Archive

Archive for June, 2013

Appetites

June 28th, 2013

“Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Matthew 5:6 NIV

Your passions foretell your direction and destination.

My thoughts and comments today are about “appetites.”

Everyone is hungry for something at some time. Here’s what I’ve learned: hunger insists on attention, resists attempts to ignore, and persists until satisfied. Original sin resulted from Adam and Eve’s appetite for something God was accused of withholding. Read Genesis 3:1-6 NKJV. They were tempted and sinned when they would not trust God to be enough. 2 Corinthians 9:8/10 NIV. If you are not wise and careful, physical desires can displace spiritual values.

My thoughts today are about far more than physical appetites. There is a God given desire in your spirit that is stronger than any physical hunger, yet can be overlooked if your priorities and preoccupation are on physical desires alone. How you satisfy your natural desires can foster appetites that become more controlling as you indulge them. Right appetites ennoble behavior; wrong appetites cause unproductive conduct. Guard your inner life carefully. Avoid the whim of momentary desires, and you will choose well and live prudently.

Appetites you allow determine choices which impact your life, for better or worse. Those lesser appetites produce strong passions, difficult to control if not scrutinized and rightly directed. Wrong appetites can easily become addictions, which are increasingly insatiable when gratified without constraint. Be careful what you want, because you just might get it. Lives have become shipwreck, and too many remained so, simply because they neither deliberately chose nor conquered the cravings that drove their passions. Apart from God, the heart is “Deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it? But I, the Lord, search the heart . .” Jeremiah 17:9-10 NKJV. Expose your heart to God. He knows you better than you know yourself.

Your passions foretell your direction and destination. Consider the power of centering your heart and passions on God. Outside of Jesus Christ, satisfaction is illusive as well as elusive. Jesus was crystal clear about where your soul finds satisfaction, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be [satisfied].” Matthew 5:6 NIV. Jesus chose words that were not casual; His words are extreme, desperate even, about strong yearning, “hunger and thirst.” Jesus spoke of intensity and focus on a clear and noble objective, “Righteousness.” Right desires produce right results. I love Paul’s description of people whose whole heart was on serving God and others: ”The house of Stephanas . . have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 16:15 KJV.

Here’s what your passion for righteousness would look like. Love and obey the Word of God. Job 23:12 NIV. Prioritize quality time in God’s presence. Psalm 16:11 NIV. Observe quiet times of prayer and Biblical meditation. Psalm 1:2 NASV. Cultivate the spirit and practice of worship. Psalm 29:2 NKJV. Practice the discipline of fasting. Matthew 6:16 NIV. Fellowship with others who mentor your spiritual growth. 1 John 1:7 NIV. If you are going to run with a crowd, run with people who are going the direction you want to go.

My prayer for you today is that your strongest desires are directed toward righteousness.

Devotionals , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Fear of the Lord

June 26th, 2013

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 9:10 NKJV

The fear of the Lord is the deeply sane recognition that we are not God; He is.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the fear of the Lord.”

A baby is born with only two fears: the fear of falling and loud noises. Others are learned along the way, unfortunately. There are times, things, situations, and people that warrant caution. Most fears are unhealthy for you. Neurotic fear can be debilitating. Unhealthy fears are neurotic, destroying peace and stifling every joy. Fear magnifies your imagination and distorts your perceived reality. Fear misdirects expectations to the worst possible projection. Healthy fears can be lifesaving. Addressing and overcoming fear in constructive ways is important for emotional and physical well-being. The Bible has much wisdom to offer about fears, which are both hurtful and helpful.

Solomon, whose greatest desire was for wisdom (2 Chronicles 1:7-11 NKJV), learned where all wisdom begins. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by [wisdom] your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you.” Proverbs 9:10-11 NKJV. The Bible has much to say about “the fear of the Lord.” People wrongly equate it with other fears, which at their base have an inner concern of danger or harm. See Proverbs 29:25 NIV. The fear of the Lord is nothing like natural fears, except when misunderstood.

Adam and Eve hid themselves from God then explained to Him, “We heard your voice and were afraid.” Genesis 3:10 NKJV. Their fear was not from a lack in God’s character, but a lack in their own. And God’s response? He provided covering for their shame and promised them a Savior. How do you not love a God like that? I think many have a distorted understanding of Godly fear. You need not fear a God who would give His Son for you.

Incorrectly, a person who is not persuaded of God’s holy nature and righteous character nor committed to the unvarying truth of Scripture’s revelation of God may live under a false fear of what God may do to them. What you are capable of doing to God should be your fear – ignoring Him, disobeying Him, disbelieving Him, disappointing Him, or misrepresenting Him to others. You are more likely to “hurt God” by how you treat Him than He would ever harm you.

I came upon a quote deserving of reflection, “The fear of the Lord is the deeply sane recognition that we are not God.” To that, I would add, “. . and a holy recognition that He is.” Unhealthy fears are often the product of one’s ignorance of God’s existence or stubborn disbelieve in His caring and character. It helps if you understand that what the Bible calls fear, as it relates to one’s relationship with God, is “the attitude of respect and reverential awe,” a sublimely positive affection rather than a negative emotion. The practical elements of the “fear of the Lord” are: a clear understanding of God’s nature, a pure obedience to God’s Word, and a clean heart in God’s presence. I love the Bible’s description of “the believers [who] were walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:31 NLT.

My prayer for you this day is that you cultivate a holy reverence for God and His wisdom.

Devotionals , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Periphery

June 24th, 2013

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” Mark 12:30 NKJV.

God values the priority of righteous lives above religious practices.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the periphery.”

Mrs. Cook, my fourth grade teacher at Blair Elementary in North Venice, Illinois, encouraged my love for words. Discovering my interest, she gave me a fascinating book exploring the etymology of words, “the origin and history of words.” I find “periphery” an interesting word. Periphery describes, something or someone on, “the outer edge, fringe, eccentric, or with minor involvement,” as contrasted with what is central and conventional.Be patient; I have a point to make, not just a word study.

In an exchange tonight with a friend about these thoughts, he observed that, “Many, if not most, of the people Jesus reached out to were living on the periphery of their culture. They were on the [fringes] of the political, social, or religious institutions of their time. But once they came in contact with Jesus their lives were radically changed and they began to develop a new understanding of what it means to be centered in God’s Kingdom.” I love this about Jesus; The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10 NIV.

Jesus still reaches out to those who feel lost or left out. The Good Shepherd seeks, finds, and rejoices over one lost sheep. See Matthew 12:14-18 NIV. However, I find my title today and its meaning distressing when used to describe people once centered in Christ but now content to practice their faith on the outer margins, with minor involvement spiritually or relationally. Jesus reaches out to those of you as well.

Quoting Moses’ words to Israel, Jesus prioritized the core value of the Kingdom of God, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment [in importance and priority].” Mark 12:30 NKJV. See Deuteronomy 6:5-7 NKJV. There are no acceptable substitutes for wholehearted allegiance to God. Even the best things can become pushed to the periphery while serving God, whereas loving God with singular devotion is absolutely central and never optional.

Obsessed with trivial, religious things, the Pharisees overlooked important matters of righteousness. They majored on minors, as do some today. With humor and hyperbole, Jesus described religious behavior as ludicrous by those, “[who] strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.” Matthew 23:24 NKJV/NLT. Spiritual life suffers when occupied with incidental matters at the exclusion of more central issues of faith and obedience. Spiritual life cannot – must not – be reduced to externals, such as diet, dress, holy days, religious jargon or practices.

God values the priority of righteous lives above religious practices. Righteousness trumps religion every time. A bad habit privately held is no different than one publicly practiced. Jesus taught, “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts . . covetousness, wickedness, deceit . . pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” Read Mark 7:18-23 NKJV. Hurts and slights by others are pushed to the periphery when living in the light of God’s grace and faithfulness. Move from the periphery to loving and serving God with all you are and have.

My prayer for you today is that you love and serve God fervently.

Devotionals , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

After Obedience

June 20th, 2013

“When you have done the will of God you will receive the promise.” Hebrews 10:36 NIV.

God’s will is forever aligned with His promises, purpose, and providence.

My thoughts and comments today are about “after obedience.”

Naturally, most of us are impatient. People want what they want sooner rather than later. People are a lot more interested in receiving what they want than in doing what they should. Success in the first is very much dependent on attention to the latter. Do what you should; that precedes all other good. When you do what you should, you receive what is promised. That’s the way it works in life, and that’s the way it works in your faith.

Spiritual life is neither sourced nor sustained by your efforts, but neither is it apart from your righteous works of faith. James said, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead [without life-giving ability]. Show me your faith without works and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:17-18 NKJV. Salvation is by grace alone, undeserved and unearned. “For it is by grace you have been saved . . not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV. James addresses everyday life, which follows His work of grace. God created you for righteous works, “. . which [He] prepared in advance.” Realize your calling and destiny is possible only by God working in and through you.

Time and effort are wasted trying to earn something from God; instead, concentrate on knowing and doing God’s will, while trusting God to fulfill His “. . exceedingly great and precious promises.” Read 2 Peter 1:3-4 NKJV. There are many promises in the Bible, every one sure and eternal. The Bible provides a simple qualification, “Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that [after] you have done the will of God you will receive what He has promised.” Hebrews 10:36 NIV. You cannot omit the qualifying words, “. . [after] you have done the will of God . .”

God’s promises always relate to His will and timing, before an individual’s desire or momentary need. The verse referenced above was written to specific people facing suffering and persecution. In their difficult situation, they were to rest in God’s will and trust His promises. Observe the context for each promise. It is over simplistic to presume any and all promises are just yours for the asking whenever you choose.

Who has not read a wonderful promise in God’s Word and claimed it as their own, then been confused if the promise seems not to be fulfilled in the way or time they desired? Is God unfaithful to His promise? Or to you? I think not! Nor will He be. “There has not failed one word of all His good promise.” 1 Kings 8:56 NKJV. God’s will is forever aligned with His promises, purpose, and providence, in general to all as well as individually to you.

Your focus is personal submission to the primacy of God’s will, with loving embrace of His wisdom always – “that you may prove [for yourself] what is that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.” See Romans 12:1-2 NKJV. “Those who through faith and patience inherit the promises,” find His will perfect, His ways superior, His timing impeccable. Hebrews 6:12 NKJV.

My prayer for you this day is that you are faithful to God and find Him faithful to you.

Devotionals , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sincere Faith

June 18th, 2013

“Your faith has made you whole.” Luke 17:19 NKJV.

Faith in God changes what now is and shapes what will be.

My thoughts and comments today are about “sincere faith.”

Faith is not complicated until you make it so. Life requires faith. Faith is simply the capacity to believe in something that you have not yet seen and may not yet understand or be able to explain.“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 NKJV. You evidence a measure of faith in the most natural way every day.

I am typing on a wireless keyboard but have faith that when I do so it will accurately convey my typed thoughts expressed in words to the screen in front of me, storing them in memory by processes I neither understand nor could explain. When finished, I will copy these comments into a mailing program that will send it to readers in varying locations nationally and internationally, in just a matter of seconds. I fully expect that to happen. That is faith.

You have faith in people, even though you are occasionally disappointed by some. I would rather have faith and be disappointed occasionally than not to have faith in anyone any time. You have faith in a person you have never met when you give your credit card numbers for a purchase over the phone or Internet. You have faith every time you sit in a chair, never considering if it will safely support you, faith every time you mail an insurance check that the financially safety you paid for will be provided as mutually agreed.

Faith for some people seems to become mysterious and questionable only when God asks you to have faith in Him. Yet, faith is essential. Jesus said, “According to your faith, let it be to you . . [who] does not doubt in his heart . . without faith it is impossible to please God.” Matthew 9:29/Mark 11:23/Hebrews 11:6.

Jesus encountered ten lepers; all were healed; one was pronounced whole. Read Luke 17:12-19 NKJV. It could be that all were healed by Jesus’ power, but to the one who returned to give thanks Jesus said, “Your faith has made you whole.” Luke 17:19 NKJV. I would suggest that as wonderful as it is, healing is less than it could be until it results in wholeness and somehow, by a process I cannot explain, the wholeness he experienced was born out of the genuineness of his faith.

Faith is not something you think. Faith is something you do. A leper had to appear before a priest to be pronounced clean of this dreaded and destructive disease. The Bible says, “As they went [to show themselves to the priest], they were cleansed.” Real faith has to be “walked out.” You don’t think it; you do it! Walk steadfastly in your faith, grounded in the established Word of God and your assurance of His character. You never know which step of faith ultimately releases the victory already given in Heaven into the very real, practical arena of your everyday life.

Keep walking in faith and watching for victory. Faith in God is powerful, changing what now is and shaping what will be. Make sure that thanksgiving and praise accompany your walk of faith.

My prayer for you today is that your faith be simple and sincere.

Devotionals , , , , ,