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December 2017

Just Come

 

No need for pretense, preparation,or preservation of anything; just come.

No call for resume, references, or resolution to become something in your own feeble strength.

Come weak, wounded, weary, and without will power; come!

Just as you are -- no plea but one great act of mercy outside of yourself.

Come because you have been invited.

Come to the table.

Come to the feast of grace.

Come to the One who loves you without condition or reservation; come.

Come, come, come.

 

 


I Can Run and Climb and Jump

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God, make me merciful, for I need mercy.
God, cleanse me from blame that I might see Your holiness.
Purify me that I might melt away in the glory of Your purity.
May I ever be humble that I might know I need You.
Light my way. Enlighten my darkness.
Give me strength to run, to leap and to long ...
For Your perfection.
You are my shield.
I take refuge in You.

" With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down.
For it is you who light my lamp;
the LORD my God lightens my darkness.
For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him."


(Psalm 18:25-30 ESV)

 

 


Do I Truly Love God?

 

I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. - Psalm 18:1

One is often in a conundrum over the matter of loving God and the audacious declaration of our love for God.

Do I love God? Is there any evidence to that? Is there any defining emotion or life trajectory that would verify my claim? Is there any great sacrifice I have made to back it up? Am I stating a reality or an aspiration?

Does it matter as long as I move in the direction of the declaration?

What is loving God? Why do we love God? How?

Perhaps the psalmist's reflections will give us some clues.

To begin, I declare that God gives me all of my strength to love or to withhold love.

Psalm 18:2 - The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

The psalmist reaches deeply into his reserves of imagery to describe the security, stability, and solidity that God brings to his life. He uses, in this verse, only one image to describe his own response: “in whom I take refuge.” There is only one possible response to the trustworthiness and faithfulness of a strong and mighty God who loves us. That response is trust. From the place of faith and trust we proceed to praise, obedience, consecration, and rightful fear. Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him. (Job 13:15)” Whatever the circumstances of our lives, the intensity of our senses, or the severity of our emotions, God is our stronghold and trust is our way of saying “yes” to Him.

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. – Psalm 18:2

It was 1999 and a tornado had ripped through Moore Oklahoma.  Homes had been destroyed. Families were devastated.  The need was great.

One of the most recognizable architectural features in town was the high and visible cross at the First Baptist Church. It was also the location of an emergency center.

The word went out to all who needed help, “Go to the cross.”

Churches have often been adorned with steeples, towers and crosses. They are present so that the buildings will stand out and remind the community of the majesty and strength of God in redemptive love and unswerving power.

It is God Himself who is our fortress, deliverer, and high tower. He is our strength. He is our shield. He is our salvation.

We can go to Him.

We understand the love of God and how we benefit from His love. What we sometimes overlook is how dependent we are on His strength. No matter how much He might love us, if He were not strong enough to keep His word and save us, it would all be for naught.

But alas, He is strong and loving and we can go to Him.

Psalm 18:3 - I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.

There are three vital touch points in this verse. One is the vocal and volitional response of the trusting heart to God. The next is of greater importance. It is the acknowledgement of the worthiness of the One to whom all trusting souls call. The third and least important is the resulting salvation for all who call to God in faith. In what sense and with what intensity have you been calling to the Lord in recent days? Have your desperate and passionate prayers been bathed in a sense of the wondrous worth of God?  Have you been going for God and His glory and letting deliverance follow or have you been shifting the focus to the resulting salvation of your life. Keep your perspective in prayer. It is always all about God. Out of that salvation always follows.

Psalm 18:4-5 – The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.

The cords of the grave [coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.

There is a graver danger than death. It is the denial of death. The psalmist is not seduced by its subtle and intoxicating lure. He looks around and sees, eyes open, the threats that surround him. He does not avoid confrontation, but brings these issues honestly and forthrightly to God. Adopt a strategy of brutal honesty in your life of prayer. In doing so, you bring your awareness of God front and center in the midst of the perils of life and death. Peace and victory are very near the soul that can look death in the face without turning away.

Through Many Snares

Psalm 18:5 -The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.

There are snares of the devil and snares of death and snares of those who are threatened by the path we travel. And all such snares are designed to divert us from that path, the way of the Master. We all face them and some of us come through them.

Just turn the word “through” over and over in your heart and mind. Then celebrate. Celebrate because the snares did not finish you off. Celebrate because you either avoided them or, with God’s help, managed to break free of their clutches. Celebrate deliverance. Celebrate strength in times of trial. Celebrate grace!

The psalmist knew the snares of death. He saw them as road blocks. But he also saw them in the past tense. He had come through.

Of course, some of them have caught you. Whether they caught you off-guard or whether you moved headlong in their direction, eyes wide open, the same grace is for you. Others simply hindered you and brought you discomfort and disquieting, sleepless nights. Whatever the circumstances, look in the mirror. You are still here. You have come through.

What next?

How will the snares of the past prepare you for the snares of the future? Are you wiser in Christ? Are you stronger in Him? Do you have a greater hope and a more solid faith? Is your resolve more resolute than ever before now that you have stared down the snares of death?

You can make it because you have made it. You can make it because others have made it. You can make it most of all, because you have a forerunner, Jesus Christ, who has finished the race and stands at the finish line to welcome you.

Neither hell nor death, nor the defeated one who wields them as weapons against the elect of God can defeat you. You are passing through the snares. They are not eternal. Nor are they all powerful. You are much more than a conqueror through Him who loved you.

Psalm 18:6 - In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.

It is not stress that threatens our souls, but distress. And even distress is not the end of the matter for one who is working out his or her trust in God. “That soul who on Jesus hath leaned for repose …” is not hesitant to cry out to God for help. The lessons from the Twelve Steps of A.A. are modified to say that we admitted we were powerless over sin and human frailty - that our lives had become unmanageable and came to believe that only God in Jesus Christ, who is far  greater than ourselves, could restore us to sanity. In my distress and out of my distress, my cry is to God who hears me. Let these words challenge and comfort you.

Psalm 18:7 - The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry.

God is not to be toyed with. When He hears the distressed cry of those whose trust is in Him and releases His power to deliver, there are repercussions. Peter Marshal once preached that prayer is a very dangerous business. Things get shaken. The quaking of the earth is an awesome voice, but it is the voice of God that truly gets the attention of a complacent world. Don’t stop praying, but never succumb to the delusion that prayer is merely a benign exercise of religious sentiment. It is not. It is a trigger that may release the anger of God through agreement with Him and His purposes. Though His wrath is ultimately redemptive, its delivery can be very frightening. When you pray, be prepared to tremble with the earth.

Psalm 18:9 - Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.

God wants us to know some things about Himself that we may tend to overlook if the extent of our theology is “Jesus loves me; this I know.”  That is a true and faithful summary statement, but it is amplified by the prior knowledge that He is a holy and awesome God who is intolerant of anything that goes against Himself, His purposes, and yes, His love. Again, do not toy with God. Do not reduce Him to a simplistic formula or a divine, cosmic grandpa. We must know enough to fall prostrate in His presence before we can crawl into His lap as beloved children. The two may happen simultaneously, but one will never be without the knowledge of the other. He is God and we are not.

Psalm 18:10 - He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.

God is not sequestered in Heaven. Neither is He confined to a dogma or a domicile. At any time, He can and does part the Heavens to come in judgment, deliverance, and grace.  This image of God “coming down” is not a contradiction to the truth of the immanence of His presence. This is a functional description of His intervention in our affairs in response to the cry of a trusting soul. God responds to your response to Him through prayer. Never minimized in your mind the significance of your prayers. When you pray, you are on holy ground.

Psalm 18:11 - He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.

The heart thrills at the music of these words. The vision of God mounting the cherubim and soaring on His very wind is dramatic, inspiring, and comforting at the same time. In the previous verse we saw dark clouds under His feet. That tells us that this vision of “God-to-the-rescue” can only be seen by the trusting soul whose sight penetrates the darkness and views reality from the eyes of faith. Let us number ourselves with such as they whenever we look upon the deathly dangers and antagonistic arrogance around us. Thus we shall prayerfully maintain our focus while the world stumbles in despairing darkness.

Psalm 18:12 - He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him-- the dark rain clouds of the sky.

Darkness is not a characteristic of God. However, He clothes Himself in darkness. He does not fully disclose Himself for to do so would overwhelm even the faithful. Through the eyes of trusting faith, we receive His self-disclosure of light and truth, but only through a glass darkly. Apart from faith, all we see are dark rain clouds. Do not be deceived – not all that is obscured is the harbinger of death. Behind the clouds, there is light. Learn to look for God in every crisis of belief. He is present.

Psalm 18:13 - Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.

It is no wonder that God clothes Himself in darkness. His brightness is so brilliant that no human could bear the storm. Someday, we will be enabled to see fully as we are seen and to know fully as we are known. Until then, we view with unveiled face through the glass, the glory of the Lord.  Unlike the great and mighty Oz who was merely a mild-mannered professor from Kansas behind the veil of thunder and lightening, our God is so very much more that we can see or know. As Rich Mullins, who now sees very clearly, sang, “Our God is an awesome God.”

Psalm 18:14 - The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.

Sound is a phenomenon, in the natural world, that is centered in vibrations of various frequencies. These vibrations cause ripples in time and space that reverberate and resound to the human ear. Like thunder, vocal sound gets our attention. The voice is refined sound. God’s voice is heard because God will not be silent and has something to say to us. If we will listen, His voice will thunder in our ears. Otherwise, we will deafen those same ears to truth and love. We must remain alert, even if that makes us vulnerable to be startled, for in that startling, we are awakened to hear God at new frequencies of reality.

Psalm 18:15 - He shot his arrows and scattered [the enemies], great bolts of lightning and routed them.

With the same conviction that we affirm that God is not to be toyed with, we are reminded that God does not toy with us. His anger at sin is unambiguous. His wrath is without prejudice. It is not an emotional outburst from a temperamental potentate, but a proportional response to all that blasphemes His name and oppresses His people. Evil is a bully. Its only strength is in numbers. Only truth stands alone, and God is truth. When the oppressors of all that is godly “gang-up” on God’s children, He comes with arrows, lightening, and all that is in the arsenal of truth to scatter them and render them impotent. Do not be afraid of Satan though he commands a host of demons. One Word of God will route the enemy. Align yourself with Him and be secure.

Psalm 18:16 – The valleys of the sea were exposed, and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

The poetic imagery speaks for itself, but the truth is grasped in meditation. Nothing can withstand God’s rebuke. He has the final word on all matters: moral, ethical, spiritual, and intellectual. He will not bow to our perceptions or opinions and He will not withhold His judgment. He breathes truth. All that comes forth from Him is true and sometimes that truth scrapes away the veneer of falsehood with such ferocity that the effect can only be described as wrath. But with His relentless insistence upon fidelity to Himself, His purposes, and His ways, He breathes also, love. And when we behold it, we know that it is the real thing.

Psalm 18:17 - He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.

Here is God, breaking through the resistance, piercing the darkness, rebuking all deceit and wickedness, and relentlessly pursuing His purpose. Here is God, thundering forth His voice, blasting the clouds with bolts of lightening, God who is pure and fully integrated, God who judges all that is against His ways. This God stoops low to lift us. He bursts through the clouds to rescue His beloved. He draws us out of the deep waters where we are drowning. He is the God who saves. We have come to appreciate His anger. Now we can fully appreciate His saving love.

Psalm 18:18 - He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.

Think for a moment of the strong enemies I your life whether they are habits, attitudes, discouragements, or addictions. How often have you underestimated their power over you and your powerlessness over them? What have been the results of overestimating your strength?  Christianity is not about us being strong; it is about God’s strength within us. Pride is that enemy which empowers every other enemy to conquer our souls. Release pride. Expel it from your life. Admit your powerlessness and trust in God to rescue you from your enemies within and without today.

Psalm 18:19 - They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support.

When you are down, you are also vulnerable to every enemy that lives around you or inside you. Temptations surface when our pain is most acute and our weakness most profound. Satan comes to accuse, deceive, and allure in our disaster. The foes of our souls are looking for opportunities to get in our faces and sneer us into subjection. But the Lord is our support. Consider it today and rely upon it. Make it the subject of your prayer and stand in the assurance.

Psalm 18:20-21 - He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.

God’s delight in His children is what moves Him to rescue us. As we would seek to protect the ones we love, so He reaches out to us. It is about a relationship. That’s what righteousness is – something being rightly related. Our filthy hands are made clean because of our relationship to God through Jesus Christ. It is on that basis that we are rewarded. It doesn’t seem fair because it is not. It is grace.

Psalm 18:22-24 - For I have kept the ways of the LORD; I have not done evil by turning from my God. All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.

Perhaps the psalmist felt he had done no wrong. Perhaps his definition of “doing no evil” was limited. Or maybe he understood blamelessness in terms of a fresh and up-to-date righteous relationship with God where God’s mercy and grace make up for the deficits in our spiritual accounts. A Christian reading these words must filter them through the teachings of Jesus and the reality of the cross. All have sinned; all have turned away; and none is blameless. However, God is willing to see us as blameless through a right relationship with His Righteous Son. The crucial factor is that we are turning to God and He gives us confidence in His presence by His own merit. Thus, we can understand a pray the prayer of the psalmist with calm assurance.

Psalm 18:25-26 – The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight. To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless,

The difficulty with this verse is the same as the previous. From what we know from the rest of scripture, our righteousness does not carry enough clout to purchase a reward. Our cleanest cleanness is filthy. Our faithfulness is fleeting. We have much blame. But that is not the whole story. The slightest overture of response toward God, the tiniest demonstration of faith, the simplest suggestion of sincere seeking is met with God’s adequacy and provision. God rewards the little we bring to Him by supplying all that is deficient in us. It is the song of grace that resounds from these verses and it is a precious song indeed. He makes us righteous, clean, faithful, and blameless that He and we might enjoy a relationship of love and joy together.

Psalm 18:27 - to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.

Our purity comes from God. Having said that, let us consider purity as an attitude through which we approach God. The idea of purity evokes images of brilliant light shining through a diamond revealing the full spectrum of colors. It calls to remembrance the embrace of a child, the song of a sparrow, and the penetrating sincerity of an eager student on the first day of class. Purity is a condition of the heart, focus of the mind, and consecration of the body. It is undiluted devotion and singular commitment to a one and only center which gives everything else meaning and perspective. The pure in heart will see God because God is pure. Ask God to purify your soul and spirit today.

Psalm 18:28 - “For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.” 

The psalmist declared that God’s Word was his light and his lamp. John declared that in Jesus, Light came into the world when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Jesus illumines the world with His coming and illuminates the Word of God with His very presence.

Just one candle, Jesus, lights the world with brilliance and truth.

These are days of escalating attempts at spectacular light shows – synthetic lights, exploding lights, psychedelic lights – all designed the baffle, amaze, and bewilder.

Yet, when Jesus came, aside from one great burst of glory with a shepherd audience and a star that only some wise men noticed, He presented Himself as one tiny candle, a baby. And that was enough to light the world as John said, “the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:5)

In shining forth as a candle in the dark, Jesus made sense of hundreds of years of sacred scripture, He revealed the mystery of the ages, He brought hope to the dark hearts of men, and He called us to join Him as the light of the world, not to be hidden under a bushel. He was and is just one candle, but out of that one, many. As you light your Christmas candles, remember that it only took one to light the world forever.

Psalm 18:28-29 – You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty. You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.

Humility is a prerequisite to salvation. No one who is promoting her own resume of righteousness can expect to benefit from mercy. No one bragging about His lack of need will find the place of neediness needed to receive grace. Haughtiness may impress those whose mantra is to win by intimidation, but it commands no respect from God. God will have none rise except those He raises. He will exalt none but Himself and those who He brings alongside Himself. Our only aura is darkness, but God turns the darkness of the humble into the light of Heaven. Humble yourself before God today and He will lift you to the realm of eternal inextinguishable light.

Psalm 18:30 - With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.

My great grandfather, we are told, was at Gettysburg in Pickett’s charge. He survived that blood bath though scores of Confederates fell around him. As they ran up that hill against a line of blazing guns, they must have been chilled with fear and numbed with dread, but for some reason, they proceeded – as did the freemen in South Carolina immortalized in the film, “Glory” and the heroes of Normandy. At the command of a leader and for love of country or cause, many a soldier has advanced against a troop and scaled a wall that required more strength, courage, and skill than he or she possessed. In life, in our battles and skirmishes with sin, self, and sickness, we are called upon to give more than we have and extend beyond our abilities. It is then that God helps us with His external encouragement and internal power.

Psalm 18:31-32 - As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?

God’s perfection is the only hope of any person for anything that approximates perfection. His flawless word is the standard by which all truth may be evaluated. He is God, pure and simple and for those who come to Him to find refuge and help, He never falters or fails. He is steady; He is sure; He is solid; and He is faithful. He is the Rock. In prayer today, put absolute trust in Him for He alone is trustworthy.

Psalm 18:33 – It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.

The psalmist was never bragging. He has known all along that his blamelessness, faithfulness, and righteousness all come from God. He understands that God’s perfection is the essence of any personal holiness that might ever be visible in our lives. His strength is all that can make us strong. Paul came to know this reality when he declared that when he was weak he was strong because Christ’s strength could be made manifest. Only God can equip us for the challenges, battles, and difficulties we will face in this life. Only God can complete our lives as we draw upon His perfection and strength. Live in faith and dependence today.

Psalm 18:34-36 - He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great.

Who would not opt for solid ground upon which to stand in every situation? Only fools love battle and seek out conflict.  Having made both of these statements, one must acknowledge a contrasting truth: only cowards always flee, and only chronic whiners always require ideal conditions in their lives. Our spiritual feet are made for the rugged places of life. Our arms are trained for battle. God is preparing us for the adversities of life, not for virtual ease. He knows what we must face, and He knows that we must face it with Him or fail. Greatness does not result from minimalist thinking or avoidance of adversity. Greatness comes as the God of the universe stoops low to lift us up in the midst of fiery trials and contentious circumstances.

Psalm 18:37-39 - You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn. I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed. I crushed them so that they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet.

As we pursue the enemies of truth - prejudice, lust, discouragement, bitterness, and so many others – we do so with ruthless commitment to follow through to the end. We perform beyond our capacities and with courage that we do not possess in and of ourselves. We are assured of an ultimate victory that may often appear allusive and distant. So often we sense that something beyond our sight is occurring to straighten the way before us. At times we have been running with patience and speed and our ankles have turned throwing the balance of the race to our opponents. This does not need to be the case in our spiritual battles. God protects us against frivolous injuries to the end that we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.  Do not be afraid of freak accidents along your spiritual path God is winning this thing and He is doing so through you,

Psalm 18:40-42 – You armed me with strength for battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet. You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes. They cried for help, but there was no one to save them-- to the LORD, but he did not answer.

God ‘s strength is an awesome thing indeed. David was a military man, but only by necessity. By profession, he was a shepherd who was called upon to shepherd a nation. Immediately, he was besieged by the foes of God and forced to take up battle. He paid a high price for being a man of war. But sometimes, he saw a reality that escapes the self-sufficient: God goes to war before us and for us. He has the capacity to fight our battles and cause our enemies to cringe with fear and turn away. Satan is our great enemy-accuser and we are equipped to go to battle with him. He will bow at our feet, but not because our strength is so strong; God is strong, and His strength makes us strong. It is out of our relationship with God that we may call upon Him when we are under attack and He hears. No other cry reaches His ears. Stay up-to-date with God and you will be prepared for anything.

Psalm 18:43-45 – I beat them as fine as dust borne on the wind; I poured them out like mud in the streets. You have delivered me from the attacks of the people; you have made me the head of nations; people I did not know are subject to me. As soon as they hear me, they obey me; foreigners cringe before me.

Never underestimate the power of God at work in and through you. You will be utterly amazed at what He can accomplish through your life and the impact that it will have upon others. If it is your goal to impress people with your own strength, agility, cleverness, and wit, you will be disappointed. If you desire wealth, fame, power, or respect you might be tempted to work toward those ends. You will fail or find a miserable success. However, if you seek God and His ways, He will bring you more than you could ever hope for and broaden your influence beyond your wildest imagination.

Psalm 18:46-48 - They all lose heart; they come trembling from their strongholds. The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior! He is the God who avenges me, who subdues nations under me, who saves me from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from violent men you rescued me.

Loss of heart is inevitable for those who oppose God. Exaltation is the shared inheritance of the saints. Praise God and lift your head. Resist the temptation to avenge yourself against injustice or assert your own dignity. God is your champion. You will not win your spiritual battles through clever speech, biting comments, or skillful rhetoric. You will not be exalted through a show of human strength. Your hope is in God. Seek to understand His power and glory in the context of an intimate relationship with Him and leave all your issues to Him.

Psalm 18:49-50 - Therefore I will praise you among the nations, O LORD; I will sing praises to your name. He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever.

We are establishing a pattern of reflection, praise, and thanksgiving on the last day of the month. Let this be no exception. Meditate upon theses words and apply them to God’s providential acts in your life. Record them in your journal and sing unto the Lord with all your heart and soul. His unfailing kindness is praiseworthy. So, praise Him!

Start with the declaration of your love for God and then, grow into it.

 

 

 


When God Whispers in Our Ears

And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.– Luke 2:28


What has the Holy Spirit shown you?

Is it audacious to make claims of divine revelation? Is it theologically correct to do so? Might it not be considered presumptuous?

In the first place, this was not general revelation for all people. It was personal disclosure for Simeon’s personal consumption and encouragement. The Holy Spirit had assured him of the promise and he had embraced it.

There is no indication that Simeon had gone about bragging on his “special revelation.” He had not used it to elevate his status or to appear hyper spiritual.

He had not developed and marketed a seminar entitled, “How I Received a Revelation from the Holy Ghost and How You Can Too.”

He simply received a promise through the still, small voice of God and he clung to it with all his might. He did so in complete trust and confidence that God would bring it to pass.

Perhaps you believe that the Holy Spirit has shown you something about your future. It is OK to entertain the thought. None of us is a perfect receptacle for words from God, but He does still whisper promises in our ears in the form of assurance, calling, and encouragement. Do not be afraid to receive these words.

Could you be wrong? You might, but if you are, God will clarify that for you and show you something better in due time.

You will most likely discover that God was indeed speaking to you, but that you did not fully understand what He was trying to say. It stretched you and challenged you and through the experience, you grew.

If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you, it is most likely about you. It was about Simeon that he would live to see the Lord’s Christ and it was about Christ Himself. There were many ways God could have chosen to fulfill those words, but the way He did turned into a blessing for all who believe. What is He whispering in your ear?


Can We Keep a Lid on Evil?

The Limits of Evil

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Matthew 2:16-18 - Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

How far will evil go to carry out its evil ends?

Moved by humiliation and anger, Herod’s insult was matched only by his wicked lust for power. Lashing out against the threat to his illegitimate monarchy, he flung his nation into a time of evil that was inconceivable in its sheer horror. Sanity questioned lunacy with the haunting cry, “Is there no limit to such evil?”

There is none.

Evil will not stop itself. It perpetuates its terrors. It knows no boundaries. It will progress and regress beyond any hint of decency as it grows immune to conscience and compassion.

That is the bad news. The good news is that there is, in fact a limit, but it is not pretty. Not until the death of Herod did the madness cease.

The good news is, furthermore, that God’s good is greater than man’s evil. He is monitoring the progress of wickedness and restraining its instinctive intrusion into the affairs of human history. A loving God allows us free will and its consequences because He does indeed love us, but He will only allow it to go on for so long. The length of its duration is a mystery to us. He will allow suffering to accomplish His purposes and, when they are complete, He will stop it.

When evil, which is not of God, ceases to work toward God’s redemptive purposes, it reaches its limit. We don’t understand it, nor can we predict its course, but we can trust in a God who is working all things out for our good and His glory.

When evil prevails, God weeps along with Rachel, but in the end, righteousness prevails and God says, “Enough!” Evil will not stop on its own. It is always brought to a stop by the intervention of God in history in one way or another.

That is the only limit that evil knows.


You Have Mail

God’s Postal System

 Matthew 2:13-15 - And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

God’s Valentine has come to us through a circuitous route. It typically does. Such a route Joseph would take to protect his family. Such a journey would bring Jesus into Egypt along the paths of His anscestors. Such a path would bring Him out of the land of captivity into the land of the promise. Such would be the highway of love whereby God would deliver His greatest love letter to us, written upon the life of His Son, proclaimed by His death, and sounded forth with fury by the power of His resurrection.

God’s love letter, enteusted to the familial affection of a surrogate father’s devotion to his family traveled around the world to come home to those to whom it was addressed.

How far has His Valentine to you traveled to arrive at your doorstep?

What was the chain of custody that the Word of God traversed before it came to rest upon your heart. Who told whom and who did they tell and on and on before you heard the Word and responded to the compelling love of Jesus?

God’s postal system never fails. Whatever route His message of love must take, it will arrive at its destination. So often, the first word of His love comes to us in the context of family. Sometimes it is a sure and certain word of clarity. Sometimes it is only a hint and foreshaddowing of the message to come.

When our Jesus card first came to humanity, it was through a family comprised of two people who loved each other, one a mother, the other a stand-in dad. Before it could arrive, it would travel far out of its way, but it came to us in time. When we opened the card it said, “I love you” and it was signed, “Your Father.”


"...in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old." - Isaiah 63:9 (NRSV)

This is the personal involvement of God in the distress of His people.

We continue to celebrate Christmas on the Christian calendar and in life, the message of the incarnation is one of God's personal involvement in the pain and passion of people.

It is our clarion call to be personally involved, with passion in the pain around us ... present.

We must be present for God is present.

We cannot stand back and gaze upon suffering and injustice with nods and sneers and detached prayers. Our prayers must to attached to our lives and the lives of others.

In the year I first wrote this, Isaiah was read in churches across the world on Sunday, the first Sunday after Christmas. We praised God from Psalm 68. We were taught from Hebrews 2 that it was fitting for our champion to be made perfect through sufferings to bring many sons to glory.

We see this lived out as the homeless Jesus becomes a refuge in a foreign land, an alien among a strange people.

It is personal involvement. What will you touch in the coming year?


A Christmas Blessing to All

Hodie

May your day be filled with grace, joy, peace, and wonder!
May you awaken with fresh perspective and childlike embrace.
May you enter this day with grace.
May you step lightly and skip freely.
May you give what you have and receive what you can.
May you be blessed and I do not say that lightly or flippantly.
Thought we bring nothing in our hands to this day, may we bring ourselves.
Let us give as we have received.
Let us receive with humility.
Let us be.
Let us be who we were made to be and that is ...
Wonderful.
Christ has come! Rejoice!
Hope is born! Rejoice!
Life and Light have exploded in a grand display of ...
Glory!
Come, let us adore Him!
Come to the manger!
Come. Simply come.
Merry Christmas to all my friends and family.

 


God Is with Us

NEVER ALONE

“Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,  Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us’”. - Matthew 1:22-23

How lonely Joseph must have felt, not to mention Mary’s loneliness. God chose two lonely young people to use as a vehicle for the end of loneliness.

To be a virgin and conceive is an unparalleled experience. Conception always involves ensemble and grows out of a deep partnership. Mary’s only partnership in this conception was with the invisible God and it led to more isolation from humanity – even her betrothed.

Joseph was also isolated by this event.  Intimate trust had, in his mind, been betrayed. He could not receive counsel because there were none who could understand his mixed emotions.

Out of this loneliness would come a new partnership between God and this young couple and out of His work and their commitment would come a new reality – the persistent and consistent presence of God among people: Emmanuel.

“Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife …”  - Mathew 1:24

At some point, prior to or during this encounter, Joseph has fallen asleep. God often speaks to us in the loneliness of slumber, but it is when we are awakened that we reveal the power of the encounter. Joseph believed and received the word and his solitude ended. He obeyed God.

 “ And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.”  - Matthew 1:25

Fulfillment involved restraint and rejection of superficial intimacy. The depths of what God was doing would require patient expectation. The honeymoon would wait because God had something marvelous in store for humanity through His Divine intervention in history and the commitment of two solitary youths, brought together by grace and empowered by the promise of the presence of God.

Are we as willing, as they were, to offer our lives to the purpose of Christmas, that the God of the Universe might be revealed to a lonely world? Are we willing to leave some of the gifts under the tree for a while that the Giver of all gifts might bestow the gift of His eternal presence in the temporal realm?

God is with us!

 

 


Full of It

 

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I am full of it - of the overwhelming presence of the steadfast love of God. I, the unfaithful, unworthy, unlikely object of His deep affection, forgiveness, and grace, am in awe. The Lord has heard my voice and my cry for mercy. He awakened and renewed me this morning, early and refreshed. Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

 

 


My Opinions

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A couple of years ago, I reflected on my opinions and why I do not always share them all:

Sometimes I read the news and I have comments and I just decide to keep them to myself because:

A. Opinions are like eliminations systems. Everyone has one, but most produce undesirable ... well, you know.

B. It won't change anyone's mind.

C. Why should I let what is popular select what is most important for me and drive the agenda of my discourse?

D. I am tired of the subject.

E. Those who agree with me already agree and those who don't won't or may not have any idea what I am talking about or what paradigm I am using to formulate my views.

F. It plays into mass hysteria.

G. It is too easy to "label" a view and dismiss it.

H. I don't have enough information.

J. I am exhausted.

K. It goes without saying.

L. I have already addressed the subject repeatedly.

M. More from me and you get numb.

N. I am a wimp.

O. It is much ado about nothing.

P. I have some other reason.

Q. I don't have time.

R. I don't have enough words.

S. It is too complicated.

T. I did and you missed it.

U. I don't have an opinion, even though I said I did at first, upon reflection and internal dialogue, I realize that I am still arguing with myself.

V. Some combination of above.

W. I fell asleep.

X. I wrote 1000 words on it and my computer crashed and it takes 100 words.

Y. Why?

Z. I know that you do not care what I think.

Take your pick.

 

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The Babyhood of God

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Luca Cambiaso - Virgin with the Christ Child in Swaddling Clothes - WGA03793.

"The tremendous revelation of Christianity is not the Fatherhood of God, but the Babyhood of God—God became the weakest thing in His own creation, and in flesh and blood He levered it back to where it was intended to be. No one helped Him; it was done absolutely by God manifest in human flesh. God has undertaken not only to repair the damage, but in Jesus Christ the human race is put in a better condition than when it was originally designed." --Oswald Chambers, in The Shadow of an Agony from the Quotable Oswald Chambers.

The Babyhood of God – a powerful reflection by Oswald Chambers.

A major goal of my life would be to be like Chambers and others I admire and still be active in encouraging deep thought and extraordinary living long after I am gone. I think when I have that possibility in place and operating, then I will be ready for my call home.

Now, I still have quite a bit of work to do as Jesus’ life is incarnated in mine and I seek to reflect Him in all I say, do, and write. It is a journey and I have only yet begun. Yet, I am encouraged in the knowledge that He started small and He is with

A wonderful reminder of what it means to align with the child in the manger on Christmas morning. To follow this man, Jesus, means to adopt His program, to enter His kingdom as a child by turning from everything else (repentance). When we make that turn, grace and mercy cover every failed attempt we have ever made to make life meaningful or bearable. Every sin is obliterated because He carried this entire program to the final degree of obedience unto death.

Following His is freedom to bring this same good news of release, sight, liberty, and Jubilee to all for, as the Spirit was upon Him, He is with us and within us to accomplish these purposes. Our hearts and our lives are in lockstep with His heart and life for the poor, the captive, the blind, and the bruised.

We can change things. We can make a difference. It is not all on any of us, but it is upon us all as one people with Him. We will have multiple failures, disappointments, and quite a few successes .... but the walk behind Him is a walk of grace and joy and peace.

Welcome, Jesus! We shall follow you!

“When we analyze the program of Jesus, set forth in Luke 4, we find:
1. Good news to the poor -- the economically disinherited.
2. Release to the captives -- the socially and politically disinherited. 
3. The opening of the eyes of the blind -- the physically disinherited. 
4. The setting at liberty the bruised -- the morally and spiritually disinherited. 
5. The Lord's Year of Jubilee -- a new beginning on a world scale.
6. The Spirit of the Lord upon me -- the dynamic behind it all. “

From "Christ's Alternative to Communism" by E. Stanley Jones

 

 


Peace, Earthlings!

Peace earthlings

To all of you ....

    Whatever you believe ...

        From whatever direction you come ...

            Right or left ...

                North or south ...

                    East or west ...

                        Whoever you are ...

                            PEACE!

                                Good News has come!

May your day be bright ...

    And merry ...

        And joyful!

May your life be filled with all good things ...

    Your table spread with bounty ...

        Your home filled with love.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas!

 

 


In Swaddling Clothes

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Wrapped in vulnerability,
Love descended ...
exposed to the elements ...
exposed to threat 
and danger ...
exposed,
vulnerable,
human ...
Love:
Incarnate ...
invisible divinity and
visible humanity.
Love ...
an open target ...
a viable opportunity
to align or malign and yet
Alive!
Very Alive!
Present with us,
Among us,
One of us,
Like us ...
in all our infirmity ...
every temptation,
every disease,
every emotion,
every pain and passion,
poured upon Love!
Welcome, Jesus!
Welcome, Spirit!
Welcome, Presence and Power of God,
Emptied and embodied in
a body.
We are your body now.
All that you were among us,
We are called to be.
Let us be who you were and let us
give as you gave and let us
speak as you spoke and let us
love as you loved.
You, who are the Prince of Peace have made us ...
Peacemakers and called us ...
Blessed.
And we are ...
Blessed.
Welcome, Lord Jesus.
Welcome to our hearts and lives and 
World.
Joy to the World!
The Lord has come.
Let earth receive her King! 



 


George Bailey for President

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“Just viewed "It's a Wonderful Life" for the 3 millionth time, and also saw America becoming Pottersville. 1.3 million jobless are two days away from losing their extended unemployment benefits, Congress is readying another cut in food stamps, and 1 in 5 of our children is in poverty -- at the same time the rip-roaring stock market has made the nation's wealthiest some 15 percent richer than they were this time last year. Who's your candidate for Mr. Potter of 2013? (The Koch brothers? Ted Cruz? Paul Ryan?) Your nominee for this year's George Bailey?” - Robert Reich in 2013

---------------------

My response to Robert Reich, in 2013, was not meant to be cynical, but sincere: 

"If I could find a George Bailey in the group, I'd support him or his sister, Georgia. No one is entirely Mr. Potter. No one is 100% George (not even George was). Remember that George was reluctant and had no ambition to do what he was called to do --- so we might have to draft someone. I'd actually like to see that."

What if we could find a leader who was truly compassionate, wise, fair, just, conservative about what needs to be conserved, liberal about what needs to be shared, progressive about innovation and progress, regressive about decline, libertarian about personal liberties, utilitarian about necessities, pragmatic and idealistic, optimistic and realistic, firm on non-negotiable things and flexible enough to negotiate wherever possible, friendly and dignified, human but above reproach, honest, but diplomatic, strong yet vulnerable, self abasing yet confident, cheerful yet solemn, appreciative of counterpoints, yet able to make a decision ...

and lots more? ... Well ...

That person might be the Son of God and Son of man and ...

He/She would probably not want the job, but would consider what he/she was already doing to be more important ... and ...

Would not look good on camera ... and ...

Would be torn up by the left media or the right media or the centrist media or all combined ... and ...

Could not be nominated or elected ... and ...

Would appeal to virtually no one ... and would do nothing to change that image ... and 

"I knew George Bailey, Senator and you're no George Bailey ..."

Not even George was!

So, given that scenario, let's just do the best we can, find a human being who can do the best he/she can, give him/her as much support as we can, pray for that person as much as we can ... and realize that's the way it has always been with leadership: There has never been a perfect leader of any nation ... and that includes the best of them.

 

---------------------------------

What would I say today? Well, more and less.


Good morning, Lord who never sleeps

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Our God, today,
To-Day -- preposition, TO ...
Going forward into the DAY.
Today, I come, going forward.
Today, I seek You and I seek Your will.
Why?
You seem to ask that a lot of me.
I've learned not to ask it so much of You.
But You ask it for a reason.
You want me to know.
Why do I seek Your will?
Frankly, because apart from that, I don't know much and
I make HUGE blunders.
I have come to the place where I am convinced that ...
Your will is a necessity in mine life.
I cannot survive without it and I do not wish to survive without it.
Nothing else, and I've tried a few other things,
Nothing else brings any satisfaction to my soul.
Nothing else asks the purposeful question, "Why."
And I've had many "Way"s and traveled many
"Way"s and "Byway"s but, in my dictionary,
If you take the "WHY" (Y --- Get it ... Y) out of ""WAY,"
All you get is a "WA."
What does that mean?
Nothing! Absolutely Nothing ...
And, apart from Your will, my Father,
Our Father,
Nothing means anything to anyone ...
Especially me.
Now, I know that Your detractors (and I love them and ...
so do You) ...
They say (as I digress) that I am right about that ...
It all means nothing and that is our point of departure because ...
Like Solomon, I move from Ecclesiastes 1 to
Ecclesiastes 12
With eager longing and,
Out of doubts, fears, and struggles,
Faith.
You bring things together for me and, I believe,
For all.
You make sense out of chaos.
You govern a universe we cannot fathom.
You connect the dots.
You connect people.
You say, as You began to say, in Genesis,
"That's good."
Pronounce, "That's good" over my life to-Day, Dear God,
For I desire Your Kingdom ...
Not because I possess any superior piety.
You know I don't.
It is not because I want to lord it over anyone.
I am not in charge of other people's lives,
thoughts, emotions, opinions, beliefs or ...
relationship with You.
It is not because I want too see halos on heads or
Crosses on necks.
I desire Your Kingdom and Your will because it IS
and always 
HAS BEEN ...
...................... GOOD NEWS!
Bring it on, Father, Thou Great I Am!
Bring it to pass, Jehovah God, Master of the Universe,
Plant it in my brain, my soul, my heart, my life.
Give me clarity today,
Clarity and conviction and
Compassion.
I need it from You because I have a deficit.
But You have none.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.
That is my prayer of the day and the moment and
I believe it is possible
and probable
and inevitable
and joyful and I
Joyfully receive it.
Good morning, Lord who never sleeps.
Here I am; send me.
Send me.
In Jesus' Name.
Amen.

 

 

 


A Wretch Like Me

 

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O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” - Romans 7:24

 “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked …” - Revelation 3:17

No one aspires to wretchedness. All resist the implication that they are wretched. No one wants to be known as a wretch.

However, to be a recipient of grace, the soul must know its great need and acknowledge that it is depraved and lost in a sea of sin.

The sound of grace, the voice of God, the Word of the Gospel, that Word which was made flesh has sounded forth from Heaven into the realm of time and space. It has declared with unambiguous truth, “Thou are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and bind, and naked.”

And without a breath or a rest in the song of grace, it has declared to us, the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve that we shall be called Benjamin, for we are “the beloved of the Lord.”

Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, wretched in his righteousness, zealous in his misguided legalism, vengeful in his passion to please God. “Why persecutest thou me,” our Lord inquires. And grace came to Brother Saul and the wretched one became the instrument of proclaiming grace to the nations, even “the least of the Apsotles” and the chief of sinners who would declare,

“(1 Cor 15:10)  But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.        

We must know our state apart from grace that we might fully appreciate what God has wrought in us and done for us. It evokes in the heart of an honest soul both gratitude and hope, flowing from the fount of humility.

To be eligible for great grace, we must know how great is our need.

 

 


Transience and Permanence

Nothing Lasts

"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." -Matthew 24:35

 When I was a child, I believed that our house was the most solid reality in my life. I could not conceive of a time when it did not exit. I certainly could not imagine it ever ceasing to exist. It was so strong, so firm, and warm inside. It was a world unto itself, a place removed from the larger, more threatening environment. It was real.

There was an old oak tree in our back yard, majestic oak, reaching upward beyond any heights I believed I would ever scale. To be as tall as that oak, or at least to sit in its highest branches and look out over creation would have been the grandest of human elevations. When I lay on my back under the summer night sky, gazing into the stars, it was in the shadow of our old oak tree which I believed had much in common with those distant stars.

My house and my oak were sources of strength in my young life until one day the neighbor's house was struck by lightening and burned. Later, our Governor's daughter (and the cousin of my classmates) was struck by lightening on the beach and killed. That year, I watched my father build a room in the attic and with fascination and disappointment I came to know that houses were built with hands and were thus, somewhat artificial, and profoundly vulnerable to forces like lightening, as were people.

But the oak continued to shade us in the summer and shield us in the winter. It was the mightiest oak on our avenue. One day, the old oak was struck by lightening also. It too was vulnerable to the forces of nature. One of its most noble branches was severed and fell upon our house.

Concerned that the old tree might give way in another storm and destroy our house, my parents made plans for its removal. Little did it matter that the oak had been there long before us and had reigned over the neighborhood before it was a neighborhood. It was old and had grown too tall and brittle..

I learned some lessons about transience and permanence through that old tree. Nothing of this earth is permanent. All stability and strength are in God alone.

Jesus was a mighty oak and they chopped Him down, but He stood up again, alive and thriving. His words last; His promises endure; His truth prevails. Nothing can silence Him. He is the temple that was destroyed and rebuilt in three days. He is the Word and He is the only permanence in a transient world.

 

 


Living in Expectation

Living in expectation

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” Matthew 24:36

We knew she was coming sometime, just not when. We knew that every day brought the visit closer, but we were not certain exactly what day. We cleaned the house once, twice, and then again. Finally, we just got in the habit of keeping it clean. We’d stare out the window and watch, waiting for our great aunt to arrive with gifts and hugs. We were children. Our parents understood the calendar better than we could. We only knew seasons and it was the right season for a visit.

Don’t be dismayed that God keeps some things secret. He knows better than to entrust us with every detail of His plans. There are some things we simply could not understand if we were told in plain language. He tells us what is necessary and withholds what would breed complacency and contempt for His ways. Not knowing the details of His second coming means that we can live in constant expectancy of His appearing. We wait of tiptoe. We lift our hearts in wonder. Waiting for His redemption gives us a clue as to the spirit of messianic expectation that must of gripped the hearts of the faithful who waited patiently for His first coming.

Shepherds and wise men all eagerly sought word of salvation. While others despaired and resigned themselves to business as usual, there were always those who kept hope alive in their hearts. Our job in our generation is to eagerly seek Him in everything.

Jesus has come and Jesus is coming. Both statements stir the heart and ignite the imagination. Hope, born in the hearts of children, inspires hope in those who are tired of waiting. The call comes rolling down through the centuries. Live in constant expectation and you will never  be disappointed.

- - - - - - - -----------------

And another reflection:

For those who are caught off-guard, it is tragedy, the tragedy of waste and lost opportunity, the tragedy of facing the fury of of unrestrained and unleashed power that brings us face to face with all of our choices ...

... but for those watching, waiting, longing, hoping, languishing, and pleading, it is morning. Readiness is a state of mind, a condition of the heart, and a perspective of yearning for redemption, reunion, justice, truth, and the righting of all wrongs.

We choose to live on tiptoe with expectancy or we live in ignorance of the divine purpose in the movement of time through

We choose to live merely going through the motions of business as usually, oblivious to the meaning of the moments and the ultimate concerns of reality or we embrace the embrace that is given us.

Awake and awakened until morning comes around, we keep one eye open to an appearance that is surely coming at any day or hour.

Matthew 24:32-44:
"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

 

 

 

 


A Tale of Two Churches

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
(Revelation 3:6)



Not everyone can hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches, but a far greater number simply refuse to hear in a deep way.

The believers in Philadelphia were ever ready to hear a word from Jesus. They lived their lives on tiptoe in expectation of the Lord's coming. They gladly received the encouragement of Jesus and relished the doors of ministry that He set before them. They were ready and willing to suffer and remain faithful. The Master had no word of rebuke for them whatsoever and showered them with promises. He would give them His very own name and identify with them joyfully.

No complaints were registered for Philadelphia, but in the same respect, there were no compliments for Laodicea.

The believers in Laodicea were not bad people. They were mediocre. They were not cold, but neither were they hot. They had settled into a comfortable Christianity where nothing disturbed them or rattled their cages. They had grown complacent and self-satisfied. They believed that everything was just fine with them. There was no passion, no life, no fire.

Jesus can awaken the dead, revive the sleeping, and fire up the cold heart, but He offers only one remedy to those who are neither hot nor cold.

"Let me in!"

Somehow, His church in Laodicea had locked Him out and the Spirit was saying, "Open the door."

This is about open doors. For those who are filled with passion for Jesus, who burn with love for Him, and seek Him continually, He sets open doors of opportunity. For those who have shut Him out, He knocks with urgency to be admitted to His own church. They too can become overcomers, but they must accept His loving rebuke and welcome Him into their midst.

What about your life? What kind of door is in front of you? Is it a closed door locking Jesus out or an open door of opportunity?  It is your choice.


Lights on the Tree of Life

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“In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”  John 1:4-5

By now, your community is lighted with beautiful reminders of the Christmas season. The colors shining in the night can be seen from afar and even from space. They are at the same time happy and holy, gaudy and dignified. They serve as reminders of joy and correctives to the harsh edges that so often dominate the landscape of our cities and our lives.

It is clearly, visibly, and festively Christmas where we live and the light is shining in the darkness.

In fact, it is in the darkness of night that we most often venture forth from our homes to view these lights and celebrate the profound contrasts that they afford.

From simple candle lights in the windows of homes to magnificent displays in the public squares, we behold temporal illustrations of eternal reality: The evergreen trees which live long through Winter when planted in the soil of the earth are types of the tree of life which is planted in the fertile soil of God’s truth. In and from that life, which is Christ, flows the life and light of men.

And that light shines in the darkness beckoning men and women who live in darkness to come.

To those outside on the cold dark streets of our cities, shivering from the frosty darkness that envelopes them, the flickering lights from a Christmas tree in the window of a warm home serve as an invitation to come to something better. They softly hum the call of God to enter into His brightness and the warmth of His presence. They sway to the melody of each sweet carol, “O come, let us adore Him.”

The light is shining and it is, indeed, the light of men.

 

 


Later That Week

 

Five years ago, we were all shocked and shaken by Sandy Hook and the unbelievable events that touched so many lives with death and devastation.

I processed as I often do, by writing. This showed up in a review of my Facebook posts from later that same week:


I read the paper in the morning online. I scan. There are so many things about which to pray in my community. It occurred to me how many senseless deaths we tend to accept as normal parts of our news. Rarely is there a day in Fresno without some report of violence - at least two new murders in yesterday's paper -- one very near our church, on my beaten path, a drive-by. Rarely a week goes by that I do not meet a shooting victim, stabbing victim, or person who has been senselessly beaten. It just doesn't happen all at once in one place with a heavy toll - not all in once, but steady.

This morning's text is "What should we do then?” (Luke 3:10)

What shall we do? I roughed out some notes on my blog. I will link it in the comments. I always get to the question in my own life. I cannot just moan. I can pray, but I cannot just pray. I can hug, but I cannot just hug. I can be present and see where that leads, but something inside of all of us senses the need to do something.

We cannot let go of that. We get stirred up and then we get settled. We cannot settle in. We must find a peace that passes understanding and, while it guards our hearts and minds, does not allow us to lose our brokenness and inner call to act in faith, compassion, and hope for justice and shalom.

Hear the voices from Sandy Hook - voices of grace and mourning, voices of the innocent, voices of heroes who laid down their lives for others, voices of children who seek to comfort each other, voices of remembrance for bright shining lives that were lost. Hear their voices.

We are told that incidents like Sandy Hook are rare and they are. They really are. They are statistically rare and it is the rare and unusually warped person who perpetrates such acts. They cannot be predicted.

But daily violence is NOT RARE. It is all around us and it is perpetrated by people who are redeemable and generally in their right minds. But they are also warped and they have been caught up in systems (gangs and not just gangs) that devalue life and overvalue power and some false sense of "honor." Greed, anger, hate, and lust. They make very bad decisions and sometimes they get by with them, but not ultimately. They leave lives, families, and communities scarred.

It must not continue. We must do something.

Sure, we need gun safety. I believe in it and I promote it, but it is not enough. It is not enough to fix laws or programs. It is not enough to build bigger jails or hire more police officers. Our communities need the Shalom of God. People need the Light of the World, the Hope of the Hopeless. They need grace, peace, love, and truth. They need forgiveness and restoration. They need us doing something!

All of these things are built into one word of hope that John the Baptist proclaimed without full understanding that that Jesus offered as a live option with help to make it happen: REPENT.

It is a grace word and hope word and a word of possibility. it means that we can and must turn around and we need Spirit and Fire to help us do it!

Then, whatever else is happening around us, we can sing with Horatio Spafford who lost so much in one moment, "It is Well With My Soul."

Let us sing it and believe it as we do what we need to do wherever we are.

 

 


The Wisdom Quest

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There is wisdom in our weakness and poetry in our mortality. We speak wise things; we ponder understanding; we sing the proverbial metaphors of life's great truths.

"Hear this, all peoples!
Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
both low and high,
rich and poor together!
My mouth shall speak wisdom;
the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
I will incline my ear to a proverb;
I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre." (Psalm 49:1-4 ESV)

Wise people embrace their own mortality, finality, and finitude with awe, respect, and a sense of ultimate urgency to live each day as a gift and a stewardship.

" For he sees that even the wise die;
the fool and the stupid alike must perish
and leave their wealth to others.
Their graves are their homes forever,
their dwelling places to all generations,
though they called lands by their own names.
Man in his pomp will not remain;
he is like the beasts that perish." (Psalm 49:10-12 ESV)

This is without exception. Death comes to all. The date is not predetermined, but the reality is. This is not a fearful thing for the wise. Nor is trouble or temporal inequity. The wise person is not caught off-guard.

" Why should I fear in times of trouble,
when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,
those who trust in their wealth
and boast of the abundance of their riches?
Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice,
that he should live on forever
and never see the pit." (Psalm 49:5-9 ESV)

Fools and wise all die, rich and poor expire, and the powerful perish with the powerless. A common grave awaits all flesh. The realm of death enevlopes all equally and without bias.

Yet ...

" This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah
Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
death shall be their shepherd,
and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.
Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me. Selah" (Psalm 49:13-15 ESV)

Still we fret.

It is not necessary:

" Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
when the glory of his house increases.
For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
his glory will not go down after him.
For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed
—and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—
his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,
who will never again see light.
Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish." (Psalm 49:16-20 ESV)

Our pomp and grandeur is fading into the flickering diminished of all artificial light. What is true and real remains. It behooves us to put away foolish pursuits and delve deeply into the waters of eternal significance. It is the wisest, best, and most enduring endeavor available to us.


The Love of God

Love of God

 

 

 

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

Refrain:
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

 

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

 Frederick Lehman

Frederick Lehman tells us that verse 3 “had been found penciled on the wall of a patient’s room in an insane asylum after he had been carried to his grave.” While it is only supposition that he was the one who adapted the Jewish author’s poem to leave us these well-known lines, if the account is true it shows in any case that he highly esteemed the message. - http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/The_Love_of_God/

 


 

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Father of Lights,
Lord of Glory,
Master of the Universe,
Arbiter of Covenants,
Leader in Battle,
Thou Who stillest the storm and declares peace,
Giver of good gifts,
Creator of all,
God of Heaven Whose footstool is earth,
King of Glory,
God of Peace in Whom is peace,
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Father,
Son,
Holy Spirit,
to Thee we come ...
I come ..,
empty, troubled, wondering,
wandering, confounded, complicated, confused,
committed to Thee,
waiting upon Thee,
ready to speak Thy Word and do Thy bidding ...
this day.
I come.
I stand.
I wait.
May I bring Thy Word of peace to troubled waters today that they may be stilled.
May Thy presence be in my presence and may that presence speak peace to a world at war with itself.
In Jesus' name. Amen.


Shall Overcome

 

Now, tomorrow, some day,
Informed by yesterday,
Embracing the moment,
Inspired by the future,
Fearful of fear,
Faithful to the path we see
Through eyes of faith,
We do believe,
Deep in our hearts,
We do believe
We do not fear
We lay it aside
We do believe
Deeply,
Deeply
We shall overcome
Some day!!!

"We are not afraid. We are not afraid!"

 

 


Psalms of Paradox

The psalms are full of paradox; that is why I love them and relate to them so.

In the same breath: "God, you beat me up badly" and "God, you have always protected me."

And ... "Where are you God?" coupled with "You are always with me."

And ... "Why are you silent..." with "I hear your voice."

And ... "I am a wormy sinner .... " with "You know the integrity of my heart."

These are paradoxical reflections on God from a human perspective along with and flowing out of the realization that we are paradoxical people who can be rather perverse on one hand and deeply pious on the other.

Speaking out of two sides of our mouths? Sure. We have two sides.

On one hand. On the other hand.

We need to celebrate the balance that God gives as He invites us into a more lopsided righteousness and transformation of our lives. That process, though, is never complete and the psalms, from celebration to lament and back again, are conversational chronicles of a relationship between God and people.


My Shortest Blog

Sometimes there is less to say than one would think.

Sometimes there is less to think than one would say.

Sometimes profundity is mere redundanty. 

Sometimes redundace is profundance. 

What time it is, I do not fathom.

I shall look upon a clock and let you know..

 

 

 

 

 


This is a new day, God of hope.
It has not been fully formed.
A million choices will frame it and fill in the blanks.
Some are ours; some are others' and then ...
There is nature and nature's choice's.
We know this, at the end of the day, not one eternal purpose of Yours 
will be thwarted,
Not one soul will be out of Your sight,
Not one thought will escape Your notice, and
All who will be guided, will be guided by Your hand.
I will be; guide me.
Amen.


A Prayer Jotted Down

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Dear God,
I hope I am not standing on the street corner praying 
to be seen by men.
It's just easier to type some prayers and invite any who might like
to join or pray
with me or
for me.
You know what is in my closet.
There is that secret place where we shut the door and it is ...
just us.
But sometimes, Lord, a prayer meeting seems in order and ...
so many ...
for me ...
for so long ...
so dishonest and prayer-less have seemed.
For me.
I just want to drop the pretense.
I've got nothing to impress You with ...
Nothing.
It is just me and all I have is what You have given me ...
with the exception of ...
my sin.
That is my contribution and that ...
That is what I bring to You first today.
I don't even know it all but yesterday
as I was showing off,
mostly to myself,
I fell,
not metaphorically or figuratively or morally ...
I FELL! On my knee, I fell and I thought it uncool to lay there
and whine so ...
up I bounced.
Later in the day and all night, it hurt.
It still hurts.
And here is the rub: You caught me.
You caught my fall and
You caught me in my pride.
I was showing off and trying to impress myself.
How silly!
Silly sin, but sin and a pretty fair window into my soul.
It's little things sometimes these days, but they are
the deep rooted things,
things that will not go away
on their own.
Like stubborn roots they are thick
and twisted and
deep.
Actually, I am somewhat encouraged about all of this, Lord.
I have wondered about some of these things for years ...
where some of these behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes originated and
You are showing me.
I am sorry I've been so slow to learn and have
impeded progress so often and
regressed
to impress but
Here we are!
I know we could have, should have, would have taken care of some of these weeds earlier before
they became so entrenched 
(Sometimes they even look like flowers and I celebrate them) ---
Hack 'em out!
Silly, slow, slimy me.
The funny thing is how You keep loving me and telling me that
I have a future.
That is really weird, Lord.
You keep giving me chances and picking me up and teaching me
and catching me and it is as if ...
as if You have all the time in the world to get this done ...
hmmmmmm ....
hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ....
ahhhhhhh .....
all the time in the world.
You have all the time in the world and
Our times are in Your hand. (Psalm 31:15 - I had to stop to look it up).
My times are embraced by Your timelessness. 
My days are enveloped in Your purpose.
So, take Your time with me, Father.
Lead me, teach me, guide me, mold me, use me, use me up and then ...
take me home when
we are both ready.
and help me to stay honest with you and spiritually vulnerable
and open with my friends and 
transparent with all as much as I can be.
I really trust You, Lord.
I really love You and I
Thank You for loving and trusting me.
I give You this day You have given me.
In Jesus' Name.
Amen.




Changing Thinking

 

1. Evaluate - Is there something in my thinking that is getting the results I do not want?

2. Excavate - What is the source of that thinking? Is it possible that I am moving on a belief about myself, others, or reality that has no validity?

3. Eradicate - Abandon that belief, if only for a moment. Seek God's help and a new perspective.

4. Emancipate - Free yourself to move into a new reality where you can pursue your new dreams with new behaviors and new attitudes. See what happens ... then CELEBRATE!


FIRE

 
Elements melting with fire ... heavens set ablaze and dissolving. These are images from 2 Peter 3:8-15.
 
We had a taste of fire this week.
 
California has been on fire for months.
 
We experience firestorms in our lives.
 
Fire today reminds me of ...
 
1. F - The FURY of Divinity. Our God IS a consuming fire of unconstrained and un-contained power. God is mighty and is experienced in the fury of creation as well as the disassembling of creation.
 
2. I - INVITATION to INVENTORY - As I comb through the rubble, I find myself inventorying my own life, priorities, and activities as well as my possessions. What took my wife 3 years to build was consumed in minutes. What took me 45 years to collect was destroyed in a moment. Yet, what remains is what it important.
 
3. R - REFINING - Ironically, I spent some hours this weekend, at home, sorting out stuff to get rid on in my life that might be cluttering my space and attention --- meaning possessions, collections, extra clothes, old ties, old toys, and junk. How often do I do that with the essential and ethereal elements of my life?
 
4. E - ENERGY - Fire is energy. It is power. It produces warmth. It moves things. When channeled, it is a mighty force for good. How can we channel the opportunities of our fire and the daily fires in our lives for the good of our causes and the glory of God?
 
On the day of the fire, I had to keep two medical appointments as well. In the second, I was given some bad news with which I could cope. The next day, I lost a briefcase with some important things inside. I will probably get it back. But all of this reminds me to hang loose and hold everything with a light grip.
 
God is not slack concerning His promises. God is not negligent. God is not flippant, lazy, arbitrary, nor without purpose. He draws us all to repentance and life. He is working out His will in the midst of time until He brings all to fruition.
 
When He does, it will seem like a storm and it will take most by surprise.
 
But it will not be chaos. Nor will it be without promise.
 
The day of the LORD will be all that fire is, but it will also usher in news heavens and a new earth.
 
That which judges and burns will, ultimately, refresh all things.
 
In the meantime, let us remember than we are merely living in the meantime.
 
2 Peter 3:8-15:
"But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him ..."

Walk Slowly

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I walk slowly through the morning ...
Adagio.
Otherwise, I must run and,
Though running is good,
It is not ...
Now.
Now is slow ...
Like snow ... flakes falling,
So my falling thoughts ...
Heaven sent must have a place to fall
Upon.
Fall on me, thoughts and words
of Heaven as I wait
in Adagio,
Moving,
Yet slowly.

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I rise early to move slowly so that when the time comes to run,

I will be ready and ...
Have somewhere to go!


Let Justice Roll Down

“But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” – Amos 5:24

 It is as if Amos were here with us today. His words sing out the song of “judgment” or “justice.” It is a strong word for what happens in a community or a nation when God works through people and leaders to set wrongs right and to create a society of fairness, equity, and compassion.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached with such a calling to leaders and vision for the future. Echoing the words of Amos, the prophet, he portrayed God’s judgment as refreshing and cleansing.

And so it is.

As of this writing, the author of this essay has no idea who, in your time, is about to be inaugurated the next President of the United States. What he does know is that Amos 5:24 is the highest calling for his leadership of this nation.

He also knows that without your prayers and encouragement, the task is too awful and daunting for any man or woman. However, as he leads a people who pray for, work for, and long for justice, truth, and righteousness, his leadership will be like that of Dr. King who called himself nothing more than a “drum major for justice.”

Let us encourage that in all our leaders by walking in step with the rhythm of truth and swaying to the sweet song of a compassionate society, rooted in God’s call and founded upon the law of love that Jesus taught us.


Advent Meditations on Psalm 20

Psalm 20:1 - May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

In the spirit of blessing and benediction, we come to pray for a friend. Such a prayer blesses the giver, the receiver, and the heart of God. In this case, the intercessor is speaking to God on behalf of another but in doing so openly, is speaking also, to the other on behalf of God. It is a ministry of healing, grace, and love that encourages the head upon which the blessing is laid. It is priestly and it is sacramental. Protection and deliverance come to the distressed often after the prayer of another. Who can you bless today?

Psalm 20:2 - May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.

In ministry, the help that we offer does not come from us. It proceeds directly from the presence of God. Our encouraging presence is not a gift of our own resources, but of the Master who fashioned us and sent us forth equipped to serve. We offer support by “being there,” but that support is the Christ within us who comes alongside. He is the Spirit, the Paraclete who lifts the broken and heals the wounded. We can withhold such a blessing to our detriment and that of others, but we cannot manufacture it. Stop withholding.

Psalm 20:3 - May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. Selah

This verse, interpreted in the light of the New Covenant lifts up the cross in the presence of God and the person we desire to bless. It is not our sacrifice, but that with which we identify in Christ that makes an offering of our lives acceptable to God. We can have confidence in such a sacramental act as was wrought in the passion of the Lamb of God. Into the malaise of our frail attempts to appease God, He entered with the perfect offering for sin and made this prayer possible.

Psalm 20:4 - May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

As astounding as it may sound, God desires to give us our desires, but only after He has transformed those desires and brought them into sync with His own. He wants our plans to succeed, but inasmuch as His Spirit has planted those plans in our hearts. The progression of the blessing is the prerequisite experience of the blanket prayer. First there is distress, then divine deliverance and protection, followed by help, support, sacrifice, and offering. The transforming power of these events paves the way for success.

Psalm 20:5 – We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests.

There have been many along the way that have cheered you on to spiritual success and growth. The have applauded God at your salvation, baptism, and first steps in discipleship. They have encouraged you and embraced you along your pilgrimage. It is your turn to do this for another. You are called to be an encourager or a mentor or even a cheerleader. You have the capacity to invest your life and prayers in someone other than yourself and to take great joy in his or her progress. Don’t let the opportunity slip away.

Psalm 20:6 - Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.

It is a serendipitous moment when we realize within ourselves that God does indeed save those upon whom His purposes rest. Jesus Christ is God’s anointed and all who are found in Him are heirs of God’s purposes, promises, and privileges. We suddenly discover that we can reinterpret every event in our lives in the newly discerned light of God’s eternal program in which we are included. Live each day in the light of His promises and in the confidence of your secure position in His eternal family.

Psalm 20:7 – Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

The difference between God’s anointed and the self-appointed is a matter of trust. We don’t need more insight as Brennan Manning has noted in “Ruthless Trust,” but more trust. We need to recklessly abandon our lives to God with such radical displacement of self and fleshly confidence that we will sink or swim based only upon God’s truth, love, and faithfulness. It is the call of the Christian to climb as far out on a limb with God as possible and then, to live there in an ever deepening reliance upon Him and Him alone.

Psalm 20:8 - They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.

Those who trust in the weapons and schemes of man are ultimately frustrated in every human effort. Often, the contrast is most pronounced in times of crisis, grief, or hardship. The countenance of the worldly falls with the loss of position, strength, prosperity, or self-confidence. The godly, though battered, bruised, broken, and besieged, will rise up and stand firm. Grief and sorrow befall every soul, but “that soul who on Jesus hath leaned for repose …” God “… will never, no never desert to his foes.”

Psalm 20:9 - O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call!

From the sanctuary of Israel rises up a song of prayer for the man who symbolized their security, well being, and success as a nation. God’s people had the impulse to pray for their nation and leaders in the days of the psalmist. They knew that no people and no potentate could stand apart from the awesome power of the King of the Universe. How seldom we pray for people in power, for decision makers, for the affairs of state and for people of note. How deeply they need our prayers. Let us commit to pray for the king .

 

 

 


Advent Meditations on Psalm 21

Psalm 21:1 – O LORD, the king rejoices in your strength. How great is his joy in the victories you give!

The truest and noblest kind of joy is always rooted in who God is and what God does. Human victories are inconsequential. Heavenly victories are sources of great rejoicing because they are divine in origin, eternal in duration, and complete in their perfection. Jesus told the disciples to rejoice, not because the demons were subject to them, but because their names were written in the book of life. Rejoice today in the victories that God is working and, by faith, embrace them..

Psalm 21:2 - You have granted him the desire of his heart and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah

God answers prayer. The words have been spoken so often that they constitute and cliché. However, they remain true in every sense. In the case of this king, the desires of his heart have come to fulfillment and the requests of his lips have been granted. To what extent is your heart moved by God that He can trust you with the desires that originate there? How God-directed are the prayers of your lips that each may be granted with confidence by God? As God to change your desires that you may be more effective at prayer.

Psalm 21:3 - You welcomed him with rich blessings and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.

God’s welcome is a magnificent gift. The king so often received official guests – many begging favors. But when he approached the throne of God, it was as a mere mortal. His testimony is as surprising as our own when we meet the generosity and goodness of God. He is amazed. God, the King of the universe, crowned him! God, the Supreme Master, blessed him! Never stop being astounded by the goodness of God and always give thanks..

Psalm 21:4 – He asked you for life, and you gave it to him-- length of days, for ever and ever.

Life is that gift which God most freely gives. He has given it to every man and woman. Eternal life is a treasure that He offers in the same and greater abundance. And it is always just for the asking. Have you received life from God? If not, you are not yet truly alive. If so, you must live it out. It is too precious to take for granted..

Psalm 21:6 - Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.

How about you? Have you taken stock of the enormous storehouse of eternal blessings you have received from the hand of God? Have you responded with joyful thanksgiving? As we approach month’s end, take time to be specifically thankful and lift up your joyful voice to God the Giver in whose presence you stand.

Psalm 21:7 - For the king trusts in the LORD; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.

Trust God. It is the source of life and joy. God’s unfailing love is our stability and confidence. Let not your heart be shaken whatever the circumstances of life. You are encompassed by the goodness and love of God..

Psalm 21:8 - Your hand will lay hold on all your enemies; your right hand will seize your foes.

Trust God to handle His enemies. Let Him fight His own battles and vindicate His own Name. Then let Him have yours as well. He is perfectly capable of handling His business and yours and emerging victorious from any battle. Trust Him!.

Psalm 21:9 - At the time of your appearing you will make them like a fiery furnace. In his wrath the LORD will swallow them up, and his fire will consume them.

God’s anger consumes all that wars against His ways and His people. Truth always swallows up lies. Truth makes untruth irrelevant and exalts only the God of truth. To be an enemy of God, one must embrace a lie so tightly and with such adhesion that one is swept away with it. God’s judgment is the process by which He sets all things aright and makes plain what has been distorted. His wrath is not an emotional outburst of a spoiled child, but the energy with which He speaks and restores His reign. We would be wise to pray for God’s judgment within us that we might be liberated

Psalm 21:10 - You will destroy their descendants from the earth, their posterity from mankind.

Lies perpetuate themselves. If we are looking at enemies as spiritual forces working inside and all around us, then we recognize that God’s enemies are our enemies – even if they are so intertwined with our personalities and character that we have come to identify them with who we are. Allow the Word of Truth to pry your soul away from the sin distortion that has erroneously redefined your humanity. Then, cheer as those falsehoods are destroyed and their power to reproduce is obliterated from the face of the earth. Pray to that end today – ruthlessly. This is about being made free!

Psalm 21:11 – Though they plot evil against you and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed;

If it were not so dead serious, the comedy of God’s enemies plotting and devising wicked schemes against Him would be overwhelming. We smugly decry the audacity and, without making the connection to ourselves, try to “pull the wool over” God’s  eyes in our own secret sins. We cannot succeed. God knows all, sees all, anticipates all, and always has the last word. He is not shocked by our addictive and destructive behaviors, but He calls us to truth and reason. He enables us to see failure as the inevitable outcome of sin and His way as the only hope for real success. Get real!

Psalm 21:12 -…  for you will make them turn their backs when you aim at them with drawn bow.

Sin cannot face truth. Test it. Darkness will turn away from the light. It always retreats. Liars are not prone to confront the evidence that discredits them. They run away. It does not require argument or eloquence to expose falsehood or to disarm God’s enemies and those enemies of our souls that are devouring us from within. It only requires truth. It is your best medicine in the war for healing from negative “self-image,” destructive thoughts, and corrosive behaviors. Take a does of truth daily. Chase it with Living Water and be refreshed. Watch sin turn away in fear and defeat.

Psalm 21:13 - Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength; we will sing and praise your might.

If you can pray for the exaltation of God, then you are, at the very core of your being, a friend of God. The enemies within you do not constitute the real you. The sin residing in your soul is not your true nature. You desire the things of God at the very depths of who you are. Build upon that desire with the practice of praise. Do not allow Satan to torment you with insidious notions like, “You hypocrite! You don’t mean it – I saw you …bla, bla, bla...” Resist those thoughts and praise God with all your might. The Holy Spirit will activate your spirit and God will fight the enemies within you.


The Hour I First Believed

"I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: (2 Cor 4:13 )  We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak ..." - Psalm 116:10

When did believing begin for you? Can you trace its progression through the stages of development? Can you identify a moment or an hour when all came to fruition and declare that as the hour you first believed?

For most of us the progression is a series of disjointed memories, but we can go back to a time when we made a statement of faith, a profession of our belief. That was, for us, the hour we first believed and in that hour, grace was most precious.

Let us return to that hour and renew our faith. Let us return to that moment and reaffirm our commitments. Let us return to that time and recommit our lives to Jesus Christ. Let us go back and remember how precious that grace appeared.

Let us gaze upon the beauty of grace as we once beheld it.

Let us receive grace anew with joyful hearts.

Let us be thankful again, as we once were, for the marvel of it all. Undeserving, unlovely, unrepentant, unbelieving as we were, grace invaded our lives. Everywhere we turned, we encountered grace. We sought to flee from its pursuit only to be hunted down at every turn by the Hound of Heaven.

And then we stopped running. That was we hour we first believed. And as Francis Thompson testified, we heard His voice:

"Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,

I am He Whom thou seekest!

Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me."

And we joined in the song of Charles H. Gabriel,

How marvelous, how wonderful! And my song shall ever be.

How marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior’s love to me.”


"It is in dying that we are born to eternal life." - Prayer of St. Francis

So, let me die today and die daily.
There is nothing in my instincts to pray such a prayer.
But then, there is nothing in my instinctual drive to cling ...
... to extinct-ual or
... extinguishable
"living" that
lives beyond the moment.
I pray to resist that drive, that urge, that urgency to
survive that
extinguishes life.
Some day, that will mean laying down my body, but,
today it means ...
laying down this body of sin,
of self,
of sensual necessity that says,
"I am thee," but
is not me.
Nor is it Thee in me, Oh God who knows
and gives
and lives
in and through
all who die this way.
I prayed, "Kill me," and
Thou didst not...
and would not.
You said, "Just die and live," and
I tried it and I did and there You were!
You handed me a cross and said,
"Go carry it."
And I asked, "What is it?"
And You said,
"It is the pain and suffering and pain and disgust,
and ugliness, and bad choices, and bitter gall,
and nasty words, thoughts, and accusations,
and hateful hurts of those You will meet today."
And I said, "Why should I?"
And You said, "Because I did and do and you said that
You wanted to follow me and this is what we carry."
And I said, "The burden is too heavy."
And You said, "I know."
And I asked, "So?"
And You said, "Go ... I am with you."
And so ...
I did ... at least that day and then I asked,
"What do I do with them?"
And You said, "Bring them to me,"
and I replied, "But You already have all of these,"
and You said, "Mind Your own business, I've got it handled."
I said. "OK, You are the Master,"
and You smiled and said, "I know."
Master, this really feels and lot like living and You said,
"I know. I told you so. What you though was living,
was not.
It distorts your view because the lens is sprinkled with mirrors
always pointing back at you and
seeing life and events and people from
ego and self-interest and it is not in your
self-interest to be
that interested in yourself.
Deadsville!
Die to Deadsville and live!"
In so many words :)
And so, Lord, I die today,
I nail Deadsville and my citizenship there with all my credentials and investments to
Your cross.
Thanks for my cross. It fits me.
I sort of like it.
I know I love this new life You have given me and
I really love these people You keep bringing into my life.
Help me to bear their burdens until I can get them to You and
Thank You for bearing them and mine.
I am starting to get it ...
It is in dying that we are born
To eternal life.
I look forward to seeing You face to face some day,
When I have laid down this body of flesh and this cross.
Thanks for the invitation and for paying the admission price.
Thank You, my Jesus,
My Lord, my Savior, my Friend, and My Brother,
Amen.


It Is in Pardoning - A Continuing Prayer

 

"It is in pardoning that we are pardoned."

image from www.connecticutpardonteam.org

How can I, God of mercy,
How can I humble myself
To seek Thy forgiveness
If I am haughty enough to demand retribution
From my neighbor?
How can I seek pardon,
Guilty as I am,
If I withhold it from one who has offended me?
Is there not one entry way to my soul for
That which flows in and 
That which flows forth?
If I close down the outflow of mercy,
How can I drink of its inflow?
God of love, I am a stained as anyone.
I am as needy as the most despicable and defiled.
You, who knows and sees all and
Sees my heart,
You know how dark it can be in there when
The lights go out.
I cannot live in the dark and,
It is in the dark,
The bleak and cold dark where I ...
Seek only justice and revenge for myself ...
It is in the dark where I delight in
The pain of my enemy and 
The defeat of those who seek my defeat.
I cannot live in such darkness.
It is in the dark where I, who with my lips,
Seek pardon,
Refuse it for there is one word,
Just One,
Just one word of acceptance or refusal ...
For myself and for my neighbor.
It is either "Yes" or "No,"
And it covers us both.
Cover me, Oh God of giddy grace,
With rose pedals of yeses!
Cover me with snowflakes of mercy and
Forgiveness.
Cover my face with smiles for my nemeses that they may be
My soon friends.
Cover my darkness with light and
Obliterate the darkness of bitterness and
Anger with
The bright, sparkling, shiny glow
of Love.
In Jesus' Name,
Amen and
Amen.
 

 

Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it's in dying that we are born to eternal life
Amen
 
- Prayer of St. Francis

At the Intersection of Pain and Passion

Show me your pain and I will show you your passion.
It is the same and it is transforming, first, by transforming itself ...
into joy!
Without the pain,
there is no passion,
Without the passion,
there is no joy.
Without the joy ...
Without the JOY!?!?
You must be kidding me!
Without the joy, I'll go back to bed.
But with joy, I'm going out there to passionately,
make a difference
today.
And let me never forget, 
Oh One Who came to suffer and to serve,
that it was through pain that You
brought us life and through Your suffering that we,
were set free and sent forth
to serve.

 

We live in a world of pain and concentrated suffering. Where is your pain focused? You have your own and that is a given. Have you found that place where you have absorbed and borne the pain of some part of the world or some people or some cause?n Have you found that place in your heart where you can suffer with (COM-passion) others and feels their pain as much or more than your own?

That is where your passion will be an that is where you will be energized by God to serve and to change the world through business, ministry, or life. Whatever the venue, the source is within you ... where you hurt most is where you will find your greatest joy.

Explore these things. They are not for the faint-at-heart who desire to remain afloat in a sea of complacency and pseudo comfort, but they are for you ...

I know this because ...

You are still reading this while others have dropped off and because ...

You want to make a difference and because ...

You do know where you hurt and have moved beyond your personal pain to embrace the pain of others ... and ...

It makes you sick to your stomach to think of things going on as they are and you want to heal the broken people you see and you, you, you want to make a difference and this passion is not something you sought or something you made up.

It has come to you as a gift and a call.

Today!
Think and pray!

God bless you.

 

 


A Prayer Based on Isaiah 5:7

 

image from unashamedofjesus.files.wordpress.com
Oh LORD,
We are also your planting,
Pleasant to your sight.
You have looked for justice,
Whose lips have kissed mercy
And peace.
You have sought truth among us.
You have longed for us to do what is right,
To love you supremely,
To love our neighbors as ourselves,
As ourselves,'
Our neighbors,
Our neighbors,
Your children,
Jesus among us,
The least of these.
Instead,
You have found bloodshed.
Oh God, forgive,
Revive,
Restore,
Requite,
Renew,
Review our lives,
Rewrite our scripts,
Reveal yourself,
Regenerate our hearts before you.
Behold the outcry.
Have mercy upon us,
Oh LORD.

 

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts

is the house of Israel,

and the men of Judah

are his pleasant planting;

and he looked for justice,

but behold, bloodshed;2

for righteousness,

but behold, an outcry!

- Isaiah 5:7, ESV

Beyond the Alarm

 

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I said in my alarm, "all men are liars." - Psalm 116:11

Yes. We get pretty disheartened with people sometimes. We see the world buying into false narratives and the outright lies they have heard so many times that "they must be true." We throw up our hands in despair and declare all truth-telling to be futile and all hope of the recognition of truth to be a pipe dream. If all men are liars, what we say is pointless.

Yet, it does not end there. Remember that the psalmist is human and honest and has said this in alarm. There is more to the story and he "figures it out."

All of our alarms are absorbed and transformed by the steadfast love of God. He receives our honest, often hasty cries and hears what our heart is crying beneath and beyond the words.

All who speak truth to power and to people get fed up with the resistance, intimidated by the angry responses, and weary of trying to poke holes in the prevailing narratives, but we keep on anyway.

We keep on because, while all men do have the capacity for lying (even we do) and even though we have all occasionally lied to God, to ourselves, and to others, there are those who seek and receive truth. There is something dormant inside each person to which the Spirit may speak, that needs truth.

And .... society itself needs truth.

Alarms are for waking us up. Once we are up and awake, we do not need to live in alarm. We need to move on to verse 12 and beyond.

Beyond alarm, beyond our pain, beyond all that is immediate in our lives is gratitude and submission. God has given us so much; all of Himself. We wonder what on earth we could do to show ourselves grateful.

First, he says, we take the gift. We take the cup of salvation. We call on the Name of the LORD. First, we receive. The first act of gratitude is to receive the gift being offered.

Then, we worship, we pay our vows. We do it in the presence of the people. We live our lives of faith and devotion to God openly, fearlessly, and purposefully.

Then, we live our lives until we die and, when we die, it is precious because it is day of completion. It is the day of culmination for our efforts and witness. It is the day when we begin the next journey of eternal thanksgiving and praise.

We are His servants. He has loosed our bonds. We sing. We worship.

"I said in my alarm,
'All mankind are liars.'

What shall I render to the LORD
for all his benefits to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD,
I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD!"

- Psalm 116:11-19 ESV

 

 


The P Propisition (er ... "proposition)

This is from my napkin ... some "P"s for starting a new business or non-profit venture (or any bold initiative):

First, it is spelled, "prop-o-sition.  - But then, there is poetic license.

 I inserted "I" because it is just an personal observation and not necessarily, universal truth.

I also say it because it props me up. My "I."

Then, I thought I would check and see if any of you would catch it --- because details matter.

 

Finally, if you buy none of those arguments, then, it was just a typographical error ...


Still, if you are starting something, you will not be perfect at first, but you still need these things:

A Purposeful Product - What are you bringing to the table and is there a real and perceived need with the right timing?

Passion - Does this ring your bell, ignite your fire, and tug at your heart. Can and do you believe that this "product," visible or invisible, can change the world and make a difference in people's lives? If not, find something that fires up your passion.

Plan - You need to think our and write business plan. Follow a guide like "Business Plans for Dummies" and do it with a mentor or coach to ask the right questions.

People - You have to relate to, network with, get along with, incorporate, empower, and use the skills of people in any business that multiplies itself. Learn too like them!!!

Presentation - I ironically started to run out of time here. Find a way and develop the skills necessary to tell your story. A hint--- Toastmaster is a great resoruces for you here. Central Valley Toastmasters, Federal Toastmasters and many other local groups can help you or we can start a club on your campus!

Promote. You will need a marketing plan and you will need to work it. Learn the art of selling. Read Frank Betcher's classic, "How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling."

Persevere - "Fail forward" (credit to John C. Maxwell) and turn your failures into building blocks for future success!


In the Day of Trouble

 

Image result for May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble. - Psalm 20:1

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble. - Psalm 20:1

I  am sure that someone is having their own "day of trouble" today.

It is a wide enough community that some some, today is extremely critical and profoundly unique. In fact, you wonder how anyone else could possibly be going about their daily lives without noticing that the world is falling apart because your world seems to be falling apart.

May the LORD answer you in THIS day of trouble. I stand with you for that.

 

 

 


The Masterpiece You Are

 

Image result for masterpiece

Did you realize what a masterpiece you are?

You really are pretty amazing.
You don't have to be Bach. You rock!
Music has specific phrasing
And rhythm like a well tuned clock.
So, in your time and timing phasing,
You are are a tic in the eternal toc.
And now I stop this verbal grazing
Before I hit a mental lock.

But the point is .... You are a masterpiece!




Selections from Psalm 14 for Advent Reflections

Psalm 14:1 - The fool says in his heart, “There is no god.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.

 There are many reasons why this statement is so obviously true. Denial is not a river in Egypt. Denying God will not make God go away. Whether or not you believe in God or confess Him as God will not change who He is and that He is the sole determiner of what is wrong or right, corrupt or authentic, pure or vile. The fool, according to the psalmist, is not a theoretical atheist or philosophical agnostic. It is not someone who is struggling with the existence of God on the intellectual level, but the man or woman who has, in his or her heart, determined to be a practical atheist – to live as if there were no God or as if His existence did not matter. He is concerned with how this statement of the heart manifests itself in our lives. Now the question: Is there some area of your own life, where in your heart, you are declaring, “There is no God?” Have you pushed Him to the side in your deliberations and decision-making? Have you excluded His influence in areas where there is conflict with your own desires and lusts? God calls that foolishness and identifies the results as corrupt and vile- rotten and degraded to the core. Do business with God today in this area of your life and allow Him to scrutinize you and bring you healing grace.

Psalm 14:2- The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand any who seek God.

 Well, what does He find in me? That is the question I must answer. That is the question you must ask yourself. When he looks down upon me does He find understanding and seeking? Some don’t understand and don’t know that they don’t understand. Some understand and have locked their understanding into a formula and have stopped seeking. Others know that they don’t understand but have acquiesced to a position of irrational hopelessness and have given up seeking. None of these responses pleases God when He looks down upon the sons of men. There are others who both understand and seek. They understand enough to know that there is much that they do not understand and so they seek in those areas. When God gives some understanding, they don’t stop seeking and become self-satisfied with their limited knowledge, but they keep seeking – even more earnestly. That pleases God so very much. Examine your heart today using this criterion and keep seeking God – more and more.

Psalm 14:3 - All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.

 It is the universality of the fall and of sin that the psalmist is struggling with here. We were not designed to be corrupt. We were created in the image of God. But sin corrupts us to the very core. The rottenness of perverted intentions stains our lives beyond repair. We cannot fix ourselves. Our attempts at doing good to win some favor with God are also corrupt and drive us deeper into separation from God. Not even one person does good. That is amazing. But it is the reason why Jesus came and died, rose again and returned to the Father to send His Spirit to indwell us. We need the righteousness of Christ to be imparted and imputed to us. And we need His presence within us to work His goodness out through us. These words are a reminder to long-term believers not to become proud, boastful, or self-righteous. If our salvation and acceptance by God depended upon our own goodness, we would be hopeless. But God sees us not looking down from above. He looks upon us directly through the face of His Son. Thank God today, as you pray, for His mercy.

Psalm 14:4 - Will evildoers never learn - those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on the Lord?

We are flabbergasted at the inability of some to learn the futility of their ways. We are surrounded by masses who do not call upon the Lord and who devour believers in many ways The temptation is to bulge out our chests and lift our noses in pride proclaiming, “I’m glad I’m not like that” That’s the wrong approach. The response of faith would be to look within with the searchlight of God’s truth and pray, “Lord, is there an area of coldness and rebellion in my heart where I am refusing to learn? Am I devouring the person you made me to be?” What distinguishes and delivers the believer is that he or she calls upon the Lord.

Psalm 14:5 – There they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous.

Sooner or later, even the wicked come to their senses, sometimes too late, and realize that God is present in the company of the righteous. That realization brings dread unless the message of God’s love and forgiveness intervenes. Some will fight it. Others will flee from it. But there will be some who, out of the fear and dread of judgment, will come into the flow of grace through repentance and faith. The plight of the oppressor is far worse than that of the oppressed. Therefore, we must pray for sinners to come to a knowledge of truth and live out the credibility of the gospel so that we never bring discredit to Name of Jesus. Pray today for someone who is overwhelmed with dread and examine your own life as well.

Psalm 14:6 - You evil doers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge.

 The complaint of the poor man is often that, as hard as he tries, he just can’t get ahead. Something or someone is always thwarting and frustrating his efforts. So it is with anyone who tries to “get ahead” spiritually on the clout of his or her own spiritual reserves. Our plans come to naught because they are wrought in the flesh and human effort. God is our refuge. That is a constant. In Him we have hope and a future. In Him, we are rich beyond our dreams. His resources cannot be depleted.  Jesus said, “blessed are the poor.” The poor in Christ know where the riches lie and rely upon God’s storehouse to supply all that they need. They  trust all their plans to Him and rely on Him for every breath.

Psalm 14:7 - Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

 The psalmist prays for His people and, perhaps unwittingly, all who will be blessed by them. Indeed, the salvation of Israel and all people has come out of Zion and David’s longing prayer is answered in Jesus Christ. Today is a day of worship and praise. We pray for the day when Jesus comes again to set all things right. May the words of this psalm evoke deep praise and anticipatory joy in our hearts and we lay ourselves bare before God. What fortunes of spiritual treasure would you have Him restore for you today? What is the longing for His presence in you that is most personal for you as you pray?


Selections from Psalm 13 for Advent Devotions

How Long Lord

How Long?

How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?  Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…- Psalm 13:1-3

In the first place, we must note that he is wrong about being abandoned and forgotten by God. That is how he feels, but not the truth of the situation – and he most likely knows it in the depths of his being. In the second place, it is OK for him to express this feeling to God because it is about emotional disclosure – not about theological accuracy. Don’t allow your desire to be theologically sound inhibit your honest prayers to God in the secrecy of your heart before Him. Trust Him to correct any misconceptions you have. He can do that as you address Him. You are not praying before an audience – not even an audience comprised of yourself and God. Get out of the way of your prayers and pour out your soul before God. He can hear you whenever you earnestly seek Him. He knows your heart, your frailties, and your strengths. He loves you and has not left you alone. If you feel He has hidden His face from you – tell Him. He loves the fact that you long for Him and desire to know Him, see Him, and experience Him at a deeper level. Get real in your prayers and God will transform your life through them.

Unfortunately, we must wrestle with our thoughts sometimes and we are not exempt from sorrow of heart. Sometimes, for the moment, our enemies triumph over us and the pain of it seems open-ended. “God,” we pray,” how long will this go on? I have nearly reached the end of my rope.” And God either gives us more rope or extends our patience, or, in some cases, gives us a glimpse of an end in sight. Our defeats are temporal and transient. Our victory is eternal. Our wrestling thoughts and deep sorrows do not overwhelm us for we have rest in Jesus. He is our comfort. The psalmist is not lecturing us about how to deal with eternal pain, doubt, and conflict; he is modeling it. He shows us the way out by living it out. He prays – honestly and frankly to a God He trusts and knows. The author or sponsor is identified as David, so we know that these are his sentiments, and this is his prayer. He was called a man after God’s own heart. Imagine that - God loves to hear from His children even when they are bringing Him their deepest conflicts. Pray.

Who Is Rejoicing Now?

Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved. But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. - Psalm 13:4-5

We need to get used to the fact that our enemy does not have our best interest at heart. Satan knows that we do not always believe this and capitalizes on our naiveté. He suggests thoughts and deeds that seem pleasant and alluring and, when we fall for the temptation, shouts with glee, “Ha! I’ve got him (or her)” And then he throws a party to rejoice in our fall. Enemies cannot be trusted. Evil cannot be trusted. If we flirt with sin, we will find ourselves entrapped.  People may look at us and watch for an opportunity to ridicule us in our weakness because our stand for righteousness is so strong and open. Don’t be afraid of their laughter for our defeat is not final and their approval is not necessary. Only God is necessary for our lives. Affirm that in prayer today and notice with indifference the scorn of the wicked.

Yes!  This is the resolution. Whatever the trouble, doubt, or scorn of enemies, God’s love does not fail, and His salvation is sure. From the same lips that cry out with impatient agony before God, the psalmist reaffirms his joyful faith in God. As a response to this joy, we are reminded to REJOICE. Philippians 4:4 calls us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” And then, Paul emphatically repeats himself, “I will say it again: Rejoice!” God, all that He is and all that He does, is enough for us. His salvation lifts us out of the doldrums of defeat and translates us into the kingdom of His dear Son. There is not enough we can say about the wonder of this level of comfort and assurance.  To rejoice during persecution is the greatest statement of defiance we can make in the face of evil. It declares, “You have no power over me!” Take some time to rejoice today.

I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me. - Psalm 13:6

Go ahead and sing. So, you think you have no voice. Very few people – whose larynxes have been removed for instance – have no voice. You most likely do – and the voice was made for singing. Everyone can sing. Everyone is called upon to sing to the Lord. Worship through singing is not an optional exercise for trained soloists; it is a mandate for every believer. If you feel that your singing is offensive, learn to sing naturally without offense, but don’t withhold your praise from God. This business is intrinsic. God’s goodness brings a song to our hearts. If you have a song in your heart, simply release it. Do it without fanfare or expectation of praise. Do it without a motive to be accepted or admired – sing unto the Lord and unto Him only. Begin in your devotional time alone with Him. He has been good to you. Sing to Him.

 


Selections from Psalm 12 for Advent Meditations

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Vanished

Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. - Psalm 12:1 

Do you feel alone in your spiritual journey? Do you imagine that you are the only person in your school, workplace, or neighborhood that desires the things of God or seeks after His will? Do you wonder if there is even one other person who will stand with you for truth and righteousness? Are you overwhelmed by the loneliness of solitary seeking? Do you even wonder if the psalmist was somehow transported out of his time to speak of ours? Things have not changed that much have they? We all look back on better times when we were sure that there were more righteous and earnest people living among us and compare those times with our “todays.”

We conclude that we are alone and that no one else is godly or faithful. While that is not true in every sense, it is in one.

 “There is none that is righteous, no not one.” We are indicted by that statement and must include ourselves among the number of the “no more” who have “vanished from the earth.” From God’s perspective and standard of perfect holiness, no one measures up. Then Jesus Christ enters the picture and He alone stands for truth. Our only hope is in Him and in Him we are not alone. Consciously align yourself with Him today and allow God to flush away that sense of “aloneness.”

When You Can’t Trust a Compliment

They speak vanity every one with his neighbor: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is Lord over us?. - Psalm 12:-2-4

If you can’t trust a compliment, what can you trust? The psalmist has had it with flattery. He is discouraged over the tendency of his neighbors to use speech only to manipulate and deceive. We ought to develop that same level of disgust with untruth because all lying and falsehood are at odds with a God who is truth. Pretty lies are no better than ugly lies. Lies are lies and they are dark and dismal. Ask God to fill your heart with truth today and with a love for that truth so that whenever you would tell yourself a lie, you would immediately appeal to the God of truth and be rescued. Whatever urge you may have to be hard on your neighbors, start first with yourself and let God’s grace fill you and change you.

Consider this on Maundy Thursday – praise and flattery met Jesus upon His entry into the Holy City.  “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord,” they cried and most likely meant what they said. Is it possible that some of those who praised Him on Sunday cursed Him on Thursday evening when He was arrested and brought to trial? Could it be that some who praised Him were seeking to manipulate Him for their own ends and to triumph with their tongues, even to co-opt Him for their own causes? Is it even possible that some that welcomed Him with their lips retained no sense of responsibility for their words beyond themselves? We see ourselves as masters of our words whenever we refuse to submit ourselves, body, soul, and spirit, to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus went to the upper room and took the role of a servant. With His words and deeds, He offered His body and blood for the redemption of lost men and women. He emptied Himself and held nothing back. His words are truth and love. Let us bring ourselves and our words to Him in that same spirit. Gather this day with other believers to remember the sacrifice of Jesus and be reminded of His gracious words.

God and the Oppressed

“For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him..” - Psalm 12:5

What is the Word of God to a man or woman unjustly imprisoned for his or her faith in a land of persecution? What message from the Lord sooths the heart of a child who has been victimized by the people, charged with his protection or the young woman beaten and battered on the streets in a senseless act of violence? What does God have to say to the oppressed of the world and to those who labor under the weight of spiritual oppression?

God saw the oppression of the weak and heard the groaning of the needy, bound in the chains of sin and wickedness. Thus, He came to us as a man among men. He arose and took upon Himself of a lowly servant, He emptied Himself and became obedient unto the death of the cross (Philippians 2).  That is His Word, alive and viable!  He identified with us completely, yet without sin and became our protector and deliverer from sin.

God has always been the champion of the weak and needy. The Christ-event and the passion of the cross make it clear that every man, woman, and child is in need of a savior. We are all oppressed – even if we are oppressors. We each writhe in agony for someone to intervene in our darkness and bring us into the light. Friend, the cross, was, is, and always will be for you. Spend some time today meditating on it. Seek out other believers with whom you can worship in wake of Calvary. Get alone with God and thank Him for remembering you on the cross. Do not let this day pass as any other.

Precious Words

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. - Psalm 12:6-7

Oh precious words, flawless, pure, beautiful in their refined glory. God’s words stir the soul, comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable, and pierce the heart with divine truth and brilliant light. On that dark Saturday between the cross and the resurrection, the disciples had only the remembrance of His words. What would they have meant to you in such an hour? What have they meant to you in your darkest hours. After the resurrection, Jesus would meet men on the road to Emmaus and remind them of His words and those that the Father had spoken over the centuries through the scriptures. He would bring them new meaning and their hearts would burn within them. Let Jesus apply all of God’s words to your heart in the darkness of death from the place of resurrection. We can never fully visit the despair of that bleak Saturday, but we can enter into our own darkness with the flawless Word of God to comfort our souls.

What a pointless prayer this would be divorced from resurrection truth! Without the resurrection we are exposed, vulnerable, and unprotected. If Christ were not raised we would be as Paul said, “still in our sins (I Cor. 15).”  We could not expect help in the onslaughts of wicked and violent people or non-human forces from a dead and powerless God. Prayers would be futile attempts to feel better about our miserable circumstances. Compliance with ethics would be fruitless acts of legalistic compulsion if not overwhelmed by a dynamic conviction that God can raise the dead and thus, protect, deliver, and save. God raised Jesus from the dead and pronounced the death sentence on death. He is alive and brings to life all who trust in Him. Celebrate! The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!

Keep Us

O lord, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever. - Psalm 12:7

What a pointless prayer this would be divorced from resurrection truth! Without the resurrection we are exposed, vulnerable, and unprotected. If Christ were not raised we would be as Paul said, “still in our sins (I Cor. 15).”  We could not expect help in the onslaughts of wicked and violent people or non-human forces from a dead and powerless God. Prayers would be futile attempts to feel better about our miserable circumstances. Compliance with ethics would be fruitless acts of legalistic compulsion if not overwhelmed by a dynamic conviction that God can raise the dead and thus, protect, deliver, and save. God raised Jesus from the dead and pronounced the death sentence on death. He is alive and brings to life all who trust in Him. Celebrate! The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!

Vilest Men Exalted

The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted. - Psalm 12:8

This must grieve the heart of the psalmist. David loved God so much that he could not understand the motivations of people who warred against Him. Nor could he understand their apparent triumph. Why do these things happen? How can such men be exalted? Why do the wicked prosper? These were nagging questions for the man after God’s own heart.

One might think that the psalmist had stepped out of his time and looked upon ours to offer his commentary. The repulsive sight of the wicked strutting about in impunity is and always will be a source of grief to those who love God and His truth. The deeper indignity and affront to God is that what is vile is honored among men as noble, good, true, artistic, or benevolent. Little has changed. The values of society, left to its own devices, have always been at odds with God. We must carefully examine all that we place upon our cultural pedestals and pay homage to. God’s standards are different than the world’s.  We value what may contain a grain of truth, but it is so often distorted and ignoble.

The numerology of apocalyptic literature takes the number 6 and repeats it three times in contrast to the holiness of the complete Trinity. Thus, 666 represents the fullness of evil. The curious thing is that the number 6 is only one whole number shy of 7 – the number of perfection. The lesson is almost hidden, but clear: That which is repugnant may be something that is very close to the truth (for instance, the devil quotes scripture and believes in God), but veers off the path of truth in a small way that is significant enough to altar everything. It should be easy for the Christian to detect the blatant and flagrant abuses of truth, but be cautious that you are not caught up in the frenzy of honoring that which is popular just because it has an outer veneer of righteousness.

 

 


Not to Be Loved, But to Love

image from www.azquotes.com

"Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek ... to be loved as to love."

It seems easy, God, 
Until I try.
Maybe I am not aware of how much I seek to be loved.
Maybe I am not aware of how insecure I can be and vulnerable ...
And needy:
To be regarded, respected, and renowned ...
To be chosen and cherished ...
To be welcomed and warmed ...
To be a friend ...
But, Aha! Lord ...
There is my choice: to BE a friend is to be and to act and to serve
LIKE A FRIEND.
If I seek it, I will be it.
If I seek to love, I will love.
Grant that I will reject reciprocity in this matter and think nothing of ...
Quid Pro Quo ...
Teach me to love by loving through me.
Teach me to love by knowing again and again and again, how deep,
How wide,
How long,
How long-suffering,
How patient is Your love for me and that ...
It is all I need.
So, filled with love, I can give love.
In the Name of the Lord of Love,
Amen.