Monthly Archives: October 2014

Unto thee O Lord!



Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul. Psalm 25:1

Some versions say, “In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.”


Where do you put your trust? The psalmist says “Some trust in chariots and some in horses but we trust in the name of our Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7) He trusts not just in the God who does things for Him but in who God is. He trust is in the name, not just the deeds of God.   God is the one whose nature is to protect us from evil. He is the one who wants to show you the path you should walk today. He longs to guide us with mercy and love in whatever situation we face. He wants you to know that you are not alone…ever. This is the God who gave His only Son for the forgiveness of your sins and mine, the one draws near to us when we are humble. He promises that, in Him, we will overcomers.


Should we want even more?!


We try to lift our souls to others but try as they might, they can’t fully understand our deepest dilemmas. Only God has the power to release us from that which ensnares us. Sometimes He miraculously does this physically; always He offers supernatural grace and strength to persevere when we are sure we have no strength left.  This is the God who comforts the lonely and afflicted, the one who wants to free us from the anguish of our troubled heart.


Can you find anyone else so trustworthy?


Though the psalmist asks for numerous physical helps, he ultimately trusts God to maintain his integrity, to not let his name to  be put to shame. God is the one who knows when we sit and when we rise. He knows every hair on our head. This God in whom we trust calls us by name. He knows we will have trouble in this fallen world. But He longs for and empowers us to live the name of good and faithful servant, to live with integrity through the battles, to stand firm.


Can you imagine coming to the end of your life, having everything you wanted but lacking integrity?


We could trust in and align our soul with so many things: our talents and abilities, our fortunes, our jobs, our family and friends, our health, our retirement.  We could put our hope in stability and comfort. But we live in an unstable world, filled – as Jesus promised – with trouble.   We have to put our hope in the only One who has overcome the world.  (John 16:33)


In such a turbulent world, filled with sorrow and woe, where do you rest your weary soul?  In whom will you trust?



Thy Word is a Light – for today



Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  Psalm 119:105


I remember hiking with Marcia in the Franklin Mountains outside of El Paso. Even with the light of the sun we sometimes lost track of the trail ahead of us. What was a well-worn path turned into what appeared to be dozens of paths. Which one should we take? They all headed in the same general direction, but we couldn’t easily determine which was the safest and most trustworthy.


Life is sometimes like that. Maybe you are in a place where several alternative paths appear before you and all looking like they will take you where you want to go. Or perhaps you are in a place where you are paralyzed by not seeing the path before you. You long for a ‘crystal ball’ that will reveal your future.


The psalmist reminds us that God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. It is our guide for living well and keeping from peril.  Sometimes we don’t realize how much we need guidance until we’ve gone too far down a dark path we shouldn’t have traveled. There are times when the road ahead is foggy. Our vision is clouded by our present circumstances or emotional being. God’s Word is designed for exactly such a purpose.


This isn’t just the path to finding Jesus once, but to finding Him every single day as we encounter others around us. It shows us the right way to live today. In darkness, we are tempted to say something untrue or unkind, a word to put someone down, or something sarcastic to illuminate our wit. In light we choose words to build each other up, because that is the path we are meant to walk. In darkness, we tuck away our savings to buy the things that bring us temporary pleasure. In light we see others in need and the joy of bringing the encouraging light of Jesus to their world.


The bible says the world lives in darkness and loves the darkness.  Jesus said, “YOU are the light of the world.”  But the lamp that reveals God’s will is not our own. It is fueled by the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit.  It isn’t simply some random act of kindness of do-goodies. The true light in you intentionally shines in the darkness to guide you and to show God’s goodness to others.


Today we get to choose which path to follow, the one advancing our own personal agenda or the one that leads us – and others – closer to God.  Where will His light – in you – shine today?






Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  James 4:7


We like to have our way, not give in to others. Jesus showed us we should submit to authorities. But we think we have the right to ridicule our authorities. Jesus’ brother James warns that our selfish desires cause fights and quarrels, envy, and aggression. We think it’s the other person’s fault. We seek pleasure over God’s will and enjoy friendship with the world, instead of friendship with Him. (James 4:1-6)  These evil ways have become part of who we are. So what are we to do with these temptations? James answers:


“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:7-10)


Submit, resist, draw near, purify yourself, grieve over your rebellious heart, humble yourself before God. Change! This isn’t a multiple choice option. It’s the path to drawing closer to God. He knows we will never be perfect at this. But there is danger in compromising on God’s instructions. What if instead of first submitting to God we just try to resist temptation in our own power?  When I try this I get beat up over and over. We live a lifetime of frustration, guilt, and defeat with just such an approach.


Worse yet is befriending and justifying that which tempts us. If we insist on this pseudo relationship with God He will give us over to our own way of thinking as He did with King Saul, with the Israelites, and with those in Jesus’ time. “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…” (Romans 1:24). He will do the same with us if we insist.


When we acknowledge that God is God and we are not, it makes sense to first submit to God’s authority over our thoughts, motives, and actions. Just as Moses removed his soiled sandals before stepping on holy ground, so we too serve our best interest when we ‘wash our hands’ of wrong ways of thinking and behaving. By purifying our hearts of wrong desires, and ungodly ambitions we humble ourselves before God. We can’t be humble while laughing at things that disgust Him, remaining apathetic to those things that make Him sad, or believing lies about who we are.


Humbling ourselves before God draws us close to Him, where He restores and renews us. Ask God today, what areas of your life have not been humbly submitted to Him and find the satisfaction of being lifted up by His righteous right hand.



Run the race!


Run the race…” Hebrews 12:1


We all run. We run around. We run in circles. We run away and we run out of steam. But God calls us all to be dedicated to a different kind of race, the ultra marathon race of our life. The author of the book of Hebrews speaks about running the right race, and how to run it and finish well:


“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” (12:1) We aren’t called to just any race. We are called to the ultimate race, whose prize lasts for all eternity, the one surrounded by “such a great cloud of witnesses.” Whenever we see the word ‘therefore’ we can be sure it is there for a reason, namely to link what was just said to what is about to be said. What precedes this passage about a great cloud of witnesses is the discussion of heroes commended for their faith. These were imperfect and ordinary people who had faith in and were redeemed by an extraordinary God. Still, “none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” Whether these and other saints are actually spectators cheering us on or not, I’m not sure. But evidently we are part of a historic relay race of faith that brings theirs to perfection. (11:39-40)


“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles… You’ll never see Olympic runners competing in their business suits or evening gowns. That would trip them up and impede their race. Similarly, we are advised to daily throw off that which hinders us from running with faith. Things like irrational fear, worldly opinions of success, even the pain and sorrow that weighs so heavily on us. We must cast our heaviest anxieties on Jesus so we can run the race.


“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” Sometimes the grace of God is the power to keep running with persistent faith. Trials are huge hurdles in our lives, but not unscalable barriers. Faith runners know to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus. We aren’t to be distracted or let the ‘stuff’ of life to throw us off our pace.


“…the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” We can run with faith and persistence, trusting in the one who not only has gone victoriously before us but who also lives in us. Because of the joy set before him, He endured the cross and ascended to heaven, so we would not grow weary and lose heart. (V3)


Run the race that matters today, unhindered and with perseverance. You can do it. Others are counting on you.



Quench not the Spirit



Quench not the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:19


Today we often think of the word ‘quench’ as meaning to satisfy a thirst. Throughout the bible it means to extinguish a flame or fire, to put out a lamp or light, or to suppress the truth.


Jesus promised the gift of His Spirit to be our comforter, helper and guide. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8), to live a life that testifies to the whole world that Jesus is indeed Lord and Savior. This same power equips us to live victorious lives (Romans 8:37). To remain in Christ is to remain in His Spirit. And yet, in the context of how we should remain focused and alert in troubled times comes this warning: Quench not the Spirit.


Ephesians 4:30 warns: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. Quenching and grieving the Spirit are inexplicably intertwined. We quench the Spirit and the Spirit grieves. We quench and grieve the Holy Spirit both when we are fixated only on what the Spirit does for us personally and also when we ignore the Spirit. John MacArthur points out that when we sensationalize the Spirit’s power in us we “reduce the Holy Spirit to some sort of divine genie, who does only things that are seen, felt or heard.” Ignoring the spiritual power within us, we quench the true sanctifying work of the Spirit.


We also quench the Spirit by ignoring Him. Turning away from the Spirit’s power to transform and sanctify our lives, we substitute other false helps for the authentic power that God alone offers. MacArthur continues: “They substitute human wisdom…as the path to solving spiritual problems. They reject the only true power, the only genuine problem solver, the Holy Spirit, who alone can heal the sins of our lives, and make us holy.”


Perhaps the trap we face is not so much that we seek out the help of others, but that we do so to the abandonment of God’s all-sufficient Spirit in us. If all our woes can be solved by therapists, educators, and scientists, do we really need the Spirit of the Living God?


We quench the Spirit of God when we listen to everyone except Him. We douse the flame of God that burns within us and extinguish His power. Paul asks in Galatians 3:3 if we are so foolish as to having begun in the Spirit, to finish with our own efforts to become ‘better’! Do we think that the powerful Spirit of God who convicted us of sin and led us to repentance cannot also be trusted with the rest of our lives?


When we abandon our only source of real hope, we incapacitate our ability to live well, free despite our circumstances. We invite devastation upon our lives and quench the Holy Spirit’s power in us. Instead, let’s ask to be filled daily with the Spirit’s power to live a life of testimony to the world that the our hope is in Jesus alone.



Put on and press on



Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:11


I Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14


Many images are conveyed concerning our life journey. One is the image of standing firm, protected by God’s equipping armor. Another is one of throwing off everything that hinders us and running a race with perseverance, of pressing on to win the prize. Yet another is being still, laying down in green pastures.  Which is it? Stand firm, run the race, or lie down in peace?


The answer is all of the above. God always has our very best interest at heart, protecting us from evil and providing us with His grace. Because we so easily come to think of this life as our only life, He reminds us that we are strangers in a foreign land, and that we are in a daily battle against evil which wars against us in the spiritual realms and sometimes in the physical realm too.


And so we are commanded to put on His protective armor that equips us for the battle. His belt of truth secures us. His breastplate of righteousness guards our heart.  His gospel of peace fits our feet with readiness and help us to stand firm. Our faith in Him shields us from fiery arrows that seek to wound and kill us. His helmet of salvation protect us from being taken by the evil one. The Sword of His Spirit is double-edged. It is the Word of God that protects us and attacks falsehood with the truth of God. With our spiritual armor on, our job is to stand firm, unwavering in faith, fully persuaded that God is able to fight the battle and win the war.


The thing about spiritual armor is that is not like traditional battle armor that we’ve come to know. It is light and agile. It doesn’t entangle us when we need to move. And so pressing on while running the race is another image of our journey with God. Running requires effort and perseverance. If you are running to win a race and the prize it offers, you can’t be encumbered by things that entangle you. You need to be free to run and keep on running. A successful runner doesn’t look behind. The spiritual runner keeps her eyes focused ahead, fixed on Jesus, unwavering in her faith that she will attain the prize and that it will indeed be worth the effort and pain endured in the race.


As a sheep depends on the good shepherd for green pastures, press on in your dependence on God and in your humility. You can’t fight and run in your own power. Press on by resting in the strength of God, not your own. Press on while resting in the green pastures, listening to and obeying the shepherd’s voice.



Oh Give thanks!



Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good. Psalm 118:1


What causes you to give thanks? When is it easy to give thanks and when is it hard?


Multiple times throughout the bible, the faithful are found giving thanks to the Lord, for WHO He is and WHAT He’s done. “Give thanks, for:

  • He is good
  • His love endures forever
  • His wonderful deeds
  • His unfailing love
  • Granted favor
  • Answered prayers
  • The reigning power of Jesus”


It’s fun to give thanks when things go well, when prayers are answered and blessings are overflowing. The truth is, those in Christ always have cause to be thankful for His undeserved mercy, His overwhelming compassion and forgiveness, and the hope of His eternal promises.


But we aren’t always thankful, are we? We grumble and mutter. We grimace in disdain disappointment when things don’t go our way. We suffer under great oppression. And our ungrateful attitude only serves to make us feel even worse. It separates us from God’s grace. Sometimes I wonder if God might be more offended by our ingratitude than our disobedience.


Giving thanks doesn’t always make sense. Job’s so-called ‘friends’ who saw him lose wealth and property, family, and then his health, told him to ‘curse God’ and die. Instead, Job blessed God.  I remember my friend, who before he died of cancer, told us that he had fallen asleep spiritually. He had become apathetic toward God. He said that the cancer woke him up, and that if getting healed from cancer meant that he would return to his ungrateful ways, he would rather have cancer and stay spiritually awake. I grasped his strong message then, but it became real when I was diagnosed with cancer years later.


 In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18


IN everything, give thanks. We aren’t called to give thanks for evil or a fallen world. But we are called to give thanks in all circumstances, for it is God’s will to draw us closer to Him. Giving thanks changes things. It takes us from despair to hope.  It is the sigh that breaks the tension in our bodies.  Giving thanks doesn’t always allow us the grace to escape the pain and sorrow but it gives us the grace and strength to endure it while we must. It acknowledges that God is true to His Word – He never abandons us. A thankful heart brings peace to the soul even when the body is tormented. Giving thanks is one of the keys to our healing.


Let your heart become a garden of thanks. Even when you don’t feel thankful, you can choose to plant the seeds of thankfulness and then watch them grow into mature thanksgiving. For those in Christ, sorrows will not last forever. The goodness of the Lord is sure to be revealed.


“Yet, if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” 1 Peter 4:16



No eye has seen



No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him. These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.  1 Corinthians 2:9-10


We were created with powerful imaginations. Some see a barren field and imagine a bountiful garden or a vast building project. Some see a blank canvas and imagine a beautiful painting. Some hear tones and rhythm and imagine a musical masterpiece. God will allow us even to imagine He doesn’t exist if we insist on such a notion. But what mind can imagine what God has prepared for those who love Him? The answer: no wisdom of man can unveil the mysteries of God. However, God’s Spirit reveals these things.


God’s Spirit searches even our hidden thoughts. Helpful therapies can scratch below the surface of our understanding of things. But whatever dark mental fortresses these therapies cannot penetrate, the Spirit of God is able to enter in and shine a revealing light. Beyond our thoughts God’s Spirit perceives the fiery desires that furnace our ambitions and motives, even when they are hidden from our own heart. And what the Spirit reveals, He can heal.


The gifts of God are revealed by this same Spirit, if He lives in us. While our eyes and ears can only perceive our physical world, the Spirit can reveal our spiritual reality.


Without the Spirit of God, such things are regardless as foolish and worthless. They cannot be understood. The Bible is the best seller of all time, yet it is not understood by mere human minds. To them it is foolishness. (V 14) Only the Spirit of God can reveal its meaning and application. We can call ourselves Christians, but if we don’t have or obey the Spirit of God, these things will remain hidden. They are discerned and related only by God’s Spirit. Philosophy, literature, education, the lessons of the humanities, the arts and sciences – all these speak of knowledge. But God’s wisdom is spoken by the Spirit to those who have the Spirit. That is, God speaks to those who have the mind of Christ. (V 16)


The mind of Christ is not molded after the ways of the world, nor does it pursue them. They are foolishness. And we cannot have the mind of Christ without being transformed by God’s power through the renewal of our minds by His Spirit. This daily cleansing is our path to understanding God’s good and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)


We begin to imagine the mysteries of God and His will for our life when we ask Him to help us see ourselves and the world around us through the eyes of Jesus.



My soul, wait in silence for God only



My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. Psalm 62:5


We are created with spirit, soul, and body and these three entities are constantly communicating with or ignoring the other.


Our spirit is created to align with God’s spirit in us. When we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior He gives us a new and pure spirit. Think of your noisy and often rebellious soul (our mind, will, emotions, and memory) as how we relate to others and our circumstances. The soul isn’t changed right away. It requires (often years of) training to listen to and obey the spirit. Our body, the temple of God, is commanded by our soul. It is the order of things as they were created.


With this framework, we understand Paul’s dilemma in Romans 7 where he says that he does the things he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do the things he does want to do. Our spirit, our soul and our body battle with one another and nearly every day, one of them loses the battle. The soul becomes ‘prisoner’ to the body or the other way around. Only when God’s spirit breaks into that prison, do we find real freedom to live in peace.


Our soul often bemoans the past, whines about the present, and worries over the future. It complains incessantly even about its own struggles to surrender to God, seeking its own way instead.


The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us there is a season for all things, including “a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,7) The victorious life requires us to tell our noisy soul to be quiet and wait in silence only for God, for HE is our hope.


Is our soul ever controlled? I think we are better to think in terms of surrendering every part of our soul to God: our will, our thoughts, our emotions, our attitudes, our very heart. When we surrender all the soul to the spirit of God our soul is quieted and silenced before Him and then we can hear Him speak peace and joy and hope to us. It is then that all is well with our soul.


Too often I forget to keep attending to the spiritual nature of the battle around and within me. I wonder how many of our bodily woes are actually battle wounds from these struggles? This process of sanctification is a life-long series of struggles, bearing numerous scars. But the battle decreases when we live according to the proper role of submission: the Holy Spirit commands our spirit. Our spirit commands our soul. Our soul commands our body, bringing us into proper alignment with God’s good and perfect will.


Is it well with your soul today? Shut out the noise of the world and also the noise of your inner being. Be still. In silence let God speak hope, joy, and peace to your soul.



Love is all


Love God with all your heart, mind, body and soul and with all your strength.  Love your neighbor as yourself.              – Mark 12:30-31

Let us love one another for love comes from God. – 1 John 4:7

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:16


Jesus makes sure we make no mistake. Our love for God is to be marked by ALL our heart, ALL our mind, ALL our soul, and ALL our strength. Basically, we are to love with everything that is in us. He doesn’t allow room for ‘SOME’ of anything. Loving God and loving others is our job description. Everything else is what HR people call “nonessential duties”…leftovers.


But what if ‘all’ God gets is our leftovers? Leftover after we give service to our other ‘gods.’ Anything that separates us from the one true God becomes a ‘god’ to us. Probably you know those who gave up on God because they lost a loved one, their health took a turn for the worst, they were betrayed by someone close to them, they felt unprotected. Maybe you experienced this at one time too. When this happens God is ignored and set aside, like last night’s leftovers, and lesser ‘gods’ are pursued.


Think you are immune to such idolatry? If you could not do without something, that may have become your ‘god.’ Be it sports, the pursuit of beauty and ultimate fitness above all things, that perfect latte, a certain way of negative thinking, or any other compulsive or perfectionist venture. When we obey these things they define and control our life and become as ‘gods.’ We can’t give ALL to the one and only true God, because all that remains is leftovers.


The question is: What do I HAVE to have in order to be satisfied with God? Whatever that is, my health, my family, my abilities, more years of life, more money, a pain-free life…that is the name of our other ‘god.’ The point of Job’s story is that God is enough. Like ending Psalm 23 with the first sentence, the Lord is my shepherd; that is enough.


God created us with a soul designed to love Him and be loved by Him. Love comes from God because God IS love. God demonstrated His love in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us. It is His love that shines in us. That light shines into the despair of our dark griefs and empty pursuits. It reveals hope that brings transcending joy and peace. It illuminates our path and causes fear to flee. It frees us from the captivity of all our false gods.


When the love of Jesus shines in and through you, you find freedom to love without expectation. Jesus says, we shine our light so others may see the real Jesus and praise God. Loving God with ALL your heart, mind, soul, and strength extends His endless love to others. Let’s give Him our ALL, not just leftovers.