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Archive for March, 2011

Agreement

March 31st, 2011

“You must get along with each other.” 1 Corinthians 1:10 Message

“You either learn to get along or you are left to go alone.”

My thoughts today are about “agreement.”

The choices are simple really; you either learn to get along or you are left to go alone. And it is a learning process. The Bible plainly establishes the intended reality; from the beginning, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone . . God sets the solitary in families.” Genesis 2:18/Psalm 68:6 NKJV. You were just not created to be on your own.

Yes, normal people need their space, but normal people also need the company and mutual contribution of others. The Church was born for community and birthed in community, and is meant to model both the unique diversity and unity that is a viable pattern for everyday life. Read Acts 2:41-47/4:32-35 NIV.

It is the God-given differences that make others more necessary and most valuable to you. “Vive la difference!” Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-27 NIV. I don’t need you to be a duplicate of me, nor me of you. One of us ends up being a cheaper copy of the other’s originality, or both lose some measure of who we were designed to be. Our simple goal is to be more like Jesus everyday.

Sure there are adjustments everyone will have to make, but those should be voluntary not demanded. Sometimes you have “to go along to get along.” You choose to do that, not because you must, but because you choose to value the relationship with another as worth such a small sacrifice. If you and I require one another to agree on everything, then we become less personally authentic and have less opportunity to grow individually or together. You do not have to agree about everything, but you need to be agreeable about anything. “Be like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose . . in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Read Philippians 2:1-11 NIV.

I think people waste much time about external dissimilarities and extraneous opinions and personal preferences yet miss the most incredible, powerful dynamic of spiritual agreement – sharing a true oneness of heart and spirit that releases God to work His will powerfully in lives, marriages, friendships, and churches.

The story of ancient Babel illustrates the purely natural dynamic of agreement that required God’s intervention. “The Lord said, ‘If as one people . . they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.’” Read Genesis 11:1-9 NIV. Imagine then the available power of spiritual agreement as on the day of Pentecost to people “in one place and in one accord” with the intention and timing of God. See Acts 2:1 NKJV. Those 120 unified and empowered believers changed their world, and ours!

Jesus said, “I tell you this: whatever you prohibit on earth is prohibited in Heaven, and whatever you allow on earth is allowed in Heaven. I also tell you this: if two of you agree down here on earth concerning anything you ask, My Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together because they are Mine, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:18-20 NLT.

Together, anything within God’s will is possible. How you are willing to relate and work together with others in ordinary, everyday life has much to do with what God can do through you. Unleash the power of agreement in your life, work, home, and relationships.

My prayer for you today is that you appreciate diversity and value unity highly.

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A Simple Lesson

March 30th, 2011

“The deeds of a man’s hands will return to him.” Proverbs 12:14 NAS

“Whatever good is done toward God or man, will be returned from God’s own hand.”

My thoughts today are about “a simple lesson.”

There is a simple lesson in life – what you do and say, whether good or bad, eventually comes back to you in some form of either kindness or trouble. Just because you feel like speaking or behaving in a certain way does not mean that you should. When you give and what you give determine what you will receive. Therefore it would only be wise to consider carefully the effect of what you do or say before doing so.

Solomon wisely observed, “Your reward depends on what you say and what you do; you will get what you deserve.” Proverbs 12:14 Today’s English Version. Now that can be either encouraging or terrifying. It’s great to know that God rewards goodness; not so comforting to realize that He does not spare you the bitter fruit of wrongdoing. The Bible calls that sowing and reaping: “For he who sows to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption . . sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life . .” See Galatians 6:7-10 NKJV.

As a child, I remember my grandfather saying, “God will be no man’s debtor.” I have come to understand what he meant by that. He had learned that whatever good is done, toward God or man, will be returned with blessing from God’s own hand, in one way or another, at one time or another. Your return or reward may not always come from an expected point of supply, but the reward will always come from the only Source of good; God lets no good go unrewarded. God uses whom He chooses to do His work.

Here’s the practical lesson in this. Never hesitate to do what is right; those opportunities come your way with God’s blessing and enrichment. Conversely, never do what you know is wrong, however small or secret that may at first appear. There is a moral law. Good comes from good; no good comes from evil doing.

You can count on this to be true . . “knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord.” Ephesians 6:7 NKJV. You may not realize the connection with a previous occasion at that moment, but God does and remembers and rewards accordingly.

My prayer for you today is that you do good freely and receive reward extravagantly.

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A Certain Confidence

March 29th, 2011

“Blessed is the man . . whose confidence is in [God].” Jeremiah 17:7 NIV

Confidence is the knowledge you will have what you need, to do what you need to do.”

My thoughts today are about a “certain confidence.”

Living without confidence makes life more difficult than it needs to be. Usually, a person’s confidence is a bit of a mixed bag – confident in some areas and not so much in others. There will be people and experiences that build confidence in your life, encouraging and assuring you, along with your own experiences of success that provide reasonable expectations for future accomplishment. But there are also a lot of things that happen to shake your confidence, and there are always people along the way who don’t help you develop much, even ones that should.

Have you ever wondered what makes some people confident while others struggle so much with that? I think confidence is the knowledge that you will have what you need to have, to do what you need to do. Life experience, a good education, a supportive family and circle of friends, past successes, and a healthy sense of self-esteem certainly help your level of confidence. But I would suggest one thing more that you will need; you need a reliable source of help beyond yourself in addition to all the things I just mentioned.

Your confidence needs to be centered in God! Read Romans 8:35-39 NKJV. The Bible states it this simply: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like . .” Read Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV. Jeremiah then describes such a person: having permanence, being in a good place, enjoying reliable and sufficient resources, reflecting stability, unshaken by adversity, and remaining fruitful throughout difficult times. Is that the kind of person you would hope to be?

Those are the characteristics that should and can describe you; but you must choose to place and keep your trust and confidence in God. “For You have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you . .” Psalm 71:5-6 NIV. The earlier you learn the true source of assurance, the easier you’ll discover real confidence. Paul found his confidence in Christ, “For I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12 NKJV.

The preceding verses describe a far different confidence: “. . who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like . .” See Jeremiah 17:5-6 NIV. The contrast in this person’s situation and success is vivid and shocking: vulnerable to surroundings, unproductive, not prospering as others, and altogether on their own. If they have any confidence at all, it is a false confidence, more imagined than real.

Jesus told a story about people whose confidence was in themselves alone. Read Luke 18:9-14 NIV. When your heart is confident before God, you can live with courage and confidence in front of everyone and in everything. Read Psalm 27:10/13-14 NIV. “We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success come from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that­­­­ your complete confidence rests squarely on God.

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Walls and Bridges

March 28th, 2011

“I will restore you . .and heal your wounds.” Jeremiah 3:17 NIV

God has new life for you on the other side of your pain!

My thoughts today are about “walls and bridges.”

How are you at building bridges? Bridges provide access across places, people, and things that separate. A lot of life is about bridge-building, spanning distances, eliminating differences, or overcoming difficulties that seem uncrossable. Bridges are a means to significantly connect with other people, and a way to reconcile differences to restore relationships.

Jesus was a bridge-builder. “You were separate from Christ . . without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Jesus. For He Himself is our peace . .” Ephesians 2:12-14 NIV. Paul wrote, “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ . .” See 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 NIV.

But it’s easier and more tempting to build walls. We all do that much of the time. Walls provide shelter, safety, and security, but also separate people. There are walls you need, and walls that you don’t. When you build walls to keep others out, you may discover those same walls keep you secluded and alone. A lot of us are better at building walls than bridges, so some lives are lived in isolation and relationships remain difficult or short term. Usually a wall is built to protect you, because of something that happened before. That is usually an unsuccessful attempt to make sure something hurtful does not happen again. How has that worked for you?

Is there a place where you have built a wall, but really needed a bridge? “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain; unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” Psalm 127:1 NIV. If your wall is an attempt to avoid pain, it will not work; you only trade one kind of pain you felt before for a different pain you feel now. The trade-off for never again letting people close enough to hurt you is a relational loneliness of soul that can even exclude God unintentionally.

Two things you know: hurting people hurt other people, and you cannot isolate yourself safely away from any possibility of ever being hurt. What’s the answer then? I suggest two things you can do. (1) Build a bridge to reconcile the relationship. “Repay no man evil for evil . . if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men . . do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21 NKJV.

You cannot prevent people from being hurtful. You can choose to refrain from doing the same. “If your brother sins against you . .” Matthew 18:15 NIV. And what if the problem is of your creation? “If you remember that your brother has something against you . .” Matthew 5:23-24 NIV. Fairly or unfairly, the first responsibility for Godly initiative begins with the one who values the other most. No relationship is irreparable until both parties are willing for it to be.

(2) Use the bridge God provides to bring your pain to Him. Forgiveness is the bridge that brings you to a place of healing and restoration. Ideally, that is done mutually, but often it may have to be unilateral. Read Ephesians 4:30-32 NKJV. “Those who plunder you will be plundered . . but I will restore you to health and heal your wounds . .“ Read Jeremiah 30:16-22.

Here’s what God did for Job when the counsel and conduct of his friends added to his already extensive pain, “And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Job 42:10 NKJV. Prayer may or may not change the other person, but I guarantee you prayer will change you. God has new life for you on the other side of your pain!

My prayer for you today is that you tear down walls and build bridges instead.

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Words of Encouragement

March 25th, 2011

“Barnabas . . was glad and encouraged them all.” Acts 11:23 NIV

“When you encourage others, you are doing the work of God.”

My thoughts today are about “words of encouragement.”

It’s pretty simple, obvious really; you can’t give something to others unless it is first real in you. Out of your own experience, you best help others. Remember a time when you faced something unfamiliar and a friend who had walked there before showed you the right path? They were sharing what they had, and you became the beneficiary.

You probably don’t recognize the name, “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus,” but you probably will know the name others soon called him – “Barnabas, son of encouragement.” Acts 4:36 NIV. Encouragement was not just what Barnabas did; encouragement was all about who Barnabas wanted to be, and who he became in the lives of others.  That can be true of you also.

Encouragement was both his character and his lifestyle. He encouraged the church to receive the recent convert, Saul. Acts 9:26-28. He encouraged Saul to join him in the revival at Antioch. Acts 11:25-26. He encouraged young John Mark, giving him a second chance and including him, when Paul would not. Acts 15:36-39. I have received second chances many times, and was encouraged to do better.

The incident when Barnabas was sent to encourage the new converts in Antioch evidenced his much deserved reputation. “The Church at Jerusalem . . sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” Acts 11:22-24 NIV.

Did you notice a sequence? “He was glad.” He was encouraged by the new life and sincere faith he found, and so he encouraged the new believers in what they were doing and how well they were doing so. “He encouraged them!” He gave them inner courage and confidence to continue in a job well done. Have you ever needed that, and receiving it made all the difference in your energy and persistence to continue? Are you being that point of encouragement to someone?

I would suggest that Barnabas, true to his nature, came expecting to find something for which to encourage these new believers. If they were anything like you or me, there were probably numerous things that could have been better, various things that could have been accurately critiqued. He wasn’t looking for those things; Barnabas was looking for whatever good things he could affirm and reinforce to encourage their continuing growth. The best way to correct the things that lack is to encourage a person who is trying to do better.

I have observed that people usually find what you are looking for. If you are looking for things to correct, you can find them. Look for things to commend; you can find plenty of those as well. People are usually better at the first of those two. “May our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV. When you encourage others, you are doing the work of God. See Romans 15:4-8 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you learn the skill of encouraging others.

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