Prayer of Petition

www.bible.com/72/psa.51.1-2.hcsb

Nothing hurts like a broken conscience. It’s when you can’t look a person in the eye anymore, or stand straight before others. When the burden of sin is a constant reminder that you are not a good person. It staggers the walk and stutters the speech. It points to depression and self-harm as the best answers for inner pain. Guilt will force you into decisions that you never thought you would make, and circumstances beyond your control. Who will save us from this body of death?

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! He heals the broken conscience and forgive even the hidden sins. He gives joy for sorrow and love for guilt.

Make today the day He heals your broken and contrite heart. Don’t carry your burdens any longer. Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.

God bless!

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The Valley of the Shadow of Death

www.bible.com/72/psa.23.4.hcsb

“Darkest Valley” may be a better translation, but it will always be “valley of the shadow of death” for us reared on the King James. I’ve seen a few of these valleys in my my life, and counseled many others going through the same thing. It isn’t a pleasant place, but everyone’s road goes through this valley. David spoke to common experience, not just to his own.

Note here that David says we are not alone in this valley. The Shepherd is here. He carries both rod and staff. The rod to keep us on the path, and the staff to show us the way. When Christ is lifted up, He draws all men to Himself.

As sheep, we are apt to go astray and get lost in this valley. We get stuck here in grief and sorrow. We get caught in a niche or a corner and can’t see to get out. But the Shepherd will come, He will find us, and He will pull us away from danger. He is always looking for us, always working to keep us together where we are strong, rather than alone and weak. The Shepherd knows when our place goes missing in the flock.

Are you lost?

Are you alone?

Are you in the valley?

Then maybe it’s time to look for the Shepherd. He’s not hard to find. He’s the one carrying the staff. It looks like a cross sometimes.

✝️ = ❤️

It’s not all Puppies and Rainbows

www.bible.com/72/jas.1.12.hcsb

Sometimes it is trials and suffering. Sometimes it takes a longer perspective than what I am enduring in the moment. Long suffering isn’t just a circumstance, it is a life perspective. Why? Because this world is not our home. The minute we think it is, we’ve been deceived. Oh sure, it’s a nice place to visit. /’c we have many good memories here, but it isn’t home.

Had the conversation yesterday about suicide. Some people will tell you that they have a plan and a means to kill them selves. Those are the folks that need need immediate attention. But then there are the faithful believers who tell you that they don’t mind dying, and that they are ready to go. They are not suicidal, they are simply prepared to die. There is a difference.

As a Christian, you know there is a better place for us, and this world loses its appeal. We look forward to what lay ahead because He is waiting for us. That makes death an unwelcome but necessary transition. And we get that. And that becomes our perspective.

So when you encounter various trials, you don’t like it, but you know the testing of your faith, since you have been found worthy to be tested, will benefit you, and you will see the benefit once the trial is over. Even more, a crown, the sign of victory, waits for you at the finish line. We endure these temporary, light afflictions, light compared to the glory to come. For when we’ve been there a thousand years, the 80 odd years we suffered here will only be a memory.

I grieve with those whose only life here is suffering, and I pray that God will give them glimpses of joy. Help us to know Lord that all of this we endure is worth the price of victory. Help us extend our joy to others. Father this world is so dark, sometimes it is hard to see your purposes, the good that you’ve promised. Help me be light to someone today.

God bless you in your walk with the Lord today. May you shine brightly in this world as a beacon of hope. May others see Him in your eyes.

Devastated but Hopeful

www.bible.com/72/hab.3.17-18.hcsb

My life is in shambles, like a tornado ripped through and left me with debris. In 2012, a powerful tornado whipped through our sister community of West Liberty and many echoed this statement. A church was completely destroyed, along with several downtown businesses. The town was leveled.

Habakkuk reflects upon the devastation that results from agricultural failure. The olive trees, the crops, even the stalls for livestock are all empty. For someone living in sixth century BC Israel, this was a fate akin to death. When the crops don’t come in and there is nothing on the trees, you are done. Habakkuk knew this well and cried out to God. But in the midst of the cry was a note of hope. That despite all of the physical evidence that as a nation, we are finished, God is still a God of salvation.

It’s hard to praise when there is no blessing. It requires a perspective that acknowledges the now, but anticipates eternity. While we suffer in the present, this isn’t all there is. Though the world around us is destroyed, He is not. It is the ability to see past our circumstances.

The people of West Liberty rebuilt their town, but even today you can see the scars. You too can be rebuilt, but there will be scars. If you are suffering today, know that you are not alone. Perhaps God is using this time to draw you closer to Himself. The rich young ruler was told to sell all of his possessions and follow Jesus. Will your faith be in jeopardy if you lose a few things? I would like to say, “Absolutely Not!” But I can’t tell I wouldn’t be shaken either.

We all need a note from Habakkuk today, both to be grateful for the blessings we have (knowing they can be taken away at any moment) and for praying that we don’t follow Jesus for the blessings themselves. God help us.

And may God bless you today. Thanks for reading.

Lead On

www.bible.com/72/psa.143.10.hcsb

A simple plea of the Psalmist today for the Lord to rescue him. The Psalmist says he wishes to learn the ways of God and be led by the Spirit onto easy ground, because he’s been in some tough places. The Psalmist wants to live for the Lord, but life has really gotten in the way and he Psalmist pleads for rescue so that he can live for the Lord. Sound familiar?

I don’t know what you are going through today, but I’m sure you can empathize with the writer here. I could live for the Lord if He would just lighten the burden a little, give me a little breathing room. Some days are like that. I am too busy just trying to get through it that I forget that I have a loving God who is watching out for me. Sometimes it feels like He abandons us altogether. It feels like it. It’s like the parent who lets go of the bike so that his child can ride on his own. He is never far, but He lets you try it for a while. We never get tougher if we are always coddled. We need seasons in the crucible so that the dross can be burned away. We don’t like them, but they are designed to focus our attention on Him. God is seasoning us with stress and conflict, so that we will learn not to depend on our own wisdom, but His leading.

We know we need that. We just don’t like the process it takes to get there. No one does. No one enjoys boot camp, but it is a necessary process to take soft civvies and turn them into soldiers. We need the training if we are going to be effective servants. We know this is true, even though we cry out in the midst of it. But know that God is the way through it. Let Him lead.

God bless you today. Remember the struggle is not forever. You will get through this.

Pruning isn’t Pleasant

www.bible.com/72/jhn.15.2.hcsb

Just saying.

No, seriously, pruning your life is not a pleasant experience. It usually means losing something, maybe a job, a friend, even family members. It could be a marriage or a church. I hope it’s just bad habits or sinful behaviors. I hope. Because when the Lord starts pruning the former, you know He has serious work to do.

Maybe you have a fantastic job, but it keeps you from spending time doing the Lord’s work. Or you have a great friend, but they are leading you from your best Friend. Perhaps your marriage is amazing, but it isn’t holy. Pruning doesn’t explain all of these, nor would I say at the time of such trauma that that is what the Lord is doing, but He does prune, and it does hurt.

But when He prunes, it is so we will produce more fruit. He cuts away the extra growth that He doesn’t want or need. He may let it grow for a little while, your your conscious work on you for a bit, but only for a season. If you are trying to be a disciple, welcoming the pruning is a sign of maturity, of knowing that life is more that this world, but prep for the next.

This isn’t an easy one to write, because I’ve felt the pruning. And it always hurts. But sometimes God let’s me see what good comes from it. It takes faith to let Him prune, trust that He knows what to cut so that you will grow.

About two years ago, I was asked to step down from the pulpit and turn in my letter of resignation. That was hard. It still is. But God is showing me today some of the good. It has been a great challenge to my faith, but I still believe, because I trust Him.

God bless you through your trials today. Trust Him.

A Little Bit Goes A Long Way

bible.com/72/eph.4.1-3.hcsb

So it’s been a little bit since I’ve shared something with you. Thank you for your patience. My Dad has been in a bad way here the last few days and life has been a little overwhelming. I got a call Monday afternoon that Dad was going for emergency surgery on his heart and that led to a four hour drive back to Indiana to be with family. Turns out “emergency” actually means “in four days” so there’s that. I go up tomorrow to be with family and deal with the stress and worry.

This verse looked like a good one to share with you all, since all of our interactions with others could use a little humility and gentleness. This is especially true as a patient and his family who are in crisis mode. I saw a lot of ways we could have been shouty and petulant during this whole thing. I’m thankful we weren’t. But I can think of a lot of moments we could have lost our cool and felt justified. Hospitals move at the speed of slow sometimes, and getting the right care can mean a lot of waiting. That’s not compatible with folks who’ve been told that their loved one is critical and could die without immediate surgery by the Doctor at the last hospital, before transferring to this one.

Civility seems like it’s always the first casualty in a crisis. We just don’t have time for it. But being humble and gentle isn’t reserved for times when everything is ok. It’s called for at all times. Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time for all things under heaven. But when Jesus was subjected to the torturers, He was a like a sheep led to the slaughter, silent before the shearers. We may not all be like Jesus, but we can demonstrate a little humility and kindness when the need arises.

Suffering is not an easy road. And many of us don’t do it well. We maintain a perspective that this life is all that matters. We forget that this is merely the boot camp for the world to come. We are being trained, tested in our mettle and our resolve, for the eternity that waits for us. Oh but that we could just get a glimpse of what awaits us there, then we might not be so anxious about leaving this world. Then we would know that every test and ignominy we suffer will be recompensed, made good in that perfect place.

My friends, let us strive to be humble and gentle. For our Heavenly Father is proving us faithful, even in the midst of trial. Our life is more than food and clothing, shelter and work. God is forging us into His children with whom He plans to spend eternity with. Forging is not a painless process. But we too shall be made beautiful.

God bless you all.