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September 2004 Archives

September 1, 2004

Peace be with you!

Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you!" John 20:21a

Sometimes He has to say it twice: "Peace be with you!"

How many times, Lord, have I not heard Your voice the first time? The challenges of my day creep in, and You call out to me - "Peace!" Yet somehow my ears are closed. Somehow Your voice is muffled. Anxiety overwhelms my heart.

Thank You, Jesus, for continuing to call out Your message of peace. There is a peace that surpasses all understanding. In the midst of storms, we are calm.

Please, don't stop saying it - until I hear. Then keep on saying it - until I believe.

September 2, 2004

What about him?

When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." John 21:21-22

"Lord, what about him?"

After all the arguing, all the attempts to vie for His attention, the hopes of getting a place next to Jesus, Peter seems to ask, "Did you pick John over me? Is he going to have it better than I am?" The response Peter got was to the point: "Peter. John, is not your concern. Follow me!"

How many times have I been distracted from the Lord's will by worrying about others? Either they seem to receive blessing that, in my opinion, they shouldn't have. Or they don't experience the consequence that, in my opinion, they so justly deserve.

The truth is: my concern should be about me - and no one else. Following Jesus is an individual responsibility. If He chooses to bless one over another, it is not my place to question Him. It is not my affair. My eyes should be on Him, and Him alone.

Lord, I have wasted so much time and energy pointing the finger at others. Selfishly, I want more than they have - either by giving me more or them less. I too often want to be the winner. In the end, it will be You and me. When I stand before Your throne, the only question I will here is, "Did you follow me?" You won't be asking me about anyone else.

Humble me, Lord. Break me then make me again. Help me keep my eyes on You.

September 3, 2004

Wearers of the Crown

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:13

Who is it that wears a crown? It isn't a peasant. It is the king, the prince, those in the line of royalty - those born of noble blood.

Isn't that what we are? As God's children, either by birth or adoption, aren't we in a royal line? Weren't we born of the most noble blood of all - reborn by the shed blood of Jesus Christ?

As those born of noble blood, the crown is always within our reach. But why is it such a struggle to wear it? We cannot seem to stand the tests of everyday. We cannot seem to persevere under the trials of life. Will we ever receive the crown God has promised? Or must we wait until we are in the throne room of heaven?

Lord, Your Word says that we will receive the crown promised to us when we have stood the test. Help me to stand the test. For so many years, I haven't persevered; I've quit running the race. But the crown has always been there within my grasp - ready to be worn.

Father, I believe the biggest tests of my life are yet to come. There is hope in this. Maybe the crown awaiting me is the most precious. I believe it is. Give me the strength to persevere. Give me the strength to stand the test. Give me the strength to wear the crown.

September 5, 2004

Love and Action

But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. James 2:18

Faith and love have a lot in common. They both must be seen by what we do. Faith requires action. Love requires action. Without it, they are merely empty words.

Father, I am blessed. You have given me a wife who displays both faith and love. All her words have not been proven empty - not even half-empty. I am amazed by the calming and restoring power of Your Spirit. Give me faith, Lord. Help me to display this faith in what I do. Give me the courage to take the action that will restore my soul - that will fill my cup to overflowing. May my actions truly reflect a heart for You.

September 6, 2004

Little Things

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. James 3:16

Little things. A spark, a crack, a drip - all of these are relatively little things that can result in utter disaster - a raging forest fire, a collapsed dam, a ruined home. Isn't it interesting how the entire course of one's life is often changed by little things? One late night argument can plant fear in a child that haunts him for his entire life. One seductive wink can lead to actions that could destroy a marriage and devastate a family. One tiny cell can affect others in the body, causing cancer that slowly takes a life.

Most of life can be traced to a series of little things. Good and evil are put into motion by singular choices that are made.

My own marriage began with one phone conversation between two teenagers. Praise the Lord, my wife saw past the exterior into my heart. We've had our share of rocky times - normally caused by a single choice I have made. But my wife's singular choices to love me - to forgive me when I need it, have carried us through when most others would have called it quits.

Lord, help me to be mindful of the little things that can completely change the course of my life. Help me to choose wisely so I can walk in Your will. Make me a man of whom You can be proud.

He Lifts Us Up

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:9b

Humility. There are times in life when that's all I have left. The reality of my fallen nature stares back at me every time I look in the mirror. There is no pride, for there is nothing about which I can be proud. Oh, my friends tell me how much they respect my courage to face the demons, but how can I respect one whose heart has been so soiled, who has lived two lives - one seen, another hidden?

Lord, Your Word says You will lift up the humble. I'm going to hold You to that. Meet me here on my knees; I feel like I'm stuck in the mud. Lift me up. Wash me off. Make me new, so You will be glorified.

September 7, 2004

Prayer and Forgiveness

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he as sinned, he will be forgiven. James 5:15

We live in a society that thrives on the pursuit of health. The miracles of modern medicine have contributed to a longer life span. Many are waking up to the fact that obesity is killing them, and a movement is taking hold to lose the weight and live a healthier life. Everyday someone new touts the possibility of health and happiness by following an easy seven-step plan - the first of which is to buy the book. We are chasing a dream - a dream of healing - a dream of wholeness and good health.

Still, the one solution that brings success eludes many who long for happiness and health. In all their pursuits, the real healing never comes.

The solution is two-fold. Prayer and forgiveness.

In his letter to the church, James tells those who are sick to ask for prayer. Prayers offered in faith can bring about healing. But there's another piece to this puzzle. Forgiveness. James' words show a direct link between sickness and sin. Referring to the sick man, he says, "If he has sinned, he will be forgiven." Without forgiveness - without addressing the sin, real healing will never come.

Lord, I have been chasing a dream. For years my pursuit of wholeness has been hindered because I thought I could find the solution and keep the sin. In truth, the sin has to go! There is no hope unless I am walking with You - every step of the way. Keep opening the doors, Lord. Help me to find the help from Your Body. Help me to find the healing You promise.

Forgive my sin, Father. Make me whole.

September 8, 2004

Always He Can

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. 1 Corinthians 1:25

Wisdom and strength. Foolishness and weakness. Which pair describes me? No question! Hands down! I am the weakest fool I know.

Lord, in my weakness, I have made some of the most foolish decisions. On impulse, I have harmed others; I have harmed myself. What am I to do? When I've really stepped in it, when I've made the biggest mess I could, how am I to fix it?

Sometimes, I can't.

Always, You can.

Father, I give up. I just can't do it anymore. If only I would listen before I act sometimes. Forgive my foolishness. Help me to know the next steps to take - in Your wisdom - in Your strength.

You are great, Lord. Please, save me!

September 9, 2004

To Know Nothing Else

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2

Churches are bound to experience problems. In my opinion, the biggest problem is not from the outside world, but from within. Many churches are trapped by something you wouldn't expect: arrogance. Many seem to think God has revealed Himself to them in a special way; they have all the answers - they have the right theology, and others should just get on board.

Who are we - as mere men - to think we know the mind of God?

Even the Apostle Paul didn't know it. He didn't claim to have some unique ability that gave him superior knowledge of God's theology. He resolved to know one thing. That one thing was Christ - and Christ alone.

Through Paul's relationship with Jesus Christ, we have been given insight to many things from the mind of God. It was the Spirit Himself who spoke many things through Paul; almost half the New Testament was written by Paul's pen. How could we in the Church do any less than to lean on that same Spirit who speaks from the very heart of God?

Lord, forgive us for worrying so much about theology. Sometimes we forget about You. Your concern is unity among Your children. Can we as the Body of Christ ever be unified?

Help me, Spirit, to resolve to know nothing else except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It is when I know Him that I am given insight on how to live well, how to love properly, and how to walk the path of righteousness. I want only You, Lord.

That's enough for me. Just You!

September 10, 2004

The Toughest Test

If any man builds on this foundation using gold, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 1 Corinthians 3:12-13

Fire is one of the toughest tests on earth. How could anything survive it? Can life continue after it has done its work?

Consider a mighty forest fire. When the flames have stopped and the ground has grown cool again, it seems nothing could have lived through it. From all appearances, the land is dead. How could it ever be the same? Charred trees and ash cover the landscape leaving it barren and seemingly lifeless. But as time passes, new life begins. With enough time, a new forest will grow, and there are few signs of the destruction that was so apparent.

Consider a man. If his home is completely destroyed by fire, does he rebuild? Does he throw up his hands and walk away? Does he see this as God's plan, calling him to leave and rebuild elsewhere?

Consider a friendship. How does it fair the fires of sin, deception, and betrayal? Will trust ever be seen again? Can the closest of friends survive the flames? Or will they live the remainder of life as bitter enemies?

Lord, I have been burned by Your holy fire. I am saddened by what has been lost. From all appearances, all hope seems to be gone. In You, there is life. Help me to see new life again.

September 11, 2004

Broken Trust

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2

Broken trust is probably the number one killer of relationships. A husband betrays his wife by looking outside his marriage to find himself; a man betrays his friend by sharing a secret that foolish promises have kept hidden. How can trust be rebuilt? How can a marriage be saved? Or a friendship restored?

It is only in God's faithfulness that we can find hope. He is the Great Restorer - the Great Rebuilder - the One who desires unity for His children.

Lord, I am hurting, and I have no one to blame but myself. For years I have taken trust lightly. I have disregarded one promise to uphold another. What kind of life have I made for myself? My wrong choices have finally overtaken me. Now, I am challenged to rebuild trust. How can it be done?

Father, I plead for Your mercy. My steps have strayed from Your path, but I believe Your Spirit has the power to restore. Help me to seek Your will. Help me to know Your will. Help me to walk in Your will. Open the doors of healing - for my mind, my body, and my spirit. Open the doors of healing for those relationships that have been harmed by broken trust. Forgive me, Father, for the ways I have proven unfaithful.

September 12, 2004

Starving to Death

... hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:5

Am I the man I want to be? Far from it! Those closest to me know that too often I am a pessimist, a negative thinker, one who tends to take life too seriously, and a man who is not very capable of forgiving himself.

Am I proud of this? Not at all! For a man whose personality type is like an otter - wanting to have fun all the time, I'd like to be known as the friendly one, the life of the party. But within me, there seems to be this other man, the pessimist. And to be honest, I don't like him very much.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about a simple story I once heard, a story of a young Indian boy and his grandfather. One day the grandfather told the boy of the challenge it is to be a man. "Within myself," the grandfather said, "are two wolves - one good and one evil. These wolves are in a fierce fight trying to win over the other." Concerned the boy asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?" Without hesitation the grandfather replied, "The one I feed."

So which do I feed? The pessimist? Or the optimist? The sinner? Or the saint?

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul scolded the church for full acceptance - even pride over one in their midst who was sleeping with his father's wife. Without hesitation Paul advised them to hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed. There are times that the only way to overcome a sin is to suffer the consequence - to experience the pain - to starve it to death. Essentially, Paul is saying, "Don't feed the evil wolf."

Lord, I have always been afraid of the consequence, so it seems I have been content to allow this other man - the pessimist, the evil wolf - to feed himself, to grow stronger in me rather than weaker. Forgive me for clinging to my sinful nature like a frightened child clings to his mother. The desire of my sinful nature is destruction. How could I ever want him to remain in me?

Yet, here I am, facing the consequence of his action... of my action. Forgiveness from one, rejection from another. Help me to learn from these experiences. Help me to nurture the saint and starve the sinner.

Make me holy today.

September 13, 2004

Get Out Now!

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were brought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

The world would have us believe that certain things are okay because in their thinking, "It doesn't hurt anybody." In truth, the body it hurts is your own. And for those who have accepted Jesus Christ, our bodies are indwelt with the same Spirit that hovered over the waters when the earth was formed. No matter what we do with our bodies, no matter what we take into them through our ears, our eyes, or our mouths, the Spirit is present to hear it, to see it, and to taste it. In an unusual and mysterious way, we a bringing sin into the presence of One who can never be present in the place of sin.

How is it, Lord, that You remain in us experiencing what we experience when You are holy - separate from sin? When I consider the things I have done to my body, I am amazed that You could still be here with me. I am amazed by the moments of realization that You are whispering to me from within the depths of my spirit to flee - even after the sin has pulled me to the bottom.

"Get out now!" How many times have I heard that? How many times have I fled? Unfortunately, not enough.

"Get out now!" How many times have I stayed? Unfortunately, far too many. Every moment I have remained is another wound to the One within me.

Father, forgive me for the times I have disregarded Your presence. Help me to be mindful of You. Help me to be ever aware of the damage I cause when my actions are less than holy. Restore me. Rebuild this temple. Make my body a place of honor, a place where You would dwell, a place You can call home.

September 14, 2004

Right Where I Am

Each one should remain in the situation he was in when God called him. 1 Corinthians 7:20

Paul's words about marriage and ministry are tough to reconcile. Is it best to remain single - to be free to serve where God calls? Is it best to marry - to have divided interests between God and the things of this world? In Paul's words, either is good. Speaking of his own situation, he believed being single was better because it left him free to minister as he had been called.

Many people don't fully understand what Paul is saying. He is not saying to leave spouse and family to pursue God's work. He is saying to consider who you are - who God has called you to be - and to remain in the situation you are in when He called you. He is saying to consider things wisely beforehand. For those who are already married when God calls, Paul encourages contentment with where God has them. Even with divided interests, God can use us to literally change the world. We are not to pick up and leave the place we are living or working merely because God has changed our hearts through His saving grace. We must watch for His plan.

Lord, there are times in my life when I have questioned if I am where I should be. Should I have married? Should I have pursued this career or that career? Should I have done it differently? In some cases, yes, I should have done it differently. But the fact is: everything in my life has made me who I am, and You will use me just as I am to bring about Your glory.

Father, sometimes I want to escape where I am because staying seems to be too tough. Help me to follow Your will - right where I am. Give me eyes to see Your glory - right where I am. Help me to become Your man - right where I am.

September 15, 2004

Making the Pieces Fit

The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God. 1 Corinthians 8:2-3

The longer I live, the more I am convinced that I know absolutely nothing about anything. Every day I seem to be searching for the truth - that one piece of knowledge that makes all of life make sense. Maybe if I could find that one missing piece, all the problems of life would disappear, all the struggles in life would be overcome.

But there is nothing we can discover, no mere piece of knowledge that will solve every problem or overcome every struggle. Nothing we could learn or comprehend will fix our brokenness. Yet most of us spend our entire lives looking for that one idea that will make it all fit.

The only truth than makes it fit isn't a thought or an action. It is a person. His name is Jesus Christ. Loving Him opens the door to a relationship with the One True God, the Creator of everything seen and unseen, and He knows how it all works. There is no problem He cannot solve - no struggle He cannot overcome. To know Him and be known by Him is all we really need.

Lord, I keep trying to figure out how to fix everything that is broken in my life. Forgive my arrogance, for I live as if I can do it without You. Intervene in my life, Lord. Make all the pieces fit. I seem to waste so much emotional energy trying to solve every problem and overcome every struggle in my own strength. Make Yourself known, Lord, so today You might be glorified - so all the pieces would finally fit.

I am in Your hands.

September 16, 2004

Enslaved

No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:27

Sometimes my body feels out of control. Like a wild man running loose in the jungle, it seems impossible to tame it. How could I ever expect to be righteous - ever expect to win the prize - when self-control so often eludes me?

The Apostle Paul faced this same struggle, as every man does. Yet despite the challenge, he could say, "I beat my body and make it my slave." How does one make his body like a slave? How can one control himself in a world that is so out of control?

The truth is: it doesn't involve the body as much as it involves the mind. Either in exercise, eating, or sex, physical failure generally begins as a thought. A temptation that is allowed to grow in the mind easily becomes a premeditated sin. If there is ever hope of righteous living with our bodies, we must allow the Holy Spirit to intervene - in our minds.

Lord, for so long it seems my body has been out of control. How tough it is to walk in righteousness. But there is hope - not in some masochistic way of control, but through the gift of Your Spirit. Help me to keep my thoughts in check today. Give me the ability to practice self-control in every area of life. Make me a slave to Your holiness.

September 17, 2004

Where do you sit?

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. 1 Corinthians 10:21

We can't have it both ways. There is no way to live a righteous life and a life of sin at the same time. We are either striving for holiness, or we are striving for evil. We are either for Christ, or we are against Him.

It is black and white.

Does this mean that we who live under the blood of Christ - under the power of God's grace - can never sin? Sin is against God's plan. We are either for Him or against Him. How is it that committing a sin doesn't negate the blood? If we who know Him turn to the world, how can we still belong to Him? How can the blood of Christ cover my future sins - things done against Christ with full knowledge of His sacrifice?

Well, it wouldn't be grace if it covered one sin and not another. For those who have received the salvation of Christ or those who haven't, His grace can cover every sin - past, present, and future.

So why do we in the Body sometimes forget that the blood is for all - even those in our midst? We sometimes struggle to forgive a Christian brother when he falls. We seem to treat him differently than an unsaved man. We seem to think, "He should know better!"

Do we know more than Christ? Are we wiser than He? How can we more easily receive a new Christian who seeks God's grace than a great Christian leader who has been shamed by moral failure? Does not our spiritual pride in turn make us sinners in need of God's grace?

Father, make me a man of compassion. Help me to see a Christian brother who falls into sin as You do - one who needs Your grace. Forgive me for harboring resentment again my Christian brothers who may have harmed me. Help me to forgive as You do - willingly - completely.

...Okay Lord. You went in a direction I didn't expect this morning. My thoughts of the spiritual pride within the church have turned to thoughts of my own... There is a Christian man who harmed me about a decade ago. I haven't seen him in years, yet last week he attended my Sunday School class. My heart was filled with unforgiveness and resentment. I thought, "Why doesn't he just go somewhere else?" Not long ago, a friend of mine from out of town stayed in this man's home. With the mention of my name, this man told my friend it would be best if they didn't speak about me. Apparently, he too carries the burden of what happened so long ago.

Father, forgive me. Forgive my pride. Forgive the resentment I have carried for so long. I don't want to seek him out, but if I see this man again, give me the courage to reach out - to say, "I'm glad you are here." If I cannot receive him, how can I expect a Christian brother to receive me when I harm him? Bring reconciliation into my life in the way You choose. Help me to drink only from Your cup - to eat only at Your table. Fill me with Your Spirit today.

September 18, 2004

Dependence

In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 1 Corinthians 11:11

We live in a time when much emphasis is placed on equality, the equality of the races, the equality of the sexes. I don't have a single problem with this. But in a fallen world, the quest for equality is so often distorted. In the world's way, to lift one up we must knock down another.

As an example that could get me in trouble for not being politically correct, consider the Women's Liberation movement. In theory it is a good thing, but what has it done to our society to raise the place of women by lowering the place of men? In my opinion, this is the real agenda. Has it done much to break through the glass ceiling? Has it done more harm than good?

The truth is: we can never improve the life of one by tearing down another. In the end, both will suffer.

Some may disagree, but I believe these attempts to knock down the men in our society have actually been successful. Look around. What has it done? Women's Lib has resulted in a generation of men who don't know how to be men. Everywhere you turn, boys are physically growing into men, but they haven't a clue of the role God intended. Everyday, children and wives are being abandoned. Everyday, it becomes more acceptable for men and women to reject the other - to raise families and live separate lives in a "tolerant" culture.

God intended for us to be dependent on each other. Black, white, hispanic, male, female - we need to give and receive. The only solution - our only hope - is to turn to the One beyond ourselves. God's ways are not our ways. He lifts us up by lifting up His Son, by unifying us in the blood of Christ.

Lord, help us to see Your truth. Dependence on one another builds; it does not destroy. Save the boys, Father. Help them to become men who lead. Help them to honor the women in their lives. Turn our hearts to You.

September 19, 2004

Indispensable Weakness

On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable... 1 Corinthians 12:22

Have you ever felt like the world would be better off without you? For whatever reason, you feel your weakness makes you worthless. Paul tells us the weak parts of the body are indispensable. Every part supports the others - even the little ones - even the weak ones.

Have you ever considered the importance bones are to the body? Strong bones are vital to our strength. If they are weak, we can be easily broken by the loads we carry. Like the human body, the Body of Christ needs strong bones - those who create the skeleton, the framework for the work to be done.

Consider another question. How can the tiniest of bones - the tiniest of Christians - make a difference? The tiniest bones in the body may not be where you expect. These are the bones in the ear. Without them, we cannot hear as God designed.

I am a musician. Years ago, I started to lose my hearing. Little by little, it became more difficult to understand the spoken words around me, and before I knew it, there was an entire octave at the lowest end of the scale that I simply couldn't hear. Hearing aids helped some, but without them, I could barely make out the accompaniment beneath me.

I knew what the problem was. I have otosclerosis. My father has it. My guess is his father probably had it, too. Otosclerosis is a hereditary condition that causes the stapes bone - the bone shaped like a horseshoe in the middle ear - to soften. When this tiny bone is weakened, sound cannot be conducted properly, and the lowest frequencies never make it to the inner ear.

Thankfully, we live in a time when medical miracles abound. Now, in my ears are two tiny wires, shaped like the pistons in a car and no more than seven-tenths of a millimeter thick. These tiny wires are doing the work that the stapes could no longer do. Oh, my hearing will never be perfect, but I am grateful - there is so much that I was missing and didn't even realize it. Music has come to life again. For years I feared the worst - all because the tiniest of bones was indispensable to me.

Lord, help me to understand the importance I am to Your Body. At times I feel that I am simply too weak to make a difference. Help me to see how indispensable I am. Help me to see those around me that I couldn't live without. Use me, Father, no matter how tiny I might feel.

September 20, 2004

When I became a man...

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish things behind me. 1 Corinthians 13:11

When I became a man...

Little boys can't wait for the day, but when do they know they have arrived?

Lord, I'm stuck. Emotionally, I am not the man I want to be. Something happened along the way, and parts of me never really grew up. Oh, my body is a man's; male pattern baldness is proof of that. But there are times that I am still that frightened little boy, unsure of himself - afraid of what others might think of him.

Help me to grow. Help me to mature. Help me to become a man who is confident and unafraid. I want to be like You, Lord.

September 21, 2004

To be an infant again...

Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 1 Corinthians 14:20

Paul told the Corinthians to be infants in regard to evil. Oh, to be an infant again... If only we could go back and unlearn the evil things we have come to know over the years.

How can we do it? Can we simply flip a switch that makes us no longer capable of understanding the enemy's words? No longer able to hear his voice? I am not at all proud of the things I know, but how can I erase them from my thoughts? How can I forget the things I have done?

Lord, somehow You forgive and forget. Help me to do the same. Make me like an infant in regard to evil. Give me eyes of innocence that cannot comprehend the ways of the enemy. Help me to forgive myself for what I have learned. Make my thoughts Your thoughts.

September 22, 2004

Working Harder

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them - yet not I, but the grace of God that was in me. 1 Corinthians 15:10

For some of us, God's grace has to work harder. Somehow, we find ourselves in deeper pits, in darker caves, in places so tough to reach that His Spirit has to spend most of His time trying to reach us. Walking with Him isn't our biggest concern. Merely taking one breath at a time and putting one foot in front of the other become our primary goals.

Lord, there have been times in my life that it seems I am only surviving by the oxygen you are pumping in to me. Like a miner trapped in the bottom of a mine, I am surrounded by darkness. But I refuse to die. I refuse to be discouraged.

Send Your healing rain. Help me to say, "I'm not afraid!" By Your grace, I am healed from the most powerful infirmity of all; I am freed from sin and death. Bring me to life today!

September 23, 2004

Effective Opposition?

But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. 1 Corinthians 16:8-9

Effective work is almost always tougher than we expect. The Apostle Paul spoke of an opportunity to work effectively in Ephesus, and within these simple words there is a lesson.

First, Paul acknowledged the fact that effective work takes time. He planned to stay in Ephesus "until Pentecost." He knew that for his work to be fruitful, it would require a commitment to say at it - for the long haul. Effectiveness is not displayed overnight. It requires patience and diligence, but God will honor our effort.

Second, Paul addressed the opposition he will face. As if he was pleased to have forces opposing him, he said, "there are many who oppose me." Paul recognized that the enemy normally leaves us alone if we are ineffective. Why should he waste his time? If we are ineffective in what we do, it only serves the enemy's purpose - to tear apart rather than build.

Lord, teach me the lessons Paul learned. When I consider the challenges I face, I sometimes feel like a failure. It often takes too long. There are too many people opposed to what I want to do. Help me to understand these are actually good signs! These signs help me to see that my effort must be stirring up the enemy's camp.

Help me to not be discouraged. Help me to be on my guard, to stand firm in the faith - to be strong and courageous. May Your work be realized today.

September 24, 2004

Yes or No

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not "Yes" and "No," but in him it has always been "Yes." 2 Corinthians 1:19

Is your life about "No," or is it about "Yes"? Do you spend every day running from the things you should not do? Or is your time spent focused on the good - on the things that always have the answer of "Yes"?

I believe these two questions reflect the struggle Christians so often face. Is your life about religion? Or is it about relationship?

Religion in its truest sense is all about "No" It's about the "thou shalt nots" in life. It's about falling in line and quickly getting into step - then not straying from the path.

Relationship, on the other hand, is about "Yes." It's about trusting and following the person of Jesus Christ. It's about keeping our eyes so focused on Him that there is nowhere else we would choose to walk but on His path.

Lord, I really like the "Yes" things in my life. I have been so blessed to establish friendships that are bringing me great joy. So much is about "Yes." Acceptance, affirmation, accountability, and authority - these are all signs of godly relationships that are calling me to holy manhood.

Unfortunately, like every man I have had my share of "No" things in life. There are friendships that have been broken because one or both of us stepped off the path.

Forgive me, Lord, for straying away. Help me to say "Yes" to Christ everyday. Help me to walk where He walks. Help me to stand where He stands. Make my life into what You planned - less about religion - more about relationship.

September 25, 2004

The Fragrance of Life

To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. 2 Corinthians 2:16a

How is it that some things can be pleasant to one person and horrible for another? Paul compared himself to something like this. To those trapped in sin, he was like the smell of death; the words he spoke were unpleasant to their ears. But to those in Christ, his words were quite pleasing, bringing about renewal and life.

What made the difference? The same words were embraced by one and rejected by the other. The fact is: the problem wasn't the speaker or the truths which he spoke, the problem was with the one hearing them. The very words of life spoken to one who is lost are often perceived as death. Rather than bringing joy, the truth brings about mourning and grief.

Lord, my heart is heavy this morning; it is breaking for one whom I love, for one he loves has perceived the truth as a lie. The one he loves hears life-giving words and believes they are filled with death. It isn't the words; it is the one who hears them. He is trapped by anger - by addiction. He has been ensnared by the lies of the enemy.

Holy Spirit, intervene in the heart of this young man. His whole life stands before him. Draw him back to You. Free him from this pit, so he might hear the truth more clearly. His only hope is in You. Give me the words to say to my friend; give me the words to pray for his son. Save him, Father. Let him smell the fragrance of life.

Be Broken

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. 2 Corinthians 3:2

There are certain people who write on our hearts. The impact of their friendship literally changes us. We become better than we were before - simply because we know them. They challenge us to be real - to be righteous - to follow God's path. And because of them, we strive to meet the challenge.

Lord, I have a friend who has written on my heart. Like Jonathan was to David is this man to me. He challenges me to be whole; he challenges me to be broken. I want to please him, for he strives to please You. May the letter I write on his heart be as cherished as his words are to me.

September 26, 2004

Light and Momentary

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17

Light and momentary troubles... I don't think I have ever viewed the troubles in life as "light and momentary." Maybe my view was distorted as a child. My perception when I was growing up was that the troubles in my life could never be overcome. Even though, as an adult, I understand that troubles are relatively short-lived, my childhood fears seem to continually plague me. I am constantly faced with thoughts of despair and hopelessness. Every difficulty becomes a chronic matter, rather than a mere problem to be solved. No matter how much I cover it up with outward actions, my heart tells me life is futile. Eventually the shoe is going to drop.

Lord, I need new vision. I need to see beyond the troubles of the moment. I need to see that even life-long troubles are "light and momentary." We have eternity awaiting us. In truth, we don't have to wait; eternity has already begun. But the eyes of my heart strain to see it.

Change me, Father. With my mouth I proclaim Your glory, but I struggle to fully grasp it in my heart. I've gotten pretty good at it - projecting life to others when I feel that I am dying. Save me from despair. Help me to see Your hope - to reach out and grab it, and to never let it go.

September 27, 2004

But I don't feel new!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17

If I am new, why do I feel so old? No matter how often I remind myself that I am in Christ, I feel weak - unable to overcome this world of sin. This makes me feel like the old man again.

Tiny frustrations turn to anger. Quick glimpses entice me to approach the verge of lust. Past sins haunt me in order to keep me emotionally vulnerable.

Are these signs of a new man - a new creation in Christ? No.

These are all signs of a worldly man who cares more for his own body than he does the body of Christ. These are reflections of the earthly body and will be forever forgotten when we are in heaven.

The fact is: it is not our bodies that have been made new. It is our spirits. As long as we live in these bodies, we will experience the consequence that comes with them. We will feel like the old because our bodies have not been recreated yet. We are not what we feel. We are no longer our own, but His.

Lord, when I am reminded that I am still living in a temporary home, remind me that this "temporary" is not me. It is what I once was, but am no more. Bring strength to my spirit, Father. Help me to walk side by side with You today.

September 28, 2004

Fellowship with Darkness

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14

Paul told the Corinthians to not be yoked together with unbelievers. He spoke of righteousness and wickedness - light and darkness, the characteristics of believers and unbelievers, respectively.

Yet, I find that wickedness and darkness are not exclusive to those outside the church. Many within our walls court the enemy. So much is done to discredit the Body of Christ by those who claim to follow Him.

What have we done to Your Body, Lord? Why do we entertain fellowship with darkness? Shine Your light of righteousness into the Church. Shine it into my life. Make me a righteous and radiant man.

September 29, 2004

Contaminated

Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to remove anything from their midst if it had been contaminated by mildew. He knew that, if left alone, mildew can destroy everything upon which it grows. In the New Testament, God calls us to a new level of decontamination. He commands that we purify our hearts.

Unfortunately, we are all contaminated. Sin has found its way into our lives, and if it is left to grow - left to fester - all could be lost.

Lord, what things are contaminating me? Fear, anger, lust, greed, bitterness? What do I need to remove, so it cannot be allowed to destroy me? Give me eyes to see. Give me the courage to clean my life of anything that contaminates. Perfect Your holiness in me.

September 30, 2004

He Became Poor

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

Can I even begin to understand what Jesus did? He left the riches of heaven and embraced the utter poverty of this world - all out of love for me. He knew that it would take His very death to bring me life, and He did it anyway.

Sometimes when I consider His action, skepticism begins to rise in me. Seriously, how tough would it be for Jesus? He was God. He knew how the story ended. He know who would ultimately win the war. But then I realize - although He is God, Jesus is also fully man. This is impossible for me to completely comprehend, but it is true.

As a man, could I give up the wealth of heaven for the sake of another? As a man, He did.

How?! Could I have done the same?

I believe the answer is "Yes." But it isn't in my strength - only in His. The Holy Spirit is THAT powerful. He could take the likes of me and use me to bring about whatever He chooses. What it takes on my part is what it took Jesus - the complete surrender of my will for the Father's will. The sooner I realize that it's not about me, the sooner He can accomplish His purpose in me.

Jesus, the most amazing truth is that You, a mere man, could face every temptation I have faced, and You did not fall. You are worthy of all honor and glory. Your complete sacrifice on my behalf astounds me. I guess I'm not as unlovable as I so often think. Help me to grasp this knowledge. Help me to surrender to You. Perform miracles in me and through me. Use me in the way of Your choosing.

About September 2004

This page contains all entries posted to The Potter's Hand in September 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2004 is the previous archive.

October 2004 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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