Labor Day weekend and I am suddenly confronted about my labor for the Lord! This Scripture starts out the devotion for today from Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman. Am I straining at the oars? Am I striving? Am I overworking? The word straining in the Greek means to torture, to vex with grievous pains (of body or mind), to torment, to be harassed, distressed, for those who are at those who at sea struggling with a head wind. We hear ourselves say I am working too hard or I am so very busy.overworking! And what is the fruit of this straining, this overworking for the Lord? Well things do get donepeople are blessedbut what happens within? Little by little, the weariness of soul sets in. Bitterness and judgment now has fertile ground to grow in. Inner vows become the weeds that start to grow: I have to do everything myself. Self-righteousness begins to show its horrid face!
What is the antidote for you and me? Abiding in Him. John 7:38: Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. Listen to this story told in Cowman/s devotion: A man who learned this secret once said, I came to Jesus and drank, and I believe I will never be thirsty again. My lifes motto has become Not overwork but overflow, and it has already made all the difference in my life. WOW! OVERFLOW!
Overflow: It is like a dam that filled to the brim, constantly having its waters released for the overflow to cascade down onto the waiting, thirsty land. The overflow comes from believing God believing who He is. There is the place of rest of peace - of blessed assurance. There is the filling station for my soul - abiding in Him. Christ dwells in us. Lives in us and flows through us these fragile vessels of clay that have been fired and re-fired in the kiln of adversity to become His glorious vessels fit for His living water. Not OVERWORK BUT OVERFLOW this our motto now.
Lord, I know you dwell in me. Everyday draw me close. Right now saturate me with You. Every cell in my body, every thought in my mind, every emotion in my heart. Saturate me. My will totally Yours. My food to do the will of You. All my life taken over by You. No more straining or striving but resting in You in all that I do. Amen.
Do you shrink back from being with Jesus in His suffering? Is it difficult for my heart to be so engaged?
I Press On: "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead."
I Press On: " to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own."
I Press On: "toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Midst the palm branches and loud hosannas, Jesus presses on, ride on, ride on in majesty, my King upon the colt. I know the cross is before You - I know the story. And I want You to quickly go thru the cross - not spend much time there. Let's get to Easter right away. I want Paul's words to be mine but like the disciples I shrink back from the cross too. I withdraw my heart from Your suffering - keep it at a distance. Repentance never happens at a distance. Draw near to God and the devil flees.
Nothing can stay hidden or suppressed or disconnected in Your Presence. Draw me, Jesus, to You in the midst of the cries to crucify You. Call me to You in the midst of the nails going into Your hands and feet. Even though my flesh is not willing, my spirit and soul desire to make Your life my own because You have made me Your own. Let me see my sin laid upon You as I press into You. Let me see myself engraved in the palm of Your hand by the nails that were placed there for You. I cry out so many times "If I could just see Your face like Moses did on the mountain" but do I yearn to see Your face on the cross? In Your face of suffering I see my sin.in Your face of suffering I find mercy.in Your face of suffering. I find me.
Jesus, help me! In this resurrection journey help me not bypass the cross but be with You. Bring my heart out of hiding and bring my mind into Your reality. Help me face my own sin, allowing Your suffering to wash me clean. You and only You have made me worthy to share in your suffering. I cling to You, Jesus held magnetically by Your love - the only way I can come thru Your suffering and into Your glorious resurrection.
Do you fear doing a new thing? Do you fear God calling you to do a new thing?
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him.
A new lent.
Fasting from what we know - from what we normally do - from what we expect to happen.to a new way in the Lord! This is what Joseph discovered! "Mary, how can this be that you are pregnant by some other means than human means?" His mind could not fathom anything separate from the law he knew - the ways of humanity he knew. "I will divorce Mary but in a quiet way so as to not shame her" for he was a righteous man, one who loved God. What a dilemma he is in! Heartbroken, confused. "How can this be since You have given me this woman to marry!" His world is falling apart - his dreams are shattering. Then in the quiet of night, deep in sleep: "Do not be afraid Joseph to do this new thing of God -something you have not seen before but has been spoken thru the prophets -told to you yet you have not yet perceived it. Don't be afraid of the Lord doing a new thing. Go ahead, take her as your wife." So Joseph awakens out of his slumber of living by what has been - what he is used to doing - what others expect him to do - the way his culture, his religion - everything he has been taught - the normal way of responding. He awakens now into what shall be - what really is - God's realm of possibility!
Joseph listened.bowed his mind, his heart, all that he knew, tradition and law. Joseph did what the angel of the Lord commanded him. And Hope came to the world! Awake my soul and see the Way of the Lord! Emmanuel!
A new Lent
Lord, awaken my soul from the ashes of living in the past! Oh for forty days and nights God change my negative patterns of thinking, of responding, the old ways that are not Your ways. Break me out of my religious ways and judgments. During the day surround me with Your cloud of knowing and during the night enter my dreams filling me with You, deep to my sub-conscious mind! At the end of this time of mind and heart formation, may I awake looking more like You. Grant me a Holy Lent that having perceived the old garments of heaviness I wear and the bitterness of ashes I sit in, I do earnestly repent and turning to You for healing, put on the garment of praise being clothed in You, Christ. Only then will I be satisfied. Only then will I live in satisfaction. Amen.
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!
Wise men came from the east led by a star seeking the Child who was born king of the Jews. Led by a star, 'a celestial light', to the Light of the world who delivers us from all darkness. We cannot live in darkness and live in Christ simultaneously for even the darkness is as light with God. And Lord I know everyone, like the wise men, has opportunity to be led to You, out of darkness into light for You show no favoritism. I also know by Your Word that all things were made through You (John 1:1). And You are Light. Your light was deposited in us through the Divine process of creation. Thus, we have a divine GPS : a 'God Positional System', an internal star within that leads us back to You, the Light of the world. But we, like the wise men, must follow this 'star'. You within lead us back to You! Amazing!
I hear the Epiphany message: Arise, shine, for your Light has come. Darkness no longer exists for us who are in Christ. It is an illusion danced in front of our eyes by the evil one when times get hard. Oh, darkness indeed covers the earth but we who have been made of the earth are now re-born, made new, and our substance is filled with God's glory, even when we do not see it. We, who had such small glimmers of light within, now shine as His lights on this earth. Light has broken through our darkness and He has delivered us, conveyed us, out of darkness into Light. The Healer heals the dark blemishes of unmet needs and unhealed hurts that try to cling to our souls and cover our hope within. Christ cannot be held in a dark place for He has risen and He has risen upon you and me. And as He rises through us, He brings all things to Light within us. So, by faith, we must get up, for Christ the hope of glory within us, has indeed risen. Epiphany! His manifestation now manifest in us. He is making us like Him - the whole Church - His Body of Light on this earth. And when He appears again, when He comes again, we will see Him for we shall be like Him (1John 3:2).
There is no time to waste. No time for complaining. No time for licking past wounds. There is an urgency about His Light burning within us. Light and fire always spread. We are called to be His light-bearers. Let nothing impede us from this calling. Walk worthy of this calling and let Him heal each of us so deeply that His Light, His glory, blazes out of us upon others.
Lead us, who know You by faith, to Your presence, where we may see Your glory face to face, and set us afire with You. Let us burn with Your love in the cold and the dark of the world. Everything not of You will melt and fade away in the presence of You. What a privilege to be led by You, that we may seek You and find You, and then be filled with You to carry You to the world. May we walk worthy of this calling. We humbly pray this day, bowing in adoration. Amen.
*from the appointed collect BCP
The only way to step into 2010 is to seek after Him
God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.
Today looks like any other wintery Florida day this morning: Sun brightly shining, birds singing, a peaceful, morning with a refreshing chill. My family is still sleeping, even Benny the dog is snoozing. Coffee is ready. Yes, everything feels great. And then Lord, You give me this verse this morning. This is a day I usually think about how the year has been and the big plans I have for next year to rectify the failures of this year. And You give me this verse. I was hoping for some big prophecy but here is this verse: 'Are there any who understand, who seek after God?'
That lump in my throat starts. You know when conviction begins. What about my family? Do they understand and seek after You God? What about all the precious ones You put in my path? Am I leading them to You? Helping them to meet the Healer? And what about me Lord? Do I seek You? Do I know You are my refuge? Do I refuse to live in terror knowing that You are my strong tower? Do I seek You first in every trial and temptation? Do I spend my time with You just in sweet communion, knowing that it is Your Presence alone that heals, restores, and makes me new? Do I just desire to be with You just because I love You? The waves of guilt and remorse wash over me until I sense Your smile. Your loving smile that wraps me up in You.
Holy Spirit nudges me to look again at the verse in the midst of all my recriminations. There is a catch in this verse. You Lord are looking down from heaven on the 'children of man' but we are no longer the 'children of man'. For we who are reborn are now children of God! And because we are Your children, You draw us to You, You call us to You. You give us understanding in Your Presence. And the times we turn away, the times we lose focus, the times we begin to sink in the deep waters; are all while You are drawing us to You like Peter on the water. This year, 2010, let's keep walking on the water, looking to Jesus who is the One drawing us. It doesn't matter, the momentary loss of footing or the brief temptation of fear or the temporary loss of faith. Just keep coming. He already has His hands not only reached out to you but under your feet.
Thank You Lord for this gift this morning as I step from this year 2009 to 2010. And though the waters be turbulent, the terror stronger, the challenges seemingly impossible, help me to see the folly of it all. For only those who do not call on You live in terror and fear and impossibilities for in You there is none of those things. Help me even more to keep my focus on You so that it becomes my nature to walk in You. You have no problem with turbulent waters. I praise You this morning and thank You so much. Keep me ever as the apple of Your eye and ever in love with You. Amen.
'and she gave birth to her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger.'
Mary gave birth to Christ, the Son of God, wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger. A manger is a trough or box of carved stone or wood construction used to hold food for animals as in a stable. (Wikipedia Encyclopedia). Not very elegant; not even pretty, but a manger is functional and earthy and yes, divinely ordered. Even the etymology of the root word 'to chew, to eat' is divinely assigned.
Remember, according to Luke 2:7b, the Christ Child was laid in a manger 'because there was no place for them in the inn.' Our heart's sorrow: Why God was there no bed for You, no comfortable, warm place for You to be born? No room in the inn? But even this word, 'inn' understood in the times of Christ is divinely ordered. For this word in this verse is translated as a place for loosing the animals from their burdens. In other parts of Holy Scripture it is translated as 'guest-chamber' (see Mark 14:14, Luke 22:11) but not here.
So what does all this mean Lord, as I sit with you meditating on the manger scene sitting on my end table? Suddenly I sense a holy space - an expanded moment in You - as I stare at the babe lying in the manger with Mary and Joseph kneeling before Him. I see next to the manger the dark, red-streaked, hand-carved wooden cross I put there a few days ago. As tears run down my face, I see us all, the rough mangers hewn by the Father's hand out of stone, filled with hay and stubble of the world. Now ready in our brokenness to hold Him, the King of Kings who holds us. I see that there was no room for You in the place where animals were loosed from their burdens because the journey of this Babe, this Holy babe, is to loose the burdens from us, Your own people. Now I see why You had me place that cross next to the manger : next to us Your containers for Him today.
Father, thank You that You have carved us out of the stone of the world, in Your image, in order to hold Your image for the world. Can these stones live? Oh yes Lord, we can and we do 'living stones' mangers for You. Oh, Holy Christmas time: This Day is born unto all of us the Christ Child ; the Savior of the world in such simplicity. Father, use me, I pray. And turn all my hay and stubble - the refuse and mess of my life - into Holy material for You. Glorious Christmas. I bow this day and bend to You. Amen.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Good morning Lord,
In the dark, rainy Advent ... I like sitting out here on the lanai in the dark with You, listening to the gentle rain. Benny, the faithful dog, asleep at my feet on the couch. Very peaceful. My mind wants to jump to all the things that need to be done for the vestry/staff party tomorrow but help me Holy Spirit to just stay on the Lord. Keep my mind on high and holy things. Help me to take one thing at a time ? not leap ahead.
You know I have no control over anything. Of myself I can do nothing. But through You I can do all things, but only thru You. Even self-control is an illusion because really I cannot control myself adequately or 100%. For example, what control do I have over negative intruding thoughts that come from seemingly 'no where'? What I can do thru You, is not entertain them. When temptations come, I have no control really about them coming, but when they come, I can thru You not be led into them.
This whole journey of life in You is discovering what the baby in the womb already knows: the controls are in my Father's hands: 'I know the plans I have for You' (Jer 29:11). The fuller and deeper I learn that and accept that, the more inner peace I have; the more focus I have; the more of Your authority and power I have. Discovering and accepting Your plans for my life places me in Your hands like an arrow for the archer. Such focus. It is not the arrow that focuses himself but the archer who has built the arrow for such a focused flight. The Archer picks up the arrow, who is straight and ready for use, and fits it to the bow's string, pulling it taut, ready to fly when the Archer releases it. So steady the Archer holds this stance. Oh, the excitement of the arrow held in this tension for just the right moment, waiting for the target to come into full view. The target is the focus; the Archer's eyes focused on nothing but the target. The arrow fully surrendered to the Archer's hand, waiting on high alert, steady in the hands of the Archer. Not at all concerned whether he is straight or not or where he is going or even what the target is. Full trust in the Archer 'I know the plans I have for you.' What a relationship! Like horse and rider. Like Father and Son.
And so one Christmas Eve, the Archer held the Arrow taut in the Bow, and when the fullness of time came, the Arrow was released, hitting the heart of humanity. We follow the Arrow, each created and placed into the quiver of our Father, each picked and held taut in the Bow and sent forth in His Name and in His power and authority as His Son's ambassador to the hearts of humanity.
You have pulled me out of the quiver again, and the time of release is so soon. Here I am held in Your hand; fitted to the string, the power thrust of Your Holy Spirit - like when Jesus was thrust into the wilderness after baptism. Sent forth in Your Name; Your name written on me. This arrow is named: 'I come in the Name the Lord', not my own name, but His name. 'Blessed is she who comes in the Name of the Lord.' With Your Name written on me, that is the focus, the plan. Your Name is the destination. My journey is coming back home and You are my home. You will have me in Your Name, pass thru many hearts, in many places, in many different ways. And You are with me for the entire journey! My flight path already determined because your Name is written on me and in me and You are the wind underneath my wings that carries me. 'My will is do the will of my Father.' And so it is with each of us. I let go of where I am and who I am with so the Father can let me go. He never lets go of me, but He lets me go.
Advent: anticipation; expectation; focused waiting; fully surrendered; on high alert ...and suddenly it comes !
Our Father, and yes You are our Father ... help us to not be afraid to allow You to pick us out of Your quiver, as You ready us for Your journey. Increase our faith and courage as we are held in Your grip, ready for release in Your Name. Show us any obstacles that hold us back and the heal us for Your sake. Keep us focused on You. help us to rise each day of this Advent season expecting You. Glory to God in the Highest! Amen.
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