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Showing posts from August, 2018

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”.

UNHEALTHY DELIGHT

Tearing others down does not make me stronger. In fact, focusing on the weaknesses of those around me keeps my attention dangerously away from where it should be laser-focused, which is on my own shortcomings. As much as I dislike criticism aimed toward me, there is an unhealthy delight in pointing it toward others. In the end, casting stones only exposes my own hypocrisy and weaknesses while putting me in the wrong posture to receive God’s mercy. The LORD not only treats us with underserved kindness, He actually “delights” in us in spite of our failings. Gracious Father, though You are perfect in all Your ways You hold no grudges toward my imperfections. Instead, You work with me patiently and lovingly in spite of my resistances. Lord, make me more like You.

SEEDTIME AND HARVEST

Understanding seedtime and harvest is a powerful motivator for wise planting. Everything we do or say is seed in the ground; the people we meet, family, friends, co-workers, even strangers passing by are soil. We rarely know the full story of how our life impacts others, but it is sobering to realize there is a harvest, both good and bad, from the seeds I have scattered. In the case of the good seeds sown, I pray for a bumper harvest; as for the bad seed, I pray for God’s mercy and forgiveness and for permanent crop failure for those seeds. Lord of All, forgive me for forgetting how significant each action is. Help me display Your goodness to those You place in my path. May only good seed be spread from my life that You O LORD would be glorified.

MY RESCUE

I once almost drowned as a young child. I accidentally slipped through the opening in an inner tube and was soon flailing for my life trying to catch my next breath. On what would surely have been my last plunge beneath the surface my older brother Wayne grabbed and pulled me to ground I could stand on. It was not an easy rescue; out of shear panic I struggled against my savior. I sometimes still do. Our own foolishness is most often the source of our disasters, yet at the moment of deliverance we make our rescue even more of an ordeal than it should be, pushing away from the Author of Our Salvation. O Lord My Rescue, I know you hear my cry long before I feel Your hand. Help me to not question Your timing or ways anddeliver me from foolhardy behaviors.

NO PANIC NECESSARY

To act with due caution is wise, but timidity is never a prudent course of action. Fear-governed thoughts and actions rarely lead us to the right conclusions; panic is not a reliable strategy. Trusting God is the only sensible response to crisis, so turning to Scripture is the right direction in a moment of panic, and there we find: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” The peace God grants to those who learn to lean on Him in the midst of a raging storm is the perfect environment for understanding and wisdom to emerge. Lord of Perfect Love, this day, as all days, is in Your hands. I am at peace in Your Holy Presence, knowing Your light will uncover the unseen and reveal the shape of what is hidden.

BITTER CUP

I am not a very picky eater, but I have faced things pretty difficult to mouth and swallow. It is said, “you are what you eat” and there are some things I just don’t want to take in or become. Thank God Our Redeemer is not so choosy. Upon facing the bitter cup of sin in Gethsemane He prayed “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will” and readily drank it down. He swallowed our death-marked souls whole and for a moment He too became what He drank. As Scripture declares “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”. Glorious God and Savior, in rising from the dead You overcame sin. Rather than us permanently turning You into sin, You have now eternally turned us into righteous children!

EQUALIBRIUM

Years ago, I looked out the window and received quite a surprise. There it was…trunk to the ground, its huge roots pointing skyward; a huge tree had fallen over our driveway. It is a shock when something that normally stretches into the sky collapses and now lies unearthed and broken. Soil and water are the very things that nourish a giant oak tree but these life-giving necessities can be its undoing when given in excess. It is the same with me. Only the Eternal Designer who knit me together can keep me in equilibrium. My spirit, soul and body must be fully nourished but protected from excess. O Lord My Caretaker, guide me into balance and moderation. Keep me from seeking excessive sustenance outside of Your design or provision.

MIND MATTERS

Faith is not merely an emotional response to truth; it is enabled by a divinely orchestrated combination of God’s Word, His enlightening Spirit and the submissive response of the believer. The mind, however, is an integral part of faith and is essential to good judgment, obedience and creativity. But since I only “know in part”, every thought must be brought under the guidance, cleansing and dominion of the One who knows everything. In Ephesians Paul warns: “You should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind.” Right! Father, may my thoughts only be those which reflect Your will. Help me keep my mind set on the right things, guided and empowered by Your Word and Spirit.

IMMEASUREABLLY MORE

How much farther can I go? Immeasurably more. How much higher can I climb? Immeasurably more. How much more can I handle? Immeasurably more. The answer to every “how much” question is answered in searing biblical clarity: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Well, that pretty much says it all. These passages also clarify why we ask the “how much” questions in the first place, we ask because we are still depending on our own strength instead of God’s strength within us. Holy Father, please forgive my insolence and help me live and act in Your strength alone. In You I live and move and have my being.

RAINDROPS & TEARDROPS

We are in our late summer weather and so each afternoon brings a passing squall or two. While noisy and inconvenient, these storms cleanse the air and refresh the earth as they cruise through. Actually, teardrops can have the same effect within my soul. While not always welcomed at first, I find that my tears of anguish are never missed by the Master and open a flood of forgiveness, comfort and cleansing for the wayward or broken heart. Just one sincere tear poised on the cheek activates the Mercy of God and sends forth the comforting company of heaven. As Scripture promises: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” LORD, You are my comfort and My Salvation!

I CAN CHOOSE!

I can choose whom and how I serve. I could surrender to things that seem unchangeable. I could resent, obsess or despair over what has passed me by. I could vainly dream of what could have been or should have been had it not been for this or that. Then again, I could choose a more noble way. I can put each moment, each desire, every person, hope, fear or dream into the nail-scarred Hands. I can worship as did the psalmist and declare that God is great and greatly to be praised! I can leave behind the squalor of doubt and fear and join the multitude of heaven in eternal praising God and say: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth, peace and goodwill toward men!” Lord God Almighty, Giver of Choice, I thank You that today I can choose, and I gladly, gratefully, eternally choose to serve and praise You!

GROUNDHOG DAY

GROUNDHOG DAY “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, by the Spirit.” I suppose we all have our favorite list of movies. One of mine is “Groundhog Day”. Watching an overtly selfish jerk develop a growing love for a truly nice person and slowly becoming like that person resonates with me. It took a lot of “redoes”, but he finally made it. I like the storyline because it seems a lot like what the man in the mirror I see each day is going through. In my story the “mirror” is the Word of God and the person I’m becoming more like is my Redeemer. I too "die daily" and am slowly making progress. But I have an advantage, my story is not a fantasy, it is written and being directed by the Great I AM! LORD, help me be more like You today. Cleanse my soul of mixture and self-will. Make me a man of Your choosing.

BETRAYAL PROOF

Betrayal by people you care about hurts so deeply because you have to face the fact that they did not value you as much as you had expected. Humanly speaking, the way we love, and the way we wish others would love us is so selfish at its core that it is a constant setup for devastating disappointment. So how do we become betrayal proof? Let’s start with God’s promises, “I will NEVER leave or forsake you”, and “perfect love casts out fear”. So to be loved BY God and to love LIKE God is to become betrayal proof. The combination of having the right perspective and actions is our deliverance from disappointment; only perfect love can protect you. Loving Father, teach me Your ways. Purify both my receiving and giving of perfect love.

THE WAY FORWARD

The temptation to simply drift along a lazy river of complacency is persuasive. The volume of life’s complications can cause us to disengage from our responsibilities, even withdrawing from active pursuit of the will of God. As past disappointments pile up and the desire to take risks is smothered, our sense of divine purpose and calling become mere shadows of what they once were. The good news is that sincere confession of mistaken priorities and reliance on the wrong things brings immediate heavenly relief and opens the way forward. The moment I take a step in the right direction there is fresh grace for the journey. Father in Heaven, awaken my heart with daily passion for Your will. Make me, mold me, fill me, use me.

RUIN OR REVIVAL

There are times when it feels as if I am teetering over the edge of a steep cliff. Though I am never actually comfortable in that circumstance I have learned that these are qualifying moments, offering the choices of ruin or revival. A plunge over the brink will often look like ruin outwardly, only to ultimately be turned into an inward revival of faith, trust, obedience and the joy that only these defining moments can release. It seems that God has chosen for me to live on the edge, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way. Precious Father, in Your care I am safe no matter the circumstance. Wherever Your Will leads I will follow. Keep me attuned to every nudge of Your guiding Hand. Bring ruin to my own ways and revival to my soul through obedience to Your Ways!

IDOL WORSHIP IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD?

In my travels around the world I have seen plenty of idols and idol worshipers. It is a common sight to see men, women and children bowing before false gods. At first glance there doesn’t seem to be much idol worship in my neighborhood; or is there? Idolatry is the worship of something or someone other than God as if it were God. Any time we confer more importance or authority to a created thing rather than to the “Creator of All Things” we are in effect worshipping idols. Everything in this world, even life itself, must be held loosely. I must learn to take hold of eternal things with vise grip determination and bow the knee to God alone.Glorious Father, Great I Am, to You alone belongs all glory, honor, praise and servitude.

LEAK PATROL

The temptation to compromise is constant. While most sincere believers hold the line on the big issues it is easy to make concessions on smaller things. We can be spirit-filled yet leaking. Those who manage dams do not take cracks lightly. Leaks do not self-repair so they must be addressed or they will only worsen. Leak patrols are a serious matter. The same can be said of the soul. When life’s pressures build even the most spirit-filled heart can be drained. I must consistently seek fresh infilling and simultaneously take care of issues that siphon away God’s Presence. No one else can guard my heart; I must take personal responsibility to remain filled. Glorious God and Father, open the windows of heaven afresh. Grant me wisdom to recognize and attend to things that deplete my heart of Your Glory and Presence.

TRUE LIFE

An acquaintance of mine likes to respond to the question, “How are you today?” with, “Lovin’ life man!” It makes me smile. I smile because I appreciate the raw enthusiasm of his answer, but my smile also masks a bit of uncertainty. There are many things to love about life, but deep down we each know the truth; life can hurt. In fact, even when life is very, very good, there is always the gnawing reality that everything in this world is temporary, fragile and unpredictable. The bible declares: “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” Now THAT is true life, life that cannot ever be taken away. Shadows of darkness may obscure true life for a moment, but “joy comes in the morning!” So I guess he is right after all, and today I am lovin’ life! LORD, You are my Life and Light!

THE TRIUMPH OF THE VANQUISHED

We each face battles that are not of our own choosing. Some are arbitrarily forced upon us by life’s circumstances. Others come as a result of our own bad decisions. Many battles fall into the category of spiritual warfare while some are chosen for us by our heavenly Commander in Chief. Though the sources of our battles are many, there is but sure path to victory; we must embrace God’s promise, “The LORD shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Here we learn that peaceful trust in God alone must be the banner under which we march. Our self-dependence must first be vanquished by God’s wondrous love then and only then we are ready for any fight. Holy Father, my unruliness and fears are defeated by Your love, therefore I forge ahead in the triumph of the vanquished!