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The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Psalm 28:8

Imagine what it was like for David, just a kid, a mere 16 years old or so. His idea of excitement was being in the mountain meadow tending a bunch of sheep. David spent more time alone than he spent with people.

One day all that changed. He was called in from the field and when he arrived, the great priest Samuel was there. Priests didn’t just ‘show up’ at your door for no reason. Especially someone as mighty as Samuel. When he came, there was a reason. What must have been going through his mind as the oil from the anointing ran down his cheeks and dripped from his chin?

The King? Me? I’ve never even been in the palace much less be king?

Anointing didn’t mean maybe. David was in! How or why or when didn’t matter at that time. Too much to think about. Scripture implies that at least for a while David returned to the fields. Same old sheep. Same long nights. But now, there must have been something different, and the difference was in David. Now he had hope. Now he knew God was going to use him for something wonderful. The songs of praise must have rolled off his lips.

The story didn’t end there of course. There were years of waiting. Years of scoffing by his brothers. Years of dodging spears and angry tirades by Saul. Years of hiding for his life in caves. Years of wondering when God’s promise would be fulfilled.

What was it that kept him going? What was it that made David get out of bed every morning and attack each day as a mighty warrior with victory in sight? The motivation for David’s persistence was his anointing. That was the promise that would never fail because that promise came from God.

As a follower of Jesus Christ you are anointed today. Whatever trial you are facing, whatever disappointment is trying to keep you from moving forward, whatever or whoever has hurt you with words or action, don’t forget the anointing.

The anointing David received was a promise of strength and a promise of the future. It was a guarantee that God the almighty, the Creator of the universe, the one who hung the stars in space and flung the galaxies into place has chose you for a task and he will see you through to the end.

There will be dark nights. There will be wilderness trails to endure. But when God anoints you, when He has chosen you, the outcome is sure and is in his hands not yours. A wonderful word of praise and reminder from the Psalms.

PRAYER: Father God. Worry seems to follow me. I doubt myself and at times I doubt you. People mistreat me and I make mistakes. But today I rest on the promise of my anointing through Jesus Christ. Today I rest on your promise to see me though. Amen.

Only you, Lord, are a mighty rock! Don’t refuse to help me when I pray. If you don’t answer me, I will soon be dead. Psalm 28:1 (CEV)

Government tells us that safety and prosperity will come from new programs and equality.

Religion tells us that safety and prosperity will come from following certain dogmas and rules.

Education tells us that safety and prosperity will come from new books, higher learning and giving everyone an equal chance.

Society tells us safety and prosperity will come from acceptance and loving relationships.

But governments come and go and things haven’t gotten much better; religion has failed to give us any assurance that life is better by following those rules; education hasn’t solved any major issues of late and society seems on the brink of collapsing within itself.

So what can we hang our hat on every night? What assurance do we have that there is something better ahead? What comfort can we have when the bills are more than the money, our health is failing and the relationship we are in is unsatisfying on the good days and unbearable on the bad days?

A rock climber will tell you that a good foothold in the sheerest of cliffs gives you all the confidence in the world to move on. I’m not a rock climber, but I know about sheer cliffs. I know about getting into a place where there seems to be no way out and having one thing you can count on makes all the difference in the world.

I’m reminded of an old joke I heard years ago. A motorcyclist was driving through the mountains. He navigated one curve after another with no problem. Then the unthinkable happened. He took one curve too fast and ended up going over a sheer 500 foot cliff.

Halfway down he managed to grab a scraggly pine tree growing out of the rock. Suspended 250 feet from the rocky valley below, he screamed for help.

“Is there anybody up there to help me? He screamed at the top of his lungs.

“I’m here,” he finally hears a voice coming from nowhere.

“Well, who are you and can you help me?”

“I’m God, and of course I can help you.”

A bit confused he yells, “Good, can you get me out of here?”

The voice answers back, “Sure, let go of the tree.”

After a moment’s hesitation the man screams again, “Is there anyone else up there that can help me?”

Too often we fail to trust God completely. We acknowledge him as creator God, as controller of the universe, but when life seems impossible we turn to our own resources instead of complete trust in God.

Are you clinging to a tree hoping for some magical rescue? Trust God for who he is and let go of the tree!

PRAYER: Father I’m facing obstacles in my life I neither understand nor have an answer to. I’ve tried everything I know of to get out of this predicament. Now I turn to you and ask you to help me trust you with my entire life. Amen.

We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Luke 23:41

The five hardest words to say in society:

“I’m sorry.”

“I was wrong.”

Three men crosses, three men, three entirely different stories, all were going to die that day.

On the one side hung a man who was arrogant, and proud. Even with death staring him in the face he never relented. To the very end his words and actions told his life story. To the very end he attacked others rather than looking at himself. Life was a blame game. Blame others. Refuse to look at your own faults. Dull your own pain by focusing on, and if possible increasing the pain of others. Take no thought in how your actions may affect those around you. Every man for himself.

On the other side hung a man who spent his dying moments reflecting on life. His attitude on the cross may give insight into his life as a whole. This was the man next door. Good to his kids, kind to his wife. May have even gone to church occasionally (like Easter and Christmas). But life dealt him a cruel hand. Try as he might, he just couldn’t shake the lifestyle that put nails in his hand. His may have been addiction. It may have been an attitude of action without thinking. He may have lived a life full of anger, frustration or fear.

Moral? Perhaps in some ways. The rough exterior that put the nails in his hands may have belied an underlying heart of compassion and kindness and humility. While we don’t know much about him but we can surmise that he knew how to say the five words.

His rebuke of his cross mate showed that he knew he was wrong. While his buddy blamed others, he took responsibility himself. We know he was sorry for he asked the man in the middle for forgiveness (of sorts).

In the middle Jesus Christ stands between heaven and hell; between paradise and judgment; between forgiveness and shame.  Three different men, three different stories, two different outcomes. The one who refused to accept responsibility died that day and is spending eternity separated from God. The other two men moved from earth to heaven. Jesus taking along his new found friend, removing him from judgment and bringing him to paradise; granting him forgiveness and taking away his shame.

We can focus on what others have done to us and play the part of a victim or we can admit our part in the guilt. We can accept judgment or accept grace and forgiveness.

Jesus Christ was more than just a religious figure or a good teacher. He was more than a prophet. He was and is Messiah. He came to take away your guilt and your shame. He came to forgive those who are willing to look at themselves, admit their fault and accept his forgiveness.

PRAYER: Jesus thank you for your forgiveness. I worship you because once I was like the man who chose to blame others rather than accept responsibility for my rebellion. Thank you that I am free because you died for me. Amen.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. Genesis 3:21

There are plenty of studies out there about how clothing affects the person. When we are feeling good about ourselves we generally dress accordingly. Doctors and medical professionals wear white because it garners respect from people. People in a suit and tie are usually considered successful regardless of their financial status. People in dirty or old clothes are generally considered poor or people of ill repute.

One day, Adam and Eve walked alone and naked in the garden. They were unashamed of their looks, unashamed and open about their feelings. They accepted each other completely and were totally transparent with one another. Scripture even suggests that they understood each other fully.

Then sin came into the picture and with that sin, came shame. Genesis tells us that when sin entered the picture it changed how the couple looked at each other, themselves and God. They looked at each other’s nakedness and felt shame and embarrassment. They heard God and felt fear. Remember, these were new feelings for the first couple. Shame, embarrassment and fear had never been a part of their emotional make-up to this point.

Genesis 3:21 is a beautiful story of grace. Grace because an innocent animal gave its life. Grace because neither the man nor the woman deserved God’s forgiveness. Grace because the creator himself not only made them their clothes, he clothed them.

The clothing God made for the man and woman covered far more that their physical nakedness, God’s clothing covered their emotional nakedness by covering their shame, guilt and embarrassment.

The fig leaves Adam and Eve covered themselves with were inadequate to cover the real issues in their lives. Nothing has changed today. We spend thousands of dollars every year to hide our shame and our guilt. We use clothes, new jobs, new relationships, new hairstyles, religion and all sorts of other things to try to cover up how we feel about ourselves but nothing works. Physical coverings will never cure the inner pain we feel.

Our creator God personally clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins as a symbol of a new set of clothing he offered through Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the only one that will cover your guilt. Jesus is the only one who will cover your anger and your hurt. Jesus is the only one who can cover the scars of your past.

The real beauty of God’s clothing is that when you are clothed with Jesus Christ you are able to be fully free to be you. No more hiding. No more disguises. Simply free to be you! With Jesus your outfit is you and you are beautiful!

My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the Lord. Psalm 26:12

When I was growing up our church, and many others, had Sunday evening church. Most of the time these services were slightly more informal that the morning worship service. This was the time we had special events like movies, or missionary speakers, or musical groups perform.

While the Sunday evening service has largely gone away, the one thing I remember, and miss the most, was ‘testimony time’. This was a time set aside nearly every week to share our stories of how God was influencing our lives or the lives of others through us. Some stories brought tears, others cheers. There were prayer requests and praise items. In a sense it was family time. It was as if we were just a bunch of brothers and sisters sitting around the campfire sharing memories and stories that made us what we were.

In Psalm 26 David is reminding God of his journey through life. He’s worked hard at living the way God wanted him too. He’s seen some victories, he’s stumbled at times. Like a wayfarer in the wilderness he’s climbed some mountains and walked through some valleys. He’s been through the wilderness, and walked in lush meadows. He’s known loneliness and he’s enjoyed the company of friends. But now? Now he stands on level ground. Walking on level ground is a metaphor for easy street. No more struggling. No more wandering in the dark. He’s home.

Not only has he seen victory in the journey, now he stands in the ‘great congregation’ to tell others of the mighty things God has done for him. He proclaims the glory of the Lord to all who will listen.

We need to hear each other’s stories. We need to tell the stories of our own struggles, our victories, our fears and our dreams. What better place to do that than in the company of family members, of brothers and sisters in Christ who share your passion for Jesus. Telling our stories encourages one another-(“If God can help them through that, maybe he can help me through my struggle”). Telling our stories strengthens us and helps others pray for us on a daily basis rather than in crisis mode. But most importantly, telling our stories offers up public praise to the one who is worthy of all praise.

This isn’t a treatise on resurrecting the Sunday evening church service, but it is a reminder that we need to place ourselves in situations with our spiritual family where we can share our stories. It might be a small group Bible Study. It might be lunch or a stop at the coffee shop. It may be a few minutes in the aisle of the grocery store.

Be willing to ask others for their stories (“So what’s God doing in your life lately?). Be willing to share the little things and the big things God is doing in your life. You’ll find it’s refreshing to you, encouraging to others and pleasing to your Heavenly Father who loves to hear the praise of his people.

PRAYER: Lord, I thank you today for all you have done for me. Give me courage and opportunity to share my story of your blessing with others and to seek out stories from others of what you have done in their lives. In all this we, as your children seek to glorify you. Amen.

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July 2012
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