TODAY

This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24

 

We’ve awakened today with a gift from God—this very day.  There will be so many choices and opportunities.  What will we do with the gift?

We will enter his gates with thanksgiving in our hearts (Psa. 100:4) reflecting on the benefits we derive by being his child.  Thank you Lord for your abiding peace no matter what may come this day.  Thank you for grace to address every situation.  Thank you for wisdom to deal with complex issues today.  Thank you for strength to handle all my responsibilities.  Thank you for guidance with all the different options in this day.  Thank you that you never leave me even when my senses don’t perceive you.

We enter his courts with praise, confidently abiding in the presence of the Lord.  …in him  we live and move and have our being.  (Acts 17:28)  Today if something should try to shake my rest in him, I will redirect my attention and climb back into his arms.  After all, Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:35, 37-39)

What a great day.

 

Father, keep us steadfast in your love today, rejoicing in you and not allowing circumstances to determine our attitudes or behavior.  We are your children; we rejoice in you.  AMEN.

BEING HUMAN

…those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  Romans 8:5  (NIV)

 

I was making some notes in my journal, reflecting on recent attitudes and trying to decide how to describe my struggle and annoyance.  Finally, I could think of nothing better to say than, “The flesh is so tiresome.”

Have you ever felt like that?  What Paul calls “the flesh” we often refer to as “being human.”  We use it to excuse almost every behavior that doesn’t measure up.  It seems that Paul had the same struggles when he writes in Romans 7 that what he wants to do, he doesn’t, and what he doesn’t want to do, he does.  He doesn’t leave us hanging, however.

Paul moves on into the glorious eighth chapter of Romans that grandly informs us of our freedom in Christ.  “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (8:37).  The flesh is never going to cooperate with the Spirit, but through Christ we can ignore the flesh, discipline ourselves, and move with the Spirit.  Rather than expecting the flesh to change, let’s just deny it and keep walking.

 

Father, this Easter time is such a time of good news.  Those things that had bound us in the past can no longer be our lords because of Jesus’ victorious death on the cross.  THANK YOU for the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

GOD KNOWS

The Lord giveth wisdom:  out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.  Proverbs 2:6

 

Any amalgam of figures beyond basic sums and arithmetic has always been challenging to me.  When my counselor told me that in order to receive my diploma for a post-graduate degree, the final course I needed to take was Advanced Multivariate Statistics, I almost froze in horror.  I protested long and hard—“This is supposed to be the easiest class I have to take.  It’s my last,” I complained.  He had guided me so deftly for years, and here at the end he was putting my high GPA (grade point average) in peril.

I would like to say Dr. Grey was sympathetic but instead, I think he rather enjoyed my plight.  He tried to ease my discomfort by saying that the professor was someone everybody loved and that I would have no trouble.  (But somewhere behind all the protest, I think a smile lurked.)  I left his office wondering how I would ever make it through that final course.

I arrived early the first day of class in order to visit with the professor that “everybody loved” only to discover that her class load hadn’t permitted her to teach the course.  Instead, I was confronted with a very young man wearing hiking shorts and boots and very new to the faculty—someone who, obviously, had to prove himself.  I really was between what we in Texas call “a rock and a hard place.”

After the first class, with material which seemed vaguely familiar, I took my text home and began studying.  AND PRAYING.  Every page was read and re-read and prayed over.  God had created systems and numbers and ways of interpreting data, so I went straight to the Source.  And I went straight to Matt.  (That’s what our new professor told us to call him.  Not Dr. Matt… but just Matt.)  Every time he had office hours, I was there learning from him.  And I prayed.

Advanced Multivariate Statistics is not the only challenge I’ve had, but I learned through that and other similar lessons that I don’t have to lean on my own understanding when I’m in God’s will—that HE gives knowledge and understanding, being all-knowing and the creator of all things.  We do our part (studying, in this case), and he gives us everything we need to follow him and to do his will.  We must never allow circumstances to defeat us.  He either provides the way through or gives us the resources to resolve them or the grace to live in them.

In everything, we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus.  I AM NOT A MATHEMATICIAN, but I finished that class with an A.  Yea, God.

 

Father, thank you that you care about all our cares, even those that seem trivial to everyone else.  Strengthen our faith to trust you in all things and to stand still and to see your salvation.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

REMINDERS EVERYWHERE

…I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.  II Peter 1:12

 

Our family has a fun tradition that was begun in 1977 with the release of the first Star Wars movie.  My parents and our young family sat in a little line in the theater to watch the parade of fantastic characters march across the screen depicting their amazing struggle to defeat the evil empire.  And as the epic continued, the children got older, married, had children, and we still went together to sit in our extended line for the anticipated entertainment.  But now my parents are no longer with us.

With the newest release this year, I’ve had to review some old DVD’s to remind myself of what occurred in previous episodes.  In doing so, I’ve picked up a few kernels of wisdom.  One of the characters tells a youngster, “When you give in to fear or hatred or anger, you go to the Dark Side.”   And then there is always the admonition to “Use the Force.”  As the trainee learns to listen and use the Force, he becomes more powerful and does astonishing things.

I imagine John of the Revelation would readily understand the images and messages from Star Wars.  After all, he used images and symbols to portray important truths and warnings for the Church of his day (and the future) including the cosmic battle between good and evil.  And John also warns against being fearful (Rev. 21:8), something we tend to dismiss as a little thing.  In actuality, when fear isn’t a natural response to danger, it’s a state of distrusting God.  Then John tells us in I John 2:9 that if we hate a brother or sister, we walk in darkness.  And Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:22) that those who are angry with a brother or sister will be in danger of judgment.  I expect we can all agree that fear, hatred, and anger does pull a person to the dark side.

But the reminder I especially like are the words that were repeated over and over by the Jedi warrior, “Use the Force.” In our constant battle against our eternal enemy, how often do we rely on ourselves rather than remembering that greater is he that is within us than he that is in the world (I John 4:4)?  As we decrease, the Spirit of God grows stronger and more powerful in us and can do more than we can ask or think (Eph. 3:20).  We really are more than conquerors through him who loved us as we rely on the power of God within us.

Lest you scoff that my little jaunt into the Star Wars world is a bit trite, I recall that on a visit (the 4th day of May) to one of our esteemed seminaries, which shall remain nameless, I entered the chapel only to see a white Storm Trooper helmet on the head of one of the carved saints in a niche high above the chancel with the notation, “May the Fourth be with you.”  I love seeing God’s reminders everywhere.

 

Father, thank you for the gift of humor and for your principles that are all around us.  Give us eyes to see, hearts to obey… In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

FAIRY TALES

…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.  Psalm 30:5  (KJV)

 

 

She was tall, blonde, beautiful, and with all the proportions of a runway model—our new staff member.  She was charming, naïve, and newly married.  Carrie reminded us of the thrill of new beginnings and the dreams of great accomplishments.  She was visionary, and she caught us up in thinking that fairy tales just might come true.

The school year rocked along through the fall, and then we enjoyed the camaraderie of the Christmas holidays with numerous festivities.  Valentines brought a plethora of love notes and an abundance of sweets.  And then the honeymoon was over.  As Carrie moved into life as we know it, she came to my room and said with wide eyes, “I really believed the Cinderella story.  I thought all I had to do was make some promises, and I would live happily ever after…”

And that’s what many of us do in our lives as believers.  We get the heartbreak/rescue/ ever after business, but somehow we miss the classes that prepare us for the intensity of life following the rescue segment.  We look at rescue (salvation) to mean “immunization” –from worry, struggle, cares, hardship, pain, suffering, unpleasantness, heartbreak, and so on.  In actuality, rescue means access.

As God’s children, we can now access his grace in difficulty, his peace in suffering, his joy in heartbreak, his strength for struggles, his comfort in pain, and every single thing we need for life and godliness (II Peter 1:3).  We no longer have to merely “make it through” hard times; we discover the ability to be more than conquerors—being strengthened by virtue of the struggle (Ro. 8:37).

Dear little Cinderella needs her prince to rescue, provide, and care for her.  We have a constant, unfailing (Josh. 23:14) Father who sets a course for us that goes through stresses and storms while all the while ensuring that his Son is with us navigating the winds and waves (Matt. 8:23-27) and bringing us through to safety.  Our trust is strengthened, our confidence renewed, and we are better prepared for the next challenge of the voyage.

We have not been rescued to be put on a shelf and admired.  We have been and are over and over rescued as a testament of God’s grace, his power in our weakness, and his faithfulness to his promises.  Hebrews 12:12, 13 (NLT) invokes us to “take a new grip with [our] tired hands and strengthen [our] weak knees. Mark out a straight path for [our] feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.”

We have more than a Prince (or Princess) Charming.  We have access to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  AND we can live happily ever after.

 

Father, how blessed we are to be walking with you every day of our lives.  We don’t have to wait for eternity for our joy.  We have YOU.  Amen.

CONQUERORS

…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth… Philippians 2:10 (NIV)

I saw the Conquerors riding by
With cruel lips and faces wan:
Musing on kingdoms sacked and burned
There rode the Mongol Ghengis Khan;

And Alexander, like a god,
Who sought to weld the world in one;
And Caesar with his laurel wreath;
And like a thing from Hell the Hun;

And, leading like a star the van,
Heedless of upstretched arm and groan,
Inscrutable Napoleon went
Dreaming of empire, and alone. . . .

Then all they perished from the earth
As fleeting shadows from a glass,
And, conquering down the centuries,
Came Christ, the Swordless, on an ass!*

Father, amid all the chaos and atrocities abounding throughout our lawless world, Jesus remains Victor and has already won earth’s battles. Help us to remember to whose Kingdom we belong and live glorifying him even as we await his final coronation. In Jesus’ name. AMEN 

*by Harry Kemp