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HEART EXAM

A heart demarcated by God cannot ignore the helpless or persecuted; the Lord Himself takes up the cause of the needy and broken. If I do not speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves or work for the good of those being unfairly crushed then I deny the very essence of the Shepherd of Our Souls. God is holy and just, but He is equally kind, caring and gentle; all these are necessary characteristics for a child of God. Lord, You are Good and Merciful; release Your benevolence and goodwill through me to others. Give me wisdom to act fairly and a voice devoid of selfish motives.

SURE FOUNDATION

A large oak tree is a majestic sight, its branches spreading high into the sky and reaching out all around. But that is only half of the story. Its root system is as large underground as its girth above ground. As with a huge building, the visible structure is only as strong as its foundation. So it is with life on this earth. What is visible to others is only half the story. If we are rooted in shallow ground our future is weak and unsteady. If our foundation is God’s Word and Will we are positioned for eternity. Father, You are the only sure foundation, keep me rooted in You alone. All other ground is sinking sand.

THE LIGHT

Honesty with others is dependent upon openness to God. Since He knows all things it seems wholly unreasonable that I would attempt to close any part of my will to His Presence, but honesty does not come easily since it always requires change. For our own sake He will accept nothing less than humble submission, therefore pretense must be painfully stripped away, piece by piece and shades of truth renounced, no exceptions. Lord of Truth and Light, eradicate every shadow in me. Let Your radiance bathe every crevasse, every corner. Lord, I rejoice in Your Light, help me walk in it today.

INCORRUPTIBLE GLADNESS

Every season of life brings its own joys and disappointments; however, letdowns seem to accrue more easily than gladness. The Psalms reveal King David as a man of profound faith, yet he found it necessary to remind himself of God’s blessings and to command his own soul to praise God. A quick inventory of things for which I can be thankful ignites my heart, releasing joy and praise in every circumstance. I must lift my eyes from the temporal pains and look to the Giver of Life. O Lord my God, my heart is jubilant as I contemplate Your Goodness, which bestows incorruptible gladness.

BOUNDLESS

Love and hatred are similar in one way; they both have no limits. While we have each felt at least a little bit of the all-consuming power of hatred, we have almost no experience with unlimited love. This is why we struggle with the amazing love of God. Can He really love without limits? The Bible states it clearly: “God is love.” Since He doesn’t “have” love, but rather, “is” love, to limit His love would be to deny who He is. Lord God Almighty, I want to understand the depths of Your love and offer it freely to others. Teach me to receive and give of Your boundless, immeasurable, inexhaustible love.

HIDDEN TREASURES

A stroll on a sandy beach provides hidden treasures placed there by the creative forethought of God. The ebb and flow of tides opens the treasury of the seas for those who stroll along the shore. God sees to it that each day offers the same to all mankind, wherever we are on earth; hidden treasures carefully placed by the Hand of God. The angels had it right: "Glory to God in the Highest, good will toward men." Lord of Constant Wonders, teach me to slow my pace and pay greater attention to Your quiet handiwork. Open the eyes of my heart to Your daily divine deposits.

JOY TO THE WORLD

To the brokenhearted, joy. To the falsely accused, joy. To the misunderstood, joy. To the disappointed, joy. To the repentant sinner, joy. To the imprisoned or condemned, joy. To the lonely, joy. To the rejected, joy. To the abandoned, joy. To the widow and widower, joy. To the newborn or elderly, joy. To the calloused heart, joy. To those proclaimed terminally ill, joy. To those trapped in darkness, joy. To those with waning hope, joy. To the cowardly or brave, joy. To the guilty or just, joy. To rich or poor, joy. JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD HAS COME!

THE PATH FORWARD

Where I live a winter rain almost always announces a change in temperature, cold fronts push down from the north and warm fronts up from the south. Without the forecasts of specialists with sophisticated experience the coming changes are difficult to predict, but with their help preparations can be made. The same is true of spiritual progress. I am both thankful for and dependent upon those who have tread holy ground before me. Dearest Alpha and Omega, Thank You for the testimony and imparted wisdom of those who have gone before us. May our fruitfulness be worthy of their sacrifices.

BATTLE LINE

My heart is easily drawn to noble causes. God creates each of us with enormous power to do good, but even with our whole heart engaged, we need His grace and blessing to stay the course. Life surrounds us with many opportunities to make a difference, but like wise generals we must choose our battles wisely.  Concentration of forces is a key to battlefield victory, so I must focus on following the specific orders of my Commander and Chief. Father, guide me each day to my spot in the battle line. Protect me from my tendency to wander and keep me in the position You choose.

DAILY REPLENISHING

Things in life must be replenished. Clothes must be washed, pets must be fed again and again, homes must be repaired; why do we think we must be filled with God’s Spirit or surrender to His Sovereignty only once? Many seem surprised to learn that daily replenishing is necessary for the people of God. Yesterday’s blessings perish quickly. Today I must again dig deep, remind my heart of God’s faithfulness and recommit to His will and ways. Lord Almighty, I renew my vows to You. Fill me afresh with Your Presence. I again put my hand to the plow and resolve to finish my course with fervor

TRUTH AND LOVE

As light cuts through darkness, so truth cuts through deception. The simple reason we run from truth, hide the truth, bend the truth or even deny the truth is that truth is so powerfully efficient. Yet, truth is useless unless delivered in love. Like a glove without a hand inserted, truth cannot successfully operate apart from love. Since truth originates and emanates from God it must be embodied in His nature. Heavenly Father, to walk in Your Truth is to walk in Your Love. Help me navigate the complexities of human weaknesses and find that perfect balance only You can supply.

REACTION TO RECOVERY

Everyone makes missteps. By definition, a mistake is not intentional, but we inwardly realize that most can be avoided by taking greater care in the first place. How we react to the consequences of our foibles is the key to learning from them. We can make camp in reaction to the results of our gaffes, living constantly in our failures, or, we can find recovery by making needed changes and letting God heal us and teach us. Moving from reaction to recovery is the only path for God’s children. Father, grant me grace to take heed when I am admonished. Take my hand and lead me forward.

MARVELS IN THE MIDST

Even in the midst of the most violent of storms there is beauty within it. Each and every day has marvels sprinkled into it by the Hand of God. Like eyes adjusting to dimly a lit room, our heart must attune itself to see what can be easily missed.  Opportunities to both give and receive can happen on a crowded plane or in a busy grocery checkout line. New friendships can emerge from nowhere and patch up gaping losses. Blessed Lord, Your Holy Finger dabs beautifying touches onto the canvas of my life. May I never miss the chance to acknowledge the wonders You deposit all around.

GROUNDED

At age thirteen I began driving boats, spending endless hours on a large lake. Those years of experience did little to prepare me for the complications of navigating tidal waters, lakes rarely require navigational buoys. On my first outing as a young adult we headed to shore without paying attention to channel markers and ran aground at full speed. Thankfully, the only harm was to my bruised ego. Father, forgive my arrogance when I ignore the navigation signals You place along my path. Deliver me from presumption and teach me to be alert to Your guidance.

DISMANTLED FAKERY

Honesty seems to be a disappearing characteristic in modern culture. I find that the closer I am to God, the more easily truth prevails, but diminished respect for godliness releases anarchy, rebellion and falsehood. Imbibing Scripture and times spent in private prayer are great cleansers of the heart; dishonesty does not easily reside in a soul permeated with truth. True and Living God, You dismantle fakery and demand straight plumb lines. Cleanse me of all deception and make divinely imposed accuracy my only standard for life.

INEXHAUSTIBLE MEANS

Every earthly resource is exhaustible. Trusting in whatever we have gathered for the future is as useless as when the Israelites tried to store away manna only to have it "breed worms and stink". Life deals blows that shake our hope, but allowing pain or fear to shape our behaviors is the wrong course of action. My earth-born inclinations are dispatched by the glorious victory wrought in knowing God’s limitless provision. If He wants to act He has inexhaustible means.  Lord Jehovah Our Provider, if You wish it, You can make all things new. Forgive my foolish temporal ways and lead me in the way of everlasting.

BREAKTHROUGH

How many more steps to breakthrough? I don’t know. I never know until after the final step, so I keep walking. In confident persistence, I walk. Through valleys of doom, I walk. Past shadows of fear, I walk. Over mountains of doubt, I walk. Through jungles of entanglements, I walk. The journey of faith does not end when we want it to end; it ends when it is over. That is God’s call, not mine. Shepherd of my soul You are with me each step. Your rod and staff cheer me up, relieve my weariness and give me grit to finish. My cup overflows and Goodness and Mercy are right behind me. So I walk.

INCONVENIENT FOLLOWING

Walking within the Will of God is by definition inconvenient; anything that imposes upon our human desires is bothersome. Following His promptings cannot be done without constant rearrangement of personal priorities and commitments. Daily infusion of Word and Spirit are vital, but no less so than openness to hear and obey. I am not significantly better at this process now than when it began in my life, but I am making steady progress. Lord, Your relentless pursuit and unmitigated love are my strength and hope. Grant me grace for immediate obedience. Help me knuckle under.

LIFE SOURCE

Like pure, refreshing water hidden underground in a desert cavern, our created purpose lies deep within us. The value and benefit of drinking from its waters far exceeds the strenuousness of finding it. Whenever I stray too far from His plan the Goodness of God pulls me back to my only enduring source of life. He formed me to do His will and no other aspiration can be substituted for it. Every earthly desire must align with His heavenly designed plan. Father You created me with purpose and an innate capacity to fulfill it. I so need Your daily grace. Help me to drink from Your still waters.

MY LAWLESSNESS IS DEATED

As I contemplate the wondrous work of the Savior my heart is lifted from its broken state.The continual drumbeat of fears, doubts and darkness of this present world slip away in this one thought: God Himself defeated my lawlessness by one act of redeeming love. If it were necessary that I redeem myself I could not even offer my last breath as collateral since even that is God’s gift. But alas, Glorious God, You are the very One who gathered dust from the earth, made us in Your image and now restores life in us by the same holy breath. How wondrous You are, to You be glory forever.

COME LET US ADORE HIME

Catastrophes have a way of being all consuming; the worse the situation, the more absorbing it is. The beginning point for moving forward is to enthrone God in our praise. As we behold and magnify Him the circumstances of life come into proper perspective. Praise validates the sovereignty of God in our own soul, arresting fear and releasing faith. The effect of praise provokes us to proclaim His greatness to others. Lord, You are High and Lifted Up and greatly to be praised! From the heavenlies even the largest mountain is small. I glorify and adore You O Lord My Shepherd and Keeper!

THE STAND AT THE CROSSROADS

There is nothing fancy about a roadside fruit stand, its treasures there for the taking. But its bounty will never belong to those whose rush by without pause. So it is with wisdom. On the hilltop, along the road, at the crossroads she takes her stand, crying out to all who will hear. Daily wisdom is not a luxury; it is absolutely essential. Each new day my mind is half-filled with yesterday’s leftover thoughts with more pouring in upon awakening. It is then I must brake hard and seek God’s voice. Father, teach me to watch and listen. I seek Your Face and hungrily await Your divine instruction.

MIRROR, MIRROR

As a child it was fascinating to stare into mirrors, each reflection revealing details I previously missed. I soon learned that the quality of the mirror and lighting made a huge impact on what I saw. As I’ve aged this experience has grown increasingly less pleasant, so I now prefer dim reflections. When it comes to the inner man the opposite has occurred. Having paid the price of human deceptions I yearn for authenticity within no matter the consequence. Lord of Truth and Light, while there is pain in the discovery, I want the transforming power of truth to transform my falsehood into Your image.

CHURNING CHALLENGES

I marvel at the skill of professional whitewater kayakers, perhaps because they demonstrate that extreme dangers and incredible adventures inhabit the same space. To simply follow human instinct apart from divine purpose and guidance is like being thrown into cascading rapids. To navigate the churning challenges of relationships, health, prosperity, ambition and mission I need God’s constant help. Seeking Him should never be a last resort. Father in Heaven, Giver of Life, I realize skillful living requires Your will, Your way, Your timing, Your path and Your choices. I yield this day to Your Hands.

BEDROCK OF JOY

Annoyances constantly bombard my soul. Thankfully, they don’t seem to stick around as much as they used to, but I must not allow resentment to settle in my heart. Like water secretly eating away the ground underneath a foundation, irritations undermine the bedrock of joy that should characterize a believer’s life. Gratitude and praise are powerful weapons against the subtle entry of unhappiness. Heavenly Father, I know that I annoy You. Like the people of Israel in the wilderness, I too forget the amazing deliverance from slavery You have granted. Forgive my brazen self-centeredness.

HOLY CONSTRAINT

Why do we wear ourselves out to get what can never satisfy? Chasing greener grass can be a positive motivator, but mostly it is a diversionary tactic of the enemy of my soul. I realize now more than ever that God keeps me, He surrounds me like a wall. This has, at times, felt unfairly restricting, yet I know I need His holy constraint. What divine joy, what genuine freedom there is living within the confines of the Father’s love. Lord, grant me the wisdom and discipline to show restraint. With Your goodness You hem me in. Forgive my attempts to squirm away from Your grasp.

NIGHT VISION

At times searching out God’s will can feel like walking through a pitch-dark home with which I am not familiar; creeping slowly, touching each obstacle while trying to determine what it is. I must always remember God has night vision. He knows exactly where I am at all times. How often He removes or places something in the path I’ll not know in this life, but I can trust His steady guidance. Lord, Your ways and means are wonderful. Only You can work the necessary miracles to make life possible for a soul so infused with ignorance and doubt as mine. By Your Mighty Hand I progress safely.

BLISSFULLY SHACKLED

Feeling bulletproof as a thirteen-year-old and standing on black ice for the first time I was sternly warned to be careful. Of course I ignored multiple warnings and let go of the handrail foolishly declaring: “I can do this, I have good balance!” Over the next few seconds I fell hard several times. I sheepishly crawled back over to the handrail and pulled myself upright. Lesson learned; I need good counsel and guardrails for life. Father of Light, my actions must rest on truth and my lawless judgments held in check. My wrongdoings know no limits, therefore I am blissfully shackled to Your Word and Spirit.

GRUDGING OBEDIENCE

Since God sees into our souls as easily as looking into a fishbowl, grudging obedience will not suffice. While others may be fooled, the Lord Almighty knows the underlying thoughts and intentions of every person’s actions. We know joyful compliance puts a smile on our Heavenly Father’s face since Scripture reveals He “loves a cheerful giver.” Resentful servitude leaves us empty and does not produce in us the purpose God intends. Willing submission releases copious fruitfulness and enduring peace. Oh Lord, Keeper of My Soul, teach me to love You without reserve in all that I do.

RECKLESS GALL

That God cares for people at all is baffling considering how depraved we are without His moment-by-moment work within us. Yet those He created in His image hold His heart and constant attention. Disrespect for others is an ominous sign of disrespect for the Creator Himself. Frankly, I struggle to accept God’s unconditional love for me, must less offer it to someone else. But in fact, I cannot claim to be His child while harboring hatred or disregard for those He loves. Father, Lover of My Soul, pour Your pure love through me to others, especially those I disdain. Forgive my reckless gall.

THANKSGIVING

Ten lepers were cured, but only one returned to express gratitude. King David found it necessary to remind himself of his many blessings. Our tendency to focus on what we lack in life robs us of enduring gratefulness. Giving thanks to should not be corralled into moments when we feel obliged; gratefulness and praise must be our lifestyle, thankfulness and praise a forethought, not an afterthought. God of all Blessings, Sustainer of All Life,
Giver of all Grace, I thank You and praise you for Your Unceasing Goodness.  You are my Light and Salvation. To You be glory forever and ever, amen.

MIRACLES

Miracles happen every day, so I must first consecrate myself in preparation for the amazing things God will do. Should I wait for signs of something happening before making necessary changes? Absolutely not! With God, all things are possible, so I must stop and consider whether I am ready for a Divine Encounter. Consecration anticipates the wondrous works of God. Lord God of Wonders and Might, I yield to Your will, Your ways and Your timing. May my heart and mind expectantly prepare for Your Glory. Teach me to live with fervent readiness and expectation of Your works.

STAINED GLASS MASQUERADE

As a child I did not mind playing alone. I would simply dream-up elaborate scenarios filled with interesting things to do. Pretending is an essential pathway to development for children, but is a passageway to self-deception for adults. While imagination and creativity have lifelong value, to masquerade as something we are not is falsehood. As I have matured, seamlessness between who I want to be and who I actually am has become crucial. Heavenly Father, may Your maturing work in me produce increasing authenticity. Help me not gloss over weaknesses and deliver me from cover-ups.

TEARS

While raising our children we became accustomed to tears; each day offered many. Most of the tearful moments were a result of minor disappointments or injuries, but occasionally there was genuine heartache. A single tear poised on the cheek of a sorrowful little face was riveting. Everything else stopped while full household attention was given to that one anguished soul. It is the same with God. Lord of All Comfort, one small teardrop of true repentance unleashes angels, archangels and the company of heaven to my troubles. You turn my tears of sorrow to tears of joy!

LOVE LIFTS

“Love Lifted Me;” the title of an old hymn with a life-altering message. Whether being given or received, love lifts. Like a tidal rise in a harbor filled with boats, love lifts. What a powerful force love truly is! I can change my daily experience, even when I have limited power to change my circumstances, simply by acting in God’s Tender Love. A deeper understanding of His Divine Affection opens the floodgates and empowers us to pour it out to others, even to the most unlovable. Lord of Love, use me today as a downspout of Your love. Help me offer it without limitation. I already feel the lift.

SAND THROUGH THE HOURGLASS

Like sand slipping through the hourglass, each moment appears and quickly slips into the past. I often feel the sting of lost opportunities, mistakes and unchangeable past events. An eternal perspective rotates the impulse of our lives; instead of dwelling on the past, we are pulled toward an unlimited future filled with hope. What is behind becomes a footnote as eternal purpose unfolds and God’s beckoning calls us higher. Glorious Father, compared to Your Everlasting Greatness, everything else is trivial. Nothing of this world has value unless it brings You glory. I joyfully move forward.

THE FOG OF WAR

The battlefield presents constant dangers that accelerate disorientation and fear in its participants. This confusing uncertainty is known as the “fog of war”. The complexity of life can make a home, neighborhood, school, office or even a house of worship seem like a place of battle. When cherished places become battlespaces the fog of war can cause allies to attack one another. These moments require calm confidence and good communication. Father, help me recognize that You are my Trusted Commander and Your people are not my enemy. Keep me rightly focused in battle.

NO CRINGING ALLOWED

God wants to love others through me but I sometimes cringe at His choices. Not that I think I am more worthy of His love than others, it is just so difficult many times. There is no escape. To experience His love opens our heart to the surge of His love for all. While I mostly enjoy this process, there are moments when I wish to shut off the valve after quenching my own thirst, but He will have none of this nonsense. Restricting the love-flow from His heart to my heart to others is a heinous crime. Lord of Love, forgive me for holding back Your love from others. Make me an open-valve fountain of blessing.

A DEATHBLOW TO DARKNESS

It is unsettling to think about the wickedness is in this world. At the very same moment I am striving to do good, someone is seeking to do harm. This would lead to fear if I did not know that in spite of the dark forces of evil I am not unarmed. The heaven-sent weapons of our warfare are mighty. When the enemy rises to attack me, thinking there are no troops on guard, the One Who Never Sleeps Nor Slumbers rises to my defense. O Lord My Victor, with You on my side the battle is checked and eternal victory is sure. To call upon Your Name is to bring a deathblow to every work of darkness!

HIGHER THAN I

From the earliest age I have been a climber. For me, it has never been about the climb itself; it is the heights that call to my soul. While I still get a bit nervous at the edge, I simply like to be up high. Seeing things from a higher position gives life a different perspective. I have progressed from trees to mountains to airplanes, but the fascination with an elevated view has never waned. Perhaps it is an imprint from the Almighty. As King David’s heart grew faint, he cried out: “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” Yes. Lord God Most High, draw me to Your heavenly perspective on all things.

OCEANS OF BLESSINGS

Looking at the ocean is full of life lessons. As an example, what you see on the surface tells very little of its true volume. While there is significant activity on top, the real action is only discovered by going deeper. There is always much more over the horizon and it is headed your way. Every wave deposits treasures on the shore but effort must be made to find them. Eternal God and Maker of All things, You made the seas as but a token of Your Wonder. Lord and Father, You are the Well that Never Runs Dry, the Dawn that Never Dims and the depths of Your Love may never be exhausted.

EXPOSING DECEPTION

Deception is a primary tactic in both human and spiritual battles. This is accomplished by intentional misinformation or creating an artificial visual falsehood. Diversionary measures are used to cause the opponent to react to the wrong circumstances and to waste their resources. Thankfully, in spiritual warfare, the weapons and war tactics granted to us by God are not fleshly, carnal weapons; they have God’s might with them. He grants us discernment to expose the enemy’s deception. Almighty King of the Universe, You disperse darkness and cause the enemies of Your Kingdom to flee.

GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY

I woke up thankful today. Thankfulness usually floats close to the surface for me, but ordinarily it is not my first morning reaction. Constant, auto-response gratefulness requires a level of surrender that still mostly eludes me. Typically I must first navigate through a maze of my own thoughts and emotions before reaching the bliss of thankfulness. A strong sense of gratitude, love and appreciation is not rooted in circumstances; it flows from a deeper understanding of God’s goodness and love. Today, I am there quickly and without conditions. Thank You Father for the early gift. You are so very Good.

LAND MINES

Cold tile floors and bare feet are an unpleasant wintery mix. Warm socks properly applied are a welcome and easy fix. This is a teachable moment, reminding me that little problems become big problems if not addressed yet are easily overcome if proper care is taken. Delayed prayer, deferred forgiveness, ignored relational issues; all these are life’s land mines. Postponement does not deal with problems it only makes them worse, dangerously hiding them until they explode. Lord, help me catch the little things that spoil my soul. Remind me to be proactive when facing dilemmas.

CELESTIAL INTERVENTION

Many things may temporarily stir emotions, but the soul cannot be awakened without Divine Initiative. It is the spark of the Lord Almighty that instigates deep searching or gnawing spiritual hunger. A horse will not walk straight without a hand on the reigns and I will do no better. We must never forget the constant need for God’s guiding touch upon our souls. Lord of Glory and All Wisdom, You stir my heart and steady my steps. You O Lord Who are capable of all things will order my steps and lead me to secret places of the Most High. I gratefully welcome Your celestial intervention.

DIVINE DOWNLOADS

Constant updates are required for the operating systems and applications we all use. Between my phone, computer and other devices there are multiple downloads each day. This is really nothing new; my whole being has required daily adjustments for as long as I can remember. I must be sorted through, spirit, soul and body, until every part is pure and wholly consecrated to God. Yesterday’s surrender is insufficient for this new day. Precious Lord, I am thankful for Your constant work in me so that You may work through me. Divine Downloads are my urgent need and daily desire.