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Showing posts from October, 2018

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.