Who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.
[2 Corinthians 1:10-11]
God's Finest Work
Peter and his fellow storm riders knew they were in trouble. “But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary” (Matthew 14:24).
What should have been a sixty-minute cruise became a nightlong battle. The boat lurched and lunged like a kite in a March wind. Sunlight was a distant memory. Rain fell from the night sky in buckets. Lightning sliced the blackness with a silver sword. Winds whipped the sails, leaving the disciples “in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves.” Apt description, perhaps, for your stage in life? Perhaps all we need to do is substitute a couple of nouns…
In the middle of a divorce, tossed about by guilt.
In the middle of debt, tossed about by creditors.
In the middle of a recession, tossed about by stimulus packages and bailouts.
The disciples fought the storm for nine cold, skin-drenching hours. And about 4:00 a.m., the unspeakable happened. They spotted someone coming on the water. “‘A ghost!’ they said, crying out in terror” (Matthew 14:26).
They didn’t expect Jesus to come to them this way.
Neither do we. We expect him to come in the form of peaceful hymns or Easter Sundays or quiet retreats. We expect to find Jesus in morning devotionals, church suppers, and meditation. We never expect to see him in a bear market, pink slip, lawsuit, foreclosure, or war. We never expect to see him in a storm. But it is in storms that he does his finest work, for it is in storms that he has our keenest attention.
We cannot control the storms of life, but we can control where we look in the storm. We choose to look to you. We choose to see you in the middle of our heartbreaks and health crises. When we are tossed about by the trials and temptations of life, remind us not to be overwhelmed by fear and doubt, but to look for your calming presence,
Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? For this is Your rightful due. For among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like You.
My soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge.
Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
~ Max Lucado ~
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Created to Do Great Works
By the time you knew what to call it, you were neck deep in it. It’s called life. And this one is yours. Complete with summers and songs and gray skies and tears, you have a life. Didn’t request one, but you have one. A first day. A final day. And a few thousand in between. You’ve been given an honest-to-goodness human life.
You’ve been given your life. No one else has your version. You’ll never bump into yourself on the sidewalk. You’ll never meet anyone who has your exact blend of lineage, loves, and longings. Your life will never be lived by anyone else. You’re not a jacket in an attic that can be recycled after you are gone.
Life is racing by, and if we aren’t careful, you and I will look up, and our shot at it will have passed us by. Some people don’t bother with such thoughts. They grind through their days without lifting their eyes to look. They live and die and never ask why.
But you aren’t numbered among them. It’s not enough for you to do well. You want to do good. You want your life to matter. You want to live in such a way that the world will be glad you did…
We are given a choice … an opportunity to make a big difference during a difficult time. What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope? Infiltrated all corners with God’s love and life?
We are created by a great God to do great works.
[Outlive Your Life]
Thank you for giving us life and for creating us to be unique among all the people of the world. May the moments and days of our lives bring honor to you, the Giver of life. Teach us your perfect path, and guide us to do your will. Open our eyes and hearts to infiltrate our corner of the world with your love and life,
A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.
For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love… Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.
[Hebrews 6:10; 10:35]
God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
[2 Corinthians 9:8]
~ Max Lucado ~
And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church.
The Creator of the Universe
Tapping the collective shoulder of humanity, God points to the Son—his Son—and says, “Behold the center of it all.”
God raised him [Christ] from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. (Ephesians 1:20–22 msg)
When God looks at the center of the universe, he doesn’t look at you. When heaven’s stagehands direct the spotlight toward the star of the show, I need no sunglasses. No light falls on me.
Lesser orbs, that’s us. Appreciated. Valued. Loved dearly. But central? Essential? Pivotal? Nope. Sorry… The world does not revolve around us. Our comfort is not God’s priority. If it is, something’s gone awry. If we are the marquee event, how do we explain flat-earth challenges like death, disease, slumping economies, or rumbling earthquakes? If God exists to please us, then shouldn’t we always be pleased?
Could a Copernican shift be in order? Perhaps our place is not at the center of the universe. God does not exist to make a big deal out of us. We exist to make a big deal out of him. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s all about him.
[It’s Not About Me]
We praise you, King of heaven. You are great above all. You are gracious and we are grateful. We love you, adore you. We worship you and thank you for the gift of your Son,
Since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably.
O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions.
Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.
~ Max Lucado ~
“I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”
Loved by a Faithful God
Peer through the small window in the wall of the Roman jail. See the man in chains? The aging fellow with the stooped shoulders and hawkish nose? That’s Paul, the imprisoned apostle. His chains never come off. The guards never leave. And he’s probably wondering if he’ll ever get out…
By the time we find Paul in his cell, he has been beaten, lied about, storm tossed, rejected, and neglected.
Ah, but at least he has the church. At least he can take comfort in the thought of the unified Roman congregation he helped strengthen, right? Hardly. The Roman church is in trouble… Power-hungry preachers occupy the parsonage. You expect such antics out of nonbelievers, but Christians preaching for personal gain? Paul is facing Prozac-level problems…
And who knows what Emperor Nero will do? He feeds disciples to the Colosseum lions for lunch. Does Paul have any guarantee the same won’t happen to him? … Paul is not naive. He knows that the only thing between him and death is a nod from moody Nero. Paul has every reason to be stressed out…
But he isn’t. Rather than count the bricks of his prison, he plants a garden within it. He itemizes not the mistreatments of people, but the faithfulness of God.
“I want you to know, brethren that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12 rsv). He may appear to be bumped off track, but he is actually right on target. Why? One reason. Christ is preached. The mission is being accomplished.
[Every Day Deserves a Chance]
Earthly stress and struggles remind us of your faithfulness. Help us, Lord, to serve you without grumbling. May we, like the apostle Paul, choose to plant a garden in the bricks of our “prison.” Help plant our thoughts firmly on your faithfulness. All hope comes from you,
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
[2 Timothy 1:7]
Let your heart therefore be loyal to the Lord our God, to walk in His statues and keep His commandments, as at this day.
[1 Kings 8:61]
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
~ Max Lucado ~
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, not sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.
Assignments in Heaven
You won’t be bored in heaven because you won’t be the same you in heaven. Boredom emerges from soils that heaven disallows. The soil of weariness: our eyes tire. Mental limitations: information overload dulls us. Self-centeredness: we grow disinterested when the spotlight shifts to others. Tedium: meaningless activity siphons vigor.
But Satan will take these weedy soils to hell with him, leaving you with a keen mind, endless focus, and God-honoring assignments.
Yes, you will have assignments in heaven. God gave Adam and Eve garden responsibilities. “Let them have dominion” (Genesis 1:26). He mantled the couple with leadership “over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (v. 26). Adam was placed in the garden “to tend and keep it” (2:15).
Adam and his descendants will do it again. “[God’s] servants shall serve Him” (Revelation 22:3). What is service if not responsible activity? Those who are faithful over a few things will rule over many (Matthew 25:21 niv).
You might oversee the orbit of a distant planetary system … design a mural in the new city … monitor the expansion of a new species of plants or animals. “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7). God’s new world will be marked by increase. Increased planets? Colors? Music? Seems likely. What does a creator do but create?
What do his happy children do but serve him?
[3:16: The Numbers of Hope]
You have promised that those who believe in you will live with you forever in heaven. Thank you for the promise of heaven. We will serve you there with great joy and gladness,
The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom.
[2 Timothy 4:18]
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.
Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or on earth like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before you with all their hearts.
[2 Chronicles 6:14]
~ Max Lucado ~
I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you.
A Glimpse of God's Glory
God places his servant in the cleft of a rock, telling Moses: “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live… I… will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:20, 22–23).
And so Moses, cowering beneath the umbrella of God’s palm, waits, surely with face bowed, eyes covered, and pulse racing, until God gives the signal. When the hand lifts, Moses’ eyes do the same and catch a distant, disappearing glance of the back parts of God. The heart and center of the Maker is too much for Moses to bear. A fading glimpse will have to do. I’m seeing the long gray hair of Moses wind-whipped forward and his leathery hand grabbing a rock in the wall lest he fall. And as the gust settles and his locks rest again on his shoulders, we see the impact. His face. Gleaming. Bright as if backlit by a thousand torches. Unknown to Moses, but undeniable to the Hebrews, is his shimmering face. When he descended the mountain, “the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face” (2 Corinthians 3:7 nasb).
Witnesses saw not anger in his jaw, or worry in his eyes, or a scowl on his lips; they saw God’s glory in his face.
Did he have reason for anger? Cause for worry? Of course. Challenges await him. A desert and forty years of great challenges. But now, having seen God’s face, he can face them…
You and I need what Moses needed—a glimpse of God’s glory.
[It’s Not About Me]
You are glorious and mighty in all you do. Sunsets preview your glory. Newborn babies prove your tenderness. The kindness of the Savior demonstrates your power. Thank you, Lord, for these glimpses of your glory,
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory.
We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!
~ Max Lucado ~
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.
[2 Corinthians 10:4]
Help for Prevailing Problems
Does one prevailing problem leech your life?
Some are prone to cheat. Others, quick to doubt. Maybe you worry. Yes, everyone worries some, but you own the national distributorship of anxiety. Perhaps you are judgmental. Sure, everybody can be critical, but you pass more judgments than a federal judge.
What is that one weakness, bad habit, rotten attitude? Where does Satan have a stronghold within you? Ahh, there is the fitting word—stronghold: a fortress, citadel, thick walls, tall gates. It’s as if the devil staked a claim on one weakness and constructed a rampart around it.
Strongholds: old, difficult, discouraging challenges.
That’s what David faced when he looked at Jerusalem…
“Nevertheless, David took the stronghold” (2 Samuel 5:9 esv). Granted, the city was old. The walls were difficult. The voices were discouraging… Nevertheless, David took the stronghold.
Wouldn’t you love for God to write a nevertheless in your biography? Born to alcoholics, nevertheless she led a sober life. Never went to college, nevertheless he mastered a trade. Didn’t read the Bible until retirement age, nevertheless he came to a deep and abiding faith.
We all need a nevertheless. And God has plenty to go around. Strongholds mean nothing to him. Remember Paul’s words? “We use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4 nlt).
You and I fight with toothpicks; God comes with battering rams and cannons. What he did for David, he can do for us.
[Facing Your Giants]
As you helped David conquer a stronghold, so you can help us conquer the strongholds in our lives. You have promised freedom and victory. Father, will you break these strongholds with your mighty power? You steady us with your love,
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.
“Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”
~ Max Lucado ~