Thursday, February 27, 2014

It's all on loan from God.

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"You built a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool, but you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago." (Isaiah 22:11, New International Version)

This verse obviously has a particular context, but what stood out for me this morning was a timeless rebuke from God: "you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago."

How often do we go about our lives, doing our thing, making our plans, without regard for God? 

Oh, we may give Him an hour or two on Sunday. We may even spend a few moments each morning asking Him for His blessings through the day. When we recognize that we are in a mess, we may even cry out to Him for His aid.

But do we see Him in every circumstance? Do we invite Him to join us on our journey? More importantly, how do we respond to His invitation to join Him on His journey?

The great English hymn writer Isaac Watts (1674-1748) wrote a hymn called "I'll Praise My Maker While I've Breath." The great English preacher and hymn writer John Wesley (1703-1791) died with the words of that hymn on his lips.

I read that account this morning, along with the words of that hymn in The One Year Book of Hymns.

Check out this powerful line from the final stanza: "I'll praise Him while He lends me breath."


When I look around at the things that I think belong to me, I'm truly looking at things that are on loan from God. Even my breath is not mine. How could I go about my life not looking to the One who made it?

Question: What will you do today to intentionally look to the One who made you and who has loaned you your life today?

Please leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Our safety is not God's first concern.

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"Mercy. May Your mercy come to me, O God, for my soul is safe within You, the guardian of my life. I will seek protection in the shade of Your wings until the destruction has passed." (Psalm 57:1, The Voice)

That is a comforting thought, isn't it: that we have a safe place to go until the storms of life pass by? This is one of those tender pictures of God that we find in Scripture: that of a mother bird nestling her chicks under her wings. Sometimes I hold into that image and imagine myself huddling in safety next to God, holding onto Him to, as the old song says, "keep me safe 'till the storm passes by."

But doesn't it seem that sometimes the storms just keep coming one after another? It's like we are living in a spiritual tornado alley. And often it may seem to us that God's wings of protection are hard to find. Could it be that He has a purpose for the storms He sometimes allows us to experience?

Maybe that's the kind of thing the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote these words:

"We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair. We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. For while we live, we are constantly handed over to death on account of Jesus so that His life may be revealed even in our mortal bodies of flesh." (2 Corinthians 4:8-11, The Voice)

Did you catch that: "so that His life may be reveled even in our mortal bodies of flesh"?

God's purpose for us is not that we would be safe, though at times He spreads His wings over us that we might rest in Him. His ultimate purpose for us is that we might bring glory to Him by revealing the character of Jesus.

Question: Are you in a storm right now? How will you allow the life of Christ to be revealed even in your storm?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Are you ready to saddle up?

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"What time I am afraid, I will have confidence in and put my trust and reliance in You. By [the help of] God I will praise His word; on God I lean, rely, and confidently put my trust; I will not fear. What can man, who is flesh, do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4, Amplified version)

No fear. Do you remember seeing those t-shirts a few years ago? I'm not sure whether the message was that we should have no fear or that we shouldn't let fear keep us from acting.

A few years ago I was speaking to a group of pre-teens at camp and mentioned John Wayne. They said, "Who's that?

I knew then that I was old. (And that their parents had failed them)

Anyway, there is a quote attributed to John Wayne: "Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway."

Notice the psalmist said, "What time I am afraid ...". There is an acknowledgement that life can be a fearful experience. But shortly after that comes this: "I will not fear. What can man, who is flesh, do to me?"

The intervening words make all the difference: "I will have confidence in and put my trust and reliance in You. By [the help of] God I will praise His word; on God I lean, rely, and confidently put my trust".

The psalmist could "saddle up" because he knew he was in God's hands. Even if his enemies took his life, they could not take him out of God's hands. Christ-followers don't have to fear life or death because our destiny is secure in Christ.

Question: What is keeping you from "saddling up" today?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Is it possible to make Social Media Whine-Free Zone?

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"Evening and morning and at noon will I utter my complaint and moan and sigh, and He will hear my voice." (Psalm 55:17, Amplified Version)

One of the great mixed blessings of this era in which we are living is the connection available through social media. I love the ability to connect with folks through the various connection points I have established. The "mixed blessing" part is that the way some people use social media drives me crazy. I hate social media whining. It it is important to note that I said "whining" not "whiners". It is the whining that drives me nuts. I love the people and realize that the act often comes out of a lot of frustration, disappointment, disillusionment, and pain.

In reading Psalm 55:17 this morning I noticed the words "complaint", "moan", and "sigh". 

So, am I giving up on my hope for a "whine-free zone" on social media since it is right there in the Bible?

In a word, no.

Here is the verse immediately preceding: "As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord will save me." (55:16) And just a few verses after, we read: "Cast your burden on the Lord [releasing the weight of it] and He will sustain you; He will never allow the [consistently] righteous to be moved (made to slip, fall, or fail)." (55:22)

The issue is not that complaining, moaning, sighing, whining (and other words) are taboo. The issue is that we sometimes send them the wrong direction. We can send them straight to God. He is not checking Facebook to get insight into our lives. And while our social media circles can certainly pray for us (my topic today is NOT referring to sharing needs for prayer), they cannot answer our prayers. Nor can they alter our circumstances. So, what usually happens is the law of "misery loves company" and the conversation turns into a whine-fest at best or an argument at worst. And when Christ-followers engage that way, it casts a distorted image of Jesus to a world that needs to know Him.

Question: How do you determine how much of your personal discomfort to share publicly?

Please leave a comment below.  Your insight could be a great help for our online community.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The cattle on a thousand hills and the dog in my backyard

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"For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills or upon the mountains where thousands are. I know and am acquainted with all the birds of the mountains, and the wild animals of the field are Mine and are with Me, in My mind.If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are Mine." (Psalm 50:10-12, Amplified Bible)

Probably the most well-known and often quoted portion of that passage is the part about the cattle on a thousand hills.

I remember a few years back when one of my dogs would not stop barking during one particular night. I had tapped on the window several times, had gone outside and looked around, had gone outside and scolded her; nothing worked. Just as soon as I got back into bed the barking started again. I was frustrated, exhausted, and already dreading the next day when I would be forced to go about my business with little sleep. Finally, in desperation I prayed, "Lord, if the cattle on a thousand hills belong to you, surely you can handle one barking dog!"

It worked! She stopped barking.

I'd like to report that this became my "go to" prayer that took care of every barking dog night, but God doesn't work on formulas. But that particular night, He reminded me that He really is in control and that He really is listening. He also reminded me that it is not only grazing cattle and barking dogs that belong to Him. 

He is also the king of me.

Question: how do you respond to the idea that everything belongs to God?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How much will you leave?

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"So don't be dismayed when the wicked grow rich and their homes become ever more splendid. For when they die, they take nothing with them. Their wealth will not follow them into the grave. In this life they consider themselves fortunate and are applauded for their success. But they will die like all before them and never again see the light of day." (Psalm 49:16-19, New Living Translation)

A story is told about a wealthy man who died. People in the community began to speculate on just how much his estate was worth. One person finally got up the courage to ask, "How much did he leave?" A wise man answered, "All of it."

It is easy to imagine that life would be so much better if we had more money or more stuff. If we are not careful, the stuff begins to take control. Before long we are, as one person said, "Spending money we don't have to buy things we don't need so that we can impress people we don't even like."

There's nothing inherently wrong with money or stuff. The problem comes when we focus our lives on acquisition rather than stewardship. If we are investing our lives in eternal things for the glory of God, we may not leave an estate, but we will leave a legacy.

Another verse from the same Psalm: "But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave." (49:15, NLT)

Death has no power over those whose lives have been redeemed by God. If death has no power over us, neither should our stuff.

Question: What can you do to keep "stuff" in perspective?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Monday, February 17, 2014

All Aboard!


"Your name, God, evokes a train of Hallelujahs wherever It is spoken, near and far; your arms are heaped with goodness- in- action." (Psalm 48:10, The Message)

I love the imagery this translation evokes: a train of Hallelujahs that extends to every place the name of God is spoken.

Imagine with me: as we rise and greet the day with the name of Jesus on our lips, someone on the other side of the world is speaking that name as they drift off to sleep comforted by His presence. And though we have never met (and likely never will), we are connected in this train of praise.

All aboard!

Question: How will you intentionally participate in the worldwide train of Hallelujahs today?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Listening through the noise of Competing Voices

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"And Samuel replied, 'Speak, your servant is listening.'" (1 Samuel 3:10, New Living Translation)

“The goal of my spiritual life is such close identification with Jesus Christ that I will always hear God and know that God always hears me (see John 11:41). If I am united with Jesus Christ, I hear God all the time through the devotion of hearing. A flower, a tree, or a servant of God may convey God’s message to me. What hinders me from hearing is my attention to other things. It is not that I don’t want to hear God, but I am not devoted in the right areas of my life. I am devoted to things and even to service and my own convictions. God may say whatever He wants, but I just don’t hear Him.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest)

I spent about 24 hours at the beginning of this week at a "Hearing God" retreat. There was some group process time, but the majority of the time was spent praying, listening to God, and resting in His presence. 

Listening g to God does not come naturally. Samuel had to be taught to prepare himself to hear God. We have to learn how to intentionally quiet all the other "voices" so that we are able to hear God's gentle whisper.  One way to begin is to pray Samuel's prayer: Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.

Question: What "voices" are competing for your attention today?

Question 2: How have you learned to quiet those other voices so that you can hear God?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Are you listening?

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"When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear.  And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!” “Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!” As the people stood in the distance, Moses approached the dark cloud where God was." (Exodus 20:18-21, New Living Translation)

If you were to read this passage in its context, you would find the giving of the 10 commandments in the verses preceding. What I want you to notice this morning is the preference of the people to hear from God through Moses, rather than directly.

Oswald Chambers writes, "We show how little love we have for God by preferring to listen to His servants rather than to Him. We like to listen to personal testimonies, but we don’t want God Himself to speak to us. Why are we so terrified for God to speak to us? It is because we know that when God speaks we must either do what He asks or tell Him we will not obey. But if it is simply one of God’s servants speaking to us, we feel obedience is optional, not imperative. We respond by saying, 'Well, that’s only your own idea, even though I don’t deny that what you said is probably God's truth.'" (My Utmost for His Highest)

I love sharing with you each morning what God has said to me, but my voice (in print) is never a substitute for God's (neither is anyone else's, by the way). My prayer is that my words might provide a little kindling for you to start the fire of your own conversation with God.

Question: What is God saying to YOU this morning?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Take a long hard look

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"Yes, the Day is coming when people will notice The One Who Made Them, take a long hard look at The Holy of Israel. They'll lose interest in all the stuff they've made-- altars and monuments and rituals, their homemade, handmade religion-- however impressive it is." (Isaiah 17:7-8, The Message)

I read this story this morning: "I don't say anything," said an old Irish peasant about his quiet, solitary visits to the church. "I just look at God, and God looks at me." (From The Spiritual Formation Bible)

Have we become so "task" oriented in our lives that we cannot simply be still and encounter the presence of God? Are we so busy seeking blessings or answers that we cannot seek Him?

“One of the reasons for our sense of futility in prayer is that we have lost our power to visualize. We can no longer even imagine putting ourselves deliberately before God.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest)

In a couple of hours, I will be leaving for a 24 hour "Hearing God" retreat with some of my ministry partners. I'm going to "unplug" entirely during this time, so I won't be posting tomorrow. I am requesting your prayers as I put myself deliberately before God and take a long hard look at Him.

Question: what do you need to do to take a long hard look at God?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ah, Perspective!

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"Many, O Lord my God, are the wonderful works which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; no one can compare with You! If I should declare and speak of them, they are too many to be numbered." (Psalm 40:5, Amplified Bible)

It is easy to think about ways we feel slighted, things we have to complain about, things that irritate and disappoint us. If we were to begin listing those things, we would find ourselves becoming more and more dissatisfied and miserable.

But what if we began listing the ways God has blessed us? What if we began considering the disappointments and frustrations that have NOT come to us because of unseen blessings?

I remember a time over 25 years ago that I was on the edge of spiritual and emotional burnout. I went away for a couple of days to be alone with God. One of the things I did was to simply walk through the woods and thank God for every blessing I could think of. That walk lasted for hours.

That night, in the camper shell on the back of my truck, in a pouring rain, I wrote a song called "These are the Good Days." Ah, perspective!

Question: What kind of "perspective shift" do you need today?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear YOUR perspective.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

How do I choose the right words?

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I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin;I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.” (Psalm 39:1, New international Version)

Sometimes our best witness for Christ may be in what we do NOT say ... or tweet ... or post on Facebook.

However, silence should not necessarily be our last word (no pun intended). The Psalm continues:

"So I remained utterly silent, not even saying anything good. But my anguish increased; my heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue" (verses 2-3)

It is a very good thing to determine not to sin with our words, but to not even say anything good does not accomplish the purposes of God.

Let's pray today for wisdom, grace, and self-control as we speak and reveal the character of Jesus in each circumstance.

Question: What is your biggest challenge when it comes to your words (spoken or written)?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

He's got you in His hands

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"This is the plan, planned for the whole earth, And this is the hand that will do it, reaching into every nation. God-of-the-Angel-Armies has planned it. Who could ever cancel such plans? His is the hand that's reached out. Who could brush it aside?" (Isaiah 14:26-27, The Message)

Like many of you, I learned a song when I was a child: "He's got the whole world in His hands".

It is a little harder to believe when you are grown up and the world seems spinning out of control. Wars, earthquakes, tsunamis, vicious dictators, political gridlock, economic stresses, illness ... You get the point.

We are left to draw the conclusion that either: (1) God is not really in control or (2) God is uncaring or unkind or (3) God loves us and He is orchestrating all these things as a part of His plan for the world.

I am not satisfied with any of those options. 

So, here's my take: God loves us abundantly and the world is ultimately and completely in His hands. He has established boundaries that we cannot cross without consequences. Within those boundaries, He has given us the gift of choosing how we will respond to Him. None of our choices will ever take us beyond the reaches of His love, but they can take us to a place where He will allow us to live with the consequences of our choices. He is in control, but His purpose is not controlling us. He gives freedom to choose and desires that we would choose to live in loving and grateful obedience to Him.

Question: How will you choose to live in His hands today?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Is it well with your soul today?

(Horatio G. Spafford, photo credit: wikipedia)

"It is well with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul."

Those words, written by Horatio Gates Spafford in the 1870's, may ring hollow for us today. Easy for you to say, H! You don't know what I'm going through. You don't know what life is like in 2014.

There is some truth to that. Certainly we deal with some things that Mr. Spafford never even considered 150 years ago. But we also may not understand him. Within a few months time, he lost his son to illness, hi
s property in the Great Chicago fire of 1871, and his four daughters in a shipwreck. It was out of that incredible time of trial and pain that he wrote,

"When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, 'It is well, it is well with my soul.'"  

Click here to listen

The condition (wellness) of our souls is not dependent on our circumstances. Praise the Lord for that! The condition of our souls is dependent upon the presence of Jesus in our lives.

"Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God's glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." (Romans 5:1-5, New Living Translation)

Question: How can you express the wellness of your soul today?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Praying for Rain

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"You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike." (Matthew 5:43-45, New Living Translation)

As I sit by my window this morning, I am seeing the evidence of overnight rain that has lingered into this morning, bringing desperately needed moisture to our drought-stricken land. Could it be that God has responded to the prayers of His people? 

But you know what bugs me? There are people benefitting from this moisture who don't deserve it! They care nothing for God, His people, or His purposes, and still God let His rain fall on their yards, too.

You know what else bugs me? God wants me to pray for them. He wants me to pray that He would bless and provide for them. He wants me to pray that they would be drawn to Him, not so they would be better neighbors or citizens, but for His glory and pleasure and for their good. Does He not know how they have treated us?

Probably most of us are better at praying AT our enemies than we are at praying FOR them. We are often tempted to pray that they would get what they deserve, that they would see the error of their ways, that they would be made better.

Yet, these words of Jesus echo, "LOVE your enemies and PRAY FOR those who persecute you." When we do that, we look a lot more like Jesus.

Question: Can you think of someone you need to pray FOR instead of AT today?
Pray for that person right now.

Monday, February 3, 2014

What's In Your Mouth?

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"I WILL bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth." (Psalm 34:1, Amplified Bible)

I wrote somewhere else early this morning that a mouth filled with praise has less room for criticism (or a foot).

In continuing to ponder that thought, and the verse that inspired it, I have identified a few things to help us be sure that our words are God-honoring.

It begins with choice: I WILL.

It continues with consistency: at all times & continually.

It involves continuity of life: from how we live (bless The Lord at all times) to what we say (his praise continually in my mouth).

It originates in God: HIS praise (not only the praise OF Him, but the praise He inspires).

Question: How might our words be different today if we spoke out of that framework?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Draw Deeply, Friends

Good morning, friends. I have missed sharing with you these past few mornings. Glad to be back today.

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"Joyfully you'll pull up buckets of water from the wells of salvation. And as you do it, you'll say, 'Give thanks to God.'" (Isaiah 12:3-4, The Message)

I fear that we are often guilty of what has been termed as a "scarcity mentality." We look at the balance in our checking account and are acutely aware of our limited financial resources. We look at our calendars and are aware of our limited time resources. There is nothing at all wrong with accurately assessing, or "counting the cost" as Jesus talked about in Luke 14:28-31.

"But don't begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, 'There's the person who started that building and couldn't afford to finish it!'  
Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him?"(New Living Translation) 

The problem comes when we begin rationing grace or generosity or compassion, fearing that there might not be enough to go around-- or that we might run out ourselves.

We WILL run out if we are only focused on what we can supply, but there is a deep bottomless well of God's grace that is available to those who belong to Him. Jesus talked about this well in John 4:7-14.

Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Please give me a drink." He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.
The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, "You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?"
Jesus replied, "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water." 
"But sir, you don't have a rope or a bucket," she said, "and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you're greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?"
Jesus replied, "Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life." (New Living Translation)
I remembered a couple of songs this morning that were favorites of mine during my college days when the Lord was focusing me on a life of ministry.

Question: How will you dip your bucket today?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.