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Spiritual Growth Archives

November 25, 2003

Sifting

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:31-32

What a frightening thought. Satan asked to sift Peter as wheat. I wonder how many times Satan has stood before God and inquired about me? And I wonder how many times Jesus has prayed on my behalf.

The interesting thing is: Jesus didn't pray against the sifting. He prayed that Simon's faith would withstand the test. My guess is that Jesus has often prayed the same for me. Sifting has a purpose. It separates the coarse from the fine. Ultimately, it purifies, but the process of refinement can be a painful one.

Lord, do I have what it takes to strengthen my brothers after the sifting? Or will I be ashamed by my lack of faith? You know the many times I have been sifted. You know the lessons I have learned through failure, then those I learned through turning back to You. But I am afraid. I fear rejection. I fear the sieve awaits me again.

Purify my heart, so I may follow You. Purify my heart, so You may be glorified!

November 30, 2003

The Authority to Name

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. Genesis 2:19

The authority to name... Who has it? Parents name their children. An inventor names his inventions. A songwriter names his songs.

Just think about it - God gave man the power to name all of creation. With this authority and power comes great responsibility. Do we take this power seriously? With a name or a word, we can curse or we can bless - because God has given us the power to do so.

Lord, help me to grasp the awesome responsibility of calling others out - of naming them - of blessing them. My children gain their identity from what I call them. My wife is either built up or torn down by the power of my words. Let others hear Your voice when I am speaking; let them see Your hands when I serve.

Name me what You choose, Father. I am Yours.

December 10, 2003

Could I settle here? Sure!

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. Genesis 11:31

After the flood, God commanded the people to be fruitful and multiply on the earth, yet in one hundred years, the people hadn't moved. They decided to build a city that honored themselves, instead of filling the earth and honoring God. It took God confusing their language before they scattered.

Doesn't it normally take an act of God before men will step out into His will? Our pride so often holds us back.

Less than two hundred years later, another man chose to settle in one place rather than moving to where God had originally drawn him. Terah was the father of Abram, who later became Abraham the father of Isaac and the nation of Israel. Terah had three sons, Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran died while Terah was still alive, and I wonder if the grief of his death kept Terah from completely stepping out into God's will.

One day Terah took Abram, Abram's wife Sarai, and Haran's son Lot, and they set out for Canaan. Somewhere along the way, he stopped. The writer of Genesis states that when they came to Haran, they settled there. Now, there were no maps in those days with the name "Haran" on them. Terah didn't get there and say, "Oh, look. This place is named after my son. I think I'll stay here." No. There was something about this place that made Terah stop and say, "I will settle here, and I will name this place after the son I lost."

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Terah had fulfilled God's command to multiply on the earth. But Canaan was his destination. Somewhere along the way, he settled. It may have been his grief. It may have been the location of Haran. Maybe he just liked it. But was it where God wanted him? It wasn't where God wanted Abram. A day would come when Abram would take Sarai and Lot, and they would complete the journey Terah had begun.

Lord, what is it that holds me back from stepping out into Your will? Is it pride? Is it grief? Am I afraid? Or do I just like it where I am? You have been challenging me in so many ways, but can I trust You? My lack of trust is based in fear - not in Your provision. You always provide.

Thank You, Lord, for the opportunities to step out. What an amazing experience I have had in the last twenty-four hours. As I write this, I am sitting in a home that belongs to one of the best-known Christian music artists of our day. Could I settle here? Sure! What a beautiful place. But where do You want me? That is where I want to be.

Help me to reach Your intended destination, Lord, and may You be honored along the way.

December 27, 2003

Seeing Past Imperfection

At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do.” Genesis 21:22

Abimelech and Abraham didn’t have the best relationship. Abraham lied about Sarah’s identity, and trouble came to Abimelech’s household after he took Sarah to be his wife. In the end, God protected Sarah and restored peace to Abimelech’s home, but the relationship with Abraham must have been awkward.

Even with Abraham’s deception, however, Abimelech could see something was different. God was with Abraham, and everyone around him could tell. Despite his imperfection, God was glorified.

Lord, I want the world to see past my imperfection. I want all who are around me to see Your hand. I want them to say, “God is with you in everything you do.”

So often, I get in the way. So often, I try to go it alone.

Help me, Lord, to reflect Your glory. May You be seen in me today.

January 8, 2004

Face To Face

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. Genesis 32:24

Why has my whole life seemed like a wrestling match? Am I like Jacob? Am I trying to succeed in my own strength at every turn?

Jacob changed. Exactly what brought about the change, I don't know. But somewhere along the way, his selfish heart began to soften. He began to care more about the people in his life than about what he could grab from them. Jacob grabbed Esau's heel at birth. He grabbed his brother's birthright and blessing. He grabbed his wives and flocks from Laban. Oh, he worked hard along the way, but he seemed to grab hold of all these things and pull them in tightly saying, "These are what make me who I am. See how much I have achieved!"

But while going back home to the land God had promised him, we witness a change. Jacob acknowledged that everything he acquired was due to God's blessing. He originally crossed the Jordan river with his staff alone. He now returned a wealthy man with many children. As Esau's men approached, Jacob sent out gifts. Then finally, he sent his family and possessions ahead as he stayed behind for the night. He let go of all he had acquired.

It was then that God wrestled with him face to face.

Lord, why do I wrestle so? I know the truth: You give more than I could ever grab for myself. Yet life is still a struggle.

You have given me inspiration and understanding in order to teach, yet I struggle with trying to shine because of my knowledge. In the end, I look stupid.

You have given me talents that bless and inspire others, yet I struggle in sharing them with a pure heart. In the end, I too often desire the praise and affirmation of men.

You have given me a loving and affectionate wife and two wonderful children, yet I struggle to love them as I should. In the end, I fear I could choose to pursue my lusts over them. I could lose everything.

Continue to protect me, Lord, from this nature inside that would choose the world instead of You. Wrestle with me for as long as it takes; wrench me if You must. I long to be in Your grip. Hold me tightly - face to face.

January 9, 2004

Servant Leadership

"So let my lord go on ahead of his servant..." Genesis 33:14a

Jacob finally got it! All his life, he had been trying to gain control. Before Jacob was even born, God told his mother, "the older will serve the younger," referring to how Esau would one day be under Jacob's authority. It seems that Jacob spent so much time and energy trying to make it happen.

When the day came for Jacob's return to Canaan, his words and actions toward Esau indicate that he finally got it. He finally understood what it is to be a leader. To lead requires servanthood. To lead requires sacrifice. To lead requires humility. Jacob bowed to his brother. He gave of himself, and he spoke with a reticence that was uncommon for him.

Lord, I want to be a servant leader. My new job is taking off. My new responsibilities as a supervisor are more fun that I expected. I am amazed at the blessing You have given me. Help me to be humble. Let the first word others use when they speak of me be "servant." Let them see You in me. You are the Greatest Servant of all time. Make me more like You.

February 11, 2004

The Moment of Relief

But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. Exodus 8:15

In the heart of the moment, we cry out!

In the face of terror, we believe!

It is said there are not atheists in foxholes. Men who face the horrors of battle pray to God, fully believing He can save them.

But what happens the moment we find relief? Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron pleading for them to pray for relief from the plague of frogs. As soon as the frogs were gone, he hardened his heart. Once they were gone, he refused to believe.

Aren't we like that? When life is full of crises, we pray continually. When we are content, our hearts grow hard.

Lord, for so long I have struggled to seek You in the good times. You are so easily forgotten. In an odd way, I believe I have held onto the darkness, so I could feel Your light save me.

Help me to live in the light and to feel Your presence ever so strongly because I am there. Soften my heart. Keep me from hardening it, so I might be molded without first being broken. Lay Your hands on me today.

February 24, 2004

The Long Road

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country though that was shorter. For God said, "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." Exodus 13:17

The Israelites finally left Egypt. The trip could have been relatively short. There were trade routes commonly used between Canaan and Egypt, yet God led them around by the desert road. He led them toward the Red Sea, which seemed the opposite direction from their final destination.

God oftentimes chooses the long road rather than the short one. Behind it all, God has plans we would never understand.

Lord, I feel like I have been on the long desert road. I know You were protecting the Israelites from war by sending them into the desert. Are You doing the same with me? Are You somehow protecting me from turning back to my old life by leading me the long way?

Ten years of growth on my healing journey seems like a lifetime. I have failed in so many ways. But You love me still. At the same time, I have grown.

Help me to continue on this path, Father. Give me the strength and resolve to one day cross over into the Promised Land of Your eternal kingdom. Be my Guide along the way.

February 26, 2004

Time To Celebrate!

"The enemy boasted, 'I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.' But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters." Exodus 15:9-10

Do we take the time to remember the miracles of God's salvation? Do we contemplate the ways the enemy has been destroyed? Or do we spend our time only considering how we have fallen short - how the enemy has won at times - how we may never measure up to God's righteousness?

Moses took the time to celebrate the salvation of God. The enemy was crushed by the mighty waters, and the Israelites danced and sang. They commemorated the event with praise. Do I take the time to remember what God has done? Or am I too hung up on reaching the next goal - on receiving praise rather than passing it along to my Savior?

Lord, I had a friend challenge me yesterday. He challenged me to contemplate how far I have come rather than focusing on the distance yet to be traveled. Have I slighted You? Have I forgotten to praise You for the ways my enemies have fallen?

This week marks five months of a new commitment to self-control in my life. Help me to celebrate that fact! It has been a daily battle - a battle of conscious choices to turn from temptations that have haunted me for years. How did it all begin? Five months ago I met a man whose mere sobriety challenged me. Today, he is my friend - my accountability partner - my confidant, and he continues to challenge me to seek after holiness. Through him, You have provided the support I need to walk in Your will.

Father, You are highly exalted! My enemy has been crushed. You are my constant Protector and Guide. This journey may have left me weary and worn, but together we have come so far. Today, I choose to celebrate. I choose to honor You with joy and praise. Thank You, Lord, for all You have done. Thank You for the support You have given me. Continue to reign in my heart, so that five months from now - five years - we will still be celebrating!

March 31, 2004

The Goldsmith

The buds and the branches were all of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold. Exodus 37:22

I've done many things, but I've never worked with gold before. The idea that one can take many pieces of gold and literally form them into one piece by hammering them is fascinating to me.

My medium is clay. With a little water and the right amount of pressure, beautiful artwork can result. Clay is easy to mold. I've always enjoyed the analogy of God as the Potter. To have Him place His hands on me to make me into a vessel of His choosing - how wonderful it is.

But I'm not so sure about Him as Goldsmith. It takes hours or hammering. That seems a bit uncomfortable to me. The idea, though, of God as Goldsmith is probably the most appropriate one. How much more work it takes to pound me into shape!

Lord, I long to be one with You. I know I should willingly say: do what it takes... if it is the hammer I require, then do what You must.

Couldn't You just speak me into shape?

April 16, 2004

To Please Him

Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown. Leviticus 9:24

God was pleased. Aaron did everything he was commanded. The burnt offering was laid upon the altar, and God literally reached out and took it. Everything was consumed, and the people shouted for joy.

Lord, there is nothing more exciting than pleasing You. For You to reach out and receive the offerings I present to You brings a satisfaction that no earthly pleasure can match. But how often do I cling to the offerings I should give You, rather than freely laying them down?

Aaron put the offering upon the altar, then he stepped away. It was then that You took it. If he had remained, he would have been in Your way. He would have been consumed by the fire.

Help me, Jesus, to lay down my sacrifice - then to step down out of Your way. Forgive me for holding fast to the things that belong to You. I want to please You and You alone.

Be my all-consuming fire today!

May 31, 2004

Getting Your Hands Dirty

"After than, the priest must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water. He may then come into the camp, but he will be ceremonially unclean until evening." Numbers 19:7

God established an ordinance for using ashes and water to purify those made unclean by a dead body. Interestingly, the steps required of the priest for preparing the ashes made him ceremonially unclean; in order for others to be made clean, the priest was made unclean.

The reality is: it takes getting your hands dirty for something to be made clean. We are an example of that. Jesus had to die in order to bring life. There is no easy way around the pain. We cannot be made clean without it.

Lord, a day is coming when I will finally feel clean, but it will take lots of dirty work along the way. Give me the courage to do what it takes. Make me clean. Do not cast me out from Your presence.

June 14, 2004

Details

"'In addition to what you vow and your freewill offerings, prepare these for the Lord at your appointed feasts: your burnt offerings, grain offerings, drink offerings and fellowship offerings.'" Numbers 29:39

For years the Israelites had been celebrating God's appointed feasts. As they were preparing to enter the promised land, God reminded them of these feasts. Yet He seemed to require more. When compared to His earlier command, God's reminder is filled with detail not previously recorded. The specifics about each sacrifice were omitted from Leviticus, yet they appear in the Book of Numbers.

Why the difference, Lord? Why does Scripture not record the sacrificial ordinance with the original command? Did you not require specific animals before this time? Is this something new?

I guess this is a good analogy of the Christian life. From the beginning, we have only one thing in mind - salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. Yet, the longer we walk this journey, the more detailed the requirements become. Oh, we are always to walk in grace and mercy. But in addition, we are to understand the importance of humility - the importance of doing justly. The mature Christian is more often concerned with others than himself. To expect full understanding of these things by a new Christian is like expecting a child to understand the ways of an adult.

Lord, am I ready for new things - for new detail in my walk with You? I long to be near You. I long to understand the deep things of God. Is it time to grow up? Give me Your understanding, so I might love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly by Your side.

June 27, 2004

Alright, Already!

But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. "That is enough," the Lord said. "Do not speak to me anymore about this matter." Deuteronomy 3:26

Moses messed up, and he had to face the consequence. His anger caused him to strike a rock rather than speaking to it. Instead of honoring God, he took control. For this, he could not enter the promised land.

Yet, it appears he didn't stop asking. God finally told him, "Do not speak to me anymore about this matter." It seems like God is saying, "Alright, already! Quit asking; My answer is NO."

Lord, I don't like it when Your answer is "no." I realize that consequence is a part of life, but I selfishly want my way all the time. Help me to accept Your will. Help me to honor You. Forgive the ways I dishonor You.

July 1, 2004

Little By Little

"The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you." Deuteronomy 7:22

God's plan is more often gradual than it is immediate. The Israelites were assured that the promised land would be theirs. The nations before them would be driven out - little by little. God planned this to protect His children. They were not yet large enough to occupy the entire land, and the wild animals would overrun the cities that were to be their inheritance.

Lord, too often I grumble that my desire for righteousness hasn't been met in a more timely fashion. I know You have a plan. Sometimes, I grow weary from waiting. But when I consider Your reasons, I am grateful. Time continues to build into me compassion, understanding - strength of character. Help me to be patient, Lord. I trust You. Help me to honor You in all I do today and in the days to follow.

July 17, 2004

How do we know?

You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?" Deuteronomy 18:21

How do we know God's voice?

The answer is pretty simple. If it comes true, it was Him. If it never happens, it wasn't.

Lord, I don't know if I like this - waiting to know if it was You speaking. Okay, if something doesn't happen, it wasn't You, but I could wait my whole life to discover I listened to something else. My desire is to clearly hear Your voice and to know beyond all doubt that it is You.

This is where Your Spirit makes the difference. Most real communication occurs within the context of relationship. Through a relationship with Your Son, we no longer need to wonder. I can know it is You because I know Your heart.

Father, I want to know You. I want to hear Your voice. Fill me with Your Spirit. Protect me from the evil one.

August 28, 2004

In the Immediate

”I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Life really boils down to two things: Jesus Christ or the world. With Jesus, we find peace. With the world, we find trouble. Understanding this, how could I ever find myself choosing the world over Christ? But I wonder… Is my intention to abandon what I know to be right? Do I actually choose one over the other?

If I am faced with the choice, if I have the time to stand back and weigh the options, if I look at the fork in the road fully knowing that one path leads to pain and the other leads to joy, wouldn’t Christ be my only choice? I would like to think so, but I know that my human nature can be a strong foe.

The truth is that when I am faced with the options, there are times I don’t really want to choose; there are times I hesitate. This indecision – this hesitation, can often be my downfall.

You see, Jesus forces Himself upon no one. He gives us the freedom to choose. The world, on the other hand, will force itself upon us every time. Isn’t it interesting that two of my greatest struggles in life are apathy and procrastination? If I could learn to choose Christ in the immediate, maybe peace would not so often elude me.

Father, make me a decisive man who confidently chooses Christ the moment I am faced with the choice between Your way and the world’s way. Help me to overcome the world. Help me to choose You – in the immediate.

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.

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 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 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.

October 5, 2004

Would you pass?

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you - unless, of course, you fail the test? 2 Corinthians 13:5

If Christianity required that we take a test, would I pass it? If someone were to closely examine my life, what would he find? Would there be evidence of His presence? There would certainly be secrets that might shock a few, but would someone see Him? And how long would that search require?

My prayer is that Jesus Christ is evident, even to the casual observer. If it takes close examination in order to see Him, I need to make a change.

Lord, my only hope is Christ in me. I long to live a life that reflects You. Sometimes I still miss the mark. Sometimes I still hide in the dark.

Help me to pass the test.

October 11, 2004

Evil Desires

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies so that you obey its evil desires. Romans 6:12

A Christian's struggle with sin is not a new phenomenon. Accepting Christ as Savior doesn't flip some magical switch that instantly transforms us. We are still mortal. We still reside in this body that has been trained to seek out what is contrary to God's plan. Evil desires are a part of the human condition, and sin is not easily removed from our bodies.

Lord, there are certain things about myself that I am learning to accept. The evil desires in me, although I hate to admit it, are a part of who I am. Surrendering to righteousness does not require that I change these desires, for they come with the territory; they are a part of this fallen world. Surrendering to righteousness involves turning from the desires my body has come to know.

Help me, Lord, to die to sin. Help me to disregard the evil my body desires. Help me to seek holiness today.

October 13, 2004

The Spirit of Sonship

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." Romans 8:15

I am so tired of being afraid. For much of my life, I have been a slave to fear. How easily I forget that I have received a Spirit of sonship. The next time I sense that sin is watching - the next time I find myself face to face with temptation, I need to remember these words: "My Dad is bigger than your dad; He can take your dad any day!"

Lord, when sin reaches out to introduce himself to me, I too often find myself trembling in fear. Alone, I am too weak to fight it. But I know You are with me. Give me the confidence to say, "You don't own me!" I belong to You, Father. Hold me close. Fight the battles for me. Help me to see victory in this life!

October 14, 2004

Why did you make me like this?

But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" Romans 9:20

Paul asks the question, "Who are you to talk back to God?" He's right. Who are we to question God - to doubt His perfect will? But we do it anyway.

Possibly the most amazing truth is: God lets us!

He is big enough to handle our questions and doubts. His esteem is not damaged if we talk back to Him. He loves us and will never turn away if we cast undeserved blame on Him.

Many ask, "Why did you make me like this?" If we were puppets, unable to make a free will choice, this might be a valid question. But God doesn't make us to sin; He allows us to sin. His will is never to harm us, but to prosper us.

Lord, there are many who cast the blame on You. "Why did you make me like this?" If I believe the lies of the world that our genes determine our disposition, I might be asking the same question. But I know the truth. You have carried me through - despite the sinner I have become. Circumstances and choices make us who we are. Every one of them, You allow. And everything You allow has a purpose. Every bit of it can draw us back to You - if we allow it.

Help me, Spirit, to see the truth in every circumstance. Help me to understand how my choices have great power to form me. I long to be formed by You. Place Your loving hands on my heart.

Keep me from pride.

October 16, 2004

How much greater!

But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! Romans 11:12

It is truly amazing how God can use failure to bring about success. The Hebrews, His chosen children, rejected Him. When they were given the opportunity to walk with His Son - to exalt Him - to follow Him, they chose to crucify Him instead. Yet it was Christ's crucifixion and subsequent that brought salvation to the world.

Life from Death.

Paul was a Jew. Although he was the apostle to the Gentiles, he never lost the love for his own people. He spoke of their rebellion with sadness, and he acknowledged that it was the hardening of their hearts that opened the door for salvation. But Paul poses a consideration: "How much greater will their fullness bring!" If rebellion brought salvation, what wonderful things would come from obedience?

It isn't easy to admit, but I love rebellion. Not only does it bring momentary pleasure, but in some twisted way I have come to believe that it draws me closer to God. I know this is foolishness. The truth is that rebellion pulls me away from God. But somehow, I've turned it around. I almost enjoy falling in the pit, because it is in the pit that God has held me the tightest.

Lord, I'm having a tough time grasping the idea of holiness. What does it look like to follow You and You alone? It seems when I draw closer to You, I sabotage myself. If I were to let go of my sinful nature, how will I be drawn to You?

I am afraid.

Help me to see that letting go - that giving You the reins - will bring life as I could never have imagined it. How much greater will fullness bring! Let me see it in this lifetime.

October 22, 2004

Another Way

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. Psalm 1:6

If we were all completely honest, what is it that most of us want in life? I believe the answer boils down to one word: PLEASURE.

Even the most melancholy of individuals wants to enjoy life. Oftentimes, a strange delight can be found in the sadness. Depression - despite how painful it can be - provides a sense of comfort; at least it is something familiar.

Eventually, we lose the sense of satisfaction that may have been discovered, and the search continues for that new source of fulfillment - for that next fix - for that pleasure. Once we find it, we might be pleased for a moment. But again, even it will fade.

There is another way.

Seeking the Lord brings satisfaction that lasts far beyond this lifetime. Meditating on His Word and striving continually to hear His voice open the door to pleasures untold, for when we seek to know Him we experience intimacy never known between two human beings. We come to understand that we are truly known by Him - that He knew us before the very foundations of the earth were laid. He longs to be intimately involved in the journey. He watches over every step we might take.

Lord, I have been on a journey. Sometimes, I have gone my own way. Other times, I have followed Your way. Your way is always best. No matter the pleasure I may find on my own paths, it always seems to perish in my hands. Help me, Lord, for I have embarked on a new path. For possibly the first time, I am starting to see beyond the horizon. There is so much in store. Let my greatest delight come from knowing You.

October 31, 2004

The Greater Truth

You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed. Psalm 10:17-18a

Have you ever known someone who seems to crave oppression? Someone who always ends up as a victim? It sounds ridiculous. Who in their right mind would desire affliction?

No matter how outrageous it sounds, there is comfort in being a victim, for a victim is not responsible for the crime. Oh, he may have contributed to the circumstance. How many defense attorneys have tried to shift the blame: "If she hadn't been so provocatively dressed..."?

There is something about being oppressed that is almost addictive. When one lives life constantly falling down, there is little expectation for him to produce - to succeed - to lead the way. A weak man is rarely expected to guide the strong, so there is safety in weakness. How can you fail, if you never try? If you are never expected to lead?

O Lord, I have trusted You in weakness, but can I trust You in strength? I am so afraid of failure that I sometimes quit the race rather than losing it. If I show myself to be strong, if my wife sees me as a leader in our home, if my employer sees me as a leader at work... what will happen if I fail? I am afraid others will learn the truth: I am not strong; I am weak.

But there is a greater truth: I am weak; You are strong.

Father, help me to stop being a victim. Help me to grab hold of life. Help me to understand that it isn't about my success or failure; it is about Your glory. If I fail, others can be encouraged by the way You bring about success. Fill me with joy. Fill me with strength. Help me to no longer desire affliction, but to desire You.

November 5, 2004

Even When It Hurts

... who keeps his oath even when it hurts. Psalm 15:4b

An oath - a vow - a commitment... Each one requires resolve. Each one requires diligence. Each one requires sacrifice. Are these merely the same thing?

An oath is something that is taken. "I... do solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..." This is said by every man or woman who enters the United States military - from the lowest private to the Command-in-Chief. These words require a soldier to stay the course - to defend our country and its foundation - even to the point of death.

A vow is something that is given. "In token and pledge, I give you this ring as a symbol of my constant faith and abiding love..." Words similar to these are spoken by every man and woman who enter the vow of marriage. They require a spouse to stay the course - to remain side by side - till death do us part.

A commitment is something that is made. It is standing by a friend through thick and thin. It is the embodiment of the same resolve, diligence, and sacrifice required by an oath - by a vow.

What is it that makes these so similar?

An oath is taken, a vow is given, a commitment is made... even when it hurts.

Lord, I don't know if I like this fact; being mature and responsible will cause pain. But it helps me to understand why some people never really grow up - why I still struggle to this day. When everything in life seems to have caused pain, why would I choose more?

Father, help me to see that pain is a part of life, but staying the course - even when it hurts - will bring rewards beyond anything this life can bring. Let me dwell in Your sanctuary today.

November 7, 2004

A Likeness of HIM

And I - in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness. Psalm 17:15

When you look in the mirror every morning, what do you see? What likeness do you see?

Do you see a man who is full of guilt? Maybe you see a man who is broken by his sin, a man who can never seem to get it all together. Maybe you see a man who, despite how hard he tries, constantly falls down, a man ruled by his desires, his habits, his addictions.

Do you see a man trapped by the evil of the world?

Or do you see a man who is free from guilt? Maybe you see a man whose will has been broken by the very hand of God, a man who turns to the Spirit to keep it all together. Maybe you see a man who understands God's grace and has quit trying to do it on his own, a man who no longer hides in the darkness but dances in the light.

Do you see the very likeness of God?

If you don't, maybe you should. We are all created in God's image. Every time we look in the mirror, it is Him we should see. We were not meant to look like the world.

Lord, for so many years it has been painful to look in the mirror. How many times have I stood wondering, "Who is that man? How has he fallen so far away? Will he ever overcome the wounds of the enemy?" But truly, it is Your intention - Your hope - that the likeness we see in the mirror is Yours, for that is how You made us to be.

For most of my life, I have struggled with my self-image; I have struggled to face the man in the mirror. Even God's grace wasn't enough to change my opinion. But something is happening, Lord. You are healing me. You are giving me eyes that can see Your image more clearly each time I look in the mirror. Now, I can see a man who has been set free by the blood of Christ.

How marvelous You are! How wonderful is Your grace! How beautiful is the likeness I see!

November 10, 2004

The Desire of Your Heart

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

What is the desire of your heart?

We all have one, but does anyone really know what it is? Is there something we can do to identify it?

Like the leaves on a tree, the desire of the heart seems to change with the seasons of life. A child longs to live a carefree life. An adult quickly learns that there is no such thing as a carefree life. A child strives for independence - a chance to solve his own problems. An adult would sometimes give anything he could for someone else to solve the problems in life.

How can I ever know if this desire has been met if I cannot name it?

God's ways are not our ways. To be truly free, I must release my grip on freedom - sacrificing my free will for God's will. To be truly independent, I must become fully dependent - trusting in the Lord for the smallest things everyday.

Lord, it seems my whole life has been an expedition - a search to discover the greatest desire of my heart. But I've been looking in the wrong place! I will never find it by looking in my own heart. I will never find it by looking the hearts of those around me. The only way to find it - the only way to give it a name - is to look in Your heart.

Jesus, what is Your greatest desire? When I find it, I will have discovered my own. Give me the desire of my heart, Father. Let Your desire be mine today.

November 11, 2004

From the Outside-In

Through the victories you gave, his glory is great; you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty. Psalm 21:5

There are many Psalms that David wrote about the king. He honored the king and his success.

Wait a minute! David IS the king. He was speaking in third person, and he was honoring himself. This seems a little proud to me.

Despite his failures, David had an uncanny knack for seeing himself from the outside-in rather than the inside-out. In truth, this is something we should all do every once in awhile. Can I remember examining my life from the outside? I'm too often stuck on the inside. I can't seem to see the real picture: God is blessing me!

Lord, we should all be living examined lives. Without accountability and support from the outside, I would be in a very different place. Normally, I too often examine my imperfections from the inside without acknowledging what I do well. This has left me with a miserable picture of this man - who was created in Your image.

Spirit, begin to weave into me a new understanding of the ways I have been blessed. If I cannot rejoice in the blessings, how can I ever share them with others? Help me to look at myself and say, "Hey - he's getting it together. God has bestowed splendor and majesty upon him."

November 17, 2004

Level Ground

My feet stand on level ground; in the great assembly I will praise the Lord. Psalm 26:12

Life is such a climb. It seems every day is filled with mountains to ascend. The higher you go, the tougher it seems to be. But it is all for a purpose.

There is level ground at the top.

Lord, I'm weary from climbing. I'm afraid I could easily slip and fall down the mountainside. Thank You for sending fellow climbers into my life who encourage me - who keep me from falling - who even carry me when I can go no farther.

Place my feet on level ground today. Help me to honor You in all I do.

November 24, 2004

Time to Dance

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11

There comes a point when the mourning is over. Tears are more controlled. Anger subsides. Laughter comes without guilt. The mourning clothes are stored away.

With any loss there is grief. When the grief ends, life begins.

A friend of mine has died. His death has been the toughest challenge of my life. He was closer to me than a brother. Every step along the way, he took with me. Every word I spoke, he heard. Every dream I had, he shared. There is nothing that he didn't know about me. I have been grieving his loss. I have tried to deny he is gone, but through the acceptance of his death, I can truly begin to live.

The one who has died is me - the old me, the man who tried to woo the love of the world - the one who, deep down, believed he was unlovable.

He is no longer. Now, I am free.

Father, what has happened to me? For so many years I tried to breathe life into a dead man, but only You can give life. For so many years I mourned - not knowing exactly why, but the mourning is over. It is time to put away the sackcloth. It is time to clothe myself with joy. It is time to dance.

Would You care to dance with me?

November 25, 2004

In the Sight of Others

How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. Psalm 31:19

When God is really working in your life, others will see it. The goodness He bestows on us cannot be hidden, and those who know us best will start to say, "You have changed."

What wonderful words to hear! What a wonderful God He is!

Lord, You have bestowed on me good things, and others have noticed. What a blessing You are! What a blessing it is to be free from the pit. Help me to only fear You. Keep me far from the darkness. I never want to return. My greatest desire is to stay in the light where others can see the works of Your hands. Glory be to Your Name!

December 3, 2004

In His Grip

If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37:28-24

I think I'm an expert at falling down. If it were an olympic sport, I would have won the gold medal by now. Throughout my life I have discovered so many new and creative ways to start something with passion and fail miserably. It is almost an art form.

But through it all, the Lord has chosen to reach out, to grab hold of me, and to set my feet firmly on solid ground. By His amazing grace, He has given me the chance to start again.

Lord, this time is going to be different. Hold me in Your grip like never before. I want to literally be attached to You, so I will no longer lose my footing. Forgive me, Father, for my failures. Quiet the mouth of the enemy. I am not the wicked man he wants me to believe. I am Yours.

December 5, 2004

I'll Be Waiting

I wait for you, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God. Psalm 38:15

When I was younger, I prayed for patience not realizing how God normally answers this request. He taught me patience by making me wait. There were tough things - like waiting for the right job. There were exciting things - like waiting for babies to be born. But the story I always tell people is how God taught me patients when I started working with clay.

Clay - like many circumstances - won't be rushed. Moving too quickly on the wheel can result in a pretty big mess. Forcing the clay to drive too quickly can result in unwanted cracks, rendering a piece useless. Like most potters, I learned the hard way - working with clay takes patience.

The truth is though, I may be a more patient man than I once was (ask my wife), but I still hate to wait (ask my wife).

Lord, will I ever really learn this lesson of waiting? I'm always in such a hurry to get to the next step. I so often forget to linger - to slow down enough to notice the little things. I so often forget to savor - to enjoy the pleasures of being alive.

Father, I'm going to try hesitating when my normal response is to hurry. I'm going to try watching for You when my normal response is to go it alone. Help me to slow down today. Come, Lord Jesus.

I'll be waiting.

December 23, 2004

Broken by Choice

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:17

People have often told me that I am like David - a man after God's own heart. I'm not sure how I feel about this. What a compliment, but what a challenge!

Like David, my deepest desire is to glorify God. And unfortunately like David, I make lots of mistakes that are far from glorifying to Him. Sometimes I feel like I redefine the phrase, "We are all human."

God has blessed me with many talents, yet I have always struggled with how I see myself. I believe David struggled here as well. Although God's praise is far better that the praise of men, it can be devastating when others point out my faults. This is what happened to David. The prophet Nathan rebuked the king for his adultery, and he was completely devastated. The reality of his imperfection was a heavy burden to bear.

The biggest lesson I have learned from David in this is not about doing the right things - about staying on the path of the law, which would have kept him out of trouble in the first place. The biggest lesson I think I am learning is how to be broken - not by the words or actions of others, but broken by choice. When, in our pride, we cling to our free will choices to sin, death and devastation will result. But coming to God broken and contrite will only lead to life and healing.

Lord, for over forty years I have held on to my rights, my ability to choose what I want. This process of changing my choices - of willingly being broken - has been horrible and wonderful. How awesome it is to know that I will not be despised when I come to You. Put the pieces back together, Father. Teach me Your ways, so I might glorify You.

December 25, 2004

What do others think of me?

The righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at him saying, "Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!" Psalm 52:6-7

What do others think of me?

Why do I so often ask this question? My worry about meeting everyone else's expectations has been a catalyst that drives me to perfection. Maybe if I can impress them, I will be worth something...

The fallacy with this kind of thinking is that we can never please everyone. In the end, the catalyst - the drive for perfection - becomes a cage that keeps us from true contentment. It becomes a chain that keeps us from the joy God intends.

The lesson I have struggled to learn is not so much worrying about "what" others think, but "who" is thinking it. If I seek to live a life that pleases the world, contentment is forever elusive. But concerning myself with the opinion of the righteous is a good thing. It keeps me from sin; it directs me to the Father.

Lord, when I consider my life, I am often saddened. Have I gained my strength by making You my stronghold? What would the righteous say of me? In my adolescence, I felt an insult directed at another was a good thing. For just a moment, my imperfection could be overshadowed by someone else's. Unfortunately, this practice carried over into adulthood. But we never succeed by tearing down another. You are the only source of real strength.

Be my stronghold. I long to trust in You. Let me be remembered as a man who sought to build and not destroy.

December 29, 2004

Just Change!

God, who is enthroned forever, will hear them and afflict them - men who never change their ways and have no fear of God. Psalm 55:19

Have you ever known someone who always seems to be afflicted with something? No matter how great things may be, he always seems to see the negative. Maybe he struggles with depression. Maybe life has dealt him a bad hand. Maybe he is simply a pessimist who likes to steal the attention - if only for a moment.

The surest way for him to remain afflicted is to merely stay where he is. Life will never seem to get better if he never moves - never attempts to change. His ways will always lead to the same dark place.

But there is hope. The affliction need not continue. God can and will meet him. God will heal him. God will bring him into the light. But it will require him to change.

Lord, I am that man who often sees the negative. No matter how much You have blessed me, I tend to get stuck in the dark. Help me to change my ways. Help me to see the hope You bring. Help me to continue on this path of freedom. I no longer want to go my way.

Help me to follow Yours.

January 16, 2005

Dry and Weary

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

Gary Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages, has done a great deal for my marriage. Understanding my wife's primary love language has helped me to take steps in expressing how much she means to me. I'd like to say that I have learned to speak her language fluently, but there are times that "quality time," which happens to be her language, still seems like gibberish - in an unspoken sort of way.

In his book, Mr. Chapman provides good insight on identifying your primary language. He suggests considering which of the languages that, if it is withheld, will cause an individual to feel rejected. This advice made mine very easy to identify. Mine is "physical touch." (I know... you might say most men fall into this category, but it's not just about sex.) I can literally tell you how many times during the day that I have experienced any human contact, and when I am deprived for very long, my body literally longs for another person to acknowledge my existence in the simplest of ways. A hand on the shoulder, a light grab of the arm, and sometimes a monstrous bear hug can do wonders to meet the longing within me.

To be honest, there is a part of me that feels almost defective because of my need for physical touch. My head tells me that I should be content with connecting in spiritual ways - as if I am less mature because I cannot simply deny the longings of my body. But the truth is: God made us as physical beings. We cannot deny who we are. For some of us, our family of origin did a poor job in meeting our need for touch, and we will always seem to sink without it.

David knew what it was like to feel physical needs. In the desert he grew weary, and rather than simply wanting to connect with God on some spiritual plane, he acknowledged that his body longed for God. There is nothing wrong with physical need. God made us to enjoy our bodies and to long for the touch of another.

Lord, at times I have tried to deny the truth. I have tried to appear more "spiritual" than I should. I have a need for human touch, and unfortunately I haven't always met this need appropriately. Help me to be holy in this regard. Send those to me who might acknowledge me in loving ways. In a dry and weary land, my body longs for You.

Will You hold me today?

January 24, 2005

A Place of Abundance

For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. Psalm 66:10-12

We are always thankful for God's blessing, but can we learn to thank Him for the troubles?

The emotional prisons, the heavy burden of sin, the ridicule of other men, the searing of the soul, the times when taking the next breath seems impossible... Can I be thankful for these? Can I understand how trouble has made me stronger?

The joy of abundance is so much sweeter to those who have lived in poverty. The unconditional love of God is so precious to the man who struggles to remember a time of acceptance and love.

Lord, You have brought me to a place of abundance. The famines in my life have not taken it from me; they have made me more aware of Your rich blessing. But now, what am I supposed to do with it? I feel an abundance of spirit like never before, and I don't know what to do.

So much of me wants to go back - to the prisons - to the pain - to the things I once knew. Yet I know, just as returning to Egypt was no longer an option for the Israelites, I have no other choice. Once the promised land is in sight, Your people cannot turn back. Those who refuse to move forward are destined to wander - destined to die in the desert.

Father, I don't want to wander anymore. I want to enjoy an abundant life with You. Give me clarity. Help me to see how all the pieces fit together. Give me a vision that will bring others to this place of abundance as well.

February 11, 2005

Every Step

Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. Psalm 77:19

I just love footprints.

Every time I come across tracks in the snow or the sand, I find myself acting like a little kid - tracing them exactly. It is so much fun to walk in someone else's footsteps or try tracing my own.

Footprints are especially handy if you've ever been lost. There is nothing more frightening than realizing you've gone too far off a mountain path. All the trees start to look alike, then irrational thoughts of rescuers finding you deep in the woods days later start running through your mind. Discovering footprints that lead back to the trail is quite a relief. Footprints simply make life easier sometimes.

If only I could learn to closely follow Jesus' steps. I would never be lost again.

But what about the times I can't find His footprints? How often have I heard someone ask - heard myself ask - "Where was God when that happened?" Like the Footprints story, I sometimes wonder where God was. Was He really carrying me? Or are the footprints in the sand really mine?

Lord, I'm tired of getting lost along the path of Your will. Too many times I have strayed only to fall into dark and lonely places. Give me eyes to see Your footprints when others cannot see them. Help me to follow them. When others look at my life, let them only see the path You made for me. Like a child hopping from one to another, I want my tracks to disappear.

May every step I take be Yours.

February 15, 2005

I'll follow You anywhere!

If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! Psalm 81:13-14

I've heard people sometimes speak about the Old Testament as if it has nothing to do with our world today. They seem to be saying, "That is the way God was." Their only focus is on the New Testament.

What a foolish thing to believe! If I know anything for sure, it is the fact that the word "was" can never be used to describe God.

He always "IS."

There is so much to be learned from the lives of the patriarch. The Israelite journey to the promised land, their loss of it, and their eventual restoration bring hope to me. Christians are not immune to sin anymore than the Israelites were. Falling down is in our nature; we live in a fallen world. I have learned this lesson all too well. Another lesson that amazes me is how quickly God responds when we listen to Him - when we follow His ways.

Years ago, He told me that if I would follow Him, He could use me more in ten years than in a lifetime of trying to do it by myself. I listened for awhile, then I grew impatient. Taking back my destiny, I discovered that the enemy is ready to snatch us away. Here I sit, a decade later, wondering how I did it. How did I so easily turn back to the ways of the world?

Lord, come quickly to rescue me from the enemy. Restore what has been destroyed. Return what I have given away. Bring me to a new place of understanding that can bring greater glory to You that I could have imagined at the start of this journey.

I'll follow You anywhere!

March 1, 2005

Send Righteous Ahead!

Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps. Psalm 85:13

It seems sometimes that the enemy is lurking everywhere we walk. Little temptations - little attacks - await us around every corner. There are times when I am physically exhausted by the spiritual battles I must fight. And the enemy knows - the longer he attacks, the greater the likelihood I will give in.

What is a man to do?

The answer may seem plain... walk a different way. But what if that isn't an option? What then?

The psalmist gives us the clue. Send righteousness ahead! He will prepare the way.

Lord, too often I forget that I have power over the enemy. Your Spirit dwells within me. He will keep me from the enemy's snares.

Holy Spirit, prepare my way today!

March 4, 2005

Wonders for the Dead

Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do those who are dead rise up and praise you? Psalm 88:10

This psalm is unusual. It lacks something that is commonly found in almost all the Psalms.

It lacks hope.

How sad the writer must have been. To feel cut off - to call darkness his closest friend - to only know God's wrath... he suffered pain that few can really understand.

I understand.

For I have been in that dark place. I have felt that my friends are repulsed by me. I have experienced the pain of feeling forgotten.

Yet even now... those feelings are becoming memories. In His amazing way, God is bringing me to life.

If I could speak to this psalmist, I would say, "Yes, God shows wonders to the dead! For while I was dean in sin, He gave me life." Each new day the darkness becomes less attractive. It is merely dark. The light is where I want to be.

Lord, there was a day - not very long ago - when the words of this psalm were my own. Can it be real? Can I really be alive? You really do love me, don't You. How wonderful You are . You have raised the dead.

I long to praise You. What an awesome God You are!

March 7, 2005

A Heart of Wisdom

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Foolishness comes naturally. It takes no special training - no special preparation. It just happens. A fool learns nothing from the consequence, and his sin forever weighs him down.

Yet wisdom is learned over time. It takes practice. A wise man can do foolish things, but it is what he does afterwards that makes the difference. For a wise man remembers the consequence of his foolishness, and he understands how to avoid it.

Lord, for years I lived in regret over the foolish choices I have made in life. But it is interesting... As I learn to choose wisely, my regret seems to lessen. The man I am is the sum of all my choices - good and bad, and as I gain wisdom, I have also gained something unexpected: forgiveness - not so much from You, but from myself. Father, help me to choose wisely, and when I don't, help me to forgive, to learn, and to grow from it.

March 23, 2005

Slipping

When I said, "My foot is slipping," your love, O Lord, supported me. Psalm 94:18

If I am honest about my feelings, there are times in life that I have resented God for the lessons He teaches me. Too often I wonder why He allowed me to fall down.

If He really loved me, wouldn't He protect me from it?

The truth is - I fall down because I don't ask for His help. Even so, God's love doesn't always make sense to me.

I know it is more loving to allow someone to grow than it is to keep him from it, even when it is painful. How loving is it for a parent to carry a toddler everywhere - never allowing him to walk? His growth would be stunted. He would be forever dependent on his parent and could never fully enjoy life. A loving parent stands back - watches - prays - and stays posed and ready to reach out the moment his child cries for help.

But sometimes I wish growing didn't hurt so much.

Lord, help me to ask for help. Forgive my arrogance and pride. So many times I refuse to say, "My foot is slipping!" Protect me. When I begin to slip, come to my rescue.

March 24, 2005

Goobers

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. Psalm 95:7b-8

A friend recently described all human beings as goobers. I think I have to agree.

Sometimes, we are so stupid. God has given us so much. He proves Himself time and time again, but so often when we hear His voice, we harden our hearts.

God had shown Himself to the Israelites in the desert. He literally opened the Red Sea to save them. He sent manna from heaven to feed them. He was the daytime cloud and the nighttime fire that led them. Yet when the people grew thirsty, they abandoned their trust of Him. They longed to return to Egypt - a place of bondage and slavery.

The Israelites were goobers.

We are still goobers.

How often do we discount the work God has done in us? How many times do we abandon Him? How many times do we harden our hearts to His voice?

I am learning this trust thing is tough. Every day I am faced with the challenge of believing His will is best for me. But I try to remember, slavery on the most fertile plain without God is no match for freedom in the desert with Him. I may grow weary in the desert, but returning isn't an option. Seeking life away from God always leads to death.

Can a recovering alcoholic return to his drunkenness without causing harm? Can a recovering drug addict return to a chemical fix without the threat of death? Can a recovering sex addict return to the worship of images and compulsions without eventually destroying himself?

Returning to slavery isn't an option.

Lord, help me to trust You when I am weary. This Christian walk can be tiring, but I know You provide a place to rest - a place of refreshment and life. Help me to find that place today. Help me to not harden my heart to Your voice.

Help me to not be a goober.

March 31, 2005

Quit Scratching!

My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me. Psalm 101:6

Have you ever heard the saying, "If you lie down with dogs, you'll get up with fleas"? Associating with the wrong crowd has a great deal to do with who we become.

Any parent will tell you; there are certain friends you simply don't want around your children. But there's more to it than staying away from the troublemakers. It's about surrounding ourselves with others who seek righteousness. For the paths we walk alone tend to lead to the wrong destinations.

Lord, I have grown tired of the lonely paths. I have spent too much time scratching the fleas. Thank You for surrounding me with those who are seeking You. I am so blessed! Help me to keep my eyes on the faithful. Help me to honor You in all I do.

April 6, 2005

Reminders

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. Psalm 105:5

The Israelites are reminded so many times in the Bible about their history. Throughout Scripture, story after story is told of how God brought them out of Egypt, how He cared for them in the desert, and how He gave them the land that was promised to Abraham.

Even with all these reminders, His chosen people still fell away at times.

Lord, help me to no longer fall away from You. Help me to remember the works of Your hands. Through Your amazing grace, I have been rescued from the pit. The weight of the shackles forged by my sin has been lifted; I no longer carry them. But I am still afraid. Will I forget? Will I find myself lost and alone again? Continue to make me new. Let me see reminders of Your plan. Bring me into the land which has been promised. Bring glory to Your Name.

April 12, 2005

The Straight Way

He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. Psalm 107:7

Wandering.

How many people are merely wandering through life?

Without God, every man wanders, for none of us know the way - the way to freedom, healing, and peace. But with Him, we need not wander. His way leads to all we have ever wanted.

An interesting point: His way is always shortest. It's basic geometry. What is the shortest distance between two points? A straight line.

By a straight way, God leads us to a place we can settle.

Lord, I'm tired of the desert wastelands. I'm tired of wandering without You. It seems I have spent my whole life walking on crooked paths. Thank You for Your unfailing love.

Help me to walk the straight way.

April 29, 2005

What We Worship

Those who make them will be like them, and so will those who trust in them. Psalm 115:8

We become like what we worship.

Think about it. A man who worships material things, like cars for instance, becomes pretty high maintenance. He consumes everything he is given, and eventually he will waste away in a cemetery like a car in a junkyard.

A man who worships pornography becomes as depraved as the images he watches. Like seeds that grow out of control, images planted in a man's mind can lead him places he never dreamed. Intrigue eventually becomes action that escalates to darkness and death. Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahlmer never realized that mere pictures were leading them on paths of depravity and murder.

A man who worships the praise of other men will become shallow and lonely. Friendships that are based on accolades and fun never go beneath the surface. Eventually, the plaques on the wall merely gather dust. One can find himself in a room of acquaintances and no real friends. No one really knows him, and he doesn't know anyone else. In truth, he is alone.

Lord, I want to be like You. Help me to focus my worship on Your Son, Jesus. While He walked the earth, He changed lives. He healed. He forgave. He sacrificed everything for others. He defines true servanthood and leadership. Help me to worship You today and everyday.

May 14, 2005

Suffering

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. Psalm 119:50

This may sound strange, but I think I'm addicted to suffering. For so many years, I have lived in dark pits and lonely valleys, many of my own making. It was in these dark places that I could hide. In them, also, is where the Comforter met me. Whenever sadness and depression loomed, the Father sent help - a peace that passes all understanding.

Like a junkie surviving from one fix to the next, I longed for those times when the Spirit would come to cover me in the shelter of His wing. Somehow, I came to believe that suffering was the only way to experience the Presence.

But there is more to life than suffering. There is joy. There is faith. There is hope. There is perfect love. The enemy wants us to believe death is our only destination, but the Father created us for life. Jesus died, so we could live and live abundantly.

Lord, I am learning so much about really living, but it is still confusing at times. I don't know what it is to find peace in the good times. My heart is conditioned for suffering. This makes no sense, yet it makes perfect sense. It is through suffering that we find life. Save me from my addiction, Lord Jesus.

5/17/05 - I shared these words with a friend this morning - okay, it was my therapist, and he challenged me to reconsider. Am I really addicted to suffering? Or is it simply what I have always known? Is it merely an oddly comfortable place for me because it is familiar? The truth is: I hate suffering. More than my own suffering, I hate to see others suffer, and I would subject myself to great pain so others won't. Am I taking too much upon myself? Of course - that seems to be the norm for me.

Lord, help me to only live through the pains that belong to me. What joy am I keeping from others by not allowing them to grow through suffering? What joy am I keeping from myself? Jesus, thank You for suffering in my place.

May 17, 2005

Good Affliction

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. Psalm 119:71

It is impossible to learn how to walk without falling down. When we open ourselves to growing the way God desires, afflictions will come, pain will be experienced, and failure will be realized. Yet we learn so much from the failures!

Lord, forgive my conscious choices to sin. I am learning more than I would like at times. I am still failing more than I would like at times. But things are different. Your grace makes sense. In some odd way, I am learning to let You love me - through me. I'm worth more than I've ever understood. Help me to walk in Your ways - no matter how many times I might fall.

May 22, 2005

The Right Heritage

Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. Psalm 119:111

What kind of heritage do you have? Is it a proud one? Or is it something you hide? Do you come from a line of statesmen - preachers - physicians - military men? Or do you come from a line of hopeless failures - men who struggled with life - whose children rarely speak much of them after they are gone? Unfortunately, too many of us have been left a heritage that is less than ideal.

The truth is: a heritage is not important. God can change the course of future generations through the words and actions of one man. Too often, however, what we are given by those who come before us impedes who we are today. It alters the choices we make. It distorts our belief in who we really are - about who God intended us to be.

Sadly, the heritage that harms us the greatest is given by those who should believe in us the most. The words and actions of our parents may instill hope, or they may bring despair. How many of us have heard the words, "You are a disappointment to me"? How many of us live up to low expectations, rather than rising above them? When will we learn that the only heritage that is truly important comes from our Heavenly Father. His Word - His action - is our heritage. He believes in us. How can we do any less?

Father, I want my heritage to be found in You. I want to pass along a heritage of godliness to my children and grandchildren. I want them to someday look back and see how the course was changed. Forgive me for the wrong words I say to my children. Help me to always guide them to You.

May 23, 2005

Double-Hearted

I hate double-minded men, but I love your law. Psalm 119:113

Normally, the character traits that bother me the most in other people are the very things with which I struggle.

One thing I have little tolerance for is hypocrisy. I am not very patient with those who are double-minded - living two lives, one seen and one unseen. For so many years, that was my life. The wicked desires of my heart were so often hidden by a veneer of good works. Most would have been shocked if they knew what I would do when no one was looking - much less what I was thinking most the time.

I believe we all deal with this battle at some point in life, for secrecy is one of the enemy's greatest strategies. It appears as a friend promising safety and protection, holding keys in one hand and a sword in the other. With the keys, he opens the door to hidden places, worlds of fantasy and pleasure. Yet the sword in his other hand is not meant for our protection. When the moment is right, he swings the blade, cutting your heart in two. Oddly, both sides continue to beat. Somehow we learn to live with two hearts - with two minds.

Lord, I can't live the double life anymore. Since I cannot continue to hide, there seem to be only two options - to embrace the darkness or to run to the light. The ways of the enemy, the ways of darkness, only lead to death. Your way always leads to life. Mend my heart, so I might live freely in the light. Give me a single mind - a single heart. Let others see the man You intended. Continue to make me anew.

May 24, 2005

Deal with it!

Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decrees. Psalm 119:124

How often do you hear the phrase, "Deal with it!"? Generally, this is heard along with phrases like, "Suck it up! Be a man! Grit your teeth and bear it!"

There is nothing better than being dealt with - being made - being re-made by the loving hand of God. However, simply because it is the best thing doesn't mean it is always pleasant. Sometimes, love hurts. It requires that one give his whole heart - his entire being to another. It requires complete sacrifice.

Lord, deal with me carefully. I am afraid of love sometimes because it may require more of me than I can handle. Help me to love the way You do. Fill me with compassion. Open the doors for me to touch the lives of others.

June 1, 2005

A Foreign Concept

Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. Psalm 120:6

A day will come when we will all live in peace.

No more wars. No more violence. No more deception. The Lord will reign, and all will honor Him. What a glorious day that will be!

Lord, so much of my life has been lived in turmoil. Peace is often a foreign concept, yet each day You teach those who are willing to learn. Thank You for teaching me. For a man who grew up in violence, peace is like a refreshing rain.

Make me a man of peace. Teach me more about Your love. Help me to be a man who others recognize as a peacemaker. When others see me, let them see You.

June 3, 2005

Time to Steer

The Lord watches over you - the Lord is your shade at your right hand. Psalm 121:5

A young driver will never get a license to drive a car if he doesn't take hold of the steering wheel. A student pilot will never get a license to fly if he doesn't take hold of the controls. Sooner or later, life will require that we grab hold and steer.

Does this mean we are completely in control? Are we someday pushed out of the boat to either sink or swim? God is our protection, even in - especially in - those times that He says, "Here, I want you to steer."

It's an age-old scene. Throughout history, every father has had a moment when he says, "Here, you take the reins - you take the wheel - I want you to drive." But would a father who asks this close his eyes to then take a nap? No! He would stay prepared to take hold the moment it appears his child might land in a ditch.

Lord, I feel like I have wrecked the car so many times that I am afraid to drive. Help me to see that You are nearby watching and protecting. Lately, I seem to be hearing Your voice so clearly. Your Spirit seems to be challenging me to not only follow, but to lead. You have been calling me to step up - to grab hold of my role as the spiritual leader in my home. I also sense a renewed calling to serve Your Body. Normally, this is an area where I freeze; I am too terrified to move. Yet I am starting to understand. All You require from me is surrender. It is not defeat. It is victory! Stay close, Father. Stay at my right hand. I will follow Your lead.

June 7, 2005

Now!

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore. Psalm 125:2

Both now and forevermore...

There are times that I think the church is so focused on life after death, that it does a disservice to life before it. Yes, Jesus died so we might have eternal life, but when does "eternal" start? For something to be truly eternal, it has no end - and no beginning. When we accept the gift of eternal life, we are grafted in - adopted into God's eternal family.

However, this doesn't happen when we die; it happens now. We may have to wait to walk the streets of heaven, but nothing says we cannot experience its joy. Our primary focus in heaven is to worship the Lamb - to bring honor to the One on the throne forevermore.

We can do that now!

Lord, heaven is the destination of all who love You, all who serve You, and all who accept Your salvation. The moment I received Your Son, I became a naturalized citizen of heaven. As a citizen, I no longer need to live like an alien.

The ways of the world are selfish. The ways of heaven are selfless.

The ways of the world are greedy. The ways of heaven are giving.

Make me like one of Your chosen children - not just forevermore - but now. Help me to walk in Your Spirit today.

June 8, 2005

A Farmer's Faith

He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. Psalm 126:6

There is a saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. I believe it could also be said, "There are no atheists on the farm."

Oh, I'm not so naive to believe there are none, but for every drop of sweat in the field, my guess is there is probably a corresponding prayer in the bedroom. Farming is not an easy job. Oftentimes, it requires more faith than work. Great perseverance is needed to make it till harvest time.

Lord, to reap a harvest requires so much effort and so much prayer. Show me where to plant seeds of faith and hope for those who are hurting. Give me the perseverance to make it till harvest time. Give me the faith of a farmer. Let me carry sheaves with songs of joy in my mouth.

June 12, 2005

Waiting with Expectation

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5

There is a big difference between simply waiting and waiting with expectation. I spend a great deal of time waiting for the Lord, but am I expecting He will come? Or am I merely holding off in the pursuit of what I want, so I can say I waited for Him?

To wait with hope - to wait with expectation - is to believe something is going to occur. Unfortunately, I don't think I always believe He will appear. In my impatience, I seem to race ahead. I may have a clear sense of direction, but I won't get where He wants me without Him.

Lord, help me to wait with expectation. Meet me when I call. Walk with me. I believe You are coming.

June 13, 2005

Cut the Apron Strings

But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with it mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:2

What is it to be weaned? Weaning is a process of breaking free from complete dependence on someone or something. An animal or child is weaned when solid food can replace mother's milk. Although we don't readily think of it in this context, an addict is weaned when he no longer requires the comfort of his drug of choice. Weaning is all apart of growing - physically and spiritually. If we are going to stand as independent adults, we cannot remain tied to childish things. What's the saying? "Cut the apron strings."

Yet, the truest freedom of all comes, not from independence, but complete dependence... on God. Complete dependence on Him brings a peace to one's soul that literally sets him free from the burdens of this world.

Lord, make me like a weaned child - independent from those things that would keep me from growing, from becoming the godly man I am called to be. Yet in this process of weaning me from the world, make me completely dependent on You. It is only in Your arms that I am truly free.

Still and quiet my soul.

June 14, 2005

His Dwelling Place

For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling. Psalm 132:13

Do we understand how amazing it is that the God of the universe has chosen to dwell in the hearts of His people? For centuries, He chose to reside in a temple. Oh, He wasn't confined to the temple. There is no place that He isn't. Even then, He filled the hearts of His chosen, just as He does today. But today - a time of new covenant, His primary dwelling place can no longer be seen on a hill but everywhere His people walk.

Now, we are His dwelling place.

Lord, dwell in me. Clothe me with righteousness and salvation. Send Your provision to satisfy the poor in spirit. Let Your people shine like a temple on a hill called Zion.

June 16, 2005

Who do you emulate?

Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. Psalm 135:18

Life is a process of becoming.

Even in my forties I find myself asking the question, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" Sometimes, I struggle with a tougher question, "How will I know when I get there?"

More often, I should be asking the question, "How do I get there in the first place?"

It seems that too often we plod through life, not really paying attention, and before we know it, we have become something we didn't expect - maybe something we didn't want to be.

Consider. How does a boy become a man? He watches men. He emulates them. He strives to become one of them. Unfortunately, we live in a society that doesn't really understand this. It is a great responsibility to raise up a new generation of men, and too many have either ignored it or abused it. Look around. How many men do you know who really have it together? Not just what you see? But who they really are?

Lord, we become what we worship. We become what we emulate. I know I am not yet the man You want me to be. Help me to emulate Your Son.

I choose to worship You.

June 17, 2005

He Remembered

...to the One who remembered us in our low estate and freed us from our enemies... Psalm 136:24-25

Can it be true? That God really does remember us, despite how far we might have fallen in life, and He frees us from our enemies? How can I be convinced of it? How can I explain it to others?

Well, as far as explaining it to others, how can we truly explain anything about the deeper meanings in life? Can we definitively prove that God exists? Truthfully, we can't. His existence is something that must be experienced for someone to fully understand. It cannot be put in human words.

He just is!

I guess I should take the same approach to what He has done for me. Can I explain it? How do I know if I am truly free? The most important truth for any of us to realize in life is that God has a plan. We don't control it. We can't even prove it.

So, am I free?

YES!

How do I know?

I just do!

And the next time my biggest critic questions it, I need to say (to myself), "Get over it!" It's like explaining a rainbow. We can try to examine it, but the closer we get, the more it disappears.

Lord, help me to accept the truth. You have remembered me in my low estate, and You have freed me from my enemies!

You are amazing.

June 20, 2005

He Sees Our Pride

Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar. Psalm 138:8

We sometimes think we can hide from the Lord, but He always knows the truth. For He doesn't only see what we do; He sees our hearts. No amount of good on the outside can keep Him from seeing the pride we have on the inside.

Lord, help me to be humble. So much of my life has seemed like an act. I am such an expert at wearing a mask, but I can never fool You. A day cannot pass without You seeing beneath the surface. With Your hands reshape me - with Your love restore me, so I no longer have to hide. Let the world see what You see. Make me holy.

June 25, 2005

Fainting Spells

When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. Psalm 142:3a

What is it to faint?

I can't recall a time when I fainted; although I may have come close a time or two. How many times over the years have I heard, "Don't lock your legs!"? With nine years in marching bands, four years in the military, and countless hours performing at weddings and receptions, I've had plenty of opportunity. Standing in place seems to be a part of my life. Fortunately, I have never hit the ground in front of a crowd. I'm sure losing consciousness can be terrifying - and awfully embarrassing.

To lose all bodily control, however... This any addict can understand. Regardless of the addiction, there is a common experience - someone seems to take control. It is very humbling when one comes to his senses and asks, "How did I end up here on the ground?"

Thankfully, the Lord never loses control. He always knows where I am. He always knows my way. He always catches me when I fall.

Father, where would I be without You? My spirit has fainted - even if my body hasn't. And You have always been here. Thank You for carrying me along the way. Without You I am lost. Without Your Son, we are all lost.

Save us! Catch us! We need Your mighty touch.

July 4, 2005

Firsthand Accounts

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 1 John 1:1

A firsthand account... That's what the apostles tell us. It wasn't hearsay. It wasn't something they witnessed from afar. Their stories of Jesus were firsthand. They walked with Him. They talked with Him. They touched Him. With their own eyes they saw Him die; their hands touched His lifeless body.

Those same eyes, in three days time, saw Him again - alive! Those same hands felt the warmth of His skin. He was no longer dead. He was - and is - alive!

So many doubt, yet some believe.

That's why sharing your story is important - not someone else's story, but your own. For some will believe.

How have you encountered Jesus firsthand?

For me, I met Him in the darkest of pits. He gave me the courage to be real with those around me. He stood with me when I told of the ways I had fallen deeper than I ever dreamed possible. Then He held me - sometimes through the arms of another, but I knew it was Him. Someday, He will give me the words to share that story. Then it is my hope that some will believe.

Lord, I wish I had the words to say already, but the story is not yet complete. My journey is not yet finished, so until it is, help me to be patient. While I wait, give me more firsthand accounts to tell. Let me see You. Let me hear You. Let me touch You. Father, use me someday like You used the apostles. Help me to impact the Body for Your glory. Come, Lord Jesus!

July 12, 2005

You already have it!

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

Have you ever gone searching for something and realize that you already have it? Like searching for sunglasses that are on the top of your head, or car keys that are in your hand. These things make me laugh.

My father-in-law always laughed about the number of tape measures he owned. He could never seem to find one when he needed it, so he bought another. If I ever get his tools completely sorted, I know I will find seven or eight. Isn't it ridiculous to think of how much we accumulate simply because we aren't organized?

How silly it is to search for something you are holding or to buy something you already own.

So why, as a Christian, do I keep pursuing righteousness? Why do I keep trying to overcome the world? By the blood of Jesus Christ, I am made righteous. His Spirit dwells within me, so I have already overcome the world. I waste so much time and effort trying to acquire that which I already have!

Lord, this constant pursuit needs to stop. I need to quit chasing a dream and start living in reality. Righteousness is not something I can achieve. It is a path upon which I simply need to walk. Help me to stop trying to overcome and realize that You have already done it for me. All I must do is allow Your Spirit, who dwells within me, to take charge. There is nothing He cannot do. Praise the Lord. He has overcome!

July 17, 2005

Running Ahead

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 2 John 9

Why do I always try to run ahead? I seem to approach most of life like it is a big race, and if I don't cross the finish line first, I shouldn't even be running.

Lord, I am so impatient with Your plan sometimes. Help me to wait for You. Help me to quit trying to please everyone else so much that I forget who I am - who I am becoming. Walk with me. Walk in front of me. I want to follow Your lead.

July 30, 2005

Ask Him First!

The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Joshua 9:14

It seems that one of the biggest lessons to learn in life is to turn to God first. We should inquire of Him early and often. But we seem to go from decision to decision thinking we can do it on our own.

The Israelites should have learned after Ai that they didn't know enough by themselves. Achan's sin defiled the community, and a little town pushed back an army. If they had asked beforehand, thirty-six men would not have died. Weren't the casualties enough to teach them to ask the Lord before moving forward?

Obviously not. The Gibeonites deceived them.

The Israelite leaders listened to tales of a long journey to meet with them. They even took the time to sample dry and moldy bread. But not once did anyone think to say, "Maybe we should pray about this."

Sometimes I don't turn to the Lord as I should. You would think I might have learned by now: the times I ask for help, I always receive it. Yet, there are times when I think I know enough, and I race ahead of Him. All the signs indicate what I believe to be the correct choice, but have I inquired of the One who knows?

Father, help me to hear Your voice. Help me to not simply taste the provisions before deciding my next move, but draw me into that secret place where truth is revealed. From little things to big, help me to know You way. Show me the path, so I might walk it with You.

Will You pick me up and carry me for awhile?

August 4, 2005

Just As Vigorous

I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Joshua 14:11

Besides Joshua, Caleb was the only man who remained from an entire generation. It is fascinating to me that at the age of eighty-five he was just as strong as he had been at forty. But greater than his physical strength was his strength of character and his belief in God's power and ability.

The Anakites were giants. They were the people whom the spies had described when Joshua and Caleb first visited the promised land. Their fortified cities in the hills around Hebron were some of the last that remained in the land. Yet Caleb was not intimidated by them. He knew God would fulfill His promise. He did not hesitate to say, "but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out." He knew that one man can drive out a legion of enemies if the Lord is with him.

Lord, this week I have faced temptations that I thought were gone. Apparently, some of my enemies remain. Like giants hidden in fortified cities, they have continued to thrive. Yet the time has come for them to be driven out. With You helping me, there is no temptation than can survive; there is no enemy that is too great. Make me strong and vigorous - in body and spirit. When I am eighty-five, I want to be fighting the good fight, so that others might know Your power. Stand by me. Fight for me. I am still confident of this: I will see Your goodness in the land of the living!

August 22, 2005

Pick One!

"But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as far as me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:14-15

Joshua made a choice. He and his household were going to serve the Lord. He could not choose for the entire community. The decision was theirs, and Joshua seemed content to simply say, "You make the choice. Pick one or the other, but make a choice."

We can't pick both.

No matter what we think, we cannot have our cake and eat it, too. It's either the One True God or the gods of this world. The One True God is jealous, and He doesn't like sharing us.

Lord, forgive me for not serving You. When I choose the gods of my forefathers, I am not choosing You. Help me to choose you each day. Help me to choose you this day.

August 28, 2005

The Greatest Power

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Most Christians never tap into the greatest power available to them, confession to another brother. Far too many plod through each day feeling unrighteous and sinful when freedom is within their grasp.

My own life didn't start to change until the secrets were out in the open. The sins I hid within eventually poisoned my mind and spirit, but confession to another man was like a valve that drained away the toxic waste eating at my soul. My frequent confession to God alone seemed to be powerless. No matter how many times I told Him I would never fall again. I couldn't seem to find the strength to endure.

Yet as I have begun to speak the truth to a brother who cares and to a wife who is committed to stay beside me, I discover that the chains from my childhood no longer bind me. Satan is not strong enough to hold me down because I have a newfound desire for holiness. Freedom is no longer a concept; it is real!

Do I fall? Yes.

But will I stay down? Not for long, for in my weakness others help to sustain me.

Lord, as a Christian, I am a part of Your Body. I no longer need to go it alone. I am righteous because You washed me in Your Son's blood. I simply didn't realize that another man holds the sponge. Help me to courageously confess, so I might never again question my worth. Thank You for those who know me and love me still.

August 29, 2005

Those that Remain

When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. Judges 1:28

The Israelites may have conquered the lands God promised, but there were places where the Canaanites remained. Eventually, those not driven out were forced into labor, but even so, their presence affected the Israelites; the gods these people worshipped became too enticing.

We all have things in life that we try to conquer, yet we never seem to obtain complete control over them. How many times have I prayed as Paul did, "Lord, remove this thorn from my side."? Yet, it remains. The question is: What am I going to do with the thorn? Will I be enticed by it? Will I vacillate between obedience and disobedience? Or will I turn to the One who rules over all?

Lord, I accept that in this life I may never gain control over every enemy, but give me the strength to deny the gods that remain. I choose to worship You.

August 31, 2005

Tests!

"I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their forefathers did." Judges 2:22

Certain trials and temptations never seem to go away. No matter how much we think we have grown, there are enemies lurking around every corner.

Why doesn't God simply remove them?

God allows circumstances - not to make us fall, but to test us - to teach us to turn to Him.

Lord, there are times that I wish all the challenges I face would simply disappear. Yet without them, I would grow lazy and complacent. Sometimes I fail. But without the chance to try, I learn nothing. Help me to keep Your way. Help me to walk in it, so when trials come, we will succeed together.

September 6, 2005

The Expectations of Manhood

Turning to Jether, his oldest son, he said, "Kill them!" But Jether did not draw his sword, because he was only a boy and afraid. Judges 8:20

Zebah and Zalmunna, two kings of Midian, had been captured. As Gideon questioned them, he grew angry at their words, but instead of grabbing his own sword and killing them, he demanded that his son Jether do it.

Jether was a boy, and he was afraid. He responded as frightened boys do; he did nothing.

Why did Gideon ask this of Jether if he was only a boy? Why was Jether carrying a sword if he was only a boy? Why was he with his father on the battlefields if he was only a boy?

Having a son, I understand the struggle. Too often fathers expect too much from their sons. It is as if our demands of them will make them men.

Well, won't they?

Boys don't become men until the expectations of manhood are placed upon them. I have witnessed this firsthand. I have experienced this firsthand. I wish I had done a better job. I wish my father had done a better job. Far too many fathers in our society haven't gotten this right, and generations of men respond as frightened little boys. They do nothing.

Lord, help me on this journey into manhood. It seems to be a never-ending trek. Some days, I feel strong, like a mature, whole man. Others I feel like a boy, afraid to draw my sword. You are the Perfect Father. Call me out. Help me to smite the enemies who taunt me. Give me the courage to respond as a man would.

September 13, 2005

Intention

Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave of Etam and said to Samson, "Don't you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?" He answered them, "I merely did to them what they did to me." Judges 15:11

When forming an opinion about a man, I depend a great deal on his intentions, for whatever motivates someone often reflects his true character. God's intention for Samson was to confront the Philistines.

What were Samson's intentions, and why in the world did God pick him?

Though he was called by God before birth to deliver the Israelites, Samson was not a man of upstanding character. His life proved that he was driven by selfishness. His struggle with lust was apparent and eventually was his ultimate downfall. He was continually filled with anger and the desire for revenge.

Samson is not the type of man I would describe as a man of God. I have always pictured him as a massive hulk of a man, but since his strength came from God alone, it is quite possible that he was rather ordinary.

An ordinary man with several character flaws... that sounds like every man I know.

Lord, if You can use the likes of Samson, You can most certainly use me. Forgive me for thinking too little of You by depending too much on me. Fill me with Your Spirit. Make me a man who reflects Your character. Make me a man of Your intention.

October 16, 2005

A Different Person

"The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person." 1 Samuel 10:6

Overnight, Saul became a different person. He went from being insignificant - a Benjamite, a mere man from the smallest tribe of Israel, to being the first king of God's choosing. He couldn't see it. He couldn't understand it. He didn't know what it would require. Yet his entire being had changed.

What man doesn't wish he could change who he is? Every man has failed at becoming the man he thought he should be. The problem is: every man has his own picture in mind. Without God's vision - without God's action, no man will become what was intended.

Lord, I am becoming a different person. Every day, I feel as if I am not the man I once was, but I don't understand the person I have become. Like Saul, I fear I will simply go about my business as if nothing had changed.

Send Your Spirit. Come upon me with power, so I can be made new. Give me Your vision for the future. Open the doors for a joint ministry with my wife that will change the world.

October 30, 2005

We Can't Return

So Jonathan called David and told him the whole conversation. He brought him back to Saul, and David was with Saul as before. 1 Samuel 19:7

Saul was out to kill David, and David knew it. Logic told him that it was time to flee, but his friend Jonathan convinced him to stay. Everything seemed alright. All seemed as it was before. David even played the harp for Saul as he once did, but in truth, Saul had become his enemy. David could not return to the way things were. Before long, Saul was again seeking to kill him.

Why do we think we can go back to the way things were when we know the enemy is out to kill us? God calls us out of a life of sin. He offers us a life of freedom and joy, but sometimes we long to return to how it once was. We would rather face the threat of the enemy, as long as we can live in our old, comfortable ways.

Lord, I know the enemy hates me, yet sometimes I long to let him pamper me. I long for my old life. It was known and comfortable. Yet, I know You have called me to more. Help me to flee the enemy. Help me to never return to his household. Protect me from his spears.

December 27, 2005

The Finest Spoils

King David dedicated these articles to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold from all the nations he had subdued. 2 Samuel 8:11

Do we give credit where credit is due?

David knew from where his strength and power came. It was only by God's choice that David subdued the nations formerly at war with Israel. In some instances, entire armies were killed. In others, some were allowed to live. They quickly chose to serve David, for death was their only other option.

In all instances, David dedicated the finest spoils to the Lord. God's hand delivered riches to David, and David felt it would be best for them to stay there.

Lord, there are many enemies in my life that have been subdued during the past year. Fear, doubt, depression, uncontrolled lust, self-hatred - these are but a few of the enemies that have crossed the borders and attacked me for so many years. Yet in their place, You have handed me courage, belief, joy, self-control, and self-acceptance. The finest spoils are the strength and confidence I now feel more often than weakness and uncertainty. There are still enemy factions that hate me; they will never leave me alone in this life. With Your help, I can subdue them. Make them my servants.

To You, O Lord, I want to dedicate the most precious treasures. Take my heart. Hold it in Your hand. Make me a man fully dedicated to You.

March 25, 2006

Becoming a Target

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Ephesians 6:16

Faith not only strengthens us, it protects us. No matter what the enemy might throw at us, it is faith that keeps us safe.

Isn't it interesting, however, that oftentimes our faith is what draws the attention of the enemy?

Paul challenges us to take up the shield of faith. It stands to reason that the greater the faith, the larger the shield. So like a huge banner, great faith makes us a target!

Think about it. A soldier can easily hide from the enemy if he is camoflauged, but how long would he last on the battlefield if he were to carry around a bright yellow sign? How ridiculous!

Yet this is what faith does for us. We are protected, but we are no longer hidden. The moment we drop the shield of faith, we are vulnerable to the enemy's attack. Once we pick up this shield, we have no option; we cannot put it down.

Lord, I made a decision recently to take up a shield of faith. My fears over money have deep roots. You and I both know that I don't give as I should. But I am trying to lay down my fear and give to You - first. Am I giving ten percent? Not yet. Like a daily devotion, sometimes it takes a little step at a time. Five minutes can become fifteen, which can become an hour. Help me to be consistent in my giving, despite the financial arrows - the financial missiles - that keep coming my way. Giving would be easy if my finances were completely under control, but would it require much faith? Help me to carry this bright yellow shield without fear. When the enemy sees me, give me the courage to stand.

(Oh... and it wouldn't hurt to send the financial blessings You promise... Okay?)

March 27, 2006

Boldness

"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" Galatians 2:21

If I knew that a famous Christian leader was in the wrong, would I have the courage to tell him? The Apostle Paul did.

No matter how many times I have read this passage in Galatians, I haven't captured the full weight of Paul's words. My view changed when I noticed one simple thing that is easy to overlook, a quotation mark.

The last eight verses in this chapter are Paul's recollection of a public conversation he had with the Apostle Peter. For some reason, I have always felt Paul was simply sharing his theology with the early church, but he was recounting his words to Peter, one who had walked with Christ.

Could I tell Peter that he was acting in such a way that negated Jesus' death on the cross? I wonder how Peter responded. It must have been quite a conversation!

Lord, I want to have the boldness of Paul. I want to have the courage to stand up for truth. Make me a righteous man, worthy of speaking the truth without concern of judgment.

April 5, 2006

Eager?

It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:12-14

Am I saying "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions? Am I self-controlled, upright, and godly? Am I eager to do what is good? If I cannot say "Yes" to these questions, maybe I need more of God's grace.

Thank goodness, there is lots to go around!

Lord, I need Your grace to continue its work in me. I'm growing weary from the enemy's attacks. I'm behind the curve again, and feeling overwhelmed makes me vulnerable. My self-control seems to be the first thing to go. Help me to organize my days. Help me to organize my thoughts. Help me to be upright, godly, and eager to do what is good.

May 4, 2006

Priceless Faith

For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Hebrews 4:2

Hearing the truth - even knowing and believing the truth - is absolutely worthless unless it is combined with faith.

Faith is living out what is believed. Faith requires holding fast to the truth depite circumstance - believing when everyone else questions the outcome. Those who walk the truth, who seem to eat, sleep, and breathe it, are the true heroes in this world. Their willingness to live out what they believe has an amazing way of impacting those around them.

Lord, I have a friend who seems to live his faith in ways that bring great glory to You. His faith has touched me - held me at times, and I am a better man for it. Thank You for those in my life who have done more than hear the message. Help me to combine what I know with what I believe. Help me to see that I am a man of great value. Help me to be a man of priceless faith.

May 6, 2006

Get Real!

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. Hebrews 6:12

Faith and patience...

How well do I display these? Would others imitate me? Or would they question the authenticity of my Christian walk?

The other day I had a friend tell me that I have much more impact when I am simply being myself. When I try to say all the right things or present myself as wiser than I might be, it doesn't help others as much as the times when I am simply real. My honesty about my shortcomings and my empathy for others can touch lives in ways that analyzing a situation will never do. One of my greatest fears, however, is the fear of rejection. How can I risk it?

What I am learning is that truly authentic living draws others to us. Rejection results from wearing the mask we think is necessary to be accepted.

Lord, help me to be a man of faith and patience. Make me one that others would imitate. Help me to be real.

May 7, 2006

Who would be the lesser?

And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. Hebrews 7:7

There are some men in the Bible that I look forward to meeting. Melchizedek is one of those that I want to sit with for hours to discuss how God worked in his life. He was a great men - a priest by virtue of God's choice, not merely a bloodline. His actions blessed Abraham, the father of many nations.

Yet, I don't want to only be blessed by Melchizedek. I want to bless him. Each of us is called to greatness by the holy blood of Christ. So when that day comes, I will not only hear stories of God's love, I will share them.

Lord, thank You for Your amazing love and grace. Thank You for the growth in my life. Continue to make me a man of greatness. Show me how to bless those who are lesser. Make them great by the blood of Your Son.

May 28, 2006

Look Ahead

If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:15-16

It is good to remember the past, but we cannot live in it. There is so much in store for the future, but we can never reach it if our eyes are forever looking back. Unless we seek the new life God has promised - unless our eyes are focused on what is ahead, we will continually be trapped in the old.

Lord, there are times that I miss my old life. Foolishly, I seem to mourn the loss of my secret sins. I long for the days when my private life was spent hidden away in dark places. I can barely conceive what it is to live constantly in the light, but the light is what You desire.

Father, help me to remember the places from whence I came, but help me to seek the new places of Your design. Help me to remember the pains of my old life and not only the pleasures. The consequence of my actions are too great to pay again. Help me to be holy as You are holy. Help me to look ahead.

July 1, 2006

One of the Sick

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:17

Jesus calls sinners. He calls the broken people, the outcasts, the ones that society despises.

Thankfully, He doesn't leave them in their brokenness. He offers them the healing that is needed - the renewal, the acceptance. He calls us to change. He calls us to grow. He calls us to help others heal.

Lord, thank You for coming to call me, one of the sick ones. But I cannot remain in my sickness. You will not allow it. Help me to be healthy. Help me to be the man You have made me to be. Help me to be the husband You have called me to be.

I need You.

July 3, 2006

The Inner Circle

He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything. Mark 4:34

Jesus spoke in parables. To the outsider, His words probably seemed irrelevant - a collection of interesting stories that left the listener puzzled and confused.

But those in His inner circle were given the meaning. Whenever they were alone, Jesus explained everything to them.

Lord, I long to be in Your inner circle. Too often Your Word seems like no more than stories. Draw me into a relationship with the One who shares the meaning. Help me to understand Your heart. Help me apply the true meaning to my life, so You might be glorified.

July 7, 2006

Uncomfortable Oaths

The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. Mark 6:26

King Herod immediately ordered the death of John the Baptist because he had made a promise to a young girl. How is it that an ungodly king was quick to follow an uncomfortable oath, yet godly men are slow to respond to the gospel of Christ?

Many are uncomfortable with the stories of Jesus. How can anyone discount Him? He is truly amazing! Everywhere He went, people swarmed around Him. He taught them. He fed them. He healed them. He even defied natural laws by walking on water. Yet people refused - people still refuse - to follow Him. His message was the same as John the Baptist's had been. Repent! Turn from the ways of the world to the ways of heaven.

This is our only hope.

Father, why am I so slow to respond at times? I will act when I am uncomfortable with disappointing complete strangers, but I hesitate to step out in faith for You. Place me in Your will. Give me the willingness to quickly respond - despite the comfort level.

July 18, 2006

Skeptics

"To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." Mark 12:33

Not every teacher Jesus met was a skeptic. There were a few who started to get it. Oh, there were plenty who missed it. The temple was full of good Jewish men, Pharisees and Saducees, who refused to believe anything Jesus said. But there were some who saw the truth in His words.

I think I sometimes feel that Jesus was surrounded by disagreement everywhere He went. He was, but there were believers in their midst. Jesus saw them. He knew they were there, and I believe they brought Him strength to follow through with His Father's plan.

Lord, sometimes I feel like the whole world is a skeptic - that there is no hope for positive change in my workplace. Help me to see those who believe. Help me to understand the plan that can bring joy to what we do. Give me the courage and the insight to bring it to life.

August 16, 2006

Examined Lives

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the word of life. 1 John 1:1

The account of an eyewitness is generally considered to be the best evidence. But over two thousand years have passed since Jesus walked the earth - since He died and rose again. There are many eyewitness accounts to His life and ministry, yet it seems too many people today are quick to discount what they themselves cannot see, hear, and touch.

Documents can be fabricated. Evidence can be manipulated. And entire generations can be deceived.

That's why the church is so important. How else will people believe if they don't see it for themselves? Christians need to live examined lives - lives that can be seen and studied - lives that prove Christ still walks the earth in us.

Lord, help me to live an authentic life that is evidence to Your existence. Help me to walk in the truth today.

August 17, 2006

I Want to Be Finished

But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. 1 John 2:5-6

How many times have I heard people say, "God will never be finished with us in this lifetime?" It is encouraging to hear a man in his eighties speak these words, for while we are in the body, we will always be imperfect. My imperfections and failures remind me that I am part of the human condition. I am not alone in my frailty.

But sometimes - I want it now.

I want to be past the point of no return - past the point where evil desires cross into righteousness.

Am I saying that I want to be done with this life? That I am ready for heaven?

Well... yes.

Am I saying that I want my life to be over?

No.

John tells us how we can be made complete, how we can be made perfect, how we can be finished: to obey God's word - to live in Christ.

Yet how do we know we live in Christ? Because we act like Him. We walk as He did. We conduct our lives as He did.

Does this mean we should start hanging around with a group of outcasts - fishermen, tax collectors, sinners? Well... maybe. It means we start living with real people - people who are unafraid to show their frailties. It means we start living a life that is so real that others are attracted to the light that shines within us.

It means that when others see us, they see Jesus.

What did Jesus say? If one had seen Him, meaning Himself, he had seen the Father. Jesus lived in the Father, just as John challenges us to live in Christ. And despite his deity, Jesus was a man. If He could do it, so can we.

Lord, I truly want to abide in You. Soon the world is going to encroach - it already is, and I need You in order to survive it. Help me today to obey the Word. Help me today to walk as You did. Tomorrow can worry about itself.

August 21, 2006

On the Side of the Cliff

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9

Living through Christ...

Oh, how I wish that choosing Christ made things simpler. When we finally say, "Okay. Use me however You choose," our lives are opened to new and exciting opportunities that seem to stretch us further than we ever dreamed. And once we have been stretched, we need Christ all the more!

Lord, I feel like I have been climbing up the face of a mighty cliff. I haven't yet reached the top, but I am closer than ever before. Yet now I am frightened. The biggest challenges are still before me - greater responsibility at work, graduate classes, continued commitments that drain my energy.

I really need to understand what it is to live through You. There is no responsibility so great that You don't know the answers. Give me insight, clarity, and courage. I am anxious about moving. Will I fall? Will I succeed? I can't stay here - on the side of the cliff. Will You climb with me today?

About Spiritual Growth

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The Potter's Hand in the Spiritual Growth category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Sin is the previous category.

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