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Showing posts from February, 2014

BEYOND THE HORIZON

I like to be busy, but is it not equally important to be ready? Busyness can be the enemy of effectiveness. While it is required that I obediently do what I know to do now, I must simultaneously learn to wait, to be ready for what is coming. Since there is always more happening than I can perceive with my mind I must practice spiritual discernment. Like everything else in life, constant usage sharpens spiritual giftings. Dearest Alpha and Omega, what is yet unseen to me is held firmly in Your hand. Help me be faithful to what I now know while remaining clear sighted and ready for what is just beyond the horizon.

GREENHOUSE EFFECT

Approaching Moscow by train in winter is a long trip through a frozen landscape. It seems impossible that life can exist in such conditions, yet the seemingly dead trees and snow covered fields will be alive with beauty by springtime. On one such trip I was invited to a simple greenhouse behind a friends home. There, in the dead of winter, were summer green plants. Worship and praise has a greenhouse effect in our souls, providing conditions for life in the midst of a barren environment. Lord of Life, I will praise You at all times! Faith springs alive in my heart, warmed by Your Glorious Presence.

I DIE DAILY

No matter how often I have earnestly renounced its dominance, selfishness has been my constant companion throughout life. As difficult as this battle is, I cannot imagine any progress would have occurred if God had not sent His Word and Spirit to bridle my earthly impulses. The words of the apostle Paul are more meaningful than ever before: “I die daily.” I would rather be done with self at one fell swoop, but this is a daily spiritual battle. I often fall short of His high call, but His spirit comforts me while confronting my sin. Father of Life and Liberty, Your patience, mercy and divine discipline keep me.

SWEET SAVOR

One of the discomforts of traveling in many places is the common use of open sewage lines in otherwise modern cities. While not as terrible as one might think, still, the unpleasant odors become a constant nuisance. Over time you get somewhat acclimated to it and only occasionally notice its presence.  The same is true of our spiritual life. Allowing sewage to run openly through our lives will dull our senses to its presence. High and Lofty One, lift me from the squalor of worldliness and cleanse the polluting stream of immorality from my soul. Make my life a sweet savor before You.

NO PANIC

To act with due caution is wise, but timidity is never a prudent course of action. Fear-governed thoughts and actions rarely lead us to the right conclusions; panic is not a reliable strategy. Trusting God is the only sensible response to crisis. The peace God grants to those who learn to lean on Him in the midst of a raging storm is the perfect environment for understanding and wisdom to emerge. Lord of Perfect Love, this day, as all days, is in Your hands. I am at peace in Your Holy Presence, knowing Your light will uncover the unseen and reveal the shape of what is hidden.

ENVY

Modern culture wars against godliness in ways we often fail to see. The constant emphasis on wealth, popularity and power pulls us in the wrong direction. Wishing that I had the good fortune of someone else seems innocent enough, but it is nothing more than envy. Envy displaces thankfulness and undermines trust in God. Rejoicing in God’s care and provision has the opposite effect; releasing hope in my soul as I consider God’s goodness. Holy Father, deliver me from the evil, yet subtle web of covetousness. I am at peace with the course You have laid out for me.

OPEN MY EYES

The invention of lenses, magnifying glasses, spectacles, telescopes and microscopes changed mankind’s perception of life. Optical magnification now extends to practically every field of study.  Seeing something previously unseen can radically change our perspective. The promises of God are a lens through which we see the impossible; As they are applied to our heart faith rises. Nothing can transform the ordinary into something truly remarkable like the eye of faith. Father of Light, I do not want spiritual eyes that cannot see. Open my eyes to even the smallest detail of Your will.

THROUGH HIGHS AND LOWS

The view from the top is breathtaking, exhilarating, fresh and majestic; distant things come into view. The lowlands? Earthy, organic,unremarkable, commonplace; where life actually happens. I am enamored with the mountaintop, but crops grow best on the valley floor. When I survey my earthbound station and day-to-day duties, doing life lacks the glamour of high places, but in its soil is true life. Lord God in the Highest, teach me faithfulness in the mundane, the undistinguished and thank You for the transfiguring moments of the heights. In either case, You are Good.

DUELING IMPULSES

My efforts to control myself by willpower alone have generally been disastrous. I usually start out like gangbusters, but far too soon I am again at full stop. My dilemma is dueling impulses. On the one hand, I truly want to “let go and let God,” trusting His timing and ways. But each time I commit to authentic surrender another impulse arises. The temptation to rush ahead and force results is very compelling. Father, Your Spirit alone can navigate me through internal resistances to Your chosen methods. Pour out Your grace within my soul and arrest every impulse that is not of Your making.

BALANCE

Years ago, I looked out the window and received quite a surprise. Trunk to the ground, roots pointing skyward, a huge tree simply fell over our driveway. It is unsettling when things so unexpected happen. Soil and water, the very things that nourish a giant tree, can be its undoing when given in excess. It is the same with me. Only the Eternal Designer Who knit me together can help me keep equilibrium. My spirit, soul and body must be cared for properly. O Lord My Caretaker, guide me into balance and moderation. Keep me from seeking excessive sustenance outside of Your design or provision.

GRACE FOR THE KILN

On my very first trip into the USSR many years ago I was surprised to find a bright little store in an otherwise drab and grey town. We were guided to a back-alley by a taxi driver who behaved as if he were revealing a State secret. The small shop had beautiful porcelain pottery. I bought several pieces and carefully packed them for my trip home. Upon arrival I opened my suitcase and found all but one piece broken; they had not been sufficiently heated in the kiln. I do not like going through the furnace of affliction, yet it is the the fire that strengthens me for what is next. Father, You are the Potter, I am the clay. Grant me grace for the kiln that I may have fortitude for the journey.

WORLD-CLASS SHADOW BOXER

I do not want to be a world-class shadow boxer nor an off-course runner. Each of us has stewardship of time, talents and treasures; limited resources to be invested in what really matters. Too often I have settled for less than God’s best, pulled off course by inward deception, a wandering heart or the influence of others. Strong finishers do not follow the crowd; they set their pace for the prize. O Lord My Guide, keep me on course. Have mercy on me and do not permit my mouth to grow calloused to the bit; may I remain tender to Your voice and the slightest pull on the reigns.

LORD, HEAR MY PRAYER

Over a lifetime I have thrown many prayers God’s way. Some are biblically blueprinted and humbly lifted.  Others are selfishly constructed with no chance of success, being offered without needed cleansing and yieldedness. Prayer should always be bathed in scripturally formed expectation, genuine surrender and offered with commitment to change. Father in Heaven, I cannot pray without Your guidance and help. Open Your Word and Spirit to my heart afresh. Lift the heavy fog of sin from my soul that I may approach You in truth and light. Lord, hear my prayer.

TREASURED FRIENDS

Friendships bring pleasantness to one’s life, but the greatest treasure is the earnest counsel that springs from a true comrade. While all advice must be properly weighed and measured, even the wounds of a trusted friend lifts and blesses our soul. Earthly love always comes laden with human imperfections, but when authentically offered, it has flashes of God’s amazing, perfect love. Heavenly Father, thank You for my many friends. Each one offers a facet of Your face. I especially thank You for those who love so deeply they offer honest counsel. Help me be that kind of friend to others.

BLESSED FEAR

Fear of God delivers us from every other fear; when He is seen as High and Lifted Up we recognize He towers over every circumstance. Reverence for the Almighty One contains no trepidation, anxiety, panic or horror, only deep respect and deference to His nature and will. Fear of God opens our understanding, fills our lives with true praise, grants peace in every storm and empowers us to love others. Forgiveness is rooted in it, holiness and kindness as well. Lord, You Alone are to be feared, all other fears shadowed in Your Glorious Presence. My heart and mind are at rest.

HIS WILL, HIS TERMS

God created mankind “in His image,” but listening to a deceptive voice changed everything. Adam’s attempt to improve upon his blissful condition resulted in inward conflict for us all. One of the characteristics of the fallen nature of man is that we still have the same genetic code of our created purpose, but continually seek to fulfill it with our own stipulations. I counteract the inward advantage God gives me to achieve His best by dishonest surrender. Dearest Lord, abandonment to Your will on Your terms is the only legitimate path. Help me to obey authentically and consistently.

BOUNDLESS AFFECTION

One of the most uncomplicated, yet revolutionary descriptions of God’s nature is the Biblical statement "God is love.” In this simple phrase we learn a lot about ourselves. Since we are created in the image of God, we are created with the capacity and desire to both give and receive love. When disappointment in human love sets in it shuts down something deep in our soul. Unrequited love can steal away our created purpose. Only God’s pure love can heal us. Lord of Love, restore my soul. Let me drink deeply from Your Sea of Boundless Affection and make me whole that I too may love without limits.

FRUIT

It is not difficult to determine the species of a tree when it has fruit hanging on it, a tree is known by its fruit. Nor is it difficult to discern the true nature of a person by the same process. Yet, like a tree, a person’s life must be observed over many seasons to get the true picture. Good life, good fruit, bad life, bad fruit. The Bible warns us to avoid deep connections with those who are consistently immoral. We become like those with whom we fellowship. Father, thank You for the blessedness of knowing those who guard their lives.  Purify my heart and deliver me from the traps of fools.

GOOD JUDGMENT

Increased knowledge does not guarantee good judgment. Life is very complicated and unpredictable. Like sand bars in a fast running inlet, the ground underneath us constantly shifts, yet dangers just under the surface are not easily seen until it is too late. Skillful living requires nonstop contact with the Giver of Life. Knowing God and receiving His wisdom and guidance increases good judgment and safety as we face the unknown. All-Knowing Father of Wisdom and Truth, deliver me from deeply imbedded folly in my heart. Grant me understanding and a clean heart bathed in light.

THE STICKY WEBB

Alertness to God at all times is my daily battle. I must not only escape the sticky web of selfishness, but also the twisted theology of our day. Most consider personal fulfillment on the same level as obedience to the will of God. Incessant desire for self-fulfillment not only comes in forms of obvious selfishness, but also masquerades as false forms of spirituality. Genuine spiritual hunger never has self-indulgent motives, but seeks to lose sight of oneself in God’s Glory. King of Ages, arouse my heart to obedient following. Free me from egocentric intent. You alone are our Joy and Crown.

FUTURE FORECAST

Everything I do or don’t do today affects my future. The person who doesn’t look ahead ends up blindly staggering down a crooked trail without realizing it. The future cannot be controlled, nor should it be feared, however, the seed I put in the ground now is the best forecast of what is coming. He who has given me this moment also holds all my tomorrows in His Mighty Hands. Lord of All, You are rightly praised by all creation. Grant me grace to confidently trust Your daily superintendence, guidance, provision and sheltering right arm. You are my refuge today and hope for all eternity.

THE AROMA OF HEAVEN

It is a delightful mystery how an aroma can transport me to a different place. Fragrances bind with events, places, people; a passing scent can return me to my great grandmother’s home, awaken a lost memory or activate an emotion. Interestingly, in both the Old and New Testaments our prayers are likened to incense before God. What may seem like feeble earthly prayers are received as a heavenly fragrance before the throne. O Lord my Creator and Sustainer, I marvel at Your ways. May my daily prayer offerings combine with those of all Your saints, filling heaven with sweet fragrance.

BLASTED

The construction of highways through mountainous terrain has always intrigued me. Millions of tons of rock must be repositioned; most of it can only be unearthed with explosives. A violent process produces a safe and peaceful journey for subsequent travelers. It occurs to me that my soul must also be “unearthed” to live a life prepared for heaven. Only God’s Word can construct a highway through the mounds of waywardness, stubbornness and hardheartedness. Father, You offer a thruway of truth and guidance through worldly obstructions. Grant me daily grace for the journey.

EYES OPENED

Concerning the work of God in our lives, there is always more to the story than we can possibly know. Whatever we see as we face difficult or complicated circumstances is never the full picture. Like Elisha’s servant, we too need our eyes opened to the full measure of the Lord’s surrounding Presence. The divine purpose behind every moment far outweighs whatever temporary discomfort we may feel in the process. In these occasions there is no substitute for knowing God’s love and promises. O Lover of My Soul, I praise You for Your faithful care and power to save.

USEFUL KNOWLEDGE

We live in the “Information Age” but information alone is useless. In fact, without good judgment knowledge can be very destructive. Understanding, on the other hand, enables me to know what to do with what I know. Wisdom, especially the kind that God alone endows, brings information into proper perspective and alignment, positioning me for God's best. Oh God, from Whom all wisdom, knowledge and understanding flow, grant me daily enlightenment and grace for the right response to that which You reveal. Deliver me from information overload and lead me into truth and light.

POLITE DISOBEDIENCE

Obedience to the voice of God must not be put off. We often justify our slow response by desiring to act when conditions are perfect. The problem with this course of action is obvious, conditions are rarely perfect. Fear and doubt feed on delay, growing stronger with each passing moment. Unless obedience is prompt, it is nothing more than polite disobedience. Swift response has the opposite effect; immediate embrace of God’s will fuels our faith and invites His blessing. O Lord My Peace, not my will, not my way; Your will and ways must prevail. Ignite my heart and order my steps.

ITSY-BITSY

What size is required for something to catch God’s attention? Consider that the Almighty designs beautifully intricate designs in every single snowflake. He frames the universe, yet He does so with atoms, each of which is composed of various subatomic particles that are themselves composed of even smaller particles. It is safe to say there is nothing too small for His consideration. Many believe a problem requires a certain size for God to intervene, but creation itself teaches us differently. Lord of All Creation, forgive me for not submitting even the smallest of things to you.