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Starting Where We Stand

We had never had hurricane damage like this before; we live in Ohio, after all. But Ike was different: making landfall in Galveston, Texas, it held a disproportionate share of its damage in reserve for the upper Midwest part of the country, including our backyard, which was entirely mid-calf or deeper in branches, limbs and twigs. It was September 2008, I was away for the week on business, and there stood Peggy, facing the enormous clean-up job alone and wondering, “Where do I start?” Then starting where she stood, it took this hard-working woman three whole days to bag, bundle and/or burn the debris.

Sometimes on our life-journey, the Kingdom work before us seems overwhelming—paralyzing, even. All around, there is brokenness in need of care, so where do we start? Every day, there is Spiritual birth in need of nurturing; of whom shall we come alongside? No matter where we are, someone is searching for truth, then when must we speak, and what should we say? Far too long, I was so paralyzed by the smallness of my imprint against the vastness of need, that I did very little to start at all. But somewhere along the way I began to see and understand God works chiefly through His people, and His people are everywhere. In my mind, I had limited God to the confines of my own span and abilities, yet every day the body of Christ rises around the globe, each member starting where they stand. This is the beauty of the body.

We must not be overwhelmed by the enormity of need in the world, for God’s people are all around it. We ought not be paralyzed by our limitations, for it is God who works in and through us. We need only to be diligent in seeking His guidance for direction, trusting in His faithfulness to act, and submissive to start where we stand and go from there—ready and eager for whatever awaits us today.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. (Hebrews 6:10, 11).

Father, you are good, and we trust you. Lead us today to where we should go and in what we must say and do. You will do great things through your people today; you always do. We love you, God. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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A Daily Dose of Eternal Truth

“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89 NSAB)

Bad news, delivered badly. Can we agree on this assessment of our daily newsfeed? A global pandemic, unchecked lawlessness, and ineffective leadership—taken together, they consume us with concern. Compounding the problem is the constant barrage of information—all of it slanted, much of it untrue, and now some of it censored. This is not healthy; this is not good. People need truth; what we do with it is up to us in our freedoms, but we need the firm foundation of truth. Is there a place where we can find our footing again?

Fortunately, there is; it is the immoveable bedrock that has always been there: God’s Word. The psalmist proclaims it to be “Forever, O Lord.” It is “settled in heaven,” and it always will be. It’s not going anywhere; it cannot be moved. The Bible will not keep us current on world events of the day, of course, but it strengthens us in God’s power to face them, it inspires us in His love to serve amid them, and it rests us in the sovereignty of Him who has authority over all things. His Word “sustains the weary,” said Isaiah, for “the Sovereign Lord … wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.”

Might today be different if we prioritized and protected a few minutes to pray, to absorb a Bible passage, and to incline our ear “to listen like one being instructed”? Might God’s Spirit shine through us as hope to someone who has lost hope? Couldn’t we all use a little good-newsfeed these days?

“The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.” (Isaiah 50:4)

Father, your Word is truth, and your truth never changes. How refreshing the thought! Send your Spirit to breathe life through your Word, that we would draw near to you in confidence, resting in your sovereignty, shining in your joy, and serving with compassion. In Christ we pray. Amen.

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Plans and Purposes That Prevail

“Many are the purposes in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21).

“I didn’t accomplish a single thing I set out to do today!” How many times has our day ended in the agitation of futility? Whether self-discipline brought us up short or outside factors stretched us too far, reality failed to honor our plans again, and we fret in frustration. Sleep comes hard these nights. What if we were to discover execution to be the least of our problems, that it was actually misalignment that rendered today’s to-do list a non-starter from its conception?

Plans follow purpose. This is one reason organizations articulate mission statements—their reason for being: they proclaim a shared sense of purpose to which to subordinate all strategies, objectives and goals toward its fulfillment. Any number of leadership books extol the value of such clarity, but most overlook this indispensable truism: “It is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” We may dutifully conceive our plans and precisely align them with our purposes, but if our rigid list of things to do allows no room for real life, we will needlessly resign ourselves at the end of the day to failure.

Early in my career an organization coach offered this piece of practicality: “When you plan your work day, allow four hours for unanticipated priorities.” Hers proved to be a wonderful, sanity-saving suggestion, for we live and work among others who have needs just as we do, and God’s plans prevail above all. Then doesn’t it make sense to recognize God as our ultimate purpose in life, and to pray for His will as we plan our day? How different would our sense of satisfaction be if were actually to look for Him working all around us and to heed His call to join Him? Might we find an apparent “imposition” to be an “invitation” in disguise? Might we find our purpose in His purpose, and our satisfaction in Him? I think we can plan on it, actually.

Father, every day unfolds under your command. Fill me with your Spirit of wisdom today, that I would submit my plans to your purposes, knowing your purposes are good and they will prevail again today. In Christ I pray. Amen.