Thursday, December 31, 2009

Just Keep Swimming <'(())>< Part 2

My friend Marcus sent me this half-minute YouTube clip from Finding Nemo that accents wonderfully yesterday's blog post. So today, on this last day of 2009, I say Keep Swimming and again I say, Just Keep Swimming! <'(())><

YouTube link:

From Psalm 27:14 (NKJV), let these ten words encourage you (put courage in you): Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart...

<'(())>< Just Keep Swimming, Praying, Singing, Believing! <'(())><


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Keep Swimming <'(())><

Yesterday, I had to chat online with an eBay service representative. Seems one of my online Christmas purchases got a little wacky. Anyway, after a very pleasant chat-session with "Ross", he had somehow managed to answer all of my seemingly complicated questions with surprisingly simple answers. When I was about to sign-off with "Ross-the-Rep", I spontaneously typed in these characters as my final good-bye to him:

<'(())>< Keep swimming, even if life seems upstream. <'(())><

For whatever reason it encouraged me just seeing the above spontaneous characters I had typed to him. So, I thought I'd pass them along to you. Just in case you're in an upstream struggle? Keep swimming. For the believer swimming might be equal to praying, or singing, or maybe simply believing. Wouldn't you agree? So, let's keep swimming, praying and believing. Especially if life seems upstream.

Ephesians 6:18 (NIV) -- alert and always keep on praying...

Acts 16:22-25 (NIV) -- (22) The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. (23) After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. (24) Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. (25) About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

2 Corinthians 5:7 (NLT) -- by believing and not by seeing...


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Spread It All Out Before The Lord!

In 2 Kings 19, King Hezekiah received a threatening letter from his enemy that scared him to death. In verse 14 of 2 Kings 19, King Hezekiah placed his faith in His God over his fear of the enemy. Here's how he did it:

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD.

As the New Year rises before us, surely fear of the unknown threatens our trust in The Living God. But, we can do just as King Hezekiah did. Yes, we can just spread it all out before the Lord. How do we practically do that? We spread it all out before the Lord in prayer! So, LET US PRAY!


Monday, December 28, 2009

My New Prayer for God's New Year

Almighty Personal God, Loving Abba Father:
You are our past, present, and future foundation. We Adore You.

Your Greatness is unrivaled. Your Holiness is unmatched.
We are grateful to You for the Year that is fading fast

and for the Year that is rapidly rising.
Help us in Your New Year, Loving Abba Father,

to worry less and to worship more.
We desire to teach our children to laugh by laughing with them;
To teach others to love and trust by loving and trusting them.
We know that when You sent Your Love to Bethlehem’s manger,
He came so we could really know You.
Yes Your Love came to be with us, to reign in us, to flow through us.
Help us in Your New Year to share Your Son, Your Spirit, and...

Your Everlasting Love with others.
We desire Loving Abba Father,
to hear Your love song in every sunrise,
in the singing of the birds in our backyards,
in the stories of our parents and grandparents,
And in the visions of our children.
Help us to stop and to be still long enough
And often enough to hear Your love songs,
so that we may know You intimately,
grow together, go serve in Holy Spirit Unity!
On this day, we “rejoice” in Your Word and...

in this world You loved into being.
We are grateful to You for another New Year,

for new opportunities on the horizon.
We pray for your light in darkness,

for Your hope in seemingly hopeless circumstances.
We desire to be Your sent ones. Reign within us...

so we can effectively BE LIGHT! GO SHINE!
Forgive us where we have lived beneath our inheritance

as Your children this past year.
We leave the past in your hands,

and step out into the unknown New Year
assured that You have already been in our future

and will now go there with us, in us,
and through us for Your glory.
We accept Your gift of a New Year and...

we praise Your name in advance for what's ahead.
We depend on You to help us be exactly who you want us to be –
Your witnesses to Your world.
Yes, on this day You have made, I say “Rejoice!”

And again I say, “REJOICE!”
In the name of the One called Wonderful--Jesus our Savior,
our Lord for forever & today. Amen.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Open, Not Closed. Project, Not Protect.

Today, my friend Drew who was raised in our local church and now pastors in Germany was our guest speaker for the last Sunday of 2009. He shared beautifully the Biblical passage in Luke 3, where John the Baptist is the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lamb of God -- Jesus the Nazarene!

As I listened to Drew preach, Luke 3:8-14 particularly spoke to my own heart: (8) Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. (9) The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." (10) "What should we do then?" the crowd asked. (11) John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." (12) Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?" (13) "Don’t collect any more than you are required to," he told them. (14) Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He replied, "Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay."

This is my prayer: Lord, in this New Year, like never before, I want my life to be open, not closed to the needs of others. Remind me moment-by-moment that Your mercy and grace is extended to me that I might also offer it to others. Produce in my life the fruit of repentance. Especially give me the mind of Christ and the eyes of Your Spirit so that my life will be undeniably God-owned and incredibly others-focused. Reign as Lord on the throne of my life in such a way that Your compassion flows from me to everyone I encounter. Let my life be marked by a fragrance of generosity that glorifies You. Let my focus be on giving, not getting, on projecting You, not protecting me. In Jesus' name. Amen.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Just Breathe

For me, the most wonderful 24 hours of each year's calendar happens between midnight Christmas Eve, December 24, and midnight Christmas Day, December 25. It's true. For as long as I can remember, the most holy, predictable moments in my life have miraculously transpired like clockwork each and every year on that one Divine Day of the year that we officially celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. It's a holy high-water mark on planet earth for my eternal soul.

And that's why I was still awake in our living room at 1:30 a.m. on December 26, not wanting Christmas Day 2009 to slip away (even though in reality it already had). Sitting in the glow of our Christmas tree with Christmas music still playing softly in the atmosphere, I finally decided to just breathe this prayer: Lord, please keep Christmas alive in me for these next 364 days.. and beyond.


Friday, December 25, 2009

The Other John 3:16? Give Up?

We're all familiar with John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

But I invite you to also consider with me on this wonderful Christmas Day the similar words of the other John 3:16. THE OTHER JOHN 3:16? Yes, 1 John 3:16. Here it is: We know what real love is because Christ gave up His life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters.

Abba Father, on this Christmas Day, we give praise to You for so loving us that on that first Christmas Day You gave us Your only Son in Bethlehem's Manger. We are so grateful, too, that we know even more clearly what real love is because Your only Son gave up His life for us on Calvary's Cross. Help us to now GIVE UP our own lives for our Christian brothers and sisters so that we will prove to the world that we are Yours. Amen.

ALL.. JOY TO YOUR WORLD... All the boys and girls, now!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The First & The Last Gift of Christmas

A few weeks ago, I handed a man at a gas pump one of my yearly photo calendars and said, "Here! Please receive the first gift of Christmas." Somewhat surprised, but obviously moved, the stranger smiled and said, "Thank you!"

As I have thought about that statement, "Here! Please receive the first gift of Christmas," it surely would have been more accurate for me to have said "Here! Please receive 'my' first gift of Christmas." Because, after all, Jesus was "the" First and and always will be "the" Last Gift of Christmas.

Yes, long before the first of our gifts were wrapped and long after the last of our gifts have been unwrapped, John 3:16-17, will still be proof that the First and Last Gift of Gifts at Christmastime and all-the-time was and will always be the Gift of God's Own Son.

Maybe that's part of what Jesus was trying to communicate to us when He referred to Himself in Revelation 2:8 as "the One Who is the First and the Last, Who died and is alive!"


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We Have This Moment... Today...

In less than 72 hours Christmas Day 2009 will have come and gone. While the unstoppable passage of time is somewhat sad to me, these words from a Bill and Gloria Gaither song do offer some measure of inspiration to my heart:

We have this moment to hold in our hands,
And to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand.
Yesterday's gone and tomorrow may never come.
But we have this moment... TODAY!

Let's remember...
"TODAY is a GIFT from GOD. That's why it's called THE PRESENT!"


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Look At The Birds!

Seven words in Psalm 50:11 (NIV) speak powerfully to me about our God's compassionate attention to His Creation: I know every bird in the mountains...

Jesus then says in Luke 12:24 (NIV): And you are far more valuable to Him than any birds!

Lord, I pray that we would trust You like the birds do. You challenge us to have confidence in You with these words You spoke in Matthew 6:26: "Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat—they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food—for your Heavenly Father feeds them."

Like the birds, Lord, let our lives be characterized by worship, not worry. We should not dwell in sorrow, but we should instead sing of Your love forever. Amen.

Grateful (P.S. Added Later in the Day Below)

P.S. This morning after I wrote and posted this blog entry, I sadly found a frozen mourning dove in the midst of black-oil sunflower seed that I keep plentiful in my yard for my winged-friends. I buried the beautiful bird in the ground underneath the snow at the foot of the Manger in our outdoor Nativity Scene. (Because I know the symbolism of a dove in the Bible and because I know that God's Son was born to die, burying the breathless, beautiful dove was a very deep and agonizing moving experience for me.) Still, it was an amazing experience for me,too, in that I had just read Psalm 50:11 late last evening. Think about it: The God I love, knew this dove. When the dove died, I can vouch that it was not hungry, but when it breathed its last breath, our compassionate Creator God cared. And how much more valuable are we than birds. An inspiring illustration for my soul.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Good News of Great Joy!

In five words, I am praying that your holy days and all of your days will be overflowing with good news of great joy! Yes, I pray Luke 2:10 will especially flood your winter days with loud, bright colors.

Luke 2:10 (NIV) -- Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Psalm 66:1(NIV)


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cold... Winter... Night...

As long as the earth remains, there will be springtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night. Gen. 8:22 (TLB)


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow... Hallelujah!

He sends the snow in all its lovely whiteness... Hallelujah! Yes, praise the Lord! Psalm 147:10,20 (TLB)

Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:7 (TLB)


Friday, December 18, 2009

Too Wonderful For Words!

It's about 1:15 a.m. and I have just started unwinding from a sort of busy and seemingly short year. I received a Christmas card today with an amazing verse in it. I just had to share it with you before finally turning in for a long-winter's nap:

Thank God for His Son—a gift too wonderful for words!
2 Corinthians 9:15 (NLT)


P.S. Looks like A White Christmas could be in store for us this year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Your Name... My Name...

I love Thee, Lord Jesus...

This Christmas, I declare that Your name is Forgiveness and I delight that my name is Forgiven!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Peace & War

As I was reading from Dennis Kinlaw's writings this morning, I was wonderfully reminded that because Jesus is my Prince of Peace, it profoundly means that the war within my heart is simply over. Yes, temptation still comes, but if I am totally surrendered to King Jesus and His government within, while the evil enemy still rages on the outside, The Prince of Peace reigns on the inside.

Isaiah 9:6-7a from The Living Bible Paraphrase delightfully declares:
(6) For unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. These will be His royal titles: "Wonderful," "Counselor," "The Mighty God," "The Everlasting Father," "The Prince of Peace." (7) His ever-expanding, peaceful government will never end.

Luke 17:21b (TLB) -- For the Kingdom of God is within you.

Colossians 1:27b (NIV) -- Christ in you, the Hope of glory!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Save Us. Gave Us. Not Enslave Us.

Yesterday, I was driving home from work in my Ford. I was of course rejoicing as Christmas Music was loudly ricocheting throughout the cab. It is December, after all, and yes, my radio is locked in on a local radio station that plays nonstop Christmas tunes between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Anyway, as I drove, a celebrative-overflowing-with-joy Holy Day song came on the radio. It was a song that I have never heard. I mean I have heard parts of it, it's a take off of "Mary's Boy Child", but the conclusion of the song was a brand new arrangement to my ears and the newly added words -- along with the uplifting, Caribbean-sounding, Calypso-style music beat it was sung to --combined to offer spiritual strength to my seeking soul.

I did my best to write the closing words down on a sticky note. Here's what I heard:

Oh my Lord...
You sent Your Son to SAVE us.
Oh my Lord...
Your very Self You GAVE us.
Oh my Lord...
That sin might NOT ENSLAVE us!
And Love might reign once more.



Monday, December 14, 2009

TIME Magazine's Person of the Year?

This morning I heard a news station talking about who should be TIME Magazine's Person of the Year? Who's your person of the year? I cast my vote for The Baby, yes, count my vote for The little bitty, Baby Who was born, born, born in Bethlehem.

The Christ Child may not be TIME'S Person of the Year, but rest assured He already has been HISTORY'S Person Across the Years and will continue to be ETERNITY'S Person Beyond the Years.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

His Arms-Wide-Open, Crying Invitation

From His first cry at His birth in Bethlehem's manger to His final cry at His death on Jerusalem's cross, God's Only Son had His Arms-Wide-Open inviting us to enter a love-relationship with the Trinity that begins on earth and continues for Eternity. Good news, indeed!

And the Good News gets Gooder, in that, His Arms-Wide-Open, Crying Invitation is still being extended to us. Christmastime accents the Christ Child's invitation. Let's respond to His invitation and let's invite others to also come to Bethlehem's Boy, yes Calvary's Lamb, for Heaven's forgiveness at Christmastime and all the time. We can turn His crying into laughing by receving The Gift of His Life with our Arms-Wide-Open and by sharing The Gift of His Life with our Arms-Wide-Open to others.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Greatest Gift Exchange of All-Time

2 Corinthians 5:20b-21 from The Living Bible Paraphrase makes clear The Greatest Gift Exchange of All-Time: reconciled to God. For God took the sinless Christ and poured into Him our sins. Then, in exchange, He poured God’s goodness into us!

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV)

Thank you Lord, for taking our undeniable guilt and giving us Your indescibable Gift.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Our 2010 is Waiting in His Wings

This morning it occurred to me that 2010, yes a new year, is waiting in the wings just before me. I am so glad that my Lord has already been into my future. What comfort and assurance that reality is to my soul. In actuality, our new year is waiting in His wings. Makes my heart sing triumphantly The Hallelujah Chorus!

Let's allow these words of Jesus recorded in Revelation 1:8 to be our strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow: I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end, says the Lord God. I am the One Who is, Who always was, and Who is still to come, the Almighty One. (NLT)


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Right? Wrong! Words from a Wise Man...

My nearly 70-year-old, shrimp-boat-captain Daddy and I were taking a walk near our native, island home last week and let me just say, it was a sacred stroll for his not-too-far-from-50-year-old son. My Daddy is proof to me that Wise Men still seek the Lord. Anyway, just before our walk ended my Daddy made a simple but profound statement. I've been soaking in his wise words for nearly a week now. So, here are a Daddy's loving words to his ears-wide-open, listening son just in case you'd like to eavesdrop:

A man who thinks he's never wrong, is never right. -- Capt. Billy

Proverbs 3:7 (NLT) -- Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the LORD and turn your back on evil.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Prediction in the Book of Job?

This morning in my devotional time, I found what appears to be an illuminating Christmas prediction in the Book of Job. As soon as I read the words found in Job 39:9, I could hear the lyrics of a beloved Christmas Carol playing in my mind.

Here's Job 39:9 "Will the wild ox consent to serve you? Will he stay by your manger at night? (NIV)

Here's the beloved Christmas Carol:

Away in a manger, no crib for His bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.

The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle (oxen) are lowing. The poor Baby wakes.
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.

I love Thee, Lord Jesus. Look down from the sky,
And stay by my side,'Til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus. I ask Thee to stay,
Close by me forever, and love me I pray.

Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
and take us to Heaven, to live with Thee there.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Bread That Leads To Forgiveness

The great prayer Jesus taught His disciples includes these words:

...and give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us...

This morning I noticed how closely related "asking God for bread" and "asking Him for forgiveness" and "offering our forgiveness to others" is linked in this prayer. Yes, the daily bread prayer leads to prayers of forgiveness.

Is there anyone that we might need to share daily bread with, yes a meal with, over these holidays -- a meal that would lead to forgiveness? Is there anyone we might need to ask for forgiveness or offer forgiveness to? If so, let's recognize that the unseen but undeniable Lord will be present at our holiday meals, breaking the bread of love, friendship, and forgiveness and offering it to us, all the while realistically expecting us to then pass the loaf of His love to others at the table, offering them the same measure of love, friendship, and forgiveness that Jesus has given to us.


Monday, December 7, 2009

His Indescribable Gift!

2 Corinthians 9:15 is one of my favorite verses, especially at Christmas time:

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (NIV)


Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Name of Jesus

From a prison cell the Apostle Paul penned these words in his "Book of Joy" -- Phillipians 2:10-11 (NIV): ...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And in Romans 14:11, these words are given to us from the same Apostles pen: "'As I live and breathe,’ God says, every knee will bow before me; Every tongue will tell the honest truth that I and only I am God.’" (The Message)

Yes, one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I choose to kneel and confess this day and everyday day-after-day until That Day.

The Name of Jesus has taken on a whole new power in my life this week. The lyrics of this old hymn make great poetry to pray. I invite you to join me in praying in Jesus' name:

Take the Name of Jesus with you, Child of sorrow and of woe,
It will joy and comfort give you; Take it then, wherever you go.

Precious Name, O how sweet! Hope of earth and joy of heaven.
Precious Name, O how sweet! Hope of earth and joy of heaven.

Take the Name of Jesus ever, As a shield from every snare;
If temptations round you gather, Breathe that Holy Name in prayer.

O the precious Name of Jesus! How it thrills our souls with joy,
When His loving arms receive us, And His songs our tongues employ!

At the Name of Jesus bowing, Falling prostrate at His feet,
King of kings in Heaven we'll crown Him, When our journey is complete.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

First Request on My Christmas List? Revival!

Fourteen words in Psalm 119:88 from The Message Paraphrase combine to make-up the first request on my Christmas list this year and my prayer for 2010 and 2011 and Beyond: In your great love revive me so I can alertly obey your every word.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Two-Fold Good News About Advent

Jesus has come.
Jesus is coming, again.