Grace and Generosity

January 12th, 2018

Release Is the key to increase.

“You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.” 2 Corinthians 9:11 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Grace and Generosity.”

Inherently, people would like to be generous, but giving just does not come easily for us. The tiniest infant can grip something tightly in the smallest of hands. And that natural tendency never seems to be lost. It seems natural to hold tightly rather than to release. We spend our lifetimes gathering, hoarding, and storing. And the more a person has, the greater their reluctance to give anything away. Possessions encourage possessing.

In contrast, the Bible is clear that generosity is the path to abundance and blessing. Solomon observed, “One person gives freely, yet gains more; another withholds what is right, only to become poor. A generous person will be enriched and the one who gives water will receive water.” Proverbs 11.24-25.  Release is the key to increase. Growing up, I often heard my Dad say, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” I have found that to be true. 

The Apostle Paul was astounded at the grace and generosity from God, “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach the unfathomable riches of Christ.” Ephesians 3:8 NAS. From the grace given you, the even greater grace of giving flows from a heart already overflowing. Paul marveled at, “the unfathomable riches of Christ!” Jesus taught,“Give and it will be given to you; a good measure – pressed down, shaken together and running over – will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6.38 NIV. You have to firmly believe that when you give what you should give, it is loaned to the Lord Who will repay, not lost.

The first step in the grace of giving is to realize that everything belongs to God, and everything you have comes from Him. “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 NIV. Your God provides, multiplies, increases, and enriches when you choose to live generously.

God established a principle of sowing and reaping. The principle is really simple. First of all, you reap what you sow. Also, you reap more than you sow. And importantly, you reap nothing if you sow nothing. “Remember this: the person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should give as he has determined in his heart – not with regret or from necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NKJV. My grandfather, Charles McGinness, often said to his congregation, “Don’t give until it hurts. Give until it stops hurting.” Grandad was right. That’s when you experience the grace of giving.

Giving isn’t really about money. Giving is about heart, about love, and about God and others. Where giving is restricted, love is lacking. Who has not seen a young child bring a pretty (or sometimes not so pretty) wild flower to their Mom saying, “I love you Mommy?” Their love has to find some way of expression, just like God’s love.

When you give graciously and generously, you are most like your Heavenly Father. Jesus said, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” Luke 12:32 NKJV. Who could forget the most familiar verse of all, “For God so loved the world that He gave His own Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 NKJV. Giving is a family trait in our Father’s house. A New Year is a good time to practice the grace of living and giving generously.

My prayer for you today is to give with generosity according to the grace given you.

Christian Communications 2017-1149

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Anticipation

January 5th, 2018

Anticipate Grace and Goodness.

“You crown the year with Your goodness.”

Psalm 65:11 NKJV.

My comments today encourage you to, “Anticipate Grace.”

Years earlier, I read a poem that I occasionally recall, especially at the start of a new year.

I wish that there were some wonderful place, In the Land of Beginning Again. Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches, And all of our poor selfish grief, Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door, and never put on again.

I wish we could come on it all unaware, Like the hunter who finds a lost trail; And I wish that the one whom our blindness had done, The greatest injustice of all, Could be there at the gates, like an old friend that waits, For the comrade he’s gladdest to hail.

We would find all the things we intended to do, But forgot, and remembered too late, Little praises unspoken, little promises broken, And all the thousand and one, Little duties neglected that might have perfected, The day for one less fortunate.

It wouldn’t be possible not to be kind, In the Land of Beginning Again, And the ones we misjudged, and the ones whom we grudged, their moments of victory here, Would find in the grasp of our loving hand-clasp, More than penitent lips could explain.

So I wish that there were some wonderful place, Called the Land of Beginning Again, Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches, And all of our poor selfish grief, Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door, And never put on again.

Louisa Fletcher 1878-1957, “The Land of Beginning Again”

Regrets. We all have them. Grace. We are all offered that. Any year can end with uncompleted plans, unachieved goals, and lingering uncertainty about the road ahead. Along the way, we seem to accumulate spiritual and emotional baggage from regrets, hurts, disappointments in ourselves or others, and unfinished business. Wouldn’t you like to not drag those into another year? Against the backdrop of such things, we should remember God’s promise, “’I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11-12 NIV. Hope without a future is meaningless, as is a future without hope.

In this new year, anticipate God’s grace and goodness, expressed in fresh beginnings unencumbered by the weight of past mistakes and regrets. “My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:5-6 NLT. For you, God offers a fresh opportunity overflowing with certainty that your past is settled in grace, and abounding with confidence that the present is secure in His providence, and brimming with courage that all which is now unknown is securely held in God’s hands.

And of this, you can affirm about our God, “You crown the year with a bountiful harvest: even your hard pathways overflow with abundance.” Read Psalm 65:11 NLT. Every path ahead may not be easy, but every path where He leads will be graced by His loving presence and ample provision.

This is among my favorite promises from God’s Word. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, Who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NKJV. In Jesus Christ, always awaiting you is, “a land of new beginnings.” Don’t drag the old year into the new; allow the new year to redeem the old. Anticipate grace and goodness.

Today, I pray for you to know you are graced by God and crowned with His goodness.

Christian Communications 2018

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Christmas and Changed Lives

December 29th, 2017

Christmas as a heart experience remains forever.

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Christmas and Changed Lives.”

The wait for Christmas Day seems interminable. Each day grows busier and busier with preparations until the day arrives. The family and friends gather; the dinner is served and enjoyed; family gifts are shared, and carols sung. But then what? Inevitably, Christmas as a calendar event too soon concludes. Christmas as a heart experience remains forever. How you enter the Christmas celebration is not as personally impactful as how you exit the occasion.

Consider Joseph and Mary’s experience of the angels’ visitations, the shepherds’ hurry and wonder, royalty’s worship and lavish gifts, and then life returns to normal or unfolds in ways you could not have imagined. Obviously, Joseph and Mary could never be the same as they had been before the wonder of that amazing, miraculous night in Bethlehem’s stable. But the initial aftermath was not as idyllic as you might expect it should have been.

Disruption appeared to be Joseph and Mary’s new normal. Christmas does not mean that everything will always be pretty and peaceful. An angel came again to Joseph in a dream, warning of Herod’s evil determination to destroy the young Messiah. The angel instructed, “Flee to Egypt and stay there until I bring you word . . when Joseph arose, he took the young child and his mother and departed for Egypt. And was there until the death of Herod.” Read Matthew 2:13-23 NKJV. A miracle changed their lives and purpose forever.

In Luke’s masterful narrative of the Christmas angels singing to shepherds on a Judean hillside, there came the inevitable moment, “When the angels had left them and gone into Heaven.” Inevitably, angels return to Heaven and people return to everyday life, potentially changed forever by such moments of Heavenly encounter. “The shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go and see this thing which the Lord has told us’ . . The shepherds returned [to their flocks] glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:15-16 NKJV. Every lamb that was born would remind them of the night they bowed before the Lamb of God, “Who takes away the sins of the world.”

Angels inevitably return to Heaven. But there are still lives to be lived, families to provide for, responsibilities to be fulfilled, work to be done, but also an unbelievable story to be told to all who have an open heart to listen. Matthew writes of a similar experience for the Kings who travelled from so far, “Having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, [the Wise Men] returned to their country by another route.” Matthew 2:12 NIV. I know those words merely describe the different geography of their journey home, but I cannot avoid the application that life is never quite the same after you have seen and worshiped the Christ. Read Matthew 2:1-12 NIV. Their lives were never again the same.

At Christmas, you cannot bow with a true heart of worship, and afterward return to your everyday routines as you were. Christmas holds the power to change everyone, as well as everything that was, is, and will yet be. Changed lives are the real evidence of Christmas. The Savior changes routines, shifts priorities, adjusts values, and especially redeems and redirects lives. Ultimately, the observance of Christmas will pass but the Savior can and will change your life forever. Christmas is so much more than the beauty and pageantry of mangers, angels, shepherds, or Eastern kings.

Christmas is about a Savior who changes lives now, and for eternity. If you worship at the manger, you are expected to live for the Savior and point others to Him. The Apostle Paul was clear, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. All this is from God Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV. When you were given the gift of grace, you were also given the ministry of reconciliation.

Today, I pray for you to to receive the gift and embrace the joy of His Good News.

Christian Communications 2017

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Choose Joy

December 21st, 2017

Joy is both a gift and a choice. Choose joy.

“You believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today urge you to,

“Choose Joy.”

“Merry Christmas!” Such is the all too familiar greeting, but “merry,” seems an underwhelming emotion when referring to the Eternal God coming into our world. “Joyous Christmas,” seems more appropriate to the Advent season. Open your heart and home to be overwhelmed this Advent season by a sublime joy that Peter described this way, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8 NIV.

Inexpressible and glorious joy is the proper response to the Savior. The experience and expression of the Savior’s birth, life, and unequaled sacrifice deserve no less. As the angel announced to the shepherds that first Christmas, “I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all people.” Luke 2:10 NAS. The good news is the same now as then, as is the promise.

However, Heaven’s joy did not originate on that first Christmas. The Incarnation simply dramatized the eternal purpose of the Father for all His creation to know inexpressible, glorious joy. Creation is described as the time when, “the morning stars sang together and all the Angels shouted for joy.” Job 38:7 NIV. That same eternal joy will fill your heart as you stand before God, “Who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory, with exceeding joy.” Read Jude 24-25 NKJV. Joyfully celebrating Christmas provides your opportunity to experience His inexpressible and glorious joy every day.

“In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11 NKJV. Great joy is yours but never automatic. Joy is a gift God gives; joy is a choice you must make. Advent invites you to choose joy. Nurture joy; mature joy until the emotion becomes a disposition abounding from spiritual resources. Jesus promised, “If you abide in Me . . My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” John 15:7/11 NIV. You have His joy, completely.

Choose joy. Share the joy. If you are silent or unclear about your joy at Christmas, why would, or should, the world be drawn at other times to the truth you tell. Consider this. Christmas isn’t really Christmas until you share its joy with others. But a joy-filled message is not credible when coming from a joyless messenger. You can’t share something you don’t have, and you can’t keep something that you won’t share, and others will not believe something they do not see. When you give joy, you gain joy. That states a spiritual principle that also applies to inexpressible and glorious joy, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” Proverbs 11:24-25 NIV.

Share the joy of Christmas every day, to every person, and in every imaginable way. Celebrate with abandon and without apology. Invite, include, involve, converse, welcome, laugh, love, express life, and always be real. Celebrate joyously and without apology. Incarnate the joy of His incarnation, and the timeless message an unbelieving world cannot resist. The message of Christmas remains forever unchanged, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 NKJV. Christmas offers every reason and opportunity to choose joy.

Today, I pray for you to discover the inexpressible, enduring joy found only in the Savior.

Christian Communications 2017

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A Peace that Surpasses Understanding

December 13th, 2017

Where Christ governs, peace is found.

“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “a peace that surpasses understanding.”

Peace is most precious to those who are without it. But true peace is elusive for many because, though they long for it, they do not know where such peace can be found. Our world is much like the world into which Jesus was born. Armies, hostilities, occupying forces, political and religious divisions were all the order of the day, then as now. Rulership was imposed by the strongest upon the weakest and the most brutal upon the most vulnerable, as today.

Yet Jesus came from the Father and was declared by angels as the Prince of Peace whose arrival was into exactly that kind of troubled world. “Suddenly a great company of the Heavenly Host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.’” Luke 2:13-14 NIV. Peace will never come by the force of men’s armies and political alliances. The Bible speaks of three expressions of God’s peace which Jesus gives that the world cannot.

Most importantly and foundational to all peace, there must be peace with God. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Read Romans 5:1-2 NIV. Such expressions of peace are only available to the one who has accepted Jesus’ invitation to live at, “peace with God,” surrendering to living life on God’s gracious terms, without hostility toward His Law and will.

There is peace from God. That comes only from Jesus, Who said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you, not as the world gives, neither can it take it away.” John 14:27 NLT. Peace from God is when a supernatural tranquility rests in your heart without regard to difficulty and distress.

Also, there is the peace of God. This peace is experienced as an unexplainable measure of well being and contentment that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Read Galatians 5:19-25 NIV. Those attributes are in stark contrast with those who live apart from the peace of God, as evidenced by, “discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions.” There is no earthly experience of peacefulness that compares with God’s peace, which is the very expression of His own character and conduct.

Imagine with me a time and place where it will truly be said, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” Isaiah 9:7 NIV. When will that time come, and where can that be found? Where Christ governs, peace reigns. Isaiah foresaw a day in which it would be true. “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV. The answer is simple and clear. Where Christ governs, only there will true peace be found. Until you are at peace with God, you will not be at peace within yourself, will not find peace of mind, nor can you live at peace with others.

Peace is not the absence of trouble. Peace is knowing the living presence of Jesus, whatever the doubts, distress, or dangers of the moment. Peace does not come from your surroundings. Peace does not come from all men being in agreement. Peace starts in your heart, when you make all things right with God. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “’Peace, peace, to those far and near,’ says the Lord. ‘And I will heal them.’ But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’” Isaiah 57:19-21 NIV.

This promise can be your confidence; “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You.” Isaiah 26.3 NKJV. My Christmas wish for you can be stated in the words of the Apostle Paul. “Now may the God of peace be with you all.” Romans 15:33 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to be enveloped with enduring peace that cannot be disturbed.

Christian Communications 2017

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