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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

3/31/10 John 14:25-27 Prayer in Gethsemane

3/31- John 14:25-27; Luke 22:39-46

25 "All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Luke 22: 39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." 41 He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."

Thoughts: This prayer in the garden of Gethsemane (the garden of the “Olive Press”), we hear the prayer of suffering. It is the prayer that we must pray- “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” In sickness, we want for God to heal us, but God is God and we are not. We must reconcile ourselves that we need to submit to God’s plan and way for our lives. When we can do that, we can find his peace- a peace the world does not give. If we believe God loves us, then we do not need to let our hearts be troubled or be afraid. In Jesus suffering and sorrow, even he and the disciples were tempted (he invited them to “pray that they would not fall into temptation”). Temptation comes when we know we are about to suffer (like before a surgery, or a treatment). In such a time we need to pray earnestly, call for prayers by those around us (as Jesus did), and submit to God’s will.

Prayer: Lord, deliver me from temptation and from my selfishness. In my life, Lord, not my will, but yours be done.

Monday, March 29, 2010

3/30/10- Jesus in Heaven

3/30- John 14:1-6

1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God ; trust also in me. 2 My Father's house has plenty of room; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going." 5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" 6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Thoughts: Below is a picture of Van Eyck’s “Adoration of the Lamb.” It is a reminder of Jesus, the Lamb that was slain, being worthy of our attention, our worship, our focus. It is a picture of heaven where the Lamb sits on the throne and we center ourselves on Him. John Calvin used to tell us to meditate on heaven because that lifts our hearts up from the crosses of this earth. This is what Jesus was saying in this passage. “Do not let your hearts be troubled…in my Father’s house there are many mansions (“rooms” in this translation). He has a special place prepared for us, and He is the way to that place. If we believe and trust in Him, following in His path we will have hope along our pilgrim-weary-painful journey. The path leads to peace, so we may have hope and peace now.

Prayer: Worthy are you, O Lord, for you are the Lamb who was slain. You paid for my sins, that I might obtain peace and heaven. Grant me a measure of your peace this day.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

3/29/10 James 5:13-16 Prayer of the elders

3/29- James 5:13-16

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make them well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. 19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring them back,

Thoughts: If we are in trouble, we should pray. This makes sense- God is our greatest resource. It is a shame that for many of us we have to get into trouble before we will pray. Is anyone sick, they should call for the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. The PCUSA Book of Order allows for Services of Wholeness in which the anointing of oil takes place, and Lake Murray Presbyterian does this occasionally. The PCUSA Book of Common Worship allows for prayer for the sick with a place for the anointing with oil. Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit- it is not magic in itself. It is a reminder that we need God’s Spirit to heal us, help us, and make us whole. The elders’ coming and anointing is a visible reminder of the Holy Spirit- who is called the Comforter, coming to help in our time of need.

Prayer: You promised Lord is two agree on earth it will be done by you in heaven. Today we claim the prayers made on our behalf in the church. Hear them, use them for healing.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

3/28/10 Luke 6:43-49 By their fruits you shall know them

3/28-Palm Sunday Luke 6:43-49

43 "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 Good people bring good things out of the good stored up in their heart, and evil people bring evil things out of the evil stored up in their heart. For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 46 "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47 As for those who come to me and hear my words and put them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But those who hear my words and do not put them into practice are like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."

Thoughts: The great irony of Palm Sunday was that so many called him “Lord, Lord” and said, “Hosanna to the Son of David” proclaiming Him as Savior—yet a few days later there were no verbal supporters. Palm Sunday is a proclamation that Jesus is King and the Messiah. It is a reminder that He comes with healing in His wings. But these people were like seeds thrown on the rocks- that sprung up- but because they had no root- soon withered. Too many call Jesus Lord in hopes that He will do something for them, but when He doesn’t act quickly enough- or in the way they want- they fade away. When Christ helps someone, we should respond in faithfulness to Him- even when He is crucified all over again. 

Prayer: Lord, may my foundation be solid, and my roots grow deep. Keep me faithful to you- not just proclaiming you Lord, but following you as Lord.

Friday, March 26, 2010

3/27/10- Romans 8:26-39 The Spirit Helps us, God is For Us

3/27- Romans 8:26-28, 31-39

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then can condemn? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thoughts: If we are sick, this is an amazing passage. It tells us that the Spirit helps us to pray when we don’t know exactly what to pray for. The words are not as important as a reliance on the Spirit for prayer. This tells us too that we do not suffer in vain. It is a tremendous faith statement to say that God works all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. For some, the pain cannot be compared to the glory- for they do not have faith. But this passage also reminds us that the One who did not spare his own Son will not keep back his help from us. God is for us, with us, He is Immanuel. Nothing can separate us from His love- not even death, demons, sickness.

Prayer: Thank you that you showed your love for us in the most amazing way- by coming down and dying for us on the cross. You showed your control over even the most horrific of circumstances by raising Jesus from the dead. Help me put my trust in your resurrection power.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

3/26/10 Romans 8:14-23 Adopted Into His Suffering

3/26- Romans 8:14-23

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba,Father." 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

Thoughts: We are adopted into Christ’s family as we share in his sufferings (8:17). In fact, to share in the glory of his family, we must be willing to share in the suffering of his family. But the present sufferings are not comparable to the great glory we shall receive from Him. In fact all creation groans for the day when the suffering will cease and the glory begins. We ourselves groan for this- the redemption of our bodies. When our bodies are finally redeemed, it means our adoption is complete, and our inheritance is entered into. When we are sick, we ask, “How long, O Lord before all this pain and suffering is over?” It comes when we are redeemed.

Prayer: How long, O Lord, until you come and set things right? How long will the pain and suffering last? Help me to hope in you- my true and best inheritance.

3/25/10- Making Time for Healing and Prayer, Mark 1:32-35

3/25 Mark 1:32-35

(Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee- taken by the author 1993)

32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. 35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Thoughts: This is one of the most amazing paragraphs in that it shows Jesus stamina and strength. He stayed up late after sunset- for the whole town of Capernaum came to see him. He had to be exhausted handling the demon-possessed, the sick, and people desperate for his help. Yet, early in the morning before sunrise, he got up and went off to a solitary place (I’ll bet it was near the lake) and prayed. This shows us Jesus’ desire to heal- his great compassion, and where he received his strength. Martin Luther said, “When I am busy, I need to pray more.” This is true for all of us. Jesus sets and example of service and prayer.

Prayer: Lord, my strength, bring your power to me today. Heal me, help me so that I might help others in your name.

Application: Make space in your life to worship God and to serve others- especially Palm Sunday and Easter.
Many churches have sunrise worship services.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

3/24/10 Mark 10:13-16 Jesus and the Helpless

3/24- Mark 10:13-16

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Thoughts: Jesus did not come to the healthy, but to the sick. He did not come to those who were strong but to the weak. He was not born in a palace, but a stable. He did not pal around with the religious leaders as much as with the sinners. He touched the unclean leper. In a time in which children were seen as second-class, Jesus lifted them into His presence. It seems that Jesus came to those who would be considered "helpless" to show them there is help.  We must become like children in that we need to not be so self-reliant, but dependent on God for help. When we are sick, hurting, or grieving, we find we are not so independent of God, but we need His help and care.

Prayer: As you welcomed the children, Lord, welcome me. Help me to know that I am accepted by you- just as I am.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

3/23- Matthew 11:28-30 Giving up our Heaviness

3/23- Matthew 11:28-30

(Peaceful sailing on Lake Murray, SC)

28"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Thoughts: Where do you go when you are weary and heavy laden- when the yoke is too much to bear for you? Jesus invites us into His presence. He tells us He will not greet us harshly or with meanness- but with gentleness, humility, and his ability to give us a peace that passes all understanding. The burdens and the worries of this world are heavy. But the burdens and worries of Jesus are not as heavy as we might think. He lightens the load for us.

Prayer: Lord, you have called us with your gracious invitation to come to you. Help us to respond with gratitude and speed.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

3/22/10 Matthew 11:2-5 Jesus is the One- He Came to Help

3/22- Matthew 11:2-5

2When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" 4Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.

Thoughts: John was in his own prison- facing his own type of cross. In the midst of this suffering he wondered whether Jesus was really who he said he was. Jesus made the claim to his messiahship not by his words- but by his actions- people are being helped just as Isaiah (35:4-6) says. When we are facing our problems, and start to wonder about God, we need to remember Christ came to help, and can help us as well.

Prayer: In my dark night of the soul, Lord, lift my heart up to you, and help me to fix my eyes on you the author and perfector of my faith.

3/21/10- God, the Giver of Good Gifts

3/21-4th Sunday Luke 11:9-13

(Justin Pepper Toy Drive Toys at our church for Christmas)

9"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 11"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Thoughts: This tells us two basic things about prayer- 1) That we ought to ask God, and 2) That God knows how to give good gifts. This is not to be taken for granted. Some think God is too busy to care, or not interested enough to care. But that is never the Biblical view. It is not that God cares about giving us the little things or the big things- the focus is not on things- but on His love for us. When Jesus came he helped people, and God still does that. We also need to recognize the goodness and generosity of God. All that we see, all that we have is a gift from Him- as life is a gift from Him in general, and our particular blessings are particular gifts. When we are sick or facing hard circumstances we may wonder about both things. Jesus tries to assure us that God wants us to ask, and He is able and desires to give.

Prayer: You are the giver of every good and perfect gift. Help me to not let my fear, embarrassment, pride, or unbelief keep me from asking you for help in my time of need.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

3/20/10- Matthew 10- Jesus the Physician

3/20- Matthew 10 selections (10:1,7-8) and Mark 6:12-13

1He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 7As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' 8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Mark 6: 12They went out and preached that people should repent. 13They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Thoughts: The amazing thing is that Jesus encouraged his disciples to make the world a better place. He gave them authority to heal and to help. In the end all healing and help comes from the One who made the white blood cells and the antibodies. He is the same One who gives talents and abilities to those in the health care profession in answer to so many prayers over the centuries and still today. He gives minds, hands, and life.  Jesus does not usually heal despite the doctors, but usually through the doctors, and with the doctors. He asks you and I to be a people who will make the world better than it was when we arrived. God works usually through and with us, sometimes despite us, but only very rarely without us (and without others caring for us- including physicians).

Prayer: Help us O Lord, to not only experience the power of your healing, but to be vehicles to let that power loose on the world.

P.S.- Some from our church are going to a neighborhood to invite people to our Easter services, to worship, and to the Lord.  Please pray for us.  As Jesus sent out the twelve, so He sends us out to spread good news.

Friday, March 19, 2010

3/19/10 Philippians 4:6-8 Fighting Worry

3/19- Philippians 4:6-8

6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

"Therefore I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body what you will wear.  Is not life more important than fod, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  (Matthew 6:25-27)

(Philippian jail where Paul and Silas sang)

Thoughts: Paul could have worried about much. He had been beaten, stoned, left for dead, fed to lions, imprisoned yet he said he learned to be content. The secret in facing worry and pain- is to be thankful and to pray. Then God’s peace fills us. After that, we may change our thought patterns to think more positive things- instead of dwelling on the negative. Seeing this prison (to the left) where Paul stayed reminded me of his words that he had learned the secret of being content in any and every circumstance- well fed or hungry.  He praised God there until an earthquake freed him.  Jesus could have worried about much.  He had no home, no caravan of clothes and things went with him as he traveled.  Yet he lived a life full of trust.  The more we focus on things (that we may and will eventually lose)- what we have or what we want to have but cannot have- the more we worry.  Paul and Jesus show us the kind of faith that enables us to sing in prison, to have contentment and peace in any circumstance.

Prayer: Lord, you have been in the prisons of this world, and seen the prison of my own body. Give me grace to be thankful when I feel like being anxious.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

3/18/10- Psalm 139:23-24 God Leads us Through

3/18- Psalm 139:23-24

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

(Hampton Court Maze)

Thoughts: This verse seems puzzling in the light of the Psalmist’s earlier words about God's knowledge. Yet, after speaking of God’s intimate knowledge- he asks him to search him. He asks him to see things we normally want to hide from the Almighty- anxious thoughts, offensive ways. Yet, the psalmist knows what we all know- we cannot hide from God. So if we can’t hide from Him, then we should ask His help to overcome our faults and weaknesses. Search, test, know me- and then after seeing my anxiety and offensive ways- lead me anyway. A bold prayer, but a prayer that we all must pray. God is the light in the lighthouse- that both shines on us, and points to a better way.

Prayer: Lord, you know me, you know my sickness, my sin, my worry. Take these terrible things away and lead me more fully into your way.

3/17/10- Psalm 139:1-18 St. Patrick's Day, God's knowledge and protection

3/17- Psalm 139:1-18

1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. 5 You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.

(Left- ancient Celtic cross in St. Patrick's in Dublin)
(Above-The wings of the Dawn- Brookgreen Gardens, SC)

Thoughts: There is no place to hide from God- not in the heights of heaven nor in the depths of hell. God finds us. In the light or in the dark; In the open air or in the womb; God knows us, loves us, and helps us- guiding us, holding us fast. When doctors do not know enough, God knows- for He made us. Not one cell, one molecule- not one atom or subatomic particle-- that makes us who we are is hidden from Him. 
The real St. Patrick was kidnapped from his home in Scotland and brought to Ireland, and raised by a druid priest.  Patrick used this terrible event to win most of Ireland to Christ- learning the language and seeing how the people needed light for their darkness. He was arrested at least 12 times, but he persevered. He knew deeply that God always saw Him and protected Him in the midst of trouble.  Patrick is a lesson in gentleness and perseverance to all who are sick or in need.

Prayer (From St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer):
Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

3/16/10- Out of the Depths

3/16- Psalm 130

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; 2 O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. 3 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. 6 My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. 7 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. 8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

(Jonah and whale- Jan Brueghel the Elder 1568- 1625)

Thoughts: The common image of someone going through trouble is of someone drowning, sinking down deeper and deeper. We may be in the “depths” of despair. Yet out of these depths we call to God, put our hope in Him, wait for Him. Here he encourages us to remember that God is our redeemer.

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down.

When I was sinking down sinking down

When I was sinking down, beneath God’s awful frown,

Christ laid aside his crown

For my soul, for my soul. Christ laid aside his crown for my soul. (1857 American folk hymn)

Prayer: When I was being sucked down by the rip tide whirlpool of depression and hard times, you Lord, gave me hope. Help me to hope in you again, and find that hope fulfilled in your redemption.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

3/15/10 Psalm 121 The Help of the Mountain-maker

3/15-Psalm 121

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Thoughts: The God who made the mountains is our help. The mountains inspire me to remember the power and the majesty of God. I’ve always felt that the writer of this Psalm was writing as they were climbing a mountaintop- talking about not slipping, and watching over us for miles and miles. The Lord watches over you too. I used to wonder how God can keep tract of so much information until I climb a mountain and see things for many miles, or hear of a computer that can keep track of billions of people’s information. God is higher than the mountains with a vision keener than an eagle’s. He makes our silly but powerful computers seem like nothing. He sees you and cares for you.

Prayer: Watch over me, Lord, for I deeply need you.

3/14/10 Luke 6:39-42 Healing Spiritual Blindness

3/14- 3rd Sunday Luke 6:39-42

39He also told them this parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Thoughts: I can remember in 1993 when they told me there was a 50% chance I would not see out of my left eye and maybe both eyes as I had a detached retina. I prayed, “Lord, you who healed the blind, heal my eyes. Take the plank out of my eye that I may see clearly physically and spiritually.” God answered that prayer at least partially. There is always a danger of being blind spiritually as well as physically. It is so easy to be blind to our own faults, and to see the faults of others. I know that when we are sick or weak we tend to be a bit more critical and short, because it takes real energy to be nice and considerate. We need to humble ourselves before God and those helping us, that we might not scare them off with our pride, crassness and crankiness. Sometimes our prayer for physical healing should also involve a prayer for spiritual healing too.

Prayer: Today, Lord, help me to be aware of my own shortcomings, and of my need for you to open my eyes to my weakness and to my need for you.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

3/13/10- Psalm 103:1-5; John 5:6,7 "He Heals all your Diseases"

3/13-Psalm 103:1-5

(Carl Bloch- Jesus Healing at the Pool of Bethsaida)

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits- 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. (Ps 103)

6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?" 7 "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred.  (John 5:6,7)

Thoughts: Here is the great psalm of healing. “He heals all your diseases” and “forgives all your sins.” There is physical and spiritual healing in the Lord. To deny that God can help us is to deny who God is- the redeemer from the pit, the crowner, the satisfier, the renewer. He is the great Physician and worthy of our attention and praise.
     Jesus asked a question of the invalid at Bethesda- "Do you want to get well?"  It is not just a physical question, but a spiritual one.  The man gave a scientific, materialistic excuse- much like, "no one will take me to the doctor."  Part of getting well is wanting to do so, and part of getting well is coming to the Great Physician. 
     In the end, no physician can heal all our diseases.  In the end, every physician has to use the things God has given: talents, innate healing mechanisms (like white blood cells) or things God has made that we have discovered (medicines) to help those who are in need.
In the end, we need to come to the Great Physician- not just get into the pool or go see the doctor.  Going to see the doctor is also important, but it is not the only source of healing as we may sometimes believe.  How many times I have seen someone recover for whom the doctors gave up hope and explanation. 

Prayer: You are worthy of praise O God. Help me not to forget your benefits, though the whole world does. Help me to find you as my Help, my satisfaction, my resurrection.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

3/12/10- Psalm 85:15,16 Appealing for God's Mercy

3/12- Psalm 86:15-16

15 But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. 16 Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant your strength to your servant and save the son of your maidservant.

(Carl Bloch- Jesus and the Little Children)

Thoughts: The basis for God’s turning to us with mercy is found in the deep and faithful character of God. He is compassionate, gracious, patient, great in loving- faithfulness. The writer is-if you will- buttering God up. He even appeals to God’s love because of his mother. This Psalm is also a prayer for the whole nation who has recently returned from captivity and was in a vulnerable state in the middle of many enemies. The point is the same- we are vulnerable and we need God. We know we need God because He is kind and able to help.

Prayer: We turn to you Lord, for you alone can help us. When there is no other help you are there. You alone are our ultimate help and strength and life.

3/11/10- An Undividied Heart Psalm 86:11-13; Mt 6:33

3/11- Psalm 86:11-13

11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. 12 I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. 13 For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. (Mt. 6:33 KJV)

Thoughts: Peterson says, “There are fifteen petitions in this seventeen verse Psalm: concentration is weakened by the distraction of clamoring needs. Then a single petition weaves all into one prayer: ‘Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.’ As a harpoon has many barbs but only one point, so this prayer has many petitions but a single thrust.”  Today there are many things that keep us worried and busy.  We can easily fill up our senses and lives.  It is important to have purpose and focus in our lives- and the ultimate focus/purpose is an eternal one. 

Prayer: When my soul is scattered with too many requests to ask, then help me to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness. Give me an undivided heart.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

3/10/10 Psalm 86:1-7,11; Mt 7:7-11 Why God Answers

3/10- Psalm 86:1-7,11; Mt. 7:7-11

1 Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. 2 Guard my life, for I am devoted to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you. 3 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long. 4 Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. 5 You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. 6 Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. 7 In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.

7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened. 9 "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Mt 7:7-11)

Thoughts: Why should God answer us? Ironically, it is not because we have something that God needs. It is not because we are rich and powerful and can do God favors. It is not because we are so perfect that God has to hear us. God answers us because His mercy is great for those who are hurting- much greater than our own. God answers because we trust in Him and He does not want to let us down. God answers because we serve Him in worship and life. In the end, God answers simply because He is forgiving- despite our sins, and good despite our being bad. When God answers us, our response should be praise and devotion.

Prayer: When you answer my cry for help, may you get the praise and devotion and glory, O Lord.

3/8/10 Psalm 69:32-34 Believing in Deliverance

3/9- Psalm 69:32-34

(the author-top left looking into Philippian jail cell where Paul sang).

32 The oppressed will see and be glad— you who seek God, may your hearts live! 33 The LORD hears the needy and does not despise his captive people. 34 Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them;

40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Mt 12:40)- Jesus predicted his deliverance from death

Thoughts: What can make our hearts restart in the midst of oppression? Years ago an army was surrounding an American fort, and the soldiers inside were just about to surrender, when they saw a signal flag miles away that indicated that a relief army was coming to raise the siege. A hymn was written about this called, “Hold the Fort for I am Coming.” God has not forgotten about us. When God remembers His people, the earth rejoices, for this is how it should be.
God rescues us.  His rescue does not come always when we want it to- in fact, most would not want to suffer any at all before God rescues us.  Yet His timing is in His plan, and His plan is the best it can be.  It is important to believe in God's rescue.
When the earth shakes, and the foundations are unsteady (Haiti, Chili, Okinawa, now Turkey- but figuratively here)- and we are covered over with dirt and filth- some have no hope.  Some believe in a rescue now or in the life to come. Choose hope.
The Philippians arrested Paul.  He beleived God would help him- even singing in prison with great peace and joy.  Then he was delivered- by an earthquake! 

Prayer: Lord, thank you that you hear the needy and do not despise us when we are surrounded with trouble. I rejoice that you listen!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

3/8- Psalm 69:29-32 Salvation as Protection

3/8- Psalm 69:29-32

29 I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me. 30 I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. 31 This will please the LORD more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs. 32 The oppressed will see and be glad— you who seek God, may your hearts live!

Thoughts: The salvation of God protects us. It is a helmet (Eph 6:17) to guard our head against the blows of the enemy. May God guard our heads against the rages of doubt, anger, and hopelessness. Those who praise God best with thanksgiving have experienced His help in time of distress, desperation, and doubt. Prayers and songs of thanksgiving from the heart are more meaningful than offerings and gifts given. This also is a prayer that our own deliverance will be a testimony to others who are suffering, to inspire them.

Prayer: Seal me and protect me, O God. May your deliverance develop thanksgiving in my heart- may you get the credit. May your deliverance of me in my need be a compass that points others to your truth and life.

Matthew 6:24-33 Healing in Not Worrying

3/7- 2nd Sunday Matthew 6:24-33

(Gollum- giving up a higher good for a lower love)

24"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. 25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

      Thoughts: Our recession teaches us that the master of things is a tough master. This passage warns us of letting the world become our master (money, clothes, food). The world and God should not have equal pull or control of our lives. When we are sick or down, we often worry about things getting worse.
      We worry about health care and paying for it (2009 ABC poll found 59% of Americans are worried about healthcare).  Ironically, we have the best healthcare in the world.  We have access to some of the best trained doctors and pharmaceuticals.  Yet the things that drive the healthcare debate are valid concerns- the rising costs and the healthcare; and the needs of the poor who are increasingly left out because of the rising costs. Yet compared to Jesus' day or to 70% of the world today, our poor have better care.  We send doctors around the world to help people who cannot have simple operations (like not seeing because of catracts or speaking because of cleft palates).  Our rotary club flies children to the United States for life-saving surgery. 
      Yet, health care should be put in perspective- it will not last.  Jesus said "you cannot serve God and money"- or he could have said "You cannot serve God and healthcare."  Healthcare is important- Jesus cared for the sick, and we should too. But there is a part of us that lasts forever.  After Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus, he died again.  Our bodies are gifts from God- and this life is a gift from God.  But our souls- which can be destroyed by fear and worry are even more important.   This passage reminds us that each day has enough trouble of its own, we shouldn’t focus about tomorrow- but on both the problems and joys of today. There is a bit of healing in not worrying.

Prayer: Help me to give my heart fully to you, O Lord. In my time of need, give me an undivided heart that I might fear your name.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Psalm 69:13-17 Jesus saves

3/6- Psalm 69:13-17

13 But I pray to you, O LORD, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God,

answer me with your sure salvation. 14 Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink; deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters. 15 Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me. 16 Answer me, O LORD, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me. 17 Do not hide your face from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.

Thoughts: Jesus walked on the water, Peter started to, but sank. He called out “Lord save me!” Jesus reached out his hand and caught him and said “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt 14:29-31). When we call out to God, He hears our call.  The basic belief is that God is alive and able to hear us, and then able to help us (Heb. 11:6).  But Jesus is also able to save us- not only from physical danger, but spiritual danger.  The salvation from our sins is a calling out to Him to forgive us for our failures and the wrongness that separates us from God.  He will save if we call to Him (and He prompts the call).  Jesus has saves us by what He has done on the cross- dying as a sacrifice for our sins.  In some ways he saved us before hte creation of the world (Predestination Eph. 1:6); In another way he saved us by dying on the cross; In another way he saves us when we ask Him to (Justification); In another way we are growing in our salvation (sanctification- Phil. 2:12); but we won't really be saved until we get to heaven (glorification- Rev. 21). 

We forget that the whale was a means to save Jonah, and Jonah 2 sounds eerily similar to this passage: “All your waves and breakers swept over me. I said I have been banished from your sight…the engulfing waters threatened me…when my life was ebbing away, I remembered you.” When our faith and strength is weak because of doubt (as Peter) or because of disobedience (as Jonah), the grace of God and the salvation of God is still there for us.

Prayer: Do not let me, Lord be engulfed by my circumstances. Help me to remember you are God of all, and able to calm the storm, walk on water, and rescue me.

(Jesus rescuing Peter)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Psalm 69:1-3; Mt. 14:29-31 A cry for help

3/5- Psalm 69:1-3

1 Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. 3 I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" 31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"  (Matthew 14:29-31)

Thoughts: Peterson says, “Focused prayer is accurate and clear about two things: that our need is desperate, and that the remedy lies in God. Our need for help and God’s will to save are joined.”
Healing begins when our attention turns away from distractions and turns toward the One who comes to save us. God comes in the nick of time to save the day- when we are worn out with no more strength.  Peter echoed Psalm 69 in his cry for help in the midst of being overwhelmed.  Jesus did not falter, but despite Peter's doubt reached out his hand and saved him.

Prayer: Lord, my need is great, and your salvation is greater. Help me to remember you when my strength fails.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

3/4/10 Psalm 42:1-5 Our Deep Longing

3/4- Psalm 42:1-5

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. 5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Thoughts: Our true relief, our true satisfaction is not found in something that will temporarily relieve our itch- our pain. Our soul- the deepest part of us thirsts for more than physical healing. When we are in pain, this Psalmist reminds us, unbelievers may ask where our God is now. To them, the existence of pain means the non-existence of God. But, as you have glimpsed, God came down to experience pain, to understand pain; He gives us reasons to fight human evil and pain; And one day evil and pain will come to an end. To the unbeliever there is no ultimate good in pain or in life, and they would like for you to experience their chaos (“Where is your God?”). But their rantings push us to want God all the more. Here the Psalmist reminisces about how he used to be in worship leading people, but now he cannot. He hopes to get well so that praises may come out of his mouth in the assembly again. It is amazing to me when someone is healed miraculously that they would drop out of church- but that happens- and happens often. We so easily forget… until we are sick again. God gives us life, and He is worthy of our worship.

Prayer: My soul longs for you, Lord. My tears are all I have eaten, nourish me with your presence, satisfy me with your never-ending love.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

3/3/10 Psalm 27:13,14 Being Confident in our Hope

3/3- Psalm 27:13-14

13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

Thoughts: Are you still confident? Is there ever a time when we should not be confident? Scriptures, in general, do not talk about when we should give up- except when Jesus said, “It is finished” on the cross and when Paul said, “I have fought the good fight…” (2 Tim 4:7). The devil will continually ask us, “Are you still putting your confidence in God?” (2 Ki 18:19). The motto on the seal of the state of South Carolina says, “While I breathe I hope” (dum spiro spero). There is a sense in which every breath we take is a sign of God’s goodness. Each moment is to be treasured. In some ways, we need to (as Tim McGraw said in his song) live like we are dying. But while we live, we can put our hope, our trust in the Lord.

Prayer: Thank you for this moment, Lord. You have given it to me, and I will be grateful to you and also trust in you. Lord, use this gift you have given me for your glory, and help me in my time of need.

3/2/10- Psalm 27:1-4, 7-12; John 8:12

3/2- Psalm 27:1-4, 7-12

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. 4 One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. 7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. 8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek. 9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. 11 Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. 12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.

12When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

Thoughts: With sickness comes fear and worry. What will happen if I get sicker? What will happen to those for whom I care? What about the healthcare bills? What about the pain of tests, the sticking and poking, or the nausea of medicine? How bad will I look? Who will say I deserved this? Will people eventually forget me? The Psalmist discusses his fear and finds a way out by focusing on God- gazing at Him, seeking Him. In the end, if we stay close to God- and are on His side, who will triumph over us? The worst doctor’s mistakes, the worst medicine, the worst pain, even the grave will not triumph in the end. Our hope is in the Lord- our light and our salvation.  The lighthouse in the midst of a storm has been an ancient symbol of Christ.  He guides us through the storm providing hope and the true way out.

Prayer: Lord, you are my light when I am enveloped in darkness. You are my salvation when there is no other way out.