Sovereign Over All

Lincoln Memorial

I remember seeing the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. for the first time.

I stood there, as a 12-year-old boy—awestruck by a bigger-than-life president chiseled in white stone, sitting on a huge chair.  Totally mesmerized by the immensity of what I saw, I gazed at that famous monument and wondered what I’d do if President Lincoln suddenly stood up!

Every President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces.  But God is the sovereign Ruler over all.  He’s all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere present at once.

Only Almighty God is exalted over all things—and sovereign at all times.

He’s never surprised, never overwhelmed and never caught off guard.  Nobody can sneak up behind him.  Nobody can remove him from his throne.  Nobody can stop him from accomplishing his plans.

King David declared, “But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations” (Psalm 33:11).  Because God is eternal—without beginning and without end—his plans and purposes are also eternal.  They’re anchored forever to him.

God is bigger than time and space.  He travels beyond the galaxies, and yet he’s never late.  He’s always punctual.  Right on time.  He’s always on schedule.  Down to the second.  He’s unfolding and accomplishing his sovereign will, which is “good, pleasing, and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

God is skillfully working his eternal plans—even when it doesn’t look or feel like it to us.

Long ago, Joseph’s jealous brothers plotted how to kill him.  Long story cut short, they threw him into an empty pit and left him there to die.  Later on, they sold him to a band of ruffians who took him to Egypt and sold him as a slave.

Today, we know God is the One who lifted Joseph out of that dusty pit and moved him into Potiphar’s house—and later freed him from a forgotten prison and escorted him into Pharaoh’s palace.  We know God coordinated it.  Deliberately—and purposefully.

But at the time—only God knew the real reason why those terrible things happened.

With exact precision, God positioned young Joseph so he could later rescue and feed Egypt and the surrounding nations during seven years of awful famine.  With perfect timing, God revealed his plans and purposes for Joseph.

The Bible says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).  Not some things.  All things.

That truth is so mind-boggling and yet so reassuring.  God is accomplishing his eternal plans and purposes through us.  That’s why we can trust God’s perspective—and yield to his plans!

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Texas Lemonade

lemonade stand

On hot summer days, we can usually find a makeshift lemonade stand somewhere, run by children who want to make a few bucks.

They’re simple set-ups where folks can buy a cup or two of lemonade, wet their whistle and encourage some kids.

Most youngsters are content to collect some quarters in an old coffee can for two hours of work—but not 6-year-old Drew Cox.

The young Texan didn’t just set up a lemonade stand in his front yard to snag ten bucks. He didn’t just serve lemonade to quench the thirst of a few kind neighbors and strangers.

Drew erected his stand with hopes of raising a lot of money to help his father pay off the medical bills that had piled up, after Randy Cox had been diagnosed with cancer and started taking chemotherapy.

As word traveled across the east Texas town that Drew was selling lemonade to help pay for his father’s medical expenses, good-willed Texans flocked to his stand.

Drew charged the customary 25 cents per cup. Some bought cups of lemonade, while others wrote checks and made donations—including one check for $5,000.

Amazingly, young Drew Cox raised over $10,000 in one day.

That’s compassion and generosity in action—roped together in the Lone Star state—to help a struggling father and his family!

Our Savior felt and demonstrated compassion for people everywhere. Children. Parents. Lepers. Adulterers. Soldiers. Rebels. Everyone.

The Bible says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). First, our amazing Savior felt compassion, deep inside. Then, he jumped into action, on behalf of others.

Jesus never got stuck in the quagmire of passivity and inactivity. Instead, he dared to care—and decided to act. He got involved.

Our Savior’s heart of compassion always moved him to take action. He saw and felt something, and then he did something. Every time.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another.”

I wonder how we’ll respond today to what we see and feel.

 

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.

 

Caught by an Avalanche

French Alps Mount Maudit

Twenty-eight experienced mountaineers were climbing in the French Alps, attempting one of the most dangerous ascents in all of Europe, when they were caught off-guard by an avalanche.

They were surprised and hit by a fast-moving wall of snow that was 60-feet high and 500-feet wide, as they traversed the icy 14,649-foot ridge of Mont Maudit (meaning “cursed peak”) on their way to the summit.

Eight of the climbers were killed that day, after being buried and swept more than 600 feet by a towering wall of snow. They died on the mountain.

Nine were airlifted to a hospital with cracked ribs and broken bones. Two others were missing and presumed dead, but later hiked down the mountain and walked into town. By nightfall, local authorities had accounted for every climber.

I wonder what it’d be like to get buried by an avalanche and survive to tell your story.

Experts say an avalanche is a cascading mass of at least 100,000 tons of snow sliding down a mountain that can reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. That’s a lot of fast-moving snow!

Maybe you’re feeling like an avalanche is chasing you downhill today. Perhaps you’re freaked out and frantic because of your awful predicament. Somersaulting out of control and gasping for air. Trying to hang on and ride things out.

When life shoves us to the ground and knocks the wind out of us—we often get angry, confused and disoriented. Sometimes, we get overwhelmed by anxiety, discouragement and fear. Other times, we imagine and assume the worst, and give up.

Sometimes, David reacted that way, as he struggled with challenges and circumstances. But he also confidently declared, “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength” (Psalm 18:30-32).

As David wrestled with the stuff of life, he learned to trust God.

Do you trust God when life slams and surrounds you with an avalanche of lousy circumstances, topsy-turvy emotions or ornery people? If you struggle with that kind of a response, try this:

Expectantly cry out to God. Trust his unchanging Word. Anchor your hope in his grace and care. Rely on him for peace and perspective. Experience his constant presence, power and protection.

Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” That’s why we can always trust God—no matter what’s happening around us. He’ll never let us down.

Going Home

Above Clouds

One Saturday morning, our telephone rang. It was my friend Ruben—and I wasn’t surprised to get his urgent call because I knew what was happening in the life of his family. His ten-year-old daughter Sabryna was dying.

I left immediately for their home, crying and praying as I drove. I knew young Sabryna would probably step through the doorway of death and enter the halls of heaven today.

Sabryna had battled leukemia for two years—and recently moved from her pink princess room into her parents’ master bedroom, where she slept comfortably in a hospice bed.

As I entered the room, I hugged Ruben, Venus, little Ruben and a few relatives and friends. Then I walked over to the hospice bed and knelt next to Sabryna. I held her small hand, stroked her dark hair and whispered words of encouragement and comfort into her ear.

Sabryna was weak, and barely able to whisper—but her eyes sparkled, as she tried to smile. She’d bravely endured the final stages of her leukemia—and now, she looked death straight in the eyes. She was joyful and sad, but eager and ready to see Jesus!

A lot of the Torres’ relatives and friends had squeezed into the room that morning. I turned and invited everyone to move closer. We gathered around Sabryna. Together, we sang and prayed. Cried and rejoiced. Read Scripture and shared memories.

After a while, I ushered everyone out—except for Ruben, his wife and son—and closed the door behind me. Not long after that, Sabryna was promoted to heaven.

From the get-go, Sabryna demonstrated amazing courage and talked excitedly about heaven. She understood dying was part of living. Sabryna wasn’t afraid because she trusted her Savior and knew her destination. She was going home—and couldn’t wait to drop her worn-out earth-suit and hug her Savior!

Why was this young girl so joyful and confident on the threshold of death?

Sabryna knew and believed what Jesus said to two grieving sisters after their brother Lazarus had died. Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

Because Sabryna had trusted Jesus as her Savior, she had the sure hope of heaven and the rock-solid assurance of eternal life. She had confirmed reservations and a first-class ticket to heaven. Do you?

Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” God treasures his children like rare jewels—and puts great value on our living and dying.

I hope you’re ready to see Jesus!

 

Fully Committed

Navy SEALs

Former Navy SEAL James “Hoot” Andrews was approached by a young neighbor boy who asked, “Mr. Andrews, were you really a SEAL?” When Andrews nodded yes, the boy just stared at him with a puzzled look and then blurted, “You sure don’t look like one!” The old warrior just chuckled, and then asked with a grin, “Son, what’s a Navy SEAL supposed to look like?”

The boy probably had a snapshot of Rambo in his mind—and old “Hoot” didn’t seem to fit the bill. He wasn’t wearing blood-stained camos, muddy boots and a crumpled hat. He didn’t have black grease smeared on his face. He wasn’t toting a machine gun or a long knife.

To the young boy, old “Hoot” didn’t look much like a tough guy.

I’ve talked with men like Chief Andrews, and here’s why I respect and admire them. Beneath the sophisticated gear and extraordinary endurance of every SEAL lies the heart of a dedicated warrior. He gets his mission, stays on target and cares about his team. He knows exactly what to do, and why he’s doing it. He shoves aside fear and selfishness—and refuses to give up.

That gung-ho attitude and “hooah” commitment is demonstrated by every Navy SEAL, from the highest ranking officer to the most junior seaman. Whatever the mission demands or situation requires, a SEAL will do it. He’s committed to the core—no matter what.

As followers of Jesus, we’re called to go wherever and do whatever our Commander-in-Chief says. We’re called to live with commitment to his eternal cause. No excuses. No exceptions.

Long ago, a Jewish boy was captured and taken to modern-day Iraq. Young Daniel didn’t like his situation, but he trusted God. Captive in a strange city far from his home, Daniel worshiped and obeyed God. He refused to compromise or quit. He lived with integrity and humility.

Along the way, Daniel explained Nebuchadnezzar’s troubling dreams and Darius’ wild visions. Early on, he was tossed into a fiery furnace and a lions’ den because of what he believed, said and did. But God guided, rescued and strengthened him.

For many years, Daniel served these powerful kings with integrity and influenced their pagan kingdoms with righteousness. He stayed fully committed to God and did what was right.

He refused to eat the king’s gourmet food that was offered to idols—and refused to worship the king’s golden image because it was an idol. He refused to stop praying because it was his daily habit to talk often with God. He refused to distrust God in the hot furnace—and refused to fear death in the lion’s den because he knew God hadn’t abandoned him.

2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” I wonder what God sees when he looks inside your heart.

Regardless of your past or present story, you can stay fully committed and live confidently and courageously. You can rely on God for strength. You can trust God and live like Daniel did.

 

God is Unstoppable

Wall

One day after church, we started playing a game of touch football in the parking lot. I didn’t know it then, but I was going experience a bone-bruising collision that day—but not with a parked car or a hard-hitting buddy. I was going to crash into a stone wall.

Just like I’d been doing, I got into my stance and took off like a shot when the ball was snapped to our quarterback. I ran a quick button-hook toward the rock-slab stairs leading up to the old parsonage, just above the parking lot.

Pivoting quickly, I came back two steps to catch the ball and then turned and bolted for the end zone. But as I high-stepped into the end zone, I misjudged the rock wall and slammed into it.

Startled by a sudden shot of pain and feeling queasy, I looked down at my bleeding leg—and then everything went black. I passed out and collapsed to the ground.

Similarly, you and I get blind-sided by hard-hitting circumstances. We get side-swiped by ornery people and surprised by the stuff of life—and sometimes we hit the wall.

But God is never caught off-guard. He never gets buffaloed, overwhelmed or out-matched.

God is absolutely unstoppable. Always. Nothing can detour God from accomplishing what he desires. Nobody can keep God from doing what he purposes.

Did you know Superman was stoppable? Clark Kent had to ditch his hat, suit and specs inside a phone booth before he could leap into the air as Superman and fly after Gotham City’s bad guys. He had to avoid and run from kryptonite whenever the villains tried to use it against him.

Our awesome God is far more powerful than Superman and every superhero put together. He’s all-knowing, all-powerful and everywhere present at once. He’s unstoppable.

Proverbs 22:30 says, “There is no plan that can succeed against the LORD.” And yet, we often talk and live as if God is puny, insignificant and stoppable.

Job wrote, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Isaiah wrote, “This is the plan determined … for the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:26-27).

Long ago, God punked Egypt and parted the Red Sea to clear a path for Moses and the Hebrews when they got trapped by Pharaoh’s army. God also empowered a young shepherd boy named David to slay Goliath with just a slingshot when no Israeli warrior dared to fight the giant.

God is just as powerful today as he was in the days of Moses and David. He’s still working and accomplishing his eternal and sovereign plan for his glory and our good—in his way and timing.

God is just as unstoppable, too. That’s why we can trust him about anything and everything—and follow him anywhere and everywhere. One moment at a time. One step at a time.

 

 

Going the Distance

Running

Young Lopez Lomong was abducted from his home by rebel soldiers and then beaten and forced to become a “boy soldier” in his war-torn homeland.

One night, he escaped from his captors and ran for his life through the “killing fields” of Sudan for three days. He ran until he stumbled across a refugee camp in Kenya, where gracious and kind people cared for him. As he struggled to survive, he felt alone and afraid.

Lomong grew up there as a “lost boy” with a broken heart, far away from his family and friends.  He was hungry, barefoot and dirt poor with rags for clothes. He never owned a pair of shoes—until he left Africa and made his way to the United States, where he was adopted, wore his first pair of shoes, graduated from college and became a U.S. citizen.

Today, Lomong is still running, but not from the rebels in Sudan—and not as a barefoot boy. Now he runs as a world-class athlete, proudly representing the United States and his sponsor Nike and wearing their name-brand clothing and shoes.

In 2012, Lopez Lomong had the honor of carrying the American flag in the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in London. With a look of determination on his face and joy in his heart, he ran with eyes riveted on winning a gold medal for his new homeland.

Are you running like an Olympian athlete—or just barely hanging on?

Maybe you’re struggling to survive and stay in the race. Getting tired and lagging behind. Growing discouraged and disillusioned. Going south instead of north. Perhaps you’re running stronger and longer. Going faster and farther. Persevering in spite of the pain. Staying on course. Going the distance.

No matter what—we can run with confidence and hope, knowing God is running with us. We can face obstacles head-on and see beyond setbacks, trusting God for strength and help. We can hear God encouraging and cheering for us.

The warrior David trusted God. He knew how to run victoriously. He experienced tough times. He was pursued by his enemies. He lived like a fugitive on the dodge.

David often ran for his life—and he knew God always ran with him. Wherever David went, God ran alongside him. He encouraged David—and supported and stayed with him.

That’s why David joyfully sang, “My God turns my darkness into light … with your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall” (Psalm 18:28, 29).

That’s why David confidently wrote, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:18-19).

That’s why we can run with hope and endurance—and how we can go the distance with God!

 

What Scares and Shakes You?

earthquake

For over 30 years, I lived in Southern California—the land of “rock-n-roll”—where I experienced a number of large earthquakes (6.0 and bigger!) and their aftershocks.

I’ve felt the ground move and buckle beneath my feet. Stood in tall buildings and felt them sway. Watched wall-hangings and knick-knacks crash to the floor. Gulped as the ground cracked. Froze as big glass windows shattered and scared people scattered.

Just so you know, when an earthquake hits, you’re supposed to duck and cover or stand inside a doorjamb—away from any glass—and stay put until it stops. I’ve done the drill many times.

I’ve also watched people as panicked and bolted for the exit. Scared, they made a run for it. They freaked out in the face of fear. They got anxious and forgot what to do.

I wonder what rattles your cage and unnerves you—or ratchets your world and upsets you.

Hurtful words. An angry spouse. A defiant child. Family conflicts. Broken relationships. Fickle friends. Sudden setbacks. Sky-rocketing prices. Speaking in front of people. Taking an exam.

Different things disturb us at different times in different places. It’s part of life.

Two gnarly warriors—Joshua and David—felt the grip of fear. These tough guys lost their nerve. They trembled. They were intimidated and terrified. They felt anxious and afraid. That’s why God whispered words of hope and shouted a call for courage to them.

Joshua heard God say, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

David declared, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid” (Psalm 56:3-4).

Often, Joshua and David looked beyond their circumstances and emotions to find hope and courage in God.

What will you say and do next time you’re shaken or scared? Friend, the choice is yours. You can run and hide. Flip out and collide. Or trust God and abide.

Here’s what the Scriptures recommend for tough guys and scaredy-cats:

Trust God and stand firm. Put your hope in God, not your best circumstances. Rest in his strong grip, not your puny strength. Be courageous and confident.

Remember, God is with us—no matter what happens. God is with us—no matter what we do or where we go. He’ll never abandon us. He’ll always stay with us.

That’s why we can trust God, rely on his strength and stand courageously and confidently!

 

 

 

Living Courageously

Moose Bull

For over 30 years, I lived in Southern California—the land of “rock-n-roll”—where I experienced a number of large earthquakes (6.0 and bigger!) and their aftershocks.

I’ve felt the ground move and buckle beneath my feet. Stood in tall buildings and felt them sway. Watched wall-hangings and knick-knacks crash to the floor. Gulped as the ground cracked. Froze as big glass windows shattered and scared people scattered.

Just so you know, when an earthquake hits, you’re supposed to duck and cover or stand inside a doorjamb—away from any glass—and stay put until it stops. I’ve done the drill many times.

I’ve also watched people as panicked and bolted for the exit. Scared, they made a run for it. They freaked out in the face of fear. They got anxious and forgot what to do.

I wonder what rattles your cage and unnerves you—or ratchets your world and upsets you.

Hurtful words. An angry spouse. A defiant child. Family conflicts. Broken relationships. Fickle friends. Sudden setbacks. Sky-rocketing prices. Speaking in front of people. Taking an exam.

Different things disturb us at different times in different places. It’s part of life.

Two gnarly warriors—Joshua and David—felt the grip of fear. These tough guys lost their nerve. They trembled. They were intimidated and terrified. They felt anxious and afraid. That’s why God whispered words of hope and shouted a call for courage to them.

Joshua heard God say, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

David declared, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid” (Psalm 56:3-4).

Often, Joshua and David looked beyond their circumstances and emotions to find hope and courage in God.

What will you say and do next time you’re shaken or scared? Friend, the choice is yours. You can run and hide. Flip out and collide. Or trust God and abide.

Here’s what the Scriptures recommend for tough guys and scaredy-cats:

Trust God and stand firm. Put your hope in God, not your best circumstances. Rest in his strong grip, not your puny strength. Be courageous and confident.

Remember, God is with us—no matter what happens. God is with us—no matter what we do or where we go. He’ll never abandon us. He’ll always stay with us.

That’s why we can trust God, rely on his strength and stand courageously and confidently!