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Archive for July, 2011

Mixture

July 29th, 2011

“He will sit as a refiner . . of silver.” Malachi 3:3 NIV

“Purity only increases value and worth; impurity devalues one’s soul.”

My thoughts today are about “mixture.”

Probably none of us are as pure and pristine as we wish we were, until and unless we allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse and purify our hearts. Paul wrote about the “old man” with deceitful desires, and the “new man” created in true righteousness. Ephesians 4:22-32 NIV. Though it causes you concern, you are a mixture and within that mixture are impurities. Things you’ve said or done may have occasionally been less than edifying to others. In the privacy of your thoughts you might hold opinions and attitudes you would not likely want everyone to know. Those are impurities that God is working to remove, refining your life. When indulged, impurities depreciate who you are and diminish what you become. The things of lesser quality allowed in your life displace the right things of greater quality that God intends for your life. What you allow controls you; what you change frees you.

Paul described that dilemma of mixture this way, “No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway . . it seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong . . what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:18-25 NLT.

That’s the only place you will find the right answers for your life, whatever the question about going forward – “The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord!” Chapter 7 accurately diagnoses the problem, but must be accompanied by chapter 8, which assures your successful deliverance. Exactly because Jesus is Lord, He does not merely have the answer; thank God, man’s Savior is the Answer! See John 14:6-7 NIV.

Can you change? Not by yourself. “Change usually comes when it hurts so much that you have to change, when you learn so much that you want to change, and when you receive so much that you welcome change.” (Author unknown). Those phrases describe three elements for motivating change: pain and suffering that will not allow you to remain as you were, truth that brings understanding of change, and mercy and grace that empowers change. See 1 John 3:1-3 NIV.

Change does not just happen; real and lasting change results from the patient intervention of God in your life. The Bible says, “God will be like a refiner’s fire . . He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver . . then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.” Malachi 3:2-3 NIV. Refining precious metal is a process that requires skill and patience, but also heat. Heat is indispensable to the refining process. As heat increases, any incompatible mixture separates so impurities are identified and removed. Integrity replaces mixture; purity displaces impurity.

Purity only increases value and worth; impurity devalues one’s soul. That is true in so many ways and areas of one’s life. “Avoid every kind of evil. May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:22-24 NIV. Blameless; that’s 100% pure! Read Psalm 51:7/10 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you will be pure of heart and single-hearted for God.

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A Sacred Trust

July 28th, 2011

“Teach them to your children and grandchildren.” Deuteronomy 4:9 NKJV

“Truth is a sacred trust to pass on to the next generations.”

My thoughts today are about “a sacred trust.”

What do you think when you read this verse? “Teach them to your children and grandchildren.” Deuteronomy 4:9 NKJV. You may not have children, or maybe you are far from having grandchildren and might think this is really not for me at this time. Maybe someday, but not now! If that were your thoughts, you would be wrong. The question you should ask is, “What will my life teach?”

According to the Book of Lists, fear of public speaking ranks number one in the minds of a majority of people – right up there with death and disease? Teaching is not as frightening as you might first think. When people hear the word “teaching,” they think of speaking in front of an audience. The terrorizing question is: what would I say? Teaching is not the problem; knowing the right topic is.

“Be very careful never to forget what you have seen the Lord do for you. Do not let these things escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.” Deuteronomy 4:9 NLT. God gives you the right topic – “what you have seen the Lord do!” A parent is expected to tell God’s story to their family through their own life and its lessons learned. That is not describing a formal activity of teaching. It is intended to be a natural expression of caring and connection. Turning your home into a classroom is not the point. Holding your family attentive against their will is not the recommended method. Your life and its lessons learned are the classroom where your children are taught, by your example as much as your words.

Listen to Moses advice to Israel’s fathers. Read Deuteronomy 6:6-9 NIV. (1) What you teach begins with what’s in your heart. “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and all your strength.” Your whole-hearted conviction of God’s love is where you begin. (2) Truth must ring true to your children. “Impress them on your children.” Your goal is to put truth in their hearts, not information in their heads. (3) Keep it real; keep it clear. Talk about them.” Truth has to be real in you to become real to your children. Your job is not to convince your children; your job is to let them see you are convinced. (4) Share practical truth at every opportunity you are given. “At home and on your journeys, at the end and beginning of days . .” (My paraphrase). Don’t procrastinate; your time to teach and their time to listen and learn are limited. It’s not about facts alone; it’s all about passing on the Faith. See Jude 3 NKJV.

Teaching is simply telling another what you learned and what is important to you. Whatever your age now, consider what you want to share with people important to your life; then live your life true to the truth you want to share. What truths govern what you believe, how you conduct yourself, and who you are? Truth is a sacred trust to pass on to the next generations. How you do so will be unique to you; but however you choose to do it, pass it on! See Ephesians 6:4 NIV/Psalm 78:3-7 NIV.

In September 2007, I began writing some daily thoughts and comments to our eldest granddaughter, Lauren, when she went to university. From the Bible and some practical application taught me across my lifetime, I wanted to encourage her faith and spiritual growth, and also leave some record for all of our grandchildren of a real faith that I learned from my Dad and grandfather, and has blessed and guided my life and our family since – practical principles and wisdom I was taught, learned, and consider of primary importance. That continues today as EveryDay Life, but my grandchildren are the ones in mind as I write. I wish I had listened and learned more, and lived better! I would be a better teacher and example now.

My prayer for you today is: live today the way you hope your children will live some day.

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Finish Well

July 26th, 2011

“I have fought . . I have finished . . I have remained faithful.” 2 Timothy 4:7 NLT

“Finishing well requires tenacity, resolve, and integrity.”

My thoughts today are to “finish well.”

I find this quote to be true, “After everything is said and done, more has been said than ever was done!” Life is filled with the best of intentions. Some ambitious intentions we are incapable of accomplishing; others we could have achieved, we did not for one reason or another. People’s lives can be like that; people run out of time, or energy, or resource shy of completion.

With many everyday things that may not matter much. But there are some consequential things in which that will matter a lot. Think of how that can relate to friendships, marriages, families, careers, plans for retirement. No bride or groom ever stood at an altar with thoughts of a failed marriage; no parent ever held a newborn child in their arms, thinking they would be too busy at work or negligent at home. Meaning well is a good beginning, but wins no awards for lifetime achievement. Paul asked the Christ-followers at Galatia, “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Galatians 5:7 NKJV. Is something hindering your progress?

The Apostle Paul looked across the span of his faith-life and wrote, “The time has come for my departure. I have fought a good fight; I have finished the race; and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge will give me on that great day of His return.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8 NLT. Finishing well requires tenacity to “fight a good fight,” resolve to “finish the race,” and integrity to “remain faithful.” Between the success of the good fight and the finished race is the essential task of remaining faithful – the same from beginning to end. Can God and others count on you? Then, the crown and His “well done” awaits.

Paul’s supernatural encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus burned into his heart and soul a singular goal, to finish well. That is a recurring theme woven through his letters to the churches. Appearing before King Agrippa, Paul recounted his initial experience with Jesus that dramatically changed the course of his life forever, concluding this way, “So then, I was not disobedient to the vision from Heaven.” See 26:12-19 NIV. His earthly journey finished well. Read Philippians 1:20-24 NLT.

Jesus’ example should inspire a similar passion in every redeemed heart. Upon the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished! . . Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.” That was not resignation but declaration, not the whimper of a dying man’s surrender to a cruel fate, as some standing by must have assumed. Had they listened with their hearts, they would have heard instead the triumphant voice of Heaven’s Champion who embraced his eternal destiny and would storm the gates of hell, “leading captivity captive, and giving gifts unto men.” Ephesians 4:8-10 NKJV.

What have you begun that you need to finish well – university studies, promises given, marriage vows promised, business agreements, or spiritual commitments? Do you still marvel at the grace shown you in salvation? Is your walk with Christ joyous and abundant as at the beginning? Is your life resting in Christ completely, whatever the circumstance? Today, Dennis, a pastor and friend, wrote these words, “I am reminded over and over that the goal in life is so very simple that it can be captured in two simple words . .  finish well. I couldn’t say it better, or mean it more.

My prayer for you today is that you have the joy of God’s pleasure over all you do.

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God’s Help

July 25th, 2011

“My help comes from the Lord.” Psalm 121:2 NIV

“Whatever you manage to achieve in life, you know you had some help.”

My thoughts today are about “God’s help.”

You will need help from someone sometimes, probably more and more often than you would prefer to admit. You can’t do all that you need to do; you won’t be all that you need to be without the help of others. Pulitzer Prize winning author, Alex Haley, is quoted as saying, “Anytime you see a turtle up on top of a fence post, you know he had some help.” That quote has been often used and amended by others who correctly observe, “. . he doesn’t belong there; he can’t get anything done while he’s up there; and you just want to help the poor, dumb thing down!”

That’s not really about turtles; it is about people. That’s equally true of every one of us. Whatever you manage to achieve in life, you know you had some help. It may have been a parent, or teacher, or friend, or a helpful stranger who was your benefactor but someone along the way helped you. Every person stands on the shoulders of someone who helped. To believe otherwise would be either the height of ignorance or arrogance.

Everyone needs someone’s help on occasion. I think we all realize that to be realistic. I, for one, have needed and received an incalculable amount of helping hands from friends and mentors. My failures have been my own responsibility; any successes have been more to the credit of others’ kindness and assistance. Maybe you have not gotten the help from others that you felt you needed, or at the time and in the measure that you required.

There is one sure Source of help that will never fail you. “Even if my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will hold me close . . I am confident that I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord; be brave and courageous.” Psalm 27:1-14 NLT.

All of us need God’s help all the time! Why is it so hard for a person to admit that? We are undeniably needy, yet avoid admitting our need to God or anyone else. The truest thing you can say to God or a friend is, “Please, I need your help.” Pride is always self-destructive, and never more so than when pride will not allow you to ask for another’s help.

David, the beloved King of Israel, felt his need and found his reliable Source, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2 NIV. What an incomparable credential – the “maker of Heaven and earth!” What more need be said? The One who made all things can certainly help your life work well.

This Psalm healed my broken heart and saved my future ministry when I was just twenty-one, newly married, and stunned by a highway accident taking the life of my Dad and sister. I fell across my bed that night, opened my Bible for comfort, and read Psalm 121. That moment was no less powerful or personal than had the Lord Himself stood before me, “The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:7-8 NIV. I knew my life was in God’s hands; in the good times and bad I would always have the help I needed. When I most needed help, He was there and has remained so throughout my lifetime. See Hebrews 4:12-16 NIV.

The Psalmist looked at Israel’s national history and wrote, “Let Israel now say, ‘If it had not been the Lord who was on our side . . the waters would have overwhelmed us . . the swollen waters would have gone over our soul.’ Blessed be the Lord . . our help is in the name of the Lord, who made Heaven and earth.” Psalm 124:1-8 NKJV. That would be said as truly of Israel yet today! It could be said of your life and well-being as well.

My prayer for you today is that you never fail to recognize and receive the help you need.

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Examples and Warnings

July 22nd, 2011

“These things happened as examples and . . warnings for us.” 1 Corinthians 10:11 NIV

History is the great tutor, teaching future generations to be wiser.”

My thoughts today are about “examples and warnings.”

It is often quoted in varying forms, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana, Spanish-born American philosopher). I would be accurate to paraphrase his words this way, “He who does not learn from his mistakes is destined to repeat them.” History is the great tutor, teaching future generations to be wiser than those before them. Each generation passes down their stories of successes, as well as their legacy of mistakes made with or without lessons learned. Ever wonder why our children are often so much like us?

But be encouraged, God can use your history, as well as the experiences of others, to make you better than you would otherwise have been. Learn from those experiences. From some you learn what to do and from others what to avoid, but from every example you can learn and be better.

“Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did . . these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the world has come. So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” I Corinthians 10: 6/11-12 NIV. In the verses before and after, Paul describes the opportunities Israel had and squandered and the consequence of needless loss from their disregard of God’s law, as the things that can serve as examples and warnings to us. Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-14 NIV.

Every person is given the prospect of avoiding others’ errors and breaking free from their own. God does not use history – your own or another’s – to paint a prediction of your future. You have the power to change your future. God uses history to portray the better possibilities that He desires for you. Examples and warnings are the powerful ways God does that.

Edgar A. Guest, a British-born American Poet, wrote, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way. The eye is a better pupil and more willing than the ear; fine counsel is confusing, but example is always clear.” Seen a sermon? Had the benefit of a guide on your journey? A good example better than a great explanation for you?

I would pose this question: who is the example you are following? A word of warning; before you follow their path too far, look far ahead to see where that takes you. And consider this: who is following your example? Look around; are you helping or hurting them? A good example helps people; making yourself an exception confuses them.

Paul could confidently write, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ . . join with others in following my example, ad take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV/Philippians 3:17 NIV. Life is never do as I say, not as I do. That just doesn’t work, never has, never will. Take your lead from Jesus. “Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 NLT. His example will never be misleading nor confusing.

My prayer for you today is that you follow examples that make you more like Jesus.

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