God Is There 5

Isaiah 43:1-2

I will never forget our experience during our mission trip in Haiti. We were told that as foreigners, especially Caucasians, we should not walk the streets alone. It was a risk to do so. But one day we were faced with the need to walk a mile from the orphanage school to the children’s house. There was no ride and no escort.

So, with a whispered prayer, we left the secure walls of the school and went out into the street. We were immediately met by a man who was friends with the couple who run the orphanage and he walked with us the whole way.

That was a big reminder to me that God is there to protect us in difficult and uncertain times, and I have carried that memory with me as I go into any neighborhood or situation where I might otherwise feel at risk. I know God is with me and He will keep me safe.

This passage from Isaiah has become one of my favorite Scriptures. What does God remind us of in verse 1? What assurance is given? What promises are made in verse 2?

Although we should not test God in His mercy by deliberately putting ourselves in risky situations, we should remember that God knows us. He created us. He has known us since before we even came into being, and that relationship is one of tremendous love.

We are more than simply people who happen to know God. We are more than just acquaintances of the Almighty. We belong to Him. He has worked to give us salvation through Jesus Christ. He knows us by name.

When we face the troubles that life can dish out, even the problems of our own making, we must remember that God wants us to succeed and be well. He is with us at all times. He will guard us against the assaults and trials of life.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can remind you that God values you?

God Is There 4

Hebrews 13:5-6

As I prepare for two weddings which are coming up the meaning behind marriage is foremost in my mind. It is more than simply a legal binding together of two people, it is a spiritual commitment of one to the other. Marriage is a ceremony celebrating and marking the pledge of constant companionship and support, mutual and enduring strength and encouragement, and of the uniting of two spirits and two minds.

As time goes on there will be those rough patches in the road of life. There will be times of doubt and times of challenge, of setbacks and pain. But the marriage pledge is a commitment to always be there for the other person no matter what the circumstances. And the wedding ceremony is a reminder that God is part of that joining together.

As powerful as a pledge made in marriage can be, God’s pledge is stronger. The author of Hebrews offers some assurance in life. What instruction is given? What pledge has God made to all of us?

Whether married or single each one of us can count on the promise of God. Although we face uncertainty in our lives, fears and worries about income and the economy, struggles with our jobs, challenges in our relationships, uncertain health, even questions about our place in God’s Kingdom, we can rely on the certainty of God. We are never alone no matter what the challenge is before us.

No matter how difficult life may feel, no matter how much we may wonder if we have the ability to push through the hard times, God is with us. God is able at all times to strengthen us and surround us with His Spirit of love, mercy and comfort.

Our enemies and the evils of this world may try to convince us that we are weak and alone. We may even tell ourselves that we have no one but ourselves to rely on. But that is not true at all.

God is with us at all times. We must learn to trust in our God and place our confidence in the sure knowledge that God is with us and will never leave us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can help you remember God’s eternal presence?

God Is There 3

Proverbs 3:5-6

When our children were very young they used to follow me when I mowed the lawn. They liked to walk where I had been. They pretended that they were in cars and that the cut path was a road for them. As I mowed the swaths I had cut became intersecting avenues that allowed them to go in various directions. My children trusted me to provide them with safe, smooth and interesting ways to go. It wasn’t the fastest and most efficient way to mow the lawn, but it was a lot of fun for the kids.

While we may feel daunted by the prospect of going forward in our life or exploring the challenges of our faith, we need to remember that God has gone before us in all things. When we hesitate and worry about what might be, what might happen, what terror could be awaiting us around the next corner, we must have the faith to know that God has walked before us.

His teaching and guidance exists in the form of the Bible. Over the ages He has spoken to us and offered instruction and counsel. He has laid out His promises and professed His love. And He has given us His assurance.

How are we to behave toward God? Are we to rely on our own understanding? What does God do for us?

It can be difficult to step forward in faith, but we are called to follow God. We are called to turn to His word – the Bible – and find His wisdom. Through the word of God we can find the knowledge of God, which can and should replace our own, fallible understanding.

We should recall that our Lord is a loving God who cares for us very deeply. As a father leads his own children in safety and righteousness, as a father may prepare a path of goodness for his little ones, so God prepares the paths in our lives so that we might follow Him. We should learn to trust in our God, to lean on Him and rely on His love as we walk through the paths of life.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you follow God with more assurance?

God Is There 2

Matthew 28:19-20

I remember when I first started school. Tony Mayor, the boy next door, was my age so we walked together to Kindergarten, about three-quarters of a mile through the suburb where I grew up. It was a frightening prospect, the two of us going off on our own every day. But one thing that made it easier was that Tony’s mom walked behind us that first week.

We had the task of going to school, but she went with us from the house to the school, walking behind us the whole way, carrying a walking stick to fend off any bullies or dogs. I must admit the idea of going to school was much easier knowing Mrs. Mayor was right behind us.

At the end of Matthew we have Jesus speaking to his disciples, offering them a charge. What are they to do? What promise is given?

The term “comfort zone” appears to have lost some of its popularity in our current culture, but years ago it seemed that all I heard was about being in or out of our comfort zone. The focus was on what you were okay with – what doesn’t bother you and what does bother you?

I frequently preached that there are no comfort zones for anyone who follows Christ. And here is a perfect example. Jesus is leaving and he is telling his followers what they should do with the rest of their lives. Go! Go out into the world and make disciples. Preach. Teach. Baptize. Spread the word of God.

And this is not going to be a simple task, but there is one wonderful promise made. Jesus will be with all of those who do his work. He will be with them in the good times and in the tough times. He will be with them in the frightening times and the challenges. He will be with them always – ALWAYS – forever, until the end of time.

We are supposed to do the work of Christ – spread the word, preach, teach and make more followers. And that idea can be very frightening. But we need to remember that Jesus is with us in all that we do. We are never alone. He is right behind you as you go to do his work.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can help you remember the promise of Christ?

God Is There 1

Luke 8:22-25

Our daughter is very afraid of insects and bugs, especially spiders. Usually, when there is a spider in the house she will come get me and make me go squash the little pest. It can be irritating that she can’t take care of the situation herself, yet at the same time it makes me a hero of sorts. And it’s part of my job as a father.

In Luke we have the familiar story of Jesus and the disciples in a boat during a storm. What did Jesus do as they sailed? What happened with the boat? What did the disciples do? What did Jesus do?

I must admit this is one of those Biblical stories that often gives me problems. When I read it I am right there with the disciples, shaking in my boots at the storm. Why did he get mad at them for waking him up?

It seems many assume that Jesus rebukes his followers – “Where is your faith?” – because he is grouchy from being awakened.

But I wonder if Jesus’ comment is not so much about the fact that they woke him up and more about their attitude. Perhaps he did not mind being awakened. They could not still the storm, but he could. Why would he be angry about that?

Perhaps the lack of faith was something Jesus saw in their faces. They didn’t wake him up to calm the storm. They woke him up so he wouldn’t sleep through all of them drowning together. Perhaps their lack of faith was that they did not know he was able to still the storm.

In life we are going to face storms. Some will literally be wind and rain, others will be emotional and spiritual storms. Is it wrong for us to be upset? Is it wrong for us to be concerned?

I don’t think so. I think it is logical and part of who we are to be upset by the storms of life. But as we face these storms we need to remember that Jesus is with us. We shouldn’t be afraid to wake him up and ask him to calm the situation. I don’t think God gets angry when we ask Him to help us. Our lack of faith comes when we forget to call on God or we forget that He can calm the storm.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Where is your faith?