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Showing posts from September, 2017

THIS PILGRIM'S PROGRESS

Each time I think I understand God’s ways and means He turns the diamond and new facets of His splendor emerge. For the true believer there is no spiking the ball in the end zone this side of Glory; there is no settling down and camping where we are in this life. Every pilgrim must progress until the finish. 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. So I’ll keep my shoes on until it’s over. 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.

A RAGING INFERNO

A fire needs plenty of air to reach its full potential, if ventilation is cut off, the flames die out. The same can be said of anger. While quiet, seething anger is still dangerous, venting our anger openly to others can lead to a raging inferno. Every emotion has a proper place in life, but expressed without the needed controls of God’s Word and Spirit, they become tools of our own destruction. We are scripturally warned to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander”; spreading it to others does not get rid of it, it only makes it worse. Like all things, my consternation must be surrendered to the Almighty. LORD, snuff out the embers of rage within my heart. Smother every flame within me that is displeasing to you.

A SLIPPERY SLOPE

It is a common malady to confuse exercising biblically granted divine authority with being “an authority on the divine”, confidently condemning people whom we don’t understand or who differ in some of their beliefs or practices. From there, it is a slippery slope that drops us into the pit of judgmentalism. Discernment and speaking truth have great value, but we can easily slip into ideological shortcuts, unfair conclusions and declarative pronouncements that are careless and hurtful rather than helpful. Lord, help me to discern in a highborn manner. Teach me to think and speak things bathed in Your love. Protect me from the earthly habit of swiftly categorizing and judging those who are different than me.

SEEDS

The mention of “trees in Florida” usually conjures up images of lanky palms, wispy pines and endless orange groves. But the Southern Magnolia is a large tree that graces the Sunshine State from top to bottom. Its bright white flowers bloom for months and fill the air with a lemony fragrance. The Magnolia’s exotic-looking seedpods open to reveal dozens of bright red seeds. Each tiny seed has the potential to populate the entire planet with Magnolias. The Creator who made the Magnolia made each of us. We too have seeds from the Father within us that have the potential to impact the world if we will just open up to His purposes. Blessed Architect of the Universe, help me open fully to Your will that Your blessed seeds may spread without limits.

I GOT ROBBED

I was again robbed recently. I was strolling along being thankful for so many things and it happened; a situation I have little control over and that I had already turned over to God came back to mind. I started worrying about it again and my peace was stolen. Actually, every time I am stressing over anything I am being robbed and something highly valuable is stolen away. "Be anxious for nothing" is not a suggestion, it is a Scriptural command that comes loaded with the backup of God's promises. And there I was being robbed of peace, robbed of promises, robbed of sonship and robbed of victory. Father forgive my wanderings through the dark places of worry. You are The LORD My Light and The LORD My Victor!

ACKNOWLEDGED

"In all your ways acknowledge Him." This biblical admonition does not mean that we simply recognize God's existence while continuing in our own ways; it is a command to trade our ways in for His. Acknowledgement of God is not a raw deal or a robbery; it is His generous offer to exchange our rickety methods for a much sturdier and dependable model of life. Surrender to His ways is never a zero sum trade off. In fact, WE are the ones that get the best deal ever as we yield to His ways rather than our own! So it is time to stop merely nodding our heads as we pass by the Master. Now we must bend the knee to His ways. Gracious God, grant me Your pardon and deliver me from my own earthly intentions. LORD I acknowledge You.

DOWN THE ROAD

On my morning walk I was behind a man and woman walking ahead of me. I immediately noticed the differences in their body language, she was on a mission and he was walking. His attention was primarily on consuming a “tall latte”, while hers was to keep him walking; the perfect picture of a routine walker and a rookie. He finished his coffee, then his "want to" kicked in and he tried to lead. In just minutes he slowed down again looking pretty exhausted. I could tell she had seen all this before, but she kept him moving. This is a shout out to all the teachers, pastors, coaches, mentors, parents and all the others who push us down the road. LORD Almighty, thank You for all the means you apply to keep me moving forward, please keep pushing me down the road.

TIMELESS INSIGHT

Each new generation has wonderful new ideas. Music changes, language changes, styles change, but some things never change; nor should they. We are warned several times in the Bible: “do not move an ancient boundary stone”. According to God’s design, the present and future is rooted in respecting the past. Interestingly, as one grows older, the lessons of the past become more relevant and crucial for both now and for what is ahead. Wonderful innovation, knowledge and communication is growing at breakneck speed all around us, but it is increasingly necessary to stop and remember who we are and where we came from to keep us on course to where we are going. Eternal Father, unmask for me the lessons of life; past, present and future. LORD, grant me timeless insight for today.

DESPERATE INTIMACY

Pain is very personal; every heart knows its own concealed agony. Smiles and laughter often mask hidden, inward grief. To the one who truly knows God as Father, those times of veiled agony actually become uniquely precious. For in the same way our deepest pain is vey private, times of desperate intimacy with the Great Shepherd turns our sorrows into joy in ways that no one else can share. In those “secret place” moments, mourning becomes dancing, grief becomes gladness and pouting becomes praise! Just the mention of His name declared in bedrock belief shatters the darkness and opens the heavens! My Lord, my God, You are Awesome, Powerful and Beautiful! All Glory and Majesty are Yours forever and ever amen!

FOOL'S GOLD

History is replete with stories of people thinking pyrite, an element made of iron sulfide, is actually gold. Many have been tricked by its similarities to one of the world’s most precious and valuable metals, which is why it is referred to as “fool’s gold". But what is the difference from chasing after fool’s gold and exchanging the riches of our faith and eternal calling for temporary conveniences, selfishness or passing pleasures? We are often so focused on something we want that we don't even think about what is of true value. Holy God and Father, help me keep my eyes on eternity. May the true riches of love, faithfulness and obedience be my constant pursuit.

COLD CUTS

I mostly avoid processed meats, but I still occasionally have an appetite for cold cuts. But I loathe the type of “cold cuts” that come from a mean tongue.  It seems that we feel a right, in fact, a need, to verbally shrink the value of someone else to feel better about ourselves. How sad. It is a tendency every human has at times, but for some, it is the accepted way of dealing with self-worth and value. The cure for this evil is found in the words of the apostle Paul: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” Painfully simple. LORD, grant me the humility and kindness of my Savior. Place Your coal of fire in my heart and upon my lips and make my mouth a fountain of blessing.

DID GOD REALLY SAY?

Satan’s opening line of temptation in the Garden was not one of accusation against God directly, instead, it planted seeds of doubt: “Did God really say?” First, it was a test of whether Eve knew and valued what God had said. Then he led her on a journey of questioning God’s motives as opposed to her own desires. Satan has not changed his tactics; so knowing what God has declared in Scripture is vital to our walk with God. Failure to study or lowering God’s Promises to our own personal experience levels are traps of the enemy. Father of Life and Light, I cannot depend upon any words but Yours. Awaken Your truth within me that I may not fail in the moments of temptation.

RIGHTEOUSNESS CONSCIOUSNESS

While standing in line at a checkout, an elderly gentleman motioned to a sleeping infant in his mother’s arms and asked me: “wouldn’t you love to have a conscious that clear?” It resonated with me, because I would. All of us would. Problem is, innocence cannot be retrieved once lost. Yet for those who come to know the boundless mercy of God and the inexhaustible sufficiency of our redemption, something even more wonderful is revealed; we are granted “righteousness consciousness.” In the divine exchange, our Savior took upon Himself our condemnation and bestowed upon us His right standing. Wow! Most Merciful Father, in Christ alone there is peaceful rest in Your transforming arms.

BLISSFULLY SHACKLED

Feeling bulletproof as a thirteen-year-old and standing on black ice for the first time I was sternly warned to be careful. Of course, I arrogantly ignored multiple warnings and let go of the handrail, foolishly declaring: “I can do this, I have good balance!” Over the next few seconds I fell hard several times and sheepishly crawled back over to the handrail and pulled myself upright. Lesson learned; I need good counsel and guardrails for life. Father of Light, my actions must rest on truth, my judgments held in check by Your governance and my feet guided by Your commands. My wrongdoings know few limits therefore I am blissfully shackled to Your Word and Spirit.

DIVINE DISREGARD

I should be grateful whenever I see spiritual progress in others or in myself, but sadly, this is not always the case. I sometimes do not like the method by which betterment comes; the process just doesn’t fit my plan. Life has no fast forward option, so we must fully trust in God as things unfold. Like slowly removing a bandage, the lethargic pace of circumstances can be very painful. Thankfully, the Perfect One ignores my opinion in these situations, knowing my temporary discomfort will lead to eternal good. I call this “Divine Disregard”. I often need it and God’s goodness provides it. Lord, thank You for taking little notice of my commonly contaminated opinions. Your way, that’s it!

BE STILL

The words of the Psalmist proclaim: “Be still and know that I am God.” It is not necessary that everything around me be still, I must inwardly be still. This is no cakewalk with pressures already rising with the sun. I must choose anew this day to “be still” and cast off the daily invasion of thoughts, cares and emotions that attempt to suppress God's Presence within me. Yesterday’s peace means nothing today; only heavenly focused stillness throughout my tasks will do. Prince of Peace, all earthly attempts at respite leave me wanting, my soul finds rest only in You. In the swirl of a new day’s turbulence, keep me settled down and listening for Your whisperings.

GOD'S HOLY GRIP

I am well acquainted with God’s Holy Grip. When I press in it is gentle but powerful, soft but firm. In moments when I’m being pulled away or straining against it, I feel His heavenly grasp tighten, His divine clench stiffening. There is no escape from the Good Shepherd’s hand. There are those startling moments of my feet dangling over a precipice, yet still, I am held firmly in the Savior’s clutch with no fear of being plucked from His hand. Father, I thank You for Your Mighty Handhold upon me. With Your loving embrace You uphold me, guide me, prod me, restrain me and comfort me. Though I sometimes try to pull away I do not resent Your holy restraint.

ASSOCIATIONS AND BROTHERHOOD

I approach people with belief that they are created in God’s image and so I look for the God-imprint within them, even in those who refute His existence or contort it into some vain philosophy. This method has been mostly successful but has its downsides. It requires keeping my own internal compass accurately calibrated to God’s Word and Spirit. It also demands that I chose carefully how closely or how far I am permitted to walk with someone. Simply stated, with accurate discernment, I may associate with those with whom I cannot have true brotherhood or genuine fellowship. Lord, give me increasingly accurate discernment. Help me choose comradeship wisely.

WORD OF GOD, SPEAK

The Word of the Lord surrounds us; the universe itself is formed and held in place by God’s declaration. He spoke and there was light. He spoke again and there was mankind. In fact, everything in creation is framed by His Word. There is no language, no place, no creation and no heart where His voice is not heard. The Word of God is always active, imparting life and power to all who will take notice, purifying the unclean heart and tearing down the most stubborn strongholds. Praise to You, O Lord my Maker, my Healer, my Deliverer and my Defender! Eternal God and Father, teach me to hear and to promptly obey your decrees. May Your Word have full access to the far reaches of my soul. Word of God, speak.

CAPTAIN ON THE BRIDGE

I was at a local retreat center praying with a group of pastors when the North Tower of the World Trade Center was struck. Someone rolled a TV into the room where we were gathered within minutes and we sat in mesmerized horror, wondering what it all meant. As we were watching the events unfold in Manhattan another plane crashes into the South Tower. I stood and said to the pastors: “gentlemen, captains need to be on the bridge at times like these”, so we all packed our bags and headed to our respective churches. While I was driving to my church two additional planes were crashed in D.C. and Pennsylvania. Praying for wisdom as I walked into our offices, it came to me, those who know little of God’s love and supremacy will live in a constant state of fear. They don’t understand that there are higher laws at work than our own. Lord, Your sovereignty will always prevail. Though horror still unfolds before us, You deliver us from fear. Even in the worst of moments Your Sovereign Hand is on…

BONA FIDE GRATITUDE

The Bible commands: “In everything give thanks”. The level of our gratitude is a proving ground for the depth of our faith. Thankfulness comes to mind fairly easily for me, but all too often, it is my second response instead of my first. A battle I regularly face when it comes to gratitude is that even when I feel it, it can easily morph into another version of my incessant need to be happy. But today I awake with authentic thankfulness; for my amazing wife and family, friends both old-and-new, powerful victories, redeemed defeats, needed lessons, still waters, tall mountains, blue skies and stormy passages alike. Bona fide gratitude glorifies God. Father, You are good beyond eartlhy comprehension and Your mercies endure forever!

DANCING THROUGH THE STORM

I have passed through a few hurricanes over a lifetime. As outer bands spew copious amounts of rain and trees swing wildly in the powerful winds, there is an eerie beauty and justifiable fear. Palm trees, with their long, lanky trunks and floppy branches perched at the very top seem relatively fragile until these moments. Actually, they handle the tempest better than stately oaks or cedars. While huge trees tear apart, the palms just dance through the storm. Father, I get it; what may appear as strength is not. You design each of us with unseen, inexplicable strength. Help me stay firmly planted in You as I dance through the storm.

PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS

It is no bother at all to simply categorize someone we don’t like or understand under a cherished prejudice and ignore or even revile them. However, there is grave danger in turning away too quickly; to mistreat, disregard or malign others is to show contempt for their Maker. I must never forget that the differences I sometimes resent in others have God’s fingerprints on them. Father, help me to love as You love. I thank You for confronting my preconceived notions about those who I don’t understand. Tear away every remaining bias in my soul and grant me a discerning heart. Teach me to love genuinely and deeply.

MY PORTION

As a child I always wanted a bigger slice of pie if I could get it, but now I must constantly self-manage my portion control. My childhood proclivity for more still pops up, but to be a man with whom God is pleased, childishness must be permanently put away. However, there is great news when it comes to my “slice of life”, things could not have worked out better. The psalmist declares: "The Lord is my Portion!" This is perfect. Since God is My Portion, the only limitations are those He places on me. Now THAT is portion control I can absolutely trust! This means that nothing is too big if He wants it and nothing is too small if it is His choice. LORD, You are Great and Greatly to be Praised! Blessed Father, Help me to live fully and faithfully in Your daily provision.

A HARDENING HEART

The hardening of the heart is a slow process. It may begin as a particularly prized opinion or stubborn commitment to a specific course of action. Disappointments begin to pile up and the stiffening process commences. Hardening increases by rebellion against needed disciplines, bitterness over circumstances or by unbridled selfishness. As the hardening continues excuses are made, all contrary opinions are cast aside and no authority is trusted. In the end, callousness of the heart makes us resistance to truth itself. Father, grant me an open and pliable heart. May nothing I think or do be held so dear that truth may no longer penetrate.

TIMELESS

It seems so long since my mother passed from this life though it has actually been only a couple of years. Yet, I am acutely aware that I am still walking through doors her prayers opened. That's right. There are no time limits for God's Promises and the prayer of faith has no expiration date! The Alpha and Omega transcends whatever time and space limitations this world holds. He is EL SHADDAI, The LORD Almighty! This is why we must never grow weary while in the battle of faith. The Lord God, “who is and who was, and who is to come” has things under control. Father, forgive my limited earthly views of Your eternal work. Grant me courage and strength to keep swinging when I’m weary.

BANISHED DOUBT

There is no guarantee that things, which troubled me yesterday, will not try to return with even more intensity today. Yet, I awaken anew with the joy of knowing that God is good and His power is not depleted. The Almighty’s abiding love stands guard over His creation, His provision feeds the birds of the air and clothes flowers with beauty. He never slumbers nor sleeps and His treasury and power are never exhausted. Holy Father, banish from my heart every last vestige of doubt. You are Lord of All, all the time and in every way. Deliver me from lugging yesterday’s consternations into this glorious new day.

LIGHT WINS

Darkness cannot hold back light; the moment morning light appears darkness scampers away. Light wins, a new day has dawned and it is front-loaded with unfurling possibilities. Should I have no more than this day, the miracle is that I have it at all. God has granted me another sunrise and each unveiling moment comes jam packed with new opportunities, surprises, blessings, and challenges. As believers, we do not simply walk in the light; we are light in this dark world. Blessed Giver of Life, in Your unending mercy, guide my steps. Strengthen my resolve to not simply drift along throughout this new day. Grant me discernment to unearth its treasures and shine through me to others.

FROM THE PIT TO THE PALACE

Joseph was loved by his father but hated by his jealous brothers; they resented his blessings and especially despised the dreams God had given him. It still happens. Joseph showed us a more excellent way when he forgave those who had tried to destroy him. It is painful to be unjustly vilified, but the pit where we are thrown becomes a place of purification and discovery. Sometimes the pit is the most important stop along the journey to fulfilling the dream. Heavenly Father, I will not permit today’s disappointments to kill the dreams You give. Because of Your great love, and tender mercies I am headed from the pit to the palace.

NO ONE BUT ONE

Risk management is the process of making and managing decisions to minimize failures. While this has proven value for many things, no one but One can accurately predict the future. The Alpha and Omega has already trod every trail ahead. Before I uttered a sound He heard my voice, before I lifted a hand He acknowledged my needs, before I failed He provided mercy, before I cried out He attended to my longings. Gracious Father, I know I must turn to You first in all things. You, O LORD are the Fountain of Life, Wisdom and Safety. In all my wanderings, keep me close to You and guide me with Your Sure Hand.