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Showing posts from November, 2016

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.