Monday, July 31, 2017

god alone

Opening Prayer: For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2, ESV)

Scripture: Psalm 62:1-12

Journal:  What do the words God alone stir up within you?  Why?

Reflection: When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself.  The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation.  In the and lies our great woe.  If we omit the and we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing. —The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

Prayer

Closing Prayer: For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is in him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I will not be shaken.  On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. (Psalm 62:5-7, ESV)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

strong and loving

Opening Prayer: Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope come from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 62:5-6, old NIV)

Scripture: Psalm 62:1-12

Journal: What words or images are you most drawn to in Psalm 62?  Why?  What is the relationship between rest and trust and belief?  Are you able to rest in God’s care and provision? Why or why not?

Reflection: I’ve always felt like Psalm 62 was written backwards, it starts with rest and then moves to trust, and finally on to belief.  Who knows, maybe it just starts on the surface and works its way down to the core.  But if we start with rest, we will find ourselves frustrated and helpless.  We can’t make ourselves rest, especially if we think that our salvation and our honor depend on us (v. 7).  In that case, we must continually work to ensure that our salvation and our honor are secure.  Rest is impossible without trust.  In order to rest, we must trust that God is the one who takes care of our salvation and our honor, it is not something we can, or need to, work for.
     But trust is impossible without belief.  In order to be able to trust God with things of such importance, we must believe that he is able and willing to take care of them.  That is where the last two verses of the psalm come into play.  In order to trust God, we must truly believe that he is both strong and loving.  One without the other would be either incomplete or insufficient.  Imagine a God who was strong, but not loving.  In that scenario we would live in constant terror of what he might do to us.  Or imagine a God who was loving, but not strong.  In that case God would want to help us, but would be unable to do so.  But thankfully he is both.  Therefore, we can believe, and thus, we can trust, in order that we might rest.  If we are unable to rest, then maybe we need to examine our trust and our belief.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard; that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.  Help me to truly believe that.

Friday, July 28, 2017

always before me

Opening Prayer: Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.  I will praise the Lord who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.  I have set the Lord always before me.  Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 16:5-8)

Scripture: Psalm 16:1-11

Journal: How does this Psalm speak to your life right now?  What words or images capture you?  What words or images disrupt you?  Why?

Reflection: “I have set the Lord always before me.  Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  What extraordinary words!  King David boils the entire spiritual life down to one phrase.  If somehow we could learn to set the Lord always before us, life would be so much easier.  Not easier in the sense that nothing bad would ever happen to us, but easier in the sense that God’s strong and loving presence would be with us whatever the circumstance.  Centuries later, Brother Lawrence would call this “practicing the presence of God.”  It is both a perspective and a practice.  It is a way of living life in which we are always conscious of the presence of God within and around us.  Everything that happens to us is seen and interpreted through those lenses, whether we are in the midst of the dark night, or reveling in the abundance of this life, or simply washing the dishes.  When we set the Lord always before us, all will be well.  When we are fully aware of God’s presence, at all times and in all circumstances, we will not be shaken.  May this very phrase serve as our prayer and our companion this day, so that we too may set the Lord always before us.

Prayer

Closing Prayer:  You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  (Psalm 16:11, ESV)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

psalm 27

Opening Prayer: One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. (Psalm 27:4-5, ESV)

Scripture: Psalm 27:1-14

Journal: What words or images from this psalm make something come alive within you?  Why? How are you seeking God’s face these days?  What effect is it having in your life?  

Reflection: O Holy Mystery, You who entered into the depths of my brokenness that I might be filled with Your fullness, enflame my heart Your indwelling love that I might desire You above all else. May my growing love for You lead me to offer myself to You through practices of devotion and service. Through these practices may the light of Your cruciform love break the power of the persistent shadows of my false self. May Your light illuminate my darkness. May Your cruciform love consume all evil in me. May Your wholeness heal my brokenness and make me a child of light. (The Deeper Journey by M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.)

Prayer

Closing Prayer:  Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.
     Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.
     I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:7-14, ESV)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

walking in his truth

Opening Prayer: Teach me your ways, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86:11, NIV)

Scripture: Psalm 86:11

Journal: What does it mean to walk in God’s truth?  To have an undivided heart?  To fear his name?  

Reflection: But in the epiphany of the night of darkness and pain and near despair, the holiness of God became an ecstasy, a captivity of adoration, a heart-smiting and heart-cleansing and heart possessing reality.  I was caught up and then bowed in enthralled worship.  I wanted to be wholly so engaged forever.  I wanted everything I said or did to be an act of worship.  What I had become aware of thrillingly and exclusively, was a holiness that is wholeness!  It includes everything the human heart at its best craves, everything the human mind in its greatest moments reaches after, everything the authentic self needs for its fulfillment.  It was goodness of infinite dimensions, truth transcending all limitations; beauty endlessly satisfying; mercy without limit; forgiveness equal to every desperate sin; wisdom surpassing all human knowledge; everything of value in time and eternity; and always there, without variation, for everybody, in every situation.
     In the Presence thus manifested there was nothing that at any time diminishes his perfections, dilutes his redemptive powers, modifies his living eagerness to help his creatures fulfill their destiny.  I was ravishingly made aware that the Presence is always the Presence-in-the-fullness-of-his-being, in his concern for all of us, in the inexhaustibleness of his saving energies, in the responsibility he assumes for every one of his children. (The Captivating Presence by Albert Edward Day)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: You, O Lord, are holy, and created us to live and to walk in your holiness.  That is how we become all that you intended us to be.  Help us to become that!  Amen.

Monday, July 24, 2017

contentment

Opening Prayer: Lord, help me to be grateful for what I have, to remember that I don’t need most of what I want, and that joy is found in simplicity and generosity.  Amen. ~A Prayer for Contentment

Scripture: Philippians 4:11-13

Journal: What is your level of contentment in life these days?  What increases it?  What attacks it?  How will you nurture contentment in your life going forward?

Reflection: One step toward it [contentment] is patient submission to unavoidable ills and hardships… There are trials which we cannot change into pleasures, burdens which we cannot lay down, crosses which we must continue to carry, thorns in the flesh which must remain with their rankling pain. When we have such trials, why should we not accept them as part of God’s way with us? Discontent never made a rough path smoother, a heavy burden lighter, a bitter cup less bitter, a dark way brighter, a sore sorrow less sore. It [discontent] only makes matters worse. One who accepts with patience that which he cannot change—has learned one secret of victorious living. ~J. R. Miller

Prayer

Closing Prayer: I would rather be what you chose to make me, O God, than the most glorious creature that I could imagine; for to have been thought about, born in Your thought, and then made by You, is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking. ~George MacDonald


Sunday, July 23, 2017

wait again

Opening Prayer: Quiet my heart and my mind, O Lord, that I may truly listen to you this day.  Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 25:4-5

Journal: How do you determine the voice of God from all of the other voices within and around you?  How does listening happen in your life?  How will you make time and space to listen to God?

Reflection: Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. (Psalm 25:4-5, ESV)
     It is difficult, at times, to discern God’s voice from the many voices around and within us that are constantly clamoring for our attention and attempting to determine our direction.  It’s quite maddening, and can be terribly confusing unless we take the advice of the psalmist and wait patiently for the voice of the Lord to rise above the din of all the other voices that continually assault us. 
     But waiting patiently is no easy matter.  It will cost us significantly.  Waiting for the Lord takes time.  Listening for God’s voice takes space.  It requires silence and solitude.  It means that we must slow down, disconnect, and disengage from all of the people and the things that fill our lives and our hearts with noise and clamor and endless compulsion.  It seems like everyone we meet loves us and has a great plan for our lives, and will gladly tell us exactly what that is if we are willing to give them our time and attention.  But no one else can tell us who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to do except the One who made us.  It is his voice alone that must determine these things.  And unless we listen for his voice we will never know exactly what they are.  Unless we are willing to invest the time and attention necessary to truly hear his still, small voice, we are likely to be blown around by whim and opinion and circumstance.
     That’s where the words of this ancient prayer offer us help.  They ask God to be the one to determine the way and the path.  For he alone knows the truth, and will gladly tell it to us if we are willing to listen—and wait. 

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

wait

Opening Prayer:  I call to you, Lord, from  my quiet darkness.  Show me your mercy and love.  Let me see your face, hear your voice, touch the hem of your cloak.  I want to love you, be with you, speak to you and simply stand in your presence.  But I cannot make that happen.  Pressing my eyes against my hands is not praying, and reading about your presence is not living in it.
     But there is that moment in which you will come to me, as you did to your fearful disciples, and say, "Do not be afraid; it is I."  Let that moment come soon, O Lord.  And if you want to delay it, then make me patient.  Amen. (A Cry for Mercy by Henri J. M. Nouwen)

Scripture: Psalm 37:7, James 5:7-8

Journal: What is the place of waiting in your own personal life with God?  Where are you having to wait for the Lord?  Where is he asking you to wait for him?  

Reflection: Be still and wait patiently for the Lord. . .(Psalm 37:7)


     God comes like the sun in the morning--when it is time.
     We must assume an attitude of waiting, accepting the fact that we are creatures and not creator.
     We must do this because it is not our right to do anything else: the initiative is God's, not ours.  We are able to initiate nothing; we are able only to accept.
     If God does not call, no calling takes place.  If God does not come, there is no history!  History is the coming of God to us, and the way in which we reply.
     Only God created the heavens and the earth; only God can create history.  We carry it out through our response, but the inspiration, the design, and the strength to carry it out come from him.
     In short, he is what creates, and we creatures are in an act of becoming. (The God Who Comes by Carlo Carretto)


See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.  You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. (James 5:7-8)


     Apparently waiting plays a significant role in our lives with God.  Unfortunately, we are not good at it.  We like to charge ahead.  We like to make things happen.  The problem is that the things that we can make happen are probably not the things God wants to have happen.  So even when it is our desire to help God (as if he needed it), we, all too often, actually get in his way if we are not waiting patiently for him to tell us and to show us what he desires.  Waiting, it seems, must always precede acting.  Otherwise we are merely acting on our own behalf, rather than God's.

Pray

Closing Prayer: O Lord our God, be the initiator this day, and give us the grace and the courage to respond.  Amen. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

intimacy

Opening Prayer: O God, how you long for intimacy with us—as well as for us and from us.  And you designed marriage to be a beautiful expression of that.  Thank you that the best marriages can give us a little taste of eternity.  Amen.  

Scripture: Ephesians 5:22-33

Journal: How are your deepest desires for intimacy being met in your life right now?  How might God be drawing you to that?  How might marriage be a picture of that?  If you are married, what does God long for (both from you and for you) in your marriage?  What about these verses help give you direction on getting there?

Reflection: Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.
     Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.
     No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33, The Message)


     A few of days ago my wife and I had the incredible privilege of attending a ten year anniversary ceremony for a couple of dear friends.  They got married when they were really young and at the time were unable to afford the wedding they had always dreamt about, so they decided to have it on their tenth anniversary.  And it was delightful!  It was delightful because of the setting and the intentionality and the friends and family who had gathered.  It was delightful because of the wonderful weather and the beautiful decorations and the great food.  But mostly, it was delightful because of this extraordinary couple.  Her friends and family describe her as a great daughter, a great sister, and a great friend.  Her husband describes her as his rock--an incredible wife and mother.  Her life revolves around investing herself in the lives of those she loves, especially her husband and their four beautiful children.  He is a professional athlete.  His friends and family describe him as an enormous man with an enormous heart-- kind-hearted, loving, and generous (both with his time and his resources).  He is known in his profession as a great teammate who is willing to do the dirty work; willing to do all of the difficult, unglamorous things that no one else really wants to do.  In a word, both of these dear friends could be described as selfless.
     And because this ceremony took place ten years after they had originally gotten married, I think it led everyone there to reflect upon marriage in general, an upon our own marriages in particular.  I know it did me.  What makes a great marriage?  What makes a marriage that lasts?  And, even more, what makes a marriage that flourishes?  All of these questions, I believe, are addressed in the words above from the book of Ephesians.  The secret to a great marriage can be summed up in two words: strength and beauty.  Let me explain what I mean by that. 
     A wise man once said that the deepest question of every man's heart is, "Do I have what it takes?" while the greatest question of every woman's heart is, "Am I beautiful enough to be pursued?"  Now I am not completely sure about what resides in the heart of a woman, but as far as I'm concerned, the deepest question of every man's heart is spot on.  Deep in the heart of every man is the desire to be capable, adequate, and strong.  Oh, not strong in a brutish, bullying sort of way, but strong in a way that allows those dearest to us to feel safe and protected and cared for.  It is a strength filled with lovingkindness and tender care. And deep in the heart of every woman lies the desire to be considered beautiful.  Not just beautiful in the physical sense, but beautiful deep down to the core of who she really is.  A beauty that draws people to want to know her and be in deep relationship with her. 
     I think that's why Paul uses the word "honor" when speaking to the wives and "cherish" when speaking to the husbands.  Somehow when wives honor their husbands, they hold them in high regard.  They make something come alive in them that God breathed into them when he dreamt them into being.  They draw out their godly strength.  And somehow when a husband cherishes his wife, he makes something come to life in her that makes her the very best, God-breathed, version of herself.  When she is cherished, her true beauty is evoked from her.  
     The bottom line is that marriage was intended to be a place where husband and wife make each other the very best version of themselves.  And somehow the oneness from which, and for which, marriage was designed, means that the two together are more than they could ever be on their own.  That is not meant to diminish or demean singleness in any way.  In fact, I believe singleness is a unique and beautiful calling (or season) as well.  For those who are single it is almost as if God were saying, "I want to be that for you right now.  I want to be that intimate one in your life."  But the whole idea behind marriage is that two separate people would become one in some wonderfully mysterious way.  That the sum of the whole (in Christ) would somehow be greater than the sum of the parts.  I know that I have found this to be true in my own marriage.  I am a much, much better man with Carol in my life than I could ever hope to be without her.  Her presence in my life makes me more and more who God intended for me to be.
     The question is, how is this oneness in marriage achieved?  How do we live in union as husband and wife, rather than simply settling for living parallel lives?  I think the answer goes back to the weekend celebration we just had the pleasure of witnessing.  Oneness is achieved through selflessness.  Just ask the Trinity.  They live in joyful, loving union with one another, each honoring and cherishing and pointing toward and delighting in the other.  It is a Great Round Dance of Love that we are invited to take part in.  Oneness happens when we follow their lead.  Thus, oneness begins to take shape when we become more committed to the cares and needs and wants and desires of our spouse than we are to our own plans, demands, and agendas.  When both spouses are committed to giving themselves fully and completely to each other--no holding back--oneness is the byproduct.  Just ask Jesus, the part of the Trinity who came to show us what the heart of God is really like, and what it means to really love someone.  His love is our guide.  Each one of us is to love our spouse the way that Jesus has loved us.   When we do that we become, both corporately and individually, all that God designed us to be. 

Prayer

Closing Prayer: O God, how you long for us with the passion and purity of a bridegroom for his bride.  Draw us into deeper and deeper intimacy with you, that we might be drawn to deeper levels of intimacy with each other.  Amen.

Friday, July 14, 2017

refuge

Opening Prayer: In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.  Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. (Psalm 31:1-5, NIV)

Scripture: Psalm 31:1-5

Journal: What does it mean that God is your refuge?  How is that true in your life these days?

Reflection: I've been praying the psalms with a group of friends for the past several months and it has been such a joy and delight!  One thing I have noticed during that time is how often these prayers refer to God as our refuge.  It is a funny thing to pray on those days when needing a refuge is the furthest thing from my mind.  Those are the days, I suppose, when I must remind myself that the prayers I lift to the Lord Most High do not always have to be about me.  Those are the days when I must realize that the community I pray these prayers, both for and with, hold many people within them who are in desperate need of such a refuge.  Those are the days when I pray for them, my turn will come soon enough.
     What does it mean that God is our refuge anyway?  The word refuge in the Hebrew is chacah.  It means to flee for protection.  It is used 25 times in the book of Psalms alone, usually translated either refuge or trust.  It conveys the image of God as our safe place.  Within the warmth and protection of his loving and powerful embrace we can be fully at home and fully at peace, regardless of the circumstances.  God is the one to whom we can flee and find safety.  Oh, maybe not safety in the sense that no harm will ever befall us, but safety in the sense that, whatever comes, he is the one in whom we can trust and rest secure.  He loves us deeply and is strong enough to shelter us from and sustain us in even the direst of circumstances.
     So the psalms are an invitation to step inside the fullness and the beauty that this image has to offer.  Therefore, call upon the Lord your God to be your refuge, whatever that may mean today.  And if that image doesn't seem to translate into your life at the moment, pray it anyway, I'm sure it does for someone that you know and love.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: O God, Lord Almighty, be my refuge from the storm and my shelter along the way.  Hold me safe in your strong and loving embrace.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

chaos

Opening Prayer: Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean plots, peoples? Earth-leaders push for position, demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks, the God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers: “Let’s get free of God! Cast loose from Messiah!” Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing. At first he’s amused at their presumption; then he gets good and angry. Furiously, he shuts them up: “Don’t you know there’s a King in Zion? A coronation banquet is spread for him on the holy summit.” (Psalm 2:1-6, The Message)

Scripture: Psalm 2:1-12

Journal: What is the spiritual climate around you these days?  What is the spiritual climate within you?  How do you reconcile the two?

Reflection: When we pray, we quickly run into the fact that the world around us is not at all as it was intended to be.  In fact, it is broken and chaotic, twisted and distorted.  The world has turned away from the God who made it and turned to its own plans, schemes, and agendas.  Therefore, although some might seem to tolerate God, and others to ignore him, the majority of the world, because of its desire to be its own god, is downright hostile towards him—plotting against him and his reign on earth at every opportunity.  That’s where Psalm 2 comes in.
     Psalm 2 takes up the very same verb used in Psalm 1 (hagah), which calls us to meditate on God’s word.  Yet, this time it is used in a much different way—as it tells us that the world plots against God.  In the words of Eugene Peterson: “While Psalm 1 directs us to approach this word with delight, receiving it as life-giving, Psalm 2 shows people plotting against this word, devising schemes for getting rid of it so that they can be free of all God-interference in their lives.”  This is the world in which we live.
    So what are we to do with all of this?  We are to pray.  That’s what the Psalms teach us.  We are to fix our eyes and our hearts, not on the chaos around us, but on the One who sits on the throne.  We are to pour our hearts out to him.  We are to call upon his name.  We are to serve him with gladness.  We are to rejoice in him continuously.  We are to love him.  We are to kiss the Son.  We are to take refuge.  It is our prayers—these prayers—that help us to do all of this.  Thanks be to God!

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Let me tell you what God said next. He said, “You’re my son, and today is your birthday. What do you want? Name it: nations as a present? Continents as a prize? You can command them all to dance for you, or throw them out with tomorrow’s trash.
     So, rebel-kings, use your heads; upstart-judges, learn your lesson: worship God in adoring embrace, celebrate in trembling awe. Kiss Messiah! Your very lives are in danger, you know; His anger is about to explode, but if you make a run for God—you won’t regret it! (Psalm 2:7-12, The Message)

Monday, July 10, 2017

walk

Opening Prayer: Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth.  For walking in my way and my truth will get me lost in a hurry.

Scripture: Psalm 86:11

Journal: Whose truth are you walking in these days?  How do you begin to walk in God’s truth in your life?  In your marriage?  In your job?  In your friendships?  How will you know you are walking in God’s truth rather than just another false narrative?

Reflection: The scriptures talk a lot about walking.  Particularly about walking in step with God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:25, NIV) and God’s truth (Psalm 86:11, old NIV).  They also talk about walking in love (Ephesians 5:2, MSG), walking in humility and gentleness (Ephesians 4:2-3, ESV), and walking in unity (Ephesians 4:3, MSG).  And there are so many more.  
     Why all of this emphasis on walking?  Because, at the end of the day, it is how we live our lives that really matters.  It is not so much about what we say we believe, as it is about what we actually do.  Talk is cheap.  Actions speak louder than words.  It is not how you talk the talk, but how you walk the walk.  We’ve all heard the expressions.  The truth is that we can choose to walk in God’s way and in God’s truth, or we can walk in our own.  It is that simple.  Simple in theory, that is, bit not so simple in practice.
     For my heart and my mind can spin an entirely different narrative (truth) than the one God is telling me.  One that subtly diverts me from God’s way and God’s truth to something far less than that.  And it is such a subtle shift that, at times, I cannot tell the difference from God’s truth and the truth that is spinning around in my head and my heart at the moment.  It happens most often for me in relationships, particularly in conflict or differences of opinion.  That old inner voice of my anxieties and insecurities (the false self) begin to defend or rationalize or make a case for why I am right.  And subtly I have crossed over from God’s truth to my truth, without even knowing it.
     That is why I love the words of this ancient prayer; they keep me focused on seeking God’s truth and walking in it.  Sometimes it takes silence and solitude to finally figure it out.  Sometimes it takes relentless reflection and introspection and prayer.  Sometimes it takes realization and repentance.  But it always involves God’s word and God’s Spirit, they are the final authorities on truth, so I best listen to them with all that is within me.  I must immerse myself in the scriptures and give myself wholly to prayer.  For when I immerse myself in what is true, I will more easily be able to identify what is false.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Immerse us in your truth, O God, that we might walk in your ways rather than our own.  Help us to be so in union with you, that we are easily able to spot the counterfeit and pursue the true.  Amen.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

dream

Opening Prayer: When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.  Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.  Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”  The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.  (Psalm 126:1-3, NIV)

Scripture: Psalm 126:1-3

Journal: Do you have dreams for your life?  What do you dream about?  What dreams do you have for your life with God?  What dreams does he have for you?  How do those dreams effect your life?

Reflection: I don’t dream enough.  I’d like to, I really would.  But somehow I get so busy managing and controlling and manipulating and surviving this life that I just forget.  And that is really sad.  It is sad because dreams are the things that life is made of.  Dreaming is what gives breath and fresh wind, energy and vitality to this life we live in Christ.  Dreams put a spring in our step and joy in our hearts.  They fill our mouths with laughter and our souls with hope and joyful expectation.  They make us live our lives on tiptoe.
    Our dreams—or more correctly, God’s dreams in us—are so vital to our souls.  They are the things that nourish and enliven us.  They are the things that give fuel and energy to our prayers.  The dreams that God dreams in us are intended to give our lives direction and vision and purpose.  But, unfortunately, we are often led by our fears and anxieties instead.
     What are your dreams these days?  Sit down and spend some time with that.  Ask God to dream his dreams in you, to show you his deepest dreams for you.  Then order your life according to what he says.  You won’t regret it.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to be led this day by my dreams instead of my fears.  Show me what your dreams are for me, and help me to be led by them.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

shame

Opening Prayer: In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.  (Psalm 31:1)

Scripture: Psalm 31:1-24

Journal: What effect does shame have on your life?  In what way does it typically manifest itself?  What tends to trigger it?  What does it lead to?  How do you fight it?

Reflection:  The scriptures talk a lot about shame.  In fact, the word shame (buwsh) is used 34 times in the book of Psalms alone, so obviously it is considered a significant issue in the life of faith.  The psalmists pray regularly that they might not be put to shame and that they will be delivered from shame.  They obviously know the devastating effects that shame can have on the heart and soul.
     Shame is a tool of the enemy.  It causes us to be the absolute worst version of ourselves.  When God breathed the world into being there was no shame.  In fact, the first time the word is mentioned is in Genesis 2:25 when it tells us that the man and the woman in the garden were both naked and they felt no shame.  It wasn’t until the fall (Genesis 3:1-11) that shame reared its ugly head.  And as soon as it did, Adam and Eve went from being “naked and unashamed” to being “afraid because they were naked so they hid.”  What a radical difference!  They went from being completely known and completely loved to being full of fear, hiding, and covering.  And it has been that way ever since.  We now live in shame, but we long for a life where we can be naked and unashamed once again.
    So what is it about shame that makes it so harmful to life with God?  Maybe it would be good to define exactly what shame is, as well as what it is not.  You see, shame is not “I have done something wrong,” that is guilt.  And guilt—the godly sorrow that leads to repentance of 2 Corinthians 7:10—can be a fruitful thing in the life of the Spirit.  Shame, on the other hand, is not fruitful at all.  Shame is not “I’ve done something wrong,” shame is “I am something wrong.”  There is an enormous difference.  Shame causes the “image of God” that we were created in to be a distant memory.  It rules and controls and consumes us with its lies and accusations.  It blurs our vision and keeps us from being able to see accurately.  It besieges our soul—our identity in Christ—with a constant barrage of hostile, anxious, degrading, and destructive inner dialogue that overwhelms, consumes, and demoralizes us.  Shame is one of the biggest enemies of the spiritual life.  But my guess is that you already know that all too well.
    I don’t know how shame rears its ugly head in your life, but I’m painfully aware of how it does so in mine.  I think that’s why I find the words of this ancient prayer so incredibly helpful.  They give me words with which to battle my shame.  They give me images of my God that allow me to find refuge and strength, even when I feel like I am being attacked from all sides.  They remind me of what God and how he really feels about me (in Christ).  O God, be my refuge, strength, and deliverer.  Be a strong fortress to save me from the effects of fear and shame.  This day and every day.  Amen.

Prayer

Closing Prayer:  How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues.
    Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege.  In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. (Psalm 31:19-22, NIV)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

filled

Opening Prayer:  Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.  Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep.  O Lord, you preserve both man and beast.  How priceless is your unfailing love!  Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.  They feast on the abundance of your house, you give them drink from your river of delights.  For with you is the fountain of life, in your light we see light.  Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart. (Psalm 36:5-10)

Scripture: Ephesians 3:14-21

Journal: How do the words rooted and established in love describe you these days?  If they do not, what words do best describe the state of your heart and soul?  How do we know this love that surpasses knowledge?  What is your sense of being loved by God these days?  What is your current level of fullness?  How are we filled with God?

Reflection: What would my life look like if I were really rooted and established in love?  If I truly and deeply knew this love that surpasses knowledge?  If those two things were really true I, indeed, would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  I would not be so blown around by mood and circumstance.  I would not be so easily affected by conflict or criticism.  I would not be so needy of admiration and affirmation.  In fact, I would be so full of God—so full of love—that I would simply overflow that love and fullness on all who came across my path.  Now that’s the life I long to live! 

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Fill us to overflowing, O God, with your life and love, that we might be vessels to pour forth that life and love into the world.  Amen.

Monday, July 3, 2017

your ways

Opening Prayer: Show me your ways, O Lord, Teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  (Psalm 25:4-5)

Scripture: Psalm 25:4-5

Journal: What is filling your mind and heart today?  What shift is necessary in you in order to focus on God’s ways rather than your own?

Reflection: There are no two ways about it; I am full of myself.  If I am completely honest I have to admit that most of my life is consumed with my circumstances, my plans, my agendas, and my wants and needs.  In fact, I am so full of myself most of the time that I have little room for God.  It is not an act of defiance, it is simply a matter of being so self-consumed that I am not generally mindful of him.  How can I be when I think about myself all of the time?
    That is why I find the words to this ancient prayer so helpful; they refocus me.  They remind me that this life is not, and never was intended to be, about me.  This life is about God; his ways, his paths, his truth, his will, his kingdom.  When I can begin to make the shift from me to him, I am well on my way to living the way God intended me to live.  And I am well on my way to being able to love the way that he intended for me to love.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Help me, O God, not to be so full of myself, for when I am there is no room for you.  Remind me again today that this life is about your ways, your path, your truth, your will, not my own.  Amen.