Archive for Magnificent God

Fearing Change

“Listen to Me…
You who have been borne by Me from birth
And have been carried from the womb;
Even to your old age I will be the same,
And even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
I will bear you and I will deliver you.”
“I, the Lord, do not change.”
(Isaiah 46:3-4; Malachi 3:6, NASB)

God of unfailing, unrestrainable love,
how often do I
resent and
resist
the blessings You send me!
I hide.
I argue.
I lash out.
I whine and complain like a child,
fearful of change.
I cling to my poverty because it is
familiar and
safe.

O Father, forgive me!
Forgive me for mistrusting Your love!
You are the unchanging God,
always only wisdom,
always only good,
always only bringing our best.
Through all the changes and seasons of life,
I will look to You.
I will bring my concerns to You.
I will trust You.
And then, even in my ignorance,
I will rejoice in what
Your omniscient love is doing for me.

You are good, Father!
You are always good, and
Your love endures forever!

Wars,
betrayal,
persecution,
deception,
disasters, and
death
are part of the inevitable course of this world.
But stay confident:
God is still in control of the outcome.
All will serve His loving purpose.

Hymn: Unchanging Father

Dangling Threads

As for me, I trust in You, O Lord,
I say, “You are my God.”
(Psalm 31:14, NASB)

Father, I bring You all the dangling threads of my life.

I bring you that annoying little task that has me stuck.
I can’t move forward, and
I can’t walk away.

I bring you that matter where all I can do is wait.
I am totally dependent on someone else, and
they are in no hurry.

I bring you that huge project that I’m just beginning.
I feel swamped with unknowns and
in over my head.

I bring You that threat hanging over me
that seeks to steal my peace.

I bring you that unique idea, that deep desire
that has long weighed on my heart.
It keeps calling me,
pulling me.
It has never gone away after all these years.
Father, I believe You have planted it in me.
I believe You have set aside this task for me.
I’m convinced it would glorify You and
draw other people to You.
But every time I try to press ahead,
You seem to check me.
I feel nine-months pregnant,
but I can’t give birth.

And Father, I bring You that person
whom I love with all my heart.
They are so painfully, tragically incomplete.
O Lord, You know.

Father, I bring You all these dangling threads.
They keep my life unsettled.
They daily, hourly make me feel
ill-at-ease and
out of control.

Maybe that’s one reason You allow them to stay.
They keep me turning to You,
depending on You,
crying out to You.
You are the First and the Last,
the Source and the Goal.
You not only see the end from the beginning,
You are the ending.
All things are flowing from You and to You.
All things are complete in You.
At the perfect time and
in the perfect way,
You will beautifully finish everything You have begun.

I am a small-minded,
anxious,
time-bound creature,
at sea in a world beyond my understanding and control.
You are sovereign, wise, loving, and just.
You always do what is good and right.

Father, I will wait on You.

Who are we that we should ask God,
“Why are you doing this?”
It is the Lord—
that is enough.
Let him do what seems good to Him.
Let Him wound or heal,
bring pleasure or pain,
give life or death.
He is always the Lord.”
(paraphrased from Francois Fenelon)

Hymn: I Cannot See the Light, My Lord

Nine Months Pregnant

“Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord.(Isaiah 66:9, NIV)

I remember when my wife, Gloria, was pregnant with Jason, our first child. As we attended childbirth classes, she felt the insecurities that I’m sure most mothers-to-be share: Will I be able to do it? Will something go wrong? Even though I was only a coach and hand-holder, I too was apprehensive about the whole process.

I remember the teacher repeating to the class the same basic assurance over and over: childbirth is a natural function, and one way or another, the baby will be born. Unless you’ve been through it, that probably sounds laughable. But during the long months of waiting and wondering, we clung to those statements. And even when the day came, as Gloria’s intense pain gnawed relentlessly, and the hospital staff seemed so unhurried, we wondered if the delivery would ever really happen.

I’ve been through those times in my life. The relief that I desperately need, or the dream I cherish as deeply as life itself, doesn’t come for years…or decades. Most of us endure times when, in some important area, we feel nine months pregnant, with discomfort and pressure that won’t quit, but no relief in sight. We feel full term, but God is in no hurry.

During my “labor”, Isaiah 66:9 brings me assurance that helps me not only endure, but rejoice. I can testify that God never begins anything in our lives that He won’t finish – beautifully, completely, and perfectly. All that His love has conceived, He will deliver, and at the right time.

If you’re feeling nine months pregnant, learn to rest in Him more constantly and completely. He is drawing you to Himself. Even as you wait, He is working all things for your good and for the blessing of those around you.

God,
I cannot trace all Your ways,
but I know that You will always be the
all-powerful,
all-wise,
all-loving Father
that You are right now.
I trust You.

Hymn: Wait on the Lord

Catch Me Up in Your Work

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38, NIV)

God,
I want to do something important–
important to You and
important to those You love.
Father,
it doesn’t have to feel important right now.

But I want to be
caught up in You and in Your work–
not what my interests
assume to be Your work,
or what I want to be Your work,
but what is Your work.
It doesn’t matter how small it seems,
or how overwhelming.

Lord, catch me up in the need,
not just in my own little task.
My efforts are partial and passing.
The need is bigger.
The need will go on.

Father,
I look to You.
Move me by Your Spirit.
Move me with Your heart today.
Catch me up in Your work.

Father, I feel pressured by
a mounting list of things I need to do,
but only this is important:
to do what You want me to do,
the way You want me to do it.

Hymn: I Am Your Servant

Turning Points

The Lord is my shepherd. (Psalm 23:1, NASB)

Sometimes God’s hand is only visible in the rearview mirror. Life’s major turning points may masquerade as the small and ordinary. They only loom large when seen in retrospect.

I was 22 and in my first and only year of graduate school, pursuing a master’s degree in music composition at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. My life plan was to compose classical music and teach at the university level.

The course was “Introduction to Graduate Studies”, designed to teach us some of the basics of graduate-level study. The instructor had assigned us to prepare an annotated bibliography—a bibliography with brief descriptions for each book entry. Any subject would do.

I was also minister of music and youth director at a small church in Cincinnati. Killing time before an appointment, I was sitting alone in my pastor’s study, idly looking over the books on his shelf. One caught my eye. It was a thin, black, clothbound book with “Wesley Hymnbook” on the spine. I began reading the introductory material, and it caught my interest. Methodist hymnody seemed as good a subject as any for my assignment.

Of course, to prepare the bibliography, I had to find and familiarize myself with other books on Methodist hymnody. Up to this point my interest had been classical music, not church music. But the more I read about Methodist hymns, the more I got hooked.

Soon I was haunting local used bookstores, hunting for old hymnals. (Side note: nearly 15 years later, having built up a collection of about 1,000 hymnals, I sold them to friend and composer Tom Fettke and purchased my first computer.) In addition to old hymnals, I bought newer collections of hymns and Christian songs and hungrily perused them. I even went to the rare book room at the University library and photocopied entire old hymnals for study.

When that school year ended, so did my classical music studies. Instead, I accepted a job as college music instructor at God’s Bible School there in Cincinnati. Among the courses I taught were hymnology and the history of church music, with my personal study as my only preparation.

After two years teaching, I decided to apply to Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City. I was driven by a strong interest, not in pastoring, but in biblical languages and theology. Some at the seminary saw my application and connected me with Nazarene Publishing House, which was looking for a music editor at the time. I started work there in June, 1975, and stayed until the end of 2009. I never went to seminary, except to audit a course now and again.

Soon after starting at NPH, I learned that Wesley Hymnbook had been one of their biggest flops ever. My pastor had a copy in his study only because NPH had given them as gifts to graduating seniors at Nazarene Theological Seminary.

But that terrible publishing investment got them a music editor, director, and product developer for 34 years. And it ignited in me a lifelong enthusiasm for hymns.

Our magnificent, incomprehensible God changes and redirects lives every day. Sometimes He reveals Himself through a dramatic divine encounter. We are struck down by a brilliant light like Saul on the road to Damascus, or we suddenly find ourselves on holy ground, standing before a burning bush. But sometimes God’s hand is artfully subtle. He lights a tiny fire deep in the heart of a young person—a fire that in time becomes an all-consuming passion.

Our lives are so brief that
we have no idea what is important.
Accomplishments that seem so major are
quickly washed away by the river of time,
while minor events,
seen in context,
take on great significance.
But in this dark world,
a Christ-like life is like a
shining star, pointing people to
something higher,
forever glorifying its Creator.

Hymn: Thank You for Your Perfect Will

A Glance Backward

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”(Joshua 1:9, NIV)

Faithful, Faithful, Faithful.
I look back over my life, and
I am startled by the love I thought I knew.
You pursued me when I couldn’t see You in my darkness.
You whispered in my ear,
You clutched my heart,
then stood in front of me and declared that
YOU were God.
I knew it was true.
As I bowed, You gave me new life—
Your life.
I was warmed by the fire of Your love,
and in its light, I saw Your glory all around me,
leading me on.

You’ve taught me that
Your deliverance, Your forgiveness,
are daily gifts,
flowing from the fountain of Your eternal love.
Viewing my past journey,
I see only Your hand
guiding, teaching, holding me,
giving my life a consistency that is Yours, not mine.
The power of Your presence has
always, always, always been there,
though I only glimpse it now and again.

Father,
Eternally Faithful One,
make our bond of love and trust
as iron.
Make it a living cord from Your heart to mine.
Draw my eyes constantly to You,
making simple faith my every breath.
Great God of power and tireless love,
in every situation,
with every desire,
with all my energies,
be my God.

When we sense God’s
presence and
goodness
in a special way,
we are simply glimpsing
the unchanging God who is
always fully with us,
always good,
always working for our best
beyond what we can imagine.

Hymn: God Is Great, and God Is Good

I Trust You with My Time

My times are in Your hand. (Psalm 31:15, NASB)

Creator of all eternity,
Lender of my life,
I trust You with my time.
Help me relax and listen,
letting You be the Master of my moments,
accepting each one from Your hand
as I receive each borrowed breath,
each meal,
each joy,
with appreciation and anticipation.

Teach me to walk in all the freedom Your love provides.
Thank You, my Father.

Calmly, quietly attend to what
God has assigned you today.
You can accomplish far more by
calm, thoughtful work
done in God’s sight
than by hurried human busy-ness.
(paraphrased from Francois Fenelon)

Hymn: Content in You

Time

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27, NIV)

When we consider the natural world, we begin to realize that time hides from us many of the Creator’s most spectacular miracles. Some are too split-second for us to perceive; others are too gradual to appreciate.

For instance, on one hand, consider a single beat of a hummingbird’s wing (up to 80 per second!). On the other hand, ponder the sculpting of the Grand Canyon.

Or think of the human body. Each simple function is a chain of interworkings, incredibly complex, yet almost instantaneous. But just as marvelous is the transformation of a microscopic egg into an adult human being, capable of reason, imagination, love, work, and worship. (Growth seems to be God’s favorite miracle. Up close, it’s invisible. From a distance, it’s breathtaking . . . too beautiful to rush.)

We are locked into the present, with narrow notions of fast and slow. We are caught in the blindness of time, space, and self. The Everlasting One blesses us, and we do not see Him coming or going. We fail to trace all the wonders of Him who is unhurried and unhindered by time, reigning in eternity. To the Overlord of all the ages, the Master of each moment, nothing is fast or slow. Time is not a barrier or a restraint, but a tool wielded by His wisdom.

How foolish, then, for us to pretend to be masters of our time. We frantically try to control what we cannot control. Rigid, rushed schedules are our attempts to bring productivity, consistency, and balance into our confusion and fatigue.

But the Lord reminded me years ago that time anxiety is as foolish and unproductive as all other anxieties. Anxiety blocks our free and open response to God’s moment-by-moment leadership. Worry produces only tension, selfishness, and insensitivity. It chokes out love, gentleness, and joy.

Turn to one of the Gospels in the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) and read about Jesus. Notice that while He had so much to accomplish in so little time, He never rushed. He was busy, but He never seemed tense or hurried.

That’s because He focused on only one priority: following His Father’s leadership step by step. Each moment was in His Father’s hands, so Jesus simply did as He was directed to do and worked as He was enabled to work.

Our Creator, our Father gives us the same privilege. We don’t need to juggle our priorities and obligations in our own wisdom. God wants us to lead and balance our lives by his wisdom. He calls us to listen and respond to His leadership regarding time. We are to use our self-discipline there rather than toward our own arbitrary schedules. As we do, He breathes natural balance and joy, a peace and productivity into each moment, of both labor and rest. He slips accomplishments into our schedules that surprise and delight us.

He is personally with you always. He would be delighted to guide and provide for your time needs. This is just one more area in which He calls us into a closer, more constant fellowship with himself.

God’s gifts are practical. They are more satisfying than we have tasted or imagined. He invites us to discover them all.

God is never in a hurry.
He is the master of time,

not its slave.
Walk with Him in His peace.

Hymn: I Leave It in Your Hands

In Your Time

This is what the high and exalted One says –
He who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
But also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit.”
(Isaiah 57:15, NIV)

Transcendent God, You live in eternity
above all time,
unlimited,
unhurried,
untouched by its relentless flow.
You are the Lord of time,
not its servant.
Time means change, and
You are beyond all change.
You are unchanging fullness,
unchanging perfection.

Yet we humans need time, Father.
We need its opportunities to
change and grow.
We are only the seeds of
who we need to be.
And You are like a gardener,
content to work,
content to wait,
content to patiently nurture us
until the time is exactly right and
we are all Your love intended us to be.

You will not rush.
What seems like delays is
only Your mercy,
only Your unflinching determination to give
only Your best to Your children.

Transcendent God, we cannot think Your thoughts.
We cannot trace Your ways,
But we trust Your perfect wisdom and
Your unchanging love.
Help us to work and rest
in Your Spirit,
in Your time,
in Your peace.

Father,
You are completely unlimited by
space and time.
You never lack
time or
materials or
expertise.
Help me to look beyond my own limitations and
simply rest in all You are.

Hymn: Eternal God, Unbound by Time

What a Day!

“They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:15-17, NIV)

Imagine the moment of Jesus’ resurrection,
when the power of the Father crushed death—
we will share in it.

Imagine the full splendor of His glory—
we will share in it.

Imagine when all the universe crowns Him
King of Kings and Lord of Lords—
we will share in it.

Imagine the beauty of His life and love,
spreading, blooming, growing everywhere and forever—
we will share in it.

We will share in all He is.

Father,
Your realm is all reality.
Your time is all eternity.
Whenever and wherever I am,
I am engulfed in You.

Hymn: Come, Our Lord!