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Showing posts from September, 2016

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.

LOVE MUST RUN DEEP

Tidal waters can be tricky for boaters, I have run aground a few times thinking I had sufficient draft. Surface appearances can be deceiving, covering over serious problems and giving the appearance of depth and safety. In similar manner, shallow love is also very dangerous; love must run deep. Every attitude that is contrary to true love for our fellow man must be exposed and replaced with God’s awesome love. Commingling of motives must cease. Father, teach me to love authentically, faithfully, consistently and tenderly. Let Your love flow through me without restriction.

CHOICES

A friend from an impoverished nation was visiting and wanted to buy hair shampoo. In his home country, he had limited choices, so when faced with shelf after shelf displaying dozens of brands, it was overwhelming. He left the store confused and without shampoo. Navigating through affluence can be as distressing as dealing with poverty, since an increase of choices does nothing to teach us to choose wisely. Lord God, deliver me from the constant pursuit of more choices. Teach me the joys of simplicity, discernment and humility. Help me to choose what is right over what is available.

THE PERFECTING ONE

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

PATCH REMOVAL

The lawns around our neighborhood are summer green but a few spots are an ugly brown. Stubborn, hardened patches where the grass will not grow must be removed before new growth will appear. Nutrition will not make a difference; the crusty surface must be penetrated, and the good soil exposed. New seed, fertilizer and regular watering will make the patches green again. My soul is no different; spiritual nutrition will not have lasting effect on what only repentance can transform. Holy Father, tear away the crusty surfaces of my heart. Where dried patches lie in my soul, grant me grace to truly repent. Plow my heart with Your Word and sow in me that which You desire.

SPIRITUAL WARFARE

Evil is real, and so is spiritual warfare, but battling the hordes of hell is nothing like Hollywood’s special effects portrayals. Our weapons are not earthly and our Champion, the Captain of Our Salvation is not flawed. The works of darkness are less like powerful beings and more like a swarm of mosquitos; constantly harassing, potentially dangerous but when rightly opposed, they easily die. Understanding the nature and strategies of evil is far less useful than beholding the victory that is ours in our Beloved Savior. I do not make light of our spiritual enemies, but one glance from the King of Kings is sufficient to send them scampering over the cliff. Almighty and Everlasting Redeemer, open my eyes to Your undefeatable Glory.

I CAN HANDLE IT

Famous last words: “I can handle it!” To bulldoze through fears with unreasonable over-confidence is foolish and dangerous. However, to run from fears leaves us in a state of relentless anxiety, opening our soul to ever-increasing panic. How do we get this so backwards? To run to God is to face our fears and destroy them. When the cares of this world hit us face on, we must cast them upon the One who cares for us and praise Him through the tempest. His promises transform doubts into dominion and fears into faith. Lord God, You are my Glory and the Lifter of my head! You, O Lord are my shield and deliverer, in You I put my trust and on You I cast my cares.

TRUSTWORTHY

The possibility of betrayal is always present in every act of trust, except with God. Three simple, powerful words are sprinkled throughout Scripture: “God is faithful”. These words need no further clarification because to know Him is to love Him; to be loved by Him is to trust Him, no additional authentication required. So here is a revelation, I can trust people precisely because I trust God. I must learn to trust that He is at work in and through others for my benefit because He is faithful. Mistrusting everyone else is in fact, mistrusting God; we simply can never let anyone or anything be God for us but Elohim. True and Faithful One, my heart, my life, my future and my well-being are in Your faithful, trustworthy hands.

MAJESTY REVEALED

In popular styles of art such as abstract expressionism or cubism, the imperfect, the incomplete and the vaguely suggested are central to their mystery and beauty. In real life we generally like things to be more definitive, more concrete. Yet, there too we find subtle beauty; the quiet touch on the arm of a loved one, the evoking questions of a friend who knows us well, the smile of a stranger. In like manner, God is manifest in so many different expressions. The beauty of His Majesty is revealed in ways both obvious to all and hidden to the less discerning. God of Wonders, I stand in awe of You. Open my eyes and heart to know you better.

OPEN SPACE

As a Floridian, hurricane preparation is a regular part of life. Modern technology provides that a developing storm can be tracked all the way from the coast of Africa to the shores of North America. Knowing the possibility of imminent destruction provokes needed attention, but for many, it creates unnecessary anxiety and dread. Life can become filled with endless fears of impending ruin, but not for a child of God.  Times of and praise and worship create open space in a heart crowded with fears. Panic is not a strategy, but genuine trust in God lifts us above the fray. Lord of Heaven and Earth, You are Glorious! A mere glimpse of Your Greatness breaks down strongholds of anxiety and sends me scampering freely toward Your will.

PRIVILEGED FRATERNITY

Much of my time is spent in a wide variety of leadership meetings. My life has been so greatly enriched, formed and challenged by the cornucopia of insights, giftings, serious thinking and humor of these precious moments. While at times it is exhausting, somehow, difficult decisions managed by imperfect people under constant pressures in challenging circumstances deposits unique value to my soul. How precious are these times of collective wisdom, prayerful discourse, surrender, trust, discovery and faith. Lord, thank You for those willing to lay down their lives for others, I am not worthy of such privileged fraternity and enterprise. Make me a better leader. Make me a better man.

PAINFUL SNARLS

Once, while I was driving along, an Irish Setter ran into the street from between two parked cars. I didn’t see him quickly enough to avoid contact but I hit the brakes hard and fast. I jumped out to check and he was under my van, alive but dazed. When I reached toward him he snarled, crawled from underneath my van and ran away. His refusal of help was not personal; he reacted from his pain and confusion. People will often do the same. That can be brutal, but in these moments love is authenticated. Father, forgive my snarling resistances to Your loving touch. When others react to me as I do to You, grant me the same patient mercy for them You extend to me.