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Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms. Psalm 68:19 (NLT)

“I’m tiiiiirrrrrred.” Any of us have heard those words of pseudo agony if we’ve ever had children. Usually it comes close to the end of a fun day at the zoo, a long hike in the park or one of those shopping marathons you vow you’ll never take them on again!

They aren’t just giving you that information for your own well-being. It’s a signal, a request in hiding. If you don’t respond in the way they expect you’ll hear the more direct approach, “Carry me!”

You scoop them up in your arms and depending on the day or time they are soon relaxed, enjoying the rest of the trip, or even deciding your shoulder is a pretty cool place for a nap. A stroller would be easier for you, but how many times have you seen one parent pushing an empty stroller while the other has a sleeping child on their shoulder? How many times have you been that parent? Why is it? Because we all need at times to be carried.

What’s true for children physically is true for all of us spiritually and emotionally. Sure, there are times we may need to suck it up, to push on, to ‘run with endurance the race set before us’, but sometimes the race is just too much. Sometimes the obstacles are too large, the pain too unbearable. We need to be carried.

We need to feel the arms of Jesus around us. We need to feel the security of he hold upon our lives, to know that we will get through this. Maybe not on our own power, but his power is so much greater.

Your need to be carried can be the result of your own mistakes and failures. He’ll carry you.

Your need may be the result of abuse or attack by others, even well-meaning friends and family. He’ll carry you.

Your need may be fueled by loneliness. He’ll carry you.

Your need may be rooted in your past, a past that keeps haunting you. (How could I do that? What was I thinking?) He’ll carry you.

Jesus doesn’t carry you because you are weak (even though you are) he carries you because that’s what loving parents do when the journey is too great. When you are in his arms you have time to rest, time to regroup, time to bask in the safety of his presence.

For those days when you can’t go on, rest in his arms. He’s waiting to carry you through this.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. I’m tired. I know that the things I’m going through are largely my fault. I know I live in an evil world full of people and things intent on hurting me. Right now I can’t take another step. I want to feel your arms of love and security around me so I can rest in you. Thank you. Amen.

The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. Psalm 23:1 (NCV)

First of all, we need to get rid of the romanticism behind being a shepherd. We’ve seen the pictures. Soft little lambs playing in an open meadow while adult sheep lay enjoying the sun. In the background a shepherd sits against a rock looking out over a peaceful valley. Blue skies. Green grass. Gorgeous scenery. Life is good.

Without a doubt there were days like that but have you ever really thought of what life as a shepherd was like? Occasionally (as in the night Jesus was born) you may be lucky enough to spend some time with other shepherds and other flocks. But much of their time is spent alone.

Shepherds didn’t go home at night. Their home was with the sheep. Smelly, stubborn, stupid boring sheep 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They endured hot days and cold nights. They endured storms and winds and were under constant threat of enemy attack, especially in the dark. And the picture of peaceful sheep following a shepherd? Forget that too. Sheep are stubborn. They don’t know where to eat. They won’t go find good grass on their own. They don’t know enough to stay out of rushing water. If they tried to cross a stream that was too deep their wool would turn them into an effective anchor! They certainly aren’t fighters. Bears, lions and other predators see sheep as fair and easy game and an easy, instant meal.

Sheep rebel constantly, lack motivation, vision, passion, desire and wisdom. Even so, Jesus gives us a glimpse of what a shepherd was like. David, of course, was a shepherd. Shepherds were the first ones told of the birth of the Christ-child. 

Jesus calls himself the good shepherd. Here’s what he says about a good shepherd. A good shepherd knows your name. He may have hundreds of sheep in the flock, but he knows you. personally. That doesn’t mean he knows your name alone. He knows your likes and dislikes. He knows the intricate things about your personality. To me all sheep look the same. To Jesus every sheep is unique and exciting. That’s you. Unique. Exciting. 

The good shepherd protects. He lies down at the gate so no predators can get through. The only way to get to you is if they get through the shepherd first. Not much chance of anyone getting past Jesus. He’s passionate about protecting you.

Good shepherds know what is best for you. He prepares the day’s journey. He’s walked the path many times. He knows the best and safest route to take. We aren’t cookie-cutter sheep. Jesus knows that. Since we aren’t cookie-cutter sheep we don’t have one-size-fits-all needs. He won’t try to force you into some mold for life; rather he molds life events around you to make you the best you can be.

Jesus calls us sheep. We are described as sheep without a shepherd wandering aimlessly, getting into danger, struggling with survival, defenseless against the enemies in our life. So why would Jesus spend so much time with you, a silly sheep? Jesus knows that will all the faults you have, you are worth the fight. He’ll fight to the death to protect you. He’s willing to endure all of your negative qualities, your weaknesses and your rebelliousness. Why? Jesus loves you and you are worth the risk!

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. Thank you for a love that goes so deep. Thank you for understanding my weakness. Thank you for loving me enough to fight for me, cry with me and walk with me through the night. Most of all, thank you for forgiving my sin. Amen.

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Psalm 32:5 (NLT)

Finally. It’s a little word filled with relief when the fever of a small child finally breaks. It’s a word filled with hope when the gentle, prolonged rain falls on drought stricken land. It’s a word filled with comfort when a loved one returns home from battle or a long journey. Finally means many things to each of us and usually those feelings are feelings that bring a sigh to our hearts.

When David wrote this Psalm he recounts the agony he endured as he lived a life of sin. The double standard that he followed robbed him of his sleep, took away his appetite, and even caused physical pain and agony deep inside his joints. He was a hurting man in need of relief…finally.

Finally he finds the relief he sought. Finally-after holding it in for so long; after all the pain he endured; after living with the fear of being ‘caught’; after the sleepless nights. Finally he found relief.

Isn’t that the way it is with sin, especially for those of us that are Christ-followers? We visit the websites we know are displeasing to our Lord Jesus. We harbor the bitterness and anger of wrongs done to us. We relive the past mistakes we’ve made. We continue to live the lie in order to hide our sin.

Finally, King David got honest with himself, and God. Notice his confession wasn’t to people, not at first anyway. His sin was first and foremost against his God and that is where his confession was directed. He stopped the lies. He admitted his open rebellion, and, as a result found release from the guild he’d been harboring for a long, long time.

When he finally came to the point of confession David didn’t find a God who was intent on punishment, rage or anger. He found a God of forgiveness, grace and mercy. He found a God that was more than willing to remove the guilt he bore for so long. The guilt that caused the feelings of failure in his life. The guilt that fueled the feelings of remorse, anger and frustration. This God of love and grace didn’t just remove the penalty for his sin. He wiped out the guilt.

Many of us still deal with guilt in our lives. Getting rid of guilt simply requires confession on our part to a loving, gracious God. The enemy of your soul will tell you there is more, but you simply need to point to the cross and claim the promise of forgiveness though Jesus. His death and resurrection wipes out your guilt once and for all…finally.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I’ve been enduring the pain of guilt of a long time. I’m tired of the pain, the sleepless nights, the fear of being ‘found out’. I confess my sin to you right now. Cleanse me of my guilt and empower me to do what needs to be done to resolve any wrongs I’ve done to others. Thank you for your mercy, grace and forgiveness. Amen.

If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. Matthew 24:46 (NLT)

Who are your heroes in life? Chances are your response to the question brings up the names of athletes, powerful preachers, award winning authors or political figures. Those that are not likely to be on your list? The barista at the local coffee shop (because she makes great latte’s, the guy who changes the oil in your car, the garbage man, the people who service your hotel room, the person in bankruptcy court or the people cleaning up the mess you made at the ball park.

A few years back the Chicago Bulls played the Minnesota Timberwolves inMinneapolis.Chicagowas at the top of their game behind the play of Michael Jordan (and others). The ‘Wolves were brand new to the league. Everyone knew there was no way the home town team would win. However, the arena was full to capacity. Why? To see Michael Jordan. The score didn’t matter. The competition level was low. They came to see one person perform. A local paper covering the game gave this headline, “We all want to be like Mike.”

In this Kingdom awards and accolades are given out to those who are the best or to those who have succeeded in life. Only those who are at the top of their game get the award. Number two may try harder, but in reality they live in the shadows. Only champions are remembered.

In God’s Kingdom ALL who persevere are rewarded. These ‘champions’ are the ones who give of their time to help those in need. These champions realize that personal wealth here on earth is nothing to be sought after, that true wealth is laid up for them in heaven. These champions are the ones who live life with the understanding that they are no better and no worse than the person next to them. These champions realize that nothing they accomplish without Christ is of any value.

Jesus doesn’t demand that we BE best. He asks us to do our best. Then he sends his Holy Spirit into our lives to help us be the person he wants us to be. The greatest things we can accomplish here on earth will have eternal results and be largely unseen by others.

You may feel your labors for Christ are in vain because no one notices, but Jesus notices and your reward will be great. Don’t give up doing good. Don’t get sucked into the lie that what you have physically (wealth, status, career, etc) is the most important thing. In God’s kingdom the true champions are those who serve in the shadows.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I try so hard to serve you, but now I realize that I’m really trying to impress men and build my own wealth according to this kingdom and not your kingdom. Thank you for the opportunities I have to serve today. Help me do it with gladness so others can see you in me. Amen.

A king is pleased with a wise servant, but he will become angry with one who causes him shame. Proverbs 14:35 (NCV)

I’ve always wanted to play piano. My mom played piano. She read music…a little. But she also had the ability to hear a song and then sit down at the piano an in a few minutes be able to play a simple version of the song. God’s given me a love for music. He gave me a mom that was more than willing to teach me to play. I can’t play the piano. Never found the time to practice.

My inability to play the piano is a small example of something we all struggle with and that’s taking the time to do the small things that lead to greater achievement later on in life. When I was a boy, practicing the piano for a half hour a day seemed like a huge investment of time. But that small investment would have produced greater results later in life.

Sometimes neglecting the little things in life have relatively unimportant results. For example, I can’t play the piano, but I can enjoy the ability others have to do so. But sometimes neglecting the little things in life have life-changing effects.

My wife calls them the ‘I’m Gonna’s’. All those little things we say we are going to do…someday. “I’m gonna write a book”; “I’m gonna start to exercise”; “I’m gonna help more around the house”. You can add to that list.

Sometimes we may realize that our “I’m gonna’s’ are lofty dreams, such as the child-hood dream of “Someday I’m going to be president!” Other times the failure to do the “I’m gonna’s’ lead to disaster.

It’s sad to say, but there are many marriages that have failed because one or both (usually both) people in the relationship have overlooked the little things. Things like helping with housework or putting household duties aside to sit with the kids or spend time together. Relationships aren’t destroyed by the big things in life. Many families have worked through affairs and illness and financial disaster. I believe it’s because those families have done the little things that create a bond that nothing can sever.

The proverbs say, “A King is pleased with a wise servant.” Servant’s had a pretty menial existence. They were the ones that cleaned the palace and cooked the food. They built the buildings and tended to the gardens and the livestock. Their actions were small, but when done right, were noticed by the king.

God doesn’t expect us to accomplish huge results in life. He doesn’t ask for perfection. Your Heavenly Father is far more interested in what you are doing than what you hope to accomplish.

If you are a minister he’s far more excited about how your family is than he is how large your church is. If you are a business owner he’s far more pleased with how your customers are treated than he is the black ink in your ledger. As a husband he’s far more impressed with your attitude when your wife asks you to hold her purse in the mall, or your child asks you to sit with them and read when the big ball game is on.

What ‘I’m gonna’s’ are on your list? Choose one thing today to work on and DO IT! It’s the little things that make a big difference.

PRAYER: Lord, I’m so frustrated right now with my inability to do the small things in life. There is so much I want to accomplish, yet I struggle to do the little things. Help me to start today to tackle the ‘I’m gonna’s in my life. Amen.

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November 2011
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