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Archive for January, 2011

Finding Favor

January 31st, 2011

First, a word of explanation: A kind reader inquired why I closed last Thursday’s Everyday Life with the words, “Love you, Poppa.” Well that was a mistake, but let me explain my oversight. I first write these devotionals to my grandchildren. When our eldest granddaughter, now graduated, went to university, I wanted to remind her of the wisdom and practicality of God’s Truth for her everyday life. I have continued to share with our grandchildren what I have been taught and have found to be essential understandings of how spiritual life works in exactly the places you and I live – at school, home, church, work, and relationships.

I have been their pastor all their lives and want them to know this is much more than what I teach professionally; this is what I believe and try to live personally. This devotional is my commitment to make every effort for the next generation of our family to appreciate and understand the Biblical principles upon which Gayle’s and my life, family, and ministry have been anchored. I want their lives to be built on eternal truth, not temporal opinions. I want to responsibly pass on what has been graciously placed into my life. I always close my comments to them with this reminder of my love, “Love you, Poppa.”

With their permission, I have shared my comments with a growing number of others when EveryDay life has been requested, now about 2,000 subscribed readers as well as others with whom they choose to share them. When copying for the broader mailing, I did not notice I had failed to change that closing; so now you know why . . Love, Poppa!

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“Noah found favor with the Lord.” Genesis 6:8 NLT

“Life is not about doing the minimum; life is about giving your maximum.”

My thoughts today are about “finding favor.”

It’s very useful in life to have the favor of people who can assist and bless your life. Such good will, or favor, is not your right or something you earn or barter for; it is a kind and gracious response from another’s regard and appreciation for your example and efforts, when they are in a position to observe and reciprocate. Never take such kindness lightly. It is good to be likable and truly thankful, not for what you can get but because that’s true to who you are. Make it easy for people to show you kindness, and be expressively and sincerely grateful when they do.

You do not altogether earn the gift favor from others – some measure is always a gift – but favor comes more readily when you live in such a way that others see the wisdom and benefit of extending grace on your behalf. Hopefully, they observe your lifestyle of extending favor generously to others, and view your treating others kindly as you have been treated. The words of Jesus come to mind: “Do for others as you would like them to do for you . . freely you have received, freely give.” Luke 6:31 NLT/Matthew 10:8 NIV.

The most significant source of favor comes from God, the Source of all grace and mercy. People can be fickle; God is faithful and “His favor lasts a lifetime.” Psalm 30:5 NLT. Today’s verse says, “Noah found favor with the Lord.” Genesis 6:8 NLT. I enjoy the paraphrase of this same verse in The Message, “But Noah was different; God liked what He saw in Noah.” Favor is the natural response to what God and others see you to be. That’s why grace and favor are given.

This gracious act of God toward Noah is vividly drawn against the bleak backdrop of God’s description of the people and times in which Noah lived, “The Lord observed the extent of the people’s wickedness . . that all their thoughts were consistently and totally evil . . but Noah was different.” (vs. 5-8 NLT). God saw a different heart in Noah; God liked the difference He saw! In the worst of times and in the most demanding of circumstances, God saw something in Noah that was to be found nowhere else.

God asked Noah to do something, building an ark for the saving of his household – a task he could not possibly understand, for conditions he had never seen, among people who would not understand. Yet Noah chose to obey God without regard for other’s opinions or his own personal cost. Here’s the Bible’s record: “So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.” Genesis 6:22 NLT. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1 NIV/Hebrews 13:20-21 NKJV.

Don’t settle with being like others, satisfied with the norm and content with being average. Raise the bar; seek to excel; be your best, not because that may gain you something but just because you should and you can. Favor comes to those who excel, exceeding expectations while setting a good and Godly example. Life is not about doing the minimum; life is about giving your maximum. You give little; you get little. Give much; much is received.

My prayer for you today is that you will live a life that God can honor and bless.

With regard and appreciation for you, Allen

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Getting Life Right

January 28th, 2011

“Good people live right.” Proverbs 20:7 CEV

“Stuff cannot satisfy, and more stuff just doesn’t satisfy more!”

My thoughts today are about “getting life right.”

I think we often get important things upside down and backwards. The world’s model of greatness is one who exceeds others’ abilities and achievements – being smarter, stronger, tougher, working harder, being revered, or even feared by most. Jesus described greatness in His Kingdom as joyfully, generously serving others, rather than expecting to be served. Jesus’ teaching is about getting life right, turning life right side up and going forward.

Worldly-wise people can do spiritually-foolish things. Solomon was the wisest of men, who ultimately did the most foolish of things. His excess eventually overcame his wisdom. He had exceeding wealth and position that provided everything he wanted while he tried anything his heart desired. He finally pronounced it all as vanity, creating nothing more than futility and emptiness. Read Ecclesiastes 1-2. Stuff does not satisfy and more stuff just doesn’t satisfy more! He got life upside down and backwards.

Maybe that’s been happening to you. A too busy life confuses a person about what seems important, and what really is, about what demands attention and what deserves it. People in your life always take priority. Above all else that clamors for your attention and affections, God and family require it.

Here’s my question: does living right make you a good person, or does a good person live right? The assumption seems to be that if you live right you are a good person because the right things make people good. Do people get the matter of goodness upside down and backwards? I am intrigued by Solomon’s explanation, “Good people live right, and God blesses the children who follow their example.” Proverbs 20:7 CEV. Life is not the external matter of what you do; Goodness is internal, why you do what you do.

Goodness is all about who you are; it begins in your heart. Jesus said, “A good person produces good deeds from a good heart. Whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” Luke 6:43-45 NLT. See Proverbs 4:23 NLT. And being who you can be has everything to do with your invitation and willingness to have Christ first and foremost in your heart. When Jesus is in His rightful place, life is right side up. Is that why they describe good people as “upright and upstanding”?

A last thought: it is wise to remember Solomon’s conclusion for good people who live right, “God blesses the children who follow their example,” assuming of course, that example is one of both Godliness and goodness. Your life should be your greatest legacy – a Godly example for your family and friends to follow. There is no inheritance you leave behind better than that.

My prayer for you today is that you keep eternal matters first, and your life upright.

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Your Thought Life

January 27th, 2011

“Let God transform . . the way you think.” Romans 12:2 NLT

“What you sow in your thoughts grows elsewhere as weeds or fruit.”

My thoughts today are about “your thought life.”

It is not always automatic to understand how much everything else is related to “the way you think.” Your thoughts are the seed bed from which all else springs. What you sow in your thoughts grows elsewhere as fruit or weeds. More often, you will not feel right until you think right; it’s hard to believe right unless you think right; you probably will not do right except you think right. What you think impacts what you feel (emotions), what you ultimately believe (convictions), and eventually what you do (actions). You learn how to direct and control your thoughts, or your thoughts will control you. The Bible says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7 NKJV.

Thoughts can be stubbornly resistant to change. Trying harder does not gain control of your thoughts. Willpower is not enough. Willpower can produce some brief change, but also creates a level of stress that soon pulls you back to your old, familiar way of thinking. Wrong thinking is a habit, and habits are hard to break.

There is even a spiritual dimension in your struggle for mastering thoughts. The enemy understands well the importance and vulnerability of your thought life. Paul uses the analogy of warfare in his discussion about thoughts, and the mind and its thoughts are the arena for the battle, “The weapons of our warfare . . are mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds. Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against (is contrary to) the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV. There, in your mind, so many battles are fought, and where all are won or lost.

That is so wonderfully exciting and reassuring, but begs the question: how do I accomplish that? The Bible’s answer is simple, “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Romans 12:2 NLT. Too simple, you say? Yes, but do you know of a better way? Where does God start to change you? By changing the way you think! Read Philippians 4:8-9 NIV. You can change your life by changing the way you think.

I think we fail because we try to start at the wrong place. Power over your thoughts begins at the place God directs you, “God helping you: take your everyday life, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life – and place it before God as an offering . . fix your attention on God. You will be changed from the inside out.” Romans 12:1-3 The Message. Controlling your thoughts doesn’t begin with your wrestling for mastery there; victory comes when you surrender all that you are and have to God. That’s when you are like-minded with Christ. See Philippians 2:2-12 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that your thoughts be as His and your mind be at peace.

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Change That Matters

January 26th, 2011

“Put off your old self . . put on the new self.” Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV

“Anything that does not accurately express who you are in Christ must change.”

My thoughts today are about “change that matters.”

Life should always be about moving forward, and the first thing for doing that successfully is learning what you need to release and need to acquire. Your past accumulation of habits, priorities, opinions, and lifestyle always has to give way for your future and all that is necessary to experience that fully. That’s what the Apostle Paul understood when he wrote, “Anyone united with Jesus is created new. The old life is gone; a new life is born” 2 Corinthians 5:17 The Message.

The Apostle further explains how this happens, “Everything – and I do mean everything – connected with that old way of life has to go. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life – a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces His character in you.” Ephesians 4:22-24 The Message. Read that again slowly, letting its profound truth and powerful possibilities thrill your understanding – “a God-fashioned life . . renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces His character in you.” Read 2 Peter 1:3-11 NIV. Is that what is happening in your heart today? Has it ever? That’s how you are called to live everyday in Christ.

The Apostle Paul instructed Christ-followers at Ephesus that when God lives and works within you, you will be different, noticeably and radically different than others may be and you once were – you will not lie to get ahead, cheat to succeed, find the easy but dishonest way to acquire things, use anger to control others, or be verbally abusive to get your way. Those are the old ways before Christ; the new ways are: be a truth-teller, a hard and honest worker, generous to others, and an encourager in every way. See Ephesians 4:17-32 NIV. The changes that matter are about character, not cosmetics.

But it is not just the obviously harmful things that have to be set aside; anything, however good otherwise but no longer assists your reaching new goals, cannot be indulged. “All things are lawful to me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful to me, but not all things edify” 1 Corinthians 10:23. Anything that does not accurately express who you are in Christ, and the fullness of life that you are seeking to have, must be counted expendable – once helpful, now hindering. Everyone carries old baggage – the regrets, mistakes, and hurts carried in your memory, weighing down your journey. See Philippians 3:7-14 NIV.

“It’s like this: when I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I grew up, I put away childish things” 1 Corinthians 13:11 NLT. If you are serious about growing and going forward in your spiritual life, it is crucial, not optional, to put aside anything that contributed to your past but does not serve your desired future. It’s really this simple: “Put off your old self . . put on the new self.” Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV. You cannot possibly do that on your own. Willpower is not enough. God can do and will do that with you!

My prayer for you today is that you are serious about becoming who you should be.

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Your Part and God’s

January 25th, 2011

“Then I will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

“What God asks is never complicated and rarely difficult, but always required.”

My thoughts today are about “your part and God’s.”

Is there ever a time that a nation, or individual, does not need God’s grace? From the Bible’s record, there is never a time that God is disinterested in doing so. God was willing to spare even the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, if just ten righteous people could be found. The whole story of Jonah turns on the desire of God to send the prophet to the wicked city of Nineveh to warn and turn their hearts to God. Repeatedly, God sent prophets to Judah and Israel to call them back in repentance, if only they would do so. God’s heart for nations, and people, never changed – nor have His requirements.

But first, there are things that God asks His people to do. His promise, as always, is prefaced by a spiritual initiative that you must take. It is said the conditions that preceded the fall of every great civilization are evidenced today. If you wish your life to be as God wants it to be, to see others’ lives restored, churches revived, and our nation truly be “One nation under God,” you must follow the Bible’s counsel.

What God asks is never complicated, and rarely difficult, except that obedience always costs you something and is usually at cross grain from what comes naturally to you. Today’s verse present four principles of God’s expectations:

(1) Turn from self-interest to God’s interests. “If My people, who are called by My name . .“ To whose interests and priorities are you committed, God’s or yours? Matthew 6:33.

(2) Turn from self-reliance to dependence on God. “. . will humble themselves and pray . .“ You pray most effectively when you humbly and honestly recognize your need of God.

(3) Turn from self-determination to God’s direction. ”. . and seek My face . .” You cannot choose your own way and have grace; follow His ways always. Psalm 27:8/Psalm 37:5.

(4) Turn from self-righteousness to self-examination. “. . and turn from their wicked ways . .” Until you want to walk righteously, God cannot work in your life. 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Here is God’s promised result for you, and for our communities and nation, “Then I will hear from Heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14. I am ready for all God has to give and to see all that God will do. If you are reading this, you probably are also. God is looking for a person who wants Him to do what He has been waiting to do; a person who is willing to do whatever God is asking.   

My prayer for you today is that you will be that person for whom God looks.

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