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Showing posts from March, 2018

WHAT, HOW, WHY

My early years were spent learning WHAT to do, followed by decades of learning HOW to do what I do better. And while I am still learning “what and how” more recently the focus has shifted to WHY I do what I do. Perhaps it takes a lifetime of journeying through the twisted tangles of life to get to the question of motive. The ebb and flow of people, careers, circumstances, tragedies, wonders, gains and losses and eventually strips away every veneer, depositing a simple prayer in our hearts: “Father, not my will, but Yours be done.” Lord, reveal and cleanse my deepest motives. May Your perfect will come forth in me and through my activities today. Shine Your Light into every corner of my soul and bring Your will into clearer focus.

AS THEY WENT...

There is the story of the women leaving Jesus’ empty tomb: “AS THEYWENT to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them.” And there are the ten lepers: “He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was that AS THEY WENT they were cleansed.” These are two among multiple biblical examples where miracles happened “AS THEY WENT”. Many times God puts us on the move before we see His Hand in action. We typically expect Him to meet us in the present need, but sometimes God will only meet us “as we go”. Simply stated, miracles only happen in God’s chosen moments and manifest by His chosen means. Glorious Father, though I struggle at times, I do not resent Your wondrous ways. As You will, My LORD, and as I go.

MORE NOBLE

Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath and it made the religious leaders very angry. Before thinking too harshly about their response, I must take a look in the mirror. When I see something spiritual happen that is beyond my personal experience or understanding should I dismiss it or sincerely seek to understand? The people of Berea were noted in Acts 17: “They were of more noble character… for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” More than a few times in my life I have dismissed things that turned out to be precisely what God was doing or saying in that moment, only later to discover I was wrong. LORD, forgive my brutish ways and make me a more noble man. Keep me attentive to Your workings. 

GRUDGE-FREE LOVE

I am thankful that God does not hold grudges against His children. While I have rightfully felt His displeasure at my failures, one genuine tear of repentance opens the floodgate of His forgiveness. One authentic word of contrition marshals the armies of heaven to my defense. As the psalmist declares: “His anger lasts but a moment, but His favor endures for a lifetime; sorrow may fill the night but overwhelming joy comes at daybreak.” Since my Redeemer so freely washes away my constant failings, who am I to hold hatred toward those who have harmed me? Father, though I fall short of Your greatness, Your favor remains. Cleanse my soul of all acrimony toward others and teach me Your ways of grudge-free love.

PERSISTENCE NOT STUBBORNNESS

Persistence is a needed characteristic for a life well lived. But stubbornness is like walking in deep darkness since it causes us to keep hitting the same obstacles over and over, yet preventing us from understanding what makes us stumble. It is foolish to keep making the same mistakes, But the good news is that if all my mistakes are new ones, I am actually making progress. Proverbs states: “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day”. Divinely infused wisdom accompanies the soul of the determined, yet surrendered. Father, not my will or my way, You alone must guide every step I take. In Your mercy, grant me a steadfast heart devoid of stubborn pride.

ANGER DANGER

I live in an angry nation. In fact, we all live in an increasingly enraged world and it seems to be worsening. Outrage is now the “go-to” emotion that is intended to prove just how legitimate and serious whatever we want done actually is. But there is danger where there is unchecked anger. Deep rage and bitterness have long since been expunged from my soul, but mild to spicy anger still pops up in me. But far too much is damaged in my relationship with God and my calling on earth to cling to anger or unforgiveness. I must resist the convenience of anger and choose thoughtful, effective action embodied and practiced in love. “Be angry and sin not” is possible but tricky. Lord, deliver me from selfish entitlement and grant to me humble kindness to others at all times, even when fighting hard for what is truly just and good.

GOD-CONFIDENCE

Confidence is a vital necessity for reaching our full potential, but not all confidence is healthy. The constant focus of the self-obsessed ideology of our modern culture has turned confidence into deadly pride.  Self-promotion is so central to contemporary practices that pride is considered a virtue while humility is seen as a character flaw. Biblically speaking, self-confidence is synonymous with foolishness; it is a house built on sand. God-confidence is a much sturdier foundation. The God enamored person faces every tempest with calm assurance, knowing the Greater One is always present. Seemingly impossible challenges are met with amazing peace when one fully trusts in the Almighty. Lord of Glory, You must increase, I must decrease. I CAN do all things, but only in Your strength. Deliver me from mortal pride.

A DEATHBLOW TO DARKNESS

It is unsettling to think about the wickedness is in this world. At the very same moment I am striving to do good, someone else is seeking to do harm. This would lead to fear if I did not know that in spite of the marching hoards of evil I am not alone or unarmed. The heaven-sent “weapons of our warfare are mighty through God”. And they are not only for defense; they are for “pulling down strongholds”. When the enemy rises to attack, thinking there are no troops on guard, the One Who Never Sleeps Nor Slumbers rises to my defense, sending unseen armies of angels to the aid of the people of God. O Lord My Victor, with You on my side the battle is checked and eternal victory is sure. To call upon Your Name is to bring a deathblow to every work of darkness!

NO SURPRISES

So often I confidently act on what I think I know only to be tripped up by ignorance or deception, however there are no surprises for the Alpha and Omega. Three times in the Book of Revelation we see this phrase: “Who was, and is, and is to come”. God is fully prepared to handle whatever has already happened, about to happen or yet to happen. He alone is completely devoid of the blinding fog of time or distance, there is simply nothing hidden or unknown to the Almighty. I am therefore utterly dependent upon His wisdom and amazing grace. LORD God, You are the Great Physician, I welcome Your daily examinations and treatments. Deliver me from my many appeasements of human frailty. My surprises are divinely managed in Your Sovereign Care.

MINDFUL OF WONDERS

While waiting for a flight I noticed three young boys poised at the window watching all the runway activity. The giddy wonder of their new experience prompted me realize I have become indifferent to the wonder of modern flight. I am so accustomed to moving across the world at amazing speeds I resent that it is not even faster! Really? Nehemiah states: “They were not mindful of Your wonders.” Sadly, I often do the same with the wonders of God. How dare I? I‘ve experienced so many blessings, miracles and wonders, that at times I actually take them for granted. God of Wonders, forgive my hubris. Awaken my attentiveness to the wonders you perform. Help me see Your works with childlike eyes of innocence, fascination, praise and wonder.

VIGILANT DEFIANCE

On a morning walk I saw a large hawk being chased by a tiny bird. Small birds become very aggressive when a predator comes near their nest; they use their agility and quickness to intimidate a much larger predator and eventually the larger fowl flies away. In the same manner, I must be vigilant and defiant to be a victor in life. At times I accept the presence of hovering danger too quickly, thinking I am powerless to change my circumstances. That is simply not so, the Greater One resides within me. “The LORD is my strength” and “I can do all things through Him who loved me”.  Blessed Lord, You have not left me defenseless. Though my weapons seem small, they are “mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” Tweet! Tweet!

HARNESSED

An ox will not walk straight without a harness holding him in place, however with needed constraints hitched on great power is ready and waiting. I too, need a yoke to stay on course. I cannot fulfill my high calling unless I’m firmly harnessed to God’s ways instead of my own. When we desert the safety of God’s love depravity and chaos rule. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is not a helpful hint for being a nicer person, it is the royal command of our Creator and the only path to a life filled with divine purpose. I must be continually harnessed to the needs of others to accomplish God’s highest and best. Father, You are Love. I confess that I love poorly, but I desire to learn to let love govern my heart and ways. Your yoke of love is my guide.

MANIFEST PRESENCE

King David mused: “If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” God is always present whether we invoke, acknowledge, welcome, believe-in or desire His Presence or not. I am not entirely comfortable with this since I don’t always want it, preferring at times to turn away in pursuit of my selfish desires. How sad, the proximity of the Almighty is a promise, not a threat. He continually transforms me into His image and nudges me deeper into my divine purpose. Father, forgive me for my moments of insane resistance and draw me to the sweetness of simple obedience. Help me to never ignore the potential of Your Manifest Presence. Tear away callousness and revive my heart with ever-deepening passion for You.

OUT OF DARKNESS...AGAIN!

Most of my morning prayers have the same starting point: seeking forgiveness for yesterday’s misses and additional grace for today’s challenges. As this new morning breaks I realize my petitions are eerily similar to every other day. Each sunrise to sunset is filled with hacking my way through twisted vines of self-interests to return to the path of surrendered obedience to God’s ways. It still surprises me how easily I get off track, the slightest turn plunging me into another ravine of darkness. Yet even from the bottom there is always light above and God’s help is constant, His lifting hand placing me again on the mountaintop. Father, thank You for Your Mighty Arm! Your love pulls me through the steep climb again and again.

THIS IS PATRICK

Green rivers and swilling brew? These are but commercialized distractions from celebrating one of the greatest apostles of all time. Patrick was a Wales-born slave to Irish men, but after his escape he became a re-born slave to God who’s greatest passion was to win his former captors to Christ. Years of faithfulness, study, servanthood, character development prepared him and ordination followed. Then, in missionary zeal, he went back to the Irish enslavers to change a nation. THIS is Patrick. Lord, thank You for those who point the way.

THE FINAL STEP

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

FRESH FIRE

I often struggle with the contradictions of carrying such wondrous eternal treasures in an earthen jar of human frailty. Tiredness or boredom suppresses faithfulness. Weariness awakens selfishness and drains away kindness and consideration for others. Soul fatigue indicates we are operating in self-dependence as opposed to full surrender to God’s strengthening power. Circumstances are no excuse for pulling away from the Shepherd of our Souls. So when my love languishes the LORD faithfully reminds me why I serve in the first place, pouring fresh fire into my heart. Father, I owe You everything and equally, owe others Your love and kindness on which I necessarily depend. Revive my heart with fresh fire from above.

LITTLE FOXES

I generally do better in a big crisis than when faced with relentless small annoyances. It seems that the size of a difficulty elicits different responses within me. In the case of really big problems I quickly realize that I must, of necessity, turn it over to God. With small problems I feel confident to handle them on my own, but as the volume of issues arises I soon find my boat overloaded and sinking. A raging bull is an obvious threat, but we are biblically warned it is the “little foxes that ruin the vineyard”. I have way too much experience with marauding hoards of little foxes. Lord, forgive my stubborn self-reliance and lethargic surrender. Help me entrust to Your Mighty Hands all things, both large and small more quickly.

OTHERS MAY, I MAY NOT

Learning to turn away from appealing but short-lived gratification is a process. We tend to think of holiness as a rules-based form of life, but it it so much deeper and richer than that; it is not so much what we do or not do as much as it is sensitivity and obedience to God’s voice. It is primarily inward, not outward. Once I complained how unfair it seemed that many others appeared to be less restricted than I. As I questioned the Lord on this I heard Him speak as loudly in my heart as I ever have in my life: “Others may, you may not.” I said out loud with sarcastic indignation: “That’s it? Others may, I may not?!!” Silence. His answer required no further explanation. Father, you discipline the ones You love. Forgive my contemptuous hubris; Your high call requires my very best. Period.

HOLDING THINGS LOOSELY

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

FALSE PARADISE

I love tropical islands. Their sandy beaches, beautiful views, laid back feel and tropical foliage combine to warm the heart and free the mind. During World War 2 the Pacific Islands were as beautiful as ever, but it was a false paradise. Carnage and destruction were everywhere on and around those islands. From Hawaii to the Philippines and beyond, millions perished. Things are not always as they seem. I travel a lot and see thousands of people passing by. Most seem fine on the surface, but just like those islands, carnage and destruction is often hidden behind those passing faces. But for the surrendered heart, God offers peace in every storm and through life’s most difficult battles. LORD of Glory and Might, in Your presence there is paradise divine.

CUSTOM DESIGNED

In a world of mass production, custom design is all the rage. Yet, when it comes to spiritual matters we all too often just follow the crowd. No one else can protect my heart from following after the wrong things. Only I can surrender my decisions to God; depending on others to do what only I can is not just foolish, it can be deadly. What may be perfectly permissible for another person could be disastrous for me. Imitating someone else’s path could lead me astray. I admire so many wonderful people and the things they accomplish, but I must allow God’s Word and Spirit to custom design my daily walk according to His plan. O Lord My Keeper, help me dwell safely in Your protective care. Corral my straying heart and bind me to Your will alone. Help me stay in my own lane.

DEFIANT DELAYS

Politeness is a sign of maturity and respect, but there is no such thing as polite disobedience. Jesus said: “If you love me keep my commandments”. When it is in my power to act on God’s directives and I choose to delay, then I am rightly held accountable. It is very simple really, we promptly obey the one we love the most. The test of love is not so much the size of our response as much as it is the speed of our action. Unrequited love is painful to the human heart, how selfish it is to inconsiderately grieve God by resisting His will. We must hear and promptly obey. That’s it. Father, You deserve my immediate and surrender and obedience. Forgive me and deliver me from my defiant delays.

SILLY GOOSE?

A flock of geese lives nearby. They are loud and comical at times. It is no surprise that it is common to refer to someone acting silly as a “silly goose”. But there is more to the story. Geese mate for life and when they fly as a group they do so with precision and perfect order. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of him, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. The result? They go 70 percent farther together than any individual goose could fly by itself. So, a goose is not so silly after all. Clearly there is a lesson here for me. In spite of the complications of living and working with others, there is far more benefit in mutual cooperation and love than in going it alone. Lord of Life, help me be faithful in relationships and teach me to be a good team player.

NIGHT VISION

At times, searching out the right path can feel like being led along through a pitch-dark place. These moments involve creeping along slowly and bumping into unexpected obstacles while looking for the exit. I must always remember that God has night vision; He knows exactly where I am at all times. How often He removes or places something in the path I’ll not know in this life, but I can fully trust His steady guidance and wise choices. The psalmist proclaimed: “This I know, God is for me”. The apostle Paul weighed in: “if God is for us, who can be against us?” Lord, Your ways and means are wonderful. Only You can work the necessary miracles to make life possible for a soul bombarded with ignorance and doubt. By Your Mighty Hand I progress safely.

STUBBORN PATCHES

Many believers chase after the best teachers and preachers, exotic doctrines, unique worship experiences and popular gatherings only to remain in the same shallow spiritual condition year after year. The reason is obvious, spiritual nutrition will not change what only repentance can transform. It is common in my neighborhood that the grass will be summer green yet have stubborn patches where grass will not grow. These hard, crusty areas must be removed before new growth will appear. Sunshine, water or nutrition will not help, only removal and replacement makes a difference. Lord, help me to establish the right sequence. Where dried patches lie in my soul, grant me grace to truly repent and sow into my life that which You desire.

DON'T SCOOCH OVER!

A true delight of life is snuggling with a spouse, child or a pet. However once sleepiness settles in it is not nearly as pleasant. Even still, a slight nudge is all it takes to get us to scooch over and make room for the ones we love. But sleeping with the enemy is another thing altogether! The Bible warns: “nor give place to the devil” Sadly, we often present opportunities to the prince of darkness by surrendering space to his villainous ways. Rather than being on guard against his evil work in our hearts, we tolerate his presence and activities. The answer is simple, don’t scooch over; relinquishing holy space to the evil one. LORD, awaken my discernment and resolve. Help me walk steadily in the victory You bequeath to Your people.

THE TRAIL OF TRUST

Why give in to the convenience of discouragement? Despair offers no rewards, yet since it is so readily available it is easy to take its downhill path. The trail of trust is a much steeper climb, but grants unseen vistas, still waters and restored souls. God never ceases His tender care, He is “Yahweh ro‘i “, “The LORD My Shepherd”. When we drift away from the fold or run and hide from His care, The Shepherd of Our Souls never loses sight of His lambs, not even for a brief moment. Though at times we try, we simply cannot tread alone, for He will never, ever abandons one of His lambs. Blessed Yahweh, ro’i, from sinking sand, You lift me, With tender hand, You lift me. Truly, all is well today  and forever on the trail of trust.

SHUNNED

Proverbs commands us to “shun evil”. This is a true but tricky concept that is often practiced beyond its purpose; truth must never be stretched beyond its elasticity. Shunning evil seems simple enough, but somehow it easily morphs into shunning people, insidiously becoming a pretext for prejudice or even hatred of others. God shuns no one, yet shuns all evil. “Come out from among them and be separate” doesn’t mean living in isolation from others. The Son of God showed us the way, living among us and loving the sinner while shunning the sin without compromise. LORD, teach me live among those who do not know your ways without fear and without judgmentalism. And keep me free of religious hatred that is itself quite evil.

WEIGH MY HEART

God cannot be fooled. It seems ridiculous to say it, but I have tried; self-justification is such a fundamental element of the human condition that we are blind to its techniques. Strangely, we can see unhealthy self-exoneration in others with pinpoint accuracy yet struggle to see it in ourselves. As Scripture declares: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes”. Feigned piety is no help at all with God since He cannot be fooled and it is nothing more than another form of self-generated fraud. The triple-punch of Scripture, Spirit and covenant fellowship with serious believers can purge us of self-deception. Iron sharpens iron. Lord, weigh my heart. Shine Your Light throughout my soul and help me take my finger off the scale.

TENDING THE TULIPS

As far back as I can remember my mother loved to work with plants. She had a true gift for gardening therefore beautiful flowers and greenery always surrounded her homes. Solomon states: “He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit.” The lesson here is simple: God provides the seed and ecosystem for life and beauty, but things must be tended to for maximum value and fruitfulness. Though I am dependent upon God’s care and provision I must do my part. And while I may not always understand the “why” of what I’m doing, my heart is calibrated to hear and obey His choices. Lord of All Creation, Help me to recognize priorities and faithfully tend to those things, both material and spiritual that require my full attention and effort.