April 2009

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Romans 8: 26
There are times when prayer can become a shallow recitation of wishes, wants, and desires, or it turns into an exercise in empty yet eloquent speech. We have all heard prayer that was well crafted, written with carefully chosen words that have the just right ring of public speaking. Most of us have prayed to God out of some sense of duty or requirement and spoken relatively meaningless phrases that were structured in a manner that covered all of the bases; you know, address, praise, request, and closing.
I have certainly had times when I really didn’t know what to say to God, or how to begin to express what was going on in my heart; times when my head was a swirling and confused place filled with pain, anger, or desperation.
Yet, prayer is very simple, for God wants us to talk to Him; He desires to hear our voices even when our throats are choked off and we can’t get a word out. The Lord listens to the uttering of our hearts, and He understands the intention of our minds even when we can’t make sense out of any of it. As God’s Spirit has come to live within us, so has His understanding of our lives. The Spirit communicates with us in ways that are beyond our limited understanding.
As we travel through life with God, every moment of the day can be a time of prayer, we can talk through each situation with our Lord, and the strength and the encouragement of Christ can empower us to live courageously at all times. There are no formal words required, there are not even any audible ones needed, and we don’t have to know what to say; God understands, and He responds.

In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet, do it with gentleness and respect.

1 Peter 3: 15


There is an interesting proposition made by Peter here; for, as we embrace Christ’s holiness at this deep and personal level, we are doing the same for ourselves; since, if Christ is in me, then His holiness is mine. That is why it becomes so very important to focus on the Lord’s attributes as a means of gaining a clearer understanding of our own transformed nature, and the same holds true for focusing more clearly on our own objectives for personal spiritual growth.


As I consider the ways that I still don’t function as I should, based upon what God has established as the model for living in His holiness, the steps that I need to take and the personal sacrifices that I need to make in order to move in that direction become more clearly defined. There is always an element of surrender, a yielding of my will to the Lord that is involved in this growth process, for this is a process that is begun by continually allowing Christ to be the center of my heart.


Then, as the presence of His holiness takes over more of my being, my own ability to live in a manner that is worthy of Christ’s love increases, and I gain an ever greater understanding of the marvelous hopefulness that He brings into my life. This is a hope that is too large and much too important to keep buried inside; it needs to be expressed, and it will gain expression through the way that I live as well as through the words that I speak. The final element that Peter speaks to here is one that I suspect was a serious challenge for him; he again tells us to consider how Jesus went about connecting and communicating with people, for true holiness is also gentle, respectful, and always loving.  


The Lord will not allow your foot to slip;

He who keeps you will not slumber.

Psalm 121: 3


Ice storm covered sidewalks or a steep mountain side that is made of crumbling rocks, even when the steps are slow, steady, and deliberate, a fall can come at any moment. With that fall comes disorientation, pain, and fear of serious injury. With the fall comes a loss of confidence and concern about going on with the journey. Most of us have experienced this sort of misadventure at some time; most of us have dealt with the need to get up off of our backs and to start to walk again, too.


However, my important concerns about traveling through life have nothing to do with an icy walkway or even a slippery road; they are related to choices and direction, actions and results. The areas where my feet tend to come out from under me with a disquieting suddenness are found mostly in my relationships and in the decisions that I make. There is an absolute certainty that when I fall down badly in these aspects of life, I have taken a path of my own choosing and have not allowed the Lord to influence and to direct my thinking and my actions. Off I go headed along with my coarse charted out of foolish pride or motivated by some selfish fear; then, suddenly, I am flat on my back in the middle of a painful situation trying to recover from the damage that I have done.


It would all be so much more simple, and life would be a lot less painful if I would simply accept the guidance that the Lord wants to give me. He never fails to provide what I need to make the right choices, and He does not need for me to even ask the right questions; God always knows what will be best for me, and He continually counsels me to make that decision. It is up to me to seek Him, and it is my decision to follow. Those are the choices that I can make now, and I need to decide to follow the Lord’s sure path through this day.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Psalm 115: 1


Where is my mind focused and what does my heart desire?


Am I consumed with how others will think about me and how many will praise me for my brilliant skill, knowledge, and accomplishment?


Let me direct my thoughts toward God and onto His desired way for me to live. I need to allow the Lord’s approach to life to take over mine; then, I will begin to live as an expression of love. The only true and lasting love to be found is in and from love’s source, and that is God; so, for me to even begin to understand faithful, unwavering, and lasting love, I need to stay closely connected the Lord. Then, as He continues to transform me and to mold me into His image, the ways that I act that are unloving and disconnected will start to change into His way of relating.


O Lord, let me seek to bring glory to you through the way that I live today; so, my prayer is that you would change the hard places in my heart into ones that lovingly embrace and that you would remove my self-directed thoughts and replace them with your face.


Jesus said,

“We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming when no man can work.”


If you have ever experienced one of those days when the weather changes very rapidly so that a bright, sunny sky changes into something that is the color of mud and motor oil that is poorly mixed, deep browns swirling in a sea of thicker than cement black, then you know how incredibly quickly brightness can become disorienting darkness. At that time, you better know where you are and have a good idea of where you want to go, for there aren’t many visual clues left to navigate by.


Our world has been heading down this path toward darkness for a long time; evil has been working continually and with great diligence to remove the channel markers from our journey so that we can’t find our way home. Although God has promised us that His light will remain in the world in total for a time, He has only promised its permanence to people who choose to know Him personally by claiming Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Still people resist and they postpone entering into this relationship; they don’t want to make the sacrifices, life is still too new and they are exploring its possibilities, they have done too much that is wrong and God couldn’t want them, or the darkness is just a much more comfortable place to be for the way that they want to live at this time. There are as many reasons for rejecting the love offering of Jesus as there are people in this world; still, permanent darkness is coming for them all.


That is why God mandates that we do what Jesus is talking about; right now, during the dimming light of this day, before the storm’s oily blackness enshrouds this world, there is a lost soul in my life who needs to be loved and shown that the never failing light of God’s glory is Christ’s gift for that person. Sharing God, the Father’s, loving truth with our world is what Jesus was sent to do, and this is what He is sending us to do, also. We can bring to light the path to eternity through the lives that we live, the love that we give to others, and by the words of truth that we share. Jesus knew that permanent darkness can come in an instant; an individual’s sunny sky can change into the blackness of Hell in a heartbeat; so now is the time for those who know unending light to do the work that God sends us to do. 


My Lord, my God, only Faithful is He who calls you, He will surely do it.

1 Thessalonians 5: 24


The famous Nike slogan Just Do It is an expression that we have all heard and seen; it is an effective piece of ad copy, for it conveys a sense of capability and urgency that connects to an image of performance improvement that is aided by the products. For some of us the doing of it might be something that is easily accomplished, but for me, the readily doable part might end with tying the laces and zipping that perfect workout jacket so that at least I can look sporty while downing my latte. My challenge comes in the part where I am required to engage in the faithful work of exercising in order to actually put that perfect gear to use.


Its in the area of consistent and total application that my mind and my heart break down; I can have the very best of intent and the clearest of vision for how God wants me to live and what He desires for me to do; yet, when the moment of clarity is past, my actions can be very far removed from what the Lord said. This is a frustration for me, and I am certain that it creates confidence issues in the people who I have made commitments to. I am also left wondering how God can not be frustrated and saddened by my failure to trust Him to the degree needed for me to follow through on the simplest of things.


My personal challenge in all of this is that I keep trying to take it all on myself; I seek the perfect gear to enhance my performance, and I believe that I must do certain tasks in order to be prepared for acting upon the things that God seems to be calling me to do. What I am missing in all of this planning and preparation is that I continue to try to accomplish it all for myself. What God wants me to do is to accept that I already have all of the right clothing, complete knowledge and conditioning, and the perfect game plan for exercising the Lord’s will. 


God wants for me to give Him my willingness to trust in His loving purpose. The Just Do IT of my life should be expressed in my openness to follow the Lord in all aspects of it and in every situation that I encounter; the actual doing is wonderfully in God’s hands, and this is a blessing to me that brings peace to my heart.

The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.

Psalm 33: 11


There are thoughts, ideas, and concepts that last, and there are those that seem profound and true in the moment and then, even when they are carved into stone, fade from use. A really good test of the advice and the wisdom that we listen to is to look at the duration of its validity. Has the same idea been true throughout history? You see, God has been saying the same things to people from the very beginning of our relationship with Him; He has not changed his mind, and His heart is constant and continually loves us.


Another aspect of the way that God relates to me is that He is very active and involved, and He is truly personal in what He says. The Lord provides me with wisdom and insight for living that seems as if it were created solely for my situation and for my life. These thoughts unfold out of His word in ways that are pertinent to the moment and that seem as if they were written about today as viewed from my front door. Although it can seem a bit scary to consider how well God actually knows me, it is truly comforting to realize this and to know that He still loves and accepts me. His thoughts, plans, and counsel are intended to provide me with everything that I need to live my life fully and to live it well.


True wisdom is also a gift and a legacy; God gives it to people, and He wants us to share it with others and to pass it on to the next generation. A life that is lived by following God’s will and inside of the framework of His plan is one that stands out in ways that impact people’s hearts for eternity.


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