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Showing posts from April, 2014

SHAPED BY THE MASTER

I begin this day in thankfulness for those who have helped shape my life. Biblical characters, historic figures, family, friends, spiritual fathers and mothers, authors, actors, teachers and strangers have been used by the Master Craftsman to form me. Even those intent on my harm such as detractors, accusers, betrayers and openly antagonistic enemies have played an important part in my formation. Lord, I thank You for each and every one You have employed to forge me into a man of character, love and faith. May I also be a quality tool in Your hand, useful for shaping others.

TODAY

A new day is dawning. Will I turn the page or will I try to rehash the disappointments of yesterday or its predecessors? The challenges and opportunities of today await me; there is little value in dreaming about what could have been. This new day is another undeserved gift from the Ancient of Days and I must seize it with renewed gusto. I do not want to disregard its value by dwelling on the past nor waste time in anxiety about the future. Thank You My Creator and Redeemer for today. You made it, You rule it, now I will rejoice and be glad in it. My heart is attuned to Your Voice. Today.

DYING EMPTY

The high price of gasoline is a strong motivation to try to arrive with the tank as empty as possible to a station with low prices, especially on a long road trip. In the same manner I have already determined the condition in which I want to arrive to the end of my life on earth, I want to die empty; I do not want God-given potential to be unspent, left to be discarded in the cemetery. With the world around me in such spiritual poverty, I cannot imagine retreating or retiring from the battlefield. Eternal God, may I be faithful to fully expend Your generous gift of divinely bestowed potential.

MESSES TO MIRACLES

Too often I have conceived scenarios in my mind that seemed good enough to be pleasing to God, only to discover that He was not at all impressed. The simple truth is no human wisdom or plan is sufficient for the Almighty; our cleverness is no substitute for God’s wisdom. Because of His great love, He will not commit His blessing to something harmful or foolish. On the other hand He patiently works with my insufficiencies and by His grace great things are accomplished. Gracious Father, I am amazed by Your goodness and mercy. You turn my weakness into strength, my messes into miracles.

BATTLEGROUND OR PLAYGROUND

We install security alarms in our cars, homes and businesses. We build fences, security checkpoints, hire gate guards and police to secure our lives. However, the most dangerous instrument of harm and dissention is my tongue. Guarding my lips guards my life since “life and death proceed from our mouths”. There is no lip alarm, safety begins in the heart out of which the mouth speaks. When I permit worldliness to run free in my heart it will be soon betray my good intentions. The heart is a battleground, not a playground. Lord, You have my heart and lips; purify both through and through.

GUIDED ZEAL

There truly is a perfect time and way for everything. I am impetuous by nature and in haste have often moved too quickly. It is much better to let things unfold before rushing ahead. A furled sail is of little use. We sometimes confuse faith-based zeal and emotion-based zeal. But what blessing it is when zealousness and knowledge combine within the divinely appointed moment. Lord of all Wisdom, thank You for guiding my zeal. I am zealous for Your work in the earth but desperately need Your steadying hand. Grant me submissive, composed, Holy Spirit guided zealousness.

DIVINE PURGING

As I have grown older I have become increasingly aware of how little actual control I have over surrounding circumstances. While a little unnerving this is actually good; I do not warrant unmitigated control of my life. My record is littered with the debris of failures where I attempted to be my own final authority. So instead I turn to the Master of the Universe. He made me, kept me and owns me. Glorious Lord, I am at peace with surrender to Your control. Grant me divine purging today that I may more easily yield to Your primacy. You have purchased my life with the highest prices and I am is Yours alone.

GOD'S UNWAVERING FORGIVENESS

As I approach my Maker in prayer each day it seems that I am always the same, confessing similar failings again and again as if I am entirely unreformed. My confessions are increasingly raw since I may no longer cast blame upon anything but my own arrogant ways. However, there is also a growing sweetness and ease of surrender in those moments of blessed interlude; God’s unwavering forgiveness unfolding each day as if it were the first time I had failed Him. Dear Lord My Caretaker, Your grace pours forth like summer rains, bringing new life to my hungry soul.

THROUGH THE STORM

It is easy to feel strong when all is well, but our true measure of strength is revealed in times of testing. Like a ship captain imperiled on the high seas, I too must turn the bow into the wind and crashing waves. A ship requires a helmsman; it is in mortal danger if it simply drifts through the gale. No matter the size of the storm or how long it endures, I cannot let fear keep me from doing what I know I must. Father, keep my hands steady on the tiller and guide my course. Even the most powerful typhoon is small to you. Transform me into a better man, a better leader in the tempest of Your choosing.

THE PERFECTING ONE

As a child growing up in Florida, I spent much of my time outside. There was never a shortage of insects and I quickly learned that small things lead to big problems, especially if there are lots of small things. I sometimes forget that lesson and pay no attention to my small faults. As they accumulate, character flaws add up to big problems. God, in His perfection, has His eye on even the smallest detail. The Perfect One is also the Perfecting One. Lord God, You are the Master Craftsman, bringing Your finishing touch to even the slightest flaw. I welcome Your perfecting care.

A VERY GOOD FRIDAY

Surrender amid sleepy disciples. Betrayal by the disillusioned. Taken captive by the powerless. Judged by the ignorant. Abandoned by the fearful. Stripped by the unclothed. Crucified by the lifeless. Mocked by fools. Redeeming wounds suspended between heaven and earth. Forgiveness freely given. What majestic mystery, what love divine! Good Friday? Yes, very good, indescribably, eternally good. Blessed Redeemer, my thoughts retrace your labored steps along Via Dolorosa. You stretched out Your arms on the hard wood of the cross and cured my diseased soul. Glory to You forever!

KEEPING IT REAL

As a child I spent much of my time pretending, creating elaborately detailed scenarios in my mind where I was the central character to everything that was happening. While these imagined adventures are fine for children, pretending we are superheroes does us no good at all as adults. Maturity requires humility; an overstated opinion of one’s importance is not only foolish, it is dangerous. Blessed Father, help me keep it real. Thank You for the honest mirror Scripture provides. Though I can do all things through Your strength, I can do nothing without Your guidance, nourishment and remedy.

SURROUNDED

I awoke with Jerusalem on my mind this morning. I remember well my first ascent into the Holy City. It surprised me how she is spread atop peaks and ridges. Then I remembered the biblical declaration: “as surely as the mountains surround Jerusalem, the LORD surrounds His people”. Though the proud and deceived wish to divide her, control her or destroy her, she will forever be held in God’s hands. Lord God Almighty, Lover of My Soul, I pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the safety of its hallowed streets. I pray that Your people everywhere will trust Your promises and superintendence.

COMFORT ZONES

While it is absolutely true that the Holy Spirit is our Comforter, God’s comfort zone nearly always makes me uncomfortable. Since complacency is my constant nemesis, His love continually prods me to move forward. Like the lame man at the well of Bethseda, I sometimes camp out on the edge of hope but feel incapable of moving when the water is stirred. Herein lies a fundamental spiritual principle: convenience is rarely the path to spiritual growth. Father, Your love propels me. I welcome Your holy nudges, even when it is bothersome. Help me stand to my feet and walk forward in faith.

UNHEALTHY DELIGHT

Tearing others down does not make me stronger. In fact, focusing on the weaknesses of those around me dangerously keeps my attention away from where it should be laser-focused, my own shortcomings. As much as I dislike criticism aimed toward me, there is an unhealthy delight in pointing it toward others. In the end, casting stones only exposes my own hypocrisy and weaknesses. Gracious Father, though You are perfect in all Your ways, you hold no grudges toward my imperfections. Instead, You work with me patiently and lovingly in spite of my resistances. Lord, make me more like You.

HOPE FLOATS

There seems to be no shortage of those willing to add weights to those struggling to stay afloat. Even the well-meaning comfort of friends is limited by human knowledge and often leaves us empty. However, when God speaks, even in discipline, there is a lifting of the soul. Every word from God imparts life, blessing and hope; its sharpness surgical, not blunt, its effect liberty, not incarceration. Anxiety weighs down one’s soul, but things spoken by the Lord of Hope causes my soul to rise above the storm. Gracious Father, Your Word pronounces ascent. My cup overflows, it is well with my soul.

HOW FAR?

How high must I climb to be healed? How wide is the chasm between my transgressions and God’s forgiveness? The reward of each of these quests appears far away, however, they are much closer than we can humanly conceive. The ascent to my healing is merely from punctured feet to a crown of thorns. The journey from my sin to redemption is only the distance between a nail in each my Savior’s hands. Holy Redeemer, my mind struggles with the simplicity of Your grace. Grant me childlike humility to believe what You have accomplished without equivocation or dispute.

CULTIVATED DESPERATION

Only God can satisfy the deep longings of the soul. Again and again we search in all the wrong places, only to discover there is only temporary relief in earthly substitutes. Anguish is a grievous intruder, yet it can lead us to the ultimate relief of surrender to God alone. Biochemists take moldy, seemingly useless materials and turn it into penicillin. In the same manner, the Lord our Maker cultivates our desperation into what can truly heal us. Dearest Lord, forgive my wanderings and futile attempts to find peace in the temporal things of this world. You are the cure for every sorrow.

FREEDOM FROM HATRED

Hatred held in the heart cannot hide forever. Like molten lava underground, its pressure builds and seeks release on the surface. Bitterness will eventually break through unannounced with devastating results. We sometimes believe hatred is justified and has some useful purpose, but its tyranny cannot be contained nor equitably distributed; it must be expunged entirely from our soul. Spiritual freedom and unbounded joy belong to the one delivered from its grasp. Blessed Father, heal every wound of offense within me and uproot every trace of acrimony. Fill my heart with Your unfailing love.

THE ANSWER

As soon as I awaken each day my mind is bombarded with unresolved problems; there is never a shortage of them. My first inclination is to share my anxiety with others, yet I know the answers are not there. Turning to the wrong source will only deepen my sorrows; so instead I will cast my cares upon Him who cares for me like no one else can. I will throw myself headlong into the nail-scarred hands and rest in the knowledge that His love never fails. Lord, I yearn for Your consoling voice and towering wisdom. Instruct me from Your limitless knowledge and strengthen me with Your benevolent power.

BEYOND THE COMMON COURSE

The salt marshes along the southeastern coast can be tricky to navigate. Many perils await such as hidden, oyster-covered sand bars or the maze-like waterways that easily confuse the inexperienced. However, leaving the safety of the marked channels opens endless rewards of beautiful wildlife, a kaleidoscope of colors and a serene sense of quiet privacy. In those exquisite moments it all seems divinely composed. It is. Lord, remind me today to seek the unseen beyond the common course. Nudge me toward those divine moments just beyond the channel where Your Glory awaits the seeker.

MAKE SPACE

I am hard-wired for incessant enterprise, my mind requiring almost constant occupation. In prayer, I heard two words: “make space.” Like a muddied spring or a polluted well, a cluttered mind is functional, but not beneficial. Many whisperings of the Almighty are lost in the din of mental noise. Inactivity is not the answer; I must instead tune my heart to constant communion with God. Father, help me to align my thoughts to Yours. Deliver me from relentless mental activity that impedes Your Voice. Teach me to be still and listen as I pursue the purposes for which You designed me.

SHALLOW PURSUITS

When something is compelling enough, people usually find a way to make it happen. It is embarrassing to admit how often shallow pursuits rather than things of eternal importance compel me. There can be no doubt; misuse of time, talent and treasures hinders spiritual progress. As I age I am increasingly conscious of how quickly life slips by. I do not want to stand before God in heaven having squandered the opportunities He graciously offers me. Lord, You are perfectly balanced in all that You do. Help me to properly utilize all that I have and all that I am according to Your will.

A GLIMPSE OF GLORY

Every life suffers losses, making it far too convenient to dwell on sorrows. Gnawing sadness will invade every corner of the soul of those who reside in the shadows of disappointments, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast. A mere glimpse of the goodness of God melts away gloom and doom. Hope springs eternal to those who praise the Almighty. Like turning a dish toward a broadcasting satellite, praise adjusts my heart to receive heavenly transmissions. Lord, You fill my heart as I exalt You in praise. You are the Crown of Life and Restorer of My Soul, my Glory and the Lifter of My Head.

THE SUMMIT

My vision for the future is critical to the decisions I make today. Too often I have hindered the approach of tomorrow by over-attachment to things of yesterday. Like a hiker who tries to lug along too much, I sometimes strike out without first discerning between what will be absolutely necessary and what is merely an emotional connection that must be surrendered. To follow hard after what is best I must lay aside every hindrance. Father, You are my only hope to reach the summit. You are already present where You are commanding me to trod. I trust Your provision and divine care; You never miss a thing.

FENCED IN

One of the best pets that have been a part of our family was a handsome Pekinese named Chewy. He was well behaved with one exception, he loved to escape the safety of our home and explore the neighborhood. Eventually, he never returned. While I have matured over the years, I also require daily supervision and assistance. My wandering heart often strays into perilous terrain. Only God can safely guard my steps, only He will release my feet from the snare. Lord of Love, I am humbled and filled with gratitude that You faithfully and lovingly chase me down and fence me in.

NAILED

As absurd as it sounds, I have attempted to manipulate God while I am praying. In classic Wizard of Oz fashion, I pray with a sincere tone while silently hoping: “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Well, it doesn’t work like that; His attention is precisely upon the man behind the curtain. Nailed. He Who has no pretense whatsoever is intolerant of it in His children. No obfuscation of the truth is allowed. Father, forgive my insolence. I love Your truth and want to walk fully in it. Strip away all falsehood in me that I may come before You with clean hands and a clean heart.

GO OR NOT?

I often feel I'm waiting on God to do something; answered prayer, doors of opportunity, spiritual breakthroughs, needed resources. But I sometimes wonder, am I waiting on Him or is He waiting on me? In a sincere effort to not rush ahead of divine timing we often hesitate to take the first step. However, delaying action until conditions are perfect only extends the wait. While I mustn’t force things before their time, I can act in faith on what I do know. Lord, grant me grace for now to obey with limited information. Teach me to take one step at a time and to stay sensitive to Your promptings.