November 2009

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29: 11


Plans get off track and lack of planning causes stress, circumstances change, and people can pull the rug out from under us; so, it gets really challenging to keep our life goals in focus, and there are many days when the only thing that I have the ability to look for is a way out of the hole that I seem to be buried in. These are times when it is too easy to forget the fact that God has made promises to me that relate to every situation that I will encounter.


The Lord makes it very clear that He has a plan for me, and that plan involves both an ultimate future and the hope of eternity in His presence, and it includes every day of my life on this earth, too. When Jeremiah wrote these words, he was addressing the people of Israel who were in exile in Babylon; yet, the words of promise from God are also ours, for everyone lives in a world in which we are held captive by forces of evil and by our own errors, mistakes, and sinful behaviors. We all need to be set free, and each of us needs to understand that my own freedom is at the center of the Lord’s plan for me.


For me, trust is at the center of my own ability to live each day with the Lord’s peace in my heart. I need to claim the reality of God’s promise that He has a plan for me on a regular basis; my worried mind and trembling heart are calmed by talking to God about the concerns that are active in me at this time; then, I need to ask Him to show me His plan for handling these things; finally, I need to trust my loving Father to provide the solutions and the direction that He has promised to me. The last step in the process of claiming this day as a part of my future of hopeful welfare is perhaps the hardest, for it requires me to take action on the direction that God has provided for me; thus, I need to continually go through this same process of conversation with God, trusting Him to answer, and believing in the Lord’s constant protection and grace.   


I will cause Your name to be remembered in all the generations; therefore the peoples will give You thanks forever and ever.

Psalm 45: 17


How do you remember things, for me, at least, not always so well and not without some extra attention to making it happen; so, how do we go about causing others to know that they have encountered God when they have interacted with us? That is a challenge that i think the Lord gives to each of His children, for we are the flesh and blood versions of His image-bearers; we are the people who create the taste of God that the world gets to savor.


That is why it isn’t for our own sakes that we need to be aware of the impact of our thoughts, words, and actions on others; rather, we should be careful in considering them so that we bring glory to God. We can write the name of the Lord on stones, buildings, wrist bands, and in books, but people will recall Him more from their experiences with us than they will from all of the written images that we leave in our wakes. Even in God’s own written word, the story of who He is and of how God relates to people is depicted by telling people’s stories.


During the course of this day the Lord will provide me and you with opportunities to impact others in the His name; also, God will provide us with the wisdom and the insight that we will need to make those connections. It is up to us to decide how we will use those interactions, for we can attempt to simply go through our day with no one knowing about our relationship with God, or we can be open and honest about who we are and the God that we serve. I have the ability and the opportunity to leave a sweet and a desirable taste in the mouths of the people in my world; I pray to God that the way that I live will cause them to remember the Lord forever.

Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.
Psalm 55: 22
There are times in our lives when the cares; the concerns, worries, fears, and over bearing challenges of simply living start to pile up on our backs to such a degree that we feel crushed by it all. One thing happens, then another, soon it seems like the very forces of nature are conspiring to bring all of the negativity that they can summon up together in one focused attack, and their target is you. The very breath can be crushed out of your lungs so that you can’t even get a muffled cry for help or plea for relief out of your mouth.
The Lord tells us to take these fears and worries and use every ounce of the energy that we possess to grab them and throw them onto Him. This can look like a simple prayer pleading with God to grant some relief from the struggle, it can be a call to a friend to seek the Lord’s wisdom as expressed through the heart and the mind of another of His children, and the casting of our cares can happen as we get down onto our knees and open our hearts to His soothing touch of love.
God has given His word to all of His people, and He never goes back on His word. The Lord says that He will give us everything that we need to keep going; this includes the food, shelter, finances, love, peace, healing for illness, companionship, and each of the other things that we do now or will ever need. The Lord, my God, sustains my soul and lifts my spirit, for when I turn to Him and recognize His righteous place as the only true source for all that I need, He never lets the weight of this life get so great that I am forced to the ground by it; instead, Christ lifts me up high to be with Him in the Father’s palace.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people.

Luke 1: 68


This is a time of year when many people travel to visit family and friends in order to be together for the Thanksgiving holiday; it is a time when we are blessed by the presence of these individuals who we love and care about, and it is a time when people reflect on the ways that their lives have been blessed by God. It is interesting to me that we can also be a blessing to God, and the expression of that blessing matters greatly to the Lord.


You see, God, Himself, visits us; He traveled across the vast expanse of distance that existed between my sin-soaked and lost soul and His absolutely righteous being in order to bring me to the place that He had already prepared just for me at His table of eternal feasting. Although He endured all of the pain, the rejection, and the sorrow of that journey, Christ still delights and is truly blessed by each and every person who decides to accept the invitation to His banquet.


The Lord is continually blessed by us when we decide to make dining with Him our daily, hourly, and ever lasting state of heart and mind; then, as we feast on the truth, wisdom, and love that His Spirit delights in feeding us, we are equipped and strengthened to provide hospitality and nourishment to other souls who are seeking rest from the struggles and the trials of living in a lost world. The Lord calls on all of His children to be travelers, for He wants us to do what He has always done and go visit others who need to be blessed by the grace of God. As you bring the thanksgiving news of salvation to your personal world, you will be blessed beyond your understanding. 


I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart.

Psalm 40: 8


The hearts that were issued to us at birth are essentially lawless; this may seem like a harsh thing to say about all those beautiful babies that are held with such loving joy in their mother’s arms, but it is a fact. Without the renewal that comes from the presence of the Spirit of God, even the most stridently moral and rigidly rule bound of us people lives without a true understanding of righteousness.


Still, God wants to give us a heart that is centered upon His will and that is focused on loving as He does; so, we need to look at our actions and our thoughts and seek the Lord’s Law when we find that we are operating in a manner that is less than He desires. When the joy and delight of living as God desires me to live are in conflict with the way that my heart and my mind are leading me, then I need to examine my own will to yield to God’s truth, for, in those times, I usually discover that the blood that is feeding my unrighteous thoughts is being pumped from a remaining chamber of my old, pre-Christ heart.


As I seek the Lord’s righteous will and turn those times in my life over to His cleansing touch, God’s Spirit works in me to replace these vestiges of my former self with heart muscle that is stronger and that is true to His will. There is amazing freedom and joy; there is true delight to be found in accepting each new aspect of the perfect Law of love and grace that God wants everyone to know.


I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Isaiah 61: 10


You and I have an invitation; we are asked to attend the life that Christ gave His life to provide for us. The real shame in my life is that I don’t stay clear about this point on a consistent basis, for I get way too caught up in the hard moments, the sad losses, and the disappointments of the day; then, I stop seeing the blessed life that Jesus has provided me. I sadly must admit that I don’t continually give praise to God and thank Him for exactly where I am and for everything that is going on in my life.


Yet, this life that I am living with all of the aspects of it is a part of the wedding ceremony that Christ invited me to attend. Included in the party is my family, my friends, my work, my physical pain, my mental anguish, my sorrow, my joy, my losses, and my gains; there is nothing the He does not participate in with me, and there is no aspect of my life that the Lord does not have His sovereign hand upon. The challenges and the frustrations of dealing with my day are real; yet, my ability to handle them and to see God’s purpose in them is in my control.


When I turn the hard relationships, the times of fear, loss, and the difficult decisions, over to God, my ability to see all of life from a point of greater clarity is increased, When I also praise God for everything, and this especially includes all of the most trying of situations and people that I am dealing with, He reveals His plans to my heart. Thank you, Jesus, for providing me with every opportunity to trust and to rely upon you today; thank you, my Bridegroom, for choosing me to be your partner for this day’s swirling dance of joy as we continue the party that is our wedding feast. 


The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

Psalm 19: 7


The human soul seems to have a longing for a touchstone that is true and trustworthy; we go through life with the uncertainties that it throws our way, and our hearts start to race in the anxious anticipation of the next thing that is going to arise that will trip us up, disrupt our progress, or confuse our plans for living successfully. When these unsettling events come my way, I start to doubt my own sense of direction and my ability to create intelligent plans for myself. It is all very unnerving.


My biggest problem is that, when things are seemingly going well, I tend to get too confident in my own abilities and start to trust in my skills, charm, ability, and intelligence; thus, I don’t take the time to consider God’s input, direction, and guidance. If this were uniquely my problem, that would be one issue, but I read of people in the Bible who suffered from much the same problem, and stories like these are a part of my daily life, too. We tend to be an independent breed of people, and God actually created that way, for He wants us to operate with the sort of freedom and initiative that comes from a heart that has been released from captivity to sin, and the great Creator God enjoys the sort of creativity that we bring to solving the challenges of life.


What I and most people need is a fundamental realization that seeking God’s truth and wisdom, listening intently to His voice, and allowing His Spirit to guide my thinking and my actions is not constraining; rather, these intimately relational actions on my part bring me closer to the core of my own creativity, for that is one of the primary markers of my God-likeness; then, My heart and my mind are released from their dark cell of doubt and I am able to grant myself permission to walk boldly through life in obedience to God’s will.


The Lord says,” Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.”

Psalm 105: 15


When God says something He means it; no kidding around, and nothing to be reconsidered at a later time. His word is THE WORD of the Creator and the Ruler of the entire universe. So, just exactly who is God warning about what sort of touching, who are His anointed ones, and which of us are His prophets?


God claims all people as His own, for we are all made in His image with the capability to live in a manner that causes positive and restorative change in the world that we touch; however, not everyone decides to accept the invitation to return to an intimate relationship with our Creator, for this is a choice that God will not force on anyone. Those of us who do choose Christ and His redemption become God’s anointed; we are blessed with the presence of the Spirit of God; thus, we become somewhat like a candle that has been infused with an unimaginably sweet fragrance that we give off as the flame of our lives lights the darkness around us. Additionally, as we seek to follow Christ and do His will, the Lord’s word of truth becomes the expression of our being; so, we are God’s prophets that are sent by Him to speak and to demonstrate His saving grace to everyone who will listen and watch.


The forces of evil, Satan, his followers, and the world systems that have become infected with the disease of sin don’t want to see the truth of Christ spread; since God uses His people, His anointed ones, to do the spreading of righteous truth, all of evil attempts to stop that process. Like Christ, we can be wounded, but like Him, we can not be defeated, for the Lord, God Almighty, has spoken, and all of creation must follow His edicts. We should never fear and not hesitate for a second in seeking to follow the Lord’s direction and desire for our lives, for evil can do us no real harm, and Satan is bound by the chains of God’s word from even touching us.    


Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4: 7


We have been told that “what the world needs is love” and “love is what makes the world go around”; we can whistle, hum, and sing these words all day long, but do we believe them? Actually believing that we are loved greatly; truly accepting the love that others have for us; giving it unconditionally to anyone else, living out lives of love this fully is where most of us fall short.


We spend too much time hiding out in the bushes in fear of what God may see when he comes upon our exposed nakedness; while, God has already seen everything, and He has already committed to love us totally. Then we see someone who is in pain, tears welling in the eyes, and we turn away as we pretend to hear our named being called from across the room. There is the co-worker whose life is falling apart, and we nod and give an empty reassurance that “it will all work out”; then, we try to be certain that we are not alone with that person again.


Yes, it is true that the world needs love; that has always been true; yet, it is a basic truth of nature that God has always met every real need that exists. We were created with loving care, and our Creator has loved us absolutely ever since. We need to accept that fact and to accept our responsibility to open our hearts to others. The willingness to care for those around us in this risky, very vulnerable manner is what distinguishes those who know Christ from others. Consider who you will seek out today to care about, to listen to, to get to know better. Pray for the courage to step into the pain that is in another’s heart. Live so that others can truly “know we are Christians because of our love”.

And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.
1 John 2: 17
There is this dream that comes to me from time to time; in it I am holding onto something that I know to be very valuable and particularly precious; mind you, in the way of dreams, I can’t tell you what it is, but I absolutely know that it is irreplaceable and has value that I can’t afford to waste. Yet, as the dream continues, the object becomes harder and harder to continue to hold, for the harder I work to hold onto it, the less tangible it becomes. My elusive prize also seems to always be in motion, as if propelled by a motor, and its movement is always away from me.
The futility and the frustration of this chase are like the way that life goes when the things that we are seeking are the treasures of this world. At times it seems like we have it all figured out and are finally out in front of everything that might come our way; then, it all starts to slip away as our stocks take a dive, the job of a lifetime goes bad, health turns to disease, or our judgement and integrity become compromised. The tangible becomes vaporous and the things and the people that we counted on as reliable mock us.
Still, there is solid ground to be found and a permanent form of truth that can be counted on in even the hardest of situations; God provides us with His understanding of what is truly valuable, and He leads anyone who seeks Him into an ever growing understanding of the righteous prize that will never fail. Seek the Lord and pursue His will for your day; then, your hands will be filled with eternal riches. 

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