Hopefully Devoted: Today Time

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

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I finally purchased my own copy of Jesus Calling. As I shopped at my nearby Christian bookstore, I spied it. I picked up the very nice leather-like bound copy and read the tag-line of the title: Enjoying Peace In His Presence. I was in the midst of a series of messages on “Continuing the Work of Jesus…Peacefully.” Knowing I needed to continue growing in peace and peacemaking, I laid my money down—and I haven’t regretted the decision.

I love how a phrase can cut straight to the struggle of my heart. This morning I found a nugget that stopped me. 

I designed time to be a protection for you.

I had been washing dishes, getting breakfast, and having a running dialogue with God about the frustration I was having with feeling excessive stress, and how it was impacting my commitment to healthy eating. 

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As I walked past the dining room table, I glanced down and saw the devotional. Picking it up, I turned to today, and there it was.

I designed time to be a protection for you.

I have a large new responsibility coming up next week. I’ve been feeling anxious. Doubting my ability. Performance anxiety. 

My head dropped. I was doing it again. Worrying about a tomorrow, about what might be, about things I have no control over. Frustrating myself today. Trampling all over my daily goals, commitments, and opportunities by stressing about tomorrow.

Time. Time is a gift from God. 

Provision. God provides for me on a “daily” basis. Only gather enough manna for today. Give me this day—today—my daily bread. Today is the day of salvation.

God, forgive me for failing to recognize you wise provision and creation. Especially, when it comes to time. Help me to trust you for all my tomorrows and to live more completely in my today. Thanks. Amen.

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Wednesday’s Word: FORWARD!

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Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12, NIV)

Life seems full of road blocks the inhibit our forward progress. And while we try to figure out how we can get around (or if we even want to try), we look up and see so many things undone or done wrong in the rearview mirror. How can we ever move ahead when what’s behind pulls on our attention?

What keeps the believer moving forward? Knowing that what is expected is not perfection in the sense that we never make the wrong move, flub up, or experience what Paul describes in Romans 7: the thing I want to do, I don’t; and the thing I don’t want to do I keep doing. It’s a horrible tug of war.

Paul gets it—gets us. Inevitably, striving for perfection ends in frustration, shame, and defeat. Focusing on moving forward, taking the steps, making one right choice and then another, is progress. Pressing on to become the person God wants me to be is moving in the right direction.

Pressing on is intentional. Pressing on is work. Pressing on gets me to where God wants me to be, to be who he wants me to be.

Jesus is quite clear on which direction we need to be moving. When he invited people to follow him several gave flimsy excuses about taking care of other things first. To them, and to us he states: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62, NIV).”

What direction are you moving in today?

 

Hymn Struggles: Mercy Drops

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Recently I wrote an article about my frustration with a phrase in a familiar hymn being used in a modern worship song: He Never Has Failed Me YET.

My dislike stems from what appears to be the implication that while God hasn’t failed the believer in the past, he still might.

Ugh! He hasn’t and he won’t. Period.

Another hymn came to mind which I believe leads believers into an unhealthy relationship with God. You might be familiar with the gospel hymn, “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing.”

I like the thought. I want to get all wet in the downspout of God’s grace and mercy. My problem with the song is that it sounds like a petulant, ungrateful three year old is singing.

The chorus goes like this:

Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.

Mercy-drops round us are falling, but that’s not enough, God. We want more. Super-soak us. Saturation is what we want.

On a daily basis, however, God sends his mercy-drops. They’re all around. They are new every morning. They are timely. They are refreshing. They are God’s provision.

Are we even aware? Do we thank God?

I will confess, I prefer “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” to “Showers of Blessing.” The chorus has a much different feel:

Great Is Thy faithfulness, Great Is Thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me!

The truth of these words comes straight from scripture: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’ (Lamentations 3:22-24, NIV).”

Some might argue we do face times when life leaves us parched and we need God to pour out his grace and mercy in tsunami waves on dry and weary souls.

I agree. I’ve been there.

Those times, thankfully, don’t come every day. But God’s mercies do. And they don’t always come as flash floods. No, there as gentle as the morning dew, and refreshing to our spirit.

Don’t miss the mercy while you plead for the drenching.

 

 

Wednesday’s Word: Awe

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So the plan for this weekly post is to have an encouraging word for those extra long days and weeks that weigh heavy and are discouraging.

Today’s word is a great word for that purpose. So many days we get tripped up by the mundane, sabotaged by the pain, or overwhelmed by the struggle. We’re taken down by those things because we lose perspective: the ability to see above and beyond.

A scripture that lifts me to a place of awe is found in Isaiah 40:

28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

God can give us the ability to soar above…and that’s pretty awesome. He keeps his promise, gives us everything we need—including the ability run, or  the strength to just keep walking.

That’s awesome and amazing.

 

Selah: Ministry Priorities

Recently I was asked to list what I think are the top ten things related to ministry. My first response put preaching and teaching at the top.

I read over my written list a couple times and decided I started at the wrong place.

Hitting the delete button on my keyboard, I changed preaching to spiritual self-care and my number two to connection/fellowship with others. If I don’t take care of myself, making my spiritual growth a priority—then I will have nothing to give anyone else.

Then I saw this meme:

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Flourish.

This of course reminded me of my series on the Beatitudes, and how Jesus’ understanding and invitation to “blessed” was the idea of flourishing.

If I am going to flourish and be effective in my life and calling, I have to tend my garden first. And while you may not be called to a specific capacity or “job” of ministry, nourishing will lead to flourishing in your spiritual walk and influence.

As you pause and reflect on where your journey may take you today and this week, ask for guidance on how you will prioritize and nourish your spiritual garden. Are there weeds you need to pull? Seeds you need to plant? Flowers you just need to take time to admire?

Make your spiritual garden a priority and see what grows.

 

For meditation:

God’s blessings follow you and await you at every turn:
    when you don’t follow the advice of those who delight in wicked schemes,
When you avoid sin’s highway,
    when judgment and sarcasm beckon you, but you refuse.
For you, the Eternal’s Word is your happiness.
    It is your focus—from dusk to dawn.
You are like a tree,
    planted by flowing, cool streams of water that never run dry.
Your fruit ripens in its time;
    your leaves never fade or curl in the summer sun.
No matter what you do, you prosper. (Psalm 1, The Voice Bible)

 

 

 

Delete the Yet.

Words are my life. If I’m not speaking/teaching with them, I’m either writing them or playing games with them. Consequently, I find myself doing a lot of self-editing to make sure my message is clear.

Editing sometimes involves correcting punctuation. Putting a comma in the right place can make all the difference in the meaning of a statement. For example, which is better: I like cooking my family and my pets; or I like cooking, my family, and my pets. Or: Let’s eat grandma; or Let’s eat, grandma.

Using words or deleting them can change the meaning being conveyed. I would like to suggest an editing correction to an old hymn that has been recently updated, and is currently playing on Christian radio.

In one of the previous churches I attended we often had hymn sings, times when the people would call out the hymnal number or title of their favorite hymn. I would cringe when I heard someone request number 443, “He Never Has Failed Me Yet.”

Yet.

And now a whole new generation of believers is hearing this disappointing musical theology.

I can almost imagine your confused looks as you read my concern. Am I majoring in minor things and making mountains out of molehills? I don’t think so. This simple three-letter word injects an enormous dose of doubt into our faith in God. Simply put: while affirming God’s got a pretty good track record so far, we’re not sure about the future. Including the “yet: implies there’s still potential for God to not come through—and that’s not possible!

Sure, we can all point to times when we didn’t get what we wanted: a job, health, money, or the miracle to save the day. But that doesn’t mean God failed. 

Tucked in Jeremiah is a verse often quoted, worn on t-shirts, or slapped on mugs. The people were in an unbelievably difficult situation—one they’d never chosen…but God did. His message: “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).” 

God has plans for you, good plans. He will not fail.

Paul, understood this, too. While in prison (talk about a situation that could seem like a God-fail), he wrote: “We know God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28, NLT).” Not everything will seem good, but God can make them work together for good. Like Jeremiah said, for His plans and purpose.

I’m not suggesting we take a marker and start crossing out all the “yets” in the hymnal, but I do believe we need to edit that kind of thinking our of our faith and our living. Drop the yet, and put a period there.

He never has failed me. And He never will.

Hopefully Devoted: Dream Small

But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered (Matthew 14:17, NLT).”

The chorus I learned as a child said, “Little is much when God is in it.” The updated version is this:

I’ve been having conversations at my church about this transition in thinking. We can chase after big and think that only doing big things matters—but there is such a special blessing in doing small and simple things in big ways…with a big heart.

Will you share a smile, hold a door, send a card, or phone a friend? Will take a coffee to a friend who can’t get out, or a bouquet of flowers to widow? Will you pull the weeds in someone’s flowerbed who recently had surgery? These things cost very little if anything, but can make a huge difference.

So what will you do today to bless others that won’t necessarily make a big splash, but plant a small seed which can potentially grow their faith in a huge kind of way?

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV).