Our Source for Strength, Courage, and Action

“Then David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chronicles 28:20 (NASB95))

There are those rare moments in life where we must face a seemingly impossible situation that requires us to engage, to be strong and to act in the moment. In those times we must  replace our fear with courage, and our inaction with action. Such was the case of Lenny Skutnick, who on January 13, 1982 was one of the many who witnessed the heroic first responders rescue efforts to save survivors of an airplane crash into the icy Potomac River in Washington, D.C.  During the rescue operations a helicopter tried to rescue a stewardess struggling in the icy river:

“Twice she slipped from the rope dropped to her and fell back into the icy Potomac. Seeing that her strength was gone, Skutnick shed his coat and boots, jumped into the water, and swam thirty yards to her rescue. Questioned by the press afterward about his motivation, Skutnick replied: “I had been there all that time and nobody was getting in the water… It’s something I never thought I would do, but in looking back, I guess I did it because I didn’t think about it. Somebody had to go in the water.”

Solomon, King David’s son, faced his own fears as he begin to grasp the magnitude of the legacy and responsibility of leadership that his Dad was entrusting him with.  King David recognized that he would not be the one to see the vision fulfilled of the temple being built in Jerusalem, rather he chose to entrust the building plans for the temple to his son to complete.

David recognized that God has a role and plan for everyone in this life. His was that of a solider, not a builder. His was that of a visionary and not that of an administrator that would carry out the details of this enormous project. Not only would Solomon be charged with building the temple, but he would one day be King. The legacy of his father would be on his shoulders. David understood this, and he understood the pressures of leadership. But he wanted to give his son the most valuable piece of advice he could, and that was to remind him that God would be with him, that it was through God’s hand that David had been able to successfully navigate and manage the duties of the kingdom that God had charged him with.

Most often we don’t face the life and death moments that Lenny Skutnick faced, nor will any of us likely be handed a kingdom to reign or the plans to a temple to build. Yet as believers we are called upon to live out our lives with courage while depending upon God for the strength to act as his ambassadors in this life.

I have found in my life that real courage is needed to simply face each day that life offers us. Life is hard. It takes courage, strength, and a will to act in order to face the challenges before us. The challenges are different for each of us, but the source of our strength and the power to enable us to act is common to all those that believe and have placed their faith in Christ as their personal savior.

In this life we need not live in fear, even in the face of fearful circumstances. The disciples understood this concept many years after David was gone. They experienced firsthand what it was to have fear, and at the same moment to see how God overcame their fears and enabled them to complete the tasks that God had planned for their lives.

Be  encouraged to trust God in the midst of your circumstances, allow Him to be the source of your courage, strength, and ability to act while trusting Him completely for the outcome.

The Essence of Prayer

“Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” -Philippians 4:6

 “In the stirring chapter in which Sir Ernest Shackleton tells of the loss of his ship among the ice-floes, he describes an incident that must have set all his readers thinking. In the grip of the ice, the Endurance had been smashed to splinters; and the entire party was out on a frozen sea at the mercy of the pitiless elements. Shackleton came to the conclusion that their best chance of eventually sighting land lay in marching to the opposite extremity of the floe; at any rate, it would give them something to do, and there is always solace in activity. He thereupon ordered his men to reduce their personal baggage to two pounds weight each. For the next few hours every man was busy in sorting out his belongings—the treasures that he had saved from the ship. It was a heart-breaking business. Men stole gloomily and silently away and dug little graves in the snow, to which they committed books, letters, and various knickknacks of sentimental value. And, when the final decisions had to be made, they threw away their little hordes of golden sovereigns and kept the photographs of their sweethearts and wives!” (F.W. Boreham, 2010)

Getting down to the basics in anything can be difficult. Certainly for Shackelton’s expedition team, this was so. In the end, they took with them that which represented the essence of their possessions; photographs of their loved ones. Nothing else was deemed more valuable.

I’ve been on a journey myself, a journey that required me to set aside the distractions of my life and to capture and focus on the essence of prayer.

Over the past several months, I have come to recognize that God’s motivation for the idea behind prayer was driven by His love for His creation. God’s love is an enduring love that knows no boundaries. His love pursues us; it’s a love that transcends all time and space.

 “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. “ (Psalm 139:16)

Prayer became God’s designated means to allow us to respond to His overtures of love. It is through prayer that I am able to communicate and respond to my Creator, to the one who loves me with all of His being. (Psalm 107:15, Psalm 118:1)

Prayer is a gift from God that rises above the circumstances of life. A pastor friend once reminded me that life is hard. At times we seem to face a never ending set of circumstances that makes life hard. Perhaps the circumstances we’re facing are life threatening, or a chronic medical condition that painfully reminds us of its presence each and every day. For others it might be facing economic or relational challenges, or the loss, or imminent loss of a loved one. Whatever our circumstances, the scriptures assure us that we are to engage in prayer, in good times and in bad. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, 1 Timothy 5:5, Daniel 6:10)

The Apostle Paul reminds us that in every situation, no matter how tough it might be, we are to approach God with a heart of thanksgiving. In the face of our circumstances this can be a very tall order. Such a heart is one of continuous gratitude for God’s grace, provision, and ever present love for us. In time, I have learned that the only way to possess such a heart is from the perspective of eternity. What we know is that God’s love for us endures forever. Meaning, that for those who trust in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, His love for us will continue from the present into Heaven for eternity, long after our earthly bodies have turned to dust. Once in Heaven, our finite and comparatively brief earthly life, with all of its troubles and difficulties, will be but a distant thought, a moment in time. It will pale in comparison to the eternal life we are going to experience in Heaven. (Ephesians 5:20, Matthew 1516, Psalm 9:1, Romans 7:25)

Lastly, prayer, at its most basic level is one of confidence in our God. Confidence is expressed in our belief and faith in God for the outcome of our prayers expressed to Him. I’ve learned that at times, God may elect to answer our prayers in an unexpected manner. When He does, it may not feel like the answer we desired or planned for. We should not falter on this point, as I’m convinced that His response is working within a framework that must consider His overall plan for our lives and the lives of others. In this context, our challenge in this earthly life is to trust in His answers, even when we don’t fully comprehend or agree with them in the moment.

It’s possible that the full disclosure of God’s responses to our prayers, and the impact of His responses, may not be fully realized until we are in Heaven. It’s there that we will see the full breadth of his wisdom. For now, we will be blessed in this life for taking the step of trusting fully in God’s wise responses. (Matthew 20:29)

I’ve learned in recent times, the importance in trusting God for the outcomes of my prayers, knowing that His answers to my prayers will ultimately fit into His grander and total plan for my life. (1 John 5:14-15, James 1:6, Matthew 21:22)

The essence of prayer then, is to understand that God loves us with an enduring love, and that He desires communion with us; prayer becomes the vehicle by which this is accomplished. Prayer must be something that is elevated above life circumstances, and when we do pray, we must do so with a heart of thanksgiving. And finally, we need to pray with confidence, trusting in God’s responses, even if we don’t fully grasp the significance of His answer in the moment.

Copyright 2015 FullLifeWord.com

Loneliness Displaced

” ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ ” (Matthew 28:20 )

God never intended human beings to live apart from one another in isolation.

Yet here we are, living in one of the most “connected” societies in human history, yet loneliness is so prevalent. There are many reasons for being lonely. Often the very social networks that connect our society are also the very networks that have been used to isolate us from one another. A frequent means of doing so is through social ostracism, public shame, and cyber bullying. Of course other factors such as the loss of family or someone close, disability, age, disease, poverty, discontent or depression can drive a person into a state of loneliness.

No matter the cause, its a terrible place to be.

In life, friendships grow from shared perspectives, concerns for one another, and a heart willing to take action in times of need.  Lasting friendships are transparent and honest, yet caring and compassionate in its delivery of truth. Friends enjoy time together, even if its not necessarily doing an activity together, sometimes its just being in proximity to one another.

But no matter how deep our human relationships might be, they’re rarely lasting. My  grandmother, in her nineties at the time, once commented to me how grateful she was for her living family as she had outlived her husband and all of her childhood friends. I remember thinking how hard that must have been for her. There was no one left in which to relive shared memories.

Jesus Christ, who loves us (John 3:16) and seeks after us (Rev 3:20) knows about loneliness and the cure for such. He told his disciples shortly before his crucifixion that they would abandon him during his greatest time of need. In that same passage, he also shared that he had overcome the world and that fellowship displaced loneliness because of his relationship with his Heavenly Father (John 16:32-33). Jesus recognized, as my grandmother did, that God is a constant force that can be counted on to push back the creeping shadows of loneliness.

It’s one thing to be alone, but it’s entirely different to be lonely. We can be surrounded by many people and yet experience a deep loneliness in our hearts and souls. I enjoy times of solitude, but I would never desire loneliness.

Responding to Christ’s love for us is often the first step towards overcoming loneliness. Inviting Christ into our lives makes us a new creation (1 Peter 1:3 ). God literally indwells us ( 1 Corinthians 6:19 ). We are no longer alone (Matthew 28:20). As we mature in our faith we learn what it is to “live life to the full” as Christ  always intended for us to do ( John 10:10 )!

Over the years I too have come to the realization that people may come and go, but Jesus will always be. After all, He is the cornerstone upon which the whole of our lives find eternal rest, peace, and fulfillment.

The Key To Knowledge

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” (Luke 11:52)

Marie Curie was a brilliant physicist and chemist that conducted some of the most fundamental and significant research in the study of radioactivity. Her efforts made her the first woman to win the Nobel Prize; not once, but twice!

Yet for all the knowledge she acquired during her research, she missed a critical element of knowledge that would ultimately take her life.

Specifically, the knowledge she lacked was the knowledge that the human body will die if exposed to sustained high levels of radiation. This fact was not known in her day.

She would often carry test tubes of radium around in her pockets while conducting research. She was also exposed to excessive levels of radiation in her early work with mobile X-ray systems that she was creating. Sadly, this brilliant scientist died in July of 1934 from a condition called aplastic anemia, which we know today is frequently brought on by excessive exposure to radiation.

Knowledge can make a significant difference in our lives. As Marie Curie unfortunately discovered, the inverse is also true; a lack of knowledge can also have terrible consequences. Had she known about the dangerous characteristics of radiation, she would have no doubt made different choices in terms of how she handled radioactive samples in her research.

Today, when students study radiation in labs, they are led by teachers that incorporate knowledge on how to safely handle such materials. It would be unconscionable if a teacher ever withheld knowledge on the dangers of radiation to new students.

Education and understanding of knowledge is not a new thing. At one point in his ministry, Jesus had been invited to a meal with several  religious leaders of his day. It was clear that they intended to use their mealtime to promote themselves and their knowledge of the scriptures. Jesus saw through their shallow agenda and spoke truthfully and honestly to them. The Pharisees (Religious leadership) were very offended. The scribes (Legal experts in religious matters) quickly jumped to their defense.

In the end, Jesus made his position clear. In his view, the religious leaders had not only withheld knowledge to the average person that attended church, but intentionally hindered the transfer of knowledge that would lead others to an understanding of His role as the Messiah and to eternal life.

He didn’t mince words with these guys either!

In the verses immediately  prior (Luke 11:51) He made it clear that as holders of such knowledge, these teachers would be held directly accountable for not only taking away knowledge, but for hindering those that were actively seeking to understand the key to eternal life, namely  a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

When I find myself in a role teaching scripture, be it teaching adults or children, I am very mindful of the weight of responsibility that teachers bear. We must always be on guard to fully prepare ourselves and to understand the lessons we teach. Care must be taken to not interpret scriptures in a way that is anything other than what the scriptures are teaching.

We must never do or say anything to hinder someone from coming into a right and eternal relationship with Jesus Christ. Whenever we teach or share information about the scriptures to others, we need to do so with the aim of helping others to grasp the “key of knowledge,”  knowledge of Christ that would permit them to to receive Christ into their lives.

Even if we are not teachers in our church, if we are simply a believer in Christ attending church, we must never shy away from sharing with those that God brings into our lives the knowledge of salvation. While we might not be scholars, our daily conduct, our heart attitude of love towards others are often the only tools we might have to communicate the message of salvation through Christ.

If you’re reading this devotion and have never encountered the living Christ, let me take a moment and share with you what the scriptures tell us about Christ’s love for you and about our mutual need for Christ.

The scriptures tell us that Christ loves you and I to the point of death. He willingly gave his life for me and for you. (John 3:16) The same scriptures also remind us that we are impacted by something called sin. It’s a condition that exists in our world and will keep us separated from God.  Everyone is impacted,( Romans 3:23 ) and unless I take personal steps to address this condition, the condition will result in eternal separation from God when our bodies die. (Romans 6:23) But not to worry, the scriptures share some great news! Jesus has given each of us the opportunity to receive the gift of eternal life. This gift is unmerited and cannot be earned in anyway. (Ephesians 2:8-9 )

So what must one do to receive such a gift!

Admit: Admit that I have sinned and fall short of God’s expectations. The scriptures are clear that all of humanity is impacted by the presence of this sin condition. (Romans 3:23).

Believe: Believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins (John 3:16 and 1:12). Jesus is uniquely qualified to meet God’s standard for entering Heaven. As such, He chose to allow himself to be a substitute for me, to suffer the ultimate consequences of sin, separation from God,  so that I would never have to experience what that might be like. His motive…love.

Conviction: There must be genuine conviction of the need for repentance, confession, and baptism. Our hearts must truly desire to change; we must want to live our lives in a manner that honors God as an ongoing expression of our gratitude for the gift of eternal life, obtained through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9).

How do I do communicate my desire to follow Christ?

We do this by prayer.

Prayer is simply talking to God using our own words. There is no special formula. It’s not magic, its just communicating. Simply pray from your heart to God, and He will save you. If you feel lost and just don’t know what to pray, here’s a prayer of salvation that you can pray:

“Dear Lord,

I admit that I am a sinner. I have done many things that don’t please you. I have lived my life for myself. I am sorry and I repent. I ask you to forgive me. I believe that you died on the cross for me, to save me. You did what I could not do for myself. I come to you now and ask you to take control of my life, I give it to you. Help me to live every day in a way that pleases you. I love you, Lord, and I thank you that I will spend all eternity with you. -Amen”