And Lord, keep me from being one of those “button pushers” that people want to hide from. Amen.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Lord, why did You wait so long to reveal to me the meaning of Ephesians 2:5,6? I’ve read this Scripture for years but today its truth jumped all over me. “For He [God] raised us [Christ-followers] from the [spiritually] dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” So, Jesus, because You are our Lord and Savior, You are our representative in the courts of Heaven. Not only do You represent us before God the Father, but You assigned us a seat beside Your throne at the right hand of God’s throne.  Scripture states God the Father gave You all power and authority in Heaven and on Earth (Matthew 28:18). This is what jumped out at me: When You look over at Jesus, You see me sitting beside Him. I can envision Your smile and God-wink as You reach down Your hand that created me to ruffle my hair and say, “Hey, kid, I sure do love you.”  You regard me as a favored son, one who brings You joy. I assured I forever belong to You. Therefore, being united with You, Jesus, I can never lose my seat. Having access to Your power and authority in Heaven and on Earth, now “If God is for me, who can be against me?” has a stronger meaning (Romans 8:31). The devil’s lies have no effect.  I think God the Father enjoys me reminding the devil this truth whenever he comes snooping around.

Thank You for making a seat for me, Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022 

Lord, I don’t know another way to pray except, “Please keep me from falling into the snare of comparing my life to others.” This comparison temptation, first introduced to Cain and Abel, has stalked fallen humanity ever since. And how alarming many Christ-followers slip into this trap. Of course, Your will is for all believers to live a Christ-centered life that honors You. But let me not forget You created each person uniquely, as none other. You have given each follower gifts and talents that are specifically for them to use to honor You and influence others. Yes, I’m an original and You broke the mold after creating me.  You have assigned roles for me that only I can fulfill. At times, some well-intentioned but mistaken folks may pressure us to do something You haven’t called us to do. We can quote Philippians 4:13 all day, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” but there is a condition. “I can do all things God has called me to do through Christ who strengthens me (King Jimmy’s Translation). 

Lord, I want to do Your will and not waste time comparing myself to others. Amen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022,

Lord, even though he loses every time, he just won’t quit. Since You revealed to me who You are and how Your grace and forgiveness gives me a new lease in life, I live with a hope and joy that I never knew was attainable. The revelation of what it means to be created in Your image changed my world. You are the God of relationship, and You wired humanity with the same desire.

I never realized the emptiness of life until I came to You, Lord. We all want to belong.  People have done crazy, regrettable things just to belong, to fit in with a group or ideology. Without a relationship with You, Lord, this broken world pressures us to participate in activities that can leave us feeling uncomfortable, but we do it anyway because we want to belong in some way. But Jesus, now that I’m in relationship with You, my former tormentor, the devil, refuses to let me forget my mistakes and poor life choices that caused me such embarrassment and shame. But, here is where Your Spirit punches the devil out cold. Your Word is clear for those who belong to You, Lord. “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).

Now, whenever the devil comes around trying to remind me of my past, I simply point to the cross and say, “You’ll have to take that up with Jesus.” Amen.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Lord, those who know You just smile and praise You for doing it again. Those who do not know You cannot understand what so radically changed us. And to the amazement of our family and friends, we’re not who we used to be. How can this be? As only You can, Lord, You have made us standout from the herd. Thankfully, You kept us from getting “religion.” The pressures placed on religious people trying to be perfect in order to please You leave them beating themselves up every time they fail in some way. Religion doesn’t know your heart of grace. You have given us something much better — relationship!

A personal relationship with You, Lord God, through Your Son Jesus.

Lord, You are fully aware of our imperfections. You see our battle with sins that linger after we have chosen to follow You, yet You want a relationship with us anyway. You promised to give each Christ-follower a new “heart” that is like Yours. You said, “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within You. I will take out your heart of stone and give you a tender, responsive heart” (Ezekiel 36:26). That is something religion can never do. Those who don’t know You nor Your grace cannot understand this transformation. We pray one day they will understand. Those who know You and experience Your grace joyfully do.

Loving and living in the joys of our relationship with You, Jesus, Amen.

Good Friday, April 15, 2022,

Lord, Good Friday is good for whom? For Jesus? Maybe, but not so much. Good, pure, innocent Jesus, Your only Son, left Heaven on a holy mission to become the Lamb of God to take away the sins of mankind (John 1:29). Jesus became a human like me—like all of us. And like us, He faced temptations in this fallen world. But Satan worked overtime to tempt Jesus, the Son of God, in every way imaginable, yet He lived a sinless life as a human. He never sinned. Not one time. Ever!

Because You are a Holy and Righteous God, You take sin seriously. Scripture states sin can only be removed by the shedding of innocent blood (Hebrews 9:22). Over the centuries, the countless millions of perfect, innocent lambs sacrificed every year failed to remove sin from mankind. Therefore, only Jesus, the Lamb of God, would be an acceptable sacrifice for our sins. Sinless Jesus was about to have all the sins ever committed in the history of the world dumped on Him while You poured out Your Holy wrath on Him. Was it unjust? Absolutely! And for the first time in eternity, You, Lord God, would turn Your back on Your Son Jesus, because He was now sin! (Matthew 27:46).  

Was it necessary? Absolutely. But Jesus, Your triumphant cry, “It is finished!” still resounds throughout the universe. The Lamb of God has satisfied the punishment for sin once and for all. And all who believe in Jesus’ sacrifice for sin have eternal life (John 3:16–18).

So, for whom is Good Friday good for? For mankind? For you and me? Absolutely.