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Archive for September, 2012

An Original

September 28th, 2012

“[God] fashions their hearts individually.” Psalm 33:15 NKJV

Pressures can conform you into something other than your God-given uniqueness.

My thoughts and comments today are about “an original.”

I find the endless creativity of God amazing. “He created everything there is. Nothing exists that He didn’t make. Life itself was in Him, and this life gives light to everyone . . For everything comes form Him; everything exists by His power and is intended for His glory. To Him be glory evermore. Amen.” John 1:3-4/Romans 11:36 NLT. Of all the people who have lived before you and all who live alongside you, there are no two identical fingerprints. The structure of each and every snowflake is unique to itself. And who but the Creator of all could imagine the limitless possibilities or create the variety of plants, or the species of insects and animals? The things the most creative people make are mere discoveries of what God has created, or adaptations and improvements of what has been made.

Very little is truly original; but you are an original – fashioned by God, made in His image, gifted for achievement, and destined for purpose. There is no one exactly like you, before or after you. Why then would you be willing to be a cheap copy of anyone else? In life, as in art, a copy however masterfully reproduced is of lesser value to the original. You sell yourself short and discredit the One who lovingly made you when you fail to identify and celebrate your originality. The Psalmist marveled at the creativity of God with these words, “The Lord looks from Heaven . . He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.” Psalm 33:13-15 NKJV.

Read again those words, “[God] fashions their hearts individually.” God doesn’t deal with people en masse – neither by ethnicity, nationality, religion, nor by associations or family. You stand individually made by God and personally responsible to God. Your heart, in its original purity, is fashioned by God personally. The practical application is this: God will work in your heart in ways unique to how He fashioned you to be. God may speak into your heart differently than He makes Himself known to others. God’s way of relating to you will be suited to the personality and temperament that He gave you.

I think Paul’s instruction is relevant, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2 NIV. Internal and external pressures can conform you into something other than the uniqueness with which God endowed you. Maybe you don’t wish to be different, but neither should you default by conforming to others’ opinions or expectations.

By His original design and continuing intent, God is working in your life transformatively, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose . . predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son . .” Romans 8:28-29 NIV. You are an original, yet all of us remain a work in progress, a work of His hands He is faithful to complete. “God, who calls you, is faithful; He will do this.” Read 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NLT. See 1 John 3:1-3 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you become only and all that God created you to be.

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Handle with Prayer

September 26th, 2012

“Jesus . . spent the night praying.” Luke 6:12 NIV.

Every care and consideration about your life should be handled with prayer.

My thoughts and comments today are, “handle with prayer.”

For all that you do know there is so much that none of us can know completely. For all your capabilities, there is so much of life’s responsibilities and possibilities that you will not successfully handle without help. Everyone likes to think they can handle whatever comes their way; and that seems to work until there is a crisis that requires more than your personal resources or abilities. That seems to be when people are eager to pray for God’s help and willing to accept the prayers anyone is willing to offer on their behalf. So many situations need to be handled with care; every care and consideration about your life should be “handled with prayer.” “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests . .  and always keep on praying . .” See Ephesians 6:18 NIV.

Why should prayer be reserved only as a religious emergency exit from problems or as an emotional relief valve for occasional pressures? Prayer can and should be a suitable and valuable lifestyle. Jesus prayed frequently, often withdrawing from the crowds and relentless needs to simply talk with His Father. “Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” Luke 6:12 NIV. For Jesus, time with His Father was typical, not an exception. For Him, prayer was neither occasional, casual, nor brief. Jesus modeled the Bible’s expectation, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2 NIV.

There was something so appealing and desirable about His praying that the disciples requested of Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray!” See Luke 11:1 NKJV. The model that Jesus gave His disciples is as powerful and practical now as then. Read Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV. Recognize your relationship; reverence God at all times; acknowledge His sovereignty; pledge yourself to His will; receive daily needs gratefully; live in forgiveness; give forgiveness freely; avoid temptation; declare His “Kingdom and power and glory forever.”

I propose you consider this: if Jesus needed frequent times of prayer, why wouldn’t you and I require regular times of communion and communication with God even more? Prayer is not reserved for only the Biblically sophisticated or just those few who have the time or temperament; prayer is an essential lifestyle for all who recognize their need of spiritual resources beyond what they naturally possess. That description should encompass all who value their faith and prize their personal relationship with the Father and Savior.

Prayer should be sincere, serious, and specific. See James 5:16 NLT. Prayer deepens and sustains your growing relationship with God. Prayer focuses your heart and mind on what is eternal rather than momentarily pressing. See Philippians 4:6-8 NIV. Prayer aligns your spirit with God’s heart and will. See Romans 8:26-28 NLT. Prayer connects you with God’s purpose. See 1 John 5:14-15 NIV. The practice of prayer is simple enough for the youngest child to do. Listen to a child’s prayer. No wonder Jesus spoke of people who “receive the Kingdom of God as a little child.” See Luke 18:16-17 NKJV. Children pray with such innocence and faith, unspoiled by the complexities of doubt and circumstance. There is much to be learned from their example.

My prayer for you today is for you to enjoy rich fellowship with God in your daily practice of prayer.

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Godly Boundaries

September 24th, 2012

“Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us.” 2 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV.

Your boundaries include the expansive margins of God’s will and intent for your life.

My thoughts and comments today are about “Godly boundaries.”

Boundaries can feel like confinements when wrongly imposed by yourself or others. Sure boundaries also involve limitations; some of the limits of those are also protections. Within those protections are freedom and safety. It is true that, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Clear lines of what is yours and what is your neighbor’s contribute to neighborliness. A property line establishes where your rights begin and end, and where your responsibilities to respect and protect another’s rights begin.

Imagine the chaos of a world without boundaries. Boundaries determine legality, govern civility, and establish social propriety. Everyone lives with boundaries, even those who try to ignore or reject them. But within those is where your life is lived best, especially when the boundaries match the expansive margins of God’s will and intent for your life. Outside of those you might find success for awhile, but you will never have lasting satisfaction. You may achieve much, but never as much as you would have.

The Apostle Paul chose the analogy of boundaries when responding to others’ dispute of his spiritual authority, “We will not boast of authority we do not have. Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us.” 2 Corinthians 10:13 NLT. Paul was not describing some measure of restriction. Like Paul, your passion should be to achieve the full measure of God’s assignment – nothing more, nothing less. That would be a worthy goal for every one of us.

The will of God is not restrictive, except to protect you from harm or misdirected effort, therefore wasted energy, resource, and time. Godly boundaries both restrict and release you. They restrict you from where you should not be but release you to realize His highest aspirations within you. In fact, Paul expected, “Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the Gospel in the regions beyond you.” 2 Corinthians 10:15-16 NIV. God rewards faithfulness with expanding opportunities for an ever growing fruitfulness. As Paul was faithful in the measure of ministry entrusted to him, he anticipated opportunities for extended boundaries to “preach the Gospel in the regions beyond . .”

For most of us, the problem is not that God’s limits are constraining; the more common problem is a person’s failure to know and fully achieve the extent of His intent for you. Your God has great opportunities for you; but along with those come His expectations of you. “To whom much is given, from him much will be required.” Luke 12:48 NKJV. Be encouraged by this truth; with God’s expectations, the Holy Spirit will provide the natural abilities, spiritual giftedness, and ample anointing to achieve His expectations and fulfill your assignment. “Present your bodies a living sacrifice . . that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Read Romans 12:1-2 NKJV. In the perfect will of God every fulfillment is found.

My prayer for you today is that your life will abound in fruitfulness.

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Overwhelming Victory

September 21st, 2012

“This is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” 1 John 5:4 NKJV

Jesus’ victory removes the illusion of this world’s invincibility.

My thoughts and comments today are about “overwhelming victory.”

The world is not always an easy place to live. Temptations, trouble, threats, terror, and so much more are challenging for any sane, reality-loving person. Jesus spoke of “tribulation and persecution,” troublesome circumstances and trying people. See Matthew 13:18-23 NKJV. Both are troubling and you will most likely experience a bit of both from time to time. But there is good news, very good news. The Psalmist knew of such times, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to that Rock that is higher than I. You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy . .” Read Psalm 61:2-4 NKJV. In an overwhelming world at times, there is a place of overwhelming victory all the time.

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but whoever believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John 5:4-5 NKJV. Between whatever happens and whoever believes is where your faith and His victory must connect. The problem is simple: your faith does not offer an exemption from common trials and trouble. The promise is also simple: steadfast in Christ Jesus, you can overcome every opposition and hindrance. If the process were simple and easy to do on your own, it would be called “getting by” rather than overcoming. I find the words of Jesus encouraging, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV. Jesus’ own victory is the precursor and promise of your own.

When you understand that, every trouble is less fearsome. Jesus’ past and present victory removes the illusion of this world’s invincibility. God’s ultimate triumph over all that opposes His will and purpose is beyond question. “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” Revelation 17:14 NKJV.  Called, chosen, and faithful! The battle is His; the victory is ours. “Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ . .” 2 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV.

When a once triumphant foe is soundly defeated and publicly shamed, his further boasts and bravado are nothing more than empty sound and fury. Paul writes of this public humiliation, “Having wiped out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us. [Jesus] has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to His cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” Colossians 2:14-15 NKJV. The enemy of your soul and life is persuasively disarmed, publicly disgraced, and permanently defeated.

In his pastoral letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul catalogues the full range of human experience, both good and bad (See Romans 8:38-39 NIV), and concludes, “Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, Who loved us . . [nothing] will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37 NLT. Overwhelming victory is yours.

My prayer for you today is that you walk in Christ’s victory with courage.

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Motives

September 19th, 2012

“Motives are weighed by the Lord.” Proverbs 16:2 NIV.

A bit of self skepticism can be spiritually heart-healthy.

My thoughts and comments today are about “motives.”

At all times, why is more important than what. Others can see what you do, but no one but yourself – and God – can know why you did so. You can do the right thing for the wrong reason but that rarely works out as well as you might hope. Or you may do the wrong thing for what you thought was a good reason, and then be surprised at the outcome. It is not easy to always know one’s own motives. Many times, our intentions and actions are a mixture of motives, involving benevolence as well as self-interest. Ever asked yourself, “Why did I do that?” More times than not, none of us know our own heart as much as we think we do.

At such moments, a bit of self skepticism can be spiritually heart-healthy. Jeremiah, an Old Testament prophet, explained the problem and its solution this way, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:9-10 NIV. The Lord searches the heart. Not even the privacy of one’s heart is unknown to God. The Bible is also a purifier of heart, described as, “living and powerful . . a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12-13 NKJV. Open your heart before God and His word.

The Psalmist provides a good example to follow, “Let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O God.” Psalm 19:14 NLT. Solomon addressed this muddled mixture of heart as he wrote, “We can gather our thoughts but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your work to the Lord and then your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:1-3 NLT. The Lord examines motives. Motives are the secret source of outward behavior. Others may misjudge why you do what you do; you may even be unclear about what motivates your words or actions at times, but God is a reliable source for knowing yourself better. God is there to help you.

There is but one way to purify your motives; invite the Holy Spirit to reveal what is otherwise unseen by others and unknown to you. In the anguish of his own glaring failures, David cried out to 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, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 NIV. God answers such prayers. It is important that your motives are pure before God and man. “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:6-7 NKJV. Your performance will not always be perfect, but when your heart is pure before God; everything is better.

The process is painful to pride; the reward is exceptional blessing. “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Psalm 24:23-24 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that your heart and life are open and honest before God at all times.

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