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I am innocent, Lord, and I will see your face! When I awake, all I want is to see you as you are. Psalm 17:15 (CEV)

Adam and Eve tried to hide among the trees with a few fig leaves hastily positioned in vital places.

Moses ran into the wilderness and opted for tending sheep rather than being ruler of the most powerful nation of the time.

David made a few choices intended to clear his situation by murdering one of his own men.

Peter hid in the shadows and pretended he didn’t know his very best friend.

Judas hung himself.

What do all these people and countless others have in common? Their sin drove them away from God. Their failures caused them to despair of life itself. These kinds of actions continue to this very day.

Even people who claim to have no relationship with or interest in God struggle to find the peace and contentment that comes from a vital, passionate, personal relationship with God. Call it sin, poor choices of whatever you want. When you live apart from God, you live without peace because true peace and contentment can only be found in him.

Too often we see sin as choices and decisions that make God angry at us. While God can’t stand sin, his anger is towards the sin, not us. When we live in sin, rather than relationship with him he has no choice but to turn his back on us.

The Psalmist longs to see the face of God. He longs for the restored relationship that will allow the love of the Father to permeate to his very soul. It’s only this passionate relationship that can soothe the pain of our waywardness and stop the bleeding of the wound hidden deep inside all of us.

The Psalmist also knows that the only way to see the face of the Father is to be innocent of all sin. “Impossible” you may say, and you would be right. None of us have any hope of innocence before God regardless of how spiritual, religious, moral or pure we are. Innocence of our soul only comes through the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

Because of Jesus I echo the words of the Psalmist. I can’t wait to see your face my Father! You are all I want to see. The hope of seeing your face is all that keeps me going!

PRAYER: Father, I thank you for the innocence I have gained through your Son, Jesus Christ. Because of him I look forward to seeing you. Amen.

I am innocent, Lord! Won’t you listen as I pray and beg for help? I am honest! Please hear my prayer. Psalm 17:1 (CEV)

He sat across the table from me and apologized. He told me the reasons for doing what he did; that he had no intention of hurting me; that as soon as things improved he’d make it up to me; that he was truly sorry for the way things had worked out.

The human mind is an amazing thing. I sat and listened intently. I looked him in the eye, did all the things a good listener should do in a situation like this. But in spite of the sincerity in his voice and eyes, I remember thinking, “I’m so sorry too. I’m sorry because I don’t believe a word you are saying.”

Was this the ‘proper Christian attitude’? Maybe not. But over the previous several months I’d seen him hurt other people by his decisions. I’d heard him say one thing and do another; make promises that he’d later back out of; fly into rage when someone crossed him. The bottom line is that his actions didn’t match his words.

I wonder how often, during my times of prayer the Father looks on my words and asks a similar question. Barnes writes, “True prayer is that in which the lips “do” represent the real feelings of the soul. In hypocritical prayer the one is no proper representation of the other.”

On a simple humorous scale, I remember praying around the dinner table. The simple “God is great” prayer was taboo. My father would lead us in a ‘real prayer’ because ‘God didn’t listen to those little rote prayers where you say the same thing time after time.’ Yet to this day I can recite the prayer my dad would say because he said the same thing time after time.

When my lips pray for my enemy, do they reveal the real agony of my soul? That agony brought on by the wounds inflicted on me? Or do they simply say some religious jargon based on scriptures that admonish us to pray for our enemies.

When my lips pray for deliverance from some secret sin, some hidden addiction, does my heart echo that desire, or am I already planning my next episode?

When my lips pray for my brother in pain, sin or some other distress, do they portray true human agony over the situation or is my heart rejoicing over my own piety in lifting others to the heavenly throne.

Perhaps the reason we often see so few answers to our prayers is because our prayers not only don’t reflect the will of the Father, they aren’t the true feelings of our heart. The prayer of the psalmist was based on his own honesty, his own integrity before the throne. We have the privilege of going before the very throne of a Father who knows our every thought. God doesn’t ask us to be perfect in our prayers, he asks us to be honest with ourselves and him.

PRAYER: Father, all too often my prayers are ill thought out, repetitious and religious in nature. Sometimes they lack sincerity and honesty because of lack of thought or pride on my part. Empower me in my prayer life to be honest with you and with myself. Thank you that you will listen to my heartfelt pain and honesty. Amen.

Those who rush to other gods bring many troubles on themselves. I will not take part in their sacrifices; I will not worship their gods. Psalm 16:4 (GNT)

Several years ago I attended the same church as a State Trooper for the state I lived in at that time. This guy was huge, make no mistake about it. I’m guessing he was about 6’ 8” tall and close to 350 pounds. From the looks of him there wasn’t an inch of fat on him. He was all muscle. His facial features were deceiving. Tom (I’ll call him) was the kindest, most compassionate person I’d ever met. He had a heart for Jesus and a heart for people. That love of people was the driving force behind his career choice.

Tom worked in the children’s ministry with his wife. I never saw him get upset. Never saw any anger in his eyes. Never saw any personality traits that would match his stern expression…except once.

Tom and I were standing in a group having coffee after services. One person in the group made an innocent, off hand remark about how there was a speed trap out on the interstate on his way to church.

Tom looked him square in the eye and said, “That wasn’t a speed trap. Traps are for not intended for innocent people, only guilty ones. The innocent have nothing to worry about.”

There was a very noticeable pause in the group and discussion suddenly changed to the Huskers game the day before!

Tom’s point was well-taken. The innocent don’t need to worry about ‘being caught’. If you never lie, cheat or steal you will never be accused of being dishonest. If you never drink, you will never get drunk. If you never open yourself to the opportunity of an affair you will never be caught in infidelity. If you never look at pornographic images you will never have your mind contaminated by their poison.

The world is full of many gods (note the small ‘g’) that promise wealth, success and happiness. God’s that offer us status and power. Only one God promises us inner peace in the present and eternal life after death. That God (note the capital ‘G”) is the God of Genesis; the God of Creation; the Father of Jesus Christ.

When struggles attack ask yourself, is this a natural consequence of following a god of hopelessness or a test of your faithfulness. Only one God promises that we will never have to be ‘caught in the trap’ intended for the guilty.

PRAYER: Lord thank you for your promise of inner peace and eternal life. Forgive me for following the gods of this world. Empower me with your Spirit to follow after you. Amen.

I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” Psalm 16:2

I try to pride myself on how my yard looks. I like green grass, neatly trimmed shrubs and weed less flower gardens. It involves hours of work, but when I look out over the lawn a certain amount of pride sets in.

That’s one reason why I cringed as I was loading the fertilizer spreader one day in my garage. “Can I help you put fertilizer on today Daddy? I’ll be careful” I heard my six year-old say.

Instantaneously my mind thought of all sorts of reasons why this wouldn’t work. She was too short to walk and hold the spreader…well, no she wasn’t.

It was a big yard and a hard job…but I knew she’d only want to help for a little while and short attention spans in this case are your friend. Minutes, not hours. A hard lesson I learned long ago. A few minutes of inconvenience makes a world of difference in the life of a little one.

I knew the real reason of course. She wouldn’t walk straight. Some areas may be missed, some would get extra fertilizer. It may not look as green and as uniform as I wanted it.

So while I wanted to hear myself say, “Not today honey.” I heard myself say, “Of course sweetheart. I’ll help you.”

She stayed at it longer than I’d hoped. She missed some spots. She walked in wavy lines, not straight. She didn’t do it at all the way I would…and smiled all the way.

The modern translations of Psalm 16:1 don’t give us an entirely clear picture of what is being said according to some scholars. It may be better translated something like this: “All my work, all the things I have, all my striving is really worthless compared to what you can do.

We often take our work too seriously. Especially those of us in ministry circles. We want to protect our ministry. We point at the growth of our church, readership, book sales, salvations, baptisms and a whole list of other things.

Of course we’d never admit it, but we hold all these things out to the Lord as if to say, ‘Look what I’ve done for you! Look at the amazing things I’ve done in your name! See me!’

Our Heavenly Father smiles and says, nice job my child. The rows aren’t straight. You god too much fertilizer over here, you missed some opportunities over there, He doesn’t really say that of course, but compared to the work He can do our efforts are really pretty small and insignificant.

Do the best you can. Rely on the God of Heaven to strengthen you for the task ahead. Grow deep in your relationship with Jesus. But remember this; all that really matters in life is our walk with him. That doesn’t mean our work for him is meaningless or insignificant. We just need to remember who we are working for and why. When we see positive results, rejoice. But when we struggle in our walk, remember Psalm 16:1.

Our ‘work for the Lord’ may fall short of our expectations, but if we rely on him, it NEVER falls short of his expectations.

PRAYER: Lord God. I confess to you that I want to do great and mighty things for you. I confess this because I also realize that sometimes I put the effort ahead of the reason, I see myself as being more important than I should. Help me by your Spirit to strive for excellence, but rely on you. Amen.

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2 (NIV)

With our busy schedules these days my wife and I have decided to institute a new system for communication. We find ourselves almost like two ships passing in the night with differing work schedules, soccer practice, music lessons and church responsibilities. Hopefully this new system will draw us closer together. Here it is.

We’ve decided only to talk to each other once a day, except for a hasty, distracted ‘thank you’ at meal times. Most days talking will only take place in bed after the lights are out. That way if we fall asleep in the middle of conversation it won’t be a big deal. We’ll already be ‘in position’ so to speak. Also, rather than waste the precious time for communication on non-essentials, we will only use communication to ask each other for things. After all, that’s what’s really important, right? Just in case you think this sounds a little harsh, we are including the ‘Crisis Clause’. This little number allows us some extra time for communication during times of extreme stress. Of course, some days get long and so we also have an agreement that if we miss talking to each other for several days…or weeks, it’s understood that we still love each other and are passionately interested in each other.

I’m looking forward to this new system. It should make things much better between us.

Hopefully, by now, you are screaming, “NO WAIT! That will never work. You need to increase the level and depth of conversation if you want your relationship to grow stronger.” In fact, if you aren’t screaming that, if you are thinking of adopting my new communication system, I’m worried about you.

Those of us who are Christ-followers know the importance of prayer. However, to my own guilt, it’s the one thing that often gets overlooked in our daily walk. Perhaps it’s time to rethink how we look at prayer. As Max Lucado says in his book, ‘Come Thirsty’, “Think of prayers less as an activity for God and more as an awareness of God.”

One of the things I appreciate about family road trips is the amount of talking that takes place when you are ‘trapped’ in a vehicle for hours. It’s not an organized activity; it’s just what you do. Prayer should be like that. Sure there need to be those times when you get alone to be ‘intimate’ with the father, to talk about those things that are heavy on your heart, but sometimes the best conversations can be those one or two word comments as you walk the path of life.

Your Father is passionately in love with you. Even though he’s with you every step of the way, he looks forward to hearing from you. Talk with him throughout the day. It not only reminds him of your love for him, it reminds you of his continual presence with you. Like any proud parent he wants to hear about your day; the exciting things, the scary things; the things that puzzle you. Neglecting conversation with your Father will have the same effect as neglecting conversation with those you love here on earth. It will make you feel alone and unloved.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the gift of prayer. Thank you for loving me so much that you want to hear about every part of my day. Forgive me for the times I’ve ignored you. Help me to be constantly aware of your love and presence in my life. In Jesus name, Amen.

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April 2012
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