Frantic and Frazzled

frantic

Have you struggled with the stuff of life to the point that you felt weary and teary?

I’ve hit the wall and collapsed twice because I mismanaged stress, kept a crazy schedule and got burnt out. Exhausted and overwhelmed, I had no choice but to rest and sleep for days.

I ignored the warning signs, disregarded what others advised and refused to get the help I desperately needed. I jeopardized my health and the well-being of my family. I allowed the tyranny of the urgent to sap my energy and scuttle my strength.

Frazzled to the core, I finally just wore out. I had nothing left to give. I felt empty and lost.

Eventually, I learned to set my pace so I could run long and finish strong. I discovered how to recharge my batteries, renew my mind and rebalance my emotions. I decided to slow down, rest up and look around.

Oh, I still struggle. It’s part of life. That’s why I ask and rely on God to rejuvenate me.

The tough warrior-king David struggled, too. He wrote, “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow …” (Psalm 6:6-7). He fought exhaustion, sadness and stress.

David had fierce enemies who wanted to kill him. Trusted advisors who tried to betray him. Close friends who plotted to ruin him. A rebellious son who conspired to dethrone him.

The stressed-out warrior-king got tired of struggling and fighting. He wanted to give up and go away—but he didn’t. Instead, he asked God to rescue and strengthen him.

David prayed, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help” (Psalm 69:1-3).

He also declared, “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help … he heard my voice. He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters … he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:16-19).

David desperately cried out to God—and experienced God’s strong hand and sustaining help.

Know this, my friend—no matter what’s threatening to slam you down and take you out, it’s no match for our mighty God. He’s all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere present at once.

God sees what you’re going through—knows what you’re feeling—and hears what you’re saying. He’s focused on you. He cares about you.

That’s why you can trust God with everything—and talk with him about anything at any time.

God is waiting and listening for you. Will you trust and talk with him today?

 

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Toothpick Bandit

bandit

Six cases of ordinary wooden toothpicks were stolen in May 2012 from a warehouse owned by Armond’s Manufacturing Company in Athens, Georgia.

The not-so-clever thief broke into the building, triggered the alarm and ran after grabbing the boxes—containing 400,000 toothpicks, worth $3,000. The police arrested the man, after he was spotted trying to sell the toothpicks in bulk at a flea market.

When I was a boy, I shoplifted for several years, taking candy and small items from a corner drug store. Sadly, I kept doing it as an adolescent—sometimes just for the rush that comes from taking risks and avoiding apprehension.

But when I came to faith and trusted Jesus as my Savior, I confessed my stealing to God and told my father. Not long after that, I went to the store with Dad to try and make things right.

I admitted my stealing to the manager and asked for his forgiveness. Then, I handed him an envelope of cash to pay for what I’d stolen, and promised I’d never steal again. Fortunately, he didn’t press charges, and I didn’t get a rap sheet. We shook hands, and I stopped stealing.

After paying my “debt” to the store manager, there were more consequences to face. Dad revoked a number of privileges I enjoyed. He lectured, disciplined and whupped me with a big belt—and then grounded me for several months. It could’ve been a lot worse.

Long ago, God told Joshua and the Israelites to circle the city of Jericho for seven days. Everyone watched as God collapsed the walls on the seventh day. Then, following God’s instructions, Joshua told the Israelites to burn everything (Joshua 6).

But foolish Achan took and hid some plunder in his tent. When confronted, he admitted his sin, but couldn’t avoid the consequences. The Israelites stoned Achan, his family, livestock, tent—everything he had—and then burned and buried them and everything else (Joshua 7).

The temptation to sin is alluring, deceptive and deadly. It stalks us—and can strike at any time.

Achan saw some stuff he wanted and stole it, right after experiencing a huge spiritual victory at Jericho. Instead of obeying God, Achan deliberately sinned. Sound familiar?

Sin has consequences because God is holy and just—and can’t look the other way when we sin. We may confess before getting caught, or wait until we’re exposed. Either way, we can’t escape the consequences of our sin. It’s no different than when we disobeyed our parents.

But 1 John 1:9 promises, “… if we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” God instantaneously forgives our sin when we confess it to him—but without stopping the consequences. He graciously restores our rebellious hearts—when we confess and come to him as repentant sinners and saints.

So then, let’s choose today to turn and run from the clutches of temptation—and avoid the consequences of stumbling headlong into sin!

 

 

 

Once Lost, Forever Found

lost person 2

A veteran shrimp-boat captain plying his trade off the coast of Crab Island near Florida made an unsettling and surprising catch. After hoisting his predawn haul onto the deck of his boat, Matt Willingham discovered that he’d also pulled up a prosthetic leg.

Fortunately, he didn’t find a dead body, but Willingham did notice that the prosthetic limb was emblazoned with a University of Kentucky logo. So, when he got back on shore, Willingham tracked down the manufacturer to help him identify the leg’s owner.

Because of some irregular markings on the rather expensive prosthetic, it wasn’t difficult for the manufacturer to locate the owner.

Long story cut short—Fred Robinson, a former Kentucky Wildcats running back from the 1980’s, lost his leg in a workplace accident. Then, just a few years later, he lost his prosthetic while swimming in the nearby ocean on Memorial Day weekend.

When Robinson got the phone call, he was shocked at first. Then, he just started laughing, and hollered:  “They found my leg!”

Long ago, while teaching his early followers, Jesus told three stories about finding something or someone that was lost.

A poor woman lost one of her ten coins, but found it after looking everywhere. A compassionate shepherd lost one of his 99 sheep, but found it after searching everywhere. A forgiving father lost his youngest son to wild living, but one day saw him walking in the distance, ran quickly and hugged him and welcomed him home with a big party.

In the same way—but infinitely more so—Jesus never stops looking for lost people. His heart is compassionate. His eyes are alert. His legs are strong. His arms are open wide.

Do you know why Jesus pursues lost people?

The Bible says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Our Savior is looking for lost people to rescue for all of eternity.

Friend, is Jesus looking for you?

Maybe you’re lost and wandering. Perhaps you’re confused and disoriented. Maybe you’re rebellious and unruly. Perhaps you’re dirty and vagrant.

If so, it’s time for you to stop, turn and run to the Savior. He’s looking for you.

I like how David pictured God’s amazing rescue, “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me …” (Psalm 18:16-17).

Friend, it’s time for you stop being lost and homeless like the prodigal son. It’s time for you to come home and celebrate with your forgiving Father!

 

 

Nobody’s Perfect

Exam taking

Ten classmates at University High School in Irvine, California got perfect scores on the same exam on the same day.

In June, standardized testing grades on that exam were sent to the school officials. They were surprised to see that ten students got a perfect 35 score on their ACT college aptitude exams. That’s the first time any school has managed to rack up 10 perfect scores in the same year.

But frankly, nobody on Planet Earth is perfect. Not by a long shot. Everybody makes mistakes. More than we can count. More often than we can remember.

We struggle every day—and often stumble. Take nose dives. Scrape our knees. Get bumps and bruises. Wake up with bad acne and lousy attitudes. Put on belly fat. Get age wrinkles. Grimace and frown. Turn gray and go bald. Dye hair and wear wigs.

No matter how hard we try, or how much we improve—we’re a long way from being perfect.

Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden and tried to hide from God. Jacob cheated his brother and deceived his father. Abraham lied about Sarah to save his neck. Moses got angry and murdered an Egyptian.

Ten of Moses’ spies panicked and twisted the truth. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then killed her husband. Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Peter got cocky. John Mark went AWOL. Ananias and Sapphira lied and died. And the saga of sin continues.

Nobody’s perfect. We struggle and sin. We do our own thing, and go our own way. Do you know why? The Bible says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

David knew that truth—and sometimes ignored it. But David would eventually come to his senses, confess his sin to God and pray, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:2). That’s how David got right with God.

Later, John taught and wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness … My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 1:8-9).

Simply put, we’ve got an inborn inclination to deceive, disobey and defy.

But our heavenly Father is righteous, faithful and just. He’s gracious and patient. He’s eager to forgive and purify us when we humbly confess our sins to him. Every time.

So then, let’s stop often to examine what we’re thinking, saying and doing. Then, as necessary, let’s honestly admit our sins to our gracious Father—and get right with him!

 

Out of the Blue

Blue Lobster

Veteran lobster boat captain Bobby Stoddard of Clarks Harbour, Nova Scotia, had heard of blue lobsters, but he had never seen one—until he heard one of his men yell, “Hey, we got a pretty one in this trap!”

That “purty” lobster inside the trap turned out to be a rare catch—and one out of two million lobsters with a genetic variation that causes them to turn blue—and stay that way for life.

Stoddard wasn’t sure what to do with the uniquely blue-colored lobster, after an ocean research institute expressed no interest in his awesome discovery. He told a CNN news reporter, “It probably belongs back in the ocean, but I’d like for as many people as possible to see it.”

Similarly, our heavenly Father wants as many people as possible to hear the good news about his Son Jesus—before it’s too late. I wonder how many of us share God’s passion for lost people.

The apostle Peter wrote, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9). That’s patient love.

The apostle John testifies that our Father loves us so much that he sent his only Son from halls of heaven to Planet Earth so he could die on a cross for our sins. He wrote, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son …” (John 3:16). That’s sacrificial love.

Our Father sent his Son because he doesn’t want anyone to die spiritually and live eternally separated from him. He doesn’t want anyone to reject his Son. Instead, he wants everyone to repent, trust his Son Jesus and receive the gift of eternal life.

God is incredibly patient, but he won’t wait forever. When it comes to stiff-arming and rejecting Jesus, time is running out. One day, the window of time and opportunity for non-believers to repent and get right with God is going to shut—and eternity future will start.

Have you come to faith in Jesus Christ? If not, I invite you to meet and trust my Savior!

Until that day, let’s share the good news of Jesus with as many people as possible, recalling what he told his early followers, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no man can work.” (John 9:4).

Time is definitely running out—and one day, time will be no more. I wonder how many men, women and children will come to faith between now and then because we lovingly and patiently shared the good news of Jesus with them.

Until that day, let’s be passionate about sharing Jesus Christ and the good news of salvation, forgiveness and eternal life with as many people as possible—everywhere we go.

Friend, the eternal destiny of people we know and love—and individuals we don’t know but choose to love—hangs in the balance.

Will you tell them about Jesus before it’s too late?

 

Why We Run and Hide

Suitcase

After getting angry and going berserk one day, Portland authorities prohibited Kola McGrath from visiting her boyfriend at his apartment because she furiously and maliciously broke open a fire extinguisher box and set off the alarm.

Frustrated by the restraining order that’d been issued to keep her away from her boyfriend Curtis Lowe’s apartment complex, the 50-year-old Oregonian woman came up with a way she could get inside, unseen by the landlord and residents.

McGrath’s sneaky plan was for her boyfriend to zip her inside a large suitcase, and nonchalantly wheel her into the complex. It worked for a while—as she traveled to and from his apartment inside the suitcase.

Then one day, a neighbor looked out his window and saw Curtis stuffing a petite woman into a black suitcase. Alarmed, he quickly called the Portland police and reported what appeared to be a kidnapping in progress.

When the police arrived, they searched Lowe’s apartment, where they found the empty suitcase and McGrath hiding inside a closet. She was arrested and booked for trespassing.

Have you offended or trespassed against someone, and tried to hide and get away with it—knowing you weren’t supposed to do what you did and you weren’t supposed to go where you went in the first place?

Honestly, we’ve all sinned and committed trespasses against God and others—more times than we can count or remember.

Adam and Eve hid in the garden after they ate the forbidden fruit. They sinned and trespassed against God because they deliberately disobeyed his command and ignored his warning. They blew it—and they knew it. They tried to hide from God, but they couldn’t.

We’re no different. We sin, run and hide. But God pursues and finds us—because he loves us. He comes after us—every time.

The Bible says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away …” (Romans 3:10-1). Nobody is righteous. Not you. Not me. Nobody.

Without God, we’re totally depraved, lost and helpless. We’re guilty because of our sin. That’s why we run and hide—and that’s why we need God’s forgiveness and righteousness.

But God justifies us when we come to him by faith. He declares us righteous in Christ. He rescues, redeems and restores us. He forgives and saves us—completely and eternally. We don’t have to run and hide anymore. Instead, we can rejoice because of God’s amazing grace.

So then, let’s forget about hiding from God, and start celebrating with him!

 

Lost and Adrift

Man Lost at Sea

After floating adrift at sea for 16 long hours, Glenn Ey of Queensland, Australia, was spotted by an eagle-eyed first officer aboard a low-flying passenger jet.

The Australian yachtsman first got into trouble when he became stranded about 300 miles off the coast of Sydney. Hours later, as the search for the missing sailor started, Australian search and rescue officials radioed international airline pilots flying into Sydney and asked them to assist with the search.

That’s why the crew of an Air Canada 777 dropped to 5,000 feet to look for the missing man—and just as the jumbo jet banked hard to the right to continue on to Sydney, the plane’s co-pilot saw the lost yacht. Not long after he radioed in the location, the search and rescue team was able to rescue the lost seaman.

Similarly, the spiritual “safety” and eternal destiny of pre-Christians—unsaved or lost people—is at stake everywhere around the world. The Bible says it’s our responsibility to go and do whatever we can to find and help rescue lost people from an eternity separated from God.

Are you looking for lost people? When you find them, do you radio for the Holy Spirit’s help—and join in a “spiritual search and rescue” by reaching out and sharing the gospel with them?

God commissioned us to stay on alert, prepared and ready to toss a life-line of hope to others. He called us to look for people who’re adrift and lost in a sea of sin—and then help rescue them by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, our only Savior.

Luke says of the first-century disciples in Jerusalem, “They never stopped proclaiming the good news …” (Acts 5:42). If Luke observed how you reach out and talk with people around you, could he write the same report about you?

The Bible says, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:  Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season … keep you head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2,5).

Paul charges young Timothy—and every believer—to go and find lost people. Why? Simply put, we’re found; and they’re lost—and need to be rescued. It’s a life and death situation.

Our Savior is coming back soon to “rapture” (catch up) his Church from Planet Earth forever. Time is running out—and anyone who hasn’t come to faith in Jesus will be left behind.

That’s why we must look for lost people and help rescue them before it’s too late. That’s why we must keep our hearts soft and our eyes peeled for lost people.

Know this:  if we stop caring about the people around us, and if we shirk our responsibility to share the good news of Jesus with others, they don’t stand a chance. They may be lost forever.

Will you be a life-long member of God’s “spiritual search and rescue” team?

 

Out of the Ruckus

Buck large

A large, intimidating intruder weighing 300 pounds broke into a home in Northeast Philadelphia, and left behind a trail of broken glass and blood, as he ransacked the entire house.

Fortunately, nobody was home at the time of the break-in, and an alert neighbor who heard the sounds of breaking glass called the police and reported the commotion.

When the officers arrived and entered the house, they saw signs of a ruckus, and found the floor covered with glass and blood. Right away, they were confronted by the intruder—a huge deer that had knocked down a fence and broken a window to get inside the house.

The surprised policemen coaxed and cornered the deer, but he refused to leave the house. Unable to get the animal out of the house, they radioed for help from local wildlife officials.

I wonder what situations and emotions prompt you to radio for back-up and call out for help. Fear. Pain. Stress. Frustration. Anxiety. Finances. Pressure. Sickness. Conflict. Problems.

I also wonder whom or perhaps what you turn to for help. Your spouse. Parent. Brother. Sister. Friend. Teacher. Coach. Alcohol. Drugs. Or God.

Why is it that we often exhaust every other possibility before we cry out to God for help?

A young shepherd-boy turned savvy warrior-king discovered his great need to ask God for help and strength—every day. Often, David was pursued, surrounded and attacked. He was criticized, misunderstood and hurt. He lived like a fugitive on the run.

That’s how David came to grips with his weakness—and learned to call out to God for strength.

He wrote, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and mountains fall into the heart of the sea, thought its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake” (Psalm 46:1-3).

David got clobbered by ornery people and problems. But he kept a right perspective on those challenges by choosing to focus more on the omnipotence and omnipresence of God. He believed God is all-powerful and everywhere present at once. That truth encouraged him.

In the same way, we can trust and enjoy God’s constant presence and protection, knowing he never changes. He remains the same—today, tomorrow and forever. He surrounds and supports us. All day long. All night long. That truth encourages us, too.

No matter what kind of ruckus comes our way, we can trust God and talk with him about it, knowing and believing he’s always there to strengthen, support and save us.

So then, let’s trust and call out to our awesome and almighty God with unshakeable confidence, just like David who prayed:  “Come near and rescue me …” (Psalm 69:18).

I believe God will hear and help us—every time.

 

Just Passing Through

Marshal Matt Dillon

I grew up watching westerns on a black-and-white television, including Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Wagon Train, The Rifleman, High Chaparral, Rawhide and Big Valley—to name just a few.

Often, the good guys were passing through some place when the bad guys would cause trouble, pick a fight, set an ambush or shoot someone. The good guys weren’t looking for trouble, but if it came their way, they’d face it head-on.

Trouble clobbered the good guys while they were herding cattle on long drives. Chasing stallions through narrow canyons. Riding shotgun on top of stagecoaches. Leading wagon trains across the open prairie. Mending fences on sprawling ranches.

As followers of Jesus, we’re “just passing through”, too. This earth isn’t our home. We’re headed elsewhere. We’re on a journey. One day, we’ll leave this planet for a better place.

That’s why Paul urges us to stay focused on our eternal home. He writes, “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). With great anticipation, we’re watching and waiting for Jesus’ return.

Until that day, we’re pilgrims sailing to a new land. Nomads caravanning through a parched desert. Sojourners traveling on a long trip. Citizens belonging to another kingdom.

That’s why Peter exhorts us to think differently and live distinctly in a world of dark depravity. He writes, “I urge you, as aliens and strangers in this world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

We’re called to live as holy people who speak what’s true—when nobody else does. We’re called as holy people to stand for what’s right—when it’s unpopular, risky and inconvenient.

The martyred missionary C.T. Studd wrote, “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” He believed that what we say and do for Christ has enduring value forever.

That’s the essence of living with an eternal perspective and focusing on what really matters—and that’s why we live to exalt our King and influence others.

So, why is it so difficult to think and live that way?

In a nutshell, we think far too much of this life and far too little about eternity. We get distracted by lesser things and grow indifferent to more important things.

That’s why we must tweak our perspective, reset our priorities and focus our eyes to see and follow Jesus, our Savior and King. That’s why we must think like pilgrims and live like nomads, being confident that we’re just passing through to our eternal home.

That’s also how more of today’s minutes will count for eternity!

Gone Wacky and Wild

Way Cool Dog

In high school—way back in the 70’s—I’m sure I wore “rad threads”, walked with a “boss” swagger, spoke “way cool” lingo and did “far out” things with “groovy” people. I “flipped out” when I really liked something. I enjoyed “kicking back”. I “dug” living and being me.

Yeah, I was one “cool cat” and a “hip dude”—with a nonchalant attitude!

Fast-forward 40 years. The somewhat sane world of yesterday has gone wacky and wild.

Today, we live in a confused culture that rejects and opposes absolute truth, seeing it as rigid, archaic and foolish. It attacks and challenges the Bible, saying it’s just an old-fashioned book, full of blatant errors, strange contradictions and pious platitudes.

We’re hit over the head with warped values and weird thinking. What once was wrong is right, and what once was repulsive is popular.

More than ever, truth is relative. Evil is good. Integrity is rare. God is gone.

Students can’t pray at school. Rebellion isn’t bad. Sins are just bad mistakes. Adultery is just an affair. Fornication is just a one-night stand. Homosexuals and lesbians are gay. Men and women swap partners and switch genders. Demons are sought-after spirit guides.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Our world system is far more deceived and depraved.

Long ago, Abraham faced mega-depravity. The Bible says, “The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion” (Jude 1:7).

These cities were so perverse that Abraham’s nephew Lot couldn’t find even ten righteous people. Because of their depravity, God destroyed everyone, except for Lot who just barely escaped with his resistant wife and family.

Much later, when judges ruled and rescued the Israelites from evil oppressors, the Bible says, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25). Evil ran rampant.

Centuries later, Paul wrote, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is … no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10-12, 23).

Struggling with his own sin, Paul declared, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25).

Only Jesus can rescue us from the powerful clutches of depravity and sin. Only Jesus can redeem us from the vice grips of rebellion and compromise. Is he your Savior?