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Archive for April, 2012

Who’s on Whose Side?

April 30th, 2012

“There is a greater power with us than with him.” 2 Chronicles 32:7 NIV

“A sure strategy for spiritual failure is to isolate yourself from God and others’ company.”

My thoughts and comments today ask “who’s on whose side?”

Life has times when it is important to know whose side you are on, and also times when it is critical to know who is on your side. Knowing whose side you are on provides clarity and strengthens loyalty. Knowing who is on your side empowers courage and confidence. When adversity touches your life – when fears scramble your thoughts – when confusion clouds your judgment – when shame pushes you to withdraw – or when you need someone to care for you – open your heart to people who have a history of caring about you.

There may be times when people can’t be there for you, but God always will be. When the Assyrian King threatened Judah, King Hezekiah assured the people, “’Be strong and courageous . . for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.’ And the people gained confidence.” 2 Chronicles 32:7-8 NIV. You too can have that confidence today. Read 2 Kings 6:14-17 NLT.

As Joshua faced the intimidating, fortified city of Jericho, he found himself confronted by an armed visitor and asked, “’Are you for us or for our enemies?’ So He answered, ‘Neither, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’” Read Joshua 5:13-15 NIV. “Whose side are You on?” would be a normal question for anyone in such a situation. That’s good information to have but the real issue was, “Joshua, whose side are you on? Yours or the Lord’s?” It’s always best to be on the Lord’s side; then you’ll know for sure He is on yours. “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side let the [people of God] say . . [they] would have overwhelmed us.” Psalm 124:1-5 NKJV. Many times that would have been true for me were God not on my side. Be assured, “The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 NIV.

Sometimes God is there for you in the person of a friend. Some years ago, my friend, Rick, asked a thought provoking question at a pastors gathering, “If you were to fail and fall, who have you allowed to know you well enough – to know your history and struggles – to know where to look for you?” To our own harm, many of us are too private, allowing few if any others into our confidence. Solomon reasoned, “Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one . . people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble . . two can stand back to back and conquer.” Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT. Who has your back?

No one does as well when facing challenges and adversity alone. Across the years of pastoring, I have observed that a sure strategy for spiritual failure is to isolate yourself from God and others’ company. See Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV. You need the strength of others as they need yours. I have watched people in difficult situations, when needing the reassurance and resource of others, illogically withdraw from those most likely to help. Is it pride? Is it embarrassment? People often become scarce when they need fellowship most. When you feel alone and don’t want to be, open your heart to allow others into your life. But when you feel like just losing yourself in a crowd, get alone with God instead; there you’ll find the help you need. See Hebrews 13:6 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you stay close to God and be real with others.

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Truth and Honesty

April 27th, 2012

“You, [Lord], desire honesty from the heart.” Psalm 51:6 NLT

“Life is simplest when truth is the only option you will allow yourself.”

My thoughts and comments today are about “truth and honesty.”

Some years ago when I testified before the Federal Communications Commission in Washington DC in regard to an application for a television broadcast license, the church’s attorneys coached me to avoid prefacing my responses to questions with, “to be perfectly honest with you” or “honestly speaking.” They advised that those phrases may wrongly imply that I could be less than honest and truthful in some other comments or occasions. There are times and things that may tempt you to “adjust” truth more conveniently to the moment. Resist such a time or situation.

Sometimes truth and honesty are inconvenient and seem inadequate for what we want. We want people to like us, so we flatter others. We want friends to admire us, so we exaggerate. We want others to be impressed, so we spend money we cannot afford. Truth-telling can have consequence on some few occasions, but dealing less than honestly and truthfully has consequences in your heart and character always. When you selectively speak a little less than the truth, is it still the truth? When you add something of your own opinion to truth, haven’t you made it something less not more? Life is simplest when truth is the only option you will allow yourself. Speaking or hearing the truth about yourself may hurt briefly; speaking the truth about others, however, should never be hurtful. Read Ephesians 4:15 NIV.

There is a valuable principle with which John concludes the New Testament, a warning about adding to or taking away from God’s words that could also be applied to an individual’s regard and handling of truth. See Revelation 22:18-19 NKJV. John says that you need all the truth Scripture provides, and certainly nothing less than that. Every court in our country requires all testimony first to be sworn to with these words: “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; so help you God?” The truth, the whole truth, and nothing less nor more than the truth! How much more should that be always the case with those who profess the name of Christ and dare to speak on His behalf?

Solomon advises, “Truth, wisdom, learning, and good sense – these are worth paying for, but far too valuable to sell.” Proverbs 23:23 TEV. I really like this contemporary translation connecting those four related attributes – truth, wisdom, learning, and good sense! Don’t “sell the truth” for any price. Truth is from God and the prerequisite for “wisdom;” from wisdom “learning” is acquired; and “good sense” is the practical application of what you have learned by experience. Interestingly, truth believed and practiced produces the good sense everyday life needs, and too many people appear to lack.

King David found a situation in his life when he was less than honest and truthful – with himself, which is where the problem always begins, and with others, and ultimately with God. He learned the folly and pain of doing so. See Psalm 32:1-5 NLT. From that painful experience, David wrote, “You (Lord) desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being.” Read Psalm 51:1-12 NLT. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 NIV. Truth is liberating. Reflect prayerfully on Psalm 139:23 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you will experience the liberating power of truth.

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Procrastination

April 23rd, 2012

“Be sure to do what you should. Galatians 6:4 NLT

Procrastinated obedience is simply disobedience disguising itself.”

My thoughts and comments today are about “procrastination.”

What are you putting off that you should do today? Ask yourself, “Why do I have trouble getting started on things that I know I should do?What was your answer or excuse, as the case may be? Procrastination is never your best answer – to a task, challenge, promise, or problem. More often than not, now is the best time; today is the best day!

Many things that you will put off doing are not so bad once you actually begin. The hard part is moving past the emotional inertia and simply getting started. There are some tasks that take less time to complete than a person wastes waiting for just the “right time” to begin. Wrongly, you may assume that the right time is the time that you “feel” like doing what you should do, and that is rarely the case. It’s starting that stops you.

In a beloved movie, “The Sound of Music,” Maria teaches the Von Trapp children, “Let’s begin at the beginning; a very good place to start.” And today is a very good place to start! The Bible says, “You who say, ‘tomorrow we are going to a certain town . . we will do business there and make profit.’ How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog – it’s here for a little while, then it’s gone.” James 4:13-14 NLT. Begin today before the opportunity is missed.

Have you felt the Lord gently nudging you to do something you have been putting off? What seem reasons to you may sound like excuses to the Lord. You may not say you won’t do what the Lord is asking, but maybe you haven’t said that you would either. Valuable time is wasted while waiting, time wasted in your life, and time and opportunity wasted for the Kingdom of God – time you can never recover, time lost forever.

Jesus told a story about two sons. Read Matthew 21:28-32. Both were clearly asked to work in their father’s fields, “today.” The first said he would not, “but afterward repented and did.” Did he go later that day, or a later day? Does it matter? The other said that he would, “and did not go.” Was he lying? Probably not. Like me sometimes, he probably meant to do it that day after he took care of something else first. Jesus asked a pointed and pertinent question: “Which of the two did the will of his father?” Think about that; how would you answer the question?

The real answer is: neither did the will of their father, not as and when he wanted. I don’t think that either son wanted to disobey their father. Like us, they probably just had previous plans or things they preferred instead. “Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well.” Galatians 6:4 NLT. It is not always as simple as today’s verse sounds, is it?

My Dad taught me a valuable life-lesson when I was still a teen, “First things first!” The right thing to do is always the best thing to do, and first is always the right time to do that. Procrastinated obedience is not obedience really; it is simply disobedience disguising itself. I have observed that any delay to obey makes obedience less likely or less complete. Do you find it easier to be prompt about things for more immediate and temporal benefit than in matters of eternal consequence to yours or others’ lives? Why not begin today “to do what you should!” It keeps life simpler.

My prayer for you is that you put off what you should not do, not what you should.

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Living Responsibly

April 19th, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

To friends of EveryDay Life Ministries: I leave early tomorrow morning from London for ministry in Sofia, Bulgaria, where EveryDay life is also translated and distributed there by Pastor Lusi Arsov and Friends Church. I ask your prayerful agreement with me in faith for fruitful ministry for the teaching times this weekend. I look forward to reporting on the  ministry there and resuming the daily devotionals upon my return home next week. ARR

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Much is required from those to whom much is given.” Luke 12:48 NLT

You have gained little, if anything, apart from someone’s gift or grace.”

My thoughts today are about “living responsibly.”

Why are our natures uncomfortable with being accountable? We seem to prefer to answer only to ourselves. But that is not the way life works, is it? You and I have been given much – kindness, friendship, open doors, recommendations, assistance, benefit of others’ experience and knowledge, resources, abilities, and opportunities. You have gained little, if anything, apart from someone’s gift or grace shown you. In one form or another, every gift brings a responsibility to sincerely acknowledge gratefully, as well as a stewardship for what you received. “It is required that those who have been given a trust prove faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV.

Jesus stated this truth simply and succinctly, “Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” Luke 12:48 NLT. You may be tempted to take for granted what you have, without realizing the incredible generosity shown you or recognizing your accountability for its wise stewardship and generous sharing. Jesus made that clear. Accountability is directly related to what you have been given. You are responsible to God and others for what you have received. Be honest in your personal inventory.

Living responsibly means living gratefully toward the persons whose charity was given you. As a child, I was taught that a gift is never really yours until you have expressed sincere thanks to the benefactor. You show true gratitude by public recognition. You don’t choose to and for whom you will be grateful any more than you chose the gift or giver to begin with. For everything you have, you are certainly accountable to God because God is your true Source. But also to some lesser measure, you should embrace an accountability to the supply God chose – an individual, or usually individuals – through which God blessed you, and use their benevolence in a way that honors both gift and giver. Gayle’s and my life, family, and ministry are rich because of those whose hands and hearts contributed to us.

Living responsibly means living generously with what has been given you. God’s blessings and provision are resource for your enjoyment of life, and ministry to others. “You have received freely, give freely.” Matthew 10:8 NKJV. Better to be a channel of continued blessing than a container storing more and more for only yourself. God will bless what you have when He can bless what you give.

Jesus said, “Store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:20-21 NIV. How do you do that? I think that you best accomplish that when you submit yourself and all that you have to the Lord for His use, purpose, and direction. Simply stated, you have been blessed to be a blessing and received to give. I am sobered to know there will be a day for personal accountability before God. “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God . .” Romans 14:12 NKJV. See also 1 Corinthians 3:10-17 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you embrace the joy of living gratefully and generously.

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The Greatest Gift

April 13th, 2012

“God so loved . . that whoever believes in Him . . will have eternal life.” John 3:16 NLT

“Love is not unique to God, but God’s love is unique.”

My thoughts and comments today are about “the greatest gift.”

Aren’t gifts wonderful? I admire folks like my wife and daughter who are great gift givers. They don’t just buy a present; they carefully, thoughtfully choose a gift personally selected for the delight and pleasure of the recipient. They have a gift for gift giving.

God is a great gift giver. What would be God’s greatest gift? Many answers could be given as to the greatest gift He has given. He gave us life. He gives us forgiveness. He gives salvation. He gives eternal life. He gives us His fellowship. The Apostle Paul exuberantly wrote, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV. And the Father gave us His Son as Savior!

There is a verse that may well be the more familiar of all, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NLT. The familiarity of that verse caused me to long overlook something. Yes, Father God gave Jesus, His Son, and through Him gives eternal life to any who will believe – immeasurable gifts without debate.

But as I recently read that familiar verse, I noticed a simple cause and effect; obviously, cause precedes effect. The effect is the gift of His Son and eternal life. But I would suggest that the cause which precedes is the greatest of gifts – “God so loved the world that He gave . .” God loved you before He gave salvation. God loved you before He gave eternal life. God first gave you His heart; then He gave you His Son. See Romans 8:32 NASV. The Bible describes, “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.” Ephesians 2:4 NASV.

God’s greatest gift may well be the love that prompts and precedes all else He gives. Love beyond mortal comprehension prompted the sacrifice of His Son for sinners, and His sacrifice afforded the offer of eternal life. Life without love is not living. Life without God’s love is not life at all.

Paul marveled at the expansive dimensions of God’s love, “. . how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is . . though it is so great you will never fully understand. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power . .” Read Ephesians 3:17-21 NLT. It makes sense that God’s greatest gift would correspond to man’s greatest need? “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NKJV. The common need of every person – young or old – is the need for absolute love; who but God can truly supply that measure of unchanging love?

Here are three truths I believe about love: “Love is a choice clearly made with behavior constant and consistent with that decision . . Love is the accurate estimate and adequate supply of another’s need . . Love, to be authentic, must be practical and observable.” Is there any besides the love of God that fulfills those? Love is not unique to God, but God’s love is unique.

What makes love God’s greatest gift? (1) Jesus loves you exactly as God loves Jesus. Read John 15:9 NIV. But lest you think this is some second-hand love passed on to you. (2) Father God loves you exactly as He loves Jesus. Read John 17:23/26 NIV. That is love like no other, found only in God and His Son, Jesus. You won’t know love until you know Jesus.

My prayer for you today is that you know love that exceeds understanding.

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