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Archive for October, 2009

The Right Place

October 30th, 2009

“I am going there to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2 NIV

“Life is a quest, a search for fulfillment and completion.”

My thoughts today are about “the right place.”

The award winning musical, West Side Story, has a lovely song, Somewhere (Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim), in which the star crossed lovers, Tony and Maria, sing, “There’s a place for us. Somewhere a place for us, Peace and quiet and open air, Wait for us, somewhere . . somehow, some day, somewhere!” Those lyrics voiced a generation’s search – maybe everyone’s search.

Lives are spent looking for something, usually without knowing what that something actually is. Some people look for safety, a place without fear or danger. People look for success, usually for the recognition or independence that it promises. People look for comfort, a place that is without stress or striving. Others look for meaning, a place of service and contribution where their life makes a difference. Everyone is looking for something. That’s what gets you up in the morning, motivates you to give your best, and keeps you going when you feel like quitting.

Life is a quest, a search for personal fulfillment and completion. Some spend their whole life and never find that, wasting a lifetime looking for the right things in the wrong places, or looking for the wrong things altogether. Their philosophy could be summed up in these words; “There is no place anything like this place anywhere near this place, so this must be the place.” Too many people eventually settle for the next best thing. They finally accept what comes the closest to their search.

What are you looking for? Everything you do – your goals, your choices, your relationships, your effort, your sacrifice – are ultimately motivated by your search. Wouldn’t it be best to know what that is, and what it should be? I would suggest that this common, lifelong quest is a spiritual longing for where it all began – in personal relationship with the Creator, in a perfect Garden, in productive service, with pleasant companionship. See Genesis 2 NKJV.

Wouldn’t you agree with me that everything else pales in comparison with that? Jesus said that throughout your lifetime He would be busy preparing such a place just for you, but you will never find it here and you will never find it on your own.

“In My Father’s house are many places; if it were not so, I would have told you, for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going . . I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:2-6 NAS. See also John 3:16-21 NLT/ Romans 10:9-10 NLT.

I believe that deep down in the heart of every man and woman there is the innate sense that the wrong place at the end of life is to be forever separated from God. If that separation is true now, it will remain true then. God put that there so you would not waste your life searching for the wrong things in the wrong places.

My prayer for you today is: find your place in Christ Jesus where you truly feel at home.

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For Better or Worse

October 29th, 2009

“The fruit of the Spirit is . .” Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

“The strongest influence you allow will eventually determine your most natural expressions.”

My thoughts today are about “for better or worse.”

Have you noticed that you gradually become more like the persons you choose to be with most frequently? You may not intend to do so; you may not even notice when that is happening, but the reality is that your relationships and the time spent together greatly shape and influence who you are in the process of becoming. Unnoticeably to yourself, you will begin to think like, talk like, and act like the people you are most frequently with and most comfortable being around.

The strongest influence you allow will eventually determine your most honest and natural expressions. Those strong influences could be the friends you seek, the music you prefer, the books you read, the movies you attend, the programs you watch, or the people you envy or admire? What do you presently see coming out of your life as an expression, in regard to those things – such as opinions, attitudes, vocabulary, choices, values, priorities, or lifestyle?

Now, consider the difference if God were the strongest influence in your everyday life. Spend time with God! What would change? What about you would you think might be different, better even than you are now? Today’s Bible verse is really about that. After a most sordid description (See Galatians 5:19-21 NLT) of the worst expressions of your natural enemies – the world, the flesh, and the devil – Paul contrasts that with the influence the Holy Spirit wants to bring into your life.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV. Is that more accurately descriptive of what you really want your life to be?  Here’s how the Bible describes the process, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your life will produce these evil results . . but when the Holy Spirit controls your life, He will produce this kind of (Christ-like) fruit in us . .” Galatians 5:19/22 NLT.

That’s the choice, and your choice makes all the difference – for better or worse! Did you notice that the worst expressions come from your flesh? The far better Christ-like expressions come out of the Spirit who dwells within you.

The problem is not really as evident as it may seem at first. Be clear about this; the root is the problem, not the fruit. Fruit is merely a reflection of the life that is at its source – for better or worse. Symptoms are external and superficial; they only reflect the problem. The source is internal and always influential. You will waste your time trying to control the fruit, when you should more wisely choose the right source. Time spent with God’s Word and Spirit is valuable beyond price and will transform everything about you in the best possible way. See Psalm 1:1-3 NLT/ John 15:4-5 NLT.

My prayer for you today is to allow God’s Word and Spirit to be your strong influences.

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Begin At The Beginning

October 28th, 2009

“Do not despise these small beginnings.” Zechariah 4:10 NLT

“You have to start where you are with what you have.”

My thoughts today are that you, “begin at the beginning.”

This generation is always in a hurry. Most of us – of any age – are so impatient. We want everything, and we want it right now. If it doesn’t happen right now, then we look somewhere else for satisfaction. We expect instantaneous gratification. I learned from my Dad’s frequent reminders that, “Anything worth having is worth working and waiting for!”

What is it that you have set your heart upon? Will you work diligently for that? Are you willing to make sacrifices to see dreams and achievements happen? How long are you willing to work and wait for your dream to come true, before you give up and accept something lesser but easier? “Consider the farmers who eagerly look for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They patiently wait for the precious harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient and take courage.” James 5:7-8 NLT.

You can observe from nature that gradual growth and development is the more natural course of life, and that takes some measure of time. The Bible describes the process of life this way, “The seed should sprout and grow . . for the earth yields crops by itself, first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain.” Mark 4:27-28 NKJV. There is an order and process to life. Sudden success is rarely manageable, enduring, or fully appreciated.

Habitat for Humanity is a wonderful program of building modest, affordable new housing for people who could otherwise not afford a new home, and then providing low cost financing to make it possible. But the family who will move into that home must put a required number of hours into the building of their future home, working alongside the skilled volunteers. Their sweat equity becomes the down payment they didn’t have the money to provide. This wonderfully benevolent program has demonstrated that things which come with personal investment will be rightly appreciated and cared for properly. That principle is true in life.

The better things in life require significant sweat equity. Your personal investment of time and effort multiplies the rewarding sense of accomplishment and satisfaction you will ultimately feel. The Bible wisely counsels, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the eyes of the Lord rejoice to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10 NLT.

A seed is such a small thing, but it holds unimagined, God-given potential which is totally disproportionate to its size. You cannot judge capability by apparent capacity. Capability will surprise you every time. What you see is not always what you get. You are a seed capable of producing a harvest for God greater than you have envisioned.

Begin at the beginning! You have to start where you are with what you have; and when that is trusted and fully surrendered to God, amazing things result. Abraham began his adventure with a promise and a vision; Joseph with a dream and misfortune; Moses with a call and a shepherd’s staff; David with a sling and five stones; a little boy with five loaves and two fish. The thing common to all is God. He can do wonders with the smallest of beginnings. See Philippians 1:6 NLT.

My prayer for you is to know God has given you what you need to do what He wants.

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Your Minimum Daily Requirement

October 27th, 2009

“Be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18 NKJV

“You will do better, be better, and live better when you live by the power of the Spirit.”

My thoughts today are about “your minimum daily requirement.”

So you’re a Christ-follower; shouldn’t everyday life be getting easier? Shouldn’t you be further along than you are? Shouldn’t you be winning new battles instead of fighting so many of the same ones as in the past? Salvation did not solve all of your problems – just the eternal destiny one!

Remember when you finally realized that you could not save yourself by your good works. Yet it is disarmingly easy to still assume that now you can take it from here. You can no more live the Christian life on your own best behavior now than you could save yourself then.

You know what the problem is? Your new faith did not erase your old nature. See Ephesians 2:1-5 NIV. You remain vulnerable to the relentless pull of desires incompatible with your confession and spiritual convictions. And when that happens, feelings of guilt return and doubts cloud your confidence about salvation. You thought that battle was in the past, didn’t you?

Here’s the good news! “Walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 NAS. I would suggest to you that you cannot consistently and successfully walk in the power of the Spirit unless and until you realize that you have been filled with the Spirit. God Himself dwells within you by His Spirit to save you from your old nature, much the same as He redeemed you from your sin by Jesus Christ. See Galatians 2:20 NIV.

I have heard this wonderful progression of spiritual life and growth explained this way. At salvation, you were saved from the penalty of sin. In the ongoing process of sanctification, you are being saved from the power of sin. And in eternity you will be saved from the presence of sin. The old nature will then be eradicated forever; never again will you contend with its inclination toward sin.

There is both an indwelling and an infilling of the Spirit. The indwelling is constant and occurs when the Spirit baptizes you into the Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:13 NKJV. The infilling occurs at your invitation – anywhere, any time, every time – as Jesus baptizes you with His Spirit. The Bible says, “because the days are evil . . be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:16/18 NAS. The Greek word that is translated “filled” does not refer so much to a quantity of something, but instead describes influence – as when a boat’s sails are so filled with the wind that it moves under the direction and influence of that wind.

“When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us . . “Galatians 5:22 NLT. You need to live full of the Spirit; He gives you power you need: to forgive, to be patient in trials, to be loving when mistreated, to trust and obey, to break habits – to live for God as your heart desires to do.

The infilling of the Spirit will not give you more of the Spirit than you already have as a child of God; your invitation to the Spirit is your yielding more of yourself to live within His authority and influence for righteousness. See Galatians 5:24-25 NIV. That’s how you are to live everyday, in and by the power and influence of the Spirit of God. That’s your minimum daily requirement.

My prayer for you is to know the power of God’s Spirit every moment.

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Truth Is Not Negotiable

October 26th, 2009

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6 NKJV

“A pleasant journey is no guarantee of your expected point of arrival.”

My thoughts today state that “truth is not negotiable.”

Today’s culture demands that you exercise religious tolerance, embracing the inaccurate assumption that every system of religious belief must be accepted as equal with every other. At first glance, that might sound reasonable to a fair-minded person, especially when the present culture considers it intolerant and unreasonable to do otherwise. But when examined honestly, is that reasonable? Be tolerant of people, but not tolerant of error masquerading as truth.

The world around you wrongly insists that truth is relative. You will learn that the culture feels free to demand, even impose, that kind of restraint upon you because they mistakenly assume that individuals must be allowed the right to decide for themselves what is true, at least what is true for them. Such a culture refuses to accept that anything is absolute, or that there is any authoritative source of truth. They must refuse a God that exists as revealed in the Bible, in order to make room for every religious invention of man.

Jesus stands in clear distinction from all others, declaring, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except by Me. John 14:6. Jesus is not claiming to be another way or one of many truths; He declares Himself to be the only way and the absolute truth that results in life, abundant now and eternal forever! That is not politically correct to many, but know that in this regard cultural correctness is certainly not the equivalent of truth. Anyone can be sincere in their beliefs, and yet be sincerely wrong.

For the last number of days, Gayle and I have been traveling in British Columbia, Canada, an incredibly beautiful territory of coastline, scenic waterways, towering mountains, and glorious fall foliage. Right now, I am writing in Whistler, British Columbia, looking out at the majestic, mist-covered Blackcomb Mountain where many of the 2010 Winter Olympic events will be held. By airplanes, automobiles, and ferries we have successfully traversed an area of country previously unfamiliar to us. In doing so, we learned to trust Google maps and GPS directions, as well as those friends who are familiar with the area.

We did not simply choose a road that appealed to us or seemed good to us, hoping it would take us where we desired. We first chose our intended destination and only then found the road that would take us there. Every road will lead somewhere, but is that good enough for you? “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” Proverbs 16:25 NLT. You may be sincere in diligently following it only to find that it does not bring you to your anticipated destination. You may have a pleasant journey with an unexpected point of arrival. That is not good enough for me.

Your faith is too important to be based on mere presumption – certainly not man’s opinions nor your own good intentions. True faith is founded solely and solidly on truth, God’s truth. “The work God wants you to do is this: believe on the One He sent.” John 6:29 NCV. See 1 Corinthians 8:5-6.

My prayer for you today is: hold tenaciously to Truth, and share Him well with others.

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