Success and Satisfaction

April 24th, 2015

“God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.” Romans 12:6 NLT.

Nothing is more satisfying than a job well done
and for which you are well suited.

My thoughts and comments today are about “success and satisfaction.”EDL pix satisfaction

Imagine an orchestra with all the chairs empty, except for one lone instrumentalist. However skilled the musician, a single musician and musical instrument is not an orchestra. Their individual talent and best effort would be inadequate and the composer’s arrangement unrealized. Nor would any musician attempt to play all the instruments singlehandedly. Such an intent and effort may be commendable but their ambition and ability would be questionable.

My application is this: no one can do everything equally well; you’re neither equipped to do so nor expected. You will do some things better than other things and some things not well at all. Best that you learn the difference. But everyone can do something well; that you ought to do as your stewardship of God’s grace and contribution to others’ benefit. A few words have often guided and strengthened my resolve, “I can’t do everything, but I can do something. And what I can do, I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.”

The Apostle Paul reminded Christians in Rome, “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.” Romans 12:6 NLT. Scripture is best read in the context of what precedes and follows. Paul introduced this verse with a profound understanding, “We belong to one another, and each of us needs all the others. God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability . . do it!” Read Romans 12:5-8 NLT.

God’s intent is clear. The abilities, skills, and experience God has provided you are for His purposes – serving Him, and serving others in His Name. “We belong to each other and each of us needs all the others.” Romans 12:5 NLT. Neither you nor I are complete separately, but together we are completed and sufficient in Christ. Read 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 NLT. You are needed even as you need others. You need the practical blessing from the giftedness of others, and they need yours.

The opportunities, abilities, and interests you possess are from the Lord and for His purpose and glory – not your pleasure or profit alone, nor to use as you will or withhold as you choose. “So if God has given you the ability . . do it gladly.” Romans 12:6/8 NLT. Don’t tout what you can do or have done, nor apologize for what you can’t do or have not done. Serve others graciously, thereby glorifying God. “For God loves the person who gives cheerfully. God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 NLT.

Nothing is more satisfying than a job well done and one for which you are well suited. Your preeminent satisfaction and success are when you offer what you do well, knowing you are serving as God created and gifted you, seeing others strengthened, and knowing God receives the glory. The preeminent benediction of God will be these simple words, “Well done, good and faithful servant . . enter into the joy of your Lord.” Matthew 25:11. Miss that and you miss everything that matters.

Today, my prayer for you is to experience and express joy-filled contentment each day of your life.

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Conscience and Curiosity

April 22nd, 2015

“Be filled with love from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5 NLT.

Better to obey your conscience than explore your curiosity.

My thoughts and comments today are about “conscience and curiosity.”

When you quietly hear an inner voice of question and caution, that’s your conscience. God created your conscience to instinctively know right from wrong. There probably have been times when you wished your conscience would be silent. Instead, listen to your conscience; you will spare yourself many mistakes and resulting heartaches.

The Bible offers wise advice and dire warning when the voice of conscience is ignored. “Always keep your conscience clear. For some have deliberately violated their conscience; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.” 1 Timothy 1:19 NLT. Shipwrecked! Could Paul’s warning of needless tragedy and loss be any clearer? Usually, a shipwreck results when a ship is in waters not safe to sail, doing what it was not designed to do. In unmistakable description, a contemporary paraphrase reads, “Some . . have made a thorough mess of their faith.” 1 Timothy 1:19 MSG.

Ignoring the voice of God in your heart is always a mistake and results in hurt and loss for yourself and others. Adam and Eve lost so much for themselves, as well as all of us, just by listening to the wrong voice and ignoring the voice of God. “If many died by the trespass of one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of one Man, Jesus Christ, overflow to many.” See Romans 5:12-17 NIV.

(1) Better to obey your conscience than explore your curiosity. Incorrectly, the world reasons, “If it feels right, how can it be wrong?” What dangerously defective reasoning. Here’s the reality; most things that “feel right” to your natural inclinations and appetites are anything but right. One and all, we struggle with a sin nature. Don’t be lured and deceived by curiosity and desires. Eve was curious and unleashed a world of trouble for us all.

(2) Avoid unholy influences. Secular culture and wrong associations assault your spirit with impure signals that can and will confuse you. “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” Titus 1:15 NIV. Choose wisely and carefully to whom or what you listen. Conflicting voices attempt to stifle the voice of the Holy Spirit God has placed within you.

(3) Strengthen your conscience with the Word of God. “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Read Psalm 119:9-16 NIV. In your heart, you know before you do wrong, but still indulge your appetite and ignore your conscience, to your own harm. Allow God’s Word to guide and govern your conscience. “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand, whenever you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21. There is no substitute for filling your mind and thoughts with God’s Word. Read Psalm 1:1-3. Obey God’s Word however pressing the temptation to do otherwise.

”Our rejoicing is this: the testimony of our conscience that by the grace of God . . in simplicity and Godly sincerity . . that is how we have lived our lives toward everyone.” 2 Corinthians 1:12 KJV. Paul, a wise, life-seasoned saint, wrote to young Timothy, “The purpose of my instruction is that all Christians would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5 NLT. The love of God best flows into a pure heart, through a clear conscience, and from a sincere faith.

Today, my prayer for you is that your heart will be a home for God’s love at all times.

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Vital Signs

April 17th, 2015

“[Physical] exercise profits a little, but Godliness is profitable for all things.” 1 Timothy 4:8 NKJV.

Your eternal soul warrants more thought and care than your mortal body merits.

My thoughts and comments today are about “vital signs.”

EDL graphic vital signsHealthy habits are a wise investment in the quality and length of your life. There is no debate about the practical wisdom of being health conscious – practicing a healthy lifestyle, managing your weight, eating properly, exercising regularly, eliminating stress, reducing worry, getting enough rest, and having a medical check-up periodically. The same attention would be good for your soul, giving deliberate consideration of habits that contribute to your spiritual health and well-being, or lack thereof. “I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is.” 3 John 2 NLT.

There is an incongruity to being so careful about your physical health which affects only the limited years of your lifetime, while being careless even for a moment about your soul’s health that impacts eternity, years without end. “[Physical] exercise profits a little, but Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8. Your eternal soul warrants more thought and care than your mortal body merits. See Matthew 16:25-26 NIV. I have observed that some people follow their exercise regimen with more commitment, priority, frequency, regularity, and passion than they give to their spiritual disciplines. That could be expected of non-church attenders, but should that ever be true of a Christian?

Let me suggest some practical, spiritual vital signs. Evaluate your priorities. “Live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” Matthew 6:33 NLT.  Keep your mind clean and clear. “Those who live according to the Spirit, [set their minds] on the things of the Spirit . . to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Romans 8:5-6. Read Philippians 4:8. Nurture a healthy faith. “For it is impossible to please God without faith.” Hebrews 11:6 NLT.

Practice gratitude. “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Lose unhealthy weight. “Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.” Hebrews 12:1. Welcome healthy exercise. “Discipline yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto those who are exercised by it.” Hebrews 12:11.

Forgive easily and generously. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32. Give God your worries. “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.” Philippians 4:6 NLT. Cultivate trust. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not upon your own understanding. Commit your way to the Lord, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5.

Develop faithfulness. “It is required of a steward that he is found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2. Make prayer a priority. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” James 5:16 NLT. These are not meant to be an exhaustive list for spiritual health, but suggest spiritually significant “vital signs” the Holy Spirit will examine when you invite Him to do so.

Today, my prayer for you is a good report from the Great Physician that all is well.

Coincidence and Providence

April 15th, 2015

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.” Ephesians 1:18 NIV.

There are supernatural moments woven into the fabric of daily life.

My thoughts and comments today are about “coincidence and providence.”

There are things that just seem to happen amid the routines of everyday life. Are those occurrences random coincidence or divine providence? Some things just happen as a part of life; you and I are not exempt from those but we are accompanied by God at all times in every circumstance. Read 2 Kings 6:13-17 NIV. There are also moments of divine purpose and appointment. I do not live in a world where anything and everything is merely random chance. I choose to believe such moments can be providential, evidence of a Father’s loving involvement and personal investment in my well-being, and yours. Job trusted God, “You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in Your providence watched over my spirit.” Job 10:12 NIV.

EDL pic heartA friend advised me, “When you only look for God in the sensational and spectacular, you will often miss the supernatural.” In the midst of the apparently ordinary, there should be moments when something occurs to open your eyes, allowing you to sense the discreet evidences of the surprising, extraordinary, and supernatural being purposefully woven into the daily fabric of your life. Expecting God to be present in ordinary events is the prerequisite for experiencing His loving company and care.

With assurance, David wrote of the faithfulness of God, “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm [He delights in every detail of their lives/NLT]; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-25 NIV. How confidently would you live if assured of the constancy of God’s favor and delight?

Elijah’s life seemed out of control, the victory over the 450 false prophets on Mt. Carmel now a fading memory. Read 1 Kings 19. Now Elijah felt the terror of fear. The wicked, powerful queen vowed to end the prophet’s meddling once and for all. The once courageous prophet was now fearful, fleeing from the queen until completely exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. His fear was real but exaggerated; his discouragement was overwhelming; his emotions were uncontrollable; his despair was unmanageable. Then God appeared to Elijah. God was not absent until that moment; He was there all the time. “And the Lord said, ‘Go and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’” 1 Kings 19:11 NIV.

There was a tornadic wind, “But the Lord was not in the wind.” Then a shattering earthquake, “But the Lord was not in the earthquake.” And then a raging fire, “But the Lord was not in the fire.” God is not always found in the sensational and spectacular. Elijah felt as emotional frayed and physically vulnerable as a man could be. “And then there came a still small voice.” 1 Kings 19:11-13. That “still, small voice” was the discreet evidence of God, present and gloriously at work in spite of everything Elijah was feeling and fearing. There are supernatural moments woven into the fabric of daily life. Look for God and listen for His voice.

Keep a quiet heart before God and eyes open for the discreetly supernatural; you will discover where God’s love, grace, and kindness will be found in the ordinary starts and stops of daily life. I repeat my friend’s observation and warning, “When you only look for God in the sensational and spectacular, you will often miss the supernatural.” Paul’s prayer is also mine, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you.” Read Ephesians 1:15-21 NIV.

Today, my prayer for you is that your heart is attracted to Him, not distracted by what surrounds.

Now What?

April 11th, 2015

“Did not our hearts burn within . . while He opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32 NKJV.

It is possible to know the apparent facts without recognizing the applicable truth.

My thoughts and comments today ask, “Now what?”

Horrific things can happen in life. At times, you may have more questions than answers; questions that are disconcerting and most begin with, “Why?” The more you struggle to make sense of the inexplicable, the less they do. At such times, it seems like every plan you previously made is now in disarray. What you once were sure about feels uncertain. Life doesn’t always go smoothly and tomorrows are rarely what you expect. Bewildered and shaken, you might ask yourself, “Now what?” Maintaining emotional and spiritual equilibrium is essential when life seems uncertain.

Days earlier, churches gathered somberly but gratefully to honor the sacrifice of a sacred life, and then days later gathered in celebration of our Savior’s miraculous resurrection. Before dawn, Gayle and I joined thousands of worshippers for an Easter service on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in our nation’s Capital. The songs, prayers, and sermon were even more inspiring than the radiant sunrise over the Capitol. But Easter Sunday has passed. “Now what?” Dare we return to life as usual?

With your heart, feel Paul’s spiritual  passion as he penned the words, “That I may know Him in the power of His resurrection.” Philippians 3:10. Since college, that has become my “life verse,” and sincere prayer. I hunger to know God to the extent of my ability and His grace. Be assured, Paul is passionate about a personal, experiential knowledge, well beyond mere intellectual information. Intellectually, Paul knew about Jesus and thought Him troublesome. But on the road to Damascus, Paul discovered the Lord Jesus Christ in a more transforming and personal way than he ever knew was possible. Read Acts 9:1-9/18.

I appreciate the added clarity of the Amplified Bible, “[My determined purpose is that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His person more strongly and clearly], and in that same way, come to know the power outflowing from His Resurrection, [which His Resurrection exerts over believers].” Philippians 3:10 AMP. You can only know Jesus intimately and fully when profoundly experiencing, “the power outflowing from His Resurrection.” Also Read 1 Peter 1:3-9 NIV. His Resurrection truth will impact your life now and eternally.

The very afternoon of Jesus’ resurrection, two discouraged disciples left Jerusalem, returning home to Emmaus. They heard the reports of the empty tomb, but could not reconcile the facts they knew with the truth of His Resurrection. Read Luke 24:13-35. The events of the past days were devastating. The One they had loved and followed had been cruelly crucified and privately buried in a guarded tomb. They must have wondered, “Now what?”, as they wandered back to their old lives and livelihood.

It is possible to know the apparent facts without recognizing the applicable truth. The truth and power of His Resurrection had not yet dawned in their hearts. Life without resurrection life is woefully inadequate. “While they conversed and reasoned, Jesus drew near . . but their eyes were restrained, so they did not know Him.” Vs.15-17. The facts they knew blinded them to the truth around them. When Jesus was revealed to them, they said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He opened the Scriptures to us?” Vs 30-32. Truth abounds in the infallible, eternal Word of God. Read John 8:32-33.

Truth is transformational. “That very hour they returned to Jerusalem saying, ‘The Lord is risen indeed.’” When truth grips your heart, you want to share it with others. Vs. 33-35. Where truth is celebrated, there Jesus appears. “Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them and said, ‘Peace to you.’” Vs. 36-49.

Today, my prayer for you is that you know and love the truth that releases life abundant and eternal.