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Showing posts from January, 2019

THE AROMAS OF FAITH

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere,” (2 Corinthians 2:14). In this verse we learn that our lives spread the fragrance of Christ! It is a delightful mystery how an aroma can transport me to a different place. A passing scent can return me to my great grandmother’s kitchen when I was but a child, or awaken a lost memory long forgotten, or activate an emotion that I did not know I held in secret. In both the Old and New Testaments our prayers are likened to “incense”. What sometimes seem like feeble earthly prayers are received as a heavenly fragrance before the throne of the King of the Universe. O Lord my Creator and Sustainer, I marvel at Your ways. May my daily prayer offerings combine with those of all Your saints, filling heaven with sweet fragrance. Lord, hear my prayer.

IRON SHARPENS IRON

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV). Then there’s Leviticus 19:17-18: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Human interaction is confrontational at its core. At times we are confronted by what we don’t like about someone and sometimes we are confronted by what we admire about someone. The very nature of human interaction is confrontational. At some point, every relationship challenges the resident selfishness within each of us. Confrontation without bitterness is one of life’s finest gifts, providing a powerful, life-giving force of good in us and through us to others. Learning to love others through God’s love is transformative. Lord, You are the Potter I am the clay, mold me into the man that pleases you. T…

THE SIN OF WORRY

I have often fallen into a trap of feeling something was urgent or desperate, when in fact, it never was. I have wasted innumerable hours trying to think my way past problems, only to later discover they had never even existed the way I had perceived them. It is wise to be on our guard, but anxiety drains away life and is in direct contradiction to God’s command. For instance, we are told in Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing”. Instead, we are to let prayer, promises and praise reshape our worries into expectation of God’s intervention. Heavenly Father, today, I will again cast my cares upon You. You are the answer to every question, the provision for every need and though I may deserve judgement and condemnation You never turn away in disgust. I can truly say, it is well; it is well with my soul.

FRIENDLY FIRE

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” (1 Peter 5:8). An intense battle poses many dangers, not the least of which is “friendly fire”. Accidental attacks on friendly forces while trying to defeat the enemy is one of the most tragic aspects of war. Nothing about the battlefield is pleasant, but to be taken out by those for whom you fight adds insult and deep pain to an already bad situation. I have seen friendly fire in spiritual battles, organizational battles, congregational battles, relational battles and family battles. At times, when we are counting on our comrades in arms, they turn weapons on their own. Cain was not only a jealous murderer, he was absolutely wrong in his self-defense. His deflection? “Am I my brother’s keeper?” YES, I AM my brother’s keeper. You O LORD are my Shield and Defender. Keep me attentive in the fog of war. May I never be confused about who the true enemy is.

GROW UP!

The first few months of a newborn’s life is filled with many moments of closed-fisted rage. It also includes lots of attempts to grab for itself whatever is reachable. Then one day an open hand is extended in obvious affection. You see, grabbing all you can is for newborns, giving is for the more mature. The same is true of our spiritual growth. Luke 6:38 states, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you,” (ESV). Takers remain as spiritual infants, givers grow to spiritual adulthood. Get out of diapers and put your pants on; live to give, live to lift, live to help, live to bless! Step wholly into the nature of the Giver of All Things. LORD You so loved the world You created that You gave Your Only Son! Make me a man of generous spirit. Use me as Your instrument of blessing.

KEEPING IT REAL

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks,” (Luke 6:45 NKJV). What I treasure is what I inwardly value. And, what I value, wish for, ponder, contemplate, daydream or give more than passing thought to drives what I outwardly say and do. It is simple really, garbage in, garbage out, good stuff in, good stuff out. This is why in Psalm 1 the “blessed” person is the one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law he meditates day and night.” Jesus showed us how His inner life allowed Him to effectively minister among the worst of sinners without fear while simultaneously exposing the hypocrisy of the outwardly religious. LORD, help me keep it real. May my love for You be genuine and my love for others be pure.

MY FAVORITE TEACHER

I have particular affection for those who care enough to teach others, especially those who choose educating others as a profession. My life has been so blessed by parents, teachers, writers, preachers, philosophers, mentors and the like. But no teacher is more precious to my heart than the Holy Spirit. No opportunity for instruction ever goes to waste with the Spirit of the Living God. Proverbs 6:6 counsels, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”. Even things that really bug us have lessons for life under the Spirit’s tutelage! With the help of the God’s Spirit nothing is meaningless or unusable. Mistakes, failures, victories, disappointments and successes all have equal value for learning. Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me and lead me in the way of everlasting. Instruct my heart and enlighten my understanding throughout this new day.

HIDDEN PERILS

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The lion doesn’t roar while stalking his prey, he uses stealth. I once I saw a large log silently float by in the middle of the river; most of its bulk was suspended silently below the surface. It struck me that even something as docile and inert as a fallen tree can be deadly in certain circumstances. As I offered a prayer for passing boaters the question came to mind: “How many seemingly harmless things float just below the surface in my life that I cannot see?” Lord God, Captain of My Soul, expose those things within me and around me that are harmful and clear them away. Remove from my heart every hidden peril and use me to bring safe passage and blessing others.

SEAMLESSNESS

“Every metalsmith is put to shame by the carved image; For his molded image isfalsehood and there is no breath in them” (Jeremiah 51:17 NKJV). You just can’t fake the real thing. What makes high-end luxury cars so special? The difference between an average automobile and the world’s finest is determined by the details. The near perfection of the seams on the doors, instrument panels, seat stitching and other interior parts combine to make the experience dazzling. While I have no need for such a car, I most definitely want my life to reflect the same quality of craftsmanship. There should be absolutely no separation between what I believe, what I say and what I do; in other words, seamlessness. Only the Perfect One can accomplish this. O Lord My Maker, I place my many imperfections into Your perfecting hands. I am confident and thankful You will finish the work You have begun.

ROCK MY WORLD

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap, (Galatians 6:7 ESV). God is never taken-in by my words, no matter how sincere they seem to me. Frankly, nor am I for I too, must see follow-through in my actions to genuinely believe in what I say. Often, I have been at that divine tipping point where intent teetered toward sincerity, then I rocked back toward selfish contentment only to again settle for spiritual complacency. But God will not abandon me to the squalor of begging from a barren heart. He is intent on teaching His children to abide in the King’s Palace. 1 John 1:18 points the way, “let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” My LORD, My God, You lovingly rock me forward till I cast my eyes onto Your fullness, nothing else will do. May I completely fall firmly and permanently into Your loving arms. Father, rock my world toward You.

NAILED

“Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin” (Ezekiel 18:30, NKJV). As absurd as it sounds, I have attempted at times to manipulate God while praying. In classic Wizard of Oz fashion, praying with a sincere need while silently hoping that He would “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Well, it doesn’t work like that, His attention is precisely upon the man behind the curtain. Nailed. He, who has no pretense whatsoever, is intolerant of it in His children and no obfuscation of the truth is allowed. We must own our failures and turn away from them, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10, NKJV). If we are genuinely repentant we will make a serious commitment reverse direction. Father, forgive my insolence. I love Your truth and want to walk fully in it. Strip away all falsehood in me that I may come before You with clean hands and a clean heart.

WORDS

“Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.” Luke 4:31-32. Never in history have so many words been spoken by so many people in so many languages. But volume and quantity are easily dismissed when one hears words spoken with authority. This is why our ears and hearts should remain attuned to God’s Word over all others and our own words cleansed and guided by His. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21). Our lives become a point of life, blessing and enlightenment when our words are first soaked in God’s Word. LORD of Truth and Light, cleanse my heart and mind of words without meaning. Use my mouth as a fountain of blessing and truth.

JUDGEMENT DAY

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). I will one day stand before the God whose judgments are perfectly accurate; this is not a comforting thought. But alas, each of His names reveals another facet of our Judge. He is the Great Physician, the Savior, the Good Shepherd, Our Mediator, Advocate and Redeemer. Suddenly, I am feeling much better about this. A journey through The Lord’s biblical monikers lifts us from the valley of the shadow of death and places us in the company of The Most High God! Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace and Great I Am, I march toward the Day of Judgment both with trembling knees and a heart brimming with blessed assurance.

KEEP BREATHING

"The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life,” (Job 33:4). At the end of the film “Cast Away”, Tom Hanks’ character ruminates: “I know what I have to do, I gotta keep breathing. Cause tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide will bring?” A man who had lost everything found what he needed to know to live. It’s just a movie line, but there is truth here. Life was imparted to mankind as Adam received his first breath from the Almighty. With God as our Father, darkness is driven away by the dawning of each new day and fresh blessings deposited with every tide. In simple terms, life is not measured by our losses or gains. Scripture proclaims: “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind”. Yes LORD, You are Life Eternal! So I will take another breath. And another. And another. Alleluia.

TUNED-IN

Psalm 46:10 says,“Be still, and know that I am God.” Hearing the voice of God begins with focused attention given to your own spiritual condition, genuine repentance for our failures, meditating upon the Word of God as recorded in Holy Scripture, acknowledging His Lordship in praise and quieting our own thoughts that His may be heard.I grew up during a time of dial-tuned radio receivers that had to be carefully “tuned in”. Radio signals were weak and reception spotty. I spent countless hours slowly turning a large dial until the signal became clear. Hearing the voice of God requires the same type of careful tuning while shushing the cacophony that constantly competes for our attention. There is no auto-tune for my heart, so I must give hearing God’s voice my full attention. Father, I treasure Your command to “be still and know”. Help me quiet down and set my heart on wisdom.

PARTNERS WITH GOD

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9). While life can feel pretty mundane at times, by God’s design our daily vocation coincides with His. That we may behold His work is wondrous enough, but that the Creator of the Universe and Ruler of All Things grants us partnership in His earthly activities is breathtaking. To be a craftsman at the Lord’s side fills me with delight day after day. Though I am never allowed more than a peek at the blueprints, from time to time I catch a glimpse of what He is doing and am always amazed. The intricacy and purposefulness with which He works is breathtaking. Lord, I rejoice to do Your bidding. May my work this day and every day thereafter be synchronized with Yours. Guide my hands and give me laser-focus in my assigned work. Let’s roll.

EXPAND, CONTRACT, EXPAND

When questioned about his diminishing role, John the Forerunner declared: “I must decrease, He must increase”. Combined with the words of King David: “You shall enlarge my heart” we discover a spiritual principle; every day requires additional constraint and fresh release. As a jellyfish moves through the water by expanding and contracting, so we move through life. This process is disconcerting to the uninformed, but to the spiritually awakened this routine becomes a welcomed process since it is a sign of forward progress. Unwillingness to accept necessary shrinkage or fear of expansion leaves us to simply drift along with the surrounding current, eventually casting us onto the dry shore. Lord I love Your ways and praise You that You do not leave me trapped in stagnation. Open, close, I’m good with that. To what must I close today and to what must I open? LORD, You say.

TRUTHFUL LOVE

“Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work,” (Ephesians 4:15-16). While wisdom and gentleness with others is a good approach to resolution, ultimately truth must be spoken and advanced in spite of resistance. Love demands truthfulness. Fearing what people think above the concern for them being harmed by ignorance or deception is an evil and a dangerous trap. No matter how delicately delivered, truth is often both liberating and offensive. I welcome the truth only when I am prepared to receive both its benefits and its discomforting demand that I respond with change. LKORD of Love and Truth, help me let kindness rooted in Your Unquenchable Love always be my motivation and method for proclaiming truth to others.

THE ULTIMATE GAME CHANGER

“My little children let us not love in word or in tongue but in deeds and in truth,” (1 John 3:18). Much of life is propped up with facades and imaginations but truth is the ultimate game-changer. The human mind is capable of engineering a fantasy spiritual life so convincing that even we believe it, then truth comes charging in like a rhino in a china store. While painful at first, facing truth frees the soul like nothing else. As it states in John 8:32, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Lord of Truth, I have many delicate things balanced on flimsy shelves. You only knock things down to build them up better than ever. You push to the side that which is of no lasting value. While there is pain in the moment, I welcome Your truth.

UNCHECKED ARROGANCE

James 4:16 says, “You boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” There is an unhappy future for the person with unchecked arrogance. Pride is such a deadly sickness, and yet unlike other diseases, the more of it someone has, the less of it can be seen in the mirror. Conceit blinds the person who has it while others can see it clearly. A close relationship with God deepens our capacity for relationships with others and provides the deepest, most enduring happiness. However, arrogance makes authentic relationships nearly impossible, especially with the Almighty. God is the most humble of all, bending low in the incarnation. He made Himself smaller to redeem us. Father expunge from me every smidgen of pride. Cleanse me from its deceptive ways that I may reflect Your Glory.

TOO EASILY IRKED

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you,” (Ephesians 4:32). Kindness is one of the principle characteristics of a spirit-controlled life. Kindness activates love, forgiveness, tenderheartedness, patience and a host of other godly virtues. Generally speaking I have grown much more patient through the years, but I am still far too easily irked. This is one of the sinister ways the kingdom of darkness attempts to maintain a foothold in my soul. When annoyances are permitted to hang around without constraint they huddle together and increase in number. In this undisciplined condition of self-indulgence, problems seem huge and God seems small; then full-fledged anger pops up like burnt toast. How foolish. Father forgive my imprudence and help me keep my bearings. I am aware of how annoying I must be to You, yet You are eternally patient and kind in spite of my deficiencies. Make me more like You LORD.

ROAD TRIP

“Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you,’” (Genesis 12:1). Abraham’s journey was long and fraught with difficulties. As a young family we would pile our four children into a vehicle and take long road trips. What crazy, fun, maddening, soul-stretching affairs those journeys were! After days of planning, preparation, packing and one last headcount, we were off. I was always surprised how swiftly everything became so chaotic and messy. Frankly, spiritual progress in my life now has many similarities to those of Abraham and my families’ cross-country treks. The road to victory is often messy and offers many wrong turns and rerouting adventures. The trip itself can be very disorienting since success rarely looks like success until after it is achieved. Lord, grant me grace to finish my course smiling. Help me enjoy the scenery along the detours and to be patient with the pace.

THE MARCH OF FAITH

“I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Faith is joyful certitude that God does what He says. Faith unlocks heaven’s rewards and is never bound to earthly limitations or circumstances. Faith unleashes divine promises, matchless wisdom, clarity of vision and a steady walk through the unseen. If a mustard seed’s portion can toss a mountain into the sea, then it can certainly clear our way forward. Through faith I find refuge in blessed assurance, triumphant peace in the midst of storms and laughter in the face of adversity. Lord of Hope, Your Words are the fountainhead of faith, therefore I will meditate daily on Your Holy Declarations. By faith, in faith and through faith I march forward.

HEART THEFT

Proverbs 4:23 cautions, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Nothing or no one, can steal my heart without my permission. We are warned to “guard” our heart, because there are many things that will attempt to control it. The safest way to address this is to treasure what God treasures, starting with an eternal view of life rather than a temporary one. Since money is so central to our lives on earth, our attitude and stewardship of it is critical. The way we get it, spend it, save it or give it reveals to whom our heart actually belongs. My attitude toward how I dole out my time, talents and treasures is the best indicator of the intentions of my heart. Proverbs 23:26 counsels, “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my way.”Yes LORD, that is my ambition. Lay bare every wrong desire within me, deliver me and strengthen my resolve to be more like You.

GO FORWARD

"The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.’” (Exodus 14:15). Moses and his people knew what to do since God had already instructed them, but they were paralyzed with fear and doubt. While spiritual maturity and life experiences offer the potential of more accurate judgement in decisions, they can also make us increasingly adverse to risk. Too much over-thinking, calculation and caution can keep us from moving forward. Love requires risk and faith demands bravery. There is no escape from Egypt’s hold without stepping forward toward the Red Sea’s waters; there is no inheritance of the Promised Land until our hearts are headed in the right direction. Father help me make the most of the opportunities You bring. Keep me moving ever forward toward Your perfect will.

THE DAWN OF DELIVERANCE

“I sought the LORD and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears,” (Psalm 34:4). Difficult times bring many valuable lessons. Most of the truly important changes I have made in life have come as a direct result of a crisis. As the pressure rises, so does my focus and intensity of seeking God’s face. Fresh grace to deal with unplanned circumstances is granted to the hungering pilgrim. While I do not intentionally seek more problems, there seems to be no shortage. Nor, however, is there ever a shortage of God’s Mercy and Goodness. Every time I get dog-piled by dilemmas there is a corresponding avalanche of grace released from heaven. Glory to You Lord God Almighty, thank You for each new opportunity to know You and Your ways more perfectly. In my darkest hour You sweetly lead me toward your heavenly light till the dawn of deliverance is mine!

OUT OF MY DEPTH

Traveling with a friend in his new 40 ft. boat took us to a place that was previously unknown to us. Navigating unfamiliar waters while using unfamiliar equipment can be dangerous. Headed offshore and at full throttle, the depth finder suddenly registered very shallow water. Panic erupted as the alarm loudly squealed; we didn’t realize we were sitting over one of the Atlantic’s deepest ocean troughs. Our sounding setting was set too shallow to properly measure the depth. I have often been out of my depth where God has taken me in life, so I must continually reset my heart for deeper places. Yesterday’s settings will not suffice for tomorrow’s journey. The good news? 1 Corinthians 2:10, “For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” LORD God, Captain of my Soul, prepare me now for where You are taking me. Deliver me from ignorance and foolishness and guide me each step by Your Holy Spirit.

INTO THE HEALER'S HANDS

As a young boy I always had a splinter or two somewhere in my body. I mostly learned to deal with them myself, but when they became really painful and I still could not remove them, I would seek help. I can still remember how difficult it was to extend my injured finger to another, even a person I trusted, knowing they could not actually feel my agony. But eventually I learned that to get better my injuries had to be exposed.They still do. While I’ve learned that others may indeed help, ultimately all my pains, both large and small, internal and external, must be placed into the Healer's Hands. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we were healed” (Isaiah 53:5 – NKJV). Merciful Lord, You alone are the Great Physician, into Your tender grasp I entrust every sorrow, every pain. Even while I am being made whole, make me an instrument of Your healing love for others.

WANDERING EXILES

Wars, natural disasters, hatred, sickness, divorce, addiction and a host of other horrendous circumstances of this world all have something in common; they displace people’s lives. The prodigal son’s story is equally as bitter and perhaps worse since he had become a wandering exile by his own rebellion; banished by his unrepentant pursuits. I too, know the agony of self-defeating isolation from the Father. How foolish it is to remain exiled from the Lover of My Soul since He has provided an open path to His front door. “You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders.” (Ephesians 2:19 MSG). If God seems distant I must remember He has not moved, it Is I who stepped away. Most Merciful LORD, forgive my selfish wanderings. Clothe me in Your righteousness and restore childlike innocence in my heart.

I WILL RISE!

The words of the prophet Micah still ring loud and strong: “When I fall, I will arise; When I sit in darkness, The Lord will be a light to me.” We all stumble into pits from time to time completely on our own. And like Joseph, we are sometimes thrown into one by those closest to us. In other instances, like Daniel, our enemies cast us down. Frankly, once in a pit we too often become obsessed with how deep it is or waste time brooding over who put us there. But while circumstances may feel permanent, my faith and confession must be clear, though I fall, I will rise! Though I sit in darkness, the LORD is my light! Though I may deserve punishment, the LORD is merciful and forgiving because as David proclaimed “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Blessed Father, thank You for the testimonies of Scripture that show us the way. In Your strength, I WILL RISE!