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You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. Psalm 4:7

Every year it’s the same thing. People all over the world will gather together to cheer in another year of great, new hopes and expectations. They talk about the new opportunities before them, about how great everything will be, and, for a few moments anyway, forget the pain, the agony and the turmoil that surrounds all of us.

The unfortunate reality is that January 2 or shortly afterwards, reality returns. The credit card bills come in from the Christmas overspending, the health concerns worsen, relationships fail us and the political and economic turmoil goes on. Wouldn’t it be nice if ‘Happy New Year’ were a statement of promise and absolute truth and not a flippant statement of hope in the midst of despair?

Each one of us can have a Happy New Year. That may seem like a bold statement but happiness isn’t about what goes on around us. Happiness is based on what we put our hope on. If we put our hope in material things, or relationships, or religion or even physical health we are destined for disappointment and failure. Anything that is earthly based will fail to bring us true happiness because by its nature it is destined to deteriorate.

The Psalmist compares his happiness to the happiness of those around them. During the time this Psalm was written ‘grain and new wine abounding’ represented everything one could possible ask for in the physical realm. It was a statement that represented the most successful and prosperous things that could happen in the world.

True happiness finds its source on the inside of each of us, not in the fickle, external circumstances that surround us. As Christ-followers we can have peace in the midst of turmoil, wealth in the midst of financial despair, freedom in the midst of addictions because our peace, wealth and freedom come from our faith in Jesus Christ.

Think about it for a moment. As a Christ-follower what is the absolute worst thing that can happen to you? The person without Christ may say relational or financial or physical disaster or even death. But for the Christ-follower none of that really has a lasting impact. The ‘worst that can happen’ for most people (death) is the best that can happen for us because in the death of our physical bodies we get to be united with Jesus in heaven.

The guarantee of a ‘Happy New Year’ comes only when we put our complete faith in Jesus Christ and resolve to grow in relationship to Him. Everything we see, everything will fail, change or go away. Jesus never will. Have a Happy New Year in Jesus!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I thank you for the promise you have given me that you are with me in every situation. I confess that in my humanness I seek happiness measure success by what I can hold in my hand or see with my eyes. Empower me by your Holy Spirit to base my happiness on you alone and not people, religion or things. I praise you for your love and power to bring true inner happiness to me through your forgiveness and your Holy Spirit. Amen.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

Recently I took a trip from the Midwestern USA to the California. Most of the trip was taken with clear skies allowing us to look out the window to the earth some 4 miles below us. We saw the beauty of the plains with lakes and rivers. We saw the mountains and the desert. While I was reminded of the vastness of the world and its beauty there were some things that were undistinguishable from my vantage point.

For example, I couldn’t tell how deep the lakes were; I couldn’t tell how hot the desert was; I couldn’t determine how high the mountains or hills were, nor could I tell how low the valley’s were. From my perspective it all looked pretty close to the same.

I thought of that flight when I read the words from Isaiah. God’s thoughts are not like our thoughts. We are made in God’s image and because of that we have the ability to think, reason and remember just as He does. But our thoughts are limited to what we can see in a very small segment of time and space.

We may be able to remember the mistakes and abuses and turmoil of our past. We may be able to anticipate or guess what lies ahead. But in reality, we can’t even see one second into the future! Our Father in Heaven, on the other hand remembers all the way back to our birth and sees all the way to our death (and all eternity as well!).

The things we see as major obstacles are but a blip on the screen to God because He knows the outcome. From His vantage point He knows that even though you may be struggling with something that is devastating to you, He sees the whole picture of how this event will work out.

There’s one weakness to my analogy of the plane-window-view of life and God’s view. From my vantage point I saw no people whatsoever. I didn’t see how those below me were struggling. I didn’t see the tears being shed. I didn’t see the victories being enjoyed.

That’s not true with God. He sees from beginning to end. The things we see as major obstacles aren’t seen that way by Him. But God sees each of us individually. He is able to see the deepest corners of our minds, our thoughts, our feelings and our pain.

Right now you may be going through some struggle that seems unbearable. It could be health related, financially related, relationship issues or a whole list of other things. Whatever it is that is troubling you may have led to anger, frustration, guilt, worry or doubt. Remember that God knows how things will work out. Don’t forget that He also understands Your pain, or whatever other emotion you are feeling right now.

He may not remove you from your situation, but He understands your heart and anxiously waits to comfort and strengthen you. Your Heavenly Father loves you. The more you grow in relationship with Him the more you will sense His love and strength.

PRAYER: Holy God, I can’t comprehend how your thoughts can be so vast that you can see the entire world and so intimate that you can see and understand my deepest emotions. I praise you for your greatness and your willingness to comfort me in my deepest need. As you know, I struggle with my faith in You or myself. Empower me with your Spirit to see things Your way and to trust you when the issues of my life scream at me to doubt. Thank you for loving me the way you do. Amen.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. Psalm 20:7

There are times in life when you just feel like ‘enough is enough’. People say ‘God will never give us more than we can handle’ but there are times when each of us have looked towards Heaven and said “Really? Isn’t this enough? I can’t take it anymore. Maybe YOU think I can handle this. I don’t’.

The ‘human’ tendency in each of us is to take matters in our own hands. We may not verbalize it to anyone, but deep inside us there’s this voice that says we are on our own. God either doesn’t exist, doesn’t care, or is just too removed from my situation to know what to do.

It’s a normal thing to do and God understands that. After all, He created us in His image. He created us to think on our own and to make decisions based on what we know and not on instinct. So, in the midst of our turmoil we seek our own answers. We may turn to revenge and call it justice. We may attempt so cope with the pain with drugs, alcohol, new relationships or even religious practices. But none of those will work and we find ourselves in the same turmoil.

In Psalm 20 the Psalmist offers up a prayer for those of us who have suffered the wounds of physical, emotional or spiritual abuse. His prayer for us is that in the midst of our darkest hour when anger and hate and revenge seem the only way out, that we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

The Psalmist doesn’t tell us to trust His power or look at His works and trust those. The power is in the name. Horses and chariots were items most people considered to be unbeatable in battle. They were swift and dangerous. While Jesus walked on earth many were healed simply by calling on His name. Life is hard. Tragedies come. People and churches and spiritual leaders fail. Family and friends will hurt you and abandon you in the time of your deepest need. But God is there. He desperately wants to walk with you through whatever life throws at you.

Call on His name. Talk to Him about your hurt. Release the pain and burden into His hands and ask Him to bear your load. That’s what He is there for. He loves you and it doesn’t matter if what you are going through is the result of your own choices or the actions of other people. His concern is about you.

Nothing anyone can do to you, no physical or political or even evil spirits can harm you when you call on the name of the Lord your God. Jesus is waiting to hear from you.

PRAYER: Dear God. I’m calling on you today. The trials and struggles that lay ahead of me seem insurmountable. I’ve been beaten up, battered and bruised. You say to call on you instead of calling on physical things like horses and chariots so I’m doing that. I need to feel Your presence in my life today. Empower me by Your Spirit to trust in you because I’m not sure I can do that on my own. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Joshua 2:11

The Israelites were about to enter a new chapter in their history books. Joshua had taken over leadership after Moses, the servant of God, had died. Now it was time to enter the land promised by God years earlier.

Joshua sent two men to spy out the land in much the same way he himself had been sent by Moses. These men secretly entered the city of Jericho to gain information on the city and how it could be conquered. They hid in the house of the local prostitute, Rahab, while the King of Jericho sent his men door to door to find the spies. Rahab lied in order to spare the lives of the men sent by God.

In return for her actions, the men promised her that she would be spared when the Israelites came to overtake the city. Not only did this woman’s courage spare the lives of her family and herself, it earned her a spot in the genealogy of Jesus Christ!

The story of Rahab should give us courage as we face insurmountable challenges in life. Difficult as the road may seem at times, it’s imperative that we remember, as followers of Jesus Christ, the God has gone ahead of us to prepare the way. The King sought to capture the spies out of fear. Two men would serve as no threat to a king in a walled city with an army at his disposal. But it’s important to remember that the King wasn’t afraid of the men. He was afraid of God.

The king wasn’t the only person who was afraid. In fact, Rahab tells us that the entire city was in turmoil over the rumored attack of God’s people. Rahab’s fear however, wasn’t due to men. Rahab was afraid of God. In fact, her fear of God was so much greater than her fear of men that she risked her life to save the spies from being captured.

During those times in life when we are afraid we can gain comfort by learning from the story of Rahab and the spies. We need not fear what men can do to us. This is true in the political realm as well as in the personal realm. Our real concern isn’t what others think of us. We need to focus on what God thinks of us.

The spies didn’t need to proclaim the power of God. God did a fine job of letting the world know about His power and strength. They didn’t need to protect themselves from the King. God provided a way for them to be safe, accomplish their task and return safely from their mission. Rahab was saved from death because of simple faith. She didn’t know all the rules and regulations that God had set out for His people. She didn’t know about sacrifices and all that went with the Israelites faith. She knew God’s power and that was enough for her.

God’s people need not fear man made systems. As Christ-followers we can go confidently into the future knowing that our God, the creator of the universe, has gone before us. We can go with confidence and power to do the work that He has planned for us. Our past and our own strength are meaningless to an all knowing, all powerful, loving and merciful God. All he wants is for us to trust His power on the journey He has carefully planned out for us.

PRAYER: Father God. You know my heart. You know the fear that I have. I fear that the ‘secret places’ of my life will be found out. I fear the political and economic woes of our world will destroy me. I fear for my children and my family. Fear seems to be a constant shadow in the back of my mind. I ask that you would give me the courage of Rahab and the spies. Help me to focus more on your power and less on the power of others in my life. Empower me through your Spirit to be free me from the fear that overwhelms me. Amen

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