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Archive for May, 2012

Words Matter

May 30th, 2012

“No man ever spoke like this man.” John 7:46 NKJV

Popular culture is content with a plethora of words bearing a paucity of relevance.

My thoughts and comments today are that “words matter.”

Words really do matter, or at least they should. They are the tools of communication and the building blocks of understanding. They have the power to inspire or dishearten, to intrigue or confuse. Solomon viewed words that edify as, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver,” appropriate, valuable, and beautiful. Proverbs 25:11-13 NKJV.

Your world is daily bombarded with words, too many words too loud too much of the time, it often seems to me. This was Solomon’s conclusion, “The more you talk, the more likely you are to say something foolish . . In the multitude of words sin is not lacking.” Ecclesiastes 5:3 TEV/ Proverbs 10:19 NKJV. Due to a failure to value the quiet of one’s own thoughts and reflection, people surround themselves with uninterrupted noise as background, whether music or political commentary or their own voice. Whatever happened to the relaxation of sitting quietly and reading a good book?

Be advised that much of the words you hear are no more than opinions, too many of which are ill-formed or ill-informed. Opinionated voices seem to presume authority an ordinary person is not usually given, simply because they have the celebrity of a larger audience and more recognized reputation. People of some cultural notoriety – from fame or wealth or success – are not necessarily right or wise outside the parameters of their limited arena of achievement. Celebrity should not equate credibility. Popular culture is content with a plethora of words bearing a paucity of relevance. You cannot afford that to be true of you. Your words matter.

Jesus, “the Living Word,” understood that words matter. Jesus said, “The words I speak unto you are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63 NKJV. God’s Word is sovereign; His voice is singular, not to be compared or confused with any others. When Jesus’ teachings drew larger and larger enthusiastic crowds, the Pharisees felt threatened. To silence Him they sent Temple guards to arrest Him. At the Priests’ questioning of them upon returning without Jesus, the soldiers’ only explanation was, “No man ever spoke like this Man.” John 7:46 NKJV. How very true!

Jesus’ words made eternal difference in lives during His ministry, and the Word of God still has that same anointing today in hearts that love and obey truth. “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the Law.” Matthew 7:28-29 NIV. When Jesus spoke, His words carried Heaven’s authority. Jesus’ words matter because He could say, “I don’t speak on My own authority. The Father . . gave Me His own instructions as to what I should say. And I know His instructions lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.” John 12:49-50 NLT. Do that and you will never go wrong. Don’t speak for God; let God speak through you.

Your voice matters to God; make sure your words bear His authority of truth. Intending to silence the young church, Jerusalem’s Jewish council, “They realized [Peter and John] had been with Jesus . . they commanded them not to speak at all in the name of Jesus.” Their response was as ours should be. “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:13-20 NKJV. God’s Word should be so soundly and firmly in your heart that your words have the eternal consequence they could and should have.

My prayer for you today is that your words are life-giving and of eternal truth.

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Daily Bread

May 29th, 2012

“Give us day by day our daily bread.” Luke 11:3 NKJV

On your horizon will be challenges beyond your experience.

My thoughts and comments today are about “daily bread.”

Life comes to you one day at a time; your necessary provision for life comes from your Father one day at a time as well. I think most people recognize their lack in some measure. Working harder, thinking longer, or getting richer won’t solve every problem. Everyone needs help sometimes.

Our great-granddaughter, Kaylee, is now one month old. She is helpless, fully dependent on the grace, love, and assistance of those who love her, for any and everything she needs for her health and growth. She will grow, and learn to do those basic things for herself, but she will always need some help from God and others – just as you and I do.

You were not born self-sufficient; you will not become self-sufficient entirely. You will have needs beyond your ability to satisfy. On your horizon will be challenges beyond your experience. You won’t know everything you will need to understand; you won’t have all the perseverance life will require; you will face situations and people for which you lack wisdom.

Life will confront you with things unexpected, things for which you are unprepared – injustice, false accusation, financial disaster, medical emergency, health crises, terribly accidents, social abandonment, emotional trauma, and too many other unwarranted tragedies to list. It is foolish to think that you can be equal to everything that could occur in a lifetime. Life doesn’t afford you ample storage of reserve and resource for whatever may come your way in a lifetime. You meet life in smaller, daily doses.

Finally, the good news. There is nothing that touches your life that is bigger than God. You will not face anything without God, unless you choose to. You won’t have to confront all of those frightening things at the same time. You will experience very few of those in your lifetime, but you will not be exempt from all things that frighten and hurt. That’s why you will want help.

Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray; He gave them a model prayer. Read Luke 11:1-4 NKJV. This prayer provides a grand view of the intimacy of your relationship with God and the dimensions of God’s faithfulness to you. The prayer Jesus taught them teaches how life works, beginning with “our Father!”

Everything you need begins there – in His heart, from His hand, out of His love. You can have a unique, personal relationship with God who is your Father. In every circumstance, God’s will for your life can be preeminent, “on earth as it is in Heaven,” that grace flows when we “forgive everyone who is indebted to us,” and your cry, “deliver us,” leaves every evil intent impotent of harm.

I purposefully left this simple statement for last; “Give us day by day our daily bread.” Bread symbolizes basic needs that are common to us and necessary daily. As I stated above, you meet life in smaller, daily doses. Sufficient help is available every day from the one unfailing Source; you only need to come to your Heavenly Father and ask , “Give us day by day our daily bread.”

As surely as God fed Israel each day in the wilderness with manna He gave and they gathered, He will give you your “daily bread.” “Some gathered much, some little . . he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. No one is to keep any of it till morning.” See Numbers 11:7-8/Exodus 16:16-19 NIV. God’s provision was day by day only.

My prayer for you today is that you live confidently in the ample supply of God’s love.

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Noble Sacrifice

May 28th, 2012

“If you give up your life for Me, you will save it.” Luke 9:24 CEV

Squandering life is a terrible waste, while the sacrifice of one’s life is the noblest gift.

My thoughts and comments today are about “noble sacrifice.”

When I see the faces of soldiers serving bravely in Afghanistan, most barely out of their teens, I am intrigued and humbled by the courage of these young men and women who have barely begun their life journey, but are willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their fellow soldiers or countrymen. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” For Jesus, that was His lifestyle and example, much more than mere words.

They do not regard life as expendable or to be cheaply given. In contrast, more than most they see the inestimable value of life and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of giving their life to save the lives of others. Only the person who would willingly give their own life has truly realized how precious life really is.

Squandering life is a terrible waste, while the sacrifice of one’s life is the noblest gift. Jesus crucial call of true discipleship is. “If any man would be My disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23. The people to whom He personally spoke those words had no confusion of their meaning. As a means of Roman judgment, a man bearing a cross was not an uncommon scene. In the historical era of the Roman Empire when Jesus lived, if a man were seen shouldering a cross there was no confusion about where he was heading and what he was doing. That cruel cross meant only one thing to any observer, his own death.

Jesus issued a monumental challenge that still resonates within hearts where He dwells, “If you give up your life for Me, you will save it.” Luke 9:24 CEV. But what does it mean to give up your life? It does not mean to depreciate your life as unimportant or of little value. I think it means living for something and Someone much greater than yourself.

Yes, that must be it, sacrificing something treasured for something eternal and more valuable by far. Jesus told a story about a merchant trading in pearls. They were admired by him, acquired by him, prized by him. Until the day he saw a pearl he had only dreamed of, more magnificent than any he ever hoped to own. Its price to some would have seemed outlandish – “who when he had found one pearl of great price went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46. Paying all he had still seemed a small price for what he could no longer consider living without.

That is what the Kingdom of Heaven is, something for which you joyfully surrender what previously was most precious to you to exchange for what otherwise could never be your own. Jesus Himself and His eternal Kingdom are that “pearl of great price.” But there is another side to the equation. Be aware of Jesus’ somber warning, “If you try to save your life for yourself, you will lose it.” Luke 9:24. Refusing the fitting sacrifice rightly given is squandering life, a tragic loss.

My prayer for you today is that you value your life as a gift to be given back to God.

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A Growing Faith

May 25th, 2012

“Faith comes by hearing . . the Word of God.” Romans 10:17 NKJV

Faith is a spiritual seed that holds a miraculous potential.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a growing faith.”

As oxygen is a basic, physical necessity for your everyday life, faith is absolutely essential for spiritual life. In fact, the Bible explains that “without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6 KJV. The good news is that we all have faith; you have faith because “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12:3 NKJV. The question becomes this: what are you doing with the faith you have been given?

Faith us not a static quantity, this much and no more. Faith is a spiritual seed that holds a miraculous potential for life and growth. Jesus spoke of individuals who had “little faith,” and of others who had “strong faith,” and ”sincere faith,” and even “great faith.” Your measure of faith grows when it is invested in matters serving the Kingdom of God.

I was recently asked about learning to hear the voice of God. I think sometimes a person is looking for some mystical experience, and I certainly believe there are such moments when God speaks sovereignly to listening hearts. But how do you train your heart to listen?

I have observed that the more familiar you become with a specific voice, the more readily you learn to recognize and respond to that particular voice even in a mixture of noises and voices. Children learn to identify a parent’s voice quickly, just as a mother can hear the cry of her child above the playground noise of other children. I think the same is true with hearing God’s voice. Familiarity is central to knowing God when He speaks. And spiritual discipline and practice are required.

First of all, busy and noisy lives are not conducive to spiritual clarity. God is not silent; people are easily distracted. The issue is not so much about God speaking, as it is about your hearing. God can and will speak to you in your daily chaos; the question is whether or not you can hear in such surroundings. You do not summon God to fit your schedule and convenience; you make your heart available to His presence if you are serious about hearing His voice and doing His will.

Instead of listening for God to speak singularly to you, could I encourage you to take advantage of reading your Bible to know what God has already spoken? Paul explained, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing [comes] by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17 NKJV. Now, I recognize that the context of this verse is describing the place of God’s Word introducing a person into initial faith in Christ for salvation; then would it not be consistent that the same Word of God, essential for one’s spiritual birth, would also be necessary for spiritual growth and maturing?

Peter confirmed this relationship between faith and familiarity with God’s Word. “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2-3 NIV. My summation of thought is this: the more time you spend with God’s Word, the more clearly you will hear God’s voice in your listening heart, and the more vibrant faith you will experience and express. See 2 Peter 3:18/Ephesians 4:11-15 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you learn God’s Word so you will know and hear God’s voice.

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Encouragers

May 24th, 2012

“Encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

Life requires courage and others who encourage that in you.

My thoughts and comments today are about “encouragers.”

I remember watching our grandsons play basketball, while our granddaughter was among the enthusiastic cheerleaders cheering for the team. Hearing those cheering voices must be a great feeling. Anyone can celebrate after the game has been won, but cheering is more inspirational while the game is still being played. In your life, someone in a tough time needs you to cheer for them. See Hebrews 12:1-3 NLT. Be a cheerleader for others, as someone has been for you.

There are things in everyday life that slowly deplete strength, dampen hope, or drain courage – times when you simply wonder if you have the strength to go on, feeling drained, even disheartened. You succumb to a pessimistic subjectivity. You need encouragement, the words or example of someone whose belief in you help recapture courage. Not anyone can do everything, but anyone can be an encourager. You can do this! Paul wrote, “Encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV. That doesn’t sound like a suggestion.

There was a man in the young church in Jerusalem for whom encouraging others was so much a part of his lifestyle that those who knew him best changed his name to something that fitted him well. His name was Joseph, but his friends changed his name to Barnabas, “son of encouragement.” See Acts 4:36 NIV. Saul, the persecutor of the church, may never have become Paul, the great missionary, apostle, and author without the encouragement of Barnabas. See Acts 9:26-28 NKJV. Barnabas linked his good name with Saul’s name and reputation, introducing the new convert with a frightening history to a circle of faith that previously excluded him, settling unsettling questions the young church had about Saul.

Later, John Mark made a young man’s mistake and was deemed unreliable by Paul and others, but Barnabas saw good in John Mark that others didn’t bother to see. Acts 15:36-39 NIV. They saw his mistake; Barnabas saw his worth. The man whose lifestyle was to encourage found another life under God’s construction that needed encouragement. Did it help? Well, consider this. John Mark eventually wrote the Gospel of Mark, as had been told to him by Peter. Would he have done so, if someone had not encouraged him when he could not encourage himself? Mark would not likely have found the courage to try again without Barnabas’ help?

Someone says, “You can do this!” And your heart finds courage to believe you can. You will rarely need the size of courage that faces extreme danger or dares to attempt the impossible. But every day, there are those small but important moments when you need fresh courage – to trust a little longer, to walk a little further, to try a little harder, to believe a little more, to obey a little better, to bravely try again when you want to give up, and maybe when it counts most, to accomplish what you weren’t sure you could. You can encourage someone today, and make an eternal difference.

My prayer for you today is that you hear the cheers and have new courage.

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