Monday, June 30, 2008
"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever."
God's promise is not exemption from mourning. We will face trials, loss and deep sadness in life. In fact, that is Jesus' promise, "In this world you will have trouble," (John 16:33b). Christ Himself mourned at the death of Lazarus and anguished over His own death as He prepared in the garden of Gethsemane.
But even as Christ promised that "In this world you will have trouble," He completed this promise by reminding us, "take heart! I have overcome the world," (John 16:33).
It is only by the mighty work of God that we are able to overcome the trials and loss of this life. It is only in the light of the cross that our mourning is turned to dancing, our sackcloth is turned to gladness and our grief to singing songs of glory and gratitude.
Through the cross I have reconciliation with my God and Maker. I have access to the source of all joy and gladness. The mourning of this life is not my only option.
Through the cross, I can be certain that my God and Savior, my Lord understands and identifies with my trial. He is fully able to sympathize with my situation because He has been there (Heb. 4:14-16). I am not alone.
"Though my sorrow may last for a night, His joy comes with the morning," (Psalm 30:5).
Mourning will cease. Morning is coming. Joy and dancing are on the horizon.
Father, thank You for the morning and new days filled with dancing and singing. Thank You for the cross because of which You walk with me. May my life be filled with singing and dancing for Your Glory. Make me a man of gratitude. Make me to teach others to sing and dance as well. Amen.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
"My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up. "
Coming to the Lord int he morning is a common theme in Scripture. Jesus rose up early in the morning to spend time with the Father in prayer.
However coming to God in the morning is about more than the AM side of the clock. Coming to the Lord in the morning means early in life when we are developing our habits, patterns and skills. It means calling upon Him before the storm hits. It means seeking His wisdom before it is needed. It means praising Him before the blessing - anticipating His goodness. It means looking up when everything within me wants to hang my head. It's blessing the Lord at all times - even when I can't see what lies ahead.
By this we are strengthened to stand, prepared for battle, equipped in thought, ready for action. Life will not hold me down because I rise up early in the morning and seek Him.
Lord, meet me in the mornings of my life. Teach me to seek You at all times. Keep my head up and my eyes on You. Amen.
"You have put gladness in my heart,
More than in the season that their grain and wine increased."
What makes me glad? What puts a smile on my face and lightens my heart? Is it the Lord? Do the things of God bring me joy? While there is nothing wrong with the gladness that comes from other things (grain and wine) the Joy of God should be noticeably greater. All good and perfect gifts come from God (James 1:17). Therefore, I when I take pleasure in anything I should be able to find God within and through it. The key is to live according to Psalm 1:2 - delighting in the law of the Lord, meditating on His Word day and night. God's Word gives me the perspective to delight in life and see the Lord in each delight. This perspective brings gladness - gladness that surpasses common pleasures and common things.
God - write Your Word on my heart and let me delight in Your ways. Fill me with gladness and make me a testimony to Your constant goodness. Amen.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified."
How would I examine and test myself to see if Christ is truly living in and through me?
- Is there blatant sin in my life?
- Am I in daily communication with God in prayer?
- Have I been loving my bride in a way that reflects the Trinity (Eph. 5) and proclaims the Gospel of reconciliation?
- Have I forgiven others or do I harbor bitterness and resentment in my heart?
- Are His words on my heart, mind and lips?
- Have I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do that which is contrary to my flesh and worldly reason?
- Am I serving sacrificially - giving myself away daily?
- Do I hold loosely to my earthly treasures for the sake of the Gospel ministry... giving generously, daily?
- Do I complain or rejoice in trials and struggles?
- Are my days marked by joy or marred by resentment?
- Do I boast in my work or God's work?
- What compels me?... love, truth, Christ... pride, greed, guilt...?
- Am I winning the battle of thoughts in my mind?
- Am I actively guiding my family to walk closer to Christ?... or am I lazy in leading?
- Would others see Christ in my actions?
- Would others hear Christ in my words?
If Christ is truly in me, He must also be through me - constantly and clearly evident in each area of my life.
My Jesus - live through me. Make Your presence known in me; and in me known. Teach me to sense Your voice - to know Your Spirit's moving. Make me more sensitive to You, more conscious of sin, more loving to others and more true to who You are calling me to be. Amen.
Monday, June 16, 2008
"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
I understand the concept Paul writes about here. I know that His grace is sufficient for me and that I'll never know, receive or reflect that grace apart from my weaknesses and trials. However I still avoid, in action and thought, all signs of trial; infirmities, reproach, needs, persecution, distress. I am not pleased to suffer these things as Paul wrote. And the more that I meditate on this verse I am convinced the reason (and lesson) is found in the short and overlooked phrase "for Christ's sake." More often than not I live for my own sake. And the trials I find myself in are not for His sake but because I chose to live for my sake. In this case I am weak... period. I should not expect sufficient grace but sufficient discipline - "for God disciplines those He loves, (Prov. 3:12, Heb 12:6). And I must never confuse the two; trials for Christ's sake and trials of discipline. And yet, I should desire and boast in both; for they are both a work of God for my continued sanctification.
Lord - bring me trials for Your sake. Teach me to life this way... for Your sake. Amen.
Friday, June 13, 2008
"If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. "
The older I get the more I realize just how little I can truly take credit for. My accomplishments are at best accidental; and in reality the very intentional blessings of God. My whole life is truly a blessing from God.
And, more often than not, this realization comes through my failures; being in need, breaking a relationship, leaving a job, making a bad decision, being a poor steward, etc.... It is when I am weak or foolish that God seems to show up most and speak most clearly.
At one time I would pray to avoid trials and struggles. Now I pray that God would bless me with more opportunities to see Him and experience His fullness no matter what it takes. I pray for discomfort so that I don't stay the same or think too highly of myself. I'm not strong enough to be humble or gentle or meek on my own... so I ask God to bring me to that place by whatever means necessary.
And praise be to God, He's got me where He needs me. He has continued to open my eyes and reveal Himself to me. He continues to fight on my behalf and bless me beyond measure.
God - thank you for blessing me and molding me through my weaknesses and trials to see and know You more. Bring me more opportunities to rely on You and experience Your goodness each day. Make me humble and give me more opportunities to point to You. Amen.
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled."
What are my weapons of spiritual warfare?... prayer, Scripture, meditation, stillness, serving, giving, confession, accountability, the Holy Spirit and the very presence of Christ to start. I have no need to comfort or strengthen (for lack of a better term) myself with substance, alcohol, pornography, inappropriate relationships, power, prestige, accomplishments, material wealth or pride. I don't have to wage war using manipulation, lies, deceit, dominance, harsh words, unfair comparisons or prideful defenses.
When I rest in the blessings of God they alone are mighty enough to strengthen my heart and mind and give me victory over whatever I face.
Father, teach me to fully use the weapons you have given me to fight back temptation, unhealthy thoughts and untruths. Strengthen me and help me master my own thoughts and emotions. Protect me and keep me safe so that I may continue faithfully promoting Your kingdom. Amen.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. "
God is able to bless me. He is more able to bless me when I am willing to be a blessing. When I am willing to sow generously, God is able to reap generously and able to share His abundance with me. And God may be more able to bless me if my giving comes from a cheerful heart.
And yet, when I get to the point of generous, cheerful sowing and generous, abundant reaping, the abundance is found not in material wealth or resources but in the good work to be done! My blessings from God and not abundance - they are sufficient. And this efficiency is not even for me - but for the abundance of opportunity.
God - make me more faithful in giving my time, talents and treasures. Give me a cheerful heart for giving. Give me eyes to see the abundance of opportunity around me and the wisdom to know how to apply my sufficiency. Make me more of a blessing each day. Amen.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. "
I have become rich... so that I too may become poor. My God and Savior Jesus Christ sacrificed infinitely more than I could ever imagine for my sake. There is nothing that I have that is not worth sacrificing for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of others; not my time, not my stuff, not my agenda, not my pride, not my comfort, not my life... nothing. All of these are simply blessings from God for the sake of the Kingdom.
I have become rich in so many ways... so that I may become poor in every way for the salvation of others.
God - thank You for my many blessings. I am overwhelmed by Your faithfulness, even when things are tight - You have proven faithful. Continue to bless me and my family with opportunities to give and sacrifice for Your Kingdom. Teach me to point others to You through my many blessings that they too may become rich. Amen.
"Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God....
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. "
Why does godly sorrow produce salvation?... because the promises of God are true. Repentance produces peace and hope in the light of the promises of God. He is faithful and just and will forgive us and restore us (1 John 1:9). But the world does not have the promises of God nor the Holy Spirit speaking into their hearts. Therefore, sorrow and conviction only lead to discouragement and depression leading to death. There is only condemnation for those not in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). No wonder that in our country as Jesus and the Bible are systematically removed from society - the marks of this generation are depression, doubt, divorce, debt, suicide, hopelessness and despair. And so, we are the ambassadors of hope, bearing in our hearts and lives the promises of God and demonstrating them in all that we do and say. My sin does not defeat me but only strengthens my resolve and hope in the faithful promises of God.
Father - may the world see the hope in me through godly sorrow and true repentance. Help me demonstrate Your promises today. Amen.
Friday, June 6, 2008
"We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. 4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; 6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."
Paul resolved to endure all things with grace and integrity for the sake of the Gospel. His highest value was the health and quality of the ministry of the Gospel he had been entrusted with - not his own reputation or comfort or success. This mindset left no room for pride, envy, selfishness or time off. In all things, at all times, Paul presented himself as a servant of the Gospel without reservation - compelled by the vary message.
So what is my highest value and aim? My reputation? My comfort? My favor? My life? There are times when I clearly set aside the Gospel and it's reputation for my own selfish sake. There are times when the Gospel is no more than a tool or means to my end of pleasing and promoting myself.
I suppose this is rooted in an unhealthy familiarity with the Gospel - it has become common and familiar. Instead, I should be in awe of the Gospel and the amazing love of God should compel me in all things to live a life worthy of the Gospel ministry at all times.
God -teach me to adore Your Gospel in awe and wonder. Purify my heart, my motives and my ministry to honor You and the vary Gospel I have been made to preach. Amen.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
"For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again."
Have I fallen in love with Jesus or the thought of Jesus? Is Jesus just the afterthought of my life or does His work for me on the cross compel me toward obedience? Is Jesus an emotional pick-me-up or is He my deepest passion? The thought of Jesus is a part of my daily life - He does make a difference. However to be honest I don't think His love for me compels me. At times I am compelled - but far more often I am my own compulsion - pleasing me. What a difference it would make to focus and meditate on the cross (not just the Bible) at the start of every day. I bet my life would look different if I looked first at Calvary instead of my calendar, creation instead of conditions, the cross instead of the clock as my day got started.
Jesus - may Your love for me compel me to follow You in full obedience each day. Make Your love for me be my first thought. Bring me to a better view of the cross each day and become my motivation for all that I do. Amen.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,"
As I read this passage this morning, I am holding a a beautiful 5 week old baby girl named Vanessa. We're taking care of her while her mom gets some help and figures some things out. Because of some difficulties at birth, Vanessa was without oxygen for an extended time and suffered brain damage. She also has Cerebral Palsy. As I hold her and pray for her I think about her life and all the unfortunate afflictions she will endure. These are the result of life in a sin filled world. This was not God's desire for her... but it was His plan; for His Glory and hers.
Along with this sad story is a miraculous story of how she lived and inspired her mom to get help. And here in our home begins the story of her salvation as we pray over her in confident hope that one day when she hears the voice of Jesus calling, she will recognize Him and follow Him. Perhaps one day by her life and testimony she will lead others to see and receive Christ and experience His glory. Ultimately, she will declare God's glory as she is made new in Glory. These light and temporary afflictions pale in comparison to the weight of glory being revealed in and through her life.
And what a blessing to be a part of this glorious process. Praise God!
Father, give me eternal eyes to see and know the weight of Your glory... and strength to endure the light and temporary afflictions of this life. Let us welcome Your glory day by day. Amen
"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
"Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."
I am not longer under the law. My sin no longer chains me; restrains me from beholding the Glory of God. I am free from sin and free to behold the Glory of the Lord by the Spirit of the Lord. And as I gaze into His face, I am transformed - changed into His likeness and my sin fades away! From glory to Glory I am made new through beholding His Glory in freedom.
So why do I let guilt and sin restrain me from looking into the face and glory of God? I am free! The law and the veil have been removed! Why do I resist my freedom to approach the throne of glory? It is only by pressing through my insecurities and weaknesses that I am changed into His glory and likeness and can lay these burdens aside. I am free to bask in His Glory now!
God - cause me to seek Your face. Remove my guilt and shame and let nothing hinder me. I want to see Your face. Transform me from glory to GLORY. Amen.
Monday, June 2, 2008
"Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life."
When we follow in submission to Christ, when we walk as Jesus walked, we proclaim His victory in our lives. Like a triumphant army that marches through the streets of a conquered city proclaiming victory - we carry with us the knowledge of Christ and His victory on Calvary. By our lives and conduct we proclaim His victory over sin and death and condemnation. The Holy fragrance of a life surrendered to Christ is a sweet aroma to those also welcoming Christ's reign; but to those in opposition to the new king, it is a fragrance of death, the knowledge of judgement.
Either way, we are the aroma of Christ if we walk triumphantly in Him.
So what type of aroma does my life diffuse? Am I living a life that diffuses the knowledge of Christ? Do I proclaim victory over sin... or defeat? Do I walk defeated? What do others see and smell and know from watching the way I walk?
My Lord, may my life have the aroma of Your love and victory. May I walk in a manner that proclaims victory over sin and temptation and death and submission to Christ the King. May the knowledge of Christ be diffused through me - a fragrance of life. Amen.