The Fragrance of Joy

January 31st, 2018

Your life should express the fragrance of His presence.

 “Thanks be to God, Who through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” 2 Corinthians 2:14 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“The Fragrance of Joy.”

Life is not perfect for anyone, and every moment is not filled only with wonderful things. Life changes dramatically, and for the better, when you realize that your circumstances do not determine your experience of life; your attitude does.

I admire people who have faced more struggles and disappointments than most, but who have nevertheless found grace and grown an attitude that reflects who they are, instead of what happened to them. I have met others who have a fairly easy life with few challenges of any consequence, and yet they find little for which to be joyful or thankful. Occasionally, it is a good thing to ask yourself, “Does my life reflect to others what is going on around me, or what is really true inside me?” That significant and substantial difference is the product of the choices you make.

Since a child, I have loved the dramatic Bible stories in the Old Testament, like Samson finally triumphing over the Philistines and himself, or Daniel in the lions’ den whose quiet trust in God humbles an arrogant King, or the three Hebrews delivered from Babylon’s fiery furnace (modern day Iraq). I find a most intriguing comment, easily unnoticed, tucked into this story of the three believers tossed angrily into a furnace intended to destroy them. Read Daniel 3. When the fire could not destroy them nor even harm them, the amazed, befuddled king calls them out of the fire.

The Bible says, “They saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected – not even the smell of smoke was on them.” Daniel 3:27. There was no discernible residue of their frightening experience, no lingering emotional trauma, nor need for healing of memories. Only their new and stirring testimony of God’s greatness and faithfulness persevered.

If you are not careful, you will allow your past or present circumstances to determine your attitudes, dictate your feelings, and dominate your conversation. When your story could be a persuasive testimony that glorifies God, it will be only about you and your problems. Read Daniel 3:28-29. In Daniel’s story, a king’s heart is changed; God is glorified; a nation is impacted. The simple difference is that they were with Jesus, joyfully in His company and safely in His care. See Daniel 3:24-25. Attitude really is crucial, having the power to change everything and anyone, and that all begins with the choice you make.

Paul prayed for these Christians and for you, ”We pray that you will be strengthened with His glorious power so that you will have all the patience and endurance you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father, Who has enabled you to share the inheritance that belongs to God’s holy people, who live in the light.” Colossians 1:11-12 NLT. Whose joy is to fill you? “Always be full of the joy of the Lord!” Like a thermometer, happiness merely measures the surrounding climate and adjusts accordingly. The joy of the Lord resembles a thermostat, regulating and governing the surrounding temperature.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Thanks be to God, Who . . through us spreads everywhere the fragrance  of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved.” Read 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 NIV. Some years ago, I learned to pray, “Let my life express the fragrance of Your presence, not the smell of my problems.”

Today, I pray for your life to be a joyful testimony of God’s grace and sufficiency.

Christian Communications 2018-(807)

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March 21st, 2018

Many things are prized; Christ alone is priceless.

 “Everything is worthless when compared with knowing Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:8 NLT

My thoughts today are about things that are, “priceless.”

Yesterday, I received a few digital copies of old family photographs. The originals from which they were copied were tattered by time, but immeasurably valuable to me. They were glimpses of our family history and heritage, my paternal grandparents, including my sister and I with our New York cousins. And a photo of my uncle Ralph, a proud marine who never returned from WW2. Another was of my parents as a young couple, apparently taken before I was born.  And one of my sister on her first birthday. Those pictures would be noteworthy to no one other than our family and myself. But to me, they are priceless.

Everyone has some things that hold special meaning tucked away safely or secretly somewhere. Such objects are rarely viewed as costly or valuable to anyone else. But to that one to whom they belong they are prized possessions. Usually, our valuable things are tucked securely in safe deposit boxes or may be paraded proudly and publicly before friends and neighbors as signs of our success, such as houses, cars, jewelry, college degrees, awards of recognition, expensive recreational toys, and things like that. None of those are bad on their own; none of them good enough on their own.

The Apostle Paul listed many proud achievements about which he could brag and boast. “I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Read Philippians  3:7-8 NLT.

Paul successfully checked off all the required boxes of religious, social, and political success. Those prized accomplishments identified who he was, how well he had done, and how important he was. But when he added it all up, he saw the inadequacy and emptiness of all that. “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” 2 Corinthians 10:18 NIV.

“Breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” Saul asked for and received letters of authority from the High Priest to imprison those troublesome followers of the recently crucified Jesus. Read Acts 9:1-5 NIV. While enroute to Damascus, Saul dramatically encountered the Risen Christ and viewed everything that he once counted as his life’s net worth, as worthless. Many things are prized; Christ alone is priceless. After his traumatic encounter with Christ, Paul’s singular, surpassing purpose became his passion to know Jesus personally and intimately.

Paul wrote, “Everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:8-10 NLT/NKJV. While in college, “That I may know Him and the power of His Resurrection,” became my life-verse; it still remains so today.

What prized possessions do you hold in a tight grip, or those that hold you in an even tighter grip? There are things that money cannot buy. Can anything at all actually compare with the true wealth of knowing Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord? “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, Who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17-18 NIV. Christ alone is priceless.

Today I pray for you to allow nothing and no one to become as important to you as Jesus.


Christian Communications 2018-4610

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The Subtlety of Influence

March 15th, 2018

Start where you are. Use what you’ve got. Do what you can.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt.” Colossians 4:6 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “the Subtlety of Influence.”

Influence is best when its source is scarcely noticed yet its effect is significant. Jesus compared salt and light with influence. Salt is in almost every prepared food or snack that you eat, though you seldom notice its presence. Yet without salt, food can be bland, even unappetizing. But add too much salt and the taste of food is changed and significantly overshadowed. In its proper measure and proportion, the presence of salt is hardly noticed. However, when it’s lacking you detect its absence. Consider your everyday influence. Like salt, a person’s beneficial contribution to others’ daily lives may not be noticed until it is no longer being made.

Influence is subtle. Influence is allowed, not imposed. Influence is best recognized in retrospect, yours and others. Typically, you won’t know the difference you’ve made until later, if ever. Others may not realize the difference you made until they notice your absence. When you purpose to contribute beneficially, you make a difference in others’ lives, as well as your own. However small your contribution may seem, or unnoticed it may be, contribute positively and deliberately without need for recognition or applause. If you make a difference in this world, it won’t be accidentally.

Life is most meaningful and satisfying when you decide to live with purpose and deliberate intent. You are meant to make a difference. What you contribute – in your community, at your job, in your school, home, family, or friendships – has the power to help others and make others’ lives better, all the while fulfilling your own. Consider how that works. Stop working with the motive that others will notice your contribution and begin noticing and complimenting theirs.

Taking people for granted comes a little too naturally. Many of those same people improve your life every day. A kind word to encourage can cheer someone on their way; a helping hand in a small or large task can make someone’s life better for the moment; a friend to share another’s journey is a welcome companion along the way. While you wait for your chance to make a big difference, you might be missing the very opportunities that let you make a difference now and will provide you even greater opportunities later.

Start where you are. Use what you’ve got. Do what you can. Then you will make a difference. God’s Word provides good advice. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt.” Colossians 4:5 NIV. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16 NIV. You were created, called, and gifted to contribute what is unique to your abilities, experience, personality, and opportunities. Salt in isolation does not make a difference, but when allowed to interact, salt enhances what is already there and supplies what is lacking.

Jesus taught that you and I, as His followers, are supposed to be seed, salt, light, and leaven. Common to all of those is the potential of making a profound improvement. As such, you can make the best contribution and the biggest difference when you are willing to be where you are most needed, doing what you were best designed by God to do, with or without anyone else’s notice except His.

Today I pray for you to contribute what you are and what you have to others.

Christian Communications 2018

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Coincidence or Providence?

March 7th, 2018

With God, life is not coincidental.

“Let grain from the bundles fall purposely for Ruth.” 

Ruth 2:16 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today ask, “coincidence or providence?”

Life rarely happens as you assume or expect. You may suppose that life will always reward you equitably for your efforts. And that is true to some degree, some of the time. But there are other times that the benefit you receive is not equal to the effort you expended. Occasionally, someone else gets the promotion that you thought would be yours, a reward which your efforts may have deserved. Bewildered, you are left to accept that it’s just not your turn or time for your dream to come true. That’s when you must affirm, “My times are in His hands.” Psalm 31:15 NKJV. Your life in Christ is providential not coincidental.

Read the four brief chapters of Ruth’s story of God’s provision and grace. Everything must have seemed wrong to Ruth when her husband died too young and far too soon. At the death of their husbands, Ruth and another daughter-in law lived with Naomi, their mother-in-law, in Moab. Naomi apparently had little left after the years of famine in Bethlehem, and then the untimely deaths of her husband and two sons while in Moab. What could Naomi do except return to Bethlehem, and Ruth chose to go with her.

Upon their return, what would they do? How would they live? As providence would have it, they returned in the season of harvest, but they had no fields to reap. They prepared themselves to live at the mercy of others’ kindness, but they soon found their needs unexpectedly supplied by God’s providence. As a kindness, widows and foreigners could glean what was leftover in the fields, but only after the reapers had gathered. What she brought home would be the meager result of her efforts. It wouldn’t be much, but it would be better than nothing.

But unknown to Ruth, God had other plans. Soon, she would bring home what God would provide for her through the generosity of Boaz. As the owner of the fields, Boaz ordered his workers to leave, “handfuls of purpose,” for Ruth and Naomi. Little did she know at the time what God had in store for her and Naomi, just as you cannot foresee the grace and blessing that God purposes for you, to give you something extra, even more than you could have earned on your own. Often through the favor of others, God will bless you in the most natural but extraordinary ways.

As God did for Ruth, He will place people in your path to help you have what God wants to give you. That is not random; that is God’s grace and providence. The Bible says, “Ruth found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz.” Ruth 2:3 NIV. She found herself in the field of Boaz – an opportunity neither coincidental nor merely fortuitous, but dictated by the sovereign providence of God. With God, life is never coincidental. Neither Ruth nor Boaz yet knew the significance of this, but God was directing her steps, and his. Her kindness to Naomi was reciprocated in Boaz’ kindness to her. Read Ruth 2:8-12 NIV. Ruth could never have foreseen the role that Boaz would play in her life. The Bible says the “steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” Psalm 37:23 NKJV.

When you choose to trust and rest in the sovereign plans of an Almighty God, you will receive blessings, “given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, [blessings] will be poured into your lap.” Luke 6:38 NIV. Plan for the unforeseen. Boaz instructed the men harvesting his fields, “Let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her.” Ruth 2:16 NKJV. One translation describes the process as, “handfuls of purpose for her.” Ruth no longer gathered mere leftovers from the corners of the field; she gathered what was purposely, providentially, and generously left for her benefit and Naomi’s provision.

Yet there was even more that would bless generations after her; Ruth and Boaz married and would become parents in the lineage of kings, such as including two of the greatest kings of Judah, King David and King Solomon, and ultimately the lineage of the Savior. Whatever your present situation, rest in the sovereign love of a gracious, generous, faithful, and Almighty God and His unimagined grace will be poured out from Heaven with, “handfuls of purpose.”

Today I pray for you to discover that God’s handfuls are ample and abounding.

Christian Communications 2018-11o8

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The Priority of Friends

February 28th, 2018

Be the friend you hope to have.

“We rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God –
all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us
in making us friends of God.” Romans 5:11 NLT

My thoughts and comments today are about, the priority of friends.”

Priorities are essential not optional. I recognize three Biblical and irreplaceable priorities in my life. In this order, those priorities are: my faith, my family, and my friends. All are significant, but their order is important. Priorities clarify and simplify daily life. When you are right with God, you have the guidance of His Word and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to arrange all other relationships in their proper order.

When that personal, spiritual connection is lacking, other relationships can never reach their potential. Here is the basic, yet grand, truth. The Father is the One who invited you into this wonderful friendship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:9 NLT. Be aware of this fact, “If your aim is to enjoy this world, you can’t be a friend of God.” James 4:4 NLT.

This is true as well. Your family is a Godly assignment with eternal accountability. Family can either be your fulfilling joy or will become one’s greatest sorrow and regret. The Bible has much wisdom and guidance for the relationships of husbands and wives, as well as parents and children. Read Colossians 3:18-21 NIV/Ephesians 5:22-31 NIV. As your fellowship with God is the resource for your family relationships, those relationships have much to do with the potential quality of your personal friendships.

Now, let’s consider the priority of friends and friendships. God established the truth that, “two are better than one.” Solomon advised that righteous friendships make you stronger, more secure, satisfied, and successful. Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV. I have found friends and friendships to be foundationally vital to health and happiness. Friends also are essential not optional. Life is much less without the company and fellowship of true friends.

God’s Word provides a lot of wisdom about friends and friendships. The Bible presents many exemplary friendships – Moses and Joshua, David and Jonathan, Daniel with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Paul and Barnabas, Peter, James, and John, as well as Jesus and the Disciples. Jesus elevated friendship when He said to His disciples, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from My Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15 NIV.

Friendships are based on a simple, Biblical principle. “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” Proverbs 18:24 NKJV. Be the friend you hope to have. Your friends will reflect you or, for better or worse, you will reflect the character of your friends. The quality of friendships entrusted to you reflect the friend you have chosen to be to others. I am extremely grateful for the many friends who have generously included me in their lives.

When I learned the power of this principle, I told a life-long friend, “Thank you for not allowing me to become what I would have been without you in my life.” There are many people to whom I could say the same. Without the principal and priorities of faith, family and friends, I could not become the disciple, husband and father, and friend I want to be. I am far better than I would have been without them. I hope my God, my family, and my friends would feel the same about our relationship.

This is the Biblical origin and foundation for all of this. “For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by His life. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God – all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God.” Romans 5:10-11 NLT. The spiritual health of your family and the authenticity of your Godly friendships rest upon and flow from the depth and steadfastness of your, “wonderful new relationship with God.”

Today, I pray for you to enjoy life-affirming friendships born of the friend you choose to be.

Christian Communications 2018-817

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Culture Wars

February 19th, 2018

Cues from a wrong source are misleading.

“You ought to live holy and Godly lives, as you look forward

to the day of God and speed its coming.” 2 Peter 3:12 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Culture Wars.”

There are things about the current, secular culture that disturb me. I am disturbed that we too often take our cues from unworthy and inappropriate sources, with neither discernment nor discrimination. Much of the surrounding culture has a far greater influence on the Church and its people than could ever be justified – whether speaking of morals, materialism, or immodesty as expressed in fashion, media, music, profanity, incivility, or self-centeredness. We seem to take our cues from those wrong sources without discernment that we are doing so. Apparently, we are afraid to look different as we mimic the surrounding styles of how we dress, how we talk, and to a greater degree, how we live.

The Bible provides clarity. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 NIV. When I was a young teen, the Church seemed to take a reactionary stance to the culture that appeared imbalanced and in clear opposition. Conversely today, we are too concerned about fitting in with the culture and too comfortable when we do.

Then, Christians seemed to consciously try to look, act, and talk differently. It might be wiser to just confidently and comfortably choose to be who we are always called to be, “Salt and Light,” in a deteriorating and darkening world. In retrospect, However, I believe my grandparents’ and parents’ generations chose a safer margin for error with less consequences than may result from our indecisive course today.

The Bible’s counsel is wise, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father, but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15-17 NIV. Be advised and wise and live successfully and effectively now and eternally safe forever.

Today, we seem to feel the need to apologize that our standards and expectations are other than the surrounding cultural norms. Because we are unclear about how to be Godly people in an ungodly age, a generation of young “teens and twenties” are confused, and thereby easily succumb to the bombardment of media, movies, music, fashion, and celebrities’ lifestyles to determine how they should dress, talk, think, and live.

The nature of the culture is not what disturbs me most. That is neither surprising nor redeemable except on an individual basis, never collectively. I am concerned about the secular culture’s influence and our naive approach to the lure of their example. Why mimic the opinions and lifestyle of celebrities because they have wealth or fame, lavishly granted from those whom they merely amuse and entertain? Except for few exceptions, they are in graphic contrast and conflict with what the follower of Jesus is meant to be, never examples to be esteemed and followed.

The Apostle Peter asked and answered a reasonable, but probing, question to the young churches and new Christians. “What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and Godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” 2 Peter 3:11-12 NIV. You must ask and answer that question for yourself, “What kind of person ought I to be?” Life is best lived with a singular focus. As a follower of Jesus, I would suggest Paul’s words to you, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, Who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV.

Choose carefully the people you admire and emulate, or you will find yourself in a gradual decline and indiscernible process of becoming like them. There is a clear and right choice to make. “Christ, is your example. Follow in His steps: He never sinned, never told a lie, never answered back when insulted; when He suffered He did not threaten to get even; He left his case in the hands of God Who always judges fairly.” 1 Peter 2:21-24 TLB. Yours and my goal should be to allow the Word of God and invite the Holy Spirit to make us a little more like Jesus every day.

Today, I pray for you to be a Godly example of a chaste and consecrated life of faith.

Christian Communications 2018

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