When God Steps In

The crew fought to direct the ship’s course, but a fierce northeaster drove it out to sea. Strengthening the hull with thick ropes, they let the ship run with the winds. Finally, they lowered an anchor, hoping to keep the vessel from being stuck on a sandbar and battered to fragments by the violent waves.

The storm continued through the night and into the next day … and fear set in. Seizing cargo, equipment and anything else they could lay their hands on, the crew threw it all overboard. They could do no more, and the storm raged on until all hope was gone.

Then God stepped in.

He sent a messenger to Paul, a prisoner aboard the ship bound for Rome, to tell him what they could expect. “Take courage!” Paul told the others. “None of you will lose your lives” (Acts 27:22, New Living Translation. Yes, they would be shipwrecked, but all would survive.

Sixteen days after the storm began, the ship ran aground near Malta. Waves broke their vessel apart, but all 276 souls aboard made it safely to shore.

Each of us has faced–or will one day face–at least one storm that will batter us to our knees. Its unrelenting nature may drive us to the place where we wonder if any hope is left.

The amazing thing is that when we finally turn to God in prayer and put our hope in his goodness to bring about the needed change, he steps in. Maybe not the way we prayed or expected, but at the right time and in the best way possible for all concerned. In the meantime, we have no reason to lose hope.

Focus: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” ~ Romans 15:13, New Living Translation.

What about you? In what relentless storm in life have you found God faithful to step in at the right time and the best possible way?

What Value Is Developing a Great Physique?

I’m smiling wistfully as I recall the first time I gazed upon my future husband. A friend introduced us on what is now the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh campus. We were young college students, and my heart flipped over the genuine warmth in Jim’s smile and the kindness in his hazel eyes. Okay, I admit it. I was also awed by his well-muscled physique. A weight lifter, he was easily a dead ringer for Michelangelo’s statue of David.

Interesting, isn’t it, how a great physique impresses us? Probably because we know not everyone exercises with the dedicated focus it takes to sculpt the human body into a powerful machine. The few who achieve that ultimate goal rightfully earn our admiration.

Interesting, too, though how God makes it clear that neither the strength of a powerful horse or a body building champion impresses him.

Does this mean body building for competition or exercising for personal health and appearance are worthless? Absolutely not! Even God’s Word tells us that physical exercise has some value (1 Timothy 4:8). But the same verse also says that spiritual exercise is far more important. Why? Because it promises a reward not only in this life but in the next.

So, yes, go ahead and exercise physically at home, in the great outdoors, or at your favorite gym. But also be wise. Remember your more important exercises–spiritual exercises like reading and studying The Bible, praying, sharing the Good News about Jesus Christ, gathering regularly with other believers, and showing kindness. These carry an everlasting reward … a forever reward.

Focus: “Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit. Bodily exercise is all right, but spiritual exercise is much more important and is a tonic for all you do. So exercise yourself spiritually and practice being a better Christian, because that will help you not only now in this life, but in the next one too” 1 Timothy 4:7-8, New Living Translation.

How about you? What exercises have you found so valuable that you would definitely recommend them to others?

The Whole Truth?

I emerged from our pop-up camper just as my husband pulled something from his wallet. Jim grinned. “Can you use this?”

Wow! Fifty dollars! “Sure.” Just what I needed to take out four grandchildren out to lunch and mini-golfing. “Thanks.”

I folded the bill twice and stuffed it deep into the pocket of my blue knit shorts.

Jim frowned. “Better put that in a safe place so you don’t lose it.”

Lose it? Did he think I was a child? I patted my pocket. “It’ll be fine right here,” I said, and hurried up the camp site hill to help my granddaughter set up her tent.

Later, I reached in my pocket to put the $50 in my purse. My heart leapt to my throat, and my knees nearly buckled. My pocket was empty.

I quickly revisited every area of our camp site I had gone to since Jim had given me the money. I had to find it before he found out it was missing.

Finally in defeat, I stood at the top of the hill and prayed. “Lord, you were trying to protect me through Jim, and I ignored you both. Please forgive me and help me find that money.”

I made the rounds again. Again without results. At the bottom of the hill and behind the camper, I bowed my head. My conscience pricked me. My wrong ran deeper than simple pride or disobedience. Though I had long ago given up telling outright lies, wasn’t I lying right now by hiding the truth from my husband?

I went to him. “Jim, I lost the $50.”

To my amazement, he calmly helped me look for the money. When I opened a folded camp chair, out dropped the $50 bill.

How easy it is to talk ourselves into not telling the whole truth in order to keep the peace, save face, or simply urge life on as we believe it should go. But neither outright lies nor keeping the truth from someone who has the right to know honors God. In all our daily choices, he gives us a gentle reminder.

Focus: “You must live in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.”~ Philippians 1:27, New Living Translation.

How about you? Have you ever been tempted to make life easier by not telling the whole truth? How did that work for you?


Making Decisions

I stopped my car on the white “V” where two major highways merged outside of Chicago. While traffic roared by on both sides, I stared at the sign above the busy tollway. Do I go right or left? To my nervous brain, the sign seemed nothing but gobbledygook.

Since leaving home that morning, I struggled with worry about driving alone to a writers’ conference in Wheaton IL. What if I took a wrong turn and wound up hopelessly lost in downtown Chicago?

To avoid the problem, I tried picking up Highway 45 near Kenosha, Wisconsin. However, as I entered Illinois, 45 turned into a country road with few signs to guide me. Coming to a gas station in the dense woods, I stopped for directions. A kindly woman behind the counter told me I was on target but couldn’t get to Wheaton without taking the tollway. “When you come to it, keep to the left,” she emphasized.

Did she really know what she was talking about? Gritting my teeth and sending up a prayer, I entered the traffic to the left. Thirty minutes later, I arrived safely at my destination.

We’re often faced with decisions that might sweep us into untold trouble or take us safely to our destination. When we’re not sure which way to go or what is best for us, who do we rely on?

Early Christian believers relied on their rabbi (teacher), Jesus. What they learned from him, they told to everyone who would listen. They later wrote these things down for us. Among other things, they taught that God’s Word is truth (John 17:7), that Jesus is truth (John 14:6), and that the Holy Spirit is truth (John 16:18).

When faced with decisions, we sometimes wonder, “Can I really trust God and his Word to guide me? If I ask him, will he show me what is best for me?”

God’s children down through the ages have learned from experience that the answer to those questions is “yes.”

Focus: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go” ~ Isaiah 48:17, New International Version.

How about you? When faced with decisions, who do you trust to guide you?