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Showing posts from November, 2015

FROM SORROW TO DANCING

The pain of great loss is bitter, but even more so when accompanied by betrayal. Whether in lofty halls of power or the steaming jungles of a rain forest, every human heart is tested by these flaming arrows. It is impossible to construct a barrier against the probability of a broken heart. Though avoidance is impossible, there is a pathway out of agony. While others are distanced by our deep sorrows, “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted.” O Lord Our Helper, You comfort our hearts and drive our grief far away. You reassure us in our pain, wipe away our tears and turn our sorrows into dancing.

LOOSE LIVING

There is an unexplainable freedom in the painful discovery that nothing in this life is permanent. The human soul was created to live in eternal covenant and longs for things that last; so much so that we stubbornly ignore the temporariness of this world. We pretend that earthly things are more transcendent than they can possibly be, then feel shocked when they are not. Eternal Father, You alone are boundless. You have set eternity in our hearts that we may rightly measure this life. Help me hold temporary things of this world loosely while gripping eternal things with all my might.

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, the kind that God alone endows, brings knowledge and understanding into proper alignment with His perfect application, positioning me for His best. Oh Lord, from Whom all true knowledge, understanding and wisdom 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.

A STRONG FINISH

A cemetery is not only a place of honoring those who have passed; sadly, it is also a depository of unspent potential. The apostle Paul predetermined he would not leave anything unfinished when he departed this life. I was with my spiritual father, Costa Deir just before his earthly race was completed. Though dying, he was still writing, preaching, counseling, praying and mentoring, all from his in-home hospital bed. I was enlightened in his death as I had been in his life. Eternal Father, help me finish strong, leaving no potential unspent. Lord, may advancing Your Kingdom consume my last reserves.

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 should not be corralled into moments when we feel obliged; gratefulness and praise must become 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.

HAPPILY DEFEATED

As a twelve-year-old Boy Scout, I was almost defeated by distance. Our troop was taken on a 20-mile hike in the heat of summer. We learned that we could go much farther than we believed possible. I have since learned “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength”. All but one thing; I cannot out distance His love. After repeatedly passing through impossible circumstances as “more than a conqueror” I am utterly overcome by His Love. Loving Father, I am not a wandering exile, You call me by name, You claim me as Your own. I am happily defeated by Your immeasurable love.

INCORRUPTABLE 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 the LORD. Even 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.

PATHWAY TO POWER

Our true measure of strength is best discovered in times of deep trouble or in times of great accomplishment. Should we falter in either we discover what we had previously imagined as strength is revealed as something far less. The tests of life are not our enemies; they are our instructors, our coaches.  Metal is forged in the furnace and so are we. The journey of moving from human muscle to divine fortitude is the pathway to God’s unlimited power. Dearest Father, You are The Lord Our Strength, Our Rock, Our Fortress and Our Deliverer. Forgive my attempts to make it on my own.

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.

TREK THROUGH THE DESERT

Flying over the Sahara Desert, the world’s largest at 3.3 million square miles is an amazing and daunting sight. It seems to go on forever, but every desert has its boundaries; though at times it may feel like it, wastelands do not go on endlessly. The lesson here is simple, never give up through a long desert trek. God’s love and provision are limitless, carrying us through even the most extensive wasteland. Lord, Your goodness and mercies accompany my journey and green horizons await me. I will not despair for You are always with me. Your Presence is my daily oasis.

THE LORD'S REBUKE

I do not resent the Lord’s rebuke. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it at the time, but I realize that His discipline is a necessary expression of His unfailing love. Without His restraining hand and supervision I would run wildly off track and would surely settle for less than His best. He will have none of that. The Love of God keeps a constant eye on every move, chases us down when we stray and pulls us back from ruin. He takes hold and never lets go. Holy Lord, You are my Father, Your corrections are blessings and Your Holy Hand of discipline proclaims Your delight in us as Your children.

THE CURTAIN RISES

Nightfall is like a stage curtain’s drop after the last scene of a play. With daybreak, the curtain rises on what is now ahead. The audience must give thought to, but not dwell on the last scene. Attention must now be given to what is unfolding ahead. I usually let each day begin fresh, but already I realize that I am still dwelling on some of yesterday's concerns. This will not do. Anxiety about the past or the future can obstruct necessary moves forward and neutralize God's daily whisperings. Blessed Father, I must hear from You today. Forgive my moments of worry as I now cast my cares upon You. I will listen carefully for your directions.

ANCHOR POSITION

We each tend to romanticize the distant past; sometimes wishing we could have lived in Biblical times or at moments of great spiritual revivals. But in doing so we may mischaracterize the critical time in which we live. There are many different types of athletic relay races, but they all employ a similar strategy, the last leg is considered the anchor position; the finisher must go fastest. What if we are in the last leg? What if God has chosen us “for a time such as this”? Is this our Esther moment? Heavenly Father, help me stay focused on the race at hand. Make me a fast finisher and grant me grace and strength to run with an undivided heart.

WINDOW SHOPPING

All of us have spiritual imagination. It brings a joyful sense of purpose to think about what it would be like to serve God on a greater level. We see people in the Bible or others we admire and visualize ourselves doing the same things. But spiritual imagination is a lot like window-shopping; nothing really happens until we step through the door. God offers us things like good works, spiritual disciplines, sacraments and steps of faith to propel us through the door, turning window-shopping into action. Glorious God, pull me in. Use me today in greater measure. Deliver me from fear of stepping forward.

GOODNESS GRACIOUS

The more I understand of the grace of God the more I am amazed by it. The manifold grace of God is saturated with truth, life, mercy, patience, power, persistence and limitless love. My brokenness invites it, my pride resists it and my future depends on it. I, of necessity, count upon a limitless supply of grace yet often struggle to offer it freely to others. I’m still a greenhorn I suppose, but heaven will offer sufficient time to fully grasp it all. Gracious Lord, open my heart to receive and offer Your grace without measure and without restraint. Help me to offer Your Grace openly and freely to others.

NO FRAUD ALLOWED

A relationship with God must be absolutely genuine. In our earthly interpersonal connections, we are accustomed to holding back, all the while, doling out our true person in controlled spurts. There can be none of this with God. He knows us because He made us, therefore we cannot fool Him. In simple terms, there must be no fraud with God; cover-ups end here. What deliverance and freedom we can know and experience in unrestrained surrender and openness! Lord, You created my inmost being, You knit me together in my mother's womb and You call me by name. I am happily Yours.

FULL ABANDON

Doing God’s will does not depend upon perfect conditions. In fact, negative circumstances are practically a requirement for things done in faith. If something is easily within grasp faith is not essential, but seeing and doing the impossible requires taking action on what is not yet seen. As I step forward in faith I usually have only fragments of clarity, not the whole picture. Trusting God to pull the pieces together while navigating through obstacles is both cleansing and exhilarating. Father, thank You for the unique joy faith brings. Grant me grace to live in full abandon to Your will.

HERE WE GO AGAIN

A seasonal shift brings change in the air; almost unperceivable at first, then obvious signs emerge. I love how God works in both Nature and in my life. There is always something afoot. Just as I settle down new seasons arrive unannounced and everything begins to change; grace for where I have trod recedes, grace for what is next appears. I can uselessly complain or I can take hold of what is ahead. There is no future in the past. Lord of All Creation, acclimate my heart to what now approaches. Grant me increased capacity to accept a new measure of grace for this new season. More of You, less of me.

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 there 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, have Your own way. You are the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Your will while I am waiting, yielded and still.

BY FAITH

The simple biblical phrase “by faith” opens a universe of understanding and divine power. By faith, I may confidently approach the Throne of Grace, despite feeling unworthy to do so. By faith, I can freely love others without the terrorizing fear of rejection or misunderstanding. By faith, I can dance through the Valley of the Darkness of Doubt with a magnificent, indestructible and irreplaceable remedy. Victorious Lord, Your faith launching promises grant me uncluttered assurance, release unbounded joy and thrust me forward in the way of everlasting! By faith, I enter this day in peace and power.

JUST THE TWO OF US

While dining in an airport restaurant, I noticed a young mother and her infant child. Though hundreds hurriedly passed by, for them, they were the only ones present, each transfixed on the other. Her obvious delight in interacting with her child made me wonder, does God delight in nurturing us?  Then I remembered: “He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Father, I am so humbled and amazed to think of You singing over us as You nurture our created purpose. Sweep me into that moment where there is only You.

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 fences me in and surrounds me like a wall. This has, at times, felt unfairly restrictive, 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. Blessed Shepherd, 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.

BARRENNESS INTO BLESSEDNESS

Several significant stories in Scripture are about barren women who could not give birth to a child of their own. In each instance, God turned their barrenness into blessedness as they bore children by the handiwork of God. The human heart is also made to birth new things. It should be a place of divine revelation and creativity, but the heart can grow dry and barren, becoming as desolate as a desert. Lord of All Creation, open the windows of heaven and make streams in the wilderness of my heart. I praise You for Your Presence that floods into my barrenness and brings forth new things.

INTENTIONAL LIVING

Life must be lived intentionally. A lazy drift down the river of life may seem appealing, but the wise choose a straight path. If I had put forth as much effort into choosing the right things as I have making excuses, I would be much farther along. Yet, I have another run at obedience to God’s will and ways; the sun will soon rise upon a new day and wisdom already is calling out. Blessed is the person who listens. Yes, Lord, I hear Your whisperings. Guide my choices and keep me from drifting out of my lane. Your instruction is more precious than rubies, nothing in this world can compare.

THE HOLY GRASP

Sunset, midnight, daybreak, high noon, the steady Hand of God turns the earth and all its inhabitants through another day. His grip is sturdy, forceful, capable and secure; my life is firmly in His Holy Grasp. As Master Artisan of the universe, nothing is missed, not one prayer unheard and not a single cry for mercy ignored as He rotates His object of love in His Blessed Hand. Lord God, Father and Creator, You behold my distracted unreadiness, yet in Your Blazing Lovingkindness, You do not turn away in disgust, instead, healing my woundedness You bring me through every trial and keep me safely in Your Hand.

STILL WATERS

Sometimes a lake can be so still everything above is nearly perfectly reflected upon it. This is what God wants of me; I too must be still and allow Him to be mirrored upon my life. My issue? Ripples. What God sees of Himself in me is too often distorted by every shifting wind. I must not allow passing circumstances to constantly ruffle me. Rather, I must permit His abiding peace to calm my soul so His majesty can be seen. This is my daily battle. Father, in Your peace I have calmed myself and quieted my ambitions; I am content in Your care. Glorify Yourself in me, make me like still waters.

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 exercised with an 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, it is reckoning upon God’s unwavering Promises. 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.

SAY LESS, DO MORE

We live in an era when there is a growing chasm between words and actions. It seems the proliferation of so many gadgets for 24/7 communications has worsened the problem. The sheer volume of things said so easily to so many contributes to falsehood. There is no duplicity in God, what He says, He does. He ”watches over His Word to perform it.” It is time to say less and do more. Lord of Truth and Action, help me to live by deeds rather than mere words. Purge from me all that is false. May my love for others be honest and my words bathed in wisdom, grace and truth.

INNOCENSE LOST, RIGHTEOUSNESS GAINED

While standing in line at a checkout, an elderly gentleman motioned to a sleeping infant and asked me: “wouldn’t you love to have a conscious that clear?” Innocence cannot be retrieved once lost. Yet for those who come to know the boundless mercy of God and the inexhaustible sufficiency of our redemption, something even more wonderful is revealed, we are granted “righteousness consciousness.” In the divine exchange, our Savior took upon Himself our condemnation and bestowed upon us His right standing. Most Merciful Father, in Christ alone there is peaceful rest in Your transforming arms.