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In the same way you younger people must submit yourselves to your elders. And all of you must put on the apron of humility, to serve one another; for the scripture says, God resists the proud, but shows favor to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5 (GNT)

The story went largely unnoticed. A little boy disappears and for two years no one seemed to notice he was gone. No school inquiries. No social service visits. No neighbors or friends wondering aloud what happened to ‘Johnny’. Not even a mention from the sister. Johnny’s body was discovered two years later.

Horrendous! Unthinkable! To be sure. But, although this is an extreme case, similar things happen all the time. They don’t find these bodies though because they are still up and walking around. They don’t see the wounds because skin still covers them.

‘They’ are the single girl that’s the topic of discussion at the office water cooler. You know the one. She’s the one who’s pregnant…again. No one knows who the father is to this child.  Although she is friendly and polite, she hears the whispers. She feels the glares. Wounded and bleeding on the inside, she goes about her tasks, seemingly oblivious to the pain.

‘They’ are the kids on the street corner. You know the ones. Skateboards in hand and jeans at their ankles, they seem unaffected by your stares and unresponsive to your opinion of their dress and their leisure activities.

‘They’ turn up everywhere. They are in every crowd, yet all alone. They are looking for something to hold onto. Something within themselves that tells them they are okay, that reminds them they are worth being loved. They’ve shunned the religious rules and regulations. They’ve found no peace there, no acceptance, no understanding.

For many, too many, they never find it. Never find that someone who assures them that in spite of the baggage they are okay; that regardless of the poor choices they make there is someone who loves them enough to die for them. No judgment. No pre-requisites. No expiration date.

The Apostle Peter remembers the day he felt like that. The day he’d failed miserably and left his best friend alone to die. He remembers, just hours before Jesus’ death the apron he wore to wash Peter’s feet.

Now, he asks us. Will you wear the apron? Will you show others the great love Jesus’ has for you by wearing the apron to serve, accept and love those who others see right through? They are alone and unnoticed; wounded and afraid; ashamed and embarrassed. They are the ones Jesus sent us to find.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you sought me out when I was unlovely. You accepted me when I rejected you. You forgave me when I willfully rebelled against you. Empower me with your Spirit to show others the same humble spirit you showed to me. Help me to wear the apron of humility around those who, while in the crowd, feel completely alone. Amen.

We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 1 John 5:20 (NIV)

Take a moment to sit back and contemplate what this means: God loves you.

Before you think I’ve totally lost it, take some more time and ponder what this really means.

If you believe God to be Jehovah God, the creator/sustainer of the universe, the one who put all this together, every seen and unseen thing around us. If you believe this God to be the one who steers the hurricanes, rattles the earth during an earthquake, and directs all of nature in its course. Remember. God loves you.

It’s really too huge to wrap your mind around it in some ways. I am so insignificant. My influence on this world will be a in a tiny little corner of the world and for only a few years when compared to eternity. I’m nothing more than a speck on the timeline of eternity! Yet God loves me!

The phrase translated, “And we are in him’ eludes us if we aren’t careful. ‘We are in him.’ To be in him describes the most intimate of relationships. We’ve cheapened that word intimacy to refer to a physical, sexual encounter but it’s so much more than that.

Intimacy speaks of those relationships where we know exactly what the other is thinking. We know their next move; we anticipate correctly their response to a question, a joke, a life event. We laugh with them; we cry with them…we laugh at our crying over silly movies!

How can I, a mere speck, know God so well that I know his thoughts intimately? There is only one way this miracle could happen happen. He had to desire me, long before I could desire him. He had to want to know me so well that he was willing to go to any length to reach me.

That’s where Jesus comes in. A personal, deepening relationship with Jesus Christ allows us to join together in a most intimate of relationships. Jehovah God WANTS to love me. He WANTS to know me. He WANTS to reveal himself to me through his Spirit, nature and his Word. But it all starts with Jesus.

Perhaps I haven’t told you anything new today. You already knew all this? Then take some time to remind yourself of his love and to remind him how thankful you are.

On the other hand, perhaps you are enslaved by fear of the future, frustrations of the present or shadows of your past. For you, ask him to reveal himself through his son Jesus. Jehovah God has been looking for an opportunity to show you his love.

PRAYER: Father, I get busy with my writing. I get busy with family, church, my career and all the good things in life. But sometimes I get so caught up in the good I miss the excellent. Thank you for loving me passionately. Empower me through your Spirit, because of Jesus, to understand you more. Amen.

But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Deuteronomy 7:8 (NIV)

There is nothing more secure than the personal prisons we can find ourselves locked into.

The prison of loneliness can keep us trapped even when dwelling in the midst of close family and friends who are completely unaware of the battle within us.

The unrelenting handcuffs of addiction keep us shackled to feelings of guilt and shame. Guilt of our own doing fueled by the disapproving glances of those who spend more time gazing at specks in the eyes of others while ignoring the planks in their own eyes. Shame because we know better but we can’t help ourselves out of the mix.

We dwell in the solitary confinement of broken relationships. On the one hand we want desperately to get out. On the other hand fear of the outcome and not knowing how we could do life any differently keep us from reaching for the keys that enable us to see ourselves as the gifted talented people we are.

There are so many other prisons that keep us enslaved. Some, like finances/debt, handicapping conditions, and health issues are badges we wear that others identify us by even though we wish we could shed them.

Physical shackles are hard to endure, but they are no match for the emotional/relational wounds of the soul that handcuff us on a daily basis. These are the feelings that are hidden from others yet still define who we are and how we react to the problems of life.

Even though we try many different things to try to relieve the pain or at least dull its effects, nothing seems to help. Frustration and despair become strange bedfellows to failure and defeat. We ask ourselves, isn’t there someone who sees my plight? Is there anyone who understands me and loves me for who I am, bruises and all?

The answer is a resounding YES! The Creator God of the universe loves you. He’s not the god you may have learned about in religion. He’s not the judgmental, angry, accusing god at the other end of a pointing finger of accusation. He’s promised to love you. Not because of anything you’ve done. In fact, He loves you inspire of what you have done. He requires nothing in return. He simply wants to destroy the walls of the prison you find yourself in, destroy the chains, and release the shackles.

Regardless of what the voices in your mind tell you, you are loved. He proved that by sending Jesus to die for you, to redeem you from prison. Accept his love. Accept his forgiveness. Live free! Pray this prayer and begin your life of freedom.

PRAYER: Thank you God for loving me so much. I’m lonely, defeated and full of shame and guilt. Forgive me for the sin, anger, hate and hurt I hold so tightly too. Fill me with your Spirit of love and freedom so I can be all you want me to be. Amen.

Though they plot evil against you and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed. Psalm 21:11 (NIV)

Have you ever gone through one of those periods where nothing you do seems to go right? I’m not talking about the economy, health issues, and the world-wide instability of natural disasters. I’m talking about those personal issues that keep you awake at night or follow you through the day, leaving you with a knot in your stomach. It seems like every day you are under attack in one or more areas.

Perhaps you are in one of those periods right now. You are in a hard relationship and it seems like nothing you do is helping to bring your spouse or significant other back into the loving relationship you once had.

It could be with your children. You’ve raised them the best you could. You’ve worked hard to give them everything they need (and maybe a few things they didn’t need), yet they still are growing away from you, away from God and away from the lifestyle you worked so diligently to instill in them.

Workplace relationships can be a breeding ground for conflict as well. Economic hardship, differing opinions on things, over zealous new employees, job security and

‘inappropriate friendships’ are just a few of the obstacles you can face at the workplace. You may be able to add to that list.

The hardest attacks we endure are the personal ones. Sometimes they are unintentional, other times they may not be. It doesn’t really matter whether they are intentional or not though because the stress they cause is the same; the battle for your soul is no different.

When we feel under attack the first question we ask ourselves is usually ‘Why?’ Why did he/she leave me? Why did my son/daughter do that? Why does my co-worker treat me like that? What did I do wrong?

Self-reflection can take us one of three ways. We blame others; we blame ourselves; or we blame God. The critical thing for us to remember is that all conflict comes from the great enemy, Satan. I’m not in anyway inferring that your co-worker, child or spouse is Satan in disguise! (You don’t want to go there!) However he is the ultimate source of all conflict either on the outside or within your soul. His desire is to pull you away from God and to keep you entrapped in a mindset of defeat, guilt and worry.

Here’s the good news. When you are operating within the will of God, nothing you do will fail. That may seem like prosperity gospel, but it’s not. I didn’t say everything will go well; the sky will always be blue and live will be grand. But God’s plan for you can never be thwarted by the enemy’s plans. When God is in something he promises that his work will be completed. Nothing can change that.

So, when you come under attack for something you have done, ask yourself this question: “Did I consult with God and follow his direction before acting?” It is imperative that all of our relationships be bathed in prayer so that his wisdom can work fully through us.

There are times though when you have prayed, studied and opened your soul to God and the struggle still rages on. It’s during these times we need to ask another question: “Father, what are you trying to teach me in this?”

We often look at struggles or conflict as failure when in reality its God’s way of teaching us something. I used to coach youth basketball. I would tell my team each year that I’ve never coached a team that lost a game. Of course, they’d look at me a little funny because they knew some of my teams had ‘come up short on the score.’ Then I would tell them, “if you learn something from a game where you came in second, you’ve never lost because winning is about learning, not coming in first.”

Make your Heavenly Father the basis for all your relationships. Remember that even when you are following him closely, struggles will come at the hands of the enemy. Ask your loving Father to help you learn from each conflict.

PRAYER: Father God, I’m tired of the struggles I face with other people. I confess that often the conflict in my life is because I’ve gone on ahead of you. Help me to follow your wisdom in relationships and learn from you when conflict comes. Amen.

The king rejoices in your strength, Lord. How great is his joy in the victories you give! Psalm 21:1 (NIV)

Effective leadership is leadership that acknowledges their success is the result of God’s power and strength and not their own.

As I write this post we are in the midst of Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day was established in 1868 to remember those who had fallen in one of the darkest times ofUShistory, the Civil War. During this time brothers fought against brothers; fathers against sons.

The meaning of this day has lost its impact as we’ve focused more on the beginning of summer, trips to the cabin, picnics and other celebrations. But let us not forget those who died so that we could celebrate freedom in a variety of ways.

Another aspect of our freedom that has become lost over the years is that many of the movements and battles we have fought over the years had moral implications. We went to war not because we enjoyed the fight, but we saw a need to protect the freedom of people groups on our home soil or abroad. Regardless of your political views, this fact can not be denied.

The foundation of theUSAwas laid by men and women who realized the importance of Gods blessing in our endeavors. ‘God BlessAmerica’ was more than a rousing song, it was a life style. It was the motivation for all we did. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and many other presidents and leaders of this country openly testified to the fact that it was by God’s strength, not mans that victory was to be had. It was by God’s working in the lives his people that true joy would come.

True leadership, effective leadership isn’t the result of political programs, electoral colleges or catering to special interest groups. True leadership comes when the Creator God of the Universe is acknowledged as the supreme commander-in-chief. Effective leadership comes when Jesus Christ is acknowledged as the underlying reason to move on.

We don’t need more leaders who rely on their own expertise and ability to bring the crowds to their knees. We need more leaders who fall to their knees themselves in humble adoration to the one who brings ultimate victory.

God BlessAmerica. God Bless those who have given the ultimate sacrifice so we can be free. As King David declares, We rejoice in the strength we receive from the King of Kings, Jehovah God.

PRAYER: Lord I thank you this morning for freedom. Not just the political freedom you have granted us by your own hand, but the spiritual freedom we have in Christ Jesus. I pray that our leadership would bow their knees before you in acknowledgement of your greatness. Amen.

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May 2012
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