Out of the Depths 5

Isaiah 43:1-3

How often have you ever thought, “If I only knew then what I know now”? How often have you wanted to have a time-machine to take you back so that you can do things the right way? I think back on my earlier life, especially my childhood, and I think with disdain how timid I was in all that I did. I was afraid of everything and everyone. But that all changed when I read this Bible passage.

You see I am one of those silly people who believes the Bible to be true. I am one of those people who trusts in the promises of God. This passage turned me around.

Who is speaking? What assurance does God offer? Who do we belong to? What examples does God offer?

If we really believe in God then this passage should fill us with incredible confidence. God has declared that we are His people. We belong to Him. He has called us by name.

And God has given us incredible promises. Nothing can harm us. Fire and flood and destruction will not bring us harm. God is with us in all the tough times of life. He is there to keep us from destruction.

We may be faced with an uncertain economy. We may be worried about the weather and the impact that it will have on farmers and crops, and subsequently the already fragile economy. Gas prices may frighten us. Our jobs may seem shaky. Our health may make us worry.

But we need to face life with extreme confidence and trust. We need to remember these words from God. He will not let the waters of trouble sweep over us. He will not let the fires of fear burn us.

Not only is God with us but He is our Savior. He has redeemed us from the death of sin. He has redeemed us and freed us from a life of hopelessness and worry. He loves us so much that He embraces us in the darkest of times and He is there to strengthen and guide us through all the snares and pitfalls of life.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you face life with confidence?

This is the last 10/2 Grow Daily Devotion for this spring. We pray that you will have a blessed summer and that you may live a life of goodness and trust in the awesome power and love of your Lord. – Peggy and Roger

Out of the Depths 4

Hebrews 4:14-16

Several years ago the son of one of our members wanted to talk to me. He was upset because his father had cancer and didn’t have long to live. I was able to give some counseling and, I think, a little comfort. It wasn’t just because I am a pastor, but because I had lost my own father who died suddenly and all too soon. I knew what he was going through.

The author of Hebrews gives us some assurance about Jesus. Why should we have faith in Jesus? What is Jesus able to do? How should we feel when we come to God?

Too often when we are faced with difficult situations in life we fall into the trap of thinking that no one knows what we are going through. Too often when life gets hard we think we are on our own, and we can let our fears and worries defeat us. But this is not true.

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has gone through the tough times of life just as we have. Historians believe that Jesus as a youngster was probably witness to the political oppression of Rome. He most likely went through all the stress and turmoil of life growing up within a family. He experienced grief and loss.

He went through times of hope and times of fear. He built up friendships and lost some of those friends. He suffered temptations. He was accused and arrested. He was put to death at a young age.

But he was more than a man who experienced the highs and lows of life. He was the Son of God, God in human form. He was the expression of God’s compassion and love. He existed so that we might be connected to the Lord.

When we face the uncertainty of life we need to turn to the certainty of God. Jesus knows what we are experiencing. He has been through it too. And with that knowledge we are invited to come to God with confidence knowing that God understands our plight and our worries.

I believe God doesn’t always spare us from the tough parts of life, just as he didn’t spare His own Son from them. But I believe God can give us comfort in our dark hours. And I believe God can make good emerge from the troubles if we will trust Him.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Where do you need comfort?

Out of the Depths 3

Mark 5:14-15

There is a young man in our area who has experienced some severe health issues. One result of this is that the family is faced with difficult medical bills. This is very sad.

On the other hand one result of this is that the community came together the other day and put on a carnival with games and prizes to raise money for the family. Hundreds of people turned out to offer their support, not just in presenting and manning the carnival, but also in supporting the fund-raising efforts. What a wonderful thing.

Today’s passage is part of a larger story. Jesus and his disciples have come to the region of the Gerasenes, and in this place was a man who was possessed by demons. He lived among tombs. He had been chained up to help control him, but he broke the chains and spent his days crying out and cutting himself.

But Jesus arrived and cast out the demons, sending them into a herd of pigs. What did the people who tended the pigs do? When everyone came back what was the demon-possessed man doing?

This story is about a man who is living in misery. He has a life that is no life at all. He screams all day and night. He hurts himself. He can’t be contained, and I imagine that anyone who was near the man was frightened and at wit’s end as to what could be done.

But from this chaos came order. Jesus drove out the problems – the demons – and restored the man to normal life. When those who were familiar with the man saw him he was sitting there, dressed and in his right mind. For some reason this frightened the people of that region. They wanted Jesus to leave.

But we as faithful children of God, as believers in the power and presence of Christ, should see this story as one of hope. Jesus took away the problems and brought goodness and calm. And that is something we should come to expect from our Lord and Savior.

No matter what tumult and trouble we can be facing, even those frightening situations that we can’t chain up and control, Jesus can bring us peace. He can restore order and goodness if we will simply learn to trust him.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you let Jesus drive out the demons in your life?

Out of the Depths 2

Genesis 1:1-3

We are nearing the days of our vacation Bible school. Every year as we ready for the event we have a day where we set up for the week. This involves hauling van-load after van-load of materials over to the community center where the VBS will be held.

On that day of preparation we end up with piles of objects – cardboard tubes, blankets, buckets, ladders, hooks, curtains, costumes and stacks of paper. Once everything is there we have a chaotic pile of things. A casual glance just brings a sense of confusion. What can become of all this stuff?

But out of this jumble of objects a very effective program emerges. Things are put where they belong. Sets and decorations are put in place. Costumes are laid out in the order in which they will be used. Lessons are ready. Out of the chaos comes wonderful order.

It was worse than that at the beginning of things. What did God do at the beginning? What did He have to work with? How did things come to order?

The creation story – one that most people are familiar with – is a perfect example of God’s ability to bring goodness and order out of chaos. The world was formless and empty. There was nothing but a swirling void of “stuff,” but God’s Spirit swept over the tumultuous waters and brought about all that we see and hear and feel.

With a few words He commanded light and dark to exist. If you continue reading the whole story you will see that God spoke into existence the oceans and rivers, the mountains, the fields, the plants, the birds of the air, animals and even the complex creatures known as human beings.

It all came out of nothing through the power of God.

We may feel that our planet is spinning out of control. Our lives are out of sync and we are faced with utter chaos and a hopeless mess of things.

But God is with us, and if He can make all the wonderful things He has made out of nothing, He can take the mess we have and bring goodness and order. Let us replace fear with trust. Let us replace worry with hope, and let us have confidence in the good working of God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you hand your fears over to God?

Out of the Depths 1

Psalm 30:1-3

Well, since you are reading this daily devotional the world did not come to an end on Saturday as some had predicted. The expectation of the world’s ending is something that has been the topic of conversation for a very long time.

Those who followed Jesus expected the Lord to return and bring an end to the world within just a few years of the crucifixion and resurrection. Others expected the world to end at the turn of the millennium in the year 1,000. Still others were certain that the world would end in Y2K – the year 2,000. Yet we are still here.

We have recently been witness to tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and excessively wet weather. People frequently wonder if the world will end soon, or at least they wonder how much turmoil we can endure.

The world has always been a place of turmoil as well as comfort and the psalmist expresses some trust in God. What attitude does the psalmist have? What has God done?

Life is not always easy. Things don’t always go our way and I don’t believe that the cataclysmic episodes we witness are punishment from the Almighty nor indications that our doom is imminent.

Life happens. Good things come about as well as bad things. Our planet is a living, breathing entity which goes through changes now and then. Tectonic plates shift and cause earthquakes, and with each shift other plates of stone must move to a new position – new earthquakes and new tidal waves.

While the world is unpredictable we can find comfort and assurance in the constancy of God. The Lord is always with us. The Lord always loves us, even when we are disobedient and far from the holy people we should be.

We can’t always plan for the troubles of life. But we always have a choice. We can sink in the mire of despair and sorrow, or we can trust that the Lord can make good things emerge from the bad we see.

If we can trust in God and hand over control to God, if we can worship God even in the frightening times the Lord will be generous and good. He alone offers healing and comfort. He alone can save us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you show trust in God?