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Archive for June, 2012

Encouraging Courage

June 29th, 2012

“Everyone helped his neighbor, and said . . ‘Be of good courage.’” Isaiah 41:6 NKJV

Courage correctly assesses the risk, knows the cost, and acts boldly in a worthy manner.

My thoughts and comments today are about “encouraging courage.”

Everyone needs encouragement, some more than others. Encouragement is very much prevalent in the Old and New Testament; encouragement is a lifestyle of inspiring the best in others by word or example. Among the Jerusalem believers, one man became so consistently known for his inspiring example to others that his name was changed from Joseph, his given name, to Barnabas, “son of encouragement.” See Acts 4:36-37 NIV. Is your reputation that of being an encourager of others?

Isaiah describes a time when, “Everyone helped his neighbor, and said to his brother, ‘Be of good courage.’” See Isaiah 41:6-7 NKJV. If you examine the surrounding context, people were encouraging one another in not so edifying ways. Together, they were building an idol. But positively or negatively, the principle is true whatever the task in which you are encouraged. You work harder and happier when encouraged to do so.

As you read this, someone’s name may have come to mind who has been a strength of encouragement to you? Make an effort today to write or call to let them know their kindness helped you be strong. Better yet, who have you encouraged recently? It is the most practical thing you can do for someone, the easiest of things to do, and the most helpful, beneficial gift you can give another. What have you said or done that made a difference in what someone else was doing?

In six years of writing EveryDay Life, there have been occasions when the daily investment of time and discipline has tempted me to think, “It’s enough.” Invariably, that very day would bring a message from some reader encouraging me to keep writing, sharing how God used a thought or comment to brighten their day, to give them hope. You have often encouraged me.

At the center of the word is the concept of courage. Courage correctly assesses the risk, knows the cost, and then acts boldly in a worthy manner. Doing that involves encouragers. Encouragement is not reserved for large things or public times; it must become your custom in everyday matters. “Rise up . . take courage and do it.” Ezra 10:4 NIV. Courage is an action you take before it becomes an emotion you feel. I think courage is a skill learned, and I think it most occurs through meaningful interaction with God and others. “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself 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 2:17 NIV.

This practice is dear to God’s heart because encouragement is so much a part of His nature. “Through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement . . as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:4-6 NIV. Let’s be more like Him.

My prayer for you today is: be encouraged in the Lord and by the company of others.

Devotionals

Lies and Half Truths

June 27th, 2012

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1 NIV

Truth does not require argument or defense; it does, however, require your conviction.

My thoughts and comments today are about “lies and half truths.”

The practice of truth seems an increasingly rare commodity. Solomon’s wise advice was, “Buy the truth and do not sell it.” Proverbs 23:23 NIV. I think the simple meaning is this: truth is beyond price whether buying or selling. If you will only and always tell the truth, you will more readily recognize when others do not. I think it is a social and spiritual tragedy that the truth is so lightly regarded, and lies and half truths so willingly believed. If a half truth is not all true is it truth at all? Mark Twain observed, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” (American humorist and author (1835-1910).

Jesus exposed the enemy of your soul with this description, “There is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44 NIV. The problem is this: a person tends to believe who and what they want to believe. If you masquerade lies and half truths as truth, you play right into your enemy’s hands. The devil is not capable of speaking truth; don’t be so naïve as to expect anything different from him. “Lest Satan should take advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices.” 2 Corinthians 2:11 NKJV.

As he began in the Garden, he continues today. In the Genesis account of creation the second chapter ends with Adam and Eve’s innocence; then the third chapter opens with their spiritual ignorance before the one who is described as, “more crafty than any of the wild animals God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat of any tree in the Garden’?” Genesis 3:1 NIV. Refer to Genesis 2:15-17. That was not quite what God said – a half truth misapplied as a lie. Be true to the truth!

Lies and half truths intrude when you indulge your own, or any others’ challenge to God’s Word. The devil, in the form of a serpent, questioned God’s instruction, subtly alters its accuracy, and then impugns God’s character. Read Genesis 3:1-13 NIV. You are no match for his clever deceit unless you hold fast to the Word of God, as Jesus did when tempted in the wilderness. See Matthew 4:1-11 NIV. Jesus’ response to each temptation was the clear, simple response of the eternal Word, “It is written.” Truth and nothing more need be said. Lessen your grip on absolute truth and you have lost the battle. Truth does not require argument or defense; it does, however, require your conviction. Refer to 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 TEV.

There is a somber warning that concludes the Canon of Scripture. “If anyone adds to these things . . if anyone takes words away from this Book, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life.” Revelation 22:18-19 NIV. Plainly stated, you need nothing more than God’s Word; neither do you need anything less than all of God’s Word. God deals only in truth; so should we who choose to be called by His Name. The Bible describes the man whom God honors as, “He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.” Read Psalm 15:1-5 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you love and guard the truth, without compromise.

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Fully Alive

June 25th, 2012

“Only by dying could Jesus break . . the power of death.” Hebrews 2:14 NLT

Death releases the fuller expression and greater extension of the life of faith.

My thoughts and comments today are about being “fully alive.”

What could be a more challenging and sensitive subject than death? As a person and pastor, I have said farewell to too many family and friends to treat it casually. Yet death, as well as life, is unavoidable in the circle of life. I suggest that you cannot understand either without a proper, Biblical conviction about the other. We savor life and wish to enjoy its longest extent, uncomfortable to think about death. Paul described death as, “the last enemy to be destroyed.” 1 Corinthians 15:26 NIV. Sin imposed death upon all creation.

“Only by dying could Jesus break the power of the Devil who had the power of death. Only in this way, could He deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” Hebrews 2:14-15 NLT. None of us want to be described, as, “slaves to the fear of dying,” but death does foster a cruel slavery, if one’s heart is not held firm in a personal faith in God. Fear is a miserable way to waste precious life, worried about a time and event in the future and failing to live fully and freely now.

We prize and honor those individuals whose nobility of sacrifice would give, or have given, their very lives for the good of family, church, community, and country. They are honored as martyrs and patriots. The Bible honors the faith of such courageous souls whose lives echo the Apostle Paul’s testimony, “None of these things move me, nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy . .” Acts 20:24 NKJV. Some things are more precious than temporal life.

I have learned two things about life and death. You will not live with joyful abandon if you do not face the reality of death which is inevitable, and you are not prepared to die if you have not learned to live fearlessly. (1) Being rightly prepared to die allows you to be heroically alive. No one is eager for the end of life, but neither need you live in terror of that day. Heaven honors those who “did not love and cling to life even when faced with death.” Revelation 12:11 Amplified. Their faith was more precious than even the life they loved.

(2) Knowing how to be joyously alive is the surest preparation for facing death victoriously. Jesus gave the context for real life when He said, “If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [lose sight of himself and his own interests] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [conform wholly to My example in living] . . whoever loses his life for My sake, he will preserve and save it.” Luke 9:23-24 AMP. How you live has everything to do with how you die. Read Hebrews 6:17-20 NLT. Life is not found in living for yourself; life is found in giving it away for Christ and others, fully savoring each moment now.

For the Christ-follower, death releases the fuller expression and greater extension for the life of faith. That truth you can only grasp by faith. In comparison, life as you know and love it now is a mere shadow of the reality of eternal life that awaits those whose faith rests solidly upon Christ. As sure a promise as Jesus ever gave is this, “In My Father’s House . . I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am there you may be also.” John 14:1-3 NKJV. Those who live with trust in God’s character and care receive a great promise. “The Lord says, ‘I will protect those who trust in My Name . . I will satisfy them with a long life.’” Psalm 91:14/16. How well you live may even impact how long you live, and will certainly determine where you spend eternity.

My prayer for you today is to live every moment for Jesus, fearless and fully alive.

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Simple Instructions

June 22nd, 2012

“Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible.” Romans 12:18 NLT

The Bible gives simple instructions for living peaceably by resolving differences.

My thoughts and comments today are about “simple instructions.”

Hours ago, I was trying to fix a problem, unsuccessfully at first. My computer and the wireless printer had trouble “communicating.” They seemed perfectly happy working together until a month or so ago. With no explanation, the printer stopped cooperating. I read the instructions, but instructions make sense only to the people who already understand them. Life is a lot like that; it’s simple when life works as it should. The Bible gives fairly simple instructions for one of life’s more common but complex problems – living peaceably by resolving differences that strain relationships. Though such relational challenges are inevitable according to Scripture, most do not have to remain unsolvable. Unity is paramount with God. Read Psalm 133 NKJV.

Who enjoys the strain and stress of unresolved differences with others? Few people, if any, I would surmise. Jesus warned, “How terrible for the world that there are things that make people lose their faith! Such [offences] will always happen – but how terrible for the one who causes them.” Matthew 18:7 TEV. Marriages are strained; families suffer; friendships grow tense. Situations will occur that impose a breach of trust between people. That should not happen. In a perfect world that would not happen, but our fallen world is far from perfect and we are fallen, imperfect people with strong, independent wills that breed disagreements and conflict.

Paul seemed to grasp the bigger picture of disagreements when writing his letter to the Christians at Rome. Read Romans 12:16-21 NLT. Paul’s advice is simple: “Practice humility.” “Don’t think you know it all.” Isn’t that where most differences begin? Somebody assumes they know everything they need to know about the situation and its apparently single solution. When that happens, ears deafen; hearts harden. Listen to each other with a loving heart and open mind. They may still be wrong but you will better understand why they think they are right. And maybe, just maybe, you might see where you also are wrong and find common ground that honors God and saves a friendship.

Paul addresses the natural escalation of reaction; what begins small can quickly become a big deal that increasingly separates people, unless someone does something selfless to reverse the process. Paul shares a simple instruction, “Don’t get even.” “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone . . never avenge yourself. Leave that to God . . don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.” In fourth grade, my teacher taught us a valuable life-lesson, “When two dogs fight in a flower bed, the only things that get settled are the flowers.” As a nine year old, her word-picture of the futility of conflicts became indelible; as an adult, I have seen its simple truth where lives, not flower beds, suffered.

Rarely is a single individual the only one at fault. All likely share some fault, and each has a Biblical responsibility to initiate efforts at reconciliation. Paul instructs, “Do your part first.” Then God can do what you could not. “Live in harmony with each other . . do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible.” You won’t resolve every dispute but you can make every effort to “live in peace, as much as possible.” You do not control how others behave, but you can choose how you will. Read Matthew 6:23-24 /18:15-22 NKJV. Whether offender or offended, make a Godly initiative for reconciliation. See Matthew 5:9-16.

My prayer for you today is that you learn to accept God’s ways as always the best way.

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Ruling Your Thoughts

June 20th, 2012

“If anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 NIV

God is with those in whose minds are thoughts pleasing to Him.

My thoughts and comments today are about “ruling your thoughts.”

Whatever dominates your thoughts eventually directs your life. You either rule your thoughts, or they will rule you. Your inner life consists of your mind, will, and emotions. And the mind often has a predominate role in directing your feelings and choices. Your thoughts act like a personal rudder that steers your decisions and directions you take. Though referring to the tongue, the Bible describes a ship’s rudder in ways that could also be applied to the disproportionate influence of one’s thoughts, “Ships . . although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.” James 3:4 NIV. A thought seems so small but it is far from powerless.

Direct your thoughts where they ought to go rather than allow their taking you wherever they seem to go. Make thoughts your servant rather than master. Some people’s thoughts are like a whimsical preschooler, extremely active but not particularly productive, unless properly, sometimes forcefully directed. In Peter’s first epistle, he links your mind and thoughts with your proper conduct. Read 1 Peter 1:13-15 NKJV.

Thoughts will dictate how you feel about your life, sometimes unnoticeably at the moment – coloring the memories of your past, interpreting and often misinterpreting present events, and projecting future expectations. That makes them important for you to manage. You need to guide your thoughts for them to be productive and carefully guard them to be profitable. Much hurt can result to you or others if your thoughts are not daily purified by the “cleansing with the washing of water by the Word” (Ephesians 5:26 NKJV), and daily “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2 NIV.

The Apostle Paul often referred to your mind as holding the key to one’s happiness, “. . guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Whatever is true . . noble . . right . . pure . . lovely . . admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things . . and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:6-9 NIV. The God of peace is with those in whose minds are thoughts pleasing to Him. “The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” Read Romans 8:5-6 NIV/See Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT.

Do you wonder how to accomplish that? I can assure you that such rightly directed thoughts do not come naturally. You have to do a lot of sorting and selecting. First, recognize the mind of Christ resides within you. “No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God . . but we have the mind of Christ.” Read 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 NIV/Philippians 2:5-9 NKJV. With the mind of Christ within you, you can choose truth over error, contrast right from wrong, crave purity over impurity, choose excellence instead of mediocrity, and recognize what is praiseworthy.

Ruling your thoughts includes you but begins with God. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me . . For the word of God is living and active . . it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Psalm 139: 23-24 NIV/Hebrews 4:12 NIV. When God has done His part, you must then do yours. “Pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments . . bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 KJV.

My prayer for you today is that your thoughts are of things excellent and praiseworthy.

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