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He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done. 2 Chronicles 29:2

I shouldn’t have done it. I knew better. But…I did.

EgoMaybe you know what it’s like. If there are 100 people listening to you speak and 99 tell you have well you did, but one was critical, you feel defeated. Never mind the fact that 99% of the people liked what you had to say. The fact that one…just 1% of the people were negative sticks to your ego like glue.

I keep telling myself it’s not about me, it’s about God working through me. The truth is, when I can’t please people I feel defeated. One time I was at a speaking engagement and a gentleman came up to me after one of my presentations and proceeded to tell me all the reasons I was wrong. Even though I had many accolades, his words stuck with me.

A few months, after another engagement in a nearby town, I saw this man moving through the crowd towards me. I braced myself for another negative onslaught. This time, however, he was full of praise for me and all I had to say.

I walked away from our conversation with two thoughts running through my mind. One was, “I feel so good about me.” The second one was, “Wait a minute! Why am I letting him dictate my self-esteem?”

Maybe you are like me. It’s easy to let the opinions of others affect how you feel about yourself, about your God and about others. On the one hand we profess the belief that how God feels about us, and how we feel about ourselves is all that really matters. On the other hand, during those quiet, honest times of our lives, we admit that the view others have of us holds great power.

Hezekiah was a 20-something when he became King of Judah. His dad, Ahaz, was one of the most godless kings of Judah. Hezekiah saw the harm his father caused. He looked back further to see how God had blessed Judah during David’s reign. With his dependence on God, he brought the nation back to dependence on God. While Scripture doesn’t say it, there must have been some who questioned this young man’s decisions. He didn’t relent. He didn’t allow the opinions of others distract him. Instead, he focused on God and his word.

Hezekiah wasn’t perfect. He made some mistakes later in life. Still, my prayer for myself is that my legacy would be the same legacy that 2 Chronicles spells out. “He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done.”

PRAYER: Father God. There are so many times I measure my success by how others react to me. There are so many times my self-worth and confidence is based on how others feel about me, rather than how I follow you. Forgive me for seeing others above you. May I do right in your eyes more so than in the eyes of those around me. Amen.

My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,  like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. Isaiah 53:2

He was the shortest guy on the team. He’d played very little because his height was a distinct disadvantage trying to rebound in the land of the giants. One of his best friends was equally ‘Stature-disadvantaged’ but his quickness gave him the edge. The one thing Tom did have was an amazing outside shot. Usually he never got a chance to use it, that is, until THE GAME.

We’d fought ourselves back from a double-digit deficit. Now, with just two seconds on the clock, we were down by one. I put Tom in. I drew up the plan during our time out which would get him the ball for a last second shot to win the game. It worked flawlessly. The opposition rushed the ‘best outside shooter on the floor’ to try to keep him from getting the ball and shooting the winning shot. No one, however, paid any attention to little Tommy stationed on the other side of the floor. He caught the ball and launched a flawless shot that slid nicely through the basket for the winning shot.

Tom was an unlikely hero that day because he was overlooked by the other players. There was nothing impressive about him yet he became the most important player on the team that day for just a few minutes.

Isaiah refers to Jesus as a ‘tender green shoot’. Tender green shoots are weak and unimpressive to the naked eye yet they hold within them the promise of new life. Isaiah refers to Jesus as a ‘root in dry ground’. Roots in dry ground are repulsive to look at and hold no hope. Yet when water is put on those roots they spring to life.

Too often in our lives we feel like ‘tender green shoots’ or ‘roots in dry ground.’ We think we are of no value in the grand scheme of things. When those feelings of worthlessness overtake us, we need to remember that Jesus too was nothing to look at in the human realm. Yet, he provided for us hope and release from the things that keep us bound. People may not be impressed by your external looks but when we allow Jesus’ light to shine through us they won’t be able to deny God’s mighty work through us.

PRAYER: Father God, I thank you for the example you have given us through Jesus Christ. During those times when I feel I have nothing to offer, help me remember that with you working through me I can make a difference in my world. In Jesus name, Amen.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. Psalm 13:5

Interesting little word, the word ‘but’. It can be used to signify a change in direction: “I was going to go to the ball game BUT it rained so I went shopping instead.

It can be used to describe actions that seem contrary, “He wanted to speak up, BUT he was afraid”.

But can be used to signify actions that may seem heroic and strong, “He could have died BUT he went in after the young boy anyway.”

But can describe an attitude of heart, of commitment and of being resigned to a particular action, thought or emotion as well.

In Psalm 13 David vividly expresses the emotions of a man who is stressed out, under attack and questioning God. When will this end? When will you deliver me? When will my enemies be defeated? When will I finally get a decent night’s sleep? When will I finally have enough money at the end of the month? When will my son/daughter get their life straightened out? When…?

In the midst of the storm, when there really is no indication of relief, when the noise of rockets and bombs is still heard, and defeat seems imminent, David comes to a decision.

“But I trust in your unfailing love…”.

Ultimately, David’s trust in God was based on the favor God bestowed on him spiritually even though it wasn’t recognizable in his physical circumstances. The things that were most troubling to him were superficial regardless of the struggle they brought into his life. None of them would ever take away the favor God bestowed on him. The bestowing of God’s favor has never guaranteed we would be without turmoil, in fact, the opposite is true.

As he contemplated his situation, David realized that none of his trouble took away the friendship he had with God. True friendship is shown to be strongest in the midst of the battle because a true friend will fight for you when he can, but stand by you regardless of the situation.

In the midst of enemy attack, David remembered that while the enemy could take away everything he held dear, including his life, the enemy would never be able to steal the promises God had for him. Promises of salvation, grace, mercy and eternal love. Those were things the Psalmist could rely in regardless of circumstance.

Regardless of what you are in the midst of today, remember these two things. You will go through trying times in which there seems no way out. Those times may be at the hands of others or the result of your own decisions. Whatever those struggles are, you can come boldly to the throne of grace and talk to your Father about the situation.

Secondly, as the Psalmist says in the midst of his struggle, you can trust your loving Heavenly Father to deliver you in his time. Nothing can take you from his arms.

PRAYER: Lord as the storm rages around me, thank you that I can stand firm in the fact that your love, your friendship; your promises will never be taken from me. Help me to rest in these promises as I endure the pain. Amen.

I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do. Nehemiah 7:2

When crunch time comes you want to call on someone you know you can count on. Someone who performs well under pressure; someone who is confident enough in his/her abilities that a challenge is looked forward to; someone who is willing to risk, but open to asking for help when needed; someone who won’t let their bad day affect the task at hand.

That was the kind of person the Prophet Nehemiah was looking for when he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. The success of the project involved far more than the protection of the people. Nehemiah was an envoy for the King. Failure wasn’t an option because failure not only meant Nehemiah would be considered a failure, his God, Jehovah God would be discredited.

So where did Nehemiah go for his go-to guy? He went to his brother, Hanani, but this wasn’t a case of Nepotism. It was wise discernment. While Nehemiah was a servant in the palace of the Persian King Jerusalem lay in ruins. The once proud and glorious city was now the laughing stock of marauding bands of thieves. God’s people and His city, the city of David, was  a disgrace.

With conditions as deplorable as they were, there was no doubt much discussion at the local Fig Juice Shop about the glory days, about how God had failed and how destitute they all were. When times are tough there is always plenty of blame and complaining to go around.

That’s where Hanani comes in. He wasn’t the type of guy to sit around sipping on Fig Juice and vent. He was a doer, a go getter, a ‘if God gave us a promise then we’d best pursue it’ kind of guy. In the midst of the blame game, Hanani took off for Persia. It was a dangerous journey laced with enemy kings and thieves. That didn’t stop Hanani.

When he arrived in at the Persian palace, Hanani told Nehemiah all about the terrible conditions in Jerusalem. Eventually the walls were rebuilt and Jerusalem rose from the rubble due to the leadership of Nehemiah and the determination of Hanani.

We can each learn a lesson from the story of Hanani. We come across issues and struggles every day of our lives. Every time we come across an obstacle we have a choice to take action. Will it be a negative action such as complaining or blaming? Or will it be the positive action of looking for and working on solutions.

Hanani’s integrity was based on confidence in himself and in His God. Each of us has the same opportunities. As Christ-followers we should be the kind of people that others look to in crisis because we don’t discuss the problem, we plan the solution.

PRAYER: Holy God. I praise you for the wisdom and intellect you have given me. I ask that you would empower me by your Holy Spirit to be a take positive action sort of person. Protect me from the tendency to complain and blame so that Your name will be glorified because of me. In Jesus name, Amen.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

One of the amazing things about the Bible, in my opinion anyway, is the nuggets of truth that are scattered throughout its pages. Little phrases that hold in them tremendous encouragement for us and open to us a clear view of how much God really does love us.

1 Peter 5:7 is one of these nuggets. To set the stage a bit, the book of Peter was written by Jesus’ disciple, Peter. You remember good ole’ stick my foot in my mouth, hot tempered, proud and boastful Peter. The same guy that promised to honor Jesus and then denied him a few minutes later?

Peter wrote this letter to Christ-followers who were going through persecution that was so severe that it was considered the most heinous treatment of human beings in history. He’s writing to people who felt outnumbered, misunderstood and in constant threat of imprisonment, torture and death.

Towards the end of his letter he says “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Did you see it? The nugget of truth for us? Look again. “he cares for you”.  Let it sink in. “he cares for you” He, Jesus, the Son of the most high God.

Now personalize it. “Jesus cares for me.” Mull that over. Jesus cares.  Doesn’t sound like a distant, removed or uninterested God to me. He cares. He doesn’t just care for the world. Jesus cares for me!

That’s not stuffy theology. It’s not restrictive doctrine or rigid rules. It’s love. You see, what Peter is really telling his readers then and now is this. During those times when life is impossible. When your relationships have failed, when you are misunderstood or caught in sin, when the addictions seem to be overpowering you, when fear and ruin seem inevitable. Jesus cares.

When someone cares for you it’s evident. You know someone really cares for you when they listen intently to your every word; when they know what you like and dislike; when they understand your anger or sorrow or frustration.

A person who really cares for you is always proud of you. Not for what you have done but because of who you are, the real you. You know, the one that others rarely get to see?

A person who cares of you challenges you. He encourages you to strive for your dreams, but doesn’t get disappointed in you when things don’t go as planned. He’s the kind of person that attends every one of your games, or recitals, or concerts or workshops and listens intently to the same words you’ve said a thousand times and acts like each repeated thought is brand new and profound.

That’s Jesus. He cares for you. When the world crashed in, remember. Jesus cares for you.

Caring has another side to it. It’s not a pleasant side at the time, but it’s an important side none-the-less. If a parent, for example, cares for his child he disciplines his child. Discipline isn’t punishment. Punishment has anger at its base and revenge as its motive. Discipline is more about love, about shaping, about molding. Its motive is love. Its desire is pure.

Alongside discipline is its twin, tough love. Discipline says I’ll mold you. Tough love says, “if I have to, I’ll let the consequences of your decisions run their course. Then, I’ll mold you when you are ready.

Discipline and tough love are never fun. Not for the receiver or the giver. But discipline and tough love both work together to create character and integrity that will bring us through the tough times.

That’s Jesus. He cares for you. He loves you the way you are, but loves you far too much to leave you that way. When life gets hard, don’t get angry or bitter. Remember that Jesus cares. Talk to Him. Rest in Him. Let his healing arms of love surround you.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. Thank you for caring for me. I know I’m not always an easy one to love. I make bad choices. I hurt people and myself. I get angry at you when I don’t get my way. I’m just a spoiled two-year-old sometimes. I’m so undeserving of your patient, loving care but I thank you for being here for me. You truly are an Awesome God. Amen.

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March 2023
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