Psalm 66:1-2, 6
The Bible is full of stories about how God helped his people when they faced impossible obstacles. When God parted both the Jordan River and the Red Sea so his people could cross over, the pathway through was completely dry. They didn’t even get their sandals wet. When Jonah was thrown overboard, God sent the big fish to save him from drowning and get him to dry land. When Naaman faced a debilitating disease, God told his prophet Elisha how Naaman could be miraculously healed in the Jordan River.
Our God is one of miracles and grand gestures of love. Because he loved us first, we are privileged to love him back, even when facing big problems—especially when facing big problems. In the Bible, Job faced exceptional pain and tragedy when he lost his home, his possessions, his health, and, worst of all, his family. And yet in his grief, he demonstrated love for the Lord who loved him first. “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said … ‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised’” (Job 1:20–21). The same God who chose to save his people with miracles didn’t spare Job from his pain. But God still delighted in Job. And Job still rejoiced in God. Their relationship was deep and it helped Job face his tragedy.
Dear Lord, I don’t know when I’ll have to face something really hard. What I do know is that you go ahead of me and make it possible for me to pass through hardship. Thank you for loving me that much, Father. Amen.
It happens to everyone—being tempted. It even happened to Jesus. No sooner had Jesus been baptized by his cousin John in the Jordan River than God’s Spirit led him into the desert. There the Devil came to him and tormented him, tempting him to use his power for his own glory instead of good. It was so bad that when it was over, angels had to come and take care of him.
If Jesus was tempted, you can be sure that you will be too. But here’s the good news. God made a promise about how he will help us. Here it is: “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, The Message).
There’s more good news. Being tempted is not sin. As long as we don’t give in to the temptation we have not sinned. And one more piece of good news is that if we “submit [ourselves], then, to God [and] resist the devil … he will flee from [us]” (James 4:7). We will always win because God is with us.
Dear Lord, Thank you for making a way for us to escape sin when we are tempted. Help me when I am tempted to remember that Jesus was tempted too and he came through it without sinning. I know Jesus can help me when I am tempted. Amen.
Job 34:29–30, The Message
In the Old Testament there is a story about Daniel. Daniel was praying to God for help, but none came. God was silent—so it seemed. Daniel prayed and went without food for three weeks. Still nothing. Then one day he was standing on the bank of the Tigris River when an angel named Michael appeared before him. Daniel was scared nearly to death, and fell on his hands and knees. Then the angel spoke to him. “Daniel … consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have been sent to you.” Daniel obeyed, standing but trembling like a leaf in the wind. Then the angel said, “Since the first day … your words were heard.”
God heard Daniel the first time he called out to God in prayer. Even though God didn’t respond right away, God heard Daniel. God hears us in the very same way, always listening to our prayers. He’ll answer when the time is right.
Dear Lord, I’m not always patient when I’m asking you for something I need. Help me to learn that you always hear me—even when there seems to be no answer. Amen.
2 Corinthians 11:2
A young man carefully held his kora harp in his hands. “If I were marooned on a desert island, the one thing I’d want with me is this harp,” he said.
The kora harp is a West African instrument and has twenty-one strings. Each string is attached to a tuning peg on a long neck of the harp. The young man held the instrument between his knees and, with his hands on two handholds on either side of the neck, plucked the strings to make a beautiful sound. As he plucked the strings, he often stopped to tighten or loosen one of those twenty-one tuning pegs. He knew exactly which string was out of tune. Most who listened had no idea there was anything wrong with the string, but the young man who knows his instrument well, and who is a master at playing this instrument, knew the sound it made could be better than it was. He loved his harp. He understood it and he wanted its music to be perfect.
That’s the way God is with us. He loves us so much, just like the kora harpist loves his instrument. He knows all about us. He knows when we are living a true life and when we are faking it. He knows what our lives can be if we let him correct us and tune us so we make music that is harmonious with his will for our lives. And he will never leave us. He’ll be close by to help us, always.
Dear Lord, Help me to let you change me into who you want me to be. I want to make beautiful music with my life. Let my life be like a love song to you. Tune me up so no ugly or unkind words come from my mouth. Thank you, Father, for loving me so much. Amen.
The rod and staff are tools of the shepherd. The rod is a club that the shepherd has carved from the root of a tree and fitted to his hand. The shepherd keeps the rod with him at all times and uses it as a weapon. When wild animals or snakes threaten the sheep, the shepherd takes aim and uses the rod to kill or drive off the intruder.
The staff is a useful and essential tool for the shepherd. Many staffs had hooks at the end for catching sheep that were wandering off, for lifting a lamb and putting it back beside its mother, and for pulling away thorny bushes the sheep might wander into and get caught in. Sheep fall over cliffs and have to be rescued. They get into weeds that will make them sick if they eat them. They must have a shepherd with them at all times to care for them and guide them. The shepherd uses his staff to assist the sheep. Sometimes he uses it to pull a sheep close to himself so he can inspect it for cuts and bruises.
So how are God’s rod and staff a comfort to us? They comfort us because God is our shepherd, guiding us day by day. Some days we may feel the hook of the staff around our necks guiding us back to the right way. Sometimes we hear the rod as it flies past our head to chase away something that would have hurt us. And sometimes we feel the staff of God’s love pulling us close to him.
Dear Lord, You are my Good Shepherd. Thank you for watching over me even when I am stubborn and foolish. Thank you for pulling me back in line and closer to you. Amen.
Storms are scary. They are destructive and they can threaten life. When a huge hurricane named Katrina swept ashore in New Orleans, it just about ruined the city. Jesus’ disciples knew all about storms, so when they got caught in a furious squall on the Sea of Galilee, they were sure they were about to die. They expected their boat to be demolished by the storm. Jesus was asleep in their boat, so they woke him up and asked him to save them. And that’s what Jesus did. He spoke to the storm and told it to be quiet.
Tough times come to everyone. Sometimes someone we love gets sick. Sometimes a friend betrays us. Sometimes there are real storms like hurricane Katrina. There are lots of scary things that can happen, but just like the disciples, we have Jesus in the boat of our life. We just have to call out to him. He will help us find a way through the worst problems we could ever have.
Dear Lord, Thank you for being there through the good times as well as the bad. I know that with your help I can overcome anything that comes into my life. Help me trust you more. Amen.
Have you ever played a game where you were blindfolded and your friends shouted directions about which way you should go? If you have, you know it’s scary. It’s hard to trust that your friend will keep you safe. They might let you walk into a wall. They might not see a curb you could trip over. You might not understand their directions and ram into something. Often when we are trying to figure out what God wants us to do, we might feel blindfolded. We may have to just listen to his directions and keep walking even though we can’t see where we are going. Is it scary? You bet!
But God will guide us and keep us safe in his care. He’s promised. Our job is to pray, trust in God’s wisdom, and listen for his direction. So if we have to change schools or don’t make a team we tried out for, it doesn’t have to discourage us. Often God closes doors to lead us in a different direction, meet a new person, or offer us a new opportunity that will help us to grow and change. It might be scary at first, but we’re never alone.
Dear Lord, Help me believe that you will guide me even when I can’t see anything ahead. Help me to keep walking and listening until you show me the next path to take. Amen.
Happy Just to Be … Myself
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to compare yourself to others? Even if we know better, we look at someone else and think he or she has it better. How many times have you thought: If only I had the right hair or clothes or shape … If only I were taller or faster or bolder or funnier …
There’s an old story of a king who went to his garden and found everything withered and dying. He asked the oak tree what was wrong. The oak tree said it was sick of living because it was not as tall and beautiful as the pine tree. The pine was dropping needles because it couldn’t grow grapes like the grapevine. And the grapevine let itself shrivel up because it couldn’t stand straight and tall like the peach tree. Every plant in the garden was discontented and wanted to be something different, except the violet. There it stood with its happy face turned toward the sun. The king asked the little flower why it was so happy and content when every other plant in the garden was so miserable. “Well,” said the flower, “I figured that if you had wanted a big oak tree or a pine tree or a peach tree in my spot, you would have planted one; but you planted me—a violet. Since I knew you wanted a violet, I’ve made up my mind to be the best little violet I can be.”
You were made by the almighty Creator with a purpose in mind. Wishing to be anything other than who you are does nothing more than steal your time, energy, and joy. But when you see yourself how God does, you realize how great you really are. So you can stop concentrating on other people and instead focus on your own blessings. Only then will you find you are ready for all the plans and adventures God has for you.
Dear Lord, Help me stop comparing myself to other people and worrying about the things I think I lack. Thank you for all of the gifts you have given me. Show me how I can best use them for your glory. Amen.
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