Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2018

CRUSTY NO MORE

A large patch of dead grass in our yard had become rock hard on the surface; the destructive work of moles. No new grass would grow in that spot until the crusty remains of past greenery-gone-bad was removed. The same process is necessary within my soul. Relationships can be very life giving, but sometimes they go south quickly. The hardness of heart that past disappointments or betrayals create must be plowed under and removed or the crusty leftovers could prevent new life from emerging. Honest self-examination, forgiveness, praying for others and filling life with truth and mission are unbeatable tools for softening my heart. Glorious God, in Your Loving Mercy, break up crustiness within my heart. Make my soul pliable, ready to receive new seeds and new growth.

LADEN WITH GOD'S PRESENCE

As a youngster traveling with my family through Florida I marveled at the seemingly endless amount of fruit-laden orange trees. The branches were so full of citrus that the lower ones touched the ground. In similar fashion, each new day and each and every moment is laden with God’s Presence. It is as if I am standing next to a tree filled with ripened fruit; I can simply reach out and take its delicious bounty. Earthly trees offer but one fruit but this is different, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” I want every one of these! What will God provide me today that could change someone’s life? Will I even notice? Lord, thank You for Your bountiful blessings. Help me awaken to and take hold of Your provision. I ask that You never allow me to consume Your Goodness for myself without sharing it with others.

DIAMONDS ON MY DRIVEWAY

Passing by the front window at daybreak I looked at the driveway and received a wonderful surprise, there were diamonds everywhere; beautiful sparkles were spread across the otherwise dull concrete. Upon further examination I realized it was dew gathered on small leaves reflecting a combination of moonlight and dawning sunlight. Again, God had transformed the ordinary into something amazing and resplendent with beauty. That is what He does. A dusty rock orbiting the earth becomes a brilliant moon with God’s touch and design. An ordinary mind can have a life-altering idea with just a nudge from the All Knowing One. Jeremiah said: “Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth’.” With a single touch God made Him a mouthpiece for truth. King of Majesty, I stand amazed in Your Presence. As surely as you spread momentary treasures on the ground You spread eternal treasures throughout my life. I am very grateful.

HAPPILY DEFEATED

As a twelve-year-old Boy Scout I was almost defeated by distance. Our troop was taken on a 20-mile hike in the heat of a Florida summer. I don’t even remember my troop leader’s name but thanks to him we all learned we could go much farther than we believed possible That 20-Mile Hike merit badge meant far more to me than did others I had earned because it was a discovery of what is possible. I have since learned that “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength”. All but one thing that is…I cannot out-distance His love. After repeatedly passing through impossible circumstances as “more than a conqueror” I am utterly overcome by My Savior’s amazing love and faithfulness. Dearest Father, I am not a wandering exile, You call me by name, You claim me as Your own. I am happily defeated by Your immeasurable love. 8/27/13, 11/25/15, 11/15/18

MY ANCHOR HOLDS

Jesus said: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find restforyoursouls.” On the oceans of the world an approaching storm can come so fast that there is no way to avoid it. Both Captain and crew are put to a test that can last for days on end. Growing weary in a fight against these unrelenting tempests is a normal part of life on the seas. Exhaustion becomes just ashazardous as the gale itself; making bad decisions increasingly becomes a dangerous potential. Dropping anchor to get some rest can be the only wise course of action. For the child of God there is also rest in the storm that only our Heavenly Father can provide. I must cease from my own works to allow Him to do His Divine Work. The great hymn proclaims: “In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.” Dearest Father, Captain of My Soul, my anchor holds, I am at rest. You are LORD of All.

FULLY PRESENT

We have all been in more than a few early roll calls in elementary school. We listened with only modicum of interest; and once our name was called and acknowledged we lost interest. But as we each learned, there is a huge difference between “physically present” and being “fully present”. The same is true when it comes to the will of God. I can show up to the moment half asleep or half awake. On the Mountain of Transfiguration the disciples were very sleepy and they too slipped into the unconsciousness of deep sleep, but “when they became fully awake they saw his glory.” At times, I slide into a half-present/half-awake consciousness in my spiritual walk as well, only vaguely aware of the divine value of that moment. Holy Lord, AWAKEN me…ALL of me. Let the brightness of Your dawning bathe my soul. May Your Glory fill my life leaving nothing untouched!

ACKNOWLEGED

"In all your ways acknowledge Him." This biblical admonition is not intended to mean that we simply recognize God's existence while continuing in our own ways; it is a command to exchange our ways for His. Acknowledgement of God is not a raw deal or a robbery; it is His generous offer to trade our rickety ways for a much sturdier and dependable model of life. Surrender to doing things God’s way 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! His ways come jam-packed with previously unseen blessings. 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.

A RAGING INFERNO

The powerful Santa Ana Winds are what fuel the furious California fires each fall. 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.

LOVE FILTER

Expressing feelings and opinions comes fairly easily for me, but speaking without necessary restraints is never a good thing. Frankly, I have both wounded and healed with my words. As Proverbs states: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Though I genuinely attempt to use care in what I say, far too often, the wrong things slip through anyway. The phrase “I really shouldn’t say this…” followed by saying it anyway is a fools game. Words guided by wisdom and bathed in love should be the constant way of the child of God. To withhold wisdom can rob someone of a blessing, but to say just anything that comes to mind is never the right path. Father, cleanse my lips, help me speak only what is filtered through love. Purify my heart that my mouth will be a fountain of blessing.

FINISHING WELL

I am not striving to live the best life possible, I am contending to finish well. What a wonderful life I’ve already lived. It is most definitely not perfect nor do I expect it to be, but it has been quite an amazing run. When I survey the blessings, the wonderful people and the mind-blowing opportunities I have been offered in this life I can gratefully say I am at peace. So the issue is no longer “grabbing the brass ring” or concern about what others think; my goal is finishing well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no hurry to finish, it’s just that want to reach the end and be able to declare with confidence the words of the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” In other words, I want to please “The audience of One”. I hope to one day hear the words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant”. LORD, it is well, it is well, with my soul.

HOLIER-THAN-THOU

The heart that understands the unmerited grace God offers will not fall victim to a superiority complex toward others. If we are still under the delusion that we are blessed because of our moral rectitude or exceptional knowledge, then prideful judgmentalism is assured. Religious arrogance paralyzes spiritual progress and sets us up for a fall. I would like to think I abandoned all sanctimonious tendencies far behind but they still pop up like toast out of a toaster. They are still lurking in my soul, camouflaged as “concern for my brother” or some other pitiful excuse. It is not pleasing to God to for me to deny someone else the mercy and grace on which I so heavily depend. Lord, have mercy on my earthly ways and make me more like You. May my pursuit of piety never produce a holier-than-thou response to others.

PANIC ATTACK

A powerful storm on the lake prompted the disciples to wake Jesus from “sound sleep”. The disciples were in mortal fear, their panic made them feel he didn’t care and their words were infused with foolishness: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He awoke, spoke peace to the storm “Peace, be still” then asked them: ““Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The size of our crisis causes no panic on His part; God has no panic attacks, instead, He attacks our panic. Since He is not bound by time nor limited in capacity, He cannot be confounded or set back by earthly turmoil. He is the Eternal Sovereign, the Almighty, the Lord of All and the Lord our Peace. Heavenly Father, Your timing, Your way, Your will, that’s it! My storms are in Your hands; I rest assured in Your Presence.

RIGHTEOUSNESS CONSCIOUSNESS

While standing in line at a checkout, an elderly gentleman motioned to a sleeping infant in a young mother’s arms and asked me: “wouldn’t you love to have a conscious that clear?” It resonated with me because I would love to have a conscious unburdened with the scars of past failures. All of us would. The 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 while held in Your transforming arms.

GIVE SPACE

Two words came to mind while in prayer: ”give space.” The Presence of God can occupy space of any size, but His residency may not be recognizable while hidden in the junk pile of an overstuffed life. It is amazing how quickly every last bit of storage area in a drawer, house, office, car or garage fills to the brim. Since we know how easily empty space gets jam-packed with unessential things, we need to sincerely ask ourselves some questions: “How overstuffed is the space in my soul?” “Does the Savior find any room in the inn or is He still stuck out in a manger?” Lord of Light and Life, You own me through and through. I desire to yield every last bit of space in my inward being to You. In Your mercy grant me grace for further housecleaning in my mind, my heart and my calendar.

BEYOND THE COMMON COURSE

The salt marshes along the southeastern coast can be quite tricky to navigate. Many perils await such as hidden, oyster-covered sand bars and maze-like waterways that easily confuse the inexperienced. However, leaving the safety of the marked channels opens endless rewards of beautiful wildlife such as manatees, bald eagles, great fishing, a kaleidoscope of colors and a serene sense of quiet privacy. In those exquisite moments it all seems divinely composed. Well, it is. A similar experience can belong to those who pull away from the common channel of mundane spirituality and go deep into the quiet spaces. The God-seeker will soon become the God-finder. Lord of Might and Wonders, help me seek the unseen beyond the common course. Nudge me toward divine moments secret places where Your Glory awaits the seeker and rarified air fills every breath.

OPEN HEART, OPEN HANDS

Proverbs reveals: “There is one who scatters, yet increases more and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty.” Interestingly, generosity is not dependent upon our level of material resources. In fact, it is often the case that the more abundance someone possesses the harder it is to live with open hands. We easily become so focused on managing what we have or don’t have that we forget why God blesses us with abundance in the first place. The key to generous living is to stop calculating the value of the gift by recognizing the value of being a giver. As God’s instruments of blessing we are to be a resource, not a reservoir. Blessed Giver of Life, time, talents and treasure are all gifts from You. Open and cleanse my heart so my hands will not be sticky and that I may give as feely as I have received.

SPIRITUAL WARFARE

Most Christians imagine spiritual warfare to be a matter of battling high-level, diabolical tactics proceeding from a well-designed operational plan launched against us from Satan’s Central Command. While that may well be the case at times, most of my personal warfare emanates from irritating airline schedule changes, overcrowded intersections and disinterested help-desk attendants. In fact, my greatest battles do not proceed from the bowels of hell, but from the unsurrendered back-alleys of my heart. Of course, Satan and his minions are always willing to escort my strolls through the underworld of impatience and presumption, but last time I checked the Bible, they were defeated by Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Father, again I must confess, though I am Your son, I am still a rookie in many ways. Shine Your transforming Light on my dark moments.

EXHAUSTED RESOURCES

With one astonishing response to an otherwise unremarkable need at the wedding in Cana our Redeemer revealed so much about His will and ways. He revealed that He can turn exhausted resources into abundant overflow in an instant and showed how an ordinary moment can be transformed into a miraculous blessing by simply obeying His commands. He demonstrated that our needs and requests are not ignored, and that He is perfectly willing to do something supernatural in our everyday lives if we ask in faith. Lastly, He made known His inclination to save the very best for last. Blessed LORD, thank You for making it plain to see; exhausted resources set the stage for Your amazing handiwork. Help me embrace Your ways more firmly and obey Your commands more readily.

ALMOST PERFECT

The apostle Peter was so overwhelmed by what was happening on the Mountain of Transfiguration he was willing to forget everything else and just stay there. Almost perfect moments come along in life from time to time.And while pursuing perfection is a laudable quest, it is never a full reality in this world. Absolute perfection will come only at the final manifestation of the Perfect One. We search for it, admire it and occasionally get a glimpse of perfection, only to eventually realize the truth; God is perfect in all His ways, but nothing else or no one else is on this side of Glory. Dear Father, “Author and Perfector of My Faith”, though I am but a wandering exile from true perfection, you confront my shortcomings with mercy. I longingly await the day of perfection when I see You “face to face” and am forever transformed into Your likeness.

KINDNESS

The Bible ranks patience and kindness right at the top of the “love List”: “Love is patient, love is kind.” How often must I be kind? Though past disappointments may still sting within 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. As we know, “God is love.” And since kindness is one of the principle characteristics of love, offering it to others is one of the highest examples of genuine godliness. Even if it is abused or rejected by those to whom it is offered kindness benefits the giver 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.

THROW DOWN, INVITE IN

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. The purpose and trajectory of Moses’ life was about to radically change. He was instantly transformed on that mountainside from a shepherd to the deliverer of the Hebrew people and that simple staff became an instrument of miracles. When Jesus stepped into Peter’s boat, the fisherman’s life and career were revolutionized as he was then sent by the Savior to be a “fisher of men”. What must I throw down today to do His Holy Work? Where in my life must I invite 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.

IT IS WELL!

“Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul”; poignant words penned by Horatio Spafford as his ship passed the spot in the Atlantic where his four daughters had died in a tragic shipwreck just days before. “It is well” are the words spoken to the prophet by the Shunamite woman, erstwhile her child laid dead at her home. Her son would later be raised from the dead because of the faith driving those words. No one can declare such things while mired in earthly obsessions. These are divinely inspired words, spiritually informed words; faith infused words spoken from consecrated hearts. To proclaim, “It is well” is not a refusal to accept earthly facts, it is to simply to call upon higher realities. Circumstances come and go but God’s goodness and promises never change. My Lord Almighty, Healer of the Broken Hearted, may my lips bear witness to Your Glory and Power.

HOLD POSITION

High-level strategic planning and oversight by military commanders are critical elements to victory, but wars are not won at Central Command, wars are won on the battlefield. While a strong and competent chain of command from headquarters to the frontline is essential, in the final analysis, the battle is won by the foot soldier. Battlefield victory is achieved when each soldier is WHERE they are assigned, WHEN they are scheduled to be there and WITH the preparation, needed resources and commitment to finish the fight. Our orders are clear: “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of civilian life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” LORD You have assigned each of us to our station in this world and armed us for what is ahead. May I be found faithfully holding position and advancing on the enemy as You command.

COLD CUTS

I mostly avoid processed meats, but I still occasionally have an appetite for cold cuts. But I truly loathe the type of “cold cuts” that come from a mean tongue. It seems that many people feel a right, in fact, a fiendish need to verbally shrink the value of someone else to feel better about themselves. How sad. It is a temptation every human struggles with from time to time but for some people tearing down others is their normal way of dealing with issues of self-worth and value. The cure for this state of mind is found in the words of the apostle Paul: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” This is 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 mind and my mouth a fountain of blessings not curses. 9/20/17, 10/25/18

DIVINE SURVEILLANCE

Everywhere we are in the modern world we are being surveilled by cameras, electronic devices, computer algorithms and the like. But more importantly, our ways are in full view of the LORD; this is both comforting and discomforting at once. I am blessed to know that God cares and monitors every step, yet I feel the constant struggle of complete surrender to His ways. Yet knowing my Heavenly Father’s motives are absolutely pure and mine are not, the choice is uncomplicated: not my ways, but His ways alone must prevail. So there it is. I cannot coast along on yesterday’s victories, nor will I dwell on yesterday’s losses. Father, I depend upon Your mercy and welcome Your Divine Surveillance. I will attend to Your promptings today afresh. I desire to fully yield control to Your will and ways. Lord, in Your mercy, make it so.

A 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. Every attempt to pull away became another round of entanglement. Stepping into quarrels can feel the same. I immediately want to stop the hurting but every poorly executed move away from the discomfort 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. It is no wonder why James instructed: “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” Oh Lord My Guide; I earnestly seek Your Wisdom. Help me steer clear of treacherous mockers and keep my heart free of offenses. Bathe my soul with Your liberating Love.

THE STRANGER BOX

Moses declared: “For the Lord your God is mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality…He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger…” Our human tendency is to classify people into “us” and “them”; the more different they are the greater our impulse to dehumanize them, casting them aside with egocentric, self-justification. We just drop them in the “Stranger Box”. This leads to ungodly hatred. The ironic thing is, every single one of us is in someone else’s stranger box. The child of God must behave as our Father in Heaven, loving without discrimination. He can judge righteously for He loves righteously. LORD God, Your ways are wonderful. You love perfectly. You judge justly yet with mercy. Open my eyes and heart to Your ways and use me as an instrument of Your love.

KINGDOM COMRADES

I genuinely appreciate the depths of alliance and devotion that is formed while under fire. Relationships forged in the “furnace of much affliction” gain an inner strength like tempered metal. Surface disputes may remain, but inwardly, a code is formed and covenant is knitted deeply into the heart. I never had the privilege to serve in the military but I feel much more in common with those who climbed Normandy’s Cliffs, slogged through the Mekong Delta or bore the dust and heat in Desert Storm than with those who only accept convenient truths and shallow devotion. Proverbs unveils the beauty of brotherhood: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time,” and “A man with many friends can still be ruined, but a true friend sticks closer than a brother”. Lord, grant me a warrior’s heart. Free me from temporal entanglements and bind my heart to Kingdom Comrades.

GOD'S HOLY GRIP

Raising multiple children informs parents of how dangerous life can be. For example, normally mundane parking lots are transformed into minefields of danger when there are small children onboard. Every stop begins with a stern reminder of the rules of disembarkation. It begins: “Wait right there, Daddy will open your door.” And the supreme rule: “Hold Daddy’s hand all the way.” And since my walk of faith is no different I am well acquainted with God’s Holy Grip. When I press in it is gentle, soft but firm. In moments when I am being pulled away, or straining against it, I feel His Divine Grasp tightening. There are startling moments of feet dangling over a precipice, yet I am still held firmly in the Savior’s clutch. And frankly He still will not permit me to open my own doors. Father, thank You for Your Mighty Hand. You uphold, guide, prod, restrain and comfort me. LORD, help me to firmly take hold of You.

NUDGES FROM ON HIGH

While it is absolutely true that the Holy Spirit is our Comforter, God’s comforting nearly always includes making me uncomfortable. Since complacency is my constant nemesis, thankfully, His love continually prods and cajoles me to move forward. Like the lame man at the Well of Bethesda, I sometimes camp out on the edge of hope but feel incapable of moving when the water is stirred. That is when the Holy Spirit, the wonderful “Hound of Heaven” nudges, convicts, prompts and pushes me forward. Herein lies a fundamental spiritual principle: convenience or loafing is rarely the path to spiritual growth. Father, thankfully, Your love propels me ahead. I welcome Your holy nudges, even when it is bothersome and interrupts my complacent tendencies. Help me stand to my feet and walk forward in faith.

UNWASHED HANDS

As surely as eating with unwashed hands can lead to sickness, over-exposure to irreverent unbelief leaves us susceptible to infection within our soul. Unfiltered pursuits and constant self-indulgence belong to the perishing, but wisdom and discernment are provided to the God-seeker. The powerful force of a sold-out commitment and a surrendered will furnishes us with protection from both external and internal corruption. Like guardrails along a cliff-side highway, the disciplines of stewardship and faithfulness create a safety barrier against meandering into spiritual danger and falling away. Isaiah wrote: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” O Lord My Protector, grant Your Wisdom this day. Guard my heart and actions with Your Wo…

SWALLOWED UP 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 child of God, what appears as failure is never the end of the story. The LORD turns every defeat into wins for those who live in surrender to Him. Holy Father, I am so thankful for those holy moments in which loss is “swallowed up in victory”. You truly work “everything for good” as we live in Your love and pursue our divine purpose. You shelter our souls and turn our mourning into joyful dancing!

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

With the Red Sea ahead, the dust-filled sky above and Pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit God’s counsel to the fleeing Hebrews seemed impossible to take seriously, “Do not be afraid, the Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.” Seriously? Be still? Every human instinct is to try to mitigate circumstances such as this by every means possible. Yet, when all our efforts fail we are still not without recourse; as it turned out, God opened the Red Sea for the Hebrews but closed it upon the pursuing Egyptians. When we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place it is time to climb to a higher place. In another encounter God said to Moses: “I will put you in the cleft of therock, and will cover you with My hand.” The Psalmist penned a beautiful insight in his prayer, “Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You. When my heart is overwhelmed lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the ene…

THAT SWEET SPOT

In sports, the “Sweet Spot” is the point or area on a bat, club, racket or foot at which it makes most effective contact with the ball. There are also “Sweet Spots” in life and faith. Jesus said: “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” In simple terms we must begin our journey of faith with innocent curiosity, humility, happy heartedness, trust and willingness to believe. But childlikeness must be limited to our approach to God, not in our lifelong behavior before others. The Apostle Paul clarifies this as he states: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” and later: “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus”. So I must remain in this holy tension between childlikeness with God and maturity among mankind. No excuses. Glorious Father, lead me to that “Sw…

MIRROR, MIRROR

As a child it was fascinating to stare into mirrors, each reflection revealing details I previously missed. I soon learned that the quality of the mirror and lighting made a huge impact on what I saw. As I’ve aged this experience has grown increasingly less pleasant, so I now prefer dim reflections. When it comes to the inner man the opposite has occurred. Having paid the price of human deceptions, I yearn for authenticity within, no matter the consequences. We read from James: “If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” Staring into the lighted mirror of God’s Word daily is the best guarantee of seeing who I am and how I look. Lord of Truth and Light, while there is pain in the discovery, I want the transforming power of truth to transform my falsehood into Your image.

WHILE I WAS SLEEPING

Spiritual immaturity seems to have no bounds, like a creaking door with rusty hinges it just hangs around making itself heard. I was awakened today from the depths of sleep while still dreaming. In my dream I was silently being critical and judgmental of someone. Even in slumber unkindness can vex my soul. Though it was just a dream with no enduring consequences, I prayed upon awakening. I do not want bad will toward others free-ranging throughout my heart. LORD, may the devious snares of darkness be undone and his instruments of evil be snatched away. I seek Your mercy that the stumbling blocks of self-centered belligerence will be permanently removed. Lord, my need for Your saving grace is constant. I awake yearning for the gentleness, forgiveness and maturing power of Your Fatherly love.

SEEING THE UNSEEABLE

Technology continues to improve mankind’s ability to see what was formerly unseeable. Pilots can fly in clouds and still navigate safely, astronomers peer deeper and deeper into space and geologists see into the depths of the earth. However, having an idea of what is ahead only modestly improves our chances of making right choices. Improved abilities to see are ultimately useless without God’s wisdom and guidance. A prudent person foresees both dangers and opportunities but may not know what is best. Thankfully, faith and trust are not blind ignorance; they come with divine help from the ALL Seeing, ALL Knowing One; His Spirit and Word ripping away our blindness, causing us to see as He sees, to know as He knows! Lord I safely advance in Your Loving Care and Unlimited Wisdom.

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES

Life is jam-packed with opportunities to grow. There is so much that can be learned and such an abundance of pathways to information, but seeking greater understanding is useless if we are never able to acknowledge truth. In 2 Timothy 3:7 we see a tragic description of many knowledge seekers: “always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth”. Only God can reveal truth; a life devoid of it has no safe boundaries or godly direction. Truth requires no second opinions, additional alternatives or modifications. Once encountered, truth must be embraced and put it into practice. We are either transformed by it or suffer the consequences of ignoring it. Lord God, You alone are the Fountain of Truth. Grant me increased grace to seek and find the truth. I confess my human ignorance but believe as Your Word proclaims that I “have the mind of Christ” and joyfully await Your divine instructions.

DIVINE ARCHITECTURE

God designs and imprints each person’s individuality, however, autonomy is not a part of the divine architecture. Our necessary dependence upon God and subsequent interdependence with others is wired-in at the deepest level of our being. While it is true that I can build towering walls around my heart, pull in the drawbridge and consider all others intruders, to do so is to condemn myself to a self-imposed prison where I would remain in solitary confinement. More importantly, in that condition I would cease to fulfill my eternal purpose and the voice of God to me and through me to others would be silenced. Lord of Liberty and Purpose, You Alone are my Shield and Strength, my High Tower and Protector. Forgive my useless efforts to go it alone and provoke my heart to openness and love.

BEYOND LIMITS

Flying over the Sahara Desert, the world’s largest at 3.3 million square miles is an amazing and daunting sight. It seems to go on forever, but every desert has its boundaries, every ocean has its shores and every storm its finish. Likewise, every trial we experience in this life has its limits and no adversity can go on forever.While trudging though it may feel like difficulties are limitless but they cannot go on forever, nor can they extend beyond God’s sovereign authority.God’s love and provision are eternal and inexhaustible, carrying us through even the most extensive wasteland, taking us beyond limits “on eagle’s wings”. He accompanies us through each moment of every trial and the rewards of trust and faithfulness are both ever-present never-ending. In Hannah’s prayer of thankfulness for God granting her a son she cries out: “It is not by strength that one prevails”. The psalmist proclaims: “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.” Father…

CONNECTING THE DOTS

In Galatians we learn, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” This is not that complicated; if I plant an orange seed I get an orange tree, if I sow love I get a harvest of love. 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 and dangerous. 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.

TWO STICKS OF LOVE

“Thy rod and Thy Staff they comfort me”. David’s words ring true to my heart; These two ordinary instruments of shepherding are sticks of love.  The Lord deals straightforwardly with my weaknesses, treating me as a son who requires His discipline yet bearing no grudges against my many failings.Though we each stray from the boundaries of His will at times, He never grows weary of searching for his wandering lambs. When I scamper away from His Presence, He always finds me wherever I’ve roamed. His rod of discipline is rightfully applied, but it never done in disgust or as we rightfully deserve; rather, it is always dispatched justly and delivered in His perfect love. When I stray into danger, He lifts me to safety with His staff and does not abandon me, as I deserve. Selah. O Lord My Great Shepherd and Keeper, hallowed be Your Name! Deliver me from earthly obsessions and draw me near to Your side. Grant me grace to take hold of all You have commanded and to live accordingly.

THIS PILGRIM'S PROGRESS

John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim's Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come” is an allegory written while he was imprisoned for his Christian beliefs. Until we reach the Golden Gates of Heaven we must progress in our walk of faith here on earth. 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 on this side of Glory; there is no settling down where we are in this life. Not only am I tolerant of this constantly changing status, I am genuinely thankful for it. I am being pulled toward eternal purpose that I cannot fathom but I 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.

NOTHING WASTED

Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier, widely considered the “father of modern chemistry” stated: “Nothing in nature is wasted”. An astute observation for sure, but this fact leads to an even greater truth revealed in Romans: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.” So creation bears our Creator’s image and reveals His character. As in nature, nothing is wasted with God. Redemption is God taking the rotting compost of our lives and transforming it into fertilizer for the future. The Bible declares: “All things work together for good to those who love God” and by the Cross, “to reconcile all things to Himself”. In other words, nothing wasted, nothing lost, only transformation! LORD of Lords, Your ways are beyond wonderful! Thank you for redemption. Thank You for wasting absolutely nothing!

A DIVINE RYTHYM

Daybreak soon, then the beat goes on. Once this life is over a day cannot be purchased at any price. Over-thinking past or future events diminishes the value of this fresh new start. So I will begin in quiet meditation and prayer with the words of the psalmist penned while in the Judean desert: “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” There is a divine rhythm within every moment, a holy mystery in each twinkling of an eye that is easily missed if ignored. Only sensitivity to the Spirit of God can unlock the constantly present treasury of wisdom, insight, power and heaven-sent comfort. Blessed Father, settle me down. Deliver me from attempting to turn mysteries into formulas. Teach me to patiently take it all in and not miss a thing. Grant me entrance to Your secret place in each moment, day by day.

BY FAITH

"As it is written, the just shall live by faith.” The simple biblical phrase “BY FAITH” opens a universe of understanding and divine power. Biblically-formed faith is not presumption, it is not easy-believism; it is death to self, rock-solid trust in God and spirit-infused obedience. BY FAITH, I may confidently approach the Throne of Grace despite feeling unworthy to do so. BY FAITH, I can freely love others without terrorizing fear of rejection or misunderstanding. BY FAITH and all her sisters, IN FAITH, THROUGH FAITH, WITH FAITH, I can dance through the Valley of Darkness and Doubt with certitude, irrepressible joy and boundless remedy. O LORD My Victor and Keeper, Your faith-launching promises grant me uncluttered assurance, releases unbounded joy and thrusts me forward in the way of everlasting! By faith I enter this day in peace and power.

GOD LOVES ME

Proverbs proclaims: “The Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he in whom He delights.” And in Hebrews we read: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.” So I’m thinking, God loves me a whole lot. It seems that nothing I think or do misses His constant oversight in things both big and small; His instructive voice never ceases. So I take heart in knowing both the severity and the goodness of God. Thankfully, He is patient and kind, mostly accepting my micro-changes and slow pace. But at times His rebuke is sharp and to the point. This too, is the mercy, wisdom and love of God at work. Dear LORD and Father, though at times discouragement buffets my soul Your love lifts me to the heights and grants strength for the battle.

HERE WE GO AGAIN!

A seasonal shift brings change in the air; almost unperceivable at first, then obvious signs emerge. I love how God works in both Nature and in my own life. There is always something afoot. Just as I settle down new seasons arrive unannounced and everything begins to change; grace for where I have trod slowly recedes and grace for what is next begins to appear. I may uselessly complain that I’m not ready for change or I can embrace what is ahead and begin to prepare for what its coming. There is simply no future in the past; I must trust that God will carry me through my next season as faithfully as He did the last. Lord of All Creation, acclimate my heart to what now approaches. Grant me increased capacity to accept a new measure of grace for this new season. More of You, less of me.

AN ENLARGED HEART

For many people life is all about grabbing all you can and canning what you get. In other words, the value of this type of person’s life is measured by how much they are able to collect, control and keep. But true life is experiencing the blessing of living to give, living to lift, living to bless and living to love. When my attention is on what I lack, my hearts shrinks, but when my eyes are on what I can do for others my heart is enlarged, faith is released and joy abounds. Once love takes over amazing things happen. While I have known and practiced these principles for a long time, still I am tested. Like a pilot who must continue to be re-certified each year for the sake of everyone’s safety, my heart must be re-certified continually by generosity. LORD God, keep my heart cleansed and filled with love. All that I am and all that I steward in this life is Yours to direct.

LIAR, LIAR

Paul warned Timothy long ago about things we see today on an ever-broadening scale: “Evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” This is nothing new. There have always been lies and liars, the deceived and the deceivers. So why does it seem to be worse in today’s world? Lies and deception are simply more easily spread in the technological age in which we now live. But our protections from falsehood are as powerful today as ever before. Daily prayer and study of Scripture, regular fellowship with mature believers and the discernment granted by the Holy Spirit are more than sufficient to keep us stable in a roaring sea of lies. “Greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world!” LORD, keep me on course. Use me to guide others by “speaking the truth in love.”

GOOD JUDGEMENT

Discretion is a precious gift from God. If I ignore its protection I will surely suffer the consequences. Just because I can say or do something doesn’t mean I should. The lack of discretion in modern culture harms us all and is responsible for so much unnecessary pain and suffering. Time spent with thoughtful people increases my tendency to make responsible decisions and guards me from inappropriate recklessness. Good judgment does not lock us away from the world around us, but empowers us to walk boldly and safely in every circumstance. Giver of All Wisdom, grant me foresight and good sense today. Guard my mouth and actions by Your Spirit and Word. Help me be a faithful witness to others.

THE SQUALOR OF JEALOSY

Coveting someone else’s life is not only wrong; it is a dangerous. While chasing after the lifestyle, worldly goods, popularity or power of others, I cannot accurately and passionately pursue the plan God has for me. Besides, while coveting the life of someone else, we tend to “cherry pick”, wanting the good things they enjoy all the while ignoring or minimizing the problems and difficulties they endure. It is in fact chasing after a fictitious life. It is pursuit of a fake image that doesn't even exist. Our desire should be set completely on the life God has for each of us. Great Shepherd of my Soul please forgive my momentary excursions into the squalor of jealousy. Your plan for me is perfectly calibrated with all things necessary to fulfill my divinely designed purpose.

A WALK IN THE LIGHT

It is dark outside, yesterday’s light is long gone, but daylight is now crawling over the face of the earth headed straight for me. Though I cannot yet see its approach I know it is on the way. Since I can no longer live in yesterday’s light I must now turn my thoughts from past things and step into the brightness of this new day as it appears. Isaiah proclaimed, “Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.” I am one day wiser than ever before and have never been more experienced or known more than at I do at this very moment. This new day comes loaded with potential for me to be further transformed into His image and to do His bidding. Lord God Almighty, thank You for a brand new opportunity to know You better and to do Your bidding. My heart is prepared with joyful anticipation to take another walk in the light.

A WORLD-CLASS SHADOW BOXER

The apostle Paul clearly stated his goal in life, “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.” Even a “world-class” shadow boxer wins no prize. Each of us has responsibility for proper stewardship of our time, talents and treasures. These are gifts from God and as His stewards they must be invested in what really matters, devoted to what pleases Him. Too often I have settled for less than God’s best being pulled off course by inward deception, a wandering heart or the influence of others. Strong finishers do not follow the crowd; they set their pace for the prize. O Lord My Guide, keep me on course and help me stay in my lane. May each punch connect with my purpose and be within Your Perfect Will.

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, His Word is not only a book of Promises it is also a Foundation on which our life of faith is built. 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.

MY LAST NERVE

Every time I start believing I’ve made significant spiritual progress I find someone standing squarely on my last nerve. A flash of frustration can rise up so quickly at times and is usually entirely out of proportion to the situation. The Apostle Paul revealed the key to victory over self-centered behaviors when he stated: “I die daily”. I cannot afford to miss the lesson here, as the saying goes: “dead men feel no pain”. Dying to selfishness must happen each and every day. Patience with others is a sign of the depth of our progress. Father, I am rightly shaken with the reality of my lingering weaknesses, yet I know preoccupation with self is not incurable. Thank You for confronting in me what is not pleasing to You. Help me to love others with Your amazing love.

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 Wonderful in all Your ways! All Glory and Majesty are Yours forever and ever amen!

THE POTTER'S WHEEL

We are each spun round and round by the everyday swirl of life; family, job, news, weather, health and on and on it goes. It often feels as if I am a lump of clay spinning on a potter’s wheel. As a matter of fact, I am. As I am spinning through each day the Master’s touch gently presses in, reshaping me for His envisioned purpose. So why do I still resist this needed process at times? My failed attempts at shaping myself should be evidence enough to stay on the wheel and yield to the Potter’s hands. The Potter’s Wheel is an instrument of blessing in the hands of my Maker and Redeemer. Father I thank You for Your blessed work. Have Your way, I am yielded clay in Your hands. Mold me and make me into the vessel You desire.

I CAN HANDLE IT

Famous last words: “I can handle it!” Too often, this kind of brazen pride leads to tragic endings. To bulldoze through fears with unreasonable self-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. So what do we do? It is simple really; to run to God in times of terror is to face our fears and destroy them. When the cares of this world hit us hard 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. So in fact I CAN handle it if I remember: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 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.

SOMETHING BETTER

After Lot had selfishly chosen the best land he and Abraham had seen, God said to Abraham “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are”. God was calling Abraham to look beyond his second-place circumstances; He had something better for him. As it was for Abraham, so it is for us; every step of obedient faith holds the promise of inheritance. Looking behind me adds nothing to my future, but stepping forward with my eyes on the horizon means additional promised territory.Will I delay in unholy dependence upon my known resources or will I hear and obey? I choose the latter, renouncing the freezing effect of fear and embracing what is ahead. Stepping forward in yielded obedience is the only path to full acquisition of God’s promises while in this world. O Lord my Rock, strengthen my resolve with Your divine touch. Open my eyes to the previously unseen. Guide my feet to Your chosen path.

TRANSFORMED

The transformation between the dark of night to morning light never loses its fascination for me. Some days easily, other mornings more reluctantly, like a magnet to metal I am drawn to its power to awaken. Every second brings subtle change; the landscape must be carefully observed as all that can be seen is transfigured. There are so many parallels between sunrise and the way God pulls me deeper into His will. Each day He quietly moves into my darkness, His resplendent Presence renovating my soul. His Word reveals hidden treasures and new details unfold. He unveils flaws that He immediately begins repairing and His Glory illuminates previously unseen passageways forward. Lord of Light, I welcome Your transformational approach to every square inch of my soul. Yes, You are good.

AN UPWARD GLANCE

A rocky mountainside, a bush on fire, these are seemingly unremarkable things, but on a fateful day on Mount Sinai the ordinary was transfigured into the miraculous. On that run-of-the-mill day God’s manifest presence and spoken promises transformed dirt into sacred ground, a fugitive into a deliverer, a shepherd into a prophet. Moses was simply fulfilling routine duties as a sheepherder when an upward glance on a mountainside radically changed everything for him and for humankind. Soon, he would lead a nation of slaves into the Promised Land. Majestic Lord and Father, nothing is ordinary when it is infused with Your Presence and Power. Pull my eyes and heart toward Your will alone. Help me to “turn aside” in the midst of the daily grind that I may see Your Glory. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help!”

JUST BEYOND REACH

Having raised a houseful of children we learned a few things about the challenges and blessings of childhood curiosity. When they were small, we often kept things just out of their reach and certain things we kept away from our home altogether. As a child of God I must keep in mind that whatever is beyond reach was put there by my Heavenly Father. In some cases, things are just beyond touch to urge me forward or encourage me to climb higher. However, in other situations the extra distance is for my protection, keeping me from unnecessary from pain or worse. It is comforting to know, the Holy One, who places things beyond my grasp can just as easily drop them in my lap if it accomplishes His will. Blessed Lord, I trust Your ways, knowing that what is inaccessible for me is firmly in Your grip.

A LEAKING HEART

The psalmist penned: “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when the grain and new wine abound.” But later cried out: “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.” I can relate. I want a spirit-filled life completely filled to the brim…but my heart leaks. It fills up but immediately begins draining. I’ve learned that yesterday’s infilling means nothing for today since each and every day my heart must again be turned toward God afresh, replenished with truth and made a tabernacle of praise. It must be searched, cleansed, inclined to hear, willing, contrite, guarded, softened, thankful, freed from deceit and chasing after God. Well, it sounds as if my heart will have another busy day today. Lord,my heart belongs to You. You have created it to hear from You and follow after Your will. May the Lamp of Your Love shine brightly within me today. Fill me afresh…again.

INTO THE STORM

Jonah was taken into the storm. Jesus left the multitudes on the shore and took His disciples into the storm. The apostle Paul was taken prisoner and into the storm. In each case a miracle followed, not AFTER the storm but IN the storm. I too, have been taken into one storm after another. Some are spiritual, some emotional, some physical and many are the storms of others. There are cultural storms, political storms, doctrinal storms, church storms and on and on it goes. But one thing they all have in common, there is no storm to which Jesus cannot command: “Peace, be still!” There is no storm in which I cannot take the Savior’s hand and walk with Him on top of the tempest! LORD, my prayer is that of the psalmist: “From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” So be it Father.

BRIDLED

As big, beautiful and strong as horses are they are highly susceptible to panic. It is a natural flight response and serves them well in the wild but it can be dangerous. I too, experience moments of fright but panic is not a reliable strategy. A life consumed with fear is easily turned in the wrong direction, plunging those driven by it into unrelenting darkness. Fearfulness shuts down our sense of purpose, power and direction, leaving us to run aimlessly in desolate places. In contrast, a life bridled by God’s leading hand will always turn us in the right direction, filling us with His perfect love and expunging fear from our souls. Hope and faith are the companions of those who trust God. Lord of Life, You set the captive free and set our feet dancing on the hilltops. Make Your Love my constant guide and use me for Your purposes. May my choices always be wise and pleasing to You.

HAPPY TRAILS

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 and make the trails ahead safe for for the journey. King David assured us: “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” 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 and 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.

ABIDING FAITH

Doing God’s will does not depend upon perfect conditions. In fact, negative circumstances, confusion and pushback are practically requirements for things done in faith. While much of what forms faith within our heart is the written promises of God in Scripture, how and when to apply them is not always clear. Usually, I have only fragments of clarity, not the whole picture. Yet, trusting God to pull the pieces together while navigating through troubles is both cleansing and exhilarating. Jesus clarified a key component for faith to blossom as He declares: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” The key here is not to desire, the key is to “abide in Him”. Once there, circumstances have little effect.Father, thank You for the unique joy faith brings. Grant me grace to love You more.

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 at 8:46 a.m. Within minutes someone rolled a TV into the room and we sat in mesmerized horror, watching and wondering what it all meant. As we were silently taking in the events unfolding in Manhattan another plane crashed into the South Tower. I immediately 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 unfortunately 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…

LIMITLESS DOMINION

The murky confusion of the black of night is instantly transfigured by the entry of even the smallest light. Many tremble at the onset of darkness in any form, but evil can be confronted without fear for we are bathed in our Savior and Redeemer’s vanquishing love. Demons flee in the presence of the King of Kings and destitute souls find deliverance, healing and peace. To bow the knee to the Lord of Hosts is to strike a deathblow to the enemies of the God-seeking. Yesterday’s grace and mercy are fully spent, but a fresh batch is prepared for all who seek You this new day. Father of Light, limitless dominion belongs to those who know You as LORD. You are our Strong Tower, our Refuge, our Provider, our Champion and our Deliverer. May Your Resplendent Glory fill me today and always.

MANIPULATING THE ALMIGHTY

God cannot be manipulated by my obedience; no amount of clever posturing succeeds in reshaping His will or ways. The Almighty sees right through every attempt I make to take control of circumstances that He alone must govern. Doing the will of God must be an act of love and abandon, not a contrived form of leverage. Self-dependence is not only unnecessary, it is rebellious refusal of His Grace and Lordship, therefore must be renounced in all its forms. The Pharisee’s prayer in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector demonstrates how NOT to pray: “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” It is the humble acceptance of His sovereign and underserved mercy that invites unrestricted blessing. The Tax Collector "would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!" Father, cleanse my soul of every smidgen of poisonous pride and feigned innocence…

HEAVEN'S HUMBLE AFFECTION

Blessings come in many ways. While some are huge and obvious most blessings arrive without fanfare and in simple forms: a beautiful view, a memory of someone special, a baby’s smile, a taste, or a gentle touch. As I reflect on how often God works unannounced, it strikes me how utterly unpretentious He is. The LORD can work on any scale and is worthy of all glory, yet He stoops low to quietly craft a constant stream of blessings into our lives. He does not hold back for our lack of acknowledgement, His unrequited love pours forth without restraint. Lord God, You are our Glorious Benefactor. Sin has dulled my senses and I am slow to see, but in this moment of reflective contrition I glorify You and thank You for Your humble affection. Please make me more like You.

A HARDENED HEART

The hardening of the heart is generally a slow descent into prideful distrust of all others, God included. Obadiah warns: “The pride of your heart has deceived you”. 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.

DIVINE FORTITUDE

Our true measure of strength is best discovered in times of deep trouble or in times of great accomplishment. Should we falter in either we discover what we had previously imagined as strength is revealed as something far less. The tests of life are not our enemies; they are our instructors, our coaches. With God’s helping hand of grace we discover we can go farther, climb higher and finish better than we had previously thought. Metal is forged in the furnace and so are we. The journey of moving from human strength to divine fortitude is the pathway to God’s unlimited power. The Apostle Paul declared: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. He wasn’t bragging, he was showing us the way. Dearest Father, You are The Lord Our Strength, Our Rock, Our Fortress and Our Deliverer. Forgive my attempts to make it on my own.

SMALL THINGS

Every giant oak tree begins as a small acorn. But how can something so small contain the potential to populate the entire planet with trees? With God, all things are possible. The slightest touch of a rudder can change the course of a vessel. Swift turns can be dangerous on the water, so a series of small adjustments provide the safest approach, especially in tight spaces. The same is true of my soul. While we often seek something colossal to shift our direction in life, God mostly uses small things to guide us through our destined course. Zechariah warns: “Do not despise these small beginnings.” Father, remind me to pay attention to Your smallest touch. Guide me today into the center of Your will. May the full potential You designed me for be fully realized.

BANISHED DOUBT

There is no guarantee things that 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 LORD Almighty’s abiding love stands guard over His creation each and every moment of this new day. His provision feeds the birds of the air and clothes flowers with beauty. He never slumbers nor sleeps, His treasury is never emptied and His sovereignty never diminished. He is the LORD of all, yesterday, today and forever. Holy Father, banish from my heart every last vestige of doubt. You are the King of Kings all the time and in every way. Deliver me from lugging yesterday’s consternations into this glorious new day.

LIFTED

Our family was blessed to have quite a few pets over the years; a Pekinese named Reina was with us the longest. She was without a doubt, the sweetest but definitely the dumbest pet we ever had. Whenever we asked her if she wanted to go out she ran to the wrong door...every time...for almost 17 years! One day, she tried to stand up and her back legs wouldn't work. Reina sat looking at me, shaking and bewildered. I've seen that “help me, I don’t know what’s going on here” look before. I've HAD that look before. God sees that look every day from His children. A Psalm comes to mind: “with a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever.” And another: “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand". Lord, Thank You. You lift me and comfort me in my bewildering trials. You grant me assurance when I am weak. You place my feet on higher ground. I'm much better now.

HONORABLE LABOR

Today our nation celebrates Labor Day. On this national holiday we honor the contributions that workers have made to strengthen the wellbeing and financial prosperity of the United States of America. Frankly, a job can become a “daily grind”, sucking the very life out of us. Colleagues, customers, traffic, travel, system breakdowns and a horde of raging needs can make our work feel like a place of the condemned. So how do I turn my daily work into a blessing? Scripture reveals the answers: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” And “never tire of doing what is good.” Father, since the Garden You have put us to work. Help me embrace Your command and do honorable labor with a right mindset, a dedication to excellence and a thankful heart. LORD, there is rest in obedience to Your will.

CONSTANT TENSION

There is a constant tension for the child of God who wants to please Him. We are commanded to “go into all the world” yet reminded we are not “of the world” and warned to not “conform to the pattern of this world”. This leads to many false extremes. On the one hand, some run away from the world and act as if they are afraid to be in it. Others turn to worldliness as a life pattern. So how can we be a “light to the world” yet not be “of the world” ourselves? Proverbs reveals the answer: “Discretion will preserve you.” Like a fireman’s “hazmat suit”, discretion can protect us within a hazardous environment while empowering us to enter danger zones to fulfill our duty to help others. LORD help me walk in the world but not walk like the world. Grant me good discernment, discretion and deliverance from evil while “overcoming evil with good”.

DREAMS FULFILLED

So there is “finding your dream”, “chasing your dream”, “dream management”, “steps to dream fulfillment”, “the American Dream” and on and on it goes. Dream development and pursuit are all the rage, but dreams are nothing new. Paul had a dream. Joseph had a dream. Daniel “could understand dreams and visions of all kinds”. While the world chases personal dreams, as a child of God the key to dreams coming true is to dream God’s dreams for me rather than substituting them with someone else’s…including my own. Matthew declares: “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” and Philippians proclaims: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Now THAT is dream fulfillment at its highest level! LORD, not my will but yours be done. Father, empower me to fulfill Your dream.

IRON TO STEEL

On a whim I signed up for metal shop in eighth-grade. I learned that iron, a relatively soft metal, is turned into hardened steel by a purification process that includes, adding elements together, putting them under a lot of pressure and severe temperature changes. The iron is repeatedly heated red-hot, pounded and pressured, then placed in water to cool it quickly. This tempering process presses the ore’s molecules tightly together making it stronger than ever. Character is built the same way. No one enjoys the conflicts that forge us, yet it is the heat, pressure, pounding and cooling process that gives our character hardened steel strength. Lord God, I marvel at Your wisdom and power to transform. Make and mold me strong for the battles ahead. Refine my heart and shape my life to do Your will.

LOVERS AND LOSERS

One of the methods Satan utilizes to paralyze our faith is to blow on the coals of self-centeredness and fear within us. We are offered blessing by our Heavenly Father with this promise: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Whether it is forgiveness, time or material help, what we make happen for others God makes happen for us! But the “Father of Lies” steals our blessing and purpose by turning us toward jealousy and presumptuousness. Proverbs states: “The leech has two daughters-Give and Give!” Lovers are givers and have the joy of the LORD; Users are losers and have the grief of miserly stinginess. Blessed LORD, help me live with open hands and an open heart. Make me an instrument of blessing.

DIVINE MANAGEMENT

Emotional excitement often masquerades as spiritual fervor, being dazzled can feel like “being led”. It is a laudable desire to want to strike out for higher ground, but it is not good to have zeal without accurate discernment and wisdom, nor to be overly hasty and miss the right way. Shortcuts are tempting, but frequently lead to detours or dead ends. Too often we wait until after we have set our course and begun the journey to check the roadmap. The Word and Spirit of God must not be used to support our decisions; they must qualify, inform, guide, cleanse and direct them from the very start. Father, keep me on the path You have chosen. May my heart and mind stay in constant surrender to Your divine management.

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, nagging 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 unbreakable Promises and His unwavering love. Paul’s final exhortation to the Corinthians reveals so much: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.” Powerful! When you love God more than yourself faith works beautifully. 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.

DISCERNING TIME

Not one moment is trivial. Time is a gift from the Alpha and Omega, therefore it is holy; the Lord Himself is present within each millisecond, frontloading it with purpose and power long before it ever appears. As Ecclesiastes declares: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts.” And we are commanded: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Therefore I should discern the time allotted me with great care. Past discernment will not do since I must now discover the mystery within this moment and allow it to unfold completely. Lord Eternal, “Who Is And Who Was And Who Is To Come”, deliver me from attempting to turn mysteries into formulas or treating time with indifference. Teach me to patiently make the most of my allotted days.

WALKING WITH THE WISE

Choosing the right companions in life is a primary element of success. While I prefer to be accompanied by those who make me feel better, to accomplish meaningful objectives, I must partner with those who challenge me to perform better. At the end of life’s journey I will stand before God so great care must be taken in today’s choices. Proverbs reveals: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.” A true friend is one who strengthens my spiritual resolve and provokes me to draw me closer to God. Heavenly Father, lead me to relationships that honor You. Thank You for the blessed gift of comrades who put Your will ahead of all else. Help me be such a man for others.

IN ALL YOUR GETTING

There is nothing fancy about a roadside fruit stand; its treasures poised for the taking. But its bounty will never belong to those whose rush by without stopping. So it is with wisdom. Proverbs states: ““Does not wisdom cry out, and understanding lift up her voice? She takes her stand on the top of the high hill, beside the way, where the paths meet. She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city” And again: “Wisdom is the principal thing;therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” Daily wisdom is not a luxury; it is an absolute essential. Each morning my mind is still half-filled with yesterday’s leftovers with more pouring in upon awakening. It is then I must brake hard and seek God’s voice. Lord, You know my ways. Far too often I steam ahead without sufficient regard to you promptings. Forgive me and teach me to listen carefully every moment.

FRESH MANNA

I am dependent on fresh manna each and every day. Like the ancient Hebrews traveling through the desert, I too, must have constant nutrition provided by God; imagination, entertainment or self-driven efforts are inferior and dangerous substitutes. Every cell of my body needs constant contact with red blood cells since they provide oxygen and take away carbon dioxide and other cell garbage. In a similar way the divine impulse only God can give brings lifeblood to every moment, breathing life into us and carrying away our soul garbage. Religious devotion has its place, but an active relationship that leads to daily obedience to my created purpose is vital. Father Above, take my life and let it be all for you. Clothe me with Your Presence and guide my thoughts and desires into Your perfect plan.

PERILOUS PURSUITS

As a teenager I felt pretty much indestructible, so as an ignorant city-boy pumped with pride and adrenalin, I decided to chase a bull while visiting some of our family members out in the country. Bad decision. Very quickly, the object of my pursuit became the source of my terror. Thankfully, I made it back to the fence… barely. The words of King David come to mind: “Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hastenafteranothergod”. The child of God must be sober minded when it comes to what we pursue because we may indeed catch it, or worse, it may catch up with us. Lord of All, there is safety and success in Your counsel. Lead me to the fields of Your choosing and deliver me from perilous pursuits.

ONE STEP AT A TIME

When headed on a road trip I like an accurate ground plan before departure. But in chasing after godliness, I am not capable of mapping out God's incredible will in advance; I must trust Him to reveal it in each step of obedience. He has promised to “guide the steps of the righteous.” Frankly, I prefer more foreknowledge than just one step or two, but while advanced guidance seems reasonable, faith must be developed in God’s way and in God’s timing rather than my own. As Proverbs says: “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” So there’s that. Lord, I am pleased to do it Your way. Deliver me from the terror of imagined perils to come and teach me the daily walk of faith and cheerful trust.

BLUE SKIES

Irvin Berlin taught America to sing together. “God Bless America” is practically a second National Anthem. One of my favorite Berlin songs cheerily declares: “Blue skies, Smiling at me, nothing but blue skies, do I see.” Many of my travels have begun in nasty weather at ground level, yet I have learned that if you climb high enough the sky is always blue and clear. The same is true for the soul. Living in the squalor of human deficiencies can make us feel there is nothing more. But that is not the end of the story. King David cried out: “When my heart is overwhelmed lead me to the rockthatishigher than I!” As my heart moves higher in prayer and praise I begin to see from heaven’s perspective. Yes Lord, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I!

ENVY

Envy is a doorway to deep darkness. In the first place, wishing to have someone else’s good fortune is in effect to question God’s forethought, wisdom and goodness to us. When we wonder, “Why them and not me?” we have already judged God as potentially unfair or misguided. Additionally, to cherry pick from another person’s life is foolish from the start because we tend to choose what we would like to have happen to us but completely ignore their sorrows and pain. Finally, to feel that we “deserve better” is an insidious form of pride. The Bible declares: “Blessedarethe meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Father, in You I have all things in One, therefore I lack for nothing and “no good thing will You withhold from them that walk uprightly”.