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Archive for December, 2012

Some Good News

December 31st, 2012

Some good news!

December 31, 2012

I just received great news about EveryDay Life. The pastor in Sofia, Bulgaria, whose team translates EveryDay Life weekly and makes it available there reported this morning that EDL had 45,000 readers in 83 countries in 2012. That’s an additional 5,000 more readers added to the number being reached by EveryDay Life in 2011.

Only God could have known what He would do “to touch hearts and change lives” with a Bible verse and brief comments I would write and email each day to our eldest granddaughter when she left for University in 2006. From the smallest of beginnings, God has done what only he could have foreseen and accomplished. My thanks to Pastor Arsov and his translation team who partnered with us a couple of years ago to make EDL available in Bulgarian. And Gayle’s and my thank you to each of you who are part of EveryDay Life’s circle of readers. Your kind and encouraging notes often refresh us to continue sharing with joy the practical, beneficial wisdom of His Word. Your shared reports of God at work in your lives makes every effort a joyful investment of ministry.

What a great way to conclude this final day of 2012 and welcome a New Year of unlimited possibilities in 2013 for the Kingdom of God. A Blessed and Joyous 2013. To God be the Glory!

Devotionals

Moderation and Balance

December 31st, 2012

As you grow spiritually, you should increasingly reflect the loveliness of Jesus.

“Don’t . . lose your balance.” 2 Peter 3:17 CEV.

Moderation can be a virtue if the concept is rightly understood. “Let your moderation be known to all men.” Philippians 4:5 KJV. Often, people are more readily given to extremes rather than moderation. And then, the usual adjustments are from one measure of an extreme to another.

When Jesus knelt to wash the disciples’ feet, Peter protested and refused Jesus’ doing so. Read John 13:5-10 NKJV. Then when Jesus corrected him, Peter swung to the other extreme, “Not just my feet but my hands and head as well.” Vs. 9 NIV. Jesus’ response was an example of practical moderation, “Jesus answered, ‘A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.’” Vs. 10 NIV. It is a simple lesson for life; too much of even a good thing can be unprofitable.

When overweight, a person typically makes a radical change to their menu, rather than a healthy adjustment to their lifestyle. A dieter goes to an extreme that is often unhealthy and therefore ineffective long term. Overnight, some people shift from a sedentary lifestyle to an exercise regimen that is unsustainable. Balance is necessary in every area of life, making essential adjustments progressively until a healthy, Godly equilibrium is established.

Peter, the former extremist, advocates the proper place for balance in the Christian’s lifestyle: “Don’t let . .  people lead you down the wrong path and make you lose your balance.  Let the wonderful kindness and the understanding that come from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ help you to keep on growing. Praise Jesus now and forever!” 2 Peter 3:17-18 CEV. The same concept is expressed in a different translation; “Be on guard lest you lose your footing and get swept off your feet.” 2 Peter 3:17 The Message. Don’t allow people or circumstances to make you lose your balance.

I aspire for balance in my spiritual and everyday life – balancing marriage and ministry priorities, balancing personal reflection and meaningful conversation, or balancing spiritual disciplines and social engagement. That is not always as simple as you might first suppose. It is easy to assume that balance involves equal parts of different things. That is neither realistic nor a proper understanding. Balance cannot remain static; balance – like your spiritual life and personal relationships – must be dynamic, always adjusting, always current. The concept of spiritual balance is best illustrated by a recipe consisting of: the correct proportions of the right ingredients, blended together at the right time for the intended result.

I have long enjoyed a poem by Rudyard Kipling that expresses the balance a life is meant to enjoy. “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch; If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute, With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run – Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!” (If, 1895). Keep your balance in all the experiences of life – the gain, the loss; the pleasure, the pain; the good, the bad.

As in everything, Jesus is your model for a truly balanced life. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Luke 2:52 NIV. Jesus’ natural maturing encompassed His development mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially. As you grow spiritually, you should increasingly reflect the loveliness of Jesus. Paul writes of the ultimate goal of your coming to, ”the knowledge of the Son of God, to a [maturing] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that Jesus is always your example and highest goal.

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Prayers God Hears

December 28th, 2012

 When listening to a person’s words, be sure to hear their heart.

“God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” Psalm 66:19 NIV.

Have you ever been listening to someone, then realized you had not heard very much of what they were saying? I think everyone has on some occasion, either as a speaker or listener. When listening to a person’s words, be sure to hear their heart. Hearing is more than just a physical capability; it can and should be a practical means for an emotional connection. Disinterest, or some measure of distraction, can lessen a person’s ability to truly hear what another is saying.  Hearing someone – really hearing with your heart – requires interest, attentiveness, and identification with what concerns them. Listening attentively and hearing compassionately build meaningful, caring relationships.

Let’s apply those thoughts to the practice of prayer. Ever wondered why you sometimes may not be as motivated to pray consistently or confidently? I think prayer can become inconsistent if you are unsure God will be listening. And it logically follows that any lack of assurance of His attentiveness to your needs reveals uncertainty about His personal care for you. Those doubts inhibit prayer. Peter encourages, “Casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NKJV. Listening and hearing reflect genuine caring. Be sure of this; on God’s part, genuine caring is never in question.

Joyfully, the Psalmist wrote, “God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer nor withheld His love from me.” Psalm 66:19-20 NIV. You are more eager to pray and more confident when you do so when you are persuaded that God loves you, and listens to your voice and hears your heart.

Additionally, the Bible is clear that the will of God must be uppermost when you pray. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 NIV. I suggest the description, “righteous man,“ implies a person desiring the will of God in their life above all. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him.” 1 John 5:14-15 NIV. Effective, fervent prayer begins with a lifestyle of submission, submitting every plan and desire to God’s sovereign will.

Ask boldly, but trust His wisdom completely – “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Read Romans 12:1-2 NIV. That should be how you would always describe God’s will for your life as, “good, pleasing and perfect.” Trust God to answer sincere prayer, always at the time and in the way consistent with His will and wisdom for your life.

There are times you will carry a burden requiring prayer, but may be unsure of God’s will in a matter about which you pray. God’s Word has an answer for such times. “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray.” Romans 8:26 NLT. Could that describe you or your situation presently? Here’s the answer: “But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” Read Romans 8:26-30 NLT. Read that thoughtfully, then consider it joyfully, “the Spirit pleads for us . . in harmony with God’s own will.” That is prayer to which God listens and hears – and answers!

My prayer for you today is that you know God cares and hears when you pray.

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A Christmas Change

December 26th, 2012

Christmas as a heart experience is forever.

When the angels had gone away into Heaven . .” Luke 2:15 NKJV.

The wait for Christmas seems interminable. Then each day grows busier and busier with preparations until the day arrives. The family and friends gather; the dinner is served and enjoyed; family gifts are shared, and carols sung. But then what? Inevitably, Christmas as a calendar event concludes. But Christmas as a heart experience is forever. I would suggest that how you enter the Christmas celebration is not as personally impactful as how you exit the occasion.

Consider Joseph and Mary’s experience of angels’ visitations, shepherds’ hurry and wonder, royalty’s worship and lavish gifts, then life returns to normal or unfolds in ways you could not have imagined. Obviously, Joseph and Mary could never be the same as they had been before the wonder of that amazing, miraculous night in Bethlehem’s stable. But the initial aftermath was not as idyllic as you might expect it should have been. Disruption appeared to be their new normal. Christmas does not mean that everything will always be pretty and peaceful. An angel came again to Joseph in a dream, warning of Herod’s evil determination to destroy the young Messiah. “. . flee to Egypt and stay there until I bring you word . . when he arose, he took the young child and his mother and departed for Egypt. And was there until the death of Herod.” Read Matthew 2:13-23 NKJV.

In Luke’s masterful narrative of the Christmas angels singing to shepherds on a Judean hillside, there came the inevitable moment, “When the angels had left them and gone into Heaven . .” Predictably, angels return to Heaven and people return to everyday life, forever changed by such moments of Heavenly encounter. “The shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go and see this thing . . which the Lord has told us’ . . The shepherds returned [to their flocks] glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:15-16 NKJV. Angels return to Heaven, but there are lives to be lived, families to provide for, responsibilities to be fulfilled, and work to be done – but also an unbelievable story to be told.

And Matthew writes of a similar experience for those royal visitors from afar, “They departed to their own country another way.” Matthew 2:12 NKJV. I know that is merely describing the different geography of their journey home, but I cannot avoid the application that life is never quite the same after you have seen and worshiped the Christ. Read Matthew 2:1-12 NKJV. A person cannot bow at Christmas with true heart and worship and be the same as they were. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV. Christmas changes routines, shifts priorities, adjusts values, and even alters lives. Ultimately, Christmas will pass but the Savior can and will change your life forever. Christmas is not about the pageantry of mangers, angels, shepherds, or Eastern kings; Christmas is about a Savior who changes lives now and forever. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. All this is from God . .” See 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV.

My prayer for you this Christmas is that change came with Christmas and remains long after.

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A Christmas Joy

December 25th, 2012

Joy is a gift God gives and a choice you make; choose joy.

“I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all people.” Luke 2:10 NAS.

“Merry Christmas!” An all too familiar greeting, but “merry,” seems a bit underwhelming when referring to God coming into our world. I think “Joyous Christmas” is more like God would choose. Open your heart and home to be overwhelmed by, “an inexpressible and glorious joy,” this Advent. 1 Peter 1:8 NIV. The experience and expression of the Savior’s birth, life, and sacrifice deserve no less. The angel announced to the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all people.” Luke 2:10 NAS. The good news is the same now as then and so is the promise of great joy.

However, Heaven’s joy did not originate on that first Christmas; the Incarnation simply dramatized the eternal purpose of the Father for all His creation to know inexpressible, glorious joy. Creation is described as the time when, “the morning stars sang together and all the Angels shouted for joy.” Job 38:7 NIV. That same eternal joy will fill your heart as you stand before God, “Who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy . .” Jude 24-25 NKJV. Christmas’ celebration underscores the opportunity for experiencing His inexpressible joy every day.

“In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11 NKJV. Great joy is yours but never automatic. Joy is a gift God gives and a choice you make; Advent invites you to choose joy. Nurture joy; mature joy until the emotion becomes a disposition drawing on abiding, spiritual resources. “If you abide in Me . . My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” John 15:7/11 NIV. You have His joy, completely!

Now, share the joy. If you are silent or unclear about your joy at Christmas, why would, or should, the world be drawn at other times to the truth you tell. Consider this. Christmas isn’t really Christmas until you share its joy with others. But a joy-filled message is not credible when coming from a joyless messenger. You can’t share something you don’t have, and you can’t keep something that you won’t share. That states a spiritual principle that also applies to inexpressible and glorious joy, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” Proverbs 11:24-25 NIV. When you give joy, you gain joy.

Share the joy of Christmas every day, to every person in every imaginable way. Celebrate with abandon and without apology. Invite, include, involve, converse, welcome, laugh, love, express life, and be real. Celebrate joyously; incarnate the joy of the timeless message an unbelieving world cannot resist. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 NKJV.

This advent, my prayer for you is that you discover the enduring joy found in the Savior.

Devotionals