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DUMPING HAPPINESS

Since human happiness is rooted in earthly circumstances, it is temporal; It comes and goes with ebbs and flows like tidal waters. Over a lifetime we learn to anticipate its departure soon after its arrival since we know that circumstances never stay the same. The Joy of the Lord is very different however. Unlike circumstantial happiness, the Joy of God sticks and grows since it is rooted in the Eternal One. Joy is not frivolous giddiness; instead, it brings deep gladness, exquisite texture and is loaded with extras. Lord, I'm dumping human happiness. I love Your joy, no cheap substitute will suffice. You are my Joy and Crown.

GOOD JUDGEMENT

Discretion is a precious gift from God. If I ignore its protection I suffer the consequences. Just because I can say or do something doesn’t mean I should. The lack of discretion in modern culture harms us all. Time spent with thoughtful people increases my tendency to make responsible decisions and guards me from inappropriate recklessness. Good judgment does not lock us away from the world around us, but empowers us to walk safely in every circumstance. Giver of All Wisdom, grant me foresight and good sense today. Guard my mouth and actions by Your Spirit and Word.

TRUTH HURTS

No one likes to be singled out for their viewpoints, and we are biblically commanded: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men”. However, the fact is, taking biblical stances is confrontational. No matter how you cut it, truth is inconvenient and adversarial, even when delivered in earnest love. We should not be intentionally insensitive or unnecessarily harsh, but frankly, truth hurts. That’s right; truth hurts, then heals and delivers us from the things that destroy us. Lord of Truth and Light, though it may sting, send Your Word to every corner of my heart. Cleanse me of every falsehood and deception. Make me a vessel of light to others.

SEASIDE DELIGHT

Most of my life I have lived near an ocean. Perhaps the fascination and magnetic hold it has is its similarity to its Designer and Creator. The sea offers unlimited bounty, yet its rewards remain mostly unseen until they surface. There is mystery and beauty, great power and peaceful bliss. The ocean cannot be controlled, nor defied, but it will carry those who enter it to unimagined new places. Great and Mighty God, Giver of Life, I thank You for revealing something of Yourself in the things You’ve created. I stand in awe of Your power and majesty, and am eternally thankful for Your bounty and blessings.

A FORCED MARCH

There are times when I feel like I am a soldier on a forced march through barren desert. While most trials are shared with many others, sometimes our journey can feel like a private purgatory. God’s desire for me to be more like Him requires that I pass this way. Biblical prophets passed through the desert, the Hebrews marched the sands of the Sinai, even the Savior was “led by the Spirit into the wilderness”. A protracted, severe trial is a pristine environment for faith and faithfulness to develop. Lord, I am willing to walk this way when You desire it. Strengthen me that I may walk the distance. Provoke me to remember others as they too pass this way. In Your mercy, make greater faith and faithfulness my reward.

TRAVERSING FOGGY BOTTOM

Fog can change a trip through otherwise familiar territory into a netherworld of trepidation. While engulfed in a ground cloud we must strain to see details that could easily be seen in normal conditions. Foggy surroundings force us to focus our attention away from what we would LIKE to see to what we NEED to see. In those moments, less important things fade into the background but urgent needs are amplified. There is a life lesson here; we must be laser-focused on what really matters. Holy Spirit, help me today to focus more carefully on what You want me to see each moment. Cause the non-essentials whirling by to drift into the background. Open my eyes LORD.

WORDS OF LIFE

The words we speak cause life to spring forth or inflict painful withering. As Scripture declares: “death and life are in the power of the tongue”. We cannot walk back careless words once they are spoken, nor can we reconstruct the timely moments we miss. Therefore, our tongue must be bridled, trained and guided by God’s Word and Spirit. As did the angels in their yuletide announcement long ago, our words should bring good tidings of great joy to all. O Lord My Master and Teacher, make my mouth an instrument of Your Love. Atune my heart, and the words that proceed from it, with the Word of Life.

NEVER ALONE

My earthly excursion must be trod on mountaintops and through deep valleys alike; each day brings gains and losses. My goal is to please God, yet it is difficult to take hold of eternal things while constantly immersed in the temporal.  Unruly sin and lingering regret accompany my pilgrimage, but mercy and forgiveness deliver me daily. His Word and Spirit trounce the ravages of carnal intrusions, His Goodness transforming “all things”, even the worst of circumstances, for “our good”. Glory to You Lord! You walk within us, before us, behind us, beneath us, above us and around us. We never, ever walk alone.

A GOOD WORD

No matter how things look on the outside, there is always more going on than meets the eye. Anytime you around others you can be sure, someone needs affirmation or encouragement. I try to stay on the hunt for those who may need a good word. What I have discovered is that speaking encouraging words is a skill that grows in effectiveness with practice. Frankly, I too am lifted by lifting others, but it cannot be rightly done with a selfish motive. Sometimes, I feel the breath of God in those privileged moments when His love is reaching out to someone’s secret pain or need through me. Oh Lord, Lover of Souls, use me today to speak a good word to someone’s heart.

THE SEARCH

Little children are curious and busy, always trying to figure out how things work. As we grow older we continue this search, attempting to investigate and comprehend the mysteries of life and death, our divine purpose and to understand God Himself. However, though we constantly try, the unfathomable majesty of God cannot be measured or understood by human senses alone. He, whose greatness extends beyond the heavens on high and the depths below, must be pursued by faith and revealed In His times and ways. Father, awaken authentic, childlike faith within me. May my journey toward enlightenment be free of the shadows of self-reliance and always guided by Your Word and Spirit.

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.

DANGEROUS DISRESPECT

“God so loved the world”; such powerful words that openly reveal our Heavenly Father’s motivations toward mankind. 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.

PRECIOUS MOMENTS

Time is precious. Once past, a moment of time can never be relived, nor can a future moment be coaxed into the present. But the fixed state of time is no barrier for the LORD Almighty; the Alpha and Omega has equal access to every moment, past, present and future. This means His redemptive work on Calvary has no bounds. At the same instant the LORD repairs my past failures, He is at work cleaning up their lingering effects on today and every day ahead. His Power knows no bounds, His Love no limits and His Presence no confinement. Glory to God in the Highest and indescribable shalom to His children! SELAH!

I CAN!

The deepest darkness of night cannot hold back the morning light, nor can even the most difficult circumstances restrain hope. I am not referring to the garden-variety of hope wishful thinking produces; I am talking about hope that is firmly rooted in God’s Promises. The Word of God is an inexhaustible fountain of faith, hope and love from which I may freely drink at all times. A life built upon Scripture comes fully loaded. The very thought of the transcendent “I AM” dispels my fears and grants instant, unmitigated assurance. Lord God Almighty, You are the great “I AM”, and in that faith-releasing declaration my heart knows “I CAN” do all things through Your strength.

UNWASHED HANDS

As surely as eating with unwashed hands can lead to sickness, over-exposure to irreverential ungodliness leaves us susceptible to infection within our soul. Unfiltered pursuits and constant self-indulgence belong to the perishing, but wisdom and discernment are provided by knowledge only intentional godliness can provide. These powerful gifts furnish us with protection from both external and internal corruption. Like guardrails along a cliffside highway, the disciplines of servanthood and faithfulness create a barrier against meandering into spiritual danger and falling away. O Lord My Protector, grant Your Wisdom this day. Guard my heart and actions with Your Word and Spirit. Make me a constant source of life to others.

GRUDGE FREE

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. As the psalmist declares: “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 so freely 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 of grudge-free love.

RELIABLE FORCASTS

Where I live a winter rain almost always announces a change in temperature as cold fronts push down from the north and warm fronts push up from the south. But without the forecasts of highly experienced specialists with sophisticated equipment, the coming changes are difficult to accurately predict. The same is true of spiritual progress. I am dependent upon the reliability and accuracy of the Spirit and Word of God along with the sage wisdom of those who have trod holy ground before me. With time and practice, I too, can reliably see into the unseen. Dearest Alpha and Omega, Thank You for Your Holy Instruments and the testimony and imparted wisdom of those who have gone before us. May our fruitfulness be worthy of their sacrifices.

KIDS R US

I am continually amazed at how little I actually know about God. Each new discovery opens another universe of more to know. Children seem to have the advantage in divine discovery since they are not encumbered with a need to know how it all works. Interestingly, as I grow older I seem to be reverting back to a childlike approach. It is reassuring to realize that this whole process of spiritual growth is in God’s hands and not my own. He initiates the divine spark in us and guides the process of learning; His Word and Spirit navigating us through inexplicable mystery. Father, You have brought me thus far, I hunger for more. Teach me Your ways and help me be faithful to teach 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 now 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.

THE FINISH

There are those who are convinced they have run their course just before the final leg. A good start and a strong race doesn’t matter in the end, it is only the finish that truly matters. The Apostle Paul’s words ring as powerful today as they did two millennia ago: “I fought a good fight, I kept the faith!” Keeping the faith in spite of what appears as certain defeat is the pathway to the supernatural. Good finishers are overcomers. Lord Above, You open the windows of heaven to those who do not quit. My passionate aim is to fight the good fight and finish the race till at last I fall into Your Arms.

A PILGRIM'S PROGRESS

Each time I think I understand God’s ways and means He turns the diamond; new facets of His splendor emerge and my perspective is advanced. For the true believer there is no settling down where we are in this life, every pilgrim must progress. Not only am I satisfied in this constantly changing status, I am genuinely thankful for it. I am being pulled toward eternal purpose that I cannot fathom but instinctively know awaits me. Lord, though I struggle in Your arms, You never let me go. Keep me moving toward Your perfect will. Help me never miss a turn or stop unnecessarily. Keep me progressing toward Your perfect will.

SURROUNDED

I awake today just steps from the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem. On my mind this morning is my first ascent into the Holy City many years ago. It surprised me how she is spread over deep valleys and poised 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 inhabitants as they traverse its hallowed streets. I pray that Your people everywhere in every corner of the earth will know and trust Your promises and surrounding love.

BEING FOLLOWED

Working in Russia in the early 90’s made being followed a normal part of life. I am still being followed; Goodness and Mercy will follow after me until every last strand of resistance to God’s ways will succumb to their advance. The Goodness and Mercy of God require no preconditions. By the time we need mercy, nothing more can be done to deserve it, but that is why only mercy will do. We who know little of unconditional love, struggle with the very idea that God offers such goodness without stipulations. Most Merciful and Gracious God, You bear no grudges and offer the way of life to the undeserving, do Your holy work in me today.

OPEN CHANNEL

I truly treasure the times when I can sense God’s love flowing freely through me to others. In those divinely chosen occasions, I realize something unearthly, something heavenly is happening. His love should always flow through me unencumbered, but sadly, perpetual self-awareness and pressings needs regularly restrict its unobstructed passage. But in those occasions when the channel is open wide, His Divine Passion passes through unobstructed and I myself am more exhilarated and deeply fulfilled than at any other time. Lord, forgive me for monopolizing Your love by my neediness. Help me be a constantly open channel.

THE FOG OF WAR

The battlefield presents constant dangers that accelerate disorientation and fear in its participants, clouding their judgment. 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 combat zone. When cherished places become battlegrounds the fog of war can cause allies to attack one another. These moments require calm confidence and good communications. Trust gained with others in the good times can protect us through life’s skirmishes. Father, help me recognize that You are my Commander in Chief and Your people are not the enemy. Keep me rightly focused in battle.

LOVE STUDY

Love requires deep analysis; seeking to understand is a hallmark of love. A mother loves her child for many reasons, but one powerful source of her love is that she studies her child. Her intense desire to understand this tiny new person in her arms requires more than a mere glance or a passive ear. Real love requires study. If I want to dismiss people I don't understand I can choose ignorance and simply place them in a prejudiced category I have available and leave them there. God never does that. Instead, His Eye is constantly upon us, His ears attuned to our slightest whimper. And as Father of All, He requires that we, as his children, seek to understand the other objects of His love. Lord increase my love for You and for Your children.

COMPELLED

When something is compelling enough, people usually find a way to make it happen. It is embarrassing to admit how often shallow pursuits compel me rather than things of eternal importance. 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. While rest, relaxation and entertainment are not evil, I do not want to stand before God in heaven having squandered the opportunities He graciously offers me now. Lord of All, You are perfectly balanced in all that You do. Help me to properly steward all opportunities and resources You have provided according to Your will and pleasure.

WORLD CHANGERS

Most people would like to make an impact on the world around them, but it seems so overwhelming a task. Is it really? An avalanche begins with the movement of one single object. You may be the ignition point of something amazing. Inspired ideas launched by passionate commitment and steady advance changes the trajectory of things. I have had the privilege of being around quite a few world changers over a lifetime. Some are natural rock stars, but frankly, most are amazingly ordinary; it is their stubborn relentlessness to make something special happen that is the difference. Lord, in Your Mercy move my heart that I may be used to move others.

REST WHILE RUNNING

Spiritual laziness is a constant nemesis. It is easy to be tricked into thinking that Christian activity is spiritual fervor. David had been a successful king for quite a while when “at the time of battle” he was in the palace instead of where he belonged. His moral fall with Bathsheba happened when he was enjoying the fruit of his efforts while ignoring his responsibility to remain at the battlefront. Each of us needs rest, but more importantly, we must learn to rest while we run. We must disengage from our own efforts but never from our daily obedience and obligations to our calling. Oh Lord my Keeper, deliver me from worldly contentment. In all my ways pull me toward You.

LIFE AND DEATH

What comes out of my mouth has more effect on my life and the lives of those around me than most anything else. As powerful as we know words are, we often carelessly spew them out to our own harm or that of others. On the other hand, we often fail to release the power of life and blessing that words contain. Simply stated, life and death are in the tongue. Since my mouth speaks from the overflow of my heart, I must fill it with truth and bathe my lips in love. Holy Father, my lips are Yours. Make my mouth a portal of life, not death and my words a fountain of blessing, not harm.

SHINE

I don’t think the world is actually getting darker; there is simply less light shining into it. We are biblically chastened to not put our “lamp under a bowl.” Simply stated, the light God has shined upon us must be displayed to the people around us; the darker the environment the more easily even the smallest light is seen. One reason we shade our lamp is the embarrassment we feel for the flaws we still have, but our message is about His perfection, not our own. Father of Light and Love, blow away the clouds of doubt and shine through me to the world around me today and always.

THE AROMA OF HEAVEN

It is a delightful mystery how an aroma can transport me to a different place. Somehow, fragrances bind themselves with events, places and people. A passing scent can return me to my great grandmother’s home when I was but a child, or awaken a lost memory long forgotten, or activate an emotion that I did not know I held in secret. Interestingly, in both the Old and New Testaments our prayers are likened to “incense”. What sometimes seem like feeble earthly prayers are received as a heavenly fragrance before the throne of the King of the Universe. 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. Lord, hear my prayer.

HIDDEN HATRED

The oldest underground fire in the world is within “Burning Mountain” a hill near New South Wales, Australia; it is estimated to be six-thousand-years old. Incredibly, “coal seam fires” are actually quite common, along with other subsurface fires. Hatred operates much like an underground fire and can last a lifetime. Sometimes it is fiery flame that all can see, but mostly it smolders just underneath the surface. Hatred is an insidious, destructive and dangerous intruder in the heart of a lover of God. I have both hated and been hated; it is evil and a game of fools. While avoiding the hatred of others is nearly impossible, as believers, we can be free from its internal harm or lasting effects through God’s forgiveness and mercy. Lord, purge my heart of hidden hatred and snuff out every ember.

RECKLESS

So many problems are rooted in reckless thoughts that tumble from our lips as reckless words. Only fools believe that we should say whatever we think. Every thought must first be brought under obedience to the Word and Spirit of the Everlasting One. Unfiltered speculations must not be allowed to roam freely in our minds and should never exit our mouths. Things spoken become life or death to the speaker and hearer; therefore they require God’s constant guidance.  Lord of Love and Truth, may all my thoughts be surrendered to You. Help me guard my tongue and let love rule my heart.

NEVER ALONE

I can never, ever walk alone; there simply is no place, anywhere, where God is not present. While in moments of foolishness I may ignore His Presence or like Adam and Eve after their fall, attempt to hide from His Presence, but He will never ignore mine. All that seems far beyond my reach is safely held in the palm of His hand. What is incalculable for me is already tallied by the One Who Was, and Is, and Is To Come. There is no cry He cannot hear, no pain beyond His healing, no enemy beyond His victorious power, no darkness greater than His radiance. Father of Mercy, Lord of Grace, You are worthy of all praise and majesty forever!!

TOES IN THE WATER

It is said: “opportunity knocks”, but I would add: “it doesn’t stand at the door knocking very long”. While maturity and experience offer the potential of more accurate discernment, they can also make us increasingly adverse to risk. Too much over-thinking, calculation and caution can keep us from moving forward. Love requires risk, faith demands bravery. There is no escape from Egypt’s hold without stepping into the Red Sea’s waters; there is no inheritance of The Promise Land until our toes touch the Jordan’s sands. Father, help me make the most of the opportunities You bring. O Lord My Guide, keep me moving forward.

THE DEADLY EVIL OF ENVY

Oddly, we admire the success of someone we don’t know, but envy the success of someone we do. Like mildew in a dark, wet place, malice grows quickly in the heart that harbors jealousy, emptying the soul of joy, peace and purpose. It is a deadly evil. From there it is a slippery slope from witty criticisms to skillful, malicious rumormongering and malignant dismembering of the reputations of others. To covet someone else’s life is disavowal of God’s care and purpose for our own. O Lord, My Healer, eradicate from my soul all envy, jealousy and malice. May thankfulness be my constant companion and joyfulness the dominant factor in every thought, word and deed.

THE RIGHT THING

Doing the right thing is never done in a vacuum; there are always other things pulling on us in that moment. Personal interests must be conceded each time good is chosen over evil. The confusing fog of self-justification can be an amazingly powerful elixir, but the love walk sobers us faster than a dip in an icy spring. Letting love be our guide not only makes good choices desirable, walking in love makes doing the right thing consistently achievable. Failures remind me I am still a rookie, but I am confident God will finish His work in me. Loving Father, Your love never fails. Dispel the darkness of self-centeredness and fortify me with Your Word of Grace.

BARRENNESS TO BLESSEDNES

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.

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. Examine my heart and give me wisdom to act fairly and with a voice devoid of selfish motives.

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 humble 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 vanquished in Your Glorious Presence. My heart and mind are at rest cherishing the one and only “blessed fear”.

THE BATTLEFIELD

Over my lifetime things have clearly changed in society when it comes to spiritual things. I grew up in a neighborhood wherebelief in God was pretty much the only reality. Our collective worldview left little room for spiritual choices other than personal devoutness or denominational identity. But, even in such a pro-belief atmosphere, choosing moment-by-moment surrender was just as intense as it is now. In the final analysis, it is not our external environment that makes the difference. Father, deliver me from failed excuses and strengthen me for the daily battlefield. Keep me in position and at the ready to do Your will in Your way at all times.

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 immediately gives life a different perspective. As I have progressed from trees, to roofs, to mountains to airplanes the fascination with an elevated view has never waned. In fact, it is imprinted on my soul from He who is “high and lifted up”! As King David’s heart grew faint, he cried out: “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” The prophet Elijah was “taken up in a whirlwind”. Yes! Lord God Most High, draw me to Your heavenly perspective on all things.

KUDOS AND CRITIQUES

Over a lifetime I have received a steady supply of accolades and criticisms. Both are needed in life, the first granting encouragement and relief, the second bringing needed perspective and potential to be better. In either case, it is wise to not breathe in too deeply when kudos or critiques are in the air. It is far better to allow the Holy Spirit and Holy Writ to filter commendations, condemnations or anything in between. Lord Almighty, Your voice speaks in so many ways yet always brings life and hope. Help me hear You always in everything. I long to hear Your Words of Life Everlasting.

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.

WEIGH MY HEART

God cannot be fooled. It seems ridiculous to say it, but I have tried; self-justification is such a fundamental element of the human condition that we are blind to its techniques. Strangely, we can see it in others with pinpoint accuracy; yet struggle to see it in ourselves. As Scripture declares: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes”. Feigned piety is no help at all since it too is nothing more than another form of self-generated fraud. The triple-punch of Scripture, Spirit and covenant fellowship with serious believers can purge us of self-deception.  Lord, weigh my heart. Shine Your Light throughout my soul and help me take my finger off the scale.

WELCOME AS A TOOTHACHE

Some relationships are as welcome as a toothache, yet a painful tooth is itself a vital message that something is wrong and needs immediate attention. Unseen cracks, hidden decay, gum disease or root fractures are all reasons for pain and all reasons to get help. It occurs to me that God uses people, often to my consternation, to expose my cracks, decay, fractures and root issues. While I like neither the diagnosis nor the healing procedures, I am genuinely thankful for the necessary fixes. Father, thank You for sending people and circumstances into my life to uncover my need for Your help and healing.

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, however most are long forgotten. But not that gift, it is still with me and remains treasured. Yet, this gift I can re-gift to others time and time again. 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.

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 where entirely unreformed. My confessions are increasingly raw since I may no longer cast blame upon anything or anyone but my own stubborn 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 Redeemer, Your grace pours forth like summer rains, bringing new life to my hungry soul. Your unequivocal, inexhaustible forgiveness triumphs again and again.

GUARDED AFFECTIONS

Occasionally, there are news stories about bags of money falling from an open door of a moving armored truck. I always wonder how in the world this happens since the entire purpose of an armored car is to protect valuable things; leaving the door unlocked is self-defeating. The same can be said of my affections. I cannot motor around life with my heart openly exposed. No, my affections must be managed. To guard one’s heart is not to close it, rather, it is to protect it with God’s Word and infilling Spirit. Lord God, You are My Fortress and Deliverer. In Your Mercy, Guard my affections with Your Mighty Hand.

GRIEF NOT GLOATING

Why would David grieve after King Saul’s death? After all, he had spent years as Saul’s target of hatred. The Bible warns: “do not gloat when your enemy falls”. But why not? Difficulty in relationships is common, but sometimes they spin into a sticky web of love-hate battles for control. Gloating deepens the wounds in your soul while grieving begins the healing process. What if God held a grudge against our rebellion and foolishness? Instead, like the father of the prodigal son, he welcomes us with kisses and gifts. Our divided nation must now face this choice. Love must be our guide. Holy Father, grant us Your mercy. Fill our minds with wisdom, grant us charity toward one another and help us guard our hearts and mouths.

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.

DEFIANT DELAYS

Politeness is a sign of maturity and culture, but there is no such thing as polite disobedience. If it is in my power to act on God’s directives, but I choose to delay, then I am rightly held accountable. It is very simple really; we promptly serve the one we love the most. The test of love is not so much the size of our response as much as it is the speed of our love. Unrequited love is painful to the human heart, how selfish it is to inconsiderately grieve God by resisting His will. Father, You deserve my immediate surrender and obedience. Forgive me and deliver me from my defiant delays.

FREE INDEED!

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 dark and treacherous, and laden with challenges and setbacks, but breakout is possible. As in the story of Paul and Silas, inward liberty precedes outward liberty; external chains could not bind those who were already set free inside! With God’s help, my perspective can be transformed this very moment. Lord, You are the Way, the Truth and the Life and greatly to be praised. Whom You set free is free indeed!

DAILY INTRUDER

What divine protection and transformational power belong to those with a generous heart! Selfishness is a daily intruder, a bothersome and dangerous squatter. Long ago, I committed my heart to live to give, to live to lift, to live to bless, yet earthly cravings’ relentless pursuits still attempt to throw me off track. Time, talent and treasure are gifts placed into our hands by the Almighty. We are to be His hands extended to the needs around us. I am deeply thankful that this world is losing its grip on my soul. Lord, grant me a generous spirit today and deliver me from every vestige of selfishness. Help me open my heart and hands to others.

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.

A TWINKLING OF SOULFUL SURRENDER

One glance upward into a starry night immediately puts things into perspective; both our troubles and achievements, no matter how colossal they may seem, are minuscule in comparison. While engulfed in the daily grind, true perspective can be easily lost. I must remind myself throughout each day to take regular glances toward the heavens in prayerful thought and praise of the Almighty. Even a mere moment in meditation of God’s promises or a twinkling of soulful surrender lifts my heart to the heights. Lord Almighty, King of the Universe, to You be glory in all things! Grant me divine perspective to my diurnal march as I turn my eyes toward You. Help me be a light to others.

STAND DOWN

I have never been one to back down from a fight that I felt was necessary, but at times I have been drawn into battles that were not for me to fight. More occasions than I can recount, while preparing for the fight the LORD’s command is for me to wait for Him to handle the matter. This is where learning to “stand down” comes into play. Sometimes, while others cower in fear, we must run toward the giant, as did David. But at other times, like King Jehoshaphat facing an unbeatable foe, God has us stand down and send out praises to Him in obedient delay 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.

UNBRIDLED MOCKERY

I notice an increase of coarse talk everywhere. Justified criticisms that should be delivered with a coating of humility are now expressed with swift mocking and harsh judgment of motives. Unbridled tongues are harmful and dangerous for both the speaker and hearer. Love grows when a fault is exposed and forgiven, but dwelling on it destroys any chance of reconciliation; a floodgate is difficult to shut once opened. Gracious God, forgive my loose talk. I do not want to become a fool through unchecked mockery of others, nor gain Your wrath for unfairly judging those You made in Your image.

BATTLEGROUND OR PLAYGROUND?

We install security in our cars, homes and businesses. We build fences, establish security checkpoints, hire gate guards and police to secure our lives. However, the most dangerous instrument of harm is my tongue. The Scriptures declare: “life and death proceed from our mouths”, so guarding my lips guards my life and the lives of others. Since there are no “electronic lip alarms” available, 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, purify my heart and lips. Drive unholy thoughts and ways from my soul by Your Word and Spirit and destroy the enemy at its source.

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. While the “wailing show” was more easily dismissed, a silent 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 and His children. Lord of All Comfort, one small teardrop of true repentance, one tiny tear of heartbreak, unleashes angels, archangels and the company of heaven to my troubles. You turn my tears of sorrow to tears of joy!

EARLY MORNING BRIEFING

The human mind is governed by earthly needs, desires and fears, and is hostile to trusting in the unseen. The concept of a Sovereign, Caring and Attentive Shepherd of our souls is appealing, but our minds must be trained to live under a new order of life, giving first place to the Lordship and Authority of God. Understanding the true situation is a critical first step: He is Lord; I am NOT. Each day must begin with an early morning briefing with the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. Lord of All, I submit this day to Your plans and cast my concerns before You. Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. It is well with my soul.

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 requires daily adjustments and updates as well. 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, so here we go again. Precious Lord, I am thankful for Your constant work in me so that You may work more effectively through me. Divine Downloads are my urgent need and daily desire.

KINGDOM COMRADES

I deeply appreciate the depths of alliance and devotion that is formed while under fire. Relationships forged in the furnace of much affliction gain an inner strength like tempered metal. Surface disputes remain, but inwardly, a code is formed and covenant is knitted deeply into the heart. I never served in the military but I feel more in common with those who climbed Normandy’s Cliffs that than with those who only accept convenient truths and shallow devotion. Lord, grant me a warrior’s heart. Free me from temporal entanglements and bind my heart to Kingdom comrades.

FORWARD IN FAITH

As it was for Abraham, so it is for us; every step of obedient faith holds the promise of inheritance. Looking behind me adds nothing to my future, but stepping forward with my eyes on the horizon means additional promised territory.  Will I delay in unholy dependence upon my known resources or will I hear and obey? I choose the latter, renouncing the freezing effect of fear and embracing what is ahead. Stepping forward in yielded obedience is the only path to acquisition of God’s promises. O Lord my Rock, strengthen my resolve with Your divine touch. Open my eyes to the previously unseen. Guide my feet to Your chosen path.

IDEAS

Ideas come from somewhere; some are harmless, some inspired, and still others, toxic. The mind is surely our most constant battlefield. Imagination can take us to the far reaches of the universe or plunge us into the depths of squalor. For our mind to reach its God-given potential it must be managed and protected. Scripture declares: “I will put My Law in their minds, and write it on their hearts.” Only a mind that seeks God’s truth will be guarded by it. Lord, guide my mind and heart. Corral my wanderings and teach me to recognize the difference between good ideas that emanate from You and bad ideas that come from other sources. Lead me in the way of truth, life, love and purpose.

UNENDING SUPPLY

God must be honored in all we do. Honor is not merely acknowledging Him; it is offering Him our first, our best and our all. The heart that recognizes the authority, wisdom, power and goodness of “The Great I AM” will have no trouble trusting Him through both storms and temptations. We waste our efforts storing up earthly things only to see them slip away on the tides of life; but he who learns to store God’s Word in his heart will never lack. Though times of leanness come, a storehouse of Truth nestled in the soul is a continuous wellspring of life and provides what we need for every occasion. Glorious El Shaddai, to breathe Your Name expunges my soul of all fear and releases unrelenting hope and assurance! To ponder and speak Your Word is an unending supply of manna in the desert places.

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, on this new day I can make another run at obedience to God’s will and ways; the sun will soon rise and wisdom, purpose and passion for God’s Kingdom is 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.

LOVE LIFTS

“Love Lifted Me”; the simple 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 all within its reach. Love lifts. What a powerful force love truly is! By receiving and giving God’s Tender Love I can change my daily experience, even when I have limited power to change my circumstances. Love lifts. A deeper understanding of His Divine Affection opens the floodgates and empowers us to pour it out to others, even to the seemingly unlovable. Love lifts. Lord of Love, use me today as a downspout of Your amazing love. Help me offer it without limitation. I already feel the lift.

THE PERFECT STAGE

“When I am weak, He is strong.” These quizzical words from the apostle Paul contain one of the most powerful principles revealed in scripture; our inadequacies do not disqualify us from God using us. Though the kingdom of darkness would have us believe otherwise, our weaknesses, when earnestly surrendered to the Almighty, are the perfect stage on which God may reveal His mercy, wisdom and glory! When we are forced out of our own abilities is often the divinely chosen moment when the LORD manifests Himself in ways we never imagined possible. Lord God, I begin this day in such a moment. I lay my deficiencies at your feet. By Your mercy and grace, help me walk on water.

AUTHORIZED INTERRUPTION

Another day is at hand. Family, work, sick friends, urgent needs, the future, world news, weather, past mistakes, dirty car; my mind is already racing. The human soul can be more crowded than the Los Angeles freeway. King David found it necessary to command his own soul to “Bless the Lord.” Seeking God first thing in the morning and listening to His voice throughout the day lifts the anxiety of constant pressures and sets my heart on the right path. Father, infiltrate every thought that passes through my mind today. LORD, I am Your child and servant, You are the authorized interruption in every moment. May Your Presence percolate through me without restriction.

CAUSE AND EFFECT

From birth, we begin learning about cause and effect. A smile offered to an adoring mother returns another with snuggles, kisses and squeals. We learn if we do a chore we will receive a reward. Educators teach us the theories of causation in science, psychology, physics and other fields. Pastors emphasize the biblical principle of sowing and reaping. What surprises me is that after all this effort to understand, it is dumbfounding how easy it is to fail to connect the dots. The ability of the human physique to disassociate one thing from another is stunning, especially if we really want something. LORD God, help me open my heart to Your instruction. Grant me daily wisdom that my thoughts, words and deeds would please you.

GREENHOUSE EFFECT

Approaching the outskirts of Moscow in winter is a long train ride through a bitterly cold panorama of barren trees and snow-covered fields. It seems impossible that life can exist in these conditions. 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…life-giving vegetables growing strong while surrounded by a frozen landscape. Worship and praise has a greenhouse effect in our souls, providing conditions for life in the midst of a spiritually barren environment. Lord of Life, I will praise You at all times! Faith springs alive in my heart, warmed by Your Glorious Presence and Resplendent Light.

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 and each need. Gracious Lord, help me to accept and walk in Your provision of grace today and walk forward in humble expectation of Your apportioned grace for tomorrow. I trust Your perfect distribution of the grace needed.

RISING WINDS

The heavy veil of darkness will soon be driven away as daybreak unfurls. As a sail catching the wind, my soul now fills with the rising winds of a new day. I am prepared to weigh anchor and head to my designated course, but only under full direction of my Supreme Commander. I dare not choose my own ways over His, my failures at self-navigation are far too many. No, I choose to serve at the will and beckon call of my Creator, Sustainer and Guide. Lord God, King of the Universe, I commit all my ways to you today for You are wise beyond all wisdom, merciful without prejudice, generous in all things and perfect in all Your ways.

REFLECTIONS OF GOD'S GLORY

Having traveled and worked in many nations has forced me to face hidden prejudices, misunderstandings and fears within my own heart, while affording the opportunity to appreciate and learn from different cultures and languages. Our uniquenesses offer opportunities to learn more of the greatness of God since something of His nature is imprinted upon the human soul of every person in every place. Like light upon the facets of a finely cut diamond, reflections of God’s Glory shine through, even in the darkest places. Lord, in my prayers and in my travels, use my journeys to lead me to Your wonder and glory. Use me to be Your Face to those I encounter.

THE FAITH WALK

When I am absolutely sure of it, I delight to do God’s will. The challenge I often face is discerning precisely what, how and when I am to do it. While biblical declarations and the promptings of the Holy Spirit are unfailing instructors, their precise guidance is often shrouded in a host of other influences such as my own feelings, pressing circumstances and the opinions of others. Herein lies the test of trust. Like Abram seeking the Promised Land, we are at times sent forth with little but instructions for the next step; the faith walk is no more than a series of obedient steps. Lord, in your goodness, You lead us as our Father, our hand safely and firmly in Yours. In Your mercy, guide my steps this day.

THROUGH HIGHS AND LOWS

The view from the top is breathtaking, exhilarating, fresh and majestic; things that are a long distance away 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 consider my earthbound station and day-to-day duties, dwelling in the valley lacks the glamour of high places, but in its soil is true life. Lord God in the Highest, teach me faithfulness in the midst of the mundane. Thank You for the transfiguring moments of the heights that You bestow. In either case, through highs and lows, You are Good and I am at peace with Your provision.

FAMOUS LAST WORDS

“I can handle this!” These are “famous last words”, often spoken just before befalling an impending catastrophe; either forced by circumstances or self-imposed. Confidence is great if rightly placed, but hubris is the beginning of many sorrows. To run from fears leaves us in a state of relentless anxiety. To bulldoze through fears in unwarranted self-confidence can destroy us. There is a better way; to run to God with our fears is to face them and destroy them. Glorious Lord of All, while I myself can do nothing without Your mercy, power and grace, in Your strength I can run through a troop and leap over walls. I can do all things while nestled safely in Your Promises and Authority.

HOLIER-THAN-THOU

The heart that understands the unmerited grace God offers will not fall victim to a superiority complex toward others. If we are still under the delusion that we are blessed because of our moral rectitude or exceptional knowledge, then prideful judgmentalism is assured. Religious arrogance paralyzes spiritual progress and sets us up for a fall. I like to think I left all sanctimonious tendencies far behind, but they still pop up like burnt toast. Lord, have mercy on my earthly ways and make me more like You. May my pursuit of piety never produce a holier-than-thou response to others.

SEAMLESSNESS

What makes the world’s high-end luxury cars so special? The difference between an average automobile and the world’s finest is determined by the details. The near perfection of the seams on the doors, instrument panels, seat stitching and other interior parts combine to make the experience dazzling. While I have no particular interest in possessing such a car, I most definitely want my life to reflect the same quality of craftsmanship. There should be absolutely no separation between what I believe, what I say and what I do; in other words, seamlessness. Only the Perfect One can accomplish this. O Lord My Maker, I place my many imperfections into Your perfecting hands. I am confident and thankful You will finish the work You have begun.

STORMY BLESSINGS

Having lived the bulk of my life on the coast of Florida, I am well acquainted with huge storms. Strangely, while they can be disastrous, they offer unexpected gifts. Dangerously weak trees are often ignored until naturally culled by powerful winds. Devastating droughts can be cured by a single tropical storm. In the midst of a terrible tempest, total strangers come together with kindness, compassion, bravery and generosity. No one in his right mind wishes for a hurricane, but we must remember, God can turn tragedy into triumph, pain into progress and curses into blessings. Redeemer of Our Souls, You transform our darkest night into resplendent light! You are truly Lord of All! I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.

THE INCONVENIENCE OF FAITH

It seems that there is no limit to our passion for greater convenience. A society that so highly esteems non-stop personal accommodation produces a deep aversion to sacrifice. People of faith are uniquely harmed by this obsession with immediate gratification since convenience is the enemy of obedience. The very nature of faith requires acting upon the unseen regardless of the circumstances and waiting steadfastly for God’s timing and methods. Simply stated, faith is inconvenient. Lord of Promise, cut me loose from the earthly contrivance. Bridle my impatient impulses and careless disregard of Your chosen ways and means. Teach me to passionately live the faith walk.

THE TRIUMPH OF THE VANQUISHED

We each face battles that are not of our own choosing. Some are arbitrarily forced upon us by life’s circumstances. Others come as a result of our own bad decisions. Many battles fall into the category of spiritual warfare while some are chosen for us by our heavenly Commander in Chief. However, though the sources of our battles are many, there is but one way to fight; we must embrace God’s promise: “The LORD shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Here we learn that peaceful trust in God alone must be the banner under which we march. Holy Father, my unruliness and fears are defeated by Your love, therefore I victoriously forge ahead in the triumph of the vanquished!

WHEN ASSURANCE EXCEEDS IGNORANCE

There is no trepidation in not knowing what is ahead if you can count on someone trustworthy who does. Indescribable rest is released when assurance exceeds ignorance. The unknown paralyzes, but knowing the All-Knowing One mobilizes. Like a small child being led across a busy road by his father, the firm grip of God pulls me along with little concern of harm. I am in good hands being taken where He leads, so I will therefore move forward in confidence and peace. O Lord Most High, You are my trustworthy guide. Lead me wherever You will. I do not fear Your guidance or Your perfect and perfecting plans.

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 bow my knee to the Master of the Universe. He made me, keeps me and owns me forever. Glorious Lord, I am at peace with surrender to Your absolute control. Grant me divine purging today that I may more easily yield to Your primacy. You have purchased my life with the highest price and I am Yours alone, now and always.

UNDER THE KNIFE

I am in the debt of those who have touched my life. Like surgical instruments in the hands of the Great Physician, God has pressed people into my life to cut away what harms me from within. I have often resented those used for the deepest cuts, only later to realize that they have done me great good, even if they intended otherwise. Just like a patient needing serious surgery, my confidence is not in the quality of the scalpel, my assurance is in the surgeon in whose hands it works. Father, keep me under the knife and thank You for all whom You choose to use. I trust your choices and steady hand.

LIGHT

Light shining into darkness needs no clarification, when light appears, additional confirmation is not required; it is obvious what it is. When there is light within view, it is not hard to find the source. Darkness does not obscure light. In fact, deep darkness amplifies light’s beauty and transformative power when it arrives, even in the smallest amount. Considering these simple truisms gives new meaning to “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” This doesn’t sound complicated, light within us and upon us points attention to the Father. LORD, You are the Light and Life of the World; help me to reflect the grace and love of Your Light to others.

STREAMS IN THE DESERT

The Hebrew people’s biblically recorded journey from Egypt to the Promised Land offers many lessons. It was in the desert where the idolatrous influence of Egypt and the deep scars of enslavement were confronted. While wandering through open wilderness God’s people learned to chase after the cloud and trust God’s daily provision. Climatic moments brought the Ten Commandments, deliverance from enemies, cleansing from cultivators of sedition and most importantly, learning to do God’s will, God’s way. Lord, thank You for streams of life that only the desert can reveal. Out of barren rock flows living water to those who seek Your face.

THROUGH THE MAELSTROM

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 caught in the heavy seas of a stormy gale requires a helmsman; it is in mortal danger if it simply drifts through the maelstrom. 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 and a better leader in the tempest of Your choosing.

GREATNESS AMONG US

The St. Petersburg Airport was dark, dreary, unfriendly and cold in 1990 Soviet Russia. I was traveling alone, headed home after an exhausting week of ministry. Surprisingly, a small group of American college students were across the room. It was a sullen scene, but in an instant, everything changed. A student stood on a chair and enthusiastically proclaimed: “Ladies and gentlemen, seated among us is Mr. Ted Williams, the greatest baseball player who ever lived.” It was true, and there sat Coach Bobby Night as well; they had been filming a fishing show. In that moment the whole place was transformed by the unexpected presence of greatness. Father of Light, help me enthusiastically reveal Your Transforming Presence to others today. Lord, You are GREAT and greatly to be praised!

COMFORT ZONES

Every person needs comforting from time to time. One of the godliest things we can do is to bring comfort to others in their time of need. On the other hand, seeking to comfort myself almost always leads to disaster. Most sin is rooted in attempts to self-medicate. King David’s moral failure with Bathsheba happened as he created a comfort zone in his palace “At the time of war,” when, in fact, he belonged on the battlefield. While a bit of comfort offers relief, too much mental meandering leads to wrong places. Blessed Lord, My Eternal Comforter, help me to abide in Your divine comfort. Deliver me from selfish sidetracking and keep me on task

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…on 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 at others only exposes my own hypocrisy and weaknesses, and puts me in the wrong posture to receive God’s grace and mercy. 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.

OILY HANDS

The world grows larger and larger to a person with a sincere and generous heart, but shrinks smaller and smaller for those with a stingy, closed heart. What we grip too tightly is compressed to even less, but living with open hands offers unlimited opportunities for God to fill them over and over. It is simple really: “closed hands, closed heart; open hands, open heart.” Nothing pries open the heart like even the smallest dewdrop of God’s amazing Love. O LORD Our Provider, Giver of All Good Things, bathe my hands in holy oil; may nothing stick to them. Make me a channel of blessing to those in need.

THE OTHER SIDE

Recently, huge thunderstorms rolled through. There were menacingly dark clouds, furious wind, brilliant lightening, explosive thunder and blinding rain. Just minutes later the storm left an unexpected gift. A soft golden glow resplendent through a delicate mist appeared where there had been mayhem just minutes before. An indescribably beautiful moment was gifted by way of a very angry storm. O Lord my God, You never miss an opportunity to teach me Your ways. Thank You for the reminder, there is blessing on the other side of every trial of life. You make all things new.

FRIENDLY FIRE

An intense battle poses many dangers, not the least of which is “friendly fire”. Accidental attacks on friendly forces while trying to defeat the enemy is one of the most tragic aspects of war. Nothing about the battlefield is pleasant, but to be taken out by those for whom you fight adds insult and deep pain to an already bad situation. I have seen it in spiritual battles, relational battles and even family battles as well. At times, when we are counting on our comrades in arms, they turn weapons on their own. Cain was wrong; I AM my brother’s keeper. You O LORD are my Shield and Defender. Keep me attentive in the fog of war. May I never be confused about who the true enemy is.

CONNECTING THE DOTS

I have never been a big fan of connect-the-dots puzzles, but refusal to connect-the dots in life can be very costly. What I do today has both benefits and consequences in the future, whether I later see the connection or not. After a lifetime of counseling people through difficulties I conclude, the human capacity to disassociate one thing from another is stunning. Otherwise bright people will foolishly refuse to connect the obvious. When desire is enflamed; truth can easily be ignored. Gracious Father, help me see through the confusion selfishness activates. Awaken good discernment within me and lead me in the way of life.

CROSSROADS

I come to the crossroads of decisions that must be made each day. 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 ready 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. 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.

A CLEAN SLATE

Considering how easily our hearts can surrender to lawlessness, I am eternally grateful that God’s forgiveness bears no grudges. Though we deserve judgment and rejection, His unmerited kindness redeems our worst ways with no lingering resentment, antipathy or malice. True repentance brings cleansing so pure that no stains remain; no record of our wrongs kept. My daily sorrow and confession to the Savior offers a clean slate each and every time.  How may I thank him? By extending this very same grace to others. Blessed Redeemer, I bow before Your indescribable benevolence as I again ask for Your forgiveness. You are my Eternal Rescue and Constant Relief.

AWESTRUCK

I so admire those who care for those with debilitating illnesses or severe disabilities. The deep admiration I feel for these caretakers is rooted in my own sense of being so easily overwhelmed by the very thought of it. Then when I consider how low God must bend to care for my brokenness I am both grateful and embarrassed. He is never put-off by my weaknesses, rather, it seems the more I offer them to Him the more I sense His love, presence and compassion. O Lord My Caretaker, You never turn your back to the broken. Your love is undiminished by the volume of our frailties. I am awestruck by Your unlimited love.

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, season after season. The Bible warns us to avoid deep connections with those who are slanderers, immoral, or self-centered; we become like those with whom we fellowship. Father, thank You for the blessedness of knowing those who humbly guard their lives.  Purify my heart and deliver me from the traps of fools.

THE 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 still 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 impulse to wander and keep me in the position You choose.

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 critical to the decisions. A mere glimpse of the Glory and 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.

BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

The human condition can be quite confusing; we can, in the same instant, have sand between our toes and eternity in our hearts. Living in this world but belonging to another is the daily conundrum of a child of God. Every moment demands that we draw upon the resources of each, but only under God’s supervision can we find the needed balance between being “in the world” but not “of the world”. While living among the earthly kingdoms we must allow the Kingdom above to shape our lives. Blessed are You, King of the Universe, Who grants us life and meaning. Show me today how to walk faithfully to my earthly call while drawing Living Water from the well of heaven.