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Archive for April, 2009

Questions, But no Doubts

April 30th, 2009

“None of these things move me.” Acts 20:24

“Having no questions is not particularly spiritual; having no doubt is.”

My thoughts today are about having “questions, but no doubts.”

Life presents a lot of questions to any honest heart. So many things don’t make sense with your limited perspective and imperfect knowledge. A lot of things make you want to ask why. Questions come to everyone at one time or another. If you have never asked why, then you just have not lived long enough or faced anything tough enough. You may have felt guilty, swallowing your questions rather than asking them. But God is not nervous about your questions.

Questions play a vital role in learning. Questions push you beyond the known and understood to what has not been considered previously. Great discoveries and technology advances have happened because someone asked questions no one else bothered to ask. A person does not have faith because they have no questions. If you have no question, you don’t need faith. Faith looks at the hardest questions and though without answers, simply trusts God’s love and wisdom.

Having no questions is not particularly spiritual; having no doubt is. You can be without doubts while wrestling with the toughest questions, maybe even unanswerable ones. Paul did not say that was easy to do, but he does show that it is possible to do. Read the context of today’s verse. Paul knew what he was facing ahead of him, “jail and suffering.” Acts 20:22-23 NKJV/21:10-14 NIV. That would raise some questions for any thinking person. I would think he would have questions about that. I would; you would.

When you are uncertain and questions trouble your mind and rob your peace, concentrate on what is certain and unchanging and rest your questions there. When there seems too much that you do not know, be more sure of what you do know. Paul wrote, “Now we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when that which is complete comes, what is partial will be done away  . . now I know partially, then I will know fully just as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:9-13 NIV. Dwell on what you know; deal with what you don’t.

What leaves more unanswered questions than death, and resurrection? After Paul’s expansive defense of the Resurrection, he summarizes this way, “Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58. Those clear character qualities – steadfast, immovable, and always abounding – are the marks of a mature Christian who has asked their questions, then chosen to move beyond their doubts to rest peacefully in God.

When you have serious questions about life, you can still live and trust with no doubts about God. “I am suffering here in prison . . but I know the One in whom I trust, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until the day of His return.” 2 Timothy 1:12 NLT.

My prayer for you today is to submit questions to God but surrender your doubts.

Devotionals

Taking the Limits Off

April 29th, 2009

“Despite all . . overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us.” Romans 8:37 NLT

“Neither history nor adversity sets the limits of your life.”

My thoughts today are about “taking the limits off.”

Knowing God and knowing that God loves you is the single most assuring thing you will ever find in life. There is enough about life that is uncertain and unknown, therefore much in life of which you feel unsure. So you try to find things that will give security, usually things that don’t work, after all your best efforts and sincere hopes. What have you tried that didn’t work for you?

The course of my life and ministry was changed some years ago when a businessman asked me, “What would you have wanted to accomplish for God these past years if money and circumstances were not an issue?” The answer to that question resulted in the most challenging and daring ten years of my life, and the most exciting years of ministry. He offered me the opportunity to view life without limits. A friend was asking, but it turns out that God was speaking – inviting me to dream with Him, taking the limits off.

I did not know at the moment of opening my heart how demanding and faith-requiring those next years would be for me and others in that faith venture. Yet, there has never been a time that I was more assured of God’s love and nearness, nor felt more secure in the path of opportunities and challenges God set before us. Always remember, God is not limited by your limitations.

God’s people, Israel, would not enter a land of fullness and plenty because they “limited the Holy One of Israel.” Read Psalm 78:3-41 NKJV. Faithlessly, they imposed their imagined limits on a God who has none. See Ephesians 3:20/Matthew 19:26. Neither history nor adversity sets the limits of your life; your boundaries are self-imposed within the confines of your uncertainties and insecurities you allow.

You can try many things to overcome those, but the one certain way is to be convinced of God’s loving intention, limitless power, and inexhaustible love for you. When you take your limits off God, He becomes unlimited in you. “I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 3:16 NLT. You can’t do everything as you please, but through you, God can do anything He pleases to do.

Make no mistake, you will still face challenges and circumstances, but “despite all . . overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us . . nothing can separate us from His love.” Romans 8:31-39 NLT.

My prayer for you today is to live without limits in your confidence in God.

Devotionals

Too Soon to Quit

April 28th, 2009

“At the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 NIV

“When you are doing God’s work, it is always too soon to quit.”

My thoughts today are about “too soon to quit.”

I wonder how many people quit – walk away tired and discouraged – just before they see the fruit of all their efforts? There are many things that will tempt you to give up. When others do, you will want to. You will face difficulty and the discouragement that comes with that. You will wrestle with doubts where you once were certain. You will grow tired of the demands and short on needed resources. You will feel alone as Elijah did and wonder if it is worth it. See 1 Kings 19:10,14. Good people sometimes feel like turning in their resignation, but in life, to whom do you resign?

What I want you to know is this: when you are doing God’s work, it is always too soon to quit. Maybe the only difference between the person who succeeds and another who fails is a refusal to give in or give up. Life is not a sprint of a few quick bursts of energy and effort; life is a marathon, sometimes grueling, always long and exhausting. The Bible encourages, “Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT.

There are two distinguishing qualifications in today’s verse. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.” The harvest is promised to all but not to everyone that tries; the harvest is reserved for those unwilling to give up, and content to wait for the proper time.

Success begins with believing that you will succeed – when accompanied with your willingness to do everything necessary and make any sacrifice required in order to succeed. “The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts.” James 5:7-8 NAS. Success in life remains elusive to those in a hurry for it, as well as for those unconvinced of its value and the hard work required.

I think Moses felt like quitting during forty years tending sheep in the wilderness – or when Israel wanted to stone him and return to Egypt – or Joseph, when something went wrong every time He was just getting ahead – or Job, when his wife urged him to curse God and die, and his friends assumed Job was to blame for the things happening to him – or David, when he was running from Saul and living among former enemies – or Elijah, who battled with bouts of depression and paralyzing fear – or Paul, confined in prison and feeling alone.  But read their story to the end. They decided they were doing God’s work, and it was too soon to quit. See 2 Timothy 4:6-13 NIV.

Do you feel like giving up today? On a project, on a friendship, on a job, on a marriage, on a dream, on yourself – or on your faith? Draw encouragement from those who persevered and ultimately prevailed. Trust me; whatever the circumstance, it is not the right time to give up.

My prayer for you today is to hold fast to hope and resolve to do what’s right.

Devotionals

Getting It Right

April 27th, 2009

“Your body is the temple . . so honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT

“A healthier lifestyle of living more wisely best honors God.”

My thoughts today are about “getting it right.”

Life is so much simpler when you get it right. Just as you and I do, ordinary people so often get it wrong, and that’s a problem. Life isn’t really as complicated as you make it. God established an order in everything He created, and that order includes your body. Even casual thought about the body leads you to David’s conclusion: “I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13 NKJV/ See13-17 NLT.

How wonderfully constructed would not itself make your body a temple. That can be said when the Spirit of God dwells within you. “Don’t you know your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself. You are bought with a price, so you must honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT.

What would it look like if you sought to honor God with your body? For any one of us, it would certainly mean a healthier lifestyle of living more wisely: eating properly, exercising moderately, working diligently, resting adequately, relating honestly, living simply, and occupying time profitably. Many will try to tell you what they think that means for you, but what do you think that means? What first step could you take today to honor God with your body?

The Bible warns, “If anyone defiles God’s temple . . (for) God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:17 NKJV/NIV. Contrast the severity with which Jesus had to cleanse the actual Temple in Jerusalem and those who defiled its sanctity and purpose. (See Matthew 21:12-14 NIV),  with the way the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you, desires to graciously cleanse your physical temple every day. He does so in love, not judgment. See 1 John 1:8-9.

Clearly, what you put into your life has much to do with what comes out of it. That’s the place where getting it right is important. What you see, hear, read, think, and entertain yourself with greatly impacts what you say and do, and who you become. Jesus said that if you put anger or hate in, murder comes out; if you put lust in, sexual impurity results. See Matthew 5:21-22.

Living in a healthy manner obviously involves very practical, external things like proper exercise, food, and habits, but honoring God involves less obvious and more internal things such as your thought life (Philippians 4:8-9/Eph 4:22-29), your attitudes and relationships (Ephesians 4:30-32), and your emotions, words, and amusements. A successful life comes from getting it right.

The Bible concludes, “Spend the rest of your life here on earth in reverence for Him. For you know what was paid to set you free from the worthless manner of life . . the costly sacrifice of Christ!” 1 Peter 1:17-18 TEV. There is some practical measure of regard for the gift of your physical life that obliges you to reverence God by how you live, and how you treat the gift of life you have been given.

Almost fifty years later, I remember a prayer of a college professor before class, Lord, help me to make of the timber of my life a temple, not a tavern.” His simple prayer became for me a worthy goal.

My prayer for you is: protect the sacredness of the temple of your heart where God dwells.

Devotionals

Unhappy, Unholy Sounds.

April 24th, 2009

“Do all things without grumbling.” Philippians 2:14 NAS

“There is a high price to pay socially and spiritually for the self-indulgence of grumbling.”

My thoughts today are about “unhappy, unholy sounds.”

Okay, I confess I am fascinated by words. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Cook, gave me a love for the unique beauty of words. Have you ever thought of all the interesting English words that describe some form of vocal happiness – like laugh, giggle, chuckle, cackle, or snicker? My favorites are chortle and guffaw; the first a kind of pleasant amusement while the latter is loud and sudden. A laugh of any kind is contagious, prompting more laughter on the part of others.

But consider the word, grumble. I think grumbling is usually contagious and habit forming too, and that is not for your good or anyone else’s. You can almost hear the word’s meaning in its sound as you say it. Grumbling is just what it sounds like, an unhappy, unpleasant sound when displeasure with something, or more often someone, makes you mutter under your breath something less than pleasant words. You may not be saying much, but you are fully understood by all who hear the sound.

The Bible tells of the time that Israel “murmured in their tents,” and infected their family and friends with their attitude of complaint. God considered that distrust and disbelief and judged them accordingly. Deuteronomy 1:26-28 NIV/Psalm 106:25. The result was that their generation was not allowed to enter Canaan, the place of promised and abundant blessings. Grumbling is both an unhappy, and unholy sound. As I read the many Bible verses, I noticed that it is always murmuring against someone, ultimately against God. Complaint is not just your harmless opinion, but also a subtle attack on the human spirit, hurting you and others.

Might grumbling and complaint distract you from entering into the fullness of life and blessing that God desires to give you? That would be a high price to pay for the brief self-indulgence of murmuring. Of all the things the Bible warns against their corrosive effect, is grumbling worth mentioning? Apparently, God thinks so. Other Bible translations describe Israel’s actions as “grumbling and complaining.”

Do you ever complain? I guess everyone does at some time, but that does not make it right, does it? Complaining should be a warning to check your heart, and mind your mouth – to prevent sinning. Psalm 19:12-14 NIV. Grumbling and complaining only foster more grumbling and complaint. Once you start, it is not easy to stop. You grumble about one thing and after a while you can find plenty of things about which to complain. Unhappiness tempts you to grumble, but grumbling only makes you more unhappy – and everyone else unhappy to be around you.

I think my grandmother had the best advice, “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all.” Grumbling, at its best, is temporary ingratitude, and that’s not a very good thing at all. When tempted to grumble about something, count your blessings instead. However inconvenient or frustrating the moment, you have so much else for which to be thankful. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT. You have more for which to be thankful, than to complain.

My prayer for you today is: be thankful and happy; don’t grumble! It doesn’t sound good.

Devotionals