Category Archives: Daily Meditations

Turks & Caicos Sunrise Sermon

Looking out over the North Atlantic Ocean at Extreme Point in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands

The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.

PROVERBS 4:18 [NLT]

Hello there! It’s been a while….like 9 months. I pray this reflection finds you at peace in your heart.

We just returned Sunday from a most fabulous week in the jaw-droppingly beautiful Turks and Caicos Islands. What I observed there from Papa Yahweh was so meaningful to me, that I could not not share some of it. Our first morning on the island I woke up before dawn in order to see the sun rise over the ocean. It was so mesmerizing and exhilarating, that I got up early for the next six days, no matter how late we were up socializing the nite before, to witness this cosmic event of divine artistry from our infinitely talented Creator.

There really is something to intentionally absorbing the glory of God’s creative wonder–especially a wonder as magnificent as a T & C sunrise. An epiphany hit me some years ago that “in the beginning” God made everything to reflect Him, His nature, the spiritual journey, and the nature of life. (As opposed to it being we clever beings coming up with ingenious comparisons all on our own.) Some of these are fairly obvious, and some are even spelled out in Scripture for us, i.e. Vine and branch, the Spirit being like wind, trees planted by rivers, etc. And some reflections require a bit of work, observation, pondering, seeking…. I have found that the more time and narrowed focus spent in this holy excavation, the more memorable and long lasting is the truth which is revealed and implanted.

One of the first aspects I noticed  from this sunrise sermon was how difficult it was to actually grasp a sense of the change occurring before my very eyes. So I began staring at just one part of one cloud to try to capture even the tiniest difference being made above me, but after about ninety seconds I could not tell what had changed, even though the sky had grown a bit brighter and more beautiful. My eyes would then be drawn away from my focus spot and over to a new streak of pink and salmon that had pierced a dark cloud like a flame thrower shooting through the middle of the nite. “Oooohhh,” I exclaimed aloud, even though I was sitting by myself. And the Wind (Pneuma) whispered to me, “This is how it is with your journey toward Christ. As you inch ever closer, and it is quite important that you progress in this daily, you will typically not see the transformation in real time, but one day you may suddenly notice a wonderful shift in you or even those around you where you were not even looking.” As the wisdom goes, it is better to practice something everyday for fifteen minutes than for an hour and a half once every two weeks. The sun simply keeps peeking over the horizon, rising without stopping, and before you know it, it’s daytime. “Just keep swimming.” How important it is to draw closer to God every single day, putting forth concerted effort to grow in Christ likeness by placing ourselves in the direct rays of the Spirit’s divine energy.

Another aspect I saw in these mornings was that obviously everything got brighter–all around me became illuminated. The closer we draw near Jesus, the clearer the path becomes; we’re not groping around in the dark wondering what the right thing to do is. Also, our reflected light will fall upon more and more people around us, as we “rise”. But what I had not really thought of before was what became more difficult, and eventually impossible, to see. The stars–those things farthest away from me. Pneuma whispered into me again: That which is farthest from your center, your divinely appointed purpose, will fade away as you journey down the path of righteousness. And those closest to you, which you have overlooked due to your self-focus, will be illuminated, and their needs easier than ever to see. If you keep maturing, becoming a little holier than you were yesterday, eventually selfish desires will dissipate into near nothingness. The beauty of Jesus, absorbed more and more, overtakes and swallows up the allure of pleasing yourself, just as the sunrise overtakes the nite sky. Like abstaining from the processed sugar of say, Mountain Dew, you will gradually lose a hankering for it, and it may even become quite nasty to you. (But you must always be on guard against temptation!)

A really cool sidenote is that on about the fifth day after listening to Yahweh through His sunrises, I was reading one of the Tozer books I brought with me, and saw in it the verse above, Proverbs 4:18. It was so ridiculously fitting, that it was like Jesus Himself was giving me the most affirming hug of my life. “I’m here with you, enjoying this too! I’m so glad you’re seeing this.”

The vivid awesomeness that is the sunrise over the ocean is simultaneously energizing and calming. It starts your day most appropriately, and can even sustain you throughout the day, though you may need to take a moment or two in the afternoon to reflect in your heart upon the tranquility of that morning experience. How easy it would be to sleep in one day and miss this incredible gift, then another, until we start to forget the beauty that was once so deeply inspiring to us. Whether through laziness, or the anesthesia of the world’s stupid ways, we can find ourselves having missed the greatest part of the day, and then recognize we are merely laboring under that Sun which desired to be with us in peace and quiet a few hours ago. Oh how vital it truly is to return to our First Love, to the beauty of the most perfect love shown on the cross, every day.

Lessons From The Aquarium

He went off once more across the Jordan, to the place where John had been baptizing from the beginning, and he stayed there.

John 10:40

A little while back our aquarium started getting dirtier and greener day after day, and I wasn’t sure why. So I scooped out some water, took it to the local experts at The Reef, and had it tested. The nice knowledgable lady there told me that the H2O was quite high in nitrates, which means we were either overfeeding the fish, and thus, too much food was falling to the bottom and getting gross, or there was just a lot of fish poo in there from not changing the water enough. The prescription I was given was to do a 50% water change every week for about four weeks, and I should see things go back to normal and become clear again. And that is exactly what I did, changing half the water (instead of the normal 10-20%) every Saturday. After the first week–nothing. Still green and dirty. But, this was not terribly surprising, as I was told it would take a month or so. Week two: still no visible change. Hmmm, I thought for sure I’d see some change, a little more clarity. OK, I’ll keep with the program, trusting the expert, and the process prescribed. And it was after the third water change…that I saw only the slightest improvement. Well, maybe. It might have just been my optimistic imagination, since later in the day it really didn’t look much different than before. It looked much like the one in the picture above.

BUT! Three days later, after that third water change, I walk downstairs to take a look and see this:

I kid you not. It went looking from like the one in that picture at the top, to this actual photo of our aquarium totally clear. There was no incremental change, but a sudden clarity overnight in the third week. It was the coolest thing, and had me rejoicing like a little aquatic dork.

Many lessons and metaphors came to mind.

First off, I felt reminded to simply keep doing what you know you’re supposed to be doing. Even if you don’t experience immediate discernible growth, or notice a major leap forward every single day, keep persevering in what you know is healthy and right. Go back to the basics often, and keep it simple. I know that I need to stay in constant prayer, to immerse myself in Holy Scripture, serve others in need, obey the voice of the Spirit, and participate in mutual sharpening with other believers. I simply need to keep doing these wonderful things if I am to grow as a human being and closer to Christ. Ultimately, stay with what got you to a good place–the Lord–not methods or strategies, but Spirit.

Second, the process and results don’t always go the way you think they will go. I expected the tank to gradually clear up every week for about four weeks when it would then look the way it was before it became Dirty Greenville. That’s not the way things went down. There was no visible change for three weeks, then poof! Stay with doing what you know is good, even if things don’t go the way you think they should, or the way you prefer.

Third, it is wise to look to those who have gone before and know what they’re talking about. As a starting point, it is good to trust the trustworthy guides rather than guessing or Googling.

Fourth, when the aquarium was clear, not only could I again see all the fish inside, I could see all the way through to the other side. I could see the wall behind the aquarium. As we persevere in our pursuit of intimacy with God, we will more and more have the vision of eternity, seeing through this short life into our eternal one. We will live with the perspective of our eternal home rather than be tied down to the cares of this life. As has been said, you’re dead a lot longer than you’re alive.

I came across John 10:40 some weeks later, and was really struck by it, and how it related to this experience for me. Even Jesus went back to a starting point of sorts, to where someone who went before him began. Perhaps this is a lesson for us to return to where our life in Christ began. To never forget what–who–saved us. I love those four words “and he stayed there.” Sometimes we just need to stay put, be still, recognize who God is, and listen. Simply listen to the Spirit of Jesus. To catch the wind in a sailboat, you put up the sails and wait. You don’t jump out of the boat and start swimming.

Is there something you’ve strayed from or been neglecting that you need to return to?

Is there a place you need to stay so that you can receive what you need from God before moving on?

When Praying, Always Remember…

Don’t worry about anything. Rather, in every area of life let God know what you want as you pray and make requests, and give thanks as well. And God’s peace, which is greater than we can ever understand, will keep guard over your hearts and minds in King Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7

William Barclay, born in 1907 in Scotland, is a favorite Bible commentator of mine. I find it very helpful how he relates the teachings of Scripture to real life, and how pithily he does so. Looking at his interpretation of Philippians 4:6-7 the other day, I found some reminders that are definitely worth sharing.

When we pray, we must always remember three things. We must remember the love of God, which only ever desires what is best for us. We must remember the wisdom of God, which alone knows what is best for us. We must remember the power of God, which alone can bring about that which is best for us. Everyone who prays with a perfect trust in the love, wisdom and power of God will find God’s peace.

I have found these three simple reminders so helpful to keep consciously in mind as I pray over “every area of life.” Remembering, and believing, that God wants, knows, and can bring about what is best for me is supernaturally comforting–going beyond human understanding. How wonderful it is to know we have a God like this….giving us ultimate perspective at every divine moment.

Barclay ends the section with:

The way to peace is in prayer to entrust ourselves and all whom we hold dear to the loving hands of God.

I pray this is an encouragement and an enhancement to your prayer life.

Does God Pick & Choose Who’s In?

No one can come to me unless the father who sent me draws them...” ~JESUS in John 6:44

This has long been one of those slightly unsettling verses for me. It sounds as if God chooses to draw some people to Himself, but not everybody–only some. Now God is God, and so God can do whatever God chooses, therefore, I am not going to pretend to sway God over to my puny thinking. Yet, thanks to my solid Bible-study Baptist upbringing, I was always taught to “compare Scripture with Scripture.” And that’s where some of the rub comes in I suppose. A God who wills some to come to Him, but not others, doesn’t seem to jive with the tenor of the New Testament where we see that God does not want any to perish, but for all to come to Him, to the eternal kind of Life (2 Peter 3:9).

Meditating upon this verse, I received another view of it which I trust and hope was from the Holy Spirit. Perhaps an aspect which John the Evangelist was intending to communicate, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is that if it is something other than the Father which draws us, therefore something less than God, then we will not come to Jesus.

We will gravitate toward whatever it is that we’re actually drawn to.

For example, if you’re drawn merely by an eloquent speaker, then you are drawn to that speaker, who is not God. Or you might be drawn by a social justice cause. That is a good thing, but it is not THE THING. You will pour energy into that cause, maybe even for Jesus, but still not genuinely come to Jesus. You can be drawn by a great community of people, or the beautiful worship music and style of a particular church, but if you’re not drawn to the Father, then you will not come to Jesus and experience true salvation for your soul, or participate in Yahweh’s Spirit-powered Kingdom Life.

Now, we must state the obvious–God the Father can use whatever means He chooses to draw us to Himself–preachers, causes, music, churches, billboards, etc. And this happens every day. We have a good friend who was authentically drawn to God via one of those old school Bible tracts. Don’t think for a second that God can’t use those! What we’re saying, as a caution, is to make sure you check yourself to see what you’re actually captivated by. At the end, it must be God Himself, for God’s sake alone (see Mt.7:21-23 for one of the scariest passages in the Bible). So many times we’re taken up with an experience or a person or an event or an author, and we may think we’re drawn to God, but in actuality, we’re only drawn to that creature or created thing–which is a far cry from the Creator, from being filled with the only One who has all authority.

Therefore, I have to wonder if John had this thought at least partially in mind when writing this passage–to be a sort of litmus test; for if we’re truly drawn to God, we will see the light which is Jesus, the exact imprint and reflection of the Father, and submit to Him. In the context of our verse above, this was around a time when many were leaving Jesus. And not just peripheral followers, but disciples were leaving Jesus. Some were just there for the miracles, some for free bread, and thankfully a few were drawn by God Himself and stayed.

Devil’s Laughingstock

So I was reading some Meister Eckhart yesterday morning. If you’re not familiar with him, he lived 1260-1328, and was a German theologian, philosopher, professor, and mystic. He became professor of theology at the University of Paris and took a leading pastoral and organizational role in the Dominican Order. I came across a section of a sermon that has been kind of haunting me, in a holy way. A Holy Spirit haunting, if you will. Here’s the section from his sermon entitled Nothing Above The Soul with Proverbs 31:27 as the text:

“I have said often that those who fast much, and watch much and do great things, but fail to correct their faults or improve their ways–which alone is true progress–deceive themselves and are the devil’s laughingstock. A man once had a hedgehog by which he got rich. He lived by the sea. When the hedgehog sensed a change of wind, he tapped his hide and turned his back to that direction. Then the man went to the sea and said to them [i.e., the people who lived there]: ‘What will you give me to show you how the wind is going to turn?’ And he sold them [the means of foretelling changes of] wind and got rich on it. Thus too a person may grow rich in virtue by discovering the point at which he is weakest and correcting it, and by turning his chief care to overcoming his weakness.”

I’ve heard it said that if you just eliminate one bad habit (be it a physical one or a habit of thought) per year, then you are growing at a very fine rate. The same goes for obtaining a good habit every year. I do believe we are designed to grow, to mature as human beings throughout our short time here. To stagnate and flounder in the same old habits does not ring of abundant life.

I hope this gives you something meaningful to ponder as it did for me!

Thought Choice

“Lonely Daffodil” by Gabriela Pallikan

What’s more, don’t let yourselves be squeezed into the shape dictated by the present age. Instead, be transformed by the renewing of you’re minds, so that you can work out what God’s will is, what is good, acceptable and complete. ~Romans 12:2 [NTE]

The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow or require our minds to dwell upon.”

This quote by Dallas Willard is one of my favorites of all time.

We can choose what we dwell on in our thought life. God would not have told us to “set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth” if it were not possible to do so. No mere human has the authority to dictate what I should think about. No entity of this world has the God-given right to command my direction of thoughts, let alone my allegiance. Rather, we are to trust in the Lord with all our heart, and lean not on our own understanding. We must in all our ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct our path (Proverbs 3:5-6). He will direct your neural pathways. He has every right and every good intention to do this.

Now God may use people, organizations, or even the news media, to bring your awareness to an issue, or to where He would like you to direct your thought, but just because something is making headlines does not automatically make it worthy of my attention.

Oh it is the magician’s trick, so often employed by the evil one, to draw your focus to one hand while the other is doing what he doesn’t want you to see.

I am convinced that the devil’s number one strategy is to keep us away from constant conversation and contemplation with God. For in spiritual warfare, just as in physical warfare, your enemy will always try to cut off your supply lines so that you run out of energy and can no longer put up a fight.

The thing is, our enemy can’t cut off our supply line–only distract us from connecting to it. You always have a choice of where to direct your thoughts and energy. Even if something is in your face everyday, you can still pray, though it may not be as easy as, say, when you’re sitting by a beautiful lake all alone.

Conformity to this age is to be wrapped up in the things that are temporal, to have all our thought oriented to that which is seen and temporal…If all our calculations, plans, ambitions are determined by what falls within life here, then we are children of this age.” says commentator John Murray on our verse Romans 12:2.

It can sometimes feel like that lonely daffodil up there–everyone around you might be doom and gloom, worrying constantly about getting sick or who’s in office, and you just try to continue to shine. And that gets lonely, but don’t give in and succumb to directing your precious focus where others try to steer you just because you think you should. Guard your immensely valuable attention that it is not given away, at great cost, to the magicians always selling something. Keep your focus where God would have it be–on Him. Seek God first, and He will direct your thoughts, which may or may not be what everybody else is screaming about.

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BONUS MATERIAL

As three of you know, I’m a huge Rambo fan. I really love what Sylvester Stallone did with the fourth installment in 2008. He researched all over the world for the greatest atrocities with the least amount of media coverage. This he found to be the genocide in Burma, or what is now called Myanmar. And he made his movie in order to bring awareness to that devastation. He did not simply go with what was most popular, or what everyone was talking about. He shed light on what was mostly hidden.

Verse 2 may be translated: “Do not let yourselves be shaped by what everyone else does, but rather let yourselves be transformed by a whole new way of thinking, so you can discern what conforms to God’s will, namely what is good, and pleasing, and perfect.” ~Paul Achtemeier

5 lbs. of Carrots

Do not be drunk with wine, which will ruin you, but be filled with the Spirit. ~Ephesians 5:18

I remember reading the above comic strip when I was about ten years old. Someone had bought several of the Garfield books for me, and this one in particular has always remained memorable for some reason. Perhaps it’s the vivid spiritual lesson that has drawn my mind back to this little strip again and again.

The more we fill ourselves with God, the less we want of anything else.

It’s a very wise diet.

I find that when my priority is to first ingest Christ, that there is automatically significantly less room for other much less meaningful thoughts and activities. Not only less room, but less desire. For example, this past week I’ve made a commitment to begin each day with 45 minutes of silent waiting upon, and listening to, God. I cannot adequately convey just how peacefully tone-setting this one simple non-negotiable practice has been for me. Another aspect of my “5 lbs. of carrots” is making sure to pray thoughtfully and specifically every day for about a dozen people close to me. Also writing down the three things I’m most thankful for. Making sure I eat these carrots first, or at least as soon as possible, I find that my perspective is shaped in a more appreciative, open, and clear-headed manner.

I really like how Matthew McConaughey said it in a podcast recently about the first thing you do in the morning:

“Check in with yourself before you check in with the world.”

Upon waking, check in with Jesus, with yourself, eat your 5 lbs. of carrots, whatever that is for you, and go to bed (hopefully after going over your day with God) giving so little room for anxious thoughts, cares of this life, and the worries of 2020, that you drift off quickly in heavenly peace.

Now I must confess that I’m not exactly sure of the spiritual significance of that third frame up there, other than maybe that’s how we treat God or holy messengers of divine wisdom.

Toxic Taxonomy

A couple of those “Tions” to shun, which I believe our adversary employs quite vigorously to throw us of course, are: classifications and speculations.

Today, we’ll discuss classifications. Or we might say categorizing. We can easily become entrenched in categorizing people, can’t we? When you take some time to critically think about this though, it’s rather ridiculous. We human beings are exquisitely complex creations. It hit me a couple of months ago how no one can possibly know 98.7% of the thoughts that go through my mind in the course of a single day, nor would you likely want to as they are so darn weird and awkward many of them. And it’s simply impossible to know any significant percentage of the memories and experiences I’ve accumulated in my forty-seven years and eight months.

I’ve always thought our culture conditions us to be judgmental and categorizing. With social media more than ever. Hey, here’s one sentence about one thing this person did/said, now start judging their entire life, GO! And we’re led to believe we can do this because we classify and categorize people so much that it then seems easy to know everything we need to know about them, right? I mean, we see somebody driving an old pickup truck with one bumper sticker and suddenly think we know half their life story.

Now there’s something in the meditation world called “Beginner’s Mind”. Have you heard of this? It’s quite lovely. It’s the idea of purposefully encountering everything and everyone you meet each day as if for the first time, because in reality, you are. For example, I saw my friend Jon on Labor Day. A week and a half later he stopped by my house. He was not the same person he was on Labor Day because he had experiences, learning, growth, and change since then. So I truly was encountering him as he was on that day for the very first time.

It is so good to be lovingly curious about who the person is in front of you right now. Think of the great gift this kind of presence can be for someone. Bringing no judgement of their past and no prediction for their future with you, only loving attentiveness to who they are right now this moment. This is most difficult of course with those closest to you, who you’ve known the longest, especially family. This is why we pray–for help doing that which we cannot do on our own. It also takes training, typically in the form of meditative prayer, which I believe God is more than happy to honor. I believe Jesus loves to heal and reverse our subconscious sinful tendencies, but first asks that we grant Him access.

One other thought my friend Jon brought up at the end of our walk: “What if I treated myself this way??

Good question.

One of the greatest gifts we can give or receive as human beings is listening without judgment.