Archive for June, 2014

Heavenly Minded and Earthly Good

Our Father in heaven,

Hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,

Your will be done,

   On earth as it is in heaven.

                                             Matthew 6:9-10 (ESV)

 I know it isn’t true of your children, but have you seen someone else’s child pitch a tantrum in a public place when their parent didn’t give them something they wanted? Ugly, isn’t it?

Adult tantrums aren’t much prettier. Don’t you hate to watch a grown man cry when his personal banker-wife says no to a new toy? We want our way, don’t we?

Today we come to the phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It raises a startling observation: The will of God already taking place in heaven is our goal on earth. Perhaps the first question in discovering the will of God for our lives should be: What would be compatible in our requests with life in heaven and further God’s kingdom on earth? Initially, then, we see the will of God starts somewhere else—heaven. How thankful we are for a heaven-sent Scripture to let us have a peek into the Father’s heart.

Our Garden of Eden relatives thought they had a better idea. We too want to submit to no one. Without conscious effort and discipline praying is difficult and self-centered. In His model prayer, Jesus doesn’t let us get away with making prayer primarily about us and, positively speaking, draws us to heavenly thoughts first.    

The opening words of the Lord’s Prayer establish the person and work of God as the foundation for all prayer. With that in mind, I invite you to write your own paraphrase of Matthew 6:9-10, and to pray it and revise it often as your appreciation for the Father grows. Here is my attempt:

Father in heaven,

You are the center and joy of my prayers,  

   all other thoughts are a distant second compared to You.

Thank You for being the perfect Father who sees all from the perfect place.

   There You are also my King with a perfect agenda.

   Only You can be a loving good Father and reigning victorious King

      all at once and all at the same time.

I’ll do my part to advance Your name and kingdom, and I ask:

   Do whatever it takes to keep Your name holy—

     Father, that has to be more than just not cussing;

   Keep moving Your kingdom plan forward through Messiah Jesus;

   Strip away distractions from my kingdom assignment;

   Focus me on heaven’s plan and way right here on earth.

Surely Father, being heavenly minded is earthly good.

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Very Great

Sunrise, June 26, 2014

Though there were some clouds, it was a simple, intense yellow sunrise this morning. Psalm 104:1-4 came to mind:

             “Bless the Lord, O my soul!

            O Lord my God, you are very great!

            You are clothed with splendor and majesty,

            covering yourself with light as with a garment,

            stretching out the heavens like a tent.

            He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;

            he makes the clouds his chariot;

            he rides on the wings of the wind;

            he makes his messengers winds,

            his ministers a flaming fire.”

So many weighty, stirring words! But consider this beginning thought: Creation’s sunrise gives our soul the opportunity to be blessed and to bless our “very great,” splendorous, majestic Lord (v. 1).

Father, how incomprehensible you are. Yet, in each new morning eastward glance we see a glimpse of your “eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). You are “very great,” and in you we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). How amazing we can join the Psalmist and bless you!  

It’s Not About Me, Lord

“Your kingdom come…” Matthew 6:10

Kids understand the kingdom idea.

Samuel, my son-in-law, trekked to Colorado with his family for the same wedding we drove to recently. Back home, he proudly told me Hailie, age 5, and Shawna, age 3 (barely) traveled well all the way there and back. That’s a lot of car miles for little ones. He also says Hailie (who is growing up far too fast to suit me), sometimes wanted her space, time, and books. Can you hear her now gently (?) asking Shawna to be quiet for a while? One half of the back seat was her kingdom.

We return to the Lord’s Prayer after some vacation weeks away. We have explored the early words, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9 ESV). Today we venture down the pathway to “Your kingdom come.” It’s a demanding hike.  

John Stott helps us navigate: “The kingdom of God is his royal rule. Again, as he is already holy so he is already King, reigning in absolute sovereignty over both nature and history. Yet when Jesus came he announced a new and special break-in of the kingly rule of God, with all the divine rule implies. To pray that his kingdom may ‘come’ is to pray both that it may grow…and that soon it will be consummated when Jesus returns in glory to take his power and reign.”

Clearly, the song has it right, “It’s not about me, Lord.”

I wrote about a sunrise and the kingdom God recently:

“At first there was gray and fog, and then the sun broke through gloriously with warmth and light to dry our rain-soaked ground.

I was reminded of the in-breaking of Jesus into history, removing the fog of our lives, changing everything, inaugurating His kingdom (Luke 17:20-21), and offering kingdom participation to all those who believe “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel“ (Mark 1:15). Each sunrise is a reminder of the hopeful, forward moving plan of God, and His soon consummation of history as we know it.”

A practical plan for daily kingdom living came from a thoughtful sister-in-Christ, who wrote: “Your focus on sunrises reminds me of my Grandmother who taught me to ask God to show Himself to me each morning, to look for evidence of Him throughout the day, and to recite it back to Him in thankfulness at night. His hand is often there for us to notice if we will simply look for it. Sunrise is a great place to start.”

I like that. Lord Christ, give me a watchful heart to your day-to-day kingdom presence and reign within and around and through me. And with many distractions, keep me watchful for Christ’s soon coming. I can’t wait.

A Faithful Witness

Sunrise, June 23, 2014

Intentionally observing sunrises for five months has brought deeply satisfying mornings.

One wonder and joy has been the moon, which is always somewhere (duh), but sometimes wonderfully appears alongside the sun in startling ways. Today it was on the waning side of a quarter-moon and it practically positioned itself on top of the pink sky and blue clouds that heralded a bright sunrise. If the sun is King of the morning, Queen Moon and Princess Venus held court and smiled on God’s good morning.

Hope and promise filled the sky and me as I remembered Psalm 89:34-37: “I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies.”

These verses are a reminder of the Davidic Covenant and God’s promise of the greater King David, our Messiah!

Thank You Father in heaven, for your faithful witness—the moon—and it’s promise of King Jesus. You’ve given an amazing “hello” today.  

Heart of Awe

Sunrise, June 20, 2014

Fog again this sunrise in our valley. But it is deeper this morning. I love fog. The idea of deep lingers.

I was drawn to consider the prayer of Paul in Ephesians 3 and the breadth, length, height, and depth of God’s love—of God Himself—that we may “…know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (3:19).

Brilliant, intellectual Apostle Paul writes with a heart of awe in Ephesians: “…what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…” (1:19), and, “…I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (2:8).

May we look deep into the immeasurable, unsearchable love of Christ the next time we experience fog!

Key Lime Grace

Key Lime Grace

 

“By grace you have been saved…” Ephesians 2:8

 

In the shadow of my terrific Father’s Day dessert please allow me some illustrative, metaphorical craziness when I say: The delightful key lime pie filling of life has many ingredients of the grace of God and the icing is the energizing vacation of our life that God just gave Cheryl and me.

 

The grace of God is the unmerited favor of God. We usually focus on God’s grace in offering salvation to us by grace through faith and not by human merit (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet grace-gifts permeate the Scriptures and our daily lives. Our joy is to see God’s undeserved kindnesses already surrounding us, to appreciate them, and to be responsive to them. For us, God put on quite a display of grace through nine states and over 3700 miles. Here is a peak.

 

1. God personally holds together the universe, especially myriads of cars and trucks on the interstate system (Oh, the trucks…). His travel mercies kept thousands of sleepy, distracted, and lost drivers in their lane (we got lost in Missouri). Old cars, too—like ours. This is no small thing—and it happens every day. It was sustaining, Gorilla Glue grace.

 

2. God’s Creative genius is everywhere. We live in the loveliest of all states but when we go to new or wide-open places, and look and listen unimpeded we will find fresh beauty, variety, and life. For us, the snow-capped Rockies, prairie landscapes with buffalo, jagged Black Mountains, millions of acres of Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois farm lands, celestial displays above open, dark skies, the tiniest flowers in unexpected places, the endless variety of courageous trees, and the moonscape-like Badlands surrounded by flowing grasses were arresting to our eyes and hearts. It was the Divine Artist’s palette of breathless grace.

 

3. God is still patiently telling His miraculous story of love for the nations. You just must go to Mt. Rushmore just before sunset for the sheer grandeur of it and then stay for the evening program by the National Park Service. By film they told the story of the four presidents represented and of the reshaping of the mountain. Our flag and military veterans are honored, and then they light up the mountain. Wow! God has been exceptionally good to our nation and we dare not forget “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty” (George Washington). The mountain and the touching reminders were sobering, thrilling grace gifts.

 

4. God loves love, especially deep-rooted, longstanding love. You’ve guessed it: I am thinking about Cheryl and me. She was my favorite thing. We loved holding hands in nine states and planning each day anew. We didn’t want to come back—darn those budgets. It was a gushy, romantic gift of grace.

 

Where have you been and experienced God’s infinite graces?

 

Father, your graces never cease and are always infiltrating our daily lives. Help us to see them from wake-up to our bedside lamp’s last flicker.

Fog and Kingdom

Sunrise, June 19, 2014

 At first there was gray and fog, and then the sun broke through gloriously with warmth and light to dry our rain-soaked ground.

I was reminded of the in-breaking of Jesus into history, removing the fog of our lives, changing everything, inaugurating His kingdom (Luke 17:20-21), and offering kingdom participation to all those who believe “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel“ (Mark 1:15). Each sunrise is a reminder of the hope, forward moving plan of God, and His soon consummation of history as we know it.

“Marantha,” i.e., please “come quickly Lord Jesus.” Remove sin’s curse, reign on your rightful throne, restore the righteousness we ache for, and rule over all the nations and our hearts.

Great is God’s Faithfulness…Again

Sunrise, June 18, 2014

 

Nearly the same sunrise today—cloudless, with pinks and yellows—the lovingkindnesses of God from yesterday’s Lamentations 3:22-23, were fresh this morning—especially Solomon’s insistence that God is great in faithfulness.” I caught myself humming and visualizing my college hymn in chapel:

 

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father!

There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

Thou changest not—Thy compassions they fail not;

As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

 

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,

Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,

Join with all nature in manifold witness

To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

 

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow—

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

 

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed Thy hand hath provide—

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

 

Go ahead, sing it with joy.

Something New Today…Again

Sunrise, June 17, 2014

 “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,

  his mercies never come to an end;

  they are new every morning;

  great is your faithfulness.

  ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,

  Therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

I thought of Lamentations 3 this morning. Surrounded by a cloudless sky, today’s sunrise was bright with pinks at first and then yellows.

The word for “steadfast love” is a complex, frequent Old Testament word also translated “gracious love” or “lovingkindness.” One commentator notes it incorporates love, grace, mercy, goodness, forgiveness, truth, compassion, and faithfulness. So, each morning sunrise—“they are new every morning”—is a reminder of God’s gracious, steadfast, kind, merciful, good, forgiving, truthful, compassionate love.

Now that is prayable!



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