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Archive for September, 2013

Serendipities

September 30th, 2013

“As we have opportunity, let us do good to all.”  Galatians 6:10 NKJV.

When you do good to others, God-given serendipities abound.

My thoughts and comments today are about “serendipities.”

When I was in school, an assignment was to read a small book, “The Three Princes of Serendip.” (Elizabeth Jamison Hodges). On their journey, the three princes “were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things for which they were not searching.” Life is like that. A word, “serendipity,” was coined describing the invaluable discoveries on the noble princes’ unplanned adventures.

Serendipities are the heart and character of the Kingdom of God. Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 NKJV.Jesus told two stories describing the God’s Kingdom and its serendipities – “The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field  . . like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls . . [who] found one pearl of great price.” Read Matthew 13:44-46 NKJV.

“Life is what happens while you were making other plans.” (John Lennon, the Beatles). I believe one’s spiritual life is like that. While I planned for a career in architecture, God offered the opportunity of professional ministry. I never felt coercion, as though, “I had to do so,” or fail God. I would have been content with a career; God offered a providential calling with eternal reward. Read Jeremiah 29:11 NIV. More than fifty years later, I have found this journey to be a greater privilege, joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction than I could have foreseen. Solomon’s words are true, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 NIV.

Opportunity abounds. Opportunity is everywhere, every day. “Unfortunately, there seems to be far more opportunity out there than ability . . Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work . . We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.” (Thomas A. Edison, American Inventor). Your objective should be to recognize opportunity and make yourself available to it. A problem for many people is not that opportunities are lacking, but rather this: seeking the big opportunity you want so badly can obscure a myriad of lesser appearing but more consequential opportunities presented along the way.

“Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10 NKJV. Instead of looking for opportunities that profit you, look for opportunities that benefit others and glorify God. Read Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV. There is no shortage of opportunities to do good. When you do good to others, God-given serendipities abound.

“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.” (President Ronald Reagan). There is always something that you can do for someone that will make an eternal difference. God does not look kindly on even benign neglect. See Proverbs 3:27-28 NIV/James 4:17 NKJV. Paul reminded young Titus, “So that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” Titus 3:8 NKJV. As God gives opportunity, do good to all then watch what happens.

My prayer for you today is that you look for opportunities and believe in serendipities.

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Shelter in a Storm

September 26th, 2013

“You have been . . a shelter from the storm.” Isaiah 25:4 NIV.

You should prepare for storms you can neither predict nor prevent.

My thoughts and comments today are about “shelter in a storm.”

Weather forecasting has become quite a science. Satellites, meteorology science, computer imaging, and an accumulated history of weather patterns allow fairly accurate predictive warnings of dangerous storms, though the best meteorologists still cannot prevent the storms they predict.

Though of another nature, there is a different kind of storms that intrude into lives that you can neither predict nor prevent; these storms occur in the realm of emotional, mental, financial, physical, relational, or spiritual upheaval. You cannot predict when such storms will impose themselves into your life, but you can certainly predict that they will. How foolish to live as though your life will be immune from such disturbing times.

You should prepare for storms you or others can neither predict nor prevent. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV. People more often quote that than reference His important preface to those words, “In Me, you may have peace.” Before the storm comes, know where you will find safe refuge. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’ . . For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle.” Psalm 91:1-4/ 27:5 NIV.

Better late than never, but the midst of the storm is the worst time to begin your search for shelter. Isaiah wrote, “O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt and praise Your name, for in perfect faithfulness, You have done marvelous things . . You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” Isaiah 25:1/4 NIV. Distress, storm, or heat – whatever the description of your circumstance, God Himself is your sufficiency – refuge, shelter, and shade. God does more than just provide you shelter; He becomes your shelter. God and His Word are a safe refuge when storms rage whatever their origin. Proverbs 18:10 NKJV/Matthew 7:24-27 NLT.

Matthew, a disciple of Jesus, recalls a frightening storm, alarming enough to make fisherman fear for their lives. “Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.” Read Matthew 8:23-27 NIV. With just a word from Jesus, the wind and seas calmed, leaving the fearful disciples amazed and asking, “Who is this that even the wind and waves obey Him?” Yes, the wind and waves that may threaten and frighten you must obey His command. Solomon observed, ”When the storm has swept by . . the righteous stand firm forever.” Proverbs 10:25 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you will be safe and sheltered in Jesus when storms come.

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Listening

September 24th, 2013

“Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:9 NIV.

The noise of surroundings and busyness of schedules impair listening.

My thoughts and comments today are about “listening.”

You live in an increasingly noisy, busy world filled with a myriad of voices that will not be ignored. You can’t help but hear them. They make themselves heard, no matter how much you wish to avoid them.  Eventually, the noise of surroundings and busyness of schedules impair your carefulness to listen closely and hear accurately. That is unfortunate, especially to your spiritual life.

Hearing and listening are similar, not identical. Hearing is a natural, physical capacity, whereas listening is a skill acquired and practiced intentionally. Learning to recognize and respond to God’s voice is vital to spiritual life and growth. Jesus said, “The words that I speak are spirit and life . . man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” John 6:63/Matthew 4:4. Peter seemed to understand this when he answered Jesus, “To whom shall we go, for You alone have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68.

Give importance to hearing from God. God’s voice is seldom heard when you are too busy to listen or preoccupied with lesser things.

Be purposeful about listening to God. God may speak to you through Scripture, or words of a friend, or a circumstance of life, or through a song or sermon, but always as a gentle voice in your heart.

Take time to listen for God. You give time and attention to what you consider personally beneficial. Nothing else that engages your time is as beneficial as listening for God. Read Psalm 1:2-3 NIV.

Quiet your heart to listen to God. Living in a noisy, busy world is spiritually challenging. Every other voice and human activity can diminish the clarity of His voice in your heart. Lower the volume of turmoil around you; slow the hectic pace of unrelenting busyness. God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Read Psalm 46:1-3/9-11 NKJV. With a quiet heart before God, listen closely; you will hear God’s voice whatever the surrounding circumstance or chaos.

Listen with intention to obey. In the New Testament, Paul related the words, “obedience and disobedience,” to the words, “to hear under/hupokoe,“ or “to hear alongside/parakoe.” See Romans 8:19 NKJV. Submitting what you think or feel under what God says empowers obedience. Equating what you think or feel alongside what God says enables disobedience. How you hear has everything to do with your response to God. Listen to God carefully, as though everything depends on that; it does!

The young child, Samuel, illustrates the posture and practice of listening to God. “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening . . and the Lord said to Samuel . . as Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and everything Samuel said was wise and helpful.” Read 1 Samuel 3:1-11 NIV/19 NLT. When God’s words matter to you, God values and inspires your words on His behalf. Samuel identified himself to God as, “Your servant,” implying his attention with intention to obey. Obedience is the prerequisite for hearing God accurately. God does not volunteer to disclose His will, if obedience is not your intention.

My prayer for you today is that you have a heart to listen and ability to hear.

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Do the Right Thing

September 20th, 2013

“Don’t get weary and give up.”  Galatians 6:9 NLT.

Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.

My thoughts and comments today encourage, “do the right thing.”

Everyone gets tired eventually. You try to do the right things, but the wrong things result. You believe the best of others, but are invariably disappointed. You let yourself be vulnerable and you get hurt – again. You can get tired of doing the right thing, especially when disappointed thoughts whisper that no one else does, which is untrue of course. Cry out to God as did David,“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me . . Restore to me again the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” Psalm 51:10/12 NLT.

Do the right thing, because that is always the right thing to do. You may grow tired, but doing the right thing is never the wrong thing. “The ways of the Lord are right . .” Hosea 14:9 NIV. Be certain of that. And they are right for you, every time. “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice . . Listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes . .” Proverbs 21:2-3/Exodus 15:26 NIV. There is satisfaction in doing what pleases and honors the Lord.

Do the right thing, because a blessing is promised when you do. God is faithful to honor obedience.The law of harvest dictates that, “Those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.” Read Galatians 6:7-8 NLT. Yes, there are people and times that make that difficult, but the path of least resistance never leads to blessing. “So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone . .” Galatians 6:9-10 NLT.

Imagine how sad it would be to tire of doing the right thing just before, “reaping the harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.” To Noah, God promised, “As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest . . will never cease.” Genesis 8:22 NIV. If you sow righteous seed, you reap a righteous harvest.

Do the right thing, because doing so pleases God. Be assured, this is no small matter to God. There will be moments when you feel like you just can’t do what’s right “on your own,” and you would be exactly right; nothing in your Christian life was ever intended to be done in your own strength. Learn to lean on the Shepherd. ”The Lord is my Shepherd . . He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.” Psalm 23:3 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you discover the joy of righteousness.

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Distractions and Diversions

September 18th, 2013

One thing I do . . I press toward . . the prize of the upward call of God.” Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV.

Be vigilant; the insistent threatens the important.

My thoughts and comments today are about “distractions and diversions.”

Life can easily misdirect priorities, unless you persist with diligence and purpose. If you have not experienced diversion in matters small or large, you will. You can begin with clarity of purpose, then become diverted by things that clamor for your attention, only to realize that you have lost direction. Life is often what happens while you were busy elsewhere. Remembering his own painful experience, Solomon offers wise counsel, Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don’t get sidetracked . .” Proverbs 4:25-27 NLT. Time and energy can be wasted on needless diversions.

I benefit from my Dad’s practical counsel, “Keep the main things the main thing!” Paul’s “main thing” was voiced in this determination, “That I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me . . one thing I do, forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14 NKJV. For everyone, there are three essential components, “forgetting, reaching, and pressing.” Paul knew who he was, who he wanted to be, and what diligence that would require of him. The same clarity must be true of you. Contemplate what “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” would be for your life.

Be vigilant; the insistent threatens the important. Keeping a clear focus is not always as easy as you might assume. Life can be distracting. “Your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:32-33 NKJV. Distraction results when the secondary usurps the place of the primary. Keep Jesus in the center.

Jesus asked a probing question, “For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul” Read Matthew 8:34-37 NKJV. No man begins with the intention of losing his soul. Distractions and diversions exact a terrible price. With broken heart, Paul wrote this of his former companion, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” 2 Timothy 4:10 NKJV. For a love that does not endure and cannot satisfy, Demas traded his destiny. The destroyer of your soul is the master of distractions and diversions. Do not be ignorant of his schemes. See 2 Corinthians 2:11 NLT. What he cannot take from you, he will tempt you to lay aside.

Are any of us safe? God never meant for you to live insecurely. “The temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so you will not give in to it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT. I am confident of God’s sufficiency and care.

His promise is this, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21 NKJV. The word you hear is the Spirit’s affirmation of the Word you have hidden in your heart. See Psalm 119:9-11 NIV. The path of your success is simple: keep the Word of God foremost in your heart, listen to the Spirit of God devotedly, and be true to both unreservedly. Read 1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you will be steadfast in your pursuit of God.

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