He Leads Me Beside Quiet Waters

He leads me beside quiet waters.

Dear Lord,

My Great Shepherd, who could I ever expect to know my deepest needs but You? Beyond knowing, Your care and guidance always bring strength to my soul. Though I have never served you perfectly, you have never failed to Shepherd perfectly. I know that my heart can have peace without measure in your presence as you take me to quiet places.

Quiet places make me crazy. When I am at rest I wonder what I ought to be doing. When there is no noise I bring it into existence…TV…Radio…iPod…going places… going nowhere… creating the noisy environment. The world I create is not nearly as serene as the one You created. Yes, the one You created that best suited Your creation.

I’m almost afraid of the quiet. In the silence I have time to think clearly. I am able to see my reflection and wonder how this has happened to me. In the quiet moments The Enemy brings my regrets, my mistakes, my disobedience, my losses … he elegantly places them around me so that no matter which direction I look I am reminded of the failure of my trek. But this is not the quiet to which You lead me.

You lead me to quiet waters that allow me to drink without fear. I see my reflection in the waters and do not see failure but redemption. I see You. Standing beside me, giving me assurance. Near these quiet waters of my heart, I understand why You have led me here. No amount of noise, confusion, crisis, or thunder can rise above the holy  din of Your peace.

Lord, when I’m running through my days … would you remind me to come back to this place? As  You already knew, I needed to come here.

~John

He Makes Me Lie Down in Green Pastures

He makes me lie down in green pastures …

Dear Lord,

That sounds so peaceful. You, the Great Shepherd who provides for me with all sufficiency also brings me to rest. You know me better than anyone. Your concern for mind, spirit, soul, and body is the source of my true wholeness. You want me to experience rest, peace, calm, serenity. Shalom.

I’d really like to pray through this magnificent Psalm without so much confession. However, whenever I sense Your presence, I am overwhelmed by my flaws as I stand in your light. The truth is that I do not want to rest. I desire Shalom without time for calm. At times I feel frantic, trying to meet all of my obligations and self-placed self-paced and self-centered activities.

I confess that while I was writing this prayer I checked email and Facebook. Several times. I thought about breakfast. I thought about the trip I’m taking today. I thought about the things I have yet to do before Sunday comes. I thought about how I can’t seem to stop thinking about all the things I think. Then I thought that You know all of my thoughts.

So I’m not sure what I’m asking when I say, Lord, “make me lie down in green pastures” … but please do. I am not always certain that I know what I need – but without sabbath rest I become so weary.

It is when lying down in green pastures that I can finally become more aware of Your presence. I will be able to hear your voice. I will contemplate the riches of your grace. I will relinquish control and busyness to you. It is then that the thirst of my spirit is sparked. The more I am near You, the more I want You.

So yes, Lord, please… make me to lie down in your green pastures.

~John

I Shall Not Be In Want

I shall not be in want.

Dear Lord,

Of all of the important and essential things in this life, I do not have any lack. You created me, sustain me, have saved me, and will love me forever. Nothing can separate me from your love. Everything else is just lagniappe.

Perhaps if I keep affirming that, my  heart will also believe it. I know it to be true, but Dear Shepherd, when does my will catch up with my knowledge?

I am addicted to new and improved. Acquisitions thrill me, make my heart race, steal my money, captivate my time. When I’m bored I go to stores and walk around looking for something to catch my eye. Discontent with what I already have, I am willing to become indebted in order to have right now something I do not really need.

I wish that was all. But the want within seems to never calm…it exercises itself in a hundred different directions without rest.

Still, Lord, I do know that your provision is enough. I do know that I am hearing the call of another shepherd who does not have my health and heart as his main concern. I know because I have followed him before, and in his pasture there is no rest, no satisfaction, nothing but … want.

So I need your Shepherd’s heart to lead me, protect me, correct me, remind me, feed me, forgive me, and save me. You give me so many gifts that I do not deserve. What I do deserve, you withhold. Yes, your grace and mercy forever keep me safe.

Until such time as my wandering heart is convinced, I will continue to affirm and know that as long as You are my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.

~John

The Lord Is My Shepherd

The Lord is my Shepherd.

Dear Lord,

I affirm that You are, indeed, my Shepherd. I confess that I do not always listen. I sometimes forget that You feed me. And I wander. Often.

Why? I cannot tell you. I really am humbled that You, the Lord, has an interest in me. Honestly, sometimes I question that. I can so easily accept that you love the whole world, but me as an individual? I can think of a lot of other people who would be easier to love and … shepherd.

My doubt is not about Your ability, but more my habit of being found outside the pasture following other voices. What an amazing privilege that You are watching out for me. I really am glad that you are my Shepherd.

And not my puppeteer. While I have freedom to wander the pasture within Your sight, I also have the freedom to make my way onto paths that lead me to other, less protected places. Just about the time I think I may have gone too far, I hear Your footsteps behind me. I experience the guidance as You direct me back into safer places.

Forgive me for the times I run away from You.

Forgive me for the times I pretend not to hear You.

Forgive me for the times I try to befriend the wolf.

Please, never stop being my Shepherd.

Please, never let me forget the sound of Your voice.

~John

PS: Thanks to Janice for the picture below!

Love Like Fire

I am desperate for Your touch….In a moment You can turn a life around…” Do you live with that perspective … bump into it now and again in some special moment … or just wish you could get there? I guess if I were writing that lyric I would have said ‘I want to be desperate for Your touch‘. I’ve had my moments when my heart was wide open and I felt that God was working on changing me. I can’t manufacture those moments, structure them, nor even put my faith in them. If there is anything we  know about emotions and feelings, they’re about as dependable as a weather forecast.

But I long to escape from the academic and sterile, correct and collect Christianity. No, I don’t want to be incorrect nor afraid of academics. But I want to sing my heart out not really caring if I’m in tune or not. My neighbors might not appreciate such reckless abandon, but I have a much higher calling than their melodic hopes. And truthfully, I don’t want to be the only one. I am desperate for His touch, and at the same time I do not want to look like it. Broken hearted and disappointed in my own sin, I privately pour it out to God. Then when gathered with my Family I provide the great example of the one who has it all together.

There’s something missing as we quote and study the writings of Apostle Paul – something that we overlook. The confessional nature of Paul’s letters fascinate me. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18). “I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that” (2 Corinthians 11:1).

Let Your love take me deeper, pull me closer to where You are, ’cause all I want is more of You. And I’ll surrender to Your love, forever humbled by the message of the cross. Yes, this is a wonderful prayer for us to embrace. Let Your love take me deeper. We are overcomers, who have yet still much to overcome. Impossible without His love and power, we cling to Him. Another songwriter of another generation wrote, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace;  foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die” ~ Augustus Montague Toplady, 1763.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwwnsb_wKHo[/youtube]

I am desperate for Your touch
a glimpse of heaven
for the glory of Your Son.
In a moment You can
turn a life around
forever to be found in You.
I am reaching out to find
theres nothing greater than
Your love that holds my life.
Your grace and mercy that
have saved me by Your blood,
and swept away my shame Oh Lord.

Your love is like fire
that burns for all to see.
My only desire
to worship at Your feet.
So let this fire
consume my life.
Let Your love take me deeper
pull me closer to where You are,
’cause all I want is more of You.
and I’ll surrender to Your love
forever humbled by the
message of the cross.
I stand abandoned in
Your presence and Your grace,
and I’ll never be the same Oh God.

Your love is like fire,
that burns for all to see.
My only desire,
to worship at Your feet.
So let this fire
consume my life.
Let Your love take me deeper,
pull me closer to where You are,
’cause all I want is more of You.
When You call I will follow.
At the cross I surrender all,
Jesus I belong to You.

I belong to You Lord
Your love is like fire,
that burns for all to see.
My only desire,
to worship at Your feet.
Your love is like fire,
that burns for all to see.
My only desire,
to worship at Your feet.
So let this fire
consume my life.
Let Your love take me deeper,
pull me closer to where You are,
’cause all I want is more of You.
When You call I will follow,
at the cross I surrender all,
Jesus I belong to You.

Let Your love take me deeper,
pull me closer to where You are,
cause all I want is more of You
When You call I will follow,
at the cross I surrender all,
Jesus I belong to You.

Christ, Our Treasure

The search for treasure is as ingrained in the human spirit as breathing is the body. A survey of literature and poetry, movies and music reveal our fascination with finding hidden treasure. Who hasn’t pondered what they might do if they won the lottery … or the sweepstakes? When we read stories about those who have come into large sums of money and experienced total life failure and meltdown, we assume that we would not do that.  Some people desire treasure so much that they simply take it from others, and even sometimes serve time in prison for it.

A rich young man had his treasure in hand, but still sought something else. Jesus told him how to attain that for which his heart yearned.  Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. The young man decided to hang on to the treasure in hand, instead of exchanging it for the unseen treasure yet to come. If he had really realized to whom he was talking, perhaps he would have followed the instructions of Jesus. Worth far more than any money in his bank account, the rich young man was standing face to face with the greatest treasure he could ever encounter. Jesus is the treasure.

Don’t judge the young man too harshly. After all, when deciding how to spend our own plunder we hesitate when it comes time to write the contribution check for church. We think long and hard about sending money to our favorite charity. That is money we do not spend according to our own wisdom (other than selecting the benefactor). Substitute most of humanity and even most Christians in the place of the rich young man and the story remains the same.

Jesus is so valuable, so rich in mercy and grace, so profoundly worthy of our worship. Yet, He often is like the dusty old lamp brought to an appraiser … thought by the owner to be of little value … but appraised for thousands by an expert. I wonder if Jesus is dust-covered and sitting in a corner of the attic of our heart while we remain enamored by the glitzy plastic toys of our time?

Christian, the treasure you seek in this world is elusive. The Christ-treasure that will fill your heart is within. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us…We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body (2 Corinthians 4). The death of Jesus doesn’t seem like such a treasure, more a tragedy. But that is because we are still looking at Him with our human eyes. When we realize that we do not have the power to understand what a true treasure is, then we can trust God to tell us. Why are you seeking treasures in your life, when you are carrying around this treasure – a power from God – a tale of death, burial, and resurrection that has become amazingly true.

Yes, Christ is our treasure … in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2). We pore over millions of books and allow our Bibles to remain laid in state on our coffee tables. What inkling of truth can you discover in the books of men that didn’t come ultimately from God’s book? And more so from Christ himself? These treasures of wisdom are not hidden from us, they are hidden for us. But as long as Christ is regarded as somewhat less than a treasure, why should we look there?

Richness is found in Christ, and in allowing His life to become ours. A prayer phrase jumped out at me last night. I’ve prayed it many times myself. “Lord, be with us” and “Lord, walk with us”. I’m still thinking that God is waiting for me to ask Him to do what He has already promised He would do! I should be praying, “Lord, help me be with you” and “Lord, I will walk with you.” When Christ is my treasure, then nothing holds more attraction to me than His living through me. When Christ is my treasure then I will be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share (1 Timothy 6). Why shouldn’t I be generous and share? Can we ever plunder the riches of Christ to such a point that He is emptied? For all who regard Him as the true treasure of life and share that with others, Apostle Paul says that they will  lay up treasure … as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Life that is truly life. If I won the sweepstakes and could buy anything I wanted, I would not have true life without Christ. If I won the sweepstakes and regarded Christ as my true treasure, then I would have gained something less valuable than that which I already enjoyed. My heart would race, I would jump up and down in excitement. And I would know, then, that my heart had a long way to go before I understood that the life that is truly life is not found in a check of any size, but in Christ alone.

So, if you could choose Christ as your treasure – or a stockpile of money – which would you choose? We know the right answer. I’m asking you to look into your heart and come up with the true answer. Moses made a choice like that. Moses chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible (Hebrews 11). I wonder how many of us are choosing to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time – at least that is our intention. We hope to get serious about Christ later in life.  We’ll give up our idols tomorrow. A better day is coming.

The treasures of Egypt /America are calling to us. But let’s look ahead to the reward. Do we know that Christ is our treasure? Or shall we walk away from him sadly, but planning on how to increase our earthly stock? If Christ is my treasure, then I’m free to stop looking for a mass fortune, and start the ‘with God’ life I’m called to live.

Dear Lord, please reveal to me more every day the unsearchable wisdom and treasure of Christ. Help me to walk with you.
Thanks for reading,
John