The Best Interest of Others

It was a very full day yesterday, Father, and I thank You for Your watch care and direction. A busy day at work and an evening of inspiration as we received direction in preparation for the next Wycliffe Associates Banquet later in October, lent themselves to a good night’s rest. I am blessed.

James 3:13-18 (<<click here)

O the dichotomy of earthly wisdom and wisdom that we find through You Lord. James states,

“If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.”

So often earthly wisdom is characterized by “bitter jealousy” and “selfish ambition.”

Lord, it comes down to a mentality of “me” or “others.” Basically, wisdom is the compilation of experience and things we have learned and then applying those things in our lives with good judgment. So do I seek to use the measurement of wisdom I have for my own selfish gain or do I seek to use it humbly – without pride – to benefit others, as well?

The world around me is consumed with looking out for “number one” – no one else is looking out for my best interests so I have to. But what a difference it makes when we seek to look out for the best interest of others. When we do so – people’s lives are changed – sometimes their lives are even saved!

I can’t help but think of the daily news (of which I watch and read very little).  It is so full of evil and pain – but that is what people want to see. But…thankfully people love “Good Samaritan” stories and stories about people sacrificing themselves and their own safety to benefit or save someone else.

Lord, may my life be lived out in giving myself over to help others. Enable me to do “good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.”

Sept. 13th, Tues, 6:39 am

Clean My Aerator

Here I sit before You, Father, humble, submissive, repentant. Do with me as You will. Use me as You will. Strengthen me to be the man You want me to be. Refine me that I may bring You glory.

James 3:11-12 (<<click here)

Lord, I realize that James here is driving home his concerns about the tongue but I also know it can be applied on other fronts as well. When we first moved into this home 25+ years ago, our only source of water was a well. It was a very good well- a little irony in its flavor – but a very good well. Initially, it had to be purified by pouring bleach in it to kill any bacteria that had developed when it was out of use then we had to flush out all the lines in the house. In doing so we were good to go – clear, fresh, cold water was at our disposal.

But things still came up. On our spigots we have aerators and over a period of time, bits of iron and other mineral deposits would collect. Periodically we’d have to clean them out to ensure a continued good flow.

That’s me… “Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh and bitter water?” Well, when it comes to my heart the answer on occasion is “yes.” Springs of living water “bubble out” every day but more often than I’d like to admit, things that are not good or beneficial come out and my “aerator” needs cleaning. I have to allow You, Lord, to clean my aerators. I have to repent and seek Your forgiveness so that once again Your springs of living water flow unrestricted.

Drinking at the springs of living water,
Happy now am I,
My soul they satisfy;
Drinking at the springs of living water,
O wonderful and bountiful supply!
– John W. Peterson

Sept 12th, Mon, 6:40 am

For Such a Worm as I

Father, as I come before You this morning, my thoughts leading up to this time, my thoughts during this time and even today’s Puritan prayer reading, all are focusing on the same area – my unworthiness and Your mercy and grace.

Some 30 years ago, when I was serving on staff in one of my first churches a friend of mine expressed his offense at the text of a favorite hymn, by Isaac Watts, “At the Cross.” The first verse reads,

Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

He took offense at the word “worm”. He felt that that was too much, that because of what You had done for us, Lord, that we shouldn’t think of ourselves in that terminology – it was too debasing. Many must have agreed with him for in most “modern” hymnals the phrase “For such a worm as I” has been replaced with “For sinners such as I.”

Way back then it bothered me and I think it does more so today. Lord Jesus, I realized who I am in You. I am not who I once was – I have been gloriously changed! I have been reborn! And as the psalmist proclaims “You have removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12 I love that verse! If I place my finger on a globe and go north, eventually I will be going south. BUT… if I trace my finger across the equator heading east – I will never go west. The two never meet. That is how far You have removed our sins from us! Thank You, Lord!

But no matter where I stand now (and again only because of YOU) it does not change who I was when I started! Yes, I was a sinner but too often we want to sweeten that by saying “I am a sinner saved by grace.” And most assuredly that is true. All praise to You, Lord, for your grace and mercy but it doesn’t take away from the fact that I am a sinner and until I am welcomed into Your eternal presence that’s what I am – a sinner.

I think part of the issue is that by rejecting the “worms” we make ourselves feel better about ourselves. But for me at least it helps to keep my humility at a healthy level. I am totally dependent upon You, Lord, for my salvation. Left to my own ways, I am nothing. I am the lowest of the low. Lord, thank You for lifting me up out of the pit of despair. Thank You for giving of Yourself – for sacrificing Yourself “for such a worm as I.” You “came down to my level, When I couldn’t get up to Yours.”  May I ever be humbly grateful, Amen

Sept 10th, Sat, 5:18 am

A Single Spark

Father, You are the anchor in my life. You are what keeps me grounded. Thank You for Your presence. Thank You for Your patience. Thank You for Your love that is in constant pursuit of me.

James 3:2-12 (<<click here)

Every day is stock full of choices. Some are insignificant “what kind of cereal do I want today?” “Do I pick up that unsolicited phone call or let it go to voicemail?” In the grand scheme of things they don’t have a whole lot of impact.

But, Lord, some of the choices I make today can have far-reaching effects. Today’s passage addresses the tongue and throughout this day and every day I have to decide whether I will use it for good…or for evil.

One of many things that James compares the tongue to is fire. A single spark can set a forest ablaze causing much loss and destruction. But fire in and of itself is not Inherently evil. It just needs to be controlled. It needs to be contained.

A song from my youth comes to mind. “Pass It On” by Kurt Kaiser was written in 1969 and has been sung by many young people around glowing campfires at church camps and retreats.

The first verse is…

It only takes a spark
To get a fire going
And soon all those around
Can warm up to its glowing
That’s how it is with God’s love
Once you’ve experienced it
You spread His love to everyone
You want to pass it on

Fire can be a very good thing – we just have to be in control. Lord, may Your fire fill me. May my tongue be used by You to kindle a fire that will welcome those about me to gather round to feel Your warmth and love. Help me to use my tongue for the good.

Sept 9th, Fri, 6:47 am

Mistakes

Good morning, Father! Thank You for our time together. May I make the most of it. Continue to mold me into Your image. Amen

James 3:2 (<<click here)

Lord, before stepping into this section on controlling the tongue the first sentence in verse 2 catches my eye…”Indeed, we all make many mistakes.” Other versions use the word “stumble”.

I suppose its part of the human equation. Mistakes and stumbling make up a significant portion of our lives. Sometimes we are merely embarrassed. Sometimes we hurt ourselves or others. The thing about mistakes and stumbles is that they are not premeditated – it is not something we have planned to do. But the next step is crucial. As the old adage goes, we must “learn from our mistakes.”

Mistakes and stumblings are not sin. But we have to be careful that they don’t lead us to sin. They begin innocently enough but where we get into trouble is when we begin doing them deliberately or when we don’t get ourselves out of the circumstances in which we find ourselves as quickly as possible.

A good example for me is videos posted by friends on Facebook. Quite often I tap one on my phone – they can be funny, or informative or entertaining or inspirational. A majority of the time it’s all well and good – but a problem can arise if I scroll down to the next “related” video. Often they are equally wholesome but sometimes they are not – I stumble onto an off-color or perverse clip. I can’t linger. I must back out as quickly as possible. A mistake or a stumble is one thing – taking it in is another thing, all together.

Lord, help me to be careful. May I keep a watchful eye on where I’m going. Enable me to respond in a way that would be pleasing to You. Amen

Sept 7th, Wed, 5:59 am

Doing it right for once.