Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from January, 2017

LIVING LOOSELY

One of mankind’s obsessions, no matter the cultural context or location, is a fascination with very old things. The simple truth is, very old things are valued because our human experience tells us most things eventually go away. While painful at times, there is a wonderful freedom in the discovery that nothing in this life is permanent. The human soul was created by God to live in eternal covenant and therefore longs for things that last, so much so that we stubbornly ignore the temporariness of this world. We pretend that earthly things are more transcendent than they can possibly be, then feel shocked when they are not. Eternal Father, You alone are boundless. You have set eternity in our hearts that we may rightly measure this life as compared to the next. Help me hold temporary things of this world loosely while gripping eternal things with all my might.

DETOURS TO DESTINY

I am almost always in a hurry to arrive at the destination so I usually plan my route well in advance. Forced detours rarely make me happy at first, but some of my most pleasant moments of travel came as a result of going off the beaten path. Every part of my soul needs refreshing and retooling. Doing the same things the same way over and over may be comforting on the surface, but my heart longs for greater heights. To seriously follow after the things of God is to guarantee constant detours and new ground covered. Father, You created me for divine destinations. Grant me grace to take the path of Your choosing.

STIRRING OF THE HEART

As of late, I am being drawn into a deeper place. This newest spiritual progress requires little outward action, however, a lot is happening inwardly. Past growth means little in this moment; this is a new day and only the present counts here. Attitudes, commitments and practices are being put to the test; new excitement and passion is gurgling and the level of anticipation is rising. In the same manner wind announces weather changes, God’s stirring of the heart announces spiritual advance. Shepherd of My Soul, I thank You for fresh winds. Help me to not take shortcuts. O Lord My Guide, be magnified in me.

INEXTINGUISHABLE GLADNESS

Every season of life brings its own joys and disappointments; however, letdowns seem to accrue more easily than gladness. The Psalms reveal King David as a man of profound faith, yet he found it necessary to remind himself of God’s blessings and to command his own soul to praise the LORD. Even a quick inventory of things for which I can be thankful ignites my heart, releasing joy and praise in every circumstance. I must lift my eyes from the temporal pains and look to the Giver of Life. O Lord my God, my heart is jubilant as I contemplate Your Goodness, which bestows inextinguishable gladness.

DEATH TO THE STAND-IN

When Scripture speaks of "dying to self" it is not referring to the person God uniquely created us to be, it is pointing to the alternate person, the “self” we have created in our own minds. This stand-in person is bathed in human ego. Ego is nothing but a collection of human ideas; it is useless, it is nothing but a false center. Death to "self" in a biblical sense releases our true personhood from the shackles of ego. This true self, created in God's image is designed to please God and to fulfill His purpose. Father, liberate me from the heavy chains of ego. Dearest LORD, of my self, I can do nothing, yet through You I can do all things.

IT HURTS SO GOOD

After viewing an episode of the Three Stooges in which a bucket of water was placed over a partially opened door, I thought I would give it a try. As a young boy I could not get the container in place without spilling all the water so I used Lincoln Logs instead. I neither killed nor maimed anyone, but I did get in really big trouble for releasing an avalanche of logs onto my brother. Frankly, I still require constant oversight and correction. Thankfully, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights, God demonstrates His relentless love for me by His careful, steady discipline. Heavenly Father, I do not resent Your correction, for by it You point me to the way of blessing and joy. MY heart is at rest in Your protective embrace.

HIGHY AND LOFTY ONE

My first Big Apple deli experience many years ago, with a huge menu on the wall, lots of people crowded into a small space and an impatient worker demanding an immediate decision made me want to head for the exit. New York City is intimidating for the rookie; tall buildings, scampering pedestrians, honking taxies, constant noise, and glitzy stores combine to overwhelm the uninitiated. To take hold of the Kingdom can at times feel the same; holy things can seem unreachable, too high or too much for me to navigate, but God places His Kingdom within us and transforms our nature to lay hold of it. High and Lofty One, Most Merciful Father, the wholly unapproachable becomes fully embraceable because of Your redeeming love. Lord, I stand in awe of You.

DEPOSITS AND WITHDRAWALS

The rivers in the city where I’ve lived most of my life are tidal. Each day they rise and fall, widen and narrow, providing a constantly changing panorama. Every tidal cycle quietly deposits new debris on their banks and lifts away what had been previously dropped by. In many ways, my whole life is tidal. People come and go, problems and blessings arrive unannounced then slip away, interesting surprises float by and it is all leading to a point I cannot see beyond the horizon. God of All Creation, You never cease depositing, withdrawing and leading me forward. I love Your ways Sweet Lord.

THE FINAL STEP

How many more steps till breakthrough? I don’t know. I never know until after the final step has been taken, so I keep walking. In confident persistence I walk. Through valleys of doom I walk. Past shadows of fear I walk. Over mountains of doubt, I walk. Edging along the steep precipice I walk. Through jungles of entanglements I walk, till the final step is finished.  The journey of faith does not end when we want it to end; it ends when it is over. That is God’s call, not mine. Shepherd of my soul You are with me each step. Your rod and staff cheer me up, relieving my weariness and giving me grit to finish. My cup overflows and Your Goodness and Mercy are right behind me. So I walk.

OTHERS MAY, I MAY NOT

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

ANOTHER ROUND

I fully intend to have a good day. God has thoughtfully and carefully placed me into the circumstances of this sparkling new sunrise, providing every resource and opportunity for it to be a day of destiny and fulfilled purpose. My good intentions must now become action empowered by surrendered obedience. I can dwell no longer in the back alleys of yesterday, but must step boldly into this new day with fresh faith and expectant joy. Almighty Lord, my objective is clear, help me with my follow through. Keep me tightly in Your guiding hand and provoke me to finish well. Thank you for another round.

LET'S ROLL

While life can feel pretty mundane at times, by God’s design our daily vocation coincides with His. That we may behold His work is wondrous enough, but that the Creator of the Universe, Ruler of All Things grants us partnership in His earthly activities is breathtaking. To be a craftsman at the Lord’s side fills me with delight day after day. Though I am never allowed more than a peek at the blueprints, from time to time I catch a glimpse of what He is doing and am always amazed. The intricacy and purposefulness with which He works is breathtaking. Lord, I rejoice to do Your bidding. May my work this day and every day thereafter be synchronized with Yours. Guide my hands and give me laser-focus in my assigned work. Let’s roll.

DYING EMPTY

The high price of gasoline is a strong motivation to try to arrive with the tank as empty as possible to a station with low prices, especially on a long road trip. In the same manner I have already determined the condition in which I want to arrive to the end of my life on earth, I want to die empty; I do not want God-given potential to be unspent and left discarded in the cemetery. With the world around me in such spiritual poverty, I cannot imagine retreating or retiring from the battlefield. Eternal God, may I be faithful to fully expend Your generous gift of divinely bestowed potential. Enflame my heart and help me burn all before I burn out.

THE TEST

Cultivating connections and cooperation with others is one of God’s principle means of developing divine qualities in us.  As we learn to be truly grateful for this process we make huge spiritual strides. After all, it is in the trenches of relational interaction where life unfolds and we learn what love and hate truly is. Raw truth, without the test of practical application, would leave me fundamentally unchanged. So the many obstacles of loving interrelationships are no accident. Actually, these challenges have God’s fingerprints all over them. Lord, thank you for the relentless test of walking in love. Guide me through the maze of forgiving, blessing and lifting others.

NOTHING HIDDEN

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

BLESSED BLINDERS

Though big, beautiful and powerful, horses are “flight animals”, that is, their main defense is to flee danger. Even the calmest horse can react with sudden, uncontrolled panic to get away from a perceived threat. Blinders are used to keep a horse focused on what is in front of it, protecting it from being distracted or scared by what is behind or to its side. Maintaining a constant focus on God’s call and mission for our lives has the same effect, moving our focus from potential dangers and keeping us on track. Blessed Lord, shade my eyes from earthly distractions. Keep me focused on Your will and deliver me from unnecessary fears.

KINDNESS

How often must I be kind? Though past disappointments may still linger, there is no loss in offering authentic kindness to others, even to those who have hurt us. When practiced without ulterior motives, we touch for a moment the glory and nature of God since kindness is one of the principle characteristics of love. Even if it is abused or rejected by those to whom it is offered, kindness benefits the giver inwardly and invites the promised blessing of the Almighty. Father, You are love and You are kind beyond description. Let Your kindness flow through me that I may be closer to You. Make me Your instrument of love to others.

A GLIMPSE OF HIS GLORY

The mighty works of God are beyond comprehension, measurement or explanation. My very best attempts to give voice to His Greatness fall wildly short, barely passing as an inadequate introduction to mysteries far beyond human understanding. It is best, then, to utilize words proclaimed in Holy Writ: “Lord You are great and greatly to be praised!” At the mention of His Goodness my soul sings and my mind starts swirling as I catch a glimpse of His Majesty, Wisdom and Power. O Lord My Lord, You have set Your Glory in the heavens and Your Majesty in all the earth. Help me cast aside lessor things that I may see more of You.

ALL OF ME ALL FOR YOU

Jerusalem is one of the world’s most ancient cities. Thousands of years of building and rebuilding has left its oldest sections buried deep underground. Almost constant excavation guarantees new treasures are unearthed daily. The work of God’s Spirit has the same effect within me. He exposes and removes the rubble and residue of the past. His Holy Work surfaces deeply imbedded treasures; divine attributes implanted long ago that are designed for God’s purpose for my life today. Lord God, Worker of Miracles, Grantor of Good, expose every part of my heart to Your Light and make all of me all for You.

SPEED BUMPS

I really do loathe speed bumps, so I avoid them as much as possible. Understanding their purpose and safety value doesn’t seem to help my attitude toward them whatsoever. Over time I have devised numerous workarounds to circumvent them or limit wheel contact. Commentary on their size, placement, justification and frequency is seemingly obligatory. Slowing down when I’m ready to roll just bothers me. I realize God also places speed bumps before me. His words: “be still” are for my benefit. Father, thank You for the necessary slowdowns of life. While I may never come to appreciate earthly speed bumps, I will not resent Your placement of required pauses.

THROUGH THE STORM

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 requires a helmsman; it is in mortal danger if it simply drifts through the gale. 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 more qualified leader in the tempest of Your choosing.

PERSISTENCE NOT STUBBORNNESS

Persistence is a needed characteristic for a life well lived. Stubbornness, however, is like deep darkness since it causes us to keep hitting the same obstacles over and over, yet preventing us from understanding what makes us stumble. The good news is that if all my mistakes are new ones, I am making progress. The path of those with yielded hearts is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. Divinely infused wisdom accompanies the soul of the determined, yet surrendered. Father, not my will or my way, You alone must guide every step it take. In Your mercy, grant me a steadfast heart.

WILL HE?

Will God speak to the depths of a heart not open to His voice? Can I expect God’s guidance in issues closed to His counsel? Provoked by His extravagant love He does, in fact, speak through humanly held barriers, standing just outside the door knocking. Though His voice may be muffled by a door held tightly shut, He cannot, He will not be silenced. As a father pursuing a lost child, the LORD will neither sleep nor slumber till our hand is safely in His. Holy Father, I seek hope that only You may bring; uproot every impediment to Your voice within me. I long for Your words my God, my Redeemer. On Your promises I can safely stand.

A NEW DAY IS DAWNING

Awake in darkness, yet light approaches. Whether I know it or not, whether I believe it or not, daybreak is marching toward me. Soon the world around me will be bathed in brilliance, anew day is dawning. Blessings are already arrayed, waiting for my arrival. Divine wisdom has been released into the path before me and the needed resources deployed. Angels are assigned and the forces of darkness on alert, this is the day the Lord has made I will rejoice and be glad in it! Lord, help me to recognize Your approach in my darkest moments. May I seize new beginnings, divine opportunities, a fresh start. Awaken my heart with readiness and fervor and use me for your bidding.

PEACE IN PERILOUS WATERS

For most of my life I have been a pretty good swimmer. I have swum in oceans, lakes, rivers, pools and ponds and have been tumbled by crashing waves, caught in riptides, and be swept along by strong currents. As much as I would like to have control over daily circumstances, the fact is I don’t. Clearly I can influence some things, but ultimately, the swirling currents of life constantly threaten to sweep me into perilous waters. This would be deeply frustrating, even frightening if it were not for the comfort of knowing God’s superintendence and sovereignty. Blessed Father, You direct my path, You never abandon me and You do all things well. You grant peace and protection in perilous waters.

THE CROWN OF LIFE

Needs are easily overestimated and blessings underestimated. Family, laughter, opportunities, vision, mission, challenges, friends, servanthood, children, sunsets, music: considering the multitude of blessings I enjoy, I realize how truly prosperous I am. Keeping count of trials and needs brings no crown, but faithfulness in spite of perceived lack brings the Crown of Life for the steadfast believer. Forgive me Lord in those moments when I ignore Your loving care, abandoning the splendor of thankfulness, to roam the squalor of cravings. Strengthen my resolve to ignore the temporary and take hold of the eternal.

BAREFOOT AND CRAZY

The first time I heard the title of the song: “Barefoot and Crazy” I thought of Moses. A wholly unexpected divine encounter knocked him right out of his sandals and changed him from a shepherd to a prophet and deliverer of millions of slaves from bondage; “barefoot and crazy” for God's will for His people. That’s exactly what I want: divine encounters, the shedding of earthly stuff and backflips off the cliff of the commonplace. Yes, bold and crazy obedience! Lord Almighty, Great “I AM,” I ask for holy encounters that evoke radical surrender. Help me turn aside from ordinary routines to climb the mountain of discovery and empowerment.

GOD OF WONDERS

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

MIXTURE

My love for God and the people He loves is authentic, but still contains a polluting mixture of conditional, self-centered, human love. While at times I genuinely wish to be entirely free of this mixture, I know it is still only a half-hearted aspiration. Yet, progress is being made, and for every millimeter forward I am grateful. So today is an additional workout day, another round on the treadmill of life for training my heart to be in tune with God’s heart. My Lord, My God, again I ask You to forgive my reckless treatment of Your Divine Affection. Help me to be vigilant to not mix selfishness into Your Perfect Love.