What Love!

You, Lord God are wonderful: so gracious, so kind, so firm, so faithful, so consistent. Your agape love flows from your being no matter what we do—for you are love itself, you cannot never not love! And I praise you that in your love are both mercy and forgiveness as well as righteousness and wrath against sin.
Without punishment for evil, your love would be faulty because love protects from evil, love brings refuge, shelter and safety. Therefore, justice is a part of your love, giving what your rebellious creatures deserve in the perfect court of judgment. Yet in each case you offer us sinners pardon. That is an astounding truth, if you think through the implications.
A criminal is brought before a judge for sentencing. His guilt has already been established beyond the shadow of a doubt, although he protests, saying his acts weren’t that bad. His heinous crimes are read out along with his sentence: execution. He hangs his head at the prospect.
Then the judge gets up from his bench, comes down to stand beside the prisoner and puts his arm around him. The prisoner looks up. “Bob,” says the judge, “I want to offer you a full pardon for your crimes. But, in order for me to forgive you, your sentence must be served, so my own son will be executed in your place. You will go free and be able to have a fresh start in life.
“There are, however, some conditions for this pardon. You must fully confess and accept your crimes. And, because you are forgiven at a great price, you must be willing to seek to live a life for good. To help you in this, I invite you to come and live with me in my mansion as my new son. I will provide abundantly for all your needs, I will support you with meaningful, important work along with training, guidance and resources. I will be with you every day, protect you from harm and will love you unconditionally. Along with this, you will be my heir.”
What condemned criminal wouldn’t accept that? Yet many, many people reject an even better offer from you, Lord God, one of total pardon, of eternal life, of a transformed being, of power to live rightly, of meaningful work with you, plus love, joy, peace, hope and security. And most importantly of all, a close, warm, wonderful relationship with you–out of which flows all the goodness you have for us.
Everything else pales in comparison to knowing you, living with you, being loved, accepted, and cherished by you. I praise you, Lord God, Heavenly Father, that you have called me to be your son, to come into your family, embraced by you, and to become the object of your delight, your joy, your care.
What a marvel, I who deserve your wrath, have been transformed into your dearly, warmly loved son in whom you rejoice. You provide me with full access to your throne room at any time, you give me your full attention at all times. You pour out your full love on me unendingly–a love that is undeserved, unconditional, unlimited, which flows constantly, surrounding, engulfing, nurturing, protecting and cherishing me.
This is what you offer, Lord Jesus, for you are love itself. To you be unending praise, honor and ever-flowing exaltation. You are most worthy of glory, for you are good against all logic, beyond all comprehension, over all expectations.
Therefore, I commit myself, for your honor and joy, to live in the light of your love this day, responding with obedience, openness, attentiveness and thankfulness. May you be exalted, glorified, praised and pleased in all I do.
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Psalm 37:7-10

Psalm 37:7b “do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”


[This command shows how are we NOT to respond when our leaders pass laws approving of evil, bringing wickedness and encouraging disobedience to your Word. Such things will happen: God allows them for His reasons and will use this evil to open the eyes of many to their need for a Savior. Our part is to NOT fret. Are we willing to trust Him and obey this command?]


Psalm 37:8 “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”


[God knows the natural tendencies of our heart: fretting, fear, anger, chafing and wrath. All of these are wrong. I praise you, Lord, that your Word is clear: these human reactions lead to the opposite of what you want, Lord, because in indulging in fretting, anger and wrath, we focus on people and events, rather than on you with your great plans, your wide wisdom, you magnificent might that you will use to right all wrongs at the appropriate time.


Help us to let go of our anger, to move through forgiveness and prayer, doing good and trusting you in the midst of difficulty. We should refuse to be involved in culture wars where hateful words strengthen the focus on our seeming enemy. The rhetoric of talk show hosts, with its name calling and bitter opposition is not for us. The rhetoric of Jesus in the sermon on the mount is what we should pursue. We are called to be involved in grace giving, loving those who oppose what is biblical, doing good, speaking truth in love–while standing against what is evil.]


Psalm 37:9 “For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.”


[Here is the word for all of us who wonder why the evil succeed and the righteous seem to fail: their failure is temporary; the righteous will endure and reign forever.  We can respond in every situation in grace, in goodness and wisdom because we know the outcome. The wicked will be dealt with, while we who Hope in you, Lord, will get all. We may have temporary setbacks, losses and defeats, but in the long run, you will bring the victory. This we need to keep in mind.]


Psalm 37:10,11 “A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.”


[In this great contrast, the wicked will be taken away, while those who submit to your timetable, to your plans, will get more than they can possibly imagine and with it have great peace. I praise you, Lord God, for the richness of your heart, the splendor of your schemes, the magnificence of your mind, all displayed in your persistent patience as you wait for the perfect point at which to act.


So, we can wait, knowing that you will do all wonderfully at the opportune time. An example of how waiting on your timing is how my parents (pictured here in their youth) finally came to Christ in their 80s, after many years of prayer for them.


Help us, Lord, to be people after your own heart, believing your Word, waiting for your timing, acting according to what you have revealed, and sharing your grace and goodness with all around us.]

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Psalm 37:6-7

Psalm 37:6 “He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”
[Praise be to you, Lord God, for you truly know where we are right and where we are wrong. When we are falsely accused, unjustly condemned, or wrongly attacked, we are to entrust ourselves to you, because at just the proper time, you will clearly and publicly reveal where we are right in you.
The key is that we need to wait for your timing. This means to be willing to endure wrong, to pass through the tension of others’ disapproval and condemnation, believing that you, Lord, know the truth and will bring it out at the right juncture.
I praise you for the times in my life where you did exactly this, with those attacking me admitting in the end that they were wrong, without my forcing their hand in any way. You brought along the right person to intercede for me, or you opened the eyes of those opposing me. I praise you, Father of Truth, that you are faithful to bring timely vindication of those who trust in you.
Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;”
[That can be so hard, so difficult when we want to act, or you to act right now. We want help and justification immediately! But you, Lord, in your wisdom and complete knowledge, will move in your perfect timing–which is usually different than ours.
“Why do you wait so long?” we cry. Yet you are at work, preparing all for the right time of revelation and deliverance. Again, a good example is Joseph. You kept him in captivity “till the word of the LORD proved him true.” (Psalm 105:19). When Joseph had learned all he needed, then God acted and brought him out to Pharaoh for service.
And it wasn’t until more than eight years after becoming the ruler that Joseph was justified before his family, when they came to Egypt for food. Then his prophetic dreams came true as they all bowed down to him. It was God’s time.
Am I willing to wait for His timing? Things work out much better that way! Help me, Lord, to rest in you, to patiently trust you, to join you in waiting for the perfect time for you to answer my prayers–and thereby bring you honor before the great cloud of witnesses that surround all believers (Heb 12:1).]
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Worship Journal

Written a number of years ago in my worship journal
Lord, I praise you this morning for the great and high privilege of knowing you, of being your child, of knowing how I fit into your creation. It is wonderful to have, in you, acceptance, worth and value, position, power and privilege, holiness, help and happiness. These are your gracious gifts to your children; I can find them in no other source.
You, Lord Jesus, are my Savior, my Shepherd, my Sovereign. I praise you for your great Love, for your Faithful follow-through, for your pure Perfection, for your high Holiness, and for your full Forgiveness. You are always there, always loving, always good, always effective–especially when I cannot see or sense any of this. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them” (Psa. 34:7).
I praise you that you help me as I need it—which is all the time. I thank you for the difficult times you lead me through, I thank you for the problems, the disappointments, the anguish that are important for my growth and deepening (James 1:2-4), and provide opportunities to give you honor (Psa. 50:23). I praise you for your care, your protection and your provision in the midst of it all.
You, Lord God, are Mighty, Majestic and Magnificent; you are Great, Gracious and Good; you are High, Holy and Humble. You are worthy of worship, of obedience, of glory, of exaltation, of magnification, of honor, of praise. And I want to give all of these to you today.
Lord, at this time of such difficulty in my life, one of the most comforting, encouraging things about you is that you have a plan and a purpose in what you do: “The plans of the Lord stand firm forever and the purposes of his heart through all generations” (Psalm 33:11).
You know exactly what you are doing and you are going to bring about your great goals no matter what the enemy, Satan, wants, no matter what your enemies (unbelievers) do, or how your children rebel: “The Lord foils the plans of the nations and thwarts the purposes of the peoples” (Psalm 33:10).
Help me today, Lord, to rest in your plans, rejoice in your purposes, to resist in your power all the schemes of the evil one. Help me to honor you in all. May praise be the keynote of my life; may prayer be the foundation of all I attempt; may persistence be the mark of all I do for you.
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Worldview Shifts

Two “worldview shifts”, out the darkness into the light
In the midst of all the ministry, the Lord continued to work on setting me free from the chains of the past. On one visit to Albania the Lord had a surprise waiting for me. I went alone on this trip, and when I arrived, our field leader and his family were away for a couple of days. He left me a message, telling me to stay in his house and which bed to sleep in.
So here I was, in a strange house, in a strange country, all by myself, and night was descending. Not a good situation for me with my fear of being home alone in the dark.
As I got into bed and turned out the light, I could see the bedroom door with its frosted window. The street lamp was shining into the hall beyond the door, and illuminated the glass.
Negative, scary thoughts began to come to my mind, “What if I hear a footstep on the stairs…..then another….. and another. Then what if a huge shape appears in the hall, reaching out a great hand towards my door, each finger tipped with a huge talon….”
I interrupted this flow of negative images: “No! I will not think this. The truth is that the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He will protect me here. Even if such a creature did come, Jesus is with me; His rod and His staff will comfort and protect me. He will prepare a table in the presence of my enemies. I do not need to fear, I can trust Him!”
In the face of this barrage of Truth, the familiar fear of the dark, the demonic power that had tried to envelop me, began to crumple in on itself and fell to the floor.
In that moment, I was set free from this fear in a new and deeper way. Later that night, when I had to get up to go to the bathroom, I did not turn the light on, but walked in the dark, reciting Psalm 23 out loud on the way there and back. I wanted to continue to powerfully and directly confront those powers of darkness and fear.
I only had one more such powerful attack, several years later, this time in Germany. There, as I went to the bathroom in the dark, the fear came; it was a fear that when I opened the bedroom door, I would see a flaming face hanging there in the air.
As I began to recite Psalm 23, a question came to me: “You know who is on the other side of that door?” And I knew the answer: “Jesus is there, waiting for me, ready and very able to protect me from any and every possible enemy. I can trust Him!” This truth put my fears to rest permanently.
After that, every other attempt on Satan’s part to reestablish his reign of fear in my life has proved ineffective as I lift the shield of faith and wield the sword of the Spirit. True freedom comes only in Christ!
In 1996, came another big step forward into freedom through an epiphany sent by the Lord. All my life I’d struggled with an aversion to celebrations. Christmas, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving all made me uncomfortable. This was a mystery to me.
Holidays were opportunity to have time off from work, an opportunity to be with family and friends, to enjoy meals and celebrate together—something that should have made me happy. But it did not. I learned to stuff my negative feelings and join in, but I did not welcome holidays.
Later, I realized that one aspect of my inability to enjoy “down time” was that I felt most comfortable with myself and others when I was working. I liked to work; it provided me with a clear role and brought me a sense of security. Holidays took all that away from me, and added the further uncertainty of an unscheduled day stretching before me.
Then unexpectedly in my fiftieth year, during a quiet time with the Lord, it was like a door opened in my heart of understanding, and I realized the real reason I didn’t like holidays. It was because my father had taught me that celebrating was not masculine. It was only for women and children. It went into the same category as religion: unmanly. My father had never specifically articulated this, but his actions, reactions and stories had definitely communicated it.
More than once he told me how during holidays as a boy he had been forced to go with his mother to visit little old ladies. He had to sit in dark parlors for hours with these old women, enduring their “old lady” attentions and remarks.
Dad did join in on our family celebrations but always dashing in at the last minute, signaling to me that they weren’t important. “Work was more important,” was the message I got.
Dad would probably have been surprised to hear what I’d learned from him, since I am sure it wasn’t intentional, but I got the point that celebrating is not masculine and lived it out in my own life.
At the moment of my epiphany when I received this revelation, a statement of truth popped into my mind: “Well, that’s not how God thinks! Look at all the celebrations He initiated in the Old Testament! And think of all the celebration that the Bible says takes place among the angels when one person believes in Jesus. Think of the forever celebration there will be in Heaven!”
With these insights, I could immediately reject the wrong idea and feeling that celebrating is not masculine. I could now begin instead to embrace the positive concept of celebration and enter whole-heartedly into the holidays to come.
This may seem like a small issue, but for me it was like moving out of a dull, grey “twilight zone” into the full color of a bright summer’s day.
I could now whole-heartedly and fully join Barbara and mt mother, who were very good at celebrating in both American holidays and in the many holidays the Germans celebrate, another step forward in freedom.
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Psalm 37:4

Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the LORD
[In one sense, this is an easy command to obey–if we are willing. There is so much in you to delight in, Lord. You are the loving and gracious One, full of kindness, goodness and thoughtfulness. You are richly generous, wisely firm, powerfully active and eternally faithful.
You are the good Shepherd, leading us wisely and well; you are the mighty Warrior, powerfully protecting us from the enemy; you are the holy Hater of sin, moving to eliminate it from the universe; you are the majestic Savior, providing a door of escape in the wall of condemnation; and you are the gracious Giver of righteousness, sharing your purity with those who will accept it.
You created all, own all, provide all that is good. You are all-present, all-seeing, all-knowing. You are always with us, shielding us from true harm, leading us through deserts and dark valleys, bringing us out into wide pastures. You provide all the grace, refuge and wisdom we need. You love beauty, and share it with us in the beautiful universe you created.
You are the Creator, the Sustainer and the Ender of all. You are the Savior, the Sanctifier, the Shepherd of all your sheep. You are the wise One, the wonderful One, the winning One. You love the sinner and therefore performed the impossible by keeping your law while making a way to redeem us criminals.
You live outside of time, so you know the future. You are never late, always know exactly how to help and give us far more than we need. You give us a continual string of “God sightings:” providing, protecting and helping us just when we need it. You thereby deepen our understanding of your love and develop our faith–if we are just willing to notice your often subtle work.
You are the King, the Ruler, the Sovereign, our Lord. You are worthy of worship, praise, glory and honor. To delight in you is not hard! Help us to actively do that through this day, thinking on your wonders, giving you honor, bringing joy to you–and us–while deepening our first love for you.
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Psalm 37: 3

Well, the zoning board in the end granted my request! It was touch and go for a while, as some members wanted to say no, or put restrictions and demands in addition to the ones I’d already complied with. However, one woman member brought them back to the focus of my request, then made a motion to accept it; everyone dropped their objections and voted yes! To God be the glory. Thank you for your prayers.
Today’s devotional was written before the meeting and was very helpful to me in the run up to the decision.
Psalm 37:3 “Trust in the Lord and do good”
[In the face of evildoers and workers of iniquity mentioned in verses 1 & 2, we have these two commands. First, trust in the Lord. That means we have to lay aside our natural desire to focus on these evil people and their negative actions. Instead we are to willfully look away to the Lord, our Rock, our Fortress, our Deliverer, our Shield and High Tower.
These evil people are nothing in contrast to Him. We must remember that He is our security and significance, that this difficult situation is not a problem, but an adventure with Him. When we move into this truth, a lot of negatives drop away and we can dwell in the Light and Truth He gives us.
Then, second, we are to do good in the face of evil. This is certainly a worldview shift away from what is natural. It is a supernatural worldview.
The first good we can do is to forgive those who have done evil. I think of the recent incident where an ex-police white woman came home to find an African-American man in her kitchen. She shot and killed him. Only it turned out that it wasn’t her kitchen, but his; she’d gone into the wrong apartment!
At the end of her trial where she was found guilty of murder, after her sentencing the 22 year old brother of the murdered man got up, went to her, told her he forgave her and gave her a hug. Then he begged her to open her heart to Jesus and be born again!
How different from the world’s way! Compare that to the shootings of the last year where everything devolved into riots, destruction and bitterness. God’s way is much better, bringing healing rather than ever deepening hurt.
Beyond forgiving, each situation may offer a different opportunity to do good. It may be confronting the person in love and firmness. It may be letting go and moving on, which we can only do if we have forgiven the person. It may be praying consistently for that person’s salvation. It may be doing some good deed for him. We need to ask for wisdom in what good we can do.
“so shall you dwell in the land, and verily you will be fed.”
[As we follow God’s way, He will provide for us. The NIV translates this slightly differently: “dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” We have to choose to stay in the land where the evildoers live, but if we do, He will protect us, provide for us, watch over us. I think back to our time in the Middle East with all the negative things that were done to us. We forgave and we chose to stay rather than running, and God greatly blessed us. His way is certainly the best.
Suffering faced can produce beauty in our lives, just as frost brings out beautiful, rich colors in the leaves of Maple trees. But we, like the trees, must stand and not run.
This all depends on whether we look away from the situation to the Savior and see things from His perspective. We must speak to ourselves in the words of Psalm 62:5, “My soul, find rest in God alone, for my hope comes from Him.” As we trust in Him, He will fill us with all joy and peace so our lives can overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13).
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Fear vs Faith

Today is the zoning board meeting where my financial future will be decided. Here’s what I wrote about it in my worship journal.

Thank you, Lord, for your words this morning in Matt. 6 to not worry about what I will eat or wear, for you are the one who supplies them to the birds and the flowers, so you will certainly supply them for me. Even if the zoning board denies my request for being able to rent storage places, and thereby cuts off much of my retirement income, you will provide in another way.

I thank you for the reminder this morning that this whole happening is another adventure from you–a perspective I had forgotten: I have been looking at this as a problem, a threat, a danger. Instead it is the doorway to growth, the pathway to giving glory to you, a possibility of resting by faith in you rather than in resolution.

Help me, Lord, to walk in this truth today, resting in your great love, your mighty wisdom, your majestic power. As you were able to orchestrate all in the life of Joseph, of Daniel, of Paul, so you will do in my life.

As David said in Psalm 18 when he was being pursued by king Saul, “I will love you O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my strength in whom I trust. He is my shield, the horn of my salvation, my high tower. I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be saved, so shall I be saved from my enemies.”

I pray, Lord, for the sake of your glory, answer me out of your love, your faithfulness and your power. I pray that in this situation that your will be done, whatever that is. You have a plan, you know what you are doing, and it will be good.

You have made me to lie down in this green pasture, a place to grow and mature. You are with me as I walk through this valley of the shadow of death, death to my desires, to my situational security, to my comfort. But in this valley I need to fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod will protect me, your staff will guide me.

I praise you now for what you will do, Lord, for whatever outcome you will bring. Glorify your name, bring honor to yourself, use this happening as a springboard to share more with those around us about the gospel and the greatness of your love for us. I praise your name for whatever you will do.

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God’s Plan

Praise you, Lord, that you are the One in charge, that you know what is best and that you allow things into our lives that we would never choose personally–but are events that will be of great use to you, and us, in the long run.
When Nat and Abby were visiting us in Germany in 2011, their little son, Benaya, was awake quite a bit in the night, crying. So shortly before 5 am, I got up, took him into the living room and comforted him. Shortly we both fell asleep as we sat in the easy chair, waking up about 7:30. He felt much better and so did I!
However, this gave me a late start in the day, which I don’t like–but it is your day, Lord, and I praise you for it. It is so good to be flexible and let go of things easily and quickly, moving on with you in what needs to be done.
Thank you, Lord God, that you are Sovereign, in control, moving things ahead, working with our errors and even our sins and the rebellion of mankind to bring about your over-all plans. Praise you that no detail escapes your attention, that you arrange the smallest aspects of life to give all people the opportunity to hear and believe. Praise you that you love all, have provided the possibility of salvation to all, and work with all to bring understanding.
I praise you that you call us into partnership with you in this, giving us truth and wisdom, desire and guidance so we can be carriers of the gospel, purveyors of light and sharers of truth. Praise you for your graciousness in including us in such a great and wonderful work.
You, Lord God, the triune One, are worthy of worship and glory, honor and praise, all the time. I thank you for your Word that gives revelation and insight, light and direction. I am so thankful for how, over the years, you have gotten me into your Word in memorizing and mediating, in reading, in studying and thereby bringing continual growth.
You, O God, are the great and good One, before whom I want to bow down and worship, whom I want to fear and obey, whom I want to honor and exalt before all I meet today. Help me in this, Lord. Truly, it is a delight to delight in you!
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Psalm 37:1-2

Today’s devotional, written several years ago, is so relevant to me as I face the decisive zoning board meeting this Thursday. May I live out what is said here.
Psalm 37:1 Of David. “Fret not yourself because of evildoers;”
[Praise you, Lord, for your clear commands which steer us away from our natural, selfish reactions and towards your wonderful ways.
It is so easy to get worked up about evildoers: selfish, corrupt, immoral political leaders here and abroad, unjust actions, destructive organizations giving unjust decisions and anti-Christian groups making brutal attacks. But you in your great wisdom and knowledge of the future, have reasons for allowing them.
You will use them to open people’s eyes to truth and bring many into your Kingdom, while maturing your children through difficulties. Therefore, we can rest in you and pray for and about them, rather than wasting energy and time in fretting, knowing that you are the One who takes down and sets up rulers.]
“be not envious of wrongdoers!”
[It is so easy to envy their power, the effectiveness of their ways and to be tempted to imitate their methods, desiring to use their fallen methods, of course, for good. But the good is then tainted and negated by the world’s wily ways.
Your command is, “Be not!” I praise you for this word that moves us towards a supernatural view of things, freeing us from what is of this fallen world. Then we can be like you and act out of your thoughts and ways: loving our enemies, praying for those who persecute us, forgiving those who harm us. Praise you for the possibility of letting go of temporary values, of holding on to what is eternal and rising above our difficult situations.]
Psalm 37:2 “For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.”
Here’s the freeing perspective you give us: these evil doers won’t be around for too long. You will cause them to fail and fade (think of Stalin, Hitler and Mao), while your children still stand–because you are the preserver and protector of the righteous. These evil doers will melt like snow in the Spring Sonshine, revealing the rich, dark ground of your plans that produces spiritual growth in our lives.
Praise you, Lord God, that you can see into the future, that you know all to come and that we can trust you to prepare us, knowing that you will work out what is best, guiding us in joining you in the process.
To follow worldly ways brings death; to obey your wonderful ways brings eternal life and eternal fruit. Help us to choose your ways throughout this day so we can honor you before all.
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