Archive for July 2016

For the Joy

Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3, NASB)

Jesus endured unimaginable suffering
physically, emotionally, and spiritually,
not out of obligation,
but “for the joy set before Him” (v.2).

The scripture emphasizes Jesus’ complete humiliation before His enemies
every step of the way.
Crucifixion itself was designed for humiliation, and
the place of crucifixion was chosen for maximum public visibility.
The Jewish leaders, the most “holy” and respectable men of their day,
mocked and ridiculed Him even as He was in the grip of searing pain.

Yet Jesus endured all this “for the joy set before Him”.
He “despised the shame” (v.2).
That means He dismissed all that shame, that humiliation,
as unworthy of consideration.
He faced His trial “for the joy set before Him”.

Remember what Jesus was longing to share with His disciples
only hours before His suffering?

“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy made be made full.” (John 15:11, NASB)

All who love and trust Jesus share His remarkable joy.
Our Father graciously gives each believer a precious gift:
He allows us a small share in Christ’s joyful sufferings.
He calls us to give ourselves, to sacrifice ourselves for others.

As I look at the sacrifices that have come into my life –
sacrifices for my wife, my children, and my grandchildren,
for the ministry God has given me –
I find that for the most part, I make those sacrifices,
not out of obligation,
not for glory or gold,
but out of love…out of joy.
I joyfully sacrifice out of
love for my family and friends,
love for my Father, and
love for the beautiful truth He has revealed to me.
Love brings joy, and
I find great joy in helping those I love.
I love God, and
I find great joy in glorifying Him –
in helping people see how great and good and ever-present He is.

Father, give me the heart of Christ.
Fill my life, my service, my every daily activity
with His joyful self-giving.
Help me to live and love and labor every day
for the joy.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: For the Joy
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Psalm 65

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD 

All the silence of our most profound worship,
All the exuberant joy of our unbridled praise,
All the promises we have ever made,
All the hopeful prayers our hearts have whispered
we give to You alone, our Lord, our Almighty God, our Father!

We are sin.
We are weakness.
We are deepest need in all its forms.
Yet You choose us.
You draw us near to You.
You pour out Your goodness,
deeper and more varied than all our need.
You abundantly satisfy all our hungers
with all You are.

Your creation teaches us,
reminds us,
engulfs us
in Your power,
Your mystery,
Your faithfulness, and
Your joyful generosity.
Every sunset, every sunrise
sings of You.
Every rainfall permeates our world with Your blessings.
Every harvest celebrates
Your overflowing, never-failing goodness.
The pastures, the hills, the forests, and the valleys join the dance,
the dance that began at creation and
will never end.

O Lord, how many are Your works!
In wisdom You have made them all.
All that is, is Yours! (Psalm 104:24, para.)

Listen and sing:
Hymn: You Are Good
Recording
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No Fear

When nagged by uncertainties big and small –
no fear.

In the grip of illness –
no fear.

In need –
no fear.

In loss –
no fear.

In change –
no fear.

In all my weakness and boundless ignorance –
no fear.

In the darkness –
no fear.

When opposed by forces far stronger than myself –
no fear.

When assaulted by temptation –
no fear.

When threatened by suffering –
no fear.

In the valley of the shadow of death –
no fear.

For my life is hidden with Christ
in You,
my Father,
my loving Savior,
my mighty Rock,
my sovereign Lord and
my everlasting God.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: If God Is on Our Side
Recording
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Beyond This Life

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling . . . For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Corinthians 5:1-2, 4-5, NIV)

While we are in this tent, we groan (v. 4). I groan, Lord, even though my body is relatively healthy and free from pain. I groan because of the earthly concerns that burden my mind and emotions. I groan because of a certain restlessness that churns deep inside me. Even when all is going well and my life and work are fulfilling, there is an unsettledness, a feeling that my heart is not home.

My longing for change, for the next stage of life, seems to grow out of this unsettledness. I have a good life, Lord, but the best this life has to offer is not good enough. It doesn’t satisfy. I am thrilled by beauty, but I can’t take it into myself or keep it with me. Attained goals don’t fulfill. The best of times and experiences passes so quickly.

I long to be clothed with my eternal dwelling, to be free from this life of restlessness and lingering death. I long to have a body designed for the being You created me to be, for the being You are making me in Christ:

  • a body that is never a hurdle for my spiritual life but a body that is one with that life, that nurtures it and expresses it and sets it free;
  • a body designed to do Your work throughout eternity, without weakness or hindrance;
  • a body that is Your holy temple, filled only with Your praise.

I grasp for satisfaction and permanency, and I find only You, Lord. Clothe me in You, Jesus. Unite us completely, body and spirit, life to life, forever and ever. I love You, my Lord. Come soon.

The moments of life filled with
waiting and helplessness,
desperation and futility,
remind us that Jesus Christ alone is
our life,
our hope, and
our future.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Longing for Home
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

WE ARE CHILDREN Devotional Tapestry

WE ARE CHILDREN Devotional Tapestry

Devotional Tapestries are short recordings designed to draw your heart and mind to the Living God. Each includes a devotional reading over instrumental music, leading into a hymn.

Listen to WE ARE CHILDREN Devotional Tapestry
Printed devotional & hymn
More Devotional Tapestries

Keep the Focus on Him

Many years ago God called me to use the Lord’s Prayer as the pattern for my own daily prayer. In the years following, I spent most of my time in the first half of the prayer:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10, NIV)

I gravitated to that first half of the prayer because every morning I crave seeing Him again. When I focus on God, high and lifted up, everything else falls into place.

Often I spent less time on the second half of the prayer:

Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:11-13, NIV)

After focusing on the transcendent God during the first part of my prayer, I felt uncomfortable shifting the focus to our needs in the second half. Yes, I was still talking to God, but now my heart seemed focused on us, not Him. I came to realize that this made the second half of the prayer feel smaller and less meaningful.

Then one morning God showed me that I should pray the second half of the prayer like the first, with my focus still on Him. For example:

Father, we joyfully depend on You for all our needs today.
Forgive us for our sins,and
we will share Your forgiveness with all who wrong us.
We don’t want anything to come between You and us.
Deliver us from temptation and from the evil one.
Keep our hearts and minds on You alone.

We can keep our focus on Him, even while presenting our needs. We can confess our dependence on Him out of a burning desire to live in Him more constantly and completely. When we pray with our hearts fixed on God alone, the entire Lord’s Prayer becomes an act of deep, life-centered worship. We come seeking, not His gifts, but Him.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Our Father Exalted
Recording
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Judgment Day

Since the very beginning, since the garden, God has promised to rid His creation of all evil. In a world where He has given His creatures free will, this complete cleansing will necessarily involve God’s direct intervention. In the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the death of an entire generation of Israelites in the wilderness, this unchanging God showed Himself ready to take decisive steps to fulfill His purpose.

Through the prophets, God spoke of The Day of the Lord, a time when God Himself would come to His world and bring justice, with both reward and punishment.

And God has come, in Jesus Christ. He came to bring justice, not through condemnation but through mercy and the free offer of salvation. But Jesus also spoke repeatedly of a coming judgment day. He is the only person who has seen both this world and the next, and He persistently warned of this coming judgment in the strongest and most graphic terms, urging us to live every hour and make every decision in the light of that coming day.

The Spirit of Christ also spoke of that day through His disciple, John.

Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. (Revelation 1:7, NASB)

Imagine the scene on that day. And later John wrote:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds…And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-12, 15, NASB)

From this Being earth and heaven themselves will flee away, yet each of us will face Him personally. He Himself, by His very presence, will bring the burning, overwhelming reality of holiness and truth to our world. That is why this merciful God has sent us out ahead of Him, to prepare people for that day:

We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20, NASB)

No one knows the day or hour of His coming, so the only way to be ready is to get ready now and stay ready. If we do, that day will bring unspeakable joy. If not, unspeakable terror.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Mighty Day
Recording
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Reborn

from the book, ONE WITH OUR FATHER 

John 3:1-21

Lord God, I cannot be who I want to be,
who I need to be,
by my own efforts.
No self-discipline,
no determination
can make me who I am not.
Only Your cleansing can make me clean.
Only Your holiness can make me holy.
Only Your life can make me Your child.
Only You can make me
like You,
sharing in You,
one with You.

Your life, Your breath, Your Spirit
is like the wind:
I can sense it, but I cannot
fully track it or
control it.
Your Spirit is Your life in motion.
He goes where You please.
He is who You are.

Lord, I see Him most fully and beautifully
in the life of the human Christ.
I watch as You and He, Father and Son, share
the same Spirit,
the same life,
the same power,
the same wisdom,
the same self-giving love.
As I see Jesus,
I long to be one with You
as He is one with You,
fully, constantly, forever.

Father, I am completely unworthy of You.
But since You deeply desire it,
come, be my Father
as fully as You were His Father.
Do this as it pleases You,
when it pleases You,
how it pleases You.
Blow as You will,
Wind of God,
Breath of God.
I will do the little that I can do and must do:
I will trust You. 

Father, this is what I want:
to live and breathe forever
in Your personal presence,
constantly,
completely,
unchangeably
one with You.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Father, You See Our Need
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Holy and Human

Father, as I long to see You and know You,
You show me Jesus.
In Him I see the transcendent God
in a form I can understand.
In Him You are
human and
touchable.
In Him You are
my Father and
my Brother.

In Jesus, Your holiness is no longer
foreign and frightening, but
beautiful and desirable.
In Him, You prove that I can be
pure, yet
thoroughly human.
I can be Your true child
here and now,
in this present, evil world.
I can be
joyful,
loving,
peaceful, and
perfectly pleasing to You.

I can be one with You, Father,
in Jesus Christ.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Holy, Human Jesus Christ
Recording
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For Today

Father, I only want what Your
holy,
joyful,
loving,
all-sufficient Son wanted:
only Your glory,
only Your Kingdom,
only Your will.
Gain or loss,
success or failure,
need or abundance,
sunlight or shadow,
this is my focus,
this is my desire:
Your smile and
Your approval.

Your Son was sure of
Your presence,
Your abundance, and
Your loving faithfulness.
Thus He didn’t fret about tomorrow.
He only needed bread for today.
Father, that’s all I need as well.

Your Son came to pour out on us
Your forgiveness,
Your cleansing,
Your holiness,
Your impenetrable keeping from all evil.
I will live joyfully and confidently in
that forgiveness,
that cleansing,
that safe keeping.

Father, as I trust You today,
I am in Christ, and
He is in me, and
we are in You
every moment.
Praise be to You, our Father, forever and ever!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Today, Father
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

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