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Archive for July, 2012

Thoughts on a Birthday

July 18th, 2012

Reflections upon a milestone birthday

EveryDay life began in 2006 as a means of sharing our faith with our grandchildren. Last year on my birthday, I wrote the comments I share below for our children and their children, and hopefully for the sake of the family’s generation(s) that will follow after my journey is complete. To celebrate this milestone birthday as well as our 49th anniversary the first of August, Gayle and I are taking some leisure time together and I will not be writing EveryDay Life the remainder of this month. I thought this would be a good time to share with you the words I first wrote to our family, since you have become a fellow traveler on our journey and an extension of our spiritual family of faith. My comments to our family upon my birthday last year are really at the heart of why I write this daily devotional each day. I am privileged to share EveryDay Life Ministries with a widening circle of readers, and it is now translated into Bulgarian and touching lives in more than a dozen countries from which readers have made contact with us.

Today is my birthday – 70 years! I prefer to think of this day as the successful achievement of six decades of God’s favor and grace, accompanied by so many people’s gracious kindnesses. I can hardly believe that number of years. That is a long time to live, but not nearly enough yet. The customary greeting on such a day is “Happy Birthday,” and as I read greetings in cards, emails, and Facebook this morning, I reflected on what makes me truly happy. Happiness for its self can be strangely elusive. Happiness is much less than Gayle and I have sought; from God,we have expected and experienced something better – His joy and true satisfaction. I have concluded that among all that we enjoy, central to our joy and satisfaction are three things: our faith, our family, and our friends. My “birthday wish” would be that those we love and serve would share those three values sincerely.

Our faith has been central to all else, the source and  support for daily life through good and not so good times and things, making us more than we would have been without it, providing our family with a network of others who share and depend upon that faith, keeping us on track when we could have gone astray, and opening doors of opportunity for us that I would not have wanted to miss. Most of all, faith makes me know that our hearts and future are safely in God’s hands. All is well, and will be well forever. Our greatest joy is seeing that our “children walk in the truth.” Remember, faith cannot be inherited; it is a personal and individual decision that you alone can make, and you must. The earlier in life you decide that, the simpler it is to do so. It is primary, not secondary to all other decisions you will make, and is best reaffirmed every day. Don’t waste a day of life without a clear and personal faith. Do not live a single day facing eternity without that assurance of soul.

Marriage and family have brought us a greater joy than I could ever have foreseen in my youth. Had I been wiser sooner I would have invested more of myself much earlier. Family is the greatest investment I have ever made – producing far richer and more satisfying dividends than property and possessions ever could. I wish for you the joy and pleasure multiplied in your lives that we have received from you. Prize the time and times you have together. The years are too brief and pass too quickly to take them for granted because of busyness or lesser pursuits. You are the one who can make every day a joy-filled day. Our family has enjoyed privileges and blessings to the degree that faith has been central to who we are and how we choose to live our lives together.

The right friends are the greatest of God’s gifts to your life. Choose them well and wisely. Friends who share your faith and values will best shape who you become in many ways that you may not realize until later. The older I have become, the more appreciative I am of the unmistakable influence of the people God has placed in and around my life. Gayle and I are blessed. Like family, friends become invaluable with each year, through the common experiences and memories you will share. By their acceptance and example, friends have helped me become a man, husband, father, friend, and pastor far better than I would have been without them. I would counsel you to be purposeful about friendships and, most importantly, become the kind of friend that you would want others to be in your life. When you are young you have many acquaintances and associations; the years sort those and reveal the friendships that make your latter years full and satisfying, as ours have been. Lots of people around you cannot make your life full; but even a few of the right kind of friends who challenge and inspire you will make life richer than you dream.

These are the eternal, therefore important, things – faith, family, and friends – that are important to my life on this birthday, and that I pray you will prioritize and value in your life. You know, now that I think about it, this really is a happy birthday.

With love and prayers . .

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Words with Friends

July 16th, 2012

“Let the words of my mouth . . be acceptable in Your sight.” Psalm 19:14 NKJV

For better or worse, your words create your world.

Today my thoughts and comments are about “words with friends.”

Words seem such small things when spoken; their sound lingers only a moment but their effect can endure in hearts and minds for a lifetime. “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. (Josh Billings) For better or worse, your words create your world, and shape the world of others around you.

Conversation is the foremost interaction between individuals, the means by which you communicate thoughts and feelings, convey understanding, and express delight or displeasure. I recently read this relevant quote, “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” (Dorothy Nevill, 1826-1913) I think the latter is the more important, yet also most difficult of the two to master. Some of us just seem to have too many tempting moments to resist. Read Ecclesiastes 5:2 NKJV.

Within your words is the awesome power to repair a broken heart or a fearsome potential to wreck a life. Solomon understood that diverse potential as he wrote, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit . . Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 15:4/18:21 NKJV. When a child, a person takes two years to learn to talk, but the rest of their life to choose and control their words. It is no challenge to recognize that simple reality.

The Bible recognizes our common dilemma of an unruly tongue, “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body . . And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body . .” Read James 3:2-12 NKJV. What is easy to say becomes hard to forgive, and not always possible to repair. Careless words usually fill the vacuum left when you have nothing worthwhile to contribute. Read Matthew 12:35-36 NKJV.

Let your words be always kind and gracious, loving and generous, true and trustworthy, uplifting and edifying, and healing to others, not hurting them. See Colossians 4:6 NLT. “Until we all . . become mature . . speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him . . the whole Body grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work . . building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.” Read Ephesians 4:13-19/29-30 NIV. It is not only what you speak but why – always for another’s blessing and benefit, and to the glory and honor of Christ. “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18 NKJV.

But how? Is there an answer? Of course, but the answer is in God not yourself. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 NKJV. Before you speak, consider carefully if your words pass the litmus test of Godly conversation – “acceptable in Your sight, O Lord.”

My prayer for you today is that your words reflect the One who is the Living Word.

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Exploring Margins

July 13th, 2012

“I must work . . while it is day.” John 9:4 NKJV

Success results from learning to allocate what you have, to accomplish what you must.

My thoughts and comments today are about “exploring margins.”

“Margin” is defined as “a limit in condition or capacity.” Life, as you know it now, has limits. In eternity that will not be true, but for now it is. The Bible refers to such limits as “boundaries” or “measure.” David, the Psalmist, rejoiced, “Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup; You have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalm 16:5-6 NIV. He found sufficiency and safety in God’s providence. You will as well. In the New Testament, Paul wrote similarly, “We will not boast beyond [our] measure, but within the sphere which God appointed us . .” 2 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV. Paul found confidence and certainty in God’s assignment. Conviction of truth breeds confidence.

You have a measure of years that only God knows, a measure of strength, resources, energy, endurance, and number of friendships, among other things – but unimagined possibilities within those. This reality we have in common, though there are differing measures unique to individuals. By effort and discipline, you might expand your boundaries to some extent, but you cannot remove limits altogether. But know this; life is not about what you don’t have or can’t do. Life is about what you learn to do within the margins you are given. How wisely you live and how hard you work determines your achievement.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Life requires a plan. Many people do not realize that simple reality until they have too little of life left. Some never do. Limits are somewhat fixed, but what you do within those is discretionary. Explore your margins to the full capacity; accept no artificial limits. Decide what you will do with your life and what has been given you. “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like ignorant people, but like wise people. Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days. Don’t be fools, then, but try to find out what the Lord wants you to do.” Ephesians 5:15-17 TEV.

Success results from learning to allocate what you have, to accomplish what you must. Jesus understood the primacy of doing the will of God and ordered His life within the boundaries of that. “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is yet day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” John 9:4-5 NKJV. Even Jesus recognized limits and used His time and opportunities to serve the Father’s eternal purposes. As long as you have life, you can be a light in the world. See Philippians 2:15-18 NKJV.

In God’s will, you find God’s plan for your life and the fullest experience of success and satisfaction. I particularly love the promise God spoke through Jeremiah, “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good . . to give you a future and a hope.’” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT. A future without hope is discouraging; hope without a future in which to achieve it would be disheartening. God offers you both “a future and a hope!” Your future rests in what you do within each day.

My prayer for you today is that you use wisely what you have been given generously.

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Time Touches Eternity

July 11th, 2012

“Walk in wisdom . . redeeming the time.” Colossians 4:5 NKJV

An empty life is any life devoid of contributions of eternal consequence.

My thoughts and comments today are that “time touches eternity.”

Time is a priceless gift, given by God and invaluable exactly because it is irreplaceable. Once you spend it it’s gone, except for whatever the return from your wise use of the time you have. In any given day, everyone is given the same amount – 24 hours, 1,440 minutes. Use minutes wisely and your hours will be utilized well. You can’t accumulate time for later; you can’t hoard it for when you may need it more. You use it now or waste its potential for benefiting yourself and others.

Time itself has little intrinsic value. The value of any segment of time is only determined by the investment of yourself that you choose to make in the time allotted you. Nowhere are Jesus’ words more applicable than to one’s use of time, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6:20 NKJV. Let your time on earth be invested in the eternal affairs of the Kingdom of God. See Matthew 6:33 NLT.

The Bible instructs that you, “Walk in wisdom . . redeeming the time.” Colossians 4:5 NKJV. How do you redeem time? Use time well; use it wisely. Direct every moment toward a worthy purpose. To me that means to live every day engaged in things of eternal value. The Bible refers to a coming time when “the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a Kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and Godly fear.” Hebrews 12:27-28 NKJV. Godly fear is much more but is at least this: living each day with a holy desire to honor God and help others in all you say and do. You live wisely when you are an example for others and invest yourself in others’ lives for eternal good.

“Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.” Colossians 4:5-6 NLT. Are you making the most of every opportunity? Your use of time in this life relates directly to your experience of time everlasting and eternal. What you do with your life touches eternity, for yourself as well as others. “And remember that the Heavenly Father . . will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of Him during your time as foreigners here on earth. For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from an empty life you inherited from your ancestors.” 1 Peter 1:17-18 NLT. Your days may be activity filled, your schedule busily occupied and yet your life be empty. An empty life is any life devoid of making contributions of eternal consequence.

My prayer for you today is that you prize every moment as a priceless gift from God.

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Out of Options?

July 9th, 2012

“He prayed that he might die.” 1 Kings 19:4 NKJV

When you are through with your options, you are ready for real solutions.

My thoughts and comments today ask “out of options?”

Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” The verse is a bit shocking; “[Elijah] prayed that he might die.” 1 Kings 19:4 NKJV. He was full of fear and tired. This prophet had been powerfully used by God on Mt. Carmel. Kings feared him; a nation revered him; but a queen despised him. “[Elijah] ran for his life . . a day’s journey into the wilderness.” You can never run fast enough or far enough to get away from your fear and despair. Really, if Elijah wanted to die, Jezebel would gladly have accommodated him.

So soon after a great victory, he no longer had the will to live. Extreme highs and severe lows are not always far apart. Elijah felt alone in his task, his life threatened by Jezebel. He was exhausted physically, wrung out emotionally and mentally, and weary and confused spiritually. He had nothing left. Read 1 Kings 19:1-4/10. Elijah was running on empty, literally. Elijah didn’t feel he could face another day. Life had become more than he could bear.

Let’s be practical; God always is. The recovery of Elijah began simply enough, with rest and nourishment. This was not the time for further depletion. Before you try to figure it all out with worry-filled days and sleepless nights, give yourself a time for recovery. Then God provided supernatural sustenance for forty days, until he finally came “as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.” See verses 5-8. Elijah ran from Jezebel, but at least he ran toward God. Along the way and at Horeb, God met Elijah, quieting his inner turmoil long enough to hear a fresh assignment. God has more for him. His life wasn’t over; a new chapter was yet to be written. See verses 11-18.

When you have gone as far as you can go with the strength you possess, what do you do? Inevitably, that is a common dilemma. From that point, your success or failure is found in your answer to that question. There will be a moment when what you’ve been doing is no longer working, when what you have is no longer enough, when what you know is not what you need to know. Sometimes, life seems to offer a dead end; going back isn’t an option and going forward doesn’t feel possible. Ever hear someone describe their situation as being “between a rock and a hard place?” Sometimes God allows you to get yourself into tight places until you will turn to Him. Ever been where you think you are out of options? When you are through with your options, you are ready for real solutions. God is your best option.

Out of options? You are in good company. The Apostle Paul described an experience when he was, “. . burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NKJV. Maybe what he learned from that personal experience convinced Paul to pray for the Christ-followers at Ephesus, “to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man . . to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Read Ephesians 3:16-20 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you find God when you are searching for answers.

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