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Archive for March, 2010

Beneficial

March 31st, 2010

“You are the salt of the earth . . the light of the world.” Matthew 5:13-14 NIV

“Do you have a beneficial effect in the lives of others?”

My thoughts today are about being “beneficial.”

Most people want to make a difference. You want to believe that your life matters. A long time ago, a friend gave me this practical advice: when you begin to think that you are a bit more important than you really are (and you will), just stick your finger in a bucket of water. When you pull it out, notice how long you leave a hole. That’s very true, but anyone wants to believe that there is some place – some way, some time, and with someone – where you would “leave a hole.” No one wants to live and nobody notice.

You are not important because you think you are; you are important when God and others say you are important to them. Making a difference has everything to do with the beneficial effect that you have in and on the lives of others. Not very complicated, is it?

Salt has a beneficial effect. It is noticeable in its touch. Its purpose is to impart flavor where it’s lacking and enhance flavor where it exists. Do you do that? Do you make people and situations around you better than they would be if you were not there? Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth!” Matthew 5:13 NIV. Then be salty without apology. God forbid that you are content to be bland, to just blend in, to become a cheap copy of anyone else, or to be indistinguishable from anyone else. You were never meant to be forgettable. You are unique. You are meant to make a difference.

Light has a beneficial effect. It enlightens everything within its reach, making some things noticeable when they might not otherwise be seen, and other things more beautiful than they would otherwise appear. My wife, Gayle, likes lights of every variety – the soft glimmer of candlelight, the attention drawn by accent lights, the beauty of decorative lights, and the bright lights needed for a particular task. All are different; all have their purpose; all are beneficial.

It’s very satisfying and useful when you recognize what God made you to be, and be that to the best of your ability. “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also . . they also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” Acts 17:6 NKJV/Acts 4:13 NLT. Being with Jesus makes you different in the best of ways. Don’t blend in; stand out! “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 NIV.

Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, “Take Mark and bring him with you, for he is profitable to me for ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11 NKJV. My thoughts are captured by the assessment of Mark – “he is profitable to me.” That’s what I want to be true of my life – profitable for ministry! I think you would like that to be said of your life as well.

My prayer for you today is this: live so others can see Jesus better.

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Spending Time

March 30th, 2010

“Tell me clearly what to do, and show me which way to turn.” Psalm 5:8 NLT

“Life is wonderful, when your life is in His hands and care.”

My thoughts today are about “spending time.”

Are you spending too much time feeling lost and overwhelmed, feeling like more was against you than for you? You should read the Psalms, especially Psalm 5. David felt that way, the way you may be feeling right now. It may be your job – difficult; it may be your finances – stretched; it might be a relationship – strained; it may be a problem – distressing; it might be a decision – complicated; it may be a crisis – urgent; you may be at a crossroads – unclear. Whatever that is, it is important to you and of concern. That means it is important to God because you are important to God. He wants you to “cast all your care on Him because He cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NKJV.

Life is wonderful, when your life is in His hands and care, but life is not always simple or easy. Everyday life can be demanding. Some days the path going forward is plain. But there are other days and situations when the next step seems shrouded in questions and uncertainty.

Here’s the usual options. You can just guess and move forward anyway. Don’t some say any decision is better than no decision? Occasionally maybe, but not usually. That’s quite a gamble really. You can stay paralyzed right where you are and go nowhere, but that’s not much of a solution. You can add up all the facts, laboriously laying out the pros and cons only to conclude that they don’t add up after all. You certainly should seek respected advice and valued experience.

Missing anything? Let me advise that you pour your heart out to God, sincerely and humbly. “O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.” Read Psalm 130:1-2 NIV. Don’t tell Him your answers, or non-answers; be real about your questions. He can handle them. “Tell me clearly what to do, and show me which way to turn.” Psalm 5:8 NLT. That’s an invitation He loves.

Now here’s the important part: listen! That’s where and when David found his answers. “Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand.” Psalm 40:6 NLT.

Here’s how you learn to listen. Spend time in prayer and meditation of Scripture. Read Psalm 1:1-3 NIV. Meditate on eternal truth, not your present read of what appears as facts. It is not always the quantity of time. But it is always the quality of time you spend with God, but time is certainly an element of quality. God doesn’t answer by Facebook and Twitter. What God has to say is important enough to spend whatever time is necessary to hear and understand His voice.

Don’t you think it interesting that people talk about “spending” time? Time is a commodity, one to be used wisely for things that truly matter. It is wisdom, not wealth or want, that makes time valuable. You can spend it for something worthwhile in return. You can invest it in family and friends, planning for your future well-being, spiritual growth of yourself and others, and serving God in practical and helpful ways.

Time is also something too often wasted, too soon gone, with too little to show for it. You can’t know how much will be given to you in your lifetime, but everyone has the same 24 hours each day – no more, no less. Use every minute usefully, and make sure enough of those are spent with God in His presence and Word. Spend time where you will find the answers you need, the clarity you seek, and the direction you lack. Read what David found there. Psalm 5:11-12 NIV.

My prayer for you today is: spend your time where you find God’s will and blessing.

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Tough Love

March 29th, 2010

“Whoever says to the guilty, ‘You are innocent’ – people will curse him.” Proverbs 24:24 NIV

“It is not right to say something is all right when it is not right at all.”

My thoughts today are about “tough love.”

We live in a strange world where some people confuse bad with good, and pronounce good as though bad. Sometimes it is tough to keep all that straight. The problem is relativism, the presumed right to reject any absolutes whatsoever. Like the National Bureau of Standards for weights and measures, God’s Word is a trusted absolute, an impeccable, accurate standard.

Without an objective standard, everything becomes subject to each person’s differing perspective and opinion, therefore inconsistent and confusing. Some people and politicians often seem governed only by their personal or political ideology and situational expediency. One could complain and accuse except that, if not careful, you and I are just as subjective, deciding matters by our own preference and prejudice. It is not right to say something is all right when it is not right at all – or to declare that something is not right, when it is.

How does today’s verse apply? In an attempt to help, you may not recognize when your best efforts are not as helpful as you intend. Generally, indulging another’s bad habits does not readily fix what needs fixing. A noted pastor of many years observed wisely to me, “People in long term difficulties do not need a hand-out as much as they need a hand up.” See Acts 3:6-8 NIV.

There are compassionate acts when grace is rightly needed. Differentiate that from enabling wrongdoing that allows mistakes over and over without real consequence. Solomon applies that reality to declaring the guilty as innocent when they are not, but says that will come back to your harm and theirs. Rescuing someone from the wrong choices rarely does them any favor; you might ease your pain from seeing their distress and difficulty, but just medicate their eventual pain of facing reality. What they need to do is call on God and make better choices and necessary changes.

One of David’s penitential psalms reveals how God allowed David to suffer from his unconfessed sins until his pain cried out to God for release not relief. See Psalm 32. Imagine the harm had others assured David of his innocence when he knew that he was not. It’s called tough love, and it is appropriately named; it is often as tough to give as to receive. Tough love will not let you say yes to someone just because that is easier, when saying no is kinder, wiser, and more loving.

Read Luke 15:11-23 NIV. How long and how many times do you think the father in Jesus’ story wanted to go search and bring his son back home? Though the boy remained in his father’s heart every day he was gone; he would be in his father’s home when he wanted to truly be there, on something other than his own terms. It was a necessary process. “He spent everything . . he began to be in need . . he longed to fill his stomach . . he came to his senses . . he got up and went to his father.” Let your heart quickly turn toward home where Father waits with welcome.

My prayer for you today is: know right from wrong, good from bad; do not compromise.

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Where Amazing Happens

March 26th, 2010

“By grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:5 NAS

“Grace is never about what you do or have; it is always about God.”

My thoughts today are about “where amazing happens.”

Ever wondered what “grace” looks like? You have seen it, even if you did not recognize it. You have received it, even though you did not deserve it. Hopefully, you have given it to someone along the way, when that was the last thing they expected. Grace is extending to another a generous measure of benevolence that is better than they deserve, and well beyond what they can repay.

Grace is best seen when you are treated in a manner other than you could expect, or benefit from more than you could have earned. Grace is not really about you or what you’ve done. Grace is all about the one that offers it. It is given unconditionally, from a source that did not have to do so.

Interestingly, the Greek word for “grace” comes from the primary root word meaning “to rejoice.” Might that connection suggest that grace rejoices one’s heart with favor and forgiveness when the pain and loss of judgment and retribution would have been expected? Grace from God is expressed in goodness and mercy. See Psalm 23:6. Goodness is when God gives you what you could not deserve; mercy is when God does not give you what you do deserve.

“We too lived in our fleshly desire, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and by nature were the children under wrath . . but God, Who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us made us alive with the Messiah even though you were (spiritually) dead in trespasses . . for by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift, not from works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:3-9. See 2 Corinthians 9:14-15 NIV.

You cannot get grace by anything you have or do; you can only be given grace as a free gift.   “The Word became flesh and took up residence with us . . as the One and Only Son, full of grace and truth. Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness . . grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:14/16. In life you may experience occasional glimpses of graciousness from others, but real grace is only fully and truly expressed through Jesus the Savior.

Lately, we have been singing a simple chorus, “Your grace still amazes me, Your love is still a mystery; Each day I fall on my knees; ‘cause Your grace still amazes me.” Phillips, Craig and Dean. Grace is where amazing happens!

My prayer for you today is that you rejoice in His grace, and give grace to others.

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If

March 25th, 2010

“Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you.” Psalm 55:22 NLT

“If you will, God will.”

My thoughts today are about “if.”

If is such a small word, but upon such a small hinge swings so many huge possibilities. If usually introduces the grandest of dreams, as well as precedes the greatest of regrets. The word suggests something that essentially determines what will or will not follow. Innumerable times this otherwise insignificant word prefaces great opportunity (John 7:37-39 NIV/Romans 8:31 NLT), or stern warning (Mark 11:26 NKJV). Check out your Bible concordance to see how repeatedly the word occurs in the Bible.

The first words that came to my mind when I read today’s verse – “Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you” – presented a qualification best voiced in this way: “If you will, God will!” There are things that God can do, and wants to do for you, that require a prior step of your own obedience and faith. An honored senior minister and friend of many years to me, Holman, often quoted this, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.” Isaiah 1:19 NIV. He always put strong emphasis on God’s clear condition – if!

I don’t think God usually does so many things for you; I find that God loves to do remarkable things with you. Is there anything that you are waiting for God to do – and He seems to be taking far too long doing that! – while He may actually be waiting on you? Have you checked lately? Don’t think that by delaying your willingness and/or obedience that God will stop waiting on you and do it for you anyway.

Consider a different side to this. Is there anything you are trying to do on your own without fully depending on God? Let me posture today’s verse a little differently, like this, “(If you don’t) give your burdens to the Lord, (how can) He take care of you?” You may think you have given the burden to God, but why then do you still struggle beneath the weight and worry of it. As long as you are holding your burdens, you are at least partially withholding your burdens from His hands and yourself from His care. “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NIV. Let it go; let God have it, and see what He can do.

My prayer for you today is: let God take care of you, continually and completely.

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