Blessing or test?

see notes for image source

see notes for image source

Compared with a few years ago, I would describe my current economic situation as less comfortable but a long way from destitute. Kind of like the Jews when God responded to their hunger pleas with quail and manna as recounted in Exodus 16.

Forty-five days after leaving Egypt finds the Jews on the edge of the Desert of Sin between the lush Elim and Mount Sinai. (Exodus 15: 27 - 16:1). Not very far into the desert, their grumbling begins.

“In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.” (Exodus 16:2, NIV)

Claiming to be near starvation, they whine about missing the ‘good old days’ in Egypt where they had all the food they wanted.

While the situation they claim seems dire, we readers are privy to a lot of the story behind their claims:

  • That they were slaves in Egypt – not so good (Exodus 1:11-14)
  • That everything God did to extract them from Egypt was still fresh on their minds, such as the 10 plagues and that rather dramatic Red Sea crossing that assured their escape and vanquished mighty Pharaoh and his army
  • That they were loaded with plunder (“mula”) given them by Egyptian families (Exodus 12:36)
  • That they left Egypt with all their livestock, flocks and herds (Exodus 12:38)
  • That God was visibly present to them in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13: 21-22)
  • That they just left the oasis Elim noted for its “12 springs and 70 palm trees” and were not likely very far along the thirst or starvation scale. (Exodus 15:27)

Knowing all of this, are their complaints so justified?

Notice a familiar Israelite behavior pattern. 1) God sets Israel up and they are happy and grateful to God for a while; 2) Israel gets comfortable and strays from God; 3) Something they deem as unfavorable happens; 4) Complaining begins; 5) God to the rescue; 6) Repeat step 1.

My view is that God carries out his plans in such a way that any apparent relationship between our pleas and his response is in no way triggered by us as already part of his unfolding program. That way, he is always causing and we are always receiving.

My relationship spectrum comprises mostly white, middle class Americans. I’ve observed that among those I know to be believers, people suffering through trial tend to lean more into God and speak more of him, attributing his hand to guiding their lives.  Believers enjoying well-being, on the other hand, may attribute their good fortune as blessing but too often credit themselves as having earned the privileges they enjoy while dismissing the misfortune of others to error, upbringing, poor decision-making or other controllable factors.

Again, this is how I observe the world that I include myself in.  Care to offer your own perspective?

Lately, I’ve wondered how much God is really, truly behind anyone’s material prosperity. So often prosperity is more problematic than helpful for followers of God.  Look again at the story of the rich young man’s encounter with Jesus. (Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10: 17-27).  Unwilling to part with his wealth, he instead parted ways with the Lord.

Was this man’s wealth a blessing from God or something else? Likewise with any of us.

Recall my “Truth Test” post last summer about a test author Jen Hatmaker applies to every truth claim: “If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.”

“If a sermon promises health and wealth to the faithful, it isn’t true, because that theology makes God an absolute monster who only blesses rich westerners and despises Christians everywhere else a sincere believer remains poor..’Theology is either true everywhere or it isn’t true anywhere,’” she reasoned.

What if prosperity, comfort and well-being are not blessings from God at all, but tests?

How much do we attribute our prosperity and well-being to God?  How much of our prosperity and well-being do we invest for His kingdom?  How do you think God would want us to answer these questions?

This as a test. Thoughts?

  1. Image source:
  2. Middle Class criteria







The Eye of our storms

Do you have a trial in your life that just goes on and on without any foreseeable end in sight?  Of perhaps the end is in sight but as it approaches, what’s next looks even scarier than now?

Maybe you have not faced such a situation nor can you envision one happening. Life is going good and you can’t see any reason why it won’t continue. Great.  Count your blessings and take the week off from Road Report.  Maybe bookmark this for later?


Trial is odd as the reality of it settles into your life.  It becomes so weirdly familiar that the prospect of getting beyond it is unsettling.  You see new setbacks ahead that aren’t even there and wonder if you will have the wherewithal to face them.  At least you know the nuances of THIS trial and have some adeptness at deflecting the various twists and turns that arise.

Times like these test our faith in God.  While we cling to belief, our grip seems feeble as doubts arise that rattle our resolve to trust the Lord. Often our vulnerabilities are also exposed, so we keep faltering.  Even though we repent and return to the Lord, we are so wearied by the ups and downs that we wonder how even God can continue to love us.

Right here is where staying in God’s word is essential to learn again and again that we are not alone, that others have negotiated similar perils and that God will see us through.

No shortage of craziness, trials, devastation and temptation in any of the Bible’s “story” books like Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Ruth, and first and second Samuel, Kings and Chronicles.*

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun,” wrote the sage author of Ecclesiastes (1:9, ESV).  Likewise wrote Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man…” (10 13a ESV)

In the midst of all that we find scary, unsettling and diminishing in life, God is calmly and deliberately at work in our lives, all the time urging that we cling to him, believe in him and take him at his word.

Recall one of the Bible’s grandest of all stories, Israel’s exodus from slavery in Egypt. Four hundred years earlier, Jacob’s family fled there to escape famine in their Canaan homeland. When the famine was averted, they forgot to return home, overstaying their welcome. Settling into a foreign land among people who disdained their beliefs and traditions, trouble came when Pharaoh was so threatened by their growing numbers that he forced them into slave labor for his kingdom.

God called the man Moses to lead the Jews return to Canaan, the land promised to Abraham 650 years earlier.  What happens next is typically God, NOT the straightest line between two points.  Ten plaques later, Pharaoh finally kicked the Jews out of Egypt.

For the next 1900 or so years of history until Jesus’ birth, the Jews would gratefully cooperate with their multi-miraculous God only periodically.  Are we post-Christ believers any better?

Seeing God’s hand weaving through this and other Bible stories SHOULD give us hope – if not for HOW God unfolds our stories and his, certainly THAT he is always engaged.

While our impatience, anxiety, whining and doubt doesn’t phase God in the least, he is nonetheless attentive to us and even invites, encourages that we bring our desires to him. While we are frantic, he is calm, the eye of our storms.

I only wished I lived what I write.  Convicted about this recently, I developed the “Daily Living Guide” below that I am carrying around and referring to from time to time.  Try it and let me know if it blesses you.

The idea is to move closer to our Lord, the eye of our storms…where he is calm in spite of how we are.


A Guide for Daily Living


The 17 story/history books of the Bible are: 1. Genesis; 2. Exodus; 3. Leviticus; 4. Numbers; 5. Deuteronomy; 6. Joshua; 7. Judges; 8. Ruth; 9. 1st Samuel; 10. 2nd Samuel; 11. 1st Kings; 12. 2nd Kings; 13. 1st Chronicles; 14. 2nd Chronicles; 15. Ezra; 16. Nehemiah; 17. Esther.




Missteps in faith

Image source: see notes

I’m following a program created by career coach Peggy McKee, CEO of “Career Confidential” that claims to open up the “hidden job market.”  McKee contends that hiring managers have four universal concerns that applicants have to address:

  1. Do you understand the job?
  2. Can you do the job?
  3. Will you do the job?
  4. Do you pose a risk to their job if I they hire you?

While the program offers strategies to address each concern, I suspect concern #4 poses the most challenge for me.  My work history probably causes hiring managers to break into a cold sweat.

Four positions in eight years, depending on what jobs I include.  Sometimes I ask myself, “Since none of them was what I was looking for, why did I risk trying any of them?”

No hiring manager will ever hear me say I believed each was right at the time. I’ve written here in Road Report that I started this career-search by giving it over to the Lord.  While I have my carefully worded “ideal job” profile and plan in one hand, I consider what comes along as either sovereignly allowed or caused by the Lord.

While my resume looks choppy at first glance, the story behind the resume is much different – how the Lord provides and how he is shaping me through all of this.

Where I lack in tangible outcomes, I pray is manifested elsewhere, like character development and fruits of the Spirit. (see Galatians 5: 22-23).

I take my cues from the Bible, Godly advisers, prayer and circumstances.  Notice how Bible people are revered when they obey and follow God?  How much is written in Scripture about anyone’s career, for that matter, about Jesus’ profession?

Consider the Jewish leader Ezra who was commissioned by King Cyrus of Persia to lead an expedition of exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and city.  The story notes his decision to not request an armed escort for the long journey back.

I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him…so we fasted and petitioned our God about this and he answered our prayer.” (Ezra 8: 22-23)

No mention of any voice from God or a burning bush or pillar of fire in the sky nor were any walking sticks turned into serpents and back again. “Because I was ashamed….”  is Ezra’s only explanation.

Is Ezra’s stance to trust in God reason enough to risk the safety of 1,800 men and their families and all the valuable cargo they were carrying?

We know they arrived safely in Jerusalem and completed the rebuilding effort.  Any perils faced during the journey from Babylon are not mentioned but plenty of trouble was faced during the actual rebuilding efforts as recounted in the book of Nehemiah. What is clear in Ezra’s and other stories in Scripture is that God provides for and reveres people who demonstrate the faith they profess in him by their actions and how they live.

Regardless of how my resume looks to those who are only glancing at it but not at me, I long for my story to be most about how I stepped into faith, trusted in God and took him at his word.

Even if my steps “look” more like missteps.



Image source site:

Peggy McKee’s Career Confidential:







Whine Connoisseur



Now and then when my mom is away for a short trip or even a long day, my wife and I “sit” her Cockapoo, Molly.

Molly is a sweet, affectionate little dog with loads of personality, and a handful of quirks that are uniquely her such as how she greets people by retrieving a battered stuffed dog called Cliffy.  Very red and half the size of her, Molly scoots around with Cliffy in her mouth, tail wagging enthusiastically.

Mom unabashedly spoils Molly with lots of attention, speaking to her with a special “doggy voice,” and giving  treats for good behavior or just because. Mom makes clear that we are to also spoil Molly when she is our guest.  While we do our best of treat Molly special, we know we don’t hold a candle to mom.  In mom’s home and with mom, Molly is truly happy and in her element.

Given how well cared for Molly is, one of her not-so endearing quirks is somewhat surprising – whining. Not a cute little squeak but a guttural, moany-groany “whoa-is-me-sound.” When she really gets going, all within earshot just want her to stop.

Sometimes she is appeasable such as when we refill her food dish, let her out to pee or give her a little attention.  Otherwise, we may put her in her kennel to “think about it a while” or try to tolerate listening until she stops.

Her whining notwithstanding, our affection towards Molly far outweighs the negativity of her whining.  We are fond of Molly and will always welcome her over when mom has need for us to “Molly-sit.”

Frankly, I only mention Molly’s whining due to a rather embarrassing revelation that occurred to me during a recent week of Molly sitting – How God could certainly view my worry and irritableness when circumstances in life are not going the way I prefer as a form of whining.

When I thought about it some more, I had a creepy sense about how much my whining must get under God’s skin at times, especially considering all he has done for me. At times, I’m sure God considers me a “whine connoisseur.”

No question in the Bible how God feels about whining. During Israel’s desert wandering years, their complaining against God triggered his wrath several times (See Numbers 11:1; 14:27; 21: 4-6)

Paul makes clear believers are not to be anxious about anything. Rather, we are to put away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and learn to be content in every situation. (Philippians 2:14; 4:6,11b; Ephesians 4: 31-32).  Proverbs and James warns that a person’s discontent with God leads to his/her own ruin (Proverbs 17:22; 19:3; James 5:9)

No person set a better example than Jesus for “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth;” (Isaiah 53:7, ESV; Also see Mark 14:61)

Was Jesus able to maintain his composure because he lacked the sin nature that infects the rest of us?

As prolifically as the Bible warns and comes against whining and grumbling, it also makes clear that those who belong to God are content, grateful, thankful and joyful.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:22)

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. (Psalm 16:9)

I am grateful for how God used little Molly’s whining to teach me a timely lesson.  (Help me, dear Lord to never again be seen as a whine connoisseur in your eyes!)



Countering Connective Isolation

Testing while walking can be hazardous to your safey

Texting while walking can be hazardous to your safety

I’m “between jobs” again so I have ramped up my connectivity.  Job searching 2016 is primarily an online endeavor. I spend hours and hours online searching and connecting, making appointments, applying, following up… Then repeat, repeat, repeat.

Just a few hours daily of doing all that  pretty much taps me out.  Unfortunately, most engagement is one-way so while it seems “connective” in nature, it’s actually pretty isolating.

My wife is my main foil to counter connective isolation.  When she gets home from work, I disconnect to engage with her.  Often we’ll go for a “power-walk.” When we are out walking, we leave our electronic devices at home but most people we see when we’re out are plugged in. Many don’t even return our greeting to them.

Just in the last week, I had to stop while turning my car onto a street on two different occasions for oblivious joggers donning earplugs who barrelled into crosswalks without pausing or looking for traffic. In both cases, the cars behind me narrowly avoided rear-ending me.

While I acknowledge that connectivity has made the world seem smaller by allowing us to communicate instantaneously across vast distances and to listen to favorite entertainment while on the move, it’s not the same as being present, in-person, face-to-face.

Take God for example.  Yes, God.  If anyone can circumvent being there physically present, it’s God.

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar….Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.” (Psalm 139:2,3

Even so, he chose physical proximity by creating, well, creation.  And then us, humans.

Ever wonder why?  Wasn’t he already relational?  This is God speaking, right?

“Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.” (Genesis 1:26a, underlines mine)  Then as soon as man was created, looks like God engaged with him in bodily form.  (see Genesis 3:8).

Our inherently relational God made humanity likewise.  Look at man’s very first assignment – to name all the animals in the garden.  First learning?  That unlike all the other animals, man lacked at a mate like himself.  So God made a “suitable helper,” woman. (Genesis 2:20)

Based on Adam’s praise report, God pulled out the stops designing woman  (Genesis 2:23).  Verse 24 makes clear that human relating really began in earnest at this moment, connectivity that was “electric” but in no way electronic.

Then a fourth player slithers in to ruin the bliss. (Genesis 3:1)  We know what happened next – sin, curses, banishment from the garden, and poof!  No more face to faces with God.  (Genesis 3: 14-19).

Fortunately, God’s had a plan to re-engage man again in bodily form, code named “Jesus.”  But Jesus came and went, right?  Aren’t we just as disconnected from God as ever?  What’s different than Israeli period?

Answer – the Holy Spirit who indwells believers – someone the Israelites didn’t have, at least in the same way.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Romans 8:9, ESV, underline mine)

The measure of our alignment with God is giving ourselves over to the Spirit within who in turn enables and empowers us in the ways of God.  Our “fruit” indicates connectivity having taken hold.

You will recognize them by their fruits.” (Jesus, Matthew 7: 16a)

And what are those fruits?  “, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23)  Note the relational nature of the fruits.

So God brings us back full circle from the first days to the present ones.  The most powerful and enduring connectivity is still one-on-one.  “Nothing new under the sun.”  Who said that?

To counter connective isolation, disconnect then re-engage face-to-face. Try it.


  1. Caution texters:






Morning Watch

Bamboo windchime

Bamboo windchime

5:30 a.m.  Thumbing through my journal…  What to write?

Early September. Still dark outside, I opened a window and hear but don’t see a soft drizzle of rain. Swiveling my chair, I peer through the window that frames a bamboo windchime attached just outside, dangling under our eave. The morning softness settles into my being.

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive  to my cry for mercy. (Psalm 130:  1-2, NIV)

A soft breeze filtering into the room through the screen is warm, 75 degrees or so?  As the wind catches the bamboo chime, its “glockety, glock, glockety, glock” sound layers into the mood.  I breathe in the musky smell of fresh rain.

As the dawn light leaks into the dark outside, the sound of soft rain drizzling layers a rising peacefulness in me.  Here is where the Lord meets me.

I know God likes these still moments and is always here waiting when I manage to protect these appointed times, keeping the distractions at bay… to simply be solitary, quiet, still, to wait on Him, rest in him, listen with my heart for his still, small voice. (see 1 Kings 19: 11-13)

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. (Psalm 130: 5-6, NIV)

“More than watchmen wait, morning that watchmen wait…” The words have a “windchimey” cadence to them like the rhythm of repeating the phrase flattens and smooths any roughness nearby that would wrangle for attention.

I settle into the wait, gradually attentive to the sounds of silence and of my anticipation descending to a held breath just before the Lord himself slips into the space reserved just for him.

In these morning moments of the Lord and me are some prominent company down through the ages.

David: “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5:3, NIV)

Samuel’s parents, Elkanah and Hannah: :Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord…” (1 Samuel 1: 19a, NIV)

Moses: “Moses rose up early in the morning and went up to Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and he took two stone tablets in his hand.” (Exodus 34:4, NASB)

Jesus: “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” (Mark 1:35, NLT)

Morning seems to hold a special anointing in Scriptures for God to bring a blessing to those he loves who seek him.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. (Psalm 148:8, NIV)

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. (Lamentations 3: 22-23, NLT)

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5, NIV)

Something about mornings and the Lord… perhaps he had something special in mind when he created them?

God called the light day, and the darkness He called night And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Genesis 1:5, NASB)

(God speaking to Job:) “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, And caused the dawn to know its place, (Job 38:12, NASB)

Apparently, Jesus shared his Father’s fondness for the morning, enough to claim it as one of his special titles.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” (Revelations 22:16, NIV)

Morning watch – around the breaking of dawn – be still, watch, wait, meditate and listen for the Lord’s next words.



All italics and bold added by me




Labor Days Disconnected

see notes for image source

see notes for image source

Because labor days are disconnected, few of us have ever experienced a connected workplace as God originally designed and intended. A connected workplace is as designed by God in the very first book and chapter of the Bible.  Interesting how the first appearance of the word “work” is when God rested from “all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:3)  Hint, hint?

That word “work” surfaces next when God delegates to man responsibility for the garden in Genesis 2:15. What the NIV renders “to work it and take care of it,” other translations chose “to cultivate it and keep it” (NASB) or “to tend and keep it.” (NKJV)

God created this awesome garden to be man’s workplace to cultivate and keep.  Following God’s one, simple workplace rule, to eat from every tree but one, assured abundant harvests to sustain man and creation and honor God.

Doesn’t sound much like work, right? That’s because work “disconnected” from God’s “Eden design” thanks to man’s first act of workplace insubordination that got him banned from the garden.  Man’s new destiny was to build his own gardens where work became toil and yields not so readily abundant.  Whether God is honored in workplaces depends on an invitation by someone there even though no production is possible without God allowing or causing it.

I am presently searching for work so reviewing position postings and talking to hiring managers is my snapshot of workplaces. If workplace Eden could be likened to a concert that harmoniously blended the natures of God, man and garden to produce a bountiful harvest, today’s workplaces are more like contests where the wants of workplace and man compete while God is noticeably absent.

Bounty is not assured and even when abundance happens, the risk of someone coming along to figure out how to siphon some or all of it away is ever present.  Our nice word for that is  “competition.”

Since Eden, the horrific slide of workplaces from concert to contest became so prevalent as to seem irreversible had not Jesus arrived to reveal that God’s ideal still applies.  Furthermore, the Holy Spirit offers to empower resolved believers to redeem their workplaces.

Sadly, evidence of that happening is not apparent even in supposed Christian businesses or with Christian hiring managers. From posting to posting and company to company, qualifying buzzwords are hauntingly similar:

Fast-paced, Demanding, Willing to work always, travel and relocate, Multi-tasking, Juggling projects, Deadline-driven, Self-starting and my personal favorite, Include salary requirements.

Exaggerating slightly, a job including all those “features” might look like “low person on the totem pole expected to be fully competent on day 2 without any training, cooperation or support from leaders or colleagues while the workplace feels more like an under-resourced productivity treadmill where employees slave to meet quotas and increase profits in exchange for long hours, low pay and zero flexibility.

Having worked in over 20 companies, I’ve found that most workplaces are not as onerous as their postings suggest and “real-deal” Christian managers can have a profound impact on their workplaces. The best news of all is we matter to God so workplace redemption is still possible because Godly wisdom has a way of establishing footholds in the most unlikely places,. Check out best practices in companies recognized by their employees as great places to work.

  1. Crain’s Detroit Business Coolest Places to Work, 2016:
  2. Detroit Free Press Top 13 places to work, 2015:

No matter how dark workplaces get, know that God has the final word in his  universe (see John 16:33).



Image source site: Image source site:

Just for fun…..

  1. Key openings difficult to fill:
  2. Avoid these “danger words” in employment listings:
  3. Listings buzzwords – what they really mean….

A Cherished Ritual

See notes for image source

See notes for image source

A cherished ritual my wife and I enjoy is praying together before bedtime.

Years ago, we latched onto alternating reading aloud from “Our Daily Bread,” a daily devotional published by RBC Ministries. After one of us reads the scripture and reading, I close with prayer.

My prayer varies. Most often, I reflect on the verse and/or reading, tying into what’s going on in our lives. (How often the readings speak directly into our lives is truly of God!) Then I shift to praying to engage with the Lord and for situations and people.

We always pray for our children, including our son-in-law and a child we support through Compassion International.  Other focuses of prayer include our extended families, our church staff, leaders and their families and people and situations brought to our attention one way or another.

Praying for specific needs or giving thanks for blessings are easier because we can hone in on what we know.  However, these also present risk of us being overly prescriptive by providing guidance to God or specifying specific outcomes for answered prayer.

Best to let God be God and remember that God’s ways are not ours. His approach, timing and “results” almost never play out as we direct in our prayer.  God is good and can be trusted with everything we bring in prayer to Him for our good and His glory.

More challenging is praying generally for people “just because.” For those we know to be believers, we often pray that they grow in their relationship with the Lord.  For unbelievers or whose faith we have no idea about, we pray for their eventual acceptance of God’s invitation of salvation through Christ.

Notice our bias?  Christ is always the best answer for every person and situation.

Every Saturday, I meet for prayer with a few guys at church.   Recently, we talked about themes in prayers of the apostle Paul in his letters to the Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians.

EPHESIANS 1: 15-17 –  “ I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better…that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…(NIV-2011)

PHILIPPIANS 1: 9-10 – “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (NIV-2011)

COLOSSIANS 1: 9b-13 – “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, “ (NIV-2011)

Some key words in these prayers are: Grace – Discernment – Knowledge – Understanding

  • Grace – undeserved merit conferred to believers through Christ
  • Discernment – enlightenment to sort good from bad and best from less than best
  • Knowledge – God-infused wisdom about anything and everything
  • Understanding – knowing how to apply knowledge to every situation

Here’s a brief prayer including all these words: To grow in the grace and knowledge and understanding of God that the Holy Spirit gives, in order to discern what is best through Jesus Christ.

No need to imagine realizing all those benefits for every situation that life throws our way because that’s exactly what God offers to all believers through faith in Jesus Christ.  How? Through prayer!

“We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves (but that viewpoint is) not found in the New Testament,” wrote Oswald Chambers. “ (Rather,) the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.  Prayer is the way the life of God is nourished.”

So we pray to nourish life with God whereupon He returns spiritual enlightened insight for our day to day lives.  Amazing, right?

We must really matter to God.



  1. Image source site:
  2. Our Daily Bread:
  3. Chambers quote from “My Utmost for His Highest” for August 28 (









A Treasure Beyond Measure 2

magic-wand(Originally published July 9, 2013)

Submitting myself to the Lord, giving over control to Him has always been a constant struggle for me.  A few years ago, I came across an intriguing way of looking at this in the book “The Steward Leader, ” by R. Scott Rodin.

Explained Rodin, the kingdom of God has come in the work of Christ that should in turn be evidenced in the lives of believers. Ideally, believers wholeheartedly agree that all creation belongs to God.  When our lives reflect this, “the world around us is given a glimpse of the fact that all things are indeed in subjection to Christ.” (pg 51)

But we have this struggle, this tension. Despite our desire to be totally and solely committed to Jesus Christ and to give everything to him, we hold back parts of our lives from God.  As we do, we build a second kingdom.

He shared about a message he offered in which he used a wooden box to hide what he claimed to be a treasure beyond all imaginable value.  He said, “in that box was the one item that kings and presidents go to war over, that wealthy and powerful people spend their entire lives pursuing, and that every person in church that morning would give everything they owned to possess, if even for just a moment.”

He turned his back to the congregation, opened the box and revealed the highly coveted item–a magician’s wand.

“But this was no ordinary wand.  This one magical device had the power to give to its bearer complete control over any and every area of his/her life.  With it a person could control health and finances, manipulate the stock market, change the outcome of sporting events and determine the weather.  The bearer could alter the behavior of others, smite his or her enemies, even the score for all the injustices in life and make things right where he or she has been wronged.  The one who used the wand could get a better job, improve the behavior of his or her spouse and kids, buy a bigger house and take a vacation anywhere in the world,” Rodin explained.

“The wand represented the control we so long to have over our life.  It is the desire for power, for the ability to shape things so they come out our way, to be the lord of our lives and the people and things that comprise it.  We believe that if we just has more control, our life would be better, we could make things come out the way we want and guide our own destiny,” he added.

Do you see where he is going with this idea of second-kingdom building?

“It is less about our stuff than about our hearts, but it is about our stuff as well.  It is the struggle between God’s kingdom and a counterfeit earthly kingdom we want to label as “ours.”  It is ultimately about lordship.” (pg 53)

Think about that for a moment – a magic wand that could do anything you could imagine.  I had no problem coming up with things I would use the wand for to cause life to happen my way.

But here’s what Jesus challenges we do instead of waving a wand – to pray and hand over our desire for control to God.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6-7, NLT)

Notice how Jesus’ challenge does something to the desires relinquished to God?  Instead of worrying about desires, they become a form of prayer.  Instead of desires burdening us, we are thankful for them.  Instead of satisfying desires, we receive a peace that exceeds anything we can understand that will also guard our hearts and minds.

Sounds pretty awesome even if the formula seems odd, right? God’s answer is to trust him to not only make the math work but to be with us in the midst of it.

“…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5: 3-4)






No shortcuts

No-ShortcutDuring vacation, I resolved to carry some of that relaxed, vacation-induced mode into our “life as usual”  back home.  But the frenetic pace was waiting and I didn’t seem to miss a beat jumping right back into it.

Despite good intentions, I so often fail to carry through on even the easiest actions to move forward. As my slippage occurs to me, anxiety creeps in and with it a foothold for “you know who” to get between me and the Lord.

Having good company in frustration and brokenness shouldn’t be comforting but St. Paul’s transparency regarding his own deficiencies offers some context and direction.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15, ESV)

A few sentences later, Paul answers his own “Why?” question with, no surprise, “Jesus Christ.”

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 24-25a, ESV).

Jesus Christ is the answer.  Ever heard that one before?

Several years later, Paul’s letter to the Philippians reflects a man whose experiences and especially his trials shapes how he learned to live “through Jesus Christ.” Suggests Paul, the disposition of such a person might look something like this:

1)  A gentle demeanor

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:4-5, NIV-2011)

Gentle, reserved, cautious to criticize.  Paul notes that such a person is given to rejoicing in the Lord.  Imagine that?

2)  Calm in the midst of tribulation

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV-2011)

If the remedy for anxiety is prayer, makes sense that having an anxious state indicates insufficient prayer grounding. Also notice the “with thankfulness” qualifier Paul adds.

3)  Drawing from lessons learned while also managing to uncover legitimate “silver linings” in even the worst situations.  

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9, NIV-2011)

Even if troubles seem to continue with no end in sight, peacefulness is evidence of God’s presence.  Put another way, if you wonder if God is near in times of trouble, look for peaceful believers in the vicinity.

4)  Steady as life’s storms rage

… for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11b-13, NIV-2011)

Here Paul sites his own experiences as platforms for learning how to be content through strength given by God in various circumstances he encountered.

Learned over time – Through trials – No shortcuts.

Paul knew from the onset he would suffer much for the Lord’s name (see Acts 9:16) so we can all be assured that trials will come our way as well.  When they do, God intends we bring those trials to him – and keep doing so.

When we do, God’s “transcending peace” guards our hearts and minds while the “God of peace” is with us.  Sounds renewing, doesn’t it?