Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day Three--Praying the Psalms

Blessed be the Lord,
for he has wondrously shown
his steadfast love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
I had said in my alarm,
I am cut off from your sight.
But you heard the voice of my
pleas for mercy
when I cried to you for help.
Love the Lord, all you his saints!
The Lord preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one
who acts in pride.
Be strong, and let your heart
take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord!

Psalm 31:21-24

Monday, November 24, 2008

Praying the Psalms

This week of Thanksgiving I am taking a break from writing. Life has a way of intervening forcing us to stop and take account. Praying the psalms has been a valuable guideline for me throughout my life and most particularly recently as I experience the joys, sorrows and uncertainties of each day. So, this week I will post a psalm for your prayer and know that I will be praying them as well.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he grustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
Psalm 33:9-12

Friday, November 21, 2008

Good Company

If the world hates you,
know that it has hated me before
it hated you.

John 15:18

We generally don’t like people mad at us. Confronting people makes us uncomfortable and even though we may know that their behavior or attitude is wrong it is easier to avoid than to confront. Fear of their potential anger overshadows the result of their destructiveness. We hope that by ignoring the problem it will disappear.

During the months of Jesus’ ministry he increasingly experienced attacks against his character. By the third chapter in the gospel of Mark the Pharisees have joined up with their arch enemies in an attempt to destroy Jesus. They hated Jesus and that hatred was their driving force to cunningly plot his demise.

Very few of us are familiar with this level of hatred but perhaps at some level we have endured the heat of someone’s anger. Jesus was hated because he dared to confront sinful behavior. He wasn’t afraid of speaking truth and exposing actions that were performed in the dark.

As followers of Jesus Christ we too are called to confront what we know to be sinful. Whether it be in ourselves, our church, a friend we cannot be afraid to bring into the light what has lived in the dark. Hatred may be our “reward” but our strength lies in the knowledge that we are in the good company of Jesus who endured a hatred that led him to his death but also to his resurrection.

Jesus, forgive me when
I see sinful behavior and allow
it to go unchecked.
I am afraid of the anger and
hatred I might receive.
Help me to be bold in your strength

Artwork--Crucifixion: Inside View, Igor Ulanovsky, Israel, 1998.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I waited patiently for the Lord…

Psalm 40:1

Patience has never been a virtue of mine so it isn’t surprising that it remains the constant lesson in my life. From birth I was apparently eager to get going and not much has changed. I like to see things happen—quickly. So, when confronted with obstacles that slow down my progress instead of seeing them as moments of reprieve and rest I view them as nuisances. But, in my defense I am learning a life-changing lesson. These obstacles are becoming prayer moments.

There’s a reason why the psalms talk frequently of waiting, patience, be still. The psalms know us better than we know ourselves! Rushing from project to appointment we become frustrated, irritated and annoyed that life isn’t as “smooth” as we want it. There are continually obstacles, like the signs held by road workers that force us to stop and wait. Fuming over being stopped doesn’t get us to our destination any faster. Patiently waiting, being still is what allows God’s voice to be heard and in that hearing our spirits are quieted.

Believe me, it’s hard to be still. But there is a greater richness to the quality of life with the obstacles. Without them I would be more apt to forget to take in the surrounding view and more importantly keep a listening ear open to the heart of God.

Jesus, forgive my rushing life.
I want to accept the obstacles
as stop signs that allow me
more time with you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Growth or Death

You were running well.
Who hindered you from
the truth?

Galatians 5:7

Some of the seed that is thrown by the farmer in Jesus’ parable of the sower falls amongst the thorns. The seed begins to grow but soon its life is choked out of it and what began as promise ends in death.

It’s a familiar parable with powerful spiritual implications and hopefully shock value for the Jesus follower. Thorns are everywhere! When we say “yes” to Follow Me nothing can be taken for granted. The growth of our seed rests solely on the attention and awareness we give to it. Jesus later tells of seed that falls on fertile ground. Our course, when asked, we know we all want to be those fertile seeds! But it is important to consider what may be the thorns that hinder us from growth.

Everything that we take into our life has the potential to feed our souls or suck them dry. From books read to friends made to movies seen whatever touches us leaves an imprint. In order to keep running well with Jesus critical decisions will need to be made as to who and what we’re “hanging” with. Growth is impossible when we keep choosing to live with the thorns. Even our doubts don’t have to stop growth. Here again it depends on us; choosing the influences that will feed and nurture our struggling seed will determine whether our soul lives or dies.

Jesus, forgive me for
allowing thorns to grow up
around me. These are what
are hindering me from
running well.
Help me to choose only
that which keeps me healthy in you

Artwork--Four Soils, James B. Janknegt, 1982-2002

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reading Hosea

Selection from the Celtic Daily Prayer Book

Reading for today Hosea 3:1-3

The prophet Hosea was married to Gomer, whom he loved dearly but who was often unfaithful to him. Out of this experience, Hosea was able to speak to the people about how God feels when they run away from His love, and how He remains faithful.

God made us; and for us to function as intended we should consult the Manufacturer's instructions. Sometimes the handbook is out of reach, but it holds the answers or, at least, the explanation. God's intention for sex was that it be part of the bonding of a permanent relationship: that one body and one spirit go together. When a person gives him or herself to a number of partners that person is joined to each of them; and, as each walks away, that person feels more and more fragmented.

God can heal that fragmentedness and release the bonds of the past. These can be cut right through. His laws are there for our protection.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Praying Intentionally

We all know that praying is important in the life of a Jesus follower. But there always seems to be an elusive quality about it in that we're not sure just "how to do it." Once in conversation with a group of people I discovered that some "prayed" once a day. I was left wondering if they talked to their friends, spouses, family "once a day." A pastor called a congregation to 90 minutes of prayer a day for the purpose of spiritual growth. They found it more than challenging and again I pondered over how much time is spent watching television, reading, exercising. So many of our activities throughout the day are intentionally planned, intentionally executed, intentionally accomplished. Prayer somehow falls through the cracks of our intentionally planned days.

It is perhaps because we think of prayer as only a one way conversation. Most of my friends wouldn't tolerate my friendship for very long if I sat and talked to them for 90 minutes. Our friendship continues and flourishes because we talk with each other in a mutual back and forth conversation. Sometimes talking, sometimes listening makes a rich and satisfying experience.

I took on the challenge of 90 minutes of intentional prayer for the past three weeks. Some days were spent with 30 minutes here, 15 minutes there and so on. Others provided a total immersion into the refreshing waters of prayer. It has been life changing. The intentionality of accepting the challenge kept prayer in front of me throughout my day. My days have become turning off the radio while driving to an appointment and I find I've had a 25 minute conversation. Standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes listening to God's Spirit suddenly 20 more minutes have passed.
The days and hours of intentional prayer have given me life at a time when I felt life waning.

This week I am putting my physical house in order. In the process I am praying that during the physical ordering my conversations with my Father will do some spiritual ordering as well.

Prayer isn't about "how to do it" or even "when" but more along the lines of how much do we desire and long to be in conversation with the One who made us.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Praying Revival for our Church

Here we stand
in total surrender
lifting our voices
abandoned to Your cause.
Here we stand, praying in the glory
of the One and only Jesus Christ the Lord.

This time revival
Lord come and heal our land.
Bring to completion
the work that You've begun.
This time revival
stir up Your church again
pour out Your Spirit
on Your daughters and Your sons!

Here we stand in need of Your mercy
Father forgive us
for the time that we have lost.
Once again make us an army
to conquer this nation
with the message of the cross.

A. Piercy & C. Groves
IQ Music

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Even though troubles came down
on me hard, your commands
always gave me delight.

Psalm 119:143

Walking together into Sunday School my companion said, “I don’t know why Job had so many problems. He just got hit with all sorts of stuff and I can’t remember what he did.” “Absolutely nothing.” I replied. Job lived a blameless and upright life. He feared God and avoided evil at all costs. (Job 1:1-2) There was no reason for his trouble except that God gave Satan permission to give a try at tempting Job away from the presence of the Lord. What Job endures as a result of this bargain is pretty grim.

There doesn’t seem to be any “fairness” when it comes to troubles. For some life seems to offer little difficulty while others get far more than their “fair” share. It can be troubling and if you’re like me you may have wondered if God has given permission to Satan in your life as well.

Job can be a source of comfort, however. Through it all God never left Job’s side. God knew how he had made Job and he was confident in his creation. Job’s initial reaction to his troubles is upbeat as he claims God’s “commands.” But, of course, he is human and ultimately slides into despair. Nevertheless those “commands” had become an integral part of his soul. They carried him through the darkest moments to the point on the other side when Job with confidence is able to say, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

Present God, troubles have
come down on me hard.
Don’t take them away, but
reawaken in me the truths
of your commands so that
I can find joy in the sorrow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No Napping

Keep a cool head. Stay alert.
The Devil is poised to pounce,
and would like nothing better
than to catch you napping.

I Peter 5:8 (The Message)

My first encounter with evil happened in a church. It wasn’t a surprise then, a few years later, that I again experienced evil while doing “ministry.” Calling out the name of Jesus to shine and expose the penetrating evil I was relieved of its suffocating presence. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t look for evil behind every bush, but I definitely don’t take the presence of evil for granted.

The first miracle in the gospel of Mark finds Jesus in the synagogue when a demon possessed man accosts him. Jesus doesn’t seem to be surprised. Perhaps the scribes and Pharisees knew that evil had invaded their holy place, but they had done nothing. It had been easier to live with the elephant than to get rid of it.

Talking about the Devil isn’t politically correct. Talking about God is because it’s comforting. But here’s the truth, as sure as there is a God, there is a Devil. He doesn’t possess any power over God but in a day he accomplishes scads of mischief, especially amongst Jesus followers. There’s no reason for the Devil to work “out there” in the culture, he’s already got that pretty much in tow. The last remaining place to conquer is wherever Jesus followers gather. If he can destroy a body of believers he calls it a day.

Jesus followers, wake up! We’ve been napping too long. Christianity has become an anathema in our culture because we have denied knowing that there is a Devil poised to pounce. Be aware! He works where you least expect him.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit
I praise you Three for the power
you have over the Devil.
Let me never assume his
demise but be ever vigilant
about his whereabouts.
Expose his presence with your light.

Artwork--Liberation from Demonic Power, Salomon Raj, India, contemporary. Asian Christian Art Association

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Prayer Fitting

…pray without ceasing.

I Thessalonians 5:17

A few years ago I heard of a church member complaining that too much time was spent praying and studying the Bible during the board of deacons meetings at their church. Because of this spiritual indulgence not enough business got done. It was a sad exposure of what perhaps many more Christians believe—prayer should be done on the fly, used as an opening and closing or perhaps, if not convenient, eliminated altogether.

We know that we should pray. Niggling doubts, however, cause us to disbelieve that it has any affect on our lives or the believing community we call church. Jesus believed in prayer and he committed time to it. And Jesus didn’t have lots of spare time! If we read the gospels with any openness we see that Jesus had a packed schedule with numerous interruptions! Yet repeatedly there is a solid connection between the time Jesus spends in prayer and the affect of his ministry. In choosing deliberate, intentional times of prayer (Mark 1:35) miracles happened. Jesus didn’t just fit prayer into his “schedule.” His life fit into intentionally “scheduled” God conversations.

No wonder Paul carries this encouraging message to the Thessalonians. As new believers they needed the assurance that their conversations with God the Father would be as powerful and life changing as those of Jesus. Prayer can’t be a by-product of our lives, it must be the genuine product. It’s the real article that makes us Jesus followers, allowing us to see miracles.

Without prayer we are merely tailings.

Jesus, forgive me
when I “fit” conversations with you
into my schedule.
I want to make my days
fit into a life of prayer.
Help me become the
genuine product of praying without ceasing.


Monday, November 10, 2008

A Prayer of Hope

For whoever believes
in the power
of the blood of Jesus,
nothing is impossible!

The Lord shall surely
perfect that thing,
that thing
which concerneth thee.

To whoever believes
in the power
of the blood
of the Crucified Lamb,
nothing shall be called impossible!

Blessed be the Lamb
that was slain before
the foundation of the world.

Celtic Daily Prayer Book

Friday, November 7, 2008

God's Evidence

Blessed be the Lord,
who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation.

Psalm 68:19

There’s nothing like good, long time friends. Those friends who have known you for years and while months may go by the minute you hear their voice you’re off in vibrant conversation. Talk flows smoothly and readily. The immeasurable value of these friends is the ability to remind you, by their presence in your life, of who you were, where you have been and where you’re standing today. They are God’s evidence.

The psalms are perfect guidelines for prayer. They give us permission to rant, to bless, to praise, to be depressed, to curse, to glorify, to thank. And, they always bring us back to Who.

Even when we’re in the middle of the muck we usually don’t forget God. No, in fact more than likely he is very much in the center of our thinking—either for blame, doubting or hopefully, if we are able to embrace the moment, praising. But, as the psalms illustrate, he’s strong enough to take it all. Whether we acknowledge it or not, every day we are given is an opportunity for God to carry us to where he eventually wants us to be.

Back to those valued friends. If we allow them, they bear God’s evidence that we have been carried forward through whatever storms have slammed us. Acknowledging who we were and who we are now, they are God’s evidence that he provides what is needed in order to daily bear us up.

Generous God, thank you for friends.
It is through friends that I can
see you never forget me.
Their encouragement, their support
is your evidence that you daily
bear me up.
You are my salvation.

Artwork--Ruth and Naomi, Phillip Ratner, 1998. The Safad Bible, Israel Bible Museum.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Go to Ninevah

But Jonah got up and went
the other direction to Tarshish,
running away from God.

Jonah 1:3 (The Message)

I can remember exactly which road I was driving when I uttered-- “Lord, I want to really know what it means for you to live in me and me in you.” At the time I thought it a prayer of honesty and perhaps a point of discussion with God. He apparently took me at my word because since that day there have been more times than I can count that I have wanted to do a Jonah—get up and go in the other direction.

Jonah wasn’t ignorant of what God was asking him to do. He knew Ninevah and that his physical end might well be at the hand of the Ninevites if he came with God’s “message.” To follow God’s message to live in him was, in Jonah’s mind, much more than he could deliver. Ultimately, he valued his life more than anything.

When God lives in us complete control over our lives is lost. And, we can plan on unexpected “surprises” that ultimately will draw us further up and further in to the Kingdom of God. Of course, “surprises” is a euphemism for hardships. Ninevah was a hardship for Jonah but he wasn’t in control of the ending.

Many years later I realize that God has answered my prayer. In the beginning I fought my Ninevahs because, like Jonah, they were too difficult, too risky, too challenging, too dangerous. I never got to Tarshish, either. And when I finally reached my Ninevahs they usually turned out much better than expected.

I hear your voice calling, God.
Help me to not run away in fear.
My desire is to move in the direction
of each Ninevah you send my way.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Prayers

Pray especially for rulers
and their governments
to rule well…

I Timothy 2:2

No matter the election outcome we must remember to pray. This will be, for some, a monumental task because of the extreme emotions that attach themselves to elections. There will be those who with one result will think that God has left us. With another, others will be convinced that God is protecting us from certain doom. Paul, however, isn’t talking about prayer for God to be on one side or another. Throughout the Bible we are instructed to obey the rulers that are in place and pray, pray, pray.

With these words Paul urges Timothy to keep focused on his calling. It’s not a question whether we agree with the politics of the time or the person. More than likely there will be one election or another that we oppose. No, the business we are to be about as followers of Jesus Christ is prayer, believing that God is in control no matter the elected official. If we truly believe that the God we follow sees all, knows all, and controls all then we are relieved of our fussing over political figures because all our fussing does is distract us from our primary calling, prayer.

If you agree with the outcome, pray for God’s wisdom to saturate the core of their being. If you disagree pray the same prayer. Our pastors, our senators, our representatives, our presidents, whoever is in leadership or authority over us need our prayers. But our prayers should be about calling upon God’s wisdom, God’s direction, God’s knowledge and not begging God for change. Whatever the circumstances it may be that God wants us to change. This is the prayer that we should pray. God, how do you want me to live, what are you requiring of me for such a time as this?

This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. (I Timothy 2:3 The Message)

All knowing God bring your
wisdom to those in leadership.
Open their eyes to your vision
of how you want the world to be.
Help us to be Your peace
in the midst of the chaos.
Show us how to live at such
a time as this!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Speak Up!

Don’t be bluffed into silence by
the threats of bullies.
There’s nothing they can do
to your soul…Save your fear for God,
who holds your entire life

—body and soul—in his hands.

Matthew 10:28 (The Message)

Chinese Christian, Brother Yun is a man well acquainted with bullies. As part of the growing house church movement in China for over forty years, he has been beaten within an inch of his life numerous times and suffered persecution beyond what any healthy mind could imagine. He has never, however, allowed the bullies to silence him.

Inside and outside the church there are an abundance of bullies. Unfortunately, there are even more who have been bullied into silence. Seeing injustice and mistreatment the silent ones turn their heads away hoping that it will go away, afraid that if they speak up and take action they’ll lose friends, lose their position or just plain lose the fight. As a result, people get beaten up and destroyed because the silent ones are more afraid of the bullies than of God.

Power and control at various levels are what bullies seek. But, as Jesus followers we know that there is only One who has complete power and control. This is the One whom we should fear the most—the One who truly holds our entire life in his hands. Wherever we encounter bullies or see others bullied we cannot be afraid to speak the gospel truth. The harm the bullies inflict is detrimental and destructive but their effects are mild compared to God’s response if we don’t speak the gospel truth in boldness and love.

Silence only affirms the bullies attitudes and speaks nothing about who we are to be in Christ. Don’t affirm the bullies! Speak the gospel truth today.

Jesus, you never allowed
the bullies to silence you.
When you saw shameful actions,
heard damaging words,
and witnessed abuse you spoke boldly
about who God wants us to be.
Help me, Jesus to no longer be
silent but to boldly speak your gospel truth.


Monday, November 3, 2008

The Heavenly Man

Below is an excerpt from the book The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun. It has been a recent read and one that has convicted, inspired as well as humbled me!

You can never really know the Scriptures until you're willing to be changed by them. All genuine revivals of the Lord result in believers responding with action and soul winning. When God truly moves in your heart you cannot be silent. There will be a fire in your bones, like Jeremiah, who said, "His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot." Jeremiah 20:9

Furthermore, it's only when we step out in obedience and share the gospel with people that we come to know God's blessing in every area of our lives. That is why the Apostle Paul wrote to his co-worker Philemon, "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ." Philemon verse 6.

I've seen people in Western churches worshipping as if they're already in heaven. Then someone invariably brings a comforting message like, "My children, I love you. Don't be afraid, I'm with you." I'm not opposed to such words, but why is it that nobody seems to hear a Word from the Lord like, "My child, I want to send you to the slums of Asia or the darkness of Africa to be my messenger to people dying in their sin?"