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Lord, remember your mercy and love that you have shown since long ago. Psalm 25:6 (NCV)

When things go wrong it’s easy to feel like we are all alone, like no one fully understands our problems or our fears. To some extent that is true. Each of us is unique in how we respond to events in our lives. Feeling like we are alone can be one of the most paralyzing things in our lives.

Loneliness can cause us to withdraw into our own prison cell and hinder our ability to see things realistically. We can try to cover up our loneliness through anger or multiple relationships or drugs and alcohol. The feeling that we are all alone has driven many people to suicide. After all, if you are all alone you don’t matter to anyone so you may as well end it.

Unresolved guilt, broken relationships, poor choices, abuse and a variety of other things can cause us to feel lonely and unloved. Whatever it is that is causing you to feel alone can be like a downward spiral. You feel rejected so you withdraw or do some other action to push others away which makes you feel more rejected so you withdraw further into the dark abyss of loneliness. Soon you feel hopeless in your desire to be accepted for who you are.

Acceptance by even one or two people can destroy the walls of loneliness. Sometimes it can be the simplest of things. A hand on your shoulder, a smile at the checkout line, a kind word when anger is present; mercy when you want justice.

There may be times in your life when loneliness and rejection seem to be the order of the day. During times of loneliness and rejection remember that your Heavenly Father is always there. He is full of mercy when you deserve justice; he is there to extend love when others respond in anger; he accepts you as you are when others demand conformity.

Others may never understand your feelings or your actions. Others may never reject you. God never will. As he has in the past, he will continue to be a father that accepts you, stands with you and forgives you. You can trust him to always be at your side.

PRAYER: Father, I thank you for the way you love me. I praise you for always being there when I feel alone and rejected. Help me to feel your presence as I face today. Enable me to show others the mercy and love you have shown me. In Jesus name, Amen.

O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55 (NLT)

Ever noticed how we have a tendency to measure milestones in our lives by tragedy? Usually that tragedy involves death. In my generation the question is often “Where were you when you got the news that JFK was assassinated?” Today the question is usually, “Where were you when the report about 9/11 came onto the news?”

Why is death such a prominent marker for us? The answer may be somewhat obvious. Death is, in the human mindset, the end of all things for the victim. A person’s influence is measured by what he did between his date of birth and the date of his death. As one person said, all of life is measured by the dash between birth and death.

Imagine the emotions of Jesus’ disciples when they watched him take his last breath. If things had turned out differently, years after his crucifixion the question would have been “Where were you when Jesus died?”

Instead, the question that circulated New Testament Palestine was probably, “Where were you when you heard ‘He’s Alive!” ? Imagine the crowd gathering around the person who answered, “I didn’t just HEAR he was alive, I actually SAW he was alive!  I was one of the lucky ones. I stood on the hillside and watched him ascend!”

What a comfort that must have been to the early believers. They didn’t follow a dead Messiah. Worship was based on what they saw, not on what they’d heard or read. Even though none of them ever saw Jesus return (we’re still waiting anxiously for that!), they knew he was alive and that he was the same Jesus who walked with them along the road.

I remember exactly what I was doing when I received the phone call that my 21 year-old brother had died suddenly. I stood at the bedside of my mom as she breathed her last breath.  I cried in the emergency room when I heard that a dear friend had just died after a tragic car accident and comforted his children and wife.

I felt the pain. I experienced the anguish of others as well as my own. But the pain of death I felt was mourning for the loss of people dear to me. But the sting was absent because I know that death will have no victory over those who are in Jesus Christ.

When Jesus rose from the dead he did more than finish the work of my forgiveness, He defeated death once and for all. Let life through what it will at me. Because of Jesus death, burial and resurrection and based on my personal decision to follow him, death will have no victory over me!

PRAYER: Father God, it’s so easy to worry about life. It’s sometimes a little scary to think about death simply because of the unknowns. But I praise you today for the fact that because of Jesus I can look forward to death because even though I don’t know WHAT lies on the other side, I know WHO waits for me. Thank you Jesus. Amen.

You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.  Job 42:3 (NLT)

The story of Job has always been one full of questions. One is often left with the question of ‘Why?’ Why would God allow Satan to have such free reign over so devout man of God? Why would God allow someone as righteous as Job to go through the emotional pain of losing his family, or the physical pain of illness, or complete financial loss? Job’s so-called friends are of no help. They do nothing to encourage him other than regurgitating the answers religion teaches us. If things are going will you are living right. If things are going poorly it must be due to your disobedience and sin. If on the other hand you want to prosper you must obey. 

To Job’s credit he doesn’t buy into the lines of established religious thought. To the very end he maintains his innocence. He’s done all the right things. He’s been a man of integrity that no one other than Christ himself has emulated. We seek recommendations from people to show our expertise. Job’s recommendation came from God himself. Nowhere in all the earth is there a man like Job. Can’t argue with those credentials.

If there was one ‘fault’ in Job’s reasoning it was his questioning of God’s actions. You can’t blame the man. He was in deep physical pain. He was being falsely accused. He’d lost his family. Can you imagine being in so much physical pain you can’t even mourn the passing of all your children? Add to that the rejection of your wife and your friends? Job can. And he confronts the God of heaven about it.

God finally shows himself to God. While God is always the underlying theme of Scripture, when he shows himself things happen. Abraham hid his face. Moses shielded his eyes. Isaiah fell to his knees. It was no different for Job. When God showed up all of Job’s suffering and pain seemed to disappear. God became his focus. When God becomes the focus in the midst of trial everything changes!

We don’t always understand why God allows things to happen as he does. During those times we need to rely on his heart. We may not always understand God’s actions but we can always trust him to do what needs to be done. Rely on his promises. Remember that He loves you. In reality God doesn’t owe you anything. Why he does what he does isn’t any of your business and, as Job came to realize, and you couldn’t understand it anyway!

Throughout history God’s actions have been questioned, but in the end his way has always proven to be the best way.

PRAYER: Father God I confess that I don’t always understand your ways. There are times I’m afraid. Times I worry. Times I get angry at you or at the things happening around me. Life doesn’t seem fair sometimes. I ask that you would empower me by your Spirit to trust you in the darkest times of my life. Help me to trust even when I don’t understand. In Jesus name, Amen.

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it. Revelation 2:17 (NLT)

“What’s your name?”

It’s usually the first question you get asked when meeting someone new, or the first thing you tell someone about yourself. Even though your name is the root beginning of any relationship, they don’t mean as much today as they did back in Old Testament times. Names were given because there was a particular meaning to them. That’s one of the reasons that reading the Old Testament can be so difficult to read. We struggle with the names.

Today names are given to a child because the parents have read countless name books, or have loved ones that they want to honor, or they heard the name and they like it. Little girls at play will often name their dolls certain names because ‘they like the way they sound’.

Someday we’ll each be given a new name. It will be a name that God will give you and it will be designed and pronounced just for you. Imagine that. God loves you so much that when you get to heaven he’s going to give you a new name! I’m guessing it won’t be a common name like we have here. My wife and I rarely call each other by our given names, rather we call each other by intimate, special little names we have come up with to show our love for each other. That’s what your heavenly Father will do when you finally move into the place he has for you. Give you a ‘love name’ to remind you of how passionately in love with you he is.

How do you get the new name? The Bible tells us you get the new name by being victorious. Paul tells us how we can be victorious. The key to victory is Jesus. The door the key unlocks is grace.

In athletic competition victory is gained by defeating your opponent. It is hard work, discipline and determination not to be defeated. Getting your new name is gained by simply accepting the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Religion will tell you all sort of other things. Some will say we are all victorious in the end and just try to live a good life. Other religions will give you a long list of do’s and don’ts required to attain victory (and your new name).

Jesus tells us to call upon us in our weakness; to ask forgiveness of our sins; to allow him to give us the strength we need to live for him. Does that mean there won’t be struggles and disappointments? No. Does that mean we won’t falter in our walk at times? Certainly not. We still need to run the race, faith in Jesus just assures our victory. Trust him now so you can hear the Father say your new name.

PRAYER: Father God, I’ve never thought of your love as being so deep you’d have a ‘love name’ for me. I get so caught up on the battle I forget I’ve already gained the victory through your son. Help me to live out that victory while I’m here on earth so I can see my new name when I join you in Heaven. In Jesus name, Amen

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” John 14:8 (NLT)

The word Father had a completely different connotation to Philip in his day than it does to us today. The term ‘Father’ was much more than a symbol. It conjured up in the minds of every Jew a man that was honored, revered, feared and loved all at once. He was the essence of stability, love, consistency and trust. 

Philip was seeking what each of us wants in life. Someone that could be trusted to do what he said he’d do. Someone in whom they saw power and intimacy and leadership and sensitivity. Today, everyone has the same longing deep within them. We all long to have someone in our lives we can count on to be, do and say what they say they will. 

My apologies for a moment to the women reading this post. Mothers too have a powerful influence in our lives. But to get the full essence of Philips request we need to realize the immense influence of fathers in the emotional, physical and spiritual development of each of us. 

In the same way we need to realize that the ‘father’ that Philip sought is still being sought by many today. While it’s impossible for anyone to fulfill all the qualities of our heavenly Father, it’s imperative that we as fathers strive to work towards that goal.

So, what does our heavenly Father look like? Watch Jesus.

Ask the woman who was guilty of adultery. Remember, she wasn’t accused. She was guilty. Jesus makes no effort to exonerate her. He doesn’t argue her guilt at all. He simply says she was not condemned. What a Compassionate Father!

Question the man who lived his entire life rejecting God. That is, until his dying breath on the cross when he begged Jesus for mercy. Moments later he joined his Savior in Paradise. What a Merciful Father.
Ask the blind man who spend his entire life in physical darkness only to be misunderstood when Jesus gave him sight. What an Understanding Father!

Listen to the father of the seizure ridden boy as he tells the story of how Jesus healed his son and how, that night, he and his wife slept soundly for the first time in years. What a Sensitive Father!

Hear the story the paralytic by the pool recount. He’d given up any hope of healing. His disability started out being physical but grew to the point where it was emotional (I’ll never make it to the pool. I’ll never be healed) and then spiritual (even God has forgotten me). Then Jesus came. What an Encouraging and Healing Father!

Max Lucado states, “Faith begins when you see God on the mountain and you are in the valley and you know that you are too weak to make the climb.”

It’s during those dark times in our lives that we echo the words of Philip. I don’t understand all that’s going on. The future scares me. Just show me the Father and I’ll be okay.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, Daddy, God of all creation. Thank you for being the kind of Father I need for all time. When I feel weak and am unsure I can go on, help me to see Jesus so that I can see you. Amen.

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September 2011
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