Messes are bothersome. Especially when they are someone else’s messes that spill over. Literal messes are one thing, but what of other people’s emotional muck that transforms our own lives in negative ways?
I get angry when this stuff happens. But Jesus’ words to me quiet and calm my heart. He assures me to rejoice in trials. Crazy as it seems, these trying, exhausting and even traumatic times can serve to propel my destiny in Him. This is the soil that grows humility and grace.
I can breathe and rest in Him. I can take it moment by moment. The web of the tangle might be vast, but He is vastly greater. And He can untangle it with one breath from His nostrils, smashing it to pieces.
What can we do while we’re waiting for release, order and healing to be restored?
Pray. Cry out for help. He wants to hear your voice. It is lovely to Him.
Rejoice. He wants to see your face near and around His throne frequently. Every time you sing or speak a word of thanks, you are transported into His presence.
Thanks is the portal to His glory.
1 Peter 1:6
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…”
My heart is overwhelmed with troubles and strife – such messes created by other people’s baggage and sin. And I am angry. Speak to me, please, quiet and calm my heart. I extend forgiveness now to all who have trespassed over the boundaries of my heart and life. I receive your grace and forgiveness. I choose to rejoice today, to turn from the mess, lift my hands and declare that You are working! That You are still good in the midst of the evil around me. That You love me more than I can imagine. Give me the power to experience Your love today.
John Wesley, along with his brother Charles founded the Methodist Movement in England in the 18th century. Wesley preached open-air sermons and followed up by encouraging his converts to join small groups for prayer, study and moral accountability. Wesley’s “Covenant Prayer” was a key element in his own spiritual discipline and in Methodist discipleship.
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put met to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by you or laid aside by you,
enabled for you or brought low by you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
you are mine, and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Can I pray this, and mean it?
My friend Diana gave me a journal that she named, “I see you God.” It is a specific place to record moments when God seems to pull back the curtain of Heaven and address my world in ways that only He can. Some would think these things coincidental, but others know better.
This story found it’s way to my “I See You Journal” last February:
On my way to Rochester to lead worship on Sunday morning, I turned my iPod on and the song that happened to be next in line to play was Sara Groves “You are the Sun.” At that very moment, Highway 52 must have turned directly east because immediately the sunrise, at eye level, almost blinded me, shining directly on my face. The vizor was no help because the sun was too low on the horizon. I felt in my purse for my sun glasses and put them on, but still had to squint to see properly.
Sara sang: “You are the sun. I am the moon. I have no light of my own.”
The kindness of God reminded me that His light would never give up on me. If I turn my face to Him, I can receive everything that He is. I can’t manufacture light any more than the moon can on it’s own, but I can reflect His.
I shared this story with my worship team, and Scott, the bass player happens to be an astronomer. He informed me that the moon has only a 20% reflection capacity. It is, as Sara writes, “a cold, dark stone.” The dark rock is very reluctant to reflect anything, but it cannot possibly resist the brightness of the sun’s light and is obligated to shine down on the earth.
(How thoughtful of God to cause the rock of the moon to be dark so we can sleep without it’s light shining in our eyes.)
So whatever I need today that I can’t manufacture in and of myself (which is just about everything) – love, joy in difficult circumstances, praise when I’m feeling sad – I simply turn my face to Him, cry out to Him, believe in faith to soak in His light, and everything changes. I become a radiant light of whatever virtue I happen to need at any given moment.
“And I am the moon with no light of my own
Still you have made me to shine
And as I glow in this cold dark night
I know I can’t be a light unless I turn my face to you”
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Shine Your light on my face today. I look to You for warmth and light. I want to see You more. I long to reflect Your face.
Last weekend we spent a few days at our neighbor’s cabin in Wisconsin. We fished, played games, and watched a couple old movies like “Back To the Future” with Michael J. Fox. As I was cooking in the rustic kitchen our son, daughter, and son-in-law played a card game that they made up. I called it, “Go To The Dump, Old Maid.” A blend of several familiar card games like Old Maid, Uno, and Go Fish. (I grew up playing “Go To The Dump,” a version of Go Fish.)
The Bible encourages me to go to the dump regularly, hurling the things that weigh me down, surrendering them to Jesus.
Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
Trash piles up every day. It stinks. Burdens are much the same. They accumulate and can soon take over. Sometimes I throw away the wrong thing when stress overwhelms me, things I really need to hold onto: my joy and my confidence.
“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.”
What are you taking to the dump today? Today I think I’ll throw away my fear. I’ll let God worry about my worries, and I’ll enjoy today, rejoicing in His kindness and His care.
Thank you for the invitation to take my toxic trash and hurl it to You. I cannot carry it. I hand it over to You, and I thank You that You remove it and that You give me the support I so desperately need. You will not allow me to be overcome by the weight of the burdens in my life. I will not fall apart because You will hold me together.
Today marks the anniversary (in the year 1471) of the death of the great Dutch mystic Thomas a’ Kempis. Kempis was the author of the Christian devotional classic Imitation of the Christ. Here’s a prayer credited to Thomas.
I offer up unto You my prayers and intercessions, for those especially who have in any matter hurt, grieved, or found fault with me, or who have done me any damage or displeasure. For all those also whom, at any time, I may have vexed, troubled, burdened, and scandalized, by words or deeds, knowingly or in ignorance; that Thou wouldst grant us all equally pardon for our sins, and for our offences against each other. Take away from our hearts, O Lord, all suspiciousness, indignation, wrath, and contention, and whatsoever may hurt charity, and lessen brotherly love. Have mercy, a Lord, have mercy on those that crave Your mercy, give peace unto them that stand in need thereof, and make us such as that we may be worthy to enjoy Your grace, and go forward to life eternal.
Ask our family just about any question pertaining to the Andy Griffith show, and I’ll be embarrassed to admit how much we know. Our Andy Griffith Trivia Game is played with alacrity. We simply know way too much.
We own all eight seasons and love the nuances of each. Floyd, Thelma Lou, Gomer and cousin Goober are our buds. And how can we begin to talk of Barney Fife? (Our favorite scene is his skilled rendition of the Preamble to the Constitution. What a fun thing to watch on Independence Day of all days.)
But the dearest of all characters is Andy himself. Why? Because he is the glue that holds all the other characters together, and he is the actor that makes every other actor look good. While Don Knotts won five Emmys for his role as Barney, Andy never won one.
So my little take away from my Mayberry friend’s life is this: I hope I can be more like him in this regard – drawing out what is delightful about the people in my life and watching and rejoicing when they win their awards.
John the Baptist was your cousin and your friend, and he said such a profound thing: “He must increase, I must decrease.” Please make that my motto today and everyday. Help me to place You and others in the spotlight, and help me to continually slip backstage further and further.
Today is like any other. The sun rises. The winds blow. Rain falls. Rain does not fall. People are born. They laugh. They cry. They dance. They die. Today “chronos” time is as it has been since You gave it beginning, and will be as it is until you bring things to an end. Today is like any other.
Today is also fresh and new, and like no other day. Today is a “kairos” moment of opportunity that has come and will pass in a moment. Today is a passage from one epoch to another. Today is a gift from you. Grant grace to see it and seize it.
Today is a graduation, a passage, a completion, an inauguration. Today we pray for all those who have met the challenge and kept the faith to the commitments of their studies. Now they have a new “kairos” before them. We first offer thanks for the success of their journey. We thank for you granting them focus and direction and then strength and endurance. You created the knowledge and understanding they have mastered. You have created the curiosity and capacity and determination that led them in their pursuit. All these good things came from you. Thank you.
Today we also pray for tomorrow. This graduation opens another door to another time. As you have led in the past, lead now into the future. Give them focus and clarity and a calling from you to understand their purpose and the courage to respond and step toward that purpose.
With scriptural precedent we pray: ‘Bless them indeed. Expand their territory. Let your hand be with them. Keep them evil, that they will not cause or experience pain.’
In Jesus, we bless our graduations and our graduates…
“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one”
Some things to think about:
The world is can be a scary and dangerous place. The Bible is clear about this: there are beings about intent on ruining our lives and thwarting our relationship with our Father. But Jesus here invites us to call upon God to intervene and direct our lives clear of enemy intervention. Notice here that Jesus does not promise that we will be kept from the fight, simply that we will be delivered through it!
Some things to do:
Paul, in Ephesians 6 outlines the game plan for Christians dealing with enemy assault. The way God “leads us not into temptation” and “delivers from the evil one” is by providing us with armor for our battle. This week take time to “put on” this armor as you get dressed in the morning. It’s a good time to “fit” yourself with the protection God has provided for you.
Belt of truth (holds all the armor in place and protects our loins)
Breastplate of righteousness (guards our heart and conscience)
Shoes of the gospel (prepare us to move with purpose and direction)
Shield of faith (extinguishes the offensive arrows of the enemy)
Helmet of salvation (guards our thoughts)
Sword of the Spirit (our one offensive weapon – the Word of God)
Some things to talk about:
How has the enemy attempted to lead you to distraction? How have you fought these attacks? Does God ever tempt us? (see James 1:13). What part do our own bent desires play in this? What are some practical ways we can “put on “ and “use” the armor of God?
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”
Some things to think about:
Here’s a startling even troubling truth: our relationship with God is conditioned on our relationship with other people. We are invited to bring our sins before Jesus. When we confess them he forgives us freely (I John 1:9). But there is a caveat. That grace coming to us is contingent on our willingness to extend grace to those who have wronged us. Now forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a covenant choice. In forgiveness we release to God the pain and ask him to be the instrument of justice. This is a legal matter, like “dropping charges” against a guilty party. God has done this to us (grace) and he simply asks the same of us. It’s a powerful principle. This week we receive and extend grace. And the process changes us and our world forever!
Some things to do:
It’s time to be graceful. We need to be forgiven. Surely we know this. Any honest look inside will reveal all manner of trouble. We’re impatient, suspicious, jealous, angry. We need to be released of the guilt and power of these sins. And we can be when we ask. But we also must extend grace. This week we will begin to allow grace to flow through us so that it might come to us. Here’s a pattern for prayer in this way.
Pray that God will reveal to you any unconfessed sin (Ps. 139:23)
Pray that God will cover this sin under Jesus’ blood (Rom. 3:25)
Pray that God will reveal any harbored unforgiveness (Matt. 6:14)
Allow Jesus to carry this hurt in your place (Is. 53:4)
Ask that God will bless this one as he sees fit (Matt. 5:44)
Some things to talk about:
What are some thing God has forgiven you for? How hard is it to ask for his forgiveness? Can you believe that he can really do it? Can you forgive yourself? How about what others have done to you or to others you love? What does it mean to “forgive” them when your emotions can’t change?
Does it ever seem as if God speaks in riddles? Do you ever wonder why he doesn’t just come out and write words across the sky for us? In Nine Ways God Always Speaks, we wonder too, and we speculate on God’s answer:
God is so much bigger and more amazing than we can comprehend, therefore, it’s no wonder his messages to us would be also be more amazing than we can comprehend. That’s why his messages feel like teasers, like puzzles missing a few hundred pieces. At the time we receive his message, it seems as though we can’t quite wrap our brain around the whole picture. God’s messages might initially seem confusing, but it’s not his intention to keep us in the dark.
Maybe the messages seem incomplete so that we’ll invest ourselves in understanding them.
To ponder their meaning.
To learn more about their source.
God uses incomplete communication to tease us into a relationship where he can reveal even more.
When we have sincere doubts about what we’ve heard, (or think we’ve heard), God will often confirm his message.
Especially, if we ask him to clarify it.
It may not be instantly comprehensible, but over time the photograph develops.
Do any of God’s messages to you seem “incomplete?” Do you ever feel like God “teases” you with his voice, but never comes out and makes the message clear? Have you gone back to ask for clarity, for more, for more of God?