Recently a new diagnosis was introduced to explain the out-of-control behavior of a high school student. While under the influence of alcohol, he killed four people with his automobile. Rather than charging him with vehicular manslaughter and sentencing him to spend time in a correctional facility, he was given probation for “affluenza,” an entirely new mental disorder.
Many were curious about the cause of this “disease” until a psychiatrist explained its source: it came from parents who gave their child everything he wanted, held him accountable for nothing and as a result he never learned right from wrong.
However, this is not the way our Heavenly Father “educates” us. One of His “children” provided us with an insightful detail into His method of child-rearing: “The Lord has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death.”
The word “chasten” means to “punish, restrain or moderate” someone’s behavior. So, when God “chastens” us, He is in fact confronting our un-Christ-like behavior and urging us to repent. We are instructed in God’s Word to “let God train you, for He is doing what any loving father does for his children. For whoever heard of a son who was never corrected.”
One day a father found it necessary to chastise his son. After the punishment he looked at his Dad and said, “I understand, Dad. I did wrong and you were trying to make me good. I know you love me, Dad, and I love you.”
Prayer: Father, keep us focused on living as Your Son, our Savior lived and correct us swiftly when we go astray. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 118:18 The Lord has chastened me severely, But He has not given me over to death.
Many doubt that our God is the creator of all that is and is in control of what we see as well as what we cannot see. The Psalmist is not one who has any doubt about this fact. Yet, he goes far beyond the majestic statement that we hold dear: “In the beginning God created...” In simple words he acknowledged that “Your hands,” (God) “have made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding that I may learn Your commands.” In other words, he realized that he was more than a creature that began in the mud. He was the most important part of God’s creation and needed God to give him His understanding of things.
“God,” he declared, “You not only took time to make me, but You actually fashioned me for a specific purpose in this, Your universe. I need You, God, to tell me what that purpose is!”
The word “fashioned” is a term that refers to the work of a potter making an object out of clay. Although the same clay may be used for different vessels or objects, each one has been “fashioned” for a specific purpose. The size, shape and purpose of each vessel the potter makes are always determined in the mind of the potter before he begins to form it on his wheel.
So it is with God. His Word tells us that “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb I knew you...I set you apart...I appointed you...” Although God has a plan for us, the Psalmist says we must look to Him and His Word to understand it. He has made us in His image, but we must allow Him to fashion us for the purpose He has for us.
Prayer: Father, give us an understanding of Your will and a willingness to follow it all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 119:74 May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.
The Civil War was a dark period in the history of the United States. President Abraham Lincoln had little time for anything else in his life. The demands on him were overwhelming and he went for days without enjoying his family.
On one occasion while meeting with Secretary of State William Seward in the Cabinet room, his son burst through the doors in tears and said, “I want my father!”
The secretary could have said, “Your father is too busy for you. Let me get you a teacher who can help you with your problems.” Or, he could have said, “Let me get you an attorney who will represent you wisely and get you out of any problem you might have.”
The child knew who he wanted and it was not the Secretary of State or some other highly qualified person. He wanted his father. No one else could fill that need.
And that is essentially what the Psalmist said when he cried, “In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free.” God was his first responder.
Sometimes it is easy to turn to the person who we consider to be our closest friend when we face a difficult time in our lives. Or we may look for a person who is known for his brilliance or knowledge or wisdom or status to rescue us from any number of problems that are beyond our capabilities. That may not be wise.
When we face the uncertainties of life, the first person we need to call on for guidance is our God. We must go to him as a child to a father knowing He is waiting to help.
Prayer: Lord, we know that no one cares for us as much as You do. May we look to You first when we are in need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 118:6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
Betsy ended her prayer and was about to get in bed. With a puzzled look on her face she turned to her Dad and asked, “Daddy, did I leave anything out? I have so many things to thank Jesus for. I sure don’t want to forget any of them. Jesus is really good to us, isn’t He Daddy?”
The author of Psalm 116 was also aware of God’s goodness. Betsy wanted to make sure that she thanked God for being so good to her. She must have itemized her list in her mind like she had been to a grocery store and wanted to make sure that she remembered everything.
However, the Psalmist must have had a balance sheet in mind when he asked, “How can I repay the Lord for His goodness to me?” How different from Betsy. She simply wanted to offer her thanks for the gifts that He gave her. But the Psalmist looked at what God gave him from a different perspective: He wanted to pay God for what He had done for him. However, it is impossible to repay God! If we could somehow pay God for His gifts they would not be gifts.
This brings us to the very heart of the Bible - a loving God who gives. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” God gives and we are to receive.
Suddenly, the Psalmist realized that the Lord is not a salesman who has anything to sell - but a Giver who gives His salvation freely. Rejoicing he said, “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.”
There is nothing that delights our Creator more than for those who He created to accept the Gift of His Son.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the many gifts You lavish on us each day. But we are most thankful for saving us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 116:13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.
Walk through the waiting area in any emergency room and the “face of anxiety” becomes real. From a minor cut to a major wound, fear is obvious and real. Even people with a deep faith in God are often grasping for a sign of hope or a word of comfort.
Our Psalmist was familiar with feelings of both peace and anxiety. He knew the comfort of God’s grace and had experienced His peace. However, he had an illness that took him to the very door of death. And beginning in verse one he walks us through his ordeal expressing his love for God and the greatness of His grace. He also presented a beautiful picture of God: He is a God who listens to our cries, responds with help, is gracious and righteous, filled with compassion, protects even the “simple-hearted” folk who are in need and saves them. All of the characteristics that he uses to describe God, by the way, are ones that every Christian can develop and share with others.
At the end of his ordeal he seems to catch his breath and reminds himself to: “Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” It’s as though he could not believe the goodness of God, His grace or His power.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians about this. “...My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in (your) weakness.” God’s power to put our minds and heart at peace is a theme that runs through Scripture.
God spoke of this in Genesis: “Do not be afraid for I am with you...” And before Jesus returned to be with His Father He promised that “I am with you always!”
Prayer: Lord, when we face situations that are beyond our control, assure us of Your presence, peace and power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 116:7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.
Jennifer never met a stranger. No matter where she was or who she met, she always made friends quickly.
Once when traveling on a train, she became bored and decided to walk down the aisle and chat with the folk who were traveling with her. Smilingly she went from seat to seat greeting the passengers. Everyone wanted to know who she was and who she was traveling with. Without any notice, the train entered a tunnel and darkness filled the passenger car before the bright lights came on. Little Jennifer ran down the aisle shouting, “Help, Mom! Where are you? I need you!” Standing in the aisle her mother reached out to her, hugged her and said, “It’s O.K. I’m right here with you, Jennifer. Don’t be afraid.”
When things are going well and we are surrounded by prosperity, it is difficult to admit that we need anyone’s help. But when the “lights go out,” we all tend to run to someone who we believe can help us.
There author of Psalm 116 was going through a dark and difficult time in his life. Things looked dismal. He was overcome with trouble and sorrow. “Then,” he wrote, “I called on the name of the Lord; O Lord, Save me!”
In four simple words he said everything that needed to be said. There was no time for formalities and no need for any particular posture. Problems erupted. Help was needed. God was listening. Problem solved!
“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” Length is not part of the equation. Sincerity and righteousness are what makes prayer powerful.
Prayer: Lord, we have ample advice on how to pray. What we need is to live righteous lives and want Your help! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 116:4 Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”
Tina and Sue, five-year-old twins, were saying their prayers before crawling into bed. Sue prayed first, and as she was about to end her prayer, said, “Don’t leave just yet, Lord, Tina has something to add.”
The Psalmist assured us that our God will always be there when we need Him. “Because He turned His ear to me,” he wrote, “I will call on Him as long as I live.” God is waiting to do His part but we must be willing to do ours.
An important element in prayer is companionship. We must keep company with God. Charles Spurgeon, who was considered the “Prince of Preachers,” put it this way: “Not an hour passes during my day but that I am in conscious communion with my Lord.” Prayer, to him, was as important as breathing: He could not live without it.
When we pray we are in communication with God. There are two parts in effective communication: sending and receiving. Unfortunately, for many, prayer is a one-way operation: sending. We are anxious, often driven, when things are bad, to go to God in prayer. We send our needs to Him because we know He “turns His ear to us.” But we must also “tune our ear” to Him by spending time with Him in His Word. The writer of Psalm 119 said that His Word is a “lamp to my feet and a light for our path.” When we read His Word we allow the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts, open our minds and find answers to the needs we take to God in prayer.
For our prayers to be effective we must stay as close to God as we do with our best friend: we talk - we listen.
Prayer: Lord, may we become as attentive to Your voice as You are to ours. May we walk close to You each day. In Jesus’ Name.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 116:2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
“My,” said the guest to the owner of a dairy farm, “I have never seen such a beautiful herd of cows. They must be worth a lot of money.”
“We don’t look at the herd as far as value goes,” he replied. “We look at each cow individually. Each one has its own record,” he continued. “It does not matter how handsome these purebred Holstein are, their value is their ‘Record of Performance.’ Every day we keep track of the milk each cow produces. First, it is measured by its weight. Then it is tested for butterfat content. Then we enter it into the cow’s individual record.”
Our Creator also keeps a “Record of Performance” on each of us. The Psalmist wrote, “The Lord remembers us and will bless us...He will bless those who fear the Lord - small and great alike.”
It does not matter what we have or do not have, the size of our home, the amount of education we have, the titles we have earned, or our position in society - God’s blessings come from our attitude toward Him. If we fear Him, or stand in awe of Him and bow in respect to Him and submit to His Lordship, He will indeed bless us.
Each of us has a “Record of Performance” - we are all measured by God’s standards. Each day we are tempted by Satan in various settings. In these settings we have many opportunities to expose our attitude toward God. Do we honor Him by what we say and how we behave? Do we stand up for righteousness? Are we faithful to His Word? Does our language express God’s love? Do we care?
Prayer: We pray, Heavenly Father, that our Record of Performance will bring honor and praise to Your Name! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 115:12a & 13 The Lord remembers us and will bless us: he will bless those who fear the Lord— small and great alike.
No one can live without worshiping something or someone.
Man has a need to worship someone or something that is above him, beyond him, more intelligent, more powerful, more “whatever” than he is. Someone whom he is willing to bow before or something that he builds his life on.
That one or that thing may have beauty or be ugly in the final analysis - depending on who makes the decision about that one or thing. It may be material or physical, it may be mental or personal. It is someone or something that is “worthy” of bending a knee or bowing a head in the eyes of the worshiper.
What is so interesting about what or who we choose to worship is that we eventually become like that god. For example if our God is a God of love, we will love as that God loves. If our God is faithful, or caring, or holy, or compassionate, or truthful, or pure, or sinless - we will strive to become like that God.
If our god is sinful, we will sin willingly. If our god is cruel, or hateful, or untrustworthy, or covetous, or jealous, or inhumane, or self-centered we will allow those traits to become evident or obvious in our lives.
Centuries ago the Psalmist predicted this: “Those who make them are like them, and so will all who trust in them.”
Our behavior reflects the one whom we choose to bow before. Our lives reflect the one we worship.
Prayer: Father, we cannot fool anyone - especially You. Our lives are either Godlike or godlike - but not both. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 115:8 Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.
“Prayer,” said the anthropologist, “is a universal behavior.” He continued his remarks by saying, “No matter where I have traveled or who I have talked to, everyone seems to need someone who is ‘bigger’ than they are. Everybody needs somebody when they have a problem they can’t solve or are faced with a sickness that won’t go away. Prayer seems to be a big part of everyone’s soul.”
The people that the researcher talked about prayed because they needed help. They faced certain situations that were beyond their ability to change - so they prayed. Of course we wonder what may have happened when they prayed or if it made any difference in their lives. We’ll never know. It’s sad, however, to think that most people who pray do not know whether or not the one they are praying to is listening to their cries or can do anything about their needs.
One Psalmist, however, has good news about prayer. “I love the Lord because He heard my voice. He heard my cry for mercy.” Twice, in one sentence, the Psalmist said that when he prayed his God heard him. Not only did his God hear his voice and his cry for mercy but his God met his every need! What a great, gracious God we worship.
The God of Christians is responsive to the needs of Christians. We can always reach our God if we reach out to Him. Our God willingly “bends down to listen” to our prayers - meaning that He is always nearby waiting for our voice and willing to “hear our cry for mercy.”
No wonder the Psalmist said, “I love the Lord!”
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for always being nearby as You wait anxiously to hear the voice of Your children. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 116:1-2 I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
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