Archive for May 2013

I Delight to Do Your Will

I delight to do your will, O my God.
(Psalm 40:8, NASB)

Father, when You ask me to give up some comfort and
to willingly risk inconvenience:
I delight to do Your will, O my God.

No matter what the situation,
no matter what You are asking,
I know You.
I know Your ways are best.
I trust You, and
I anticipate the wonderful things You will do.
          I delight to do Your will, O my God.

When a period of time lies before me—
whether a day, a few hours, or a few minutes—
I will give it to You:
          I delight to do Your will, O my God.

Whenever You speak to me,
I will not be afraid.
I will answer:
          I delight to do Your will, O my God.

Focused for Ministry

I watched him sitting on the platform–tall, perfectly groomed, distinguished, yet warm and personable. He had been our pastor for only a couple of weeks, and I was sure he–like the rest of us on a new job–was trying to “fit in” and make a good impression.

But what was on his mind on a Sunday morning, moments before the service would start? Was he thinking about his appearance, or how he would present himself? Was he getting that great smile ready to go?

I remember hoping he was free from all that and was focused purely on listening for the Lord’s leadership. I wanted him to be prepared and sensitive, single-mindedly ready to speak God’s word for us and lead us as the Spirit directed. That’s what we need in a pastor. We don’t want to miss anything the Lord has for us. We’re not even interested in the pastor’s personal ideas. We just want to hear from the Living God and meet Him.

That made me think.

Don’t the people to whom we minister–in our homes, at church, on our jobs–have the same right to ask that of us? They don’t want us distracted by personal considerations or our own selfish agendas or ideas. Struggling, hurting people don’t care about our careers or our greedy egos. They need us to be single-mindedly focused on listening to the Lord and letting Him speak. That’s what they hunger for. As servants of God, that’s what we owe them.

Holy Spirit, we look to You. We are listening. Speak through us. Enable us. Love through us, precious Jesus. Glorify yourself through all that we are and all that we do. Amen.

Holy Pride

This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom…
or the rich man boast of his riches,
but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me.”
(Jeremiah 9:23-24, NIV)

Lord, I grow proud at the slightest excuse.
It doesn’t take much for me to start imagining
how great and wonderful I am.
It sounds foolish, God,
but You know it’s true.

Who makes you different from anyone else?
What do you have that you did not receive?
And if you did receive it,
why do you boast as though you did not?
(1 Corinthians 4:7, NIV)

Lord, You’ve left me with only one thing to brag about:
You and all the wonderful things You’ve done!
I will take pride only in You.

Listen…and sing if you want:
Hymn: Isn’t He Good?
Printed Music & Lyrics

Father, Son, and Spirit

There is one God, and
one mediator also between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus.
(1 Timothy 2:5, NASB) 

Jesus emphasized repeatedly that His purpose, His mission, His glory, His power, His words, and His works all came from the Father. He then promised that all this that He received from the Father would be poured out on us and into us through His Holy Spirit. The Father comes to us through the Son (God made flesh), and the Son comes to us through the Spirit (God made unbounded life around and within us).

Father to Son, Son to Spirit, Spirit to us—in earthly things, such long chains  make the source seem remote, indirect, and watered-down. Something is lost along the way. But because of their perfect oneness, nothing is lost in the Father to Son and Son to Spirit. No watering down. The result is not distance and indirectness.

On the contrary, we are completely and intimately encompassed by God. God’s glory not only fills our world, but it comes to us personally and fills our flesh and our hearts. God embraces us with Himself, heart and mind, body and soul.

Don’t Pick the Fruit Too Soon

When I was in my late ‘20s, Dr. Morris Weigelt, then Professor of New Testament at the local seminary, asked me to team-teach an adult Sunday School class with him. That experience was an eye-opener and a beginning point for me in many ways. It awakened in me a burning desire to be more involved in communicating scripture, whether through teaching or writing.

I talked to Dr. Weigelt about my desires, and he gave me great advice: Don’t pick the fruit too soon. Don’t be in a hurry to write for publication when you’re young. Too many have to spend their later years apologizing for what they wrote when their thinking was not yet fully mature. We feel ready long, LONG before we are.

But when God calls us into His service, aren’t the call and the need urgent?

Though I’ve never been a pastor, I am unmistakably called into full-time Christian service. I am called into writing and publishing. And I’ve learned that our calling, that deep, burning desire, comes early in the process. It is part of the preparation and direction-setting, not a promise of immediate fulfillment. We want to scratch an itch the minute we feel it. But God’s tasks take far more preparation than we realize. Though Jesus’ work was so vitally important, God waited centuries before finally sending Him to us. And when He came, He was a growing youth and a blue-collar worker for 30 years. He was an itinerant preacher for only three.

Now in my 60s, I’m still learning to be patient and follow God one step at a time. I’m not the leader, I’m the follower, the servant. A servant doesn’t choose his task. A servant goes where his master sends him and does whatever He asks him to do, when He asks him to do it.

So what do we do while we’re waiting?

During my years as product developer for a major church music publisher, I worked closely with lots of excellent writers. Their educational background in music varied widely, from nearly nothing to earned doctorates in music. But there’s one thing every successful writer had in common. Every one had written for their own local situation sometime early in their career. They had written for real, live people, and had learned from hands-on experience.

That’s why I pass along the wisdom I was given, which has proven so very true: Don’t pick the fruit too soon. I advise young writers not to focus on writing for publication. If opportunity knocks, open the door, but focus on writing for your local situation. Write for real people with real needs.

God’s preparation is lengthy, but it is always wise and thorough.

Shifting Light

That spider web over there is so beautiful, so delicate and orderly.

Or at least it was when I could see it. The light has shifted, and now all I see is a couple of anchor cables, out near the plants where they’re attached. And I can see the spider. It’s in the middle and seems to be hanging in midair, all by itself.

The light shifts in my life also, Lord. At times I see Your beauty and order surrounding me and supporting me, and I feel at rest and safe. Then the light shifts, and I seem to be hanging in midair by myself, with no support. When I look, I can glimpse the foundational anchors, and I tell myself that the web is still there. But I see nothing.

There it is again. I see part of the supporting web–more of it–but not all of it.

But I know it’s there, Lord. The anchor cables are straight and firmly attached. Though I seem to be hanging out here, I haven’t fallen. And I know I won’t. I know You’re still with me, and underneath me are Your everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Listen…and sing if you want:
Hymn: I Cannot See the Light, My Lord
Printed Music & Lyrics

Filled to All the Fullness of God

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-17, 19, NIV)

That beautiful passage of scripture has always intrigued me, especially that last phrase. The concept is grand, but what does it really mean to be filled with “all the fullness of God”?

In Christ, all the fullness of God dwells bodily, and you have been made full and complete in Him. (Colossians 2:9-10, para.)

What could it mean to me—to you—in practical, daily terms to be completely filled with God himself? We know that He is always present, not only with us, but in us, in an intimate and holy way.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you…?
(1 Corinthians 6:19, NIV)

You have experienced that presence. What if we learned to look to Him, to trust Him more simply and constantly, to realize His presence and rest in it completely and always?

Imagine the wonder of hearing Him speak to you in wisdom and love. Imagine the wonder of knowing His will.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21, NIV)

When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. (John 16:13, NIV)

Imagine Him speaking His words from your lips.

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. (Mark 13:11, NIV)

Imagine dreaming His dreams, envisioning what He has planned for His people.

I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. (Joel 2:28, NIV)

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
(1 Corinthians 2:9-10, NIV)

Imagine being sufficient for every challenge, empowered by God’s own strength.

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.
(Zechariah 4:6, NIV)

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV)

Imagine the pleasure of having His own character growing and developing within you, naturally, daily.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV)

Consider what it would be like to be free forever from the bondage of your sin.

Now that you have been set free from sin…the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22, NIV)

And imagine being wrapped in His perfect peace.

The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6, NIV)

These blessings are not someday and far away. They are all in Christ, and He is present. These blessings are not vague and abstract. They are practical and life-oriented. They are for talking, thinking, reacting, and doing.

They are not by struggle or superior intellect, not reserved for the elite, not beyond anyone’s grasp. They are available for all who will daily, simply trust the God who is with us right now.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us…with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3, NIV)

Give Them Jesus

In our ministries,
in our creative communication,
we wrestle with words and ideas,
with music and lyrics,
with paint and canvas,
with materials, technologies, and more.

But let’s face it:
what the world needs is not
another artist,
another book,
another song, or
another star.
Its problems are far too deep and too serious.

The world needs Jesus.
When you sing, give them Jesus.
When you write, give them Jesus.
When you speak, give them Jesus.
Every day,
through everything you create,
in every encounter with another human being,
give them Jesus.

Our All-encompassing God

No matter how we stretch, we cannot wrap our imaginations around Almighty God.

He is God our Father and Creator. The physical world is a picture of His generosity, His wisdom, and His unbounded power. The seasons and centuries sing His faithfulness. The heavens are a tiny window to the mystery and infinity of His being. Every moment, from birth to death, He wraps us in the light and texture of His love.

He is God the Son. He is all of God become completely human…just like us but without sin. He emptied Himself to become our Brother, our Savior, our Sacrifice, our Healer. He is the new Adam, inviting us to be born again into a whole new race of holy, glorified beings filled with His endless life.

He is God the Spirit. He is the breath of God within us. He is love, wisdom, and power uniting with who we are, giving us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3, NIV).

Our imaginations cannot encompass the Almighty Triune God. But He encompasses us, body and soul, imagination and spirit, every breath and throughout eternity.

The prize held out before us is
not material blessings—
not in this world and not in the next.
The prize God offers is Himself,
with all the life and love that are in Him.

Listen…and sing if you want:
Hymn: Trinity Hymn
Printed Music & Lyrics

Invest in Others

You were called to freedom, brethren;
only do not turn your freedom into
an opportunity for the flesh,
but through love serve one another.
(Galatians 5:13, NASB)

Imagine yourself 30 or 40 years in the future,
looking back on your life.
Your work here is largely past,
and if the Lord tarries,
the world will move on.
You will soon fade from the scene.

When that day comes,
you’ll see that your part in the whole is what’s important,
not your few solo lines.
Much of what you have accomplished will be
temporary or partial.
The success of the work for which you’ve given your life
will depend on the success of others.

Think of yourself as only one part of the whole.
Pray for others and their efforts.
Encourage them.
Help them enthusiastically,
as if the success of your work depends on theirs.
For in reality, it does.
Invest yourself in the lives of others.