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Showing posts from April, 2017

SWALLOWED IN VICTORY

It is possible to lose a battle but win the war. I have watched loved ones slip into eternity surrounded by friends, family and medical professionals fighting with all their might to keep them on this side of the veil. It seems like a tragic loss at that moment for sure, but for the faithful, this is not the end, only a turning of the page. Battles for success in marriages, friendships, businesses, ministries and every other worthy pursuit can end in what appears to be sure defeat. But for the believer, failures are never the end of the story. The LORD God turns every defeat into wins for those who live in surrender to Him. Holy Father, I am so thankful for those divine moments in which loss is swallowed in victory. You truly work everything for our good. You shelter our souls and turn our mourning into joyful dancing!

MOUNTAINTOP THROW DOWN

When confronted by God from within a burning bush, Moses the meek shepherd was commanded to throw down his staff. Once cast to the ground, God commanded him to pick it up again. But in that very moment, the purpose and trajectory Moses’ life was radically changed. He was instantly qualified to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery and that simple staff became an instrument of miracles. When the Master stepped into Peter’s boat, the fisherman’s life and career were transformed as he was then sent by the Savior to be a “fisher of men”. What must I throw down today to invite His Holy Work? Where must I allow Him to step to invoke His greater calling? Loving Father, You take the ordinary, and turn it into the miraculous. Step where You desire, LORD and take what You must. I am Yours.

MYSTERIES UNFOLDED

Like most people, I enjoy a good mystery, but I really dislike not knowing how to figure something out. The exception is when it comes to divine mysteries. While I am still just as curious, years of practice have taught me that spiritual mysteries may only be understood as God unfolds them in His timing and His way. And even then, there is always deeper truth that may only be discerned by divine revelation of His Word and Spirit; again, in His time and His way. Human formulas or deductive reasoning, no matter how brilliantly conceived, are useless in holy space. These mysteries may solely be revealed, not solved. Glorious God, High and Mighty One, forgive my earthly attempts to uncover what You have hidden. Grant me grace and good discernment for the journey as mysteries unfold.

THREE FOR ONE!

I love a good deal, so I often check out the bargains at the grocery store. I particularly like the “Three-For-One” offers. God seems to like them as well. For instance, “Faith, Hope and Love” are so bound together that the exercise of any one activates the others. As is the Holy Trinity, they are distinct in practice, but in fact, are three in one. Like facets of a diamond, even the slightest turn toward one releases the resplendent beauty of all. If you truly believe, then love will abound. When love abounds hope is raised. When hope rises, faith is released. What a glorious trinity of tools in our hands provided by God for knowing Him and doing His will. Such a deal! Blessed Trinity, Your mysteries are beyond earthly comprehension, yet may be practiced by a child. I stand amazed.

UNBECOMING AMBITIONS

I am sometimes surprised how quickly my mind attempts to take a blessed moment and turn it into a point of pride or personal advantage. A lifetime of divine dealings has not rid me of unbecoming ambitions. While progress has been made, selfish desires still lurk within, rising to the surface when stirred. Only by the charitableness and longsuffering of God, combined with unrelenting truth, can every vestige of unsurrendered soul be overcome. Father, I know You will finish what You have begun in me. Forgive my attempts to mix my earthly desires with Your heavenly ones. Lord, purify my heart and ways.

BY INVITATION ONLY

God openly invites us into His secret chambers, but only fools rush in. Nonchalant pride should never characterize my approach to the Holy and Mighty One. Carelessness is an uninvited companion that sometimes accompanies my intimacy with God. His kind invitation to commune with Him must be accepted with face-to-the-ground humility. Lord God, forgive my presumptuousness and cleanse my heart and mind of lingering hubris. May I never abuse Your Goodness by an inappropriate sense of entitlement. High and Lofty One, King of Majesty, You are Great and Glorious.

THE STAGE

To openly live a life of faith is not a proclamation of personal perfection. In fact, the opposite is true. My imperfections become the stage upon which the amazing grace and relentless love of God are displayed. In my weaknesses, His awesome strength is discovered and brought to the forefront. Glossing over our foibles presents a false image of the believer’s life and in the end does more harm than good. Lord, You are my Fortress and Deliverer, reveal Yourself in me. May my failings spotlight Your exquisiteness. May my need for constant redemption encourage others to seek the same.

GRUDGING OBEDIENCE

Since God sees into our souls as easily as looking into a fishbowl, grudging obedience will not suffice. While others may be fooled, the Lord Almighty knows the underlying thoughts and intentions of every person’s actions. We know joyful compliance puts a smile on our Heavenly Father’s face since Scripture reveals: “God loves a cheerful giver.” Resentful servitude leaves us empty and does not produce in us the purpose God intends. Willing submission releases copious fruitfulness and enduring peace. Oh Lord, Keeper of My Soul, teach me to love You without reserve in all that I do.

OPEN MY EYES

The invention of lenses, magnifying glasses, spectacles, telescopes and microscopes changed mankind’s perception of life on earth. Seeing something previously unseen can radically change our perspective. The promises of God contained in Scripture are a lens through which we peer into the unseen, activating a divine perspective of life. Nothing can transform the ordinary into something truly remarkable like the eye of faith. Father of Light, I do not want spiritual eyes that cannot see. Open my eyes to even the smallest detail of Your will. Show me Your Glory and turn my darkness into Your resplendent Light.

HONOR

Modern culture has substituted “celebrity” for “honor”. The Bible teaches the value of honor, but warns against the dangers of popularity and self-centered aggrandizement of people. Giving honor to whom it is due in a biblical manner is life-lifting and ultimately leads us to worship of God, while adulation of celebrity leads us to personal fantasies and self-centered idol worship. The need to honor is hard-wired into our souls, but we must guard our hearts from the foolishness of seeking celebrity. Father, help me steer clear of idol worship. Show me the right path of honoring You as I honor others.

A DEATH WISH

Hiking along a steep mountain cliff in the light of day can be absolutely exhilarating and beautiful. However, walking along the same trail at night is a death wish. Love is equated to light in scripture and hatred is equated to darkness. To walk around with hatred within is to walk around in utter darkness, hatred is blinding to the one who is consumed by it. Love, on the other hand, lights our path and keeps us from stumbling. There is no place in the heart where hatred can be safely stored, it is toxic, it is deadly. Blessed LORD, purge my soul of the blinding darkness of hatred, bitterness, prejudice and resentfulness. Let the light of Your love shine brightly within me and through me to others.

A STONE IN MY SHOE

I picked up a small stone in my shoe while walking. It was so tiny I could hardly see it, but could go no farther until it was removed. Little things are often our demise; as King Solomon pointed out: “The little foxes that spoil the vines”. For God, everything is small in comparison to Himself, yet He scrutinizes even the tiniest details. There is a lesson here: It is harmful to ignore lingering issues that need attention. Once I get into a rhythm I don’t like to stop, but minimizing things can lead to much bigger disasters. Father, nothing is hidden from Your eyes, help me to recognize hidden, debilitating issues. Sit me down at Your feet that I may learn to walk in full freedom.

BIND MY HEART

Biblically framed love for God requires obedience to Him; keeping His commandments is not an optional add-on, it is the core component of a life well lived. We obey the one we love the most, so my constant nemesis is divided love. The more I repudiate egocentrism in every form, the easier obedience to God becomes. Self-loathing offers no relief since it is nothing more than another form of self-centeredness.  Yesterday’s submission to God counts for nothing today, only moment by moment surrender today will do. Lord, I desire Your ways. Though You own me, still I struggle from Your grasp. In Your boundless mercy bind my heart to Your will.

THE PROPER TIME

Many years ago while living in Costa Rica, we participated in a very unusual outreach. We hosted Tino and Olinka Wallenda as they performed an incredible stunt, walking between two of San Jose’s tallest buildings on a highwire and sitting on a delicately balanced chair while preaching the gospel to thousands of amazed observers below. It took weeks of preparation to perform for just a few minutes, but many came to salvation that day. I often resent the time it takes to accomplish things, but we are warned: “do not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest”. The “proper time” is a God-ordained moment; it can’t be rushed, but it can be missed. LORD God, time is in Your hands. Forgive my impetuousness. Grant me grace to accept Your choices.

HE IS RISEN!!!

Broken Hearts, Morning Mist, Rolled Stone, Empty Tomb, Folded Napkin, Discarded Linen, Seated Angels, Bewildered Women, Racing Apostles, Descended Champion, Defeated Enemy, Recovered Keys, Ascended Victor, Resurrected Savior, Redeemed World, Unrestrainable Rejoicing, Redeeming Pardon, Healed Bodies, Broken Curses, Great Commission, Coming Again, Eternal Life, New Jerusalem, Forever With Him. The LORD is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!!! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!! Happy Resurrection Day to all!!!

THE WONDERS OF HOLY WEEK

There is no end to the wonderful mysteries and insights of the death, burial,  Descension, and Ascension of Our Redeemer. For instance, it is mind-bending indeed to comprehend how the Son of Man, along with the Father, created the very instrument of His own death; as Scripture states: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” And in another stunningly ironic twist, the carpenter’s son, was nailed to wood. Yet, in on that darkest of days, the dead wood of a fallen tree became the “tree of life” as the savior was bound to it. He that IS life gave “life to the dead” by dying. He that never sinned BECAME sin so sinners would be righteous. He that had been captured “took captivity captive” and set the prisoner’s free. He that descended to the abyss in turn ascended into heaven”. He that left this earth in human shame will come again in such Heavenly Glory that all the world will see it at once! And He that refused an earthly reign as a king will r…

FROM THE HEART

I cannot love from my intellect; it must be from my heart. Our minds will always judge and qualify love rather than openly offer it or receive it. King David is biblically described as “A man after God’s own heart.” He was a flawed man and a flawed leader, but God favored him because of the sincerity of his heart. “From the heart” love is offered in humility, kindness, genuineness, selflessness, honesty, trustfulness and ceaselessness. True love can never depend on what is done for me; it depends on what I do for others. Loving Father, I am bereft of the characteristics of love without You. I can love others only as a reflection of Your love for me. Teach me the way of love.

A VERY GOOD FRIDAY

Agonized prayers of submission offered amid sleepy disciples. Betrayal by the disillusioned, taken captive by the powerless, judged by the ignorant. Abandoned by the fearful, stripped by the unclothed, crucified by the lifeless, mocked by fools. Redeeming wounds suspended between heaven and earth, forgiveness freely given. What majestic mystery, what love divine! Good Friday? Yes, very good! Indescribably, eternally good! Blessed Redeemer, my thoughts retrace your labored steps along the Via Dolorosa. You stretched out Your arms on the hard wood of the cross and cured my diseased soul. Glory to You forever!

PRUNED

The first time I saw a rose bush properly pruned it stunned me. I watched as a friend hacked away at a healthy looking plant. When he finished the pruned plant was a stick-like shadow of its former self; I thought it was ruined but I was wrong. As it turned out, it grew beautiful and productive later that spring. It seems like most everything is being pruned in my life, things within and around me. While it is uncomfortable to face this process, springtime’s bounty is surely ahead. Father, You are the Great Gardener and I the target of Your handiwork. I am thankful for the pruning You see fit and I welcome Your holy work in me.

LEARNING STATIONS

Since divine correction and instruction are the way to true life, God places learning stations throughout each new day. My tendency is to brush past each lesson too quickly, confident of what I think I know. But God’s goodness wins out, and despite my attempts to move on, I find myself back at the same learning stations again and again. There is no graduation from this school while on earth, only when I see Him will I be like Him. Rolling stops will not do, so I must learn to come to a full stop at each station. Dearest Father, thank You for Your persistent tutelage and unending patience. I do not resent Your relentless work in me. Grant me grace to finish my course in victory.

FROM FAKERY TO FAITH

As a child I spent a lot of time dreaming up impressive scenarios where I was a heroic character doing great things; usually fighting some powerful foe. Since I was making it all up anyway, It always ended well. In contrast to fakery, the life of faith is  not one of ineffectual daydreaming of imagined outcomes. Biblically formed faith reaches for concrete, yet unseen reality; each step ignited by a divine spark. Only actions first bathed in Holy Promises will be sufficiently purged of silly desires or the darkness of doubt. Father, teach me to rest assured in Your Providence while straining toward Your Perfect Will. You alone kindle true belief and You alone can carry me safely to triumph.

GOD'S NOT SLOW

God is not slow in keeping His promises. What often seems like unnecessary delay is, in fact, demonstration of His patience with us. As is true with all gift-giving, the giver must choose the right moment and the receiver of the gift must be ready to receive what is offered. The right conditions are critical. When our son Ben was around eleven he decided he was ready to drive. As our family headed for the car, he rushed ahead and jumped into the driver’s seat. He was sure he was ready, however, he was unable to touch the pedals and see over the dashboard. As his father, I would one day proudly buy him a car, but not that day. Glorious Father, forgive my attempts to control the steering wheel. I trust Your wisdom and welcome Your divine management. Teach me Your ways.

FRONT-LOADED

Each and every day is front-loaded. God has already stocked today with valuable lessons, new opportunities, unique challenges, unexpected blessings, experiences, spiritual insights and another needed chance to leave lawlessness behind and to more firmly embrace redeeming grace. Today will provide a unique and powerful pathway to higher life that is divinely orchestrated from beginning to end. Dearest Alpha and Omega, thank You for today. It is holy, for You made it, placed me in it and have already brushed Your fingers across it. I am ready. Lead me to what is right and good.

FIRST CLASS BRIAR PATCH

On a recent walk through the woods a few steps off the beaten path thrust me into a first class briar patch. This was no low-grade sticker bush; this was head to toe entrapment. Stepping into quarrels can feel the same. I immediately want to stop the hurting but every poorly executed move away from the pain sticks me with even more. It is in these moments when only full surrender to God can deliver us, His wisdom being the only safe exit. Oh Lord My Guide; I earnestly seek Your Wisdom. Help me steer clear of treacherous mockers and keep my heart free of offense. Bathe my soul with Your freeing Love.

TRUE NORTH

Setting your bearing on a destination is not enough; arrival to the right spot requires navigation. Even the most accurate compass is not sufficient since “Magnetic North” changes, depending on where you are on the planet. Where the compass points is rarely the exact direction of the North Magnetic Pole or of any other consistent location. The difference between Magnetic North and True North is slight, but the longer the journey the more important navigating the difference becomes. In similar manner, there is a slight but critical difference between what is true and what is truth. What is true will vary a bit, but truth never changes. Father, guide my steps and lead me into Your truth. Deliver me from false images of Your will and ways. Help me maintain a biblical worldview and be delivered from a worldly biblical view.

STILL WATERS

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

LOOSEY GOOSEY

Geese fly in formation so they can draft off each other to make flying easier. People also have a natural tendency to simply follow the herd; it is easier to go with the flow of whatever is popular, faddish or commonly admired. The steep price of a drift-along-lifestyle is failure to find your divinely created purpose. We are carefully knitted together by the Creator for His specific calling for each of us. We can never rise to God’s best by going along with the crowd. I must continually find that sweet spot of being IN the crowd but not OF the crowd. Lord, protect me from wandering aimlessly and keep my pace in cadence with Yours. Teach me to be comfortable in the gaggle but to be willing to fly at the front of the formation.

DUELING IMPULSES

The daily struggle for the God-seeker is the dueling impulses of the heart. On the one hand I sincerely want only His will, but on the other, I am still too attached to my own. When I lift my hands to the Immortal One, in one there is a bowl of thanksgiving and in the other a cup of sin. He could choose only my praise, but instead accepts both, relieving my weary soul of its painful conflict. How wonderful a thought that when I see Him face to face my earthly striving will cease. Glorious God, You are Perfect and Holy, yet You do not turn away in disgust, but receive our polluted offerings and pour Your perfecting goodness back upon us.

IF HEAVEN IS REAL

The biblical admonition to “store up for yourselves riches is heaven” is not talking about sending earthly valuables there, after all, the “Gold Standard” of this world means nothing in a place where gold is mere pavement. “Storing up in heaven” means that everything I do now that contributes to my spiritual growth today counts in heaven. Everything I do now to fulfill my divine purpose here contributes to my eternal purpose there. So, if I believe in heaven, if heaven is real, shouldn’t that affect what I do today? Yes it does. Eternal LORD, open my eyes to the reality of heaven’s impact on my life today. Show me what really matters and give me grace to pursue it.

I DIE DAILY

No matter how often I have earnestly renounced its dominance, selfishness has been my constant companion throughout life. As difficult and protracted this battle is, I cannot imagine any progress would have occurred if God had not sent His Word and Spirit to bridle my earthly impulses. The words of the apostle Paul are more meaningful than ever before: “I die daily.” I would rather be done with self at one fell swoop, but this is a daily spiritual battle. I often fall short of His high call, but His spirit comforts me while confronting my sin. Father of Life and Liberty, Your patience, mercy and divine discipline keep me.