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Death had wrapped its ropes around me, and I was almost swallowed by its flooding waters. Psalm 18:4 (CEV)

Recently we went to a local museum to see a display on the ‘Real Pirates of the Caribbean’. It was an interesting display of artifacts from history and from the bottom of the sea.

There was one display that caught my mind and Psalm 18:4 reminds me of it. Hanging in one display was a metal cage approximately 8 feet long and in the shape of a human body. The corresponding sign told that this cage was used to execute pirates.

The man (or woman) was placed in the cage and the cage was subsequently staked in the sandy beach. As the tide came in, the cage would remain in place, the water would inch up the bodies of the victim and eventually submerge them. Death by drowning.

Imagine being in that cage as a pirate. You knew how unforgiving the sea was. You knew the tide and how it worked. You stood there in your cage and watched the tide grow closer. You felt the cold water inch up your body. You knew death was imminent and that there was nothing you could do about it. The cold ocean water reached your knees, your waist, your neck and finally, painfully you breathe your last.

History tells us that those living close to the shore would often hear the screams of the condemned begging for help, begging for someone to rescue them. Of course, even if some compassionate soul would try to rescue them, there was no hope, no way to stop the tide; no way to unlock the cage; no hope to bring them safely ashore. The very thing that brought them riches (the sea) was their ultimate demise.

Horrific as that scenario may be, we are surrounded by people who, like the executed pirates, are living in cages of their own. Some are cages they have built themselves on lie, on rebellious choice, one broken promise at a time. Others are victims of the brutality imposed on them. The reason for their cage is unimportant. The result is what is important.

For the pirate, there was no hope; no one with a key to open the cage and offer them freedom. For us we have someone who not only has a key to unlock the door, but will bring us safely ashore.

If you feel like the pirate; if you feel the cold waters of the ocean rising up your body; if you feel your own destruction is at hand and there is no hope, know that Jesus Christ offers you the escape you need to break free of your prison. His forgiveness is all you need to find new life.

The key to unlocking the door is simply asking him to forgive you of your sin and to empower you to live a life free of the despair and pain of your past.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I thank you for rescuing me from the destruction and despair of my past. Forgive me of the sins of my past. Empower me by your Holy Spirit to live life in the freedom only you can offer. Amen.


The poor and the homeless won’t always be forgotten and without hope. Psalm 9:18 (CEV)

Looking back, I’m amazed at how my mother got five boys ready every Sunday morning for Sunday School. Those were the days of white shirts, black pants and clip-on ties. Somehow she made breakfast, had dinner in the oven and all five us in the car and on the way to church almost on time every week. Having dad as the pastor helped a little, he HAD to be there. He would often go ahead with anyone that might be ready. The rest would usually follow in a second car…just in case.

It may not come as any surprise that on occasion we’d all be called to dinner table after arriving home and notice that one chair was empty.  

“Where’s Mike?”

“He told me he was riding home with you, that he’d asked you and you said it would be okay.”

“Never saw him. I bet we forgot him at church. I’ll be back.” And with that, off dad would go to drive to church and pick up the solitary figure waiting patiently on the church steps.

It didn’t happen often, but occasionally that scene was played out for each of us kids. We’d get busy playing with a friend or exploring the back rooms of the church and find ourselves alone…forgotten. Fortunately the church was only a couple miles from home and no permanent damage occurred.

No one likes to feel like their forgotten. My story was a humorous on, but there are those who feel forgotten by God, by family or by friends on a daily basis. Their lives are filled with hopelessness, loneliness and despair. The reasons for their plight are numerous. Some have run away from abusive relationships or been sent away and feel as though God himself has forgotten them. For some their entire lives have been a battle of survival. Health issues, financial struggles, poverty all work together to bring people to their knees in despair.

The forgotten may seek comfort from the enemy of despair in many ways. Some sink into depression, some strike out in anger to take what isn’t theirs to comfort them. Others use drugs, people, or even religion to mask the pain of being ‘forgotten’.

The inevitable question in the midst of our feelings of hopelessness and being forgotten is, ‘Where is God in all this? Why hasn’t he come to my rescue?”

When you feel like God has forgotten you, remember that you are never gone from his sight. He knows your every step, your every thought, your every feeling of despair. Peter writes (2 Peter 3:9) that God isn’t slow concerning his promise. He’s patient and whatever you are going through isn’t a sign that he can’t deliver you. He can. But for reasons we may never know he’s allowing this for your strengthening.

Remember the words of Jesus (Luke 12:6) when he says that even sparrows, insignificant as they are, will never be forgotten by God.

Don’t allow the wilderness of your soul to let you think you are forgotten by your Heavenly Father. Your Father loves you. Your hope isn’t grounded in the things of this world (health, financial stability, strong relationships), your hope is grounded in eternity and the love your father has for you.

PRAYER: Father, in my despair I feel forgotten by others and even by you at times. Thank you for loving me. Help me to feel your hand upon me through this current struggle. Empower me to trust you when the future seems so bleak. I put my trust in you. Amen.


Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica he was writing to a people who had all but given up hope. It seemed to them that the anti-Christian forces were overtaking them and soon they would be defeated. The truth of the gospel had become a mockery to everyone, so it seemed.

Paul’s words here are actually a prayer. He prays that those who are feeling hopeless in the midst of trial and despair would be comforted and strengthened by God’s grace. There is it again. That word GRACE. Grace is the building block on which everything we say and do is built. Grace says that even though we are powerless to do anything to deserve hope, we are granted hope because of Jesus.

Grace says that even though our efforts to live for Christ are thwarted by evil in the social and political realm, we have hope and comfort because of God’s love for us. Grace isn’t dependent on government or legal systems or financial stability. Hope is grounded in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. No human system or spiritual darkness will change that.

Grace says that even though it seems like everything is stacked against me, the good that I do will not go unnoticed. My efforts for Christ may be ignored or misunderstood by others. My commitment to live by God’s standards and not worldly standards may be labeled old fashioned or intolerant by forces of darkness, but my Father in Heaven sees my heart and my actions and gives me comfort.

Don’t let the forces of evil discourage you. Don’t allow Satan, the great deceiver, to trick you into thinking that things are out of control. Things are out of our control, but they have never been in our control. Everything that is going on around us is under the control of a Loving, Sovereign, Grace-full God. Put your hope and comfort in Him. Let the truth of God’s word empower you as you continue to do and say good things in his name.

The world system wants you to believe there is hope in politics, money or religion. The only hope we have is through grace given us in Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Father God, I confess to you that I look around me and don’t always find a lot to be hope-full about. The political world scares me. The financial and legal system are a shambles. Religions that don’t acknowledge you as the Creator/Sustainer of the world seem to be overtaking us Christ-followers. I ask that you would empower me by your Spirit to remember that my hope is built on Grace through Jesus Christ. May I go about my day doing and saying good things to glorify you, Amen.

 


Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Acts 12:7

“I’ll pray for you.” We say it all the time, especially as believers. I remember when my son was only a few months old. He was very sick and the doctors in our small town couldn’t figure out what was wrong. We were referred to a doctor in a much larger city, very well-known for it’s medical expertise.

As we were making the preparations to go and word spread, many from our church called or stopped by to offer support and prayers. Some even prayed with us. The one comment that sticks in my mind the most was a dear lady where I worked. In a very sincere voice she said, “We’ll be thinking of you.”

The reason her comment has stayed with me all these years is because of how empty those words were. ‘Thinking of me? What good will that do?’ Of course I knew her heart and sincerity, but I was struck by the fact that our prayers are so much more than simply thinking sympathetic, heartfelt thoughts about something or someone. Prayer, whether spoken, written or simply thought in our minds, is a personal, intimate communication with the eternal, omnipotent, all-knowing God of love! What a privilege we have to approach Him in that way for ourselves and on the behalf of others.

The apostle Peter was taken prisoner and sentenced to death. The Bible gives us no indication that he was distraught about this, but it does give us a picture of God’s people in action. We don’t know the details, but at some point after his arrest a prayer meeting was held to pray for his deliverance. It was in the midst of that prayer meeting that an angel appeared to Peter. How many of us, if we were in prison and to be executed the next day, would have to be awakened from a deep sleep! Peter wasn’t worried. He knew that whatever happened, God’s will would be done.

Prayer works. Don’t think prayer doesn’t work when you don’t get the answers you want. Don’t think it a waste of time because no one will hear you. As a follower of Jesus Christ, you have the privilege, honor and responsibility to approach the very throne of God. Don’t take the matter of prayer lightly. When you say you will pray for someone, do it. Right then. Whether you are driving, walking, in a meeting or working, PRAY! You don’t know how much impact your prayer may have on the person(s) involved.

As a body of Christ we must always be ready to fight the enemy. Prayer is our major weapon of attack. It was no doubt the fact that Peter ‘knew’ his friend were praying that allowed him to sleep that night.

One more thought. Surround yourself with people who pray. ‘Thinking of others’ is a nice gesture, but thinking of someone doesn’t really do anyone any good. Your problems may not go away when you have friends praying but the burden will be lighter.

PRAYER: Holy God, I thank you for the gift of prayer. Thank you for the example of prayer in the life of the early church. Like Peter, I ask that I can have the faith to rest in the midst of despair because I know people are praying for me and your perfect will will be done. Help me to remember to pray for others and not treat it as merely a spiritual exercise. Help me to really believe that prayer works. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.


The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. Psalm 145:14

What a marvelous promise from God! In verse 13 the Psalmist reminds us that the Lord is the same from generation to generation. The older I get the more I’m amazed at the amount of change going on around me.

When I was growing up portable phones were the sizes of suitcases and had a range of a few hundred feet. Now we can talk anywhere on little boxes that you can slip into your pocket. Not only that but our ‘phones’ surf the internet, take pictures, do business and most anything else you can imagine.

With all the change going on around us there is one constant. We serve a God that never changes. Technology changes. Political regions change. The environment changes. Relationships change. But God never changes, yet at the same time He remains relevant and in touch with everything that we see around us. He’s the only one that not only keeps up with technology, he’s ahead of the game!

When David wrote this song of praise he was writing to us, to believers and followers of Jesus Christ. He tells us that God ‘upholds all those who fall’. The word picture here is meant for those of us who struggle with life. We are tired. We are weak. We find ourselves doing the same destructive things over and over again.

The message is clear. When we fall, when we can’t seem to get the ‘Christian life’ right, He is there to hold us up. Our past can’t keep us down. Our human weakness can’t hold us back from following after Christ. We have a God that supports us.

The second message of this verse is that God ‘lifts up those who are bowed down’. He lifts those who are struggling under the burdens placed on us by others. He picks up the weary, the abused, the battered, the homeless and the grief stricken.

We serve and awesome, loving, compassionate God. The enemy would have you to believe you can’t go on. He’ll remind you of your mistakes. He’ll throw temptation and worry in your way. He’ll constantly try to keep you bound by guilt, shame and remorse. Don’t listen to the enemy’s lies about you. You are a child of the King! Adversity and failure will come, but God will always be there to lift you up.

Lean on your Heavenly Father. Feel His strong, loving arms lift you up. Rest in the promise that because of Him you are free. Truly free!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father. I think of what this verse really means and I’m humbled, yet at the same time so encouraged. You know my weaknesses. You know the pain I’m under. You alone know the feelings I have of failure, guilt, and shame. I ask that you would help me to lean on you during the hard times. Help me feel your arms of love lifting me up when I can no longer stand alone. Thank you for Jesus love and forgiveness. Amen.

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