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“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts,” Proverbs 17:3 ESV. Dross  is a mass of impurities floating in molten metal. Whether working with steel or precious metals, the quality cannot be improved without removing the dross. When the heat is on, gold grows purer while the dross masses become even more impure. Metal can’t purify itself; only the furnace can reveal its imperfections. So it is with a sports team, a church, or for that matter, any human enterprise. Those with impure motives, immaturity, or insincere hearts often want to be a part or even in the lead, but sadly, they are hindrances to a quality outcome, and sooner or later, they must change or be removed. And so it with my soul; the dross has to go. Lord, You are the Great Craftsman. Cleanse all impurities from my heart and deliver me from wicked pretenders. 
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“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever,” Psalm 136:1 ESV. In this chapter, David states twenty-six times: “His love endures forever.” And every verse of this psalm repeats this simple but profound truth. At times I feel God’s love, yet at times, I lose awareness of it. But I know His love never diminishes, never grows cold, and never, ever ends: Lamentations 3:22-23 states: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Our human view of God’s love is clouded by our capacity to love without conditions or limitations. But 1 John 4:8 ends with this simple phrase “God is love.” He does not “fall in love,” become “more loving,” or “less loving”; He IS love. Father, make me an open channel of Your amazing love to all whom I encounter. 


“And we know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” Romans 8:28 ESV. Gladness is easier to embrace than letdowns, yet both have enduring value if I have the right perspective. Frankly, the multitude of unrelenting challenges life brings has done more to strengthen my character and soften my heart than the many joys I have known. The magnitude, multitude, and frequency of problems press me deeper into God’s hands. While I certainly do not prefer additional difficulties, I realize they come whether invited or not. This is another powerful reason to live a life driven by godly purpose instead of pursuing our own desires. Father, keep me from the snare of my own preferences. LORD, whatever may come, You make all things well and turn my sorrows into dancing.


“I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:3 ESV.  The deepest darkness of night cannot hold back the morning light, nor can even the most difficult circumstances restrain hope. I am not referring to the garden-variety of hope wishful thinking produces; I am talking about the kind of hope that is firmly rooted in God’s Promises. The Word of God is an inexhaustible fountain of faith, hope, and love from which I may freely drink at all times. A life built upon Scripture comes fully loaded. The very thought of the transcendent “I AM” dispels my fears and grants instant, unmitigated assurance. Lord God Almighty, You are the great “I AM”, and in that faith-releasing declaration, my heart knows “I CAN” do all things through Your strength. 


“Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others,” Philippians 2:4 ESV. The simplest definition I’ve ever heard for the word “love” is a single word definition: “Others.” Attending to the needs of others with the same sensitivity and interest that we give to our own needs is what biblical love looks like. This level of love does not come automatically; it must be cultivated and consciously practiced daily to truly grow in love. Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians paints a beautiful picture of what l\our lives as believers should look like: “May the Lord make your love grow more and multiply for each other and for all people so that you will love others as we love you,” 1 Thessalonians 3:12. LORD, help me walk in love that grows and multiplies to others. 


“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit,” Proverbs 18:21 ESV. Expressing feelings and opinions comes fairly easily for me but speaking without necessary restraints is never a good thing. Frankly, I have both wounded and healed with my words. Though I genuinely attempt to use care in what I say, far too often, the wrong things slip through anyway. The phrase “I really shouldn’t say this,” followed by saying whatever we shouldn’t anyway is a fool's game. Words guided by wisdom and bathed in love should be the constant way of the child of God. To withhold wisdom can rob someone of a blessing, but to just say whatever comes to mind is dangerous for both the speaker and hearer. Father, cleanse my lips, help me speak only what is filtered through love. Purify my heart that my mouth will be a fountain of blessing. 


Almost 40 years ago a fellow parishioner pulled me aside after a church service to encourage and instruct me. This was not some garden-variety conversation; he obviously had prayed over it, carefully planned it, and presented clear, precise, well-thought-out points. I still remember the power of the thoughtful gift he gave me that day. It was a mix of gentle rebukes, wise instructions, and encouragement to be the best husband, father, and leader I could be. I have received many gifts over a lifetime however, most were forgotten long ago. But not that gift, it is still with me and remains highly treasured. It is a gift I can “re-gift” to others time and time again, and so I have. Today, I will again have opportunities to promote, encourage, lift, love, appreciate, and celebrate others. It is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Lord, in Your Goodness, endow me with authentic love and make me an open-source of blessing to those around me.