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Showing posts from May, 2014

MY SELFISH WAYS

While praying for a friend who was struggling to breathe it dawned on me that I take air for granted. Truth be known, I take many things for granted. When something I want or need is taken away I usually become miffed. I don’t mean to be so selfish but it rises to the surface easily when I am denied something I expect to have. Selfishness is most often quietly hidden from others, but still it lurks underneath, corrupting our ability to be thankful. It is so common to my ways I cannot see it without help.  Precious Lord, forgive my presumptuous ways. In Your might, tear down the stronghold of selfishness within me.

COMPLETE FREEDOM

Much of my youth was spent in the Florida woods. A trip through a subtropical forest is filled with thorns, sharp-edged plants, dangerous snakes, huge spiders and seemingly impassible underbrush, but there is always a way through. Spiritual breakthrough is no different. It may be treacherous, obscured, laden with challenges and setbacks, but breakout is possible. Inward liberty precedes outward liberty. With God’s help, my perspective can be transformed this very moment. Lord, You are the Way, the Truth and the Life; in You there is all that I need for my journey to complete freedom.

HONOR

Modern culture has substituted “celebrity” for “honor”. The Bible teaches the value of honor, but warns against the dangers of popularity and self-centered aggrandizement of people. Giving honor to whom it is due in a biblical manner is life-lifting and ultimately leads us to worship of God, while adulation of celebrity leads us to personal fantasies and self-centered idol worship. The need to honor is hard-wired into our souls, but we must guard our hearts from the foolishness of celebrity seeking. Father, help me steer clear of idol worship. Show me the right path of honoring You as I honor others.

PRUNED

The first time I saw a rose bush properly pruned it stunned me. I watched as a friend hacked away at a healthy looking plant. When he finished the pruned plant was a stick-like shadow of its former self. I thought it was ruined but I was wrong. As it turned out, it grew beautiful and productive later that spring. It seems like most everything is being pruned in my life, things within and around me. While it is uncomfortable to face this process, springtime’s bounty is surely ahead. Father, You are the Great Gardener and I am the bush. I am thankful for the pruning and welcome Your holy work.

GRACE

One of God’s biblical monikers is “God of All Grace”. Even a cursory study of Scripture unfolds a vision of grace that extends far beyond grace for salvation alone. He that spins the worlds on His fingers has sufficient grace apportioned for every person and every moment. Yesterday’s grace will not do for today, tomorrow’s grace cannot be coerced into early arrival. Like diurnally apportioned manna in the desert, grace comes for each day, each instant, each need. Gracious Lord, help me to accept and walk in Your provision of grace today. I trust Your perfect distribution of the grace You give.

WORK IN PROGRESS

It is convenient to assign blame to everything else, but what comes out of me is merely spillover from what is inside. This is unsettling. After so much time and so many attempts to transform myself, I again must face the truth, I am still a work in progress and only God can finish the work. I am sure God can fix me, but when I think their must be an easier way I stumble off the right path only to end up slogging through mud. Father, my words are insufficient, so I offer a borrowed prayer as my own: Have Your own way, Lord. You are the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Your will while I am waiting, yielded and still.

HOLY SEED

Palmettos are an attractive element of tropical fauna. Although the palm plant lends a tropical touch to landscaping, it multiplies quickly and is very difficult to remove when necessary; the key is to deal with it when it is young. In the same manner, when God sows kingdom seeds in us the enemy swiftly attempts to uproot new spiritual growth while it is in its infancy. He does not want to later face what he can destroy while it is but a seedling. Lord of the Harvest, Sower of Good Seed; prepare my heart to receive your bounty. Sanctify and guard my soul to be holy ground for Your holy seed.

EVIDENCE

A commonly expressed human desire is to see a miracle as a rationale for belief in God. Many seem to struggle with the idea that God works mightily through the ordinariness of everyday life. We hope for mountaintop moments or dramatic signs to convince us that the Holy One is paying attention, yet it is life itself that is the signature of His work. My very breath is evidence enough of His Divine Activity. O Giver of Life, thank You for another day of discovery of the intricacies of Your constant Presence and Work. Help me to see Your hand and hear Your voice throughout this day.

LOW HANGING FRUIT

Every sunrise God provides new opportunities to grab low hanging fruit; incredible moments unfold to the person who learns to pay attention. How many times have I rushed by, missing a divinely arranged circumstance? Yet, the goodness of God provides me another chance this new day.  Yesterday’s harvest is now past, some fruit made it into the barn; some was missed and left to rot on the ground. Father of New Beginnings, help me to see Your daily provision. Awaken my soul; I do not want to miss a thing from dawn-to-dusk. May I never again brush by a divine appointment.

EARTHLY INFECTIONS

Like unwashed hands carrying viruses, the soul can be laden with unseen but deadly dangers. Strangely, we are far more careful to wash our hands after touching potentially contaminated objects than even to consider the perils of contamination of the heart by unfettered exposure to wrong-spirited people. We drink bottled water to protect our bodies, but drink from the cesspools of unfiltered conversations or unbridled self-indulgence. High and Lofty One, cleanse my heart of all earthly infections and keep me from mindless over-exposure among those who love discord, debauchery and darkness.

OPEN HANDS, OPEN HEARTS

God is generous. Giving activates part of the godlike nature imprinted on every human heart by its Creator that cannot be activated otherwise. Benevolence without authentic love is possible, but genuine love devoid of giving is utterly impossible. Generosity with strings attached is the earthly way, giving unconditionally is divine. Many of the issues of the heart are caused by selfish resistance to giving; generosity is a cure for many of our ills. Open hands, open hearts, closed hands, closed hearts. Lord, teach me Your ways. Thank You for every opportunity to be more like You.

STAND DOWN

I have never been one to back down from a fight that was necessary, but at times I have been drawn into battles that were not for me to fight. This is where prayerfully standing down comes into play; I have often been directed to wait for the Lord to handle the matter. Sometimes we must run toward the giant as did David, but other times, like King Jehoshaphat facing an unbeatable foe, God has us stand down and send out praises to Him rather than push ahead. O Lord Our Defender, I am Yours. Guide me in battle, grant me good discernment and teach my heart to trust You as Commander In Chief.

A GUARDED HEART

I cannot permit my heart to have open borders since free ranging exposes it to too many perils. An unguarded heart will consume unhealthy nourishment and stray into mortal danger. It is simple really: garbage in garbage out, treasure in treasure out. Like the physical body, my inward man must be nourished, protected and cultivated for it to stay healthy. My heart must be guarded since everything I do outwardly flows from the abundance of what is within. Shepherd of my Soul, help me dwell under Your shadow, keep me safely near. May I only feed from Your chosen pastures and drink from Your still waters. Only under Your guardianship may I truly run free.

SILLIY SQUABLES

Three tiny birds have developed a territorial interest in our balcony. They are really cute, but each day is filled with puffed up feathers, lots of irritated chirping and little hops at each other. It all appears comical to me but it seems deadly serious to them. I imagine many of our earthly squabbles seem as petty to God as these daily bird fights seem to me. There are serious enemies in life, but much of our energy is wasted on the inconsequential. Father Above, keep me focused on what really matters. Help me ignore daily irritations and keep me laser-focused on fighting the true dangers.

OTHERS MAY, I MAY NOT

Learning to turn away from appealing but short-lived relief is a process. Once, as a young man in prayer, I complained how unfair it was that others seemed to be less restricted than I. As I questioned the Lord on this I heard Him speak as loudly in my heart as I ever have in my life, either before or since: “Others may, you may not.” I remember saying out loud with sarcastic indignation: “That’s it? Others may, I may not?!!” Silence. His answer required no further explanation. Father, you discipline the ones You love. Forgive my contemptuous hubris; Your high call requires my very best, period.

GOD OF WONDERS

How curious it is to attempt to judge the acts of God with mortal minds. His being is immeasurable, His image beyond sight. Words are wholly insufficient to describe His uncontainable power or the riches of His glory. His unbounded wisdom, unflagging love and ceaseless goodness tower above all human capacity to grasp. Lord, I have no questions worthy of Your answers; it is enough to bow in humble adoration and proclaim how great You are; Creator of All Things, the Seer of the Unseen, Healer of the Deepest Wounds, Defender of the Helpless and the Guardian of the Unguarded, to You be the glory now and forever.

TRUTH AND LIGHT

I love the unique sense of hope and anticipation my heart feels as dawn approaches. When morning light breaks, previously obscured details are openly exposed. Light, like truth, reveals the formerly unseeable. It is commonly said: “truth hurts.” Yes it does, but not as much as deception. I cannot honestly say that I always welcome the truth easily, but ultimately, I love truth, I need truth, I want truth. When truth bathed in love arrives to the tormented heart, it cleanses the soul and lifts our hearts like nothing else. You, O Lord, are Truth and Love Incarnate, may Your Light fill me afresh this day.

GOD CONFIDENCE

Confidence is a vital necessity for reaching our potential. However, the constant focus of the self-obsessed ideology of our day is self-confidence. Self-confidence is synonymous with foolishness. It is a house built on sand. God-confidence is a much sturdier foundation. The God enamored person faces every tempest with calm assurance, knowing the Greater One is always present. Seemingly impossible challenges can be met with amazing peace when one fully trusts in the Almighty. Lord of Glory, You must increase, I must decrease. I can do all things, but only in Your strength, not my own. Deliver me from mortal pride.

A CHILD NO LONGER

When I was a small child our family would occasionally take long road trips and I would spend hours looking out the back or side window. My father would usually drive and I never concerned myself with where we were headed, I just watched the world pass by with little concern for the passing scenery. I am a child no longer and can ill afford to simply stare out the window since I am now responsible for the world around me. Gracious Father, You have entrusted me with the power to see and the power to act. Deliver me from childish passivity and use me to advance Your will in the earth.

REPUDIATION OF DOUBT

I am far more familiar with the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” than the “Mountain of Transfiguration”. Like an unwelcome stranger hanging too close, apprehension is the constant companion of faith. Faith is not applied with absence of doubt; rather, each step forward in faith is a repudiation of doubt. Ultimately we must learn that faith does not rely upon circumstances, nor is it limited by circumstances. Lord God Almighty, stormy gales, sinking sands nor impenetrable walls can match Your command. Take my hand as I traverse shadowy trails and bind my heart to Your unfailing promises.

NOTHING HIDDEN

My weaknesses cannot be hidden from God. But why would I want them concealed when only He has the power to transform me? His approach is stern yet filled with infinite compassion. Even the slightest sincerity brings the hosts of heaven charging toward our wounded hearts. The Divine intent of our Maker and Redeemer is unrelenting and extravagant, pursuing every corruption that loads down our souls. Father, though my vain acts continue, Your Mercy and Grace always find me. I renounce my earthly ways and cry out for deliverance from human frailty. You, O Lord, are Life and Salvation.

GOD'S HOLY GRIP

Having the steady hand of a teacher draped over my own as I learned to write never seemed confining. Actually, the opposite was true; the gentle, firm guidance of my teacher’s hand liberated me to boldly attempt what had been very difficult on my own. And now, as a grown man, I do not resent the hand of God guiding my life. While I am still prone to strike out on my own, it is far better to fall into the grasp of Almighty God than into the hands of any other. O Lord my Teacher and Guide, into Your Holy Grip I gladly yield. Guide my choices according to what is best and move me as You will.

ROAD TRIP

We would pile our four children into a vehicle to take road trips. What a crazy, fun, maddening, soul stretching affair that was! After days of planning, preparation, packing and one last headcount we were off. I was always surprised how swiftly everything became so chaotic. Spiritual progress is no different. The road to victory is very messy and offers many exit ramps. The trip itself can be very disorienting since success rarely looks like success until after it is achieved. Lord, grant me grace to finish my course smiling. Help me enjoy the scenery along the detour and be patient with the pace.

THE RIGHT STUFF

I have often begun work on a project around the house without understanding what was needed to finish. Multiple trips to the hardware store is often the result. However, when I know all that I will need before beginning the work is much easier and the job is done right. Doing homework before beginning makes all the difference. Spiritual work is no different. I can stumble my way through for lack of preparation, or I can turn first to the Master Craftsman. Father, You always have the right tools, materials and sequence. Teach me Your ways and lead me by Your wisdom.

DIVINE IMPULSE

Every good thing done by mankind is preceded by divine impulse; God is its origin. No pride may be taken in a single righteous act since it can only be done under His guidance and grace. I am still amazed at how easily I slip into pretentious vainglory when sharing my victories with others. Even while acknowledging God, somehow I still try to find a way to take at least some credit. It is no wonder that I must die daily; every vestige of self-exaltation being nailed to the tree. Righteous Lord, annihilate my arrogance by the Cross, that I may humbly do good and rightly give You all glory.

THE BITTER TRUTH

King Saul’s bitterness ultimately destroyed him. Many people seem to delight in sowing discord. Like wounded animals, their own pain gives impulse to attacking others randomly; the slightest inconvenience, misunderstanding or disagreement detonating rage. Hatred attempts to establish permanent residence, but God will have none of that. The heart surrendered to the Lover of Our Souls is more than a match for bitter indignation. Gracious Father, expunge all lingering vitriol within me. Rip away every root of bitterness and fill my heart with Your unquenchable love and mercy.

CUSTOM DESIGNED

In a world of mass production, custom design is all the rage. Yet, when it comes to spiritual matters we all too often just follow the crowd. No one else can protect my heart from following after the wrong things. Only I can surrender my decisions to God; depending on others to do what only I can is not only foolish, it is deadly. What may be permissible for another person could be disastrous for me. I must allow God’s Word and Spirit to custom design my daily walk. O Lord My Keeper, help me dwell safely in Your protective care. Corral my straying heart and bind me to Your will alone.

THE FINEST OF GIFTS

A few years ago, an elder brother pulled me aside to encourage me. This was not some garden-variety flattery; he obviously planned it and presented clear, precise, well-thought-out points. I still remember the kind and thoughtful gift he gave me that day. I have received many gifts over a lifetime, but most are long forgotten. But not that gift, it is still with me and remains treasured. Today, I will have fresh opportunities to promote, encourage, lift, love and appreciate others. Lord, in Your Goodness, endow me with authentic love and make me a source of blessing to those around me.

CROSSROADS

I come to crossroads of decision daily. Wisdom is always there like a friendly farmer at a roadside produce stand; easily seen if you look, lots of fruit simply waiting to be chosen and the counsel of the one who personally nurtured it from seed to table.  I want to stop and browse, but with so much to do I drive forward in a rush, often to my own harm. Life’s choices require God’s input. Substituting my own judgment for that of the Lord of Ages is foolhardy. Father of All Wisdom, forgive my impertinent haste. Help me to take the time to seek Your Face and choose wisely. Thank You for Your unmatched wisdom offered freely to those who seek it.

NO GRUDGES

I am thankful that God does not hold grudges against His children. While I have rightfully felt His displeasure at my failures, one true tear of repentance opens the floodgate of His forgiveness. His anger lasts but a moment but His favor endures for a lifetime; sorrow may fill the night but overwhelming joy comes at daybreak. Since my Redeemer washes away my constant failings, who am I to hold hatred toward those who have harmed me? Father, though I fall short of Your greatness, Your favor remains. Cleanse my soul of all acrimony toward others and teach me Your ways.

GREATER THINGS

The journey of faith leads us higher and higher. The pathway to greater things is not a superhighway; it is a steep, perilous climb requiring back-to-the-wall inching along the edge, casting away everything but the absolutely essential, squeezing through single-space passages and pushing far beyond what seems possible. Frankly, the path to greater things is not all that great, but the rarified air of the spiritual heights of obedience makes the journey worthwhile. You, O Lord are the High and Lofty One, lead me to higher ground. I cast aside the lesser that I may take hold of the greater.