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Archive for July, 2014

Your Story

July 31st, 2014

“We testify and announce to you that [Jesus] is the One who is eternal life.” 1 John 1:2 NLT.

Share your story with sincerity and authenticity.

My thoughts and comments today are about “your story.”

Some talk a lot, but say little that ultimately matters. Others can speak volumes in an economy of words. Treat your words as holding value not volume. Solomon observed, “A fool is full of words . . a truly wise person uses few words . . even fools are thought to be wise when they keep silent . . wise people treasure knowledge, but the babbling of a fool invites trouble.” Ecclesiastes 10:14KJV/ Proverbs 17:27-28 NLT/10:14 NLT. It doesn’t take much discernment to tell the difference between a fool and a wise person. People listen to those who have character, experience, and credibility.

I grow weary of the plethora of opinions offered 24 hour a day, now amplified by the Internet where anyone can find a platform and presence. There seem to be self-proclaimed experts with opinions about everything – world events, politics, personal investing, legal advice, health issues, marriage and relationships, parenting, fashion and culture, and of course, religion. As a follower of Jesus, you have a powerful, personal story to tell and it is truth, not opinion.

Don’t be intimidated into silence by people who have an opinion about everything, yet little to say of eternal consequence. Such people are why the message is sometimes not spoken, and other times not heard. You have the greatest truth in the world to share, which is your testimony of the redeeming power of God to save the soul and change a life. “If anyone is in Christ Jesus, he [or she] is a new creation; old things have passed away, and all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Your story has influence because it is the inarguable, personal testimony of your life that is changed and is lived accordingly. Such a life-giving story will be heard.

Someone near you needs to hear your story. They may not know they do, or even want to hear, but they need it nonetheless. That’s why John wrote, “We saw Him with our own eyes and touched Him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life . . and now we testify and announce to you that [Jesus] is the One who is eternal life . . We are telling you about what we ourselves have actually seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:1-3 NLT. The question is whether you will share your story with sincerity and authenticity, not whether others will receive it.

You need to realize that everything God has ever done in your life has one purpose – to make you His servant and witness. God spoke to Paul at his dramatic conversion, “Tell the world about this experience . . to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. They will receive forgiveness from their sins.” See Acts 26:16-18 NLT.

Today, my prayer for you is that the heart of your story is the mercy and majesty of Jesus.

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The Capacity to Regress

July 28th, 2014

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do.” Romans 7:15 NIV.

Your capacity to regress to unprofitable behaviors is a besetting temptation.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the capacity to regress.”

At times, I am bewildered by how little I really understand about myself. While feeling proud of my progress, I am puzzled by the ease with which I revert to ways and habits I previously found unworthy. As old as I am, that still perplexes me, as it did Paul, “I do not understand what I do.” Romans 7:15 NIV. I surrender progress achieved with much effort and diligence, and find myself closer to where I was than where I need to be. My capacity to regress to unprofitable behaviors is a besetting temptation.

When where you have been still holds attraction, the path of progress can be challenging. Read James 1:12-15. Temptation alone is not sin, but spiritual maturity and Godliness are measured by your recognition and rejection of any temptation to regress to familiar yet ineffective ways of coping with everyday life.

You will never find confidence or growth by returning to options once familiar and places formerly comfortable. As danger threatened or opposition arose, Israel looked over their collective shoulder with misplaced fondness for what they left behind in Egypt. “In their hearts they turned back to Egypt.” Acts 7:39. Read Nehemiah 9:9-17.

Before judging Israel harshly, consider your own temptation to return to negative emotions, old prejudices, wrong attitudes, unworthy appetites, unholy ambitions, or unhealthy habits. Paul encouraged and warned the Galatians, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1.

Let me suggest some Biblical examples of regression and suggest their causes, (1) Complicated discipleship, “From that time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” John 6:66-69. (2) Competitive affections,Demas has forsaken me having loved this present world.” 2 Timothy 4:10. (3) Confusing circumstances, After Jesus’ death and reports of His resurrection, Peter and other disciples returned to fishing. See John 21:1-5. A vulnerable time is when disappointment in people or situations and the resulting discouragement dissuade you.

Maybe today you identify with the Apostle Paul in his struggle with bewilderment. Paul wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I allow . . for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” Romans 7:15-21 NIV.

In the succeeding verses, Paul confessed his despair over his spiritual frailty.  “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:24-25 NLT. I suggest three spiritual practices that bring clarity during bewildering times: God’s Word, (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV), Jesus’ example, (Hebrews 4:14-16), and the Holy Spirit’s empowering, (Acts 1:8/Romans 15:13). In your panic, the answer may first appear to be running back to your weaknesses; God’s answer is fleeing to a safe refuge – into the arms of God. See Proverbs 18:10/Psalm 27:5/91:1-2.

Today, my prayer for you is to set progress as your highest, spiritual priority.

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Limits and Liberties

July 25th, 2014

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

True success and happiness in life is to know and fulfill God’s boundaries.

Lauren, my thoughts and comments today are about “limits and liberties.”

“Fences make good neighbors.” (Mending Wall/ Robert Frost). Fences clarify both a person’s liberties as well as their limits, designating where you have free access and where others do not. In relationships, such fences are called boundaries. Some are determined by you; others are determined for you. People have boundaries that distinguish the public from the private, or should have.

Yours as well as others’ boundaries should be respected, but that doesn’t always happen. When someone pushes too closely into your personal space, or either shares or inquires about matters more personal than you prefer to discuss, their presumption of liberty intrudes beyond your limits. When that happens, you feel a measure of discomfort.

Almost twenty years ago, our family bought rural acreage where we would build our homes. Until then, I had been content to have my home nestled among others. But those acres soon gave me a sense of security and liberty I had not anticipated. The precisely measured survey and the visible fence line marked exactly where our boundaries were. This place was ours. Gayle named it “Heritage Place,” because we believe God provided it for our family.

God’s plan for your life is your “Heritage Place.” God said, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans to prosper and not harm you, to give you a future and a hope.’” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT. True happiness, contentment, and even success is to know and fulfill the boundaries of God’s plan for your life. Accept nothing less than the liberties God provides; require nothing more than the limits God sets. See Galatians 5:13 NKJV. Your appreciation of Godly boundaries has everything to do with your knowledge and trust of the One who sets them. Your joyful acceptance depends on understanding their purpose is for your good not harm.

Inside God’s limits and liberties, life is expansive; outside of those, the consequence can be expensive. From painful experience, David learned the limits within God’s plan were better than the ill-conceived liberties of his own plans. David learned God’s ways are always best, “The boundary lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalm 16:5-6 NIV. To that, I say a hearty, “Amen!”

Paul’s objective should be ours, Our goal is to stay within the boundaries [proper limits] of God’s plan for us.2 Corinthians 10:13 NLT/NIV. Paul was committed to fulfill all God intended, while content not to reach beyond. Paul discovered that within God’s “proper limits,” he found confidence instead of confusion, fruitfulness rather than frustration, and anointing beyond his abilities and efforts. And so will you.

Today, my prayer for you is to rejoice in liberties God affords and respect limits He requires.

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Trust and Confidence

July 22nd, 2014

“He who began a good work in you will complete it.” Philippians 1:6 NKJV.

Self-confidence will fail but confidence in God is well placed.

My thoughts and comments today are about “trust and confidence.”

Confidence is essential for happiness and success. It is easy to admire those folk who seemingly go through life with calm self-assurance, having neither hesitation nor doubt. In reality, they are more like you and me than they may at first appear. They may have learned to manage emotions and measure responses, or have not yet faced serious challenges to their self-reliance. The Bible gives you wise counsel, “And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 NKJV. Self-confidence will fail at inopportune times.

Some people, even the best of them, may disappoint you – some unintentionally, a few others even intentionally upon occasion. “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8 NKJV. Trust conveys the idea: “to put your weight upon.” See Proverbs 25:19 NLT. You would not rest your weight upon a broken cane; you would not sit upon a broken chair. Your confidence is no stronger than the foundation upon which it trusts.

Be prepared; there will be times and things in life that rattle your confidence. Confidence is rightly placed on a sure and always trustworthy foundation. Your confidence can rest assured on this unfailing foundation: the Word of God and the character of God.

One of my favorite hymns confesses, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.” (The Solid Rock/Edward Mote and William B. Bradbury). “Blessed are all those who put their trust in [God] . . Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” Psalm 2:12 NKJV/Jeremiah 17:7 NIV. Whatever the test or circumstance of the moment, you can be confident when you place your trust in God and His Word. They are unchanging.

The Apostle Paul knew where his confidence could rest securely, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 NKJV. I love that Jesus is identified as, “The Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV), and “the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 21:6 NKJV). You and I begin much more than we conclude successfully, growing weary in the process or simply finding we do not possess the resources, experience, knowledge, abilities, or determination. What God begins, He completes. On Him you can depend. See 1 John 5:14-15 NAS.

Confidence in God is well placed. Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” Hebrews 10:35-36 NKJV. See also Hebrews 4:16 NIV.

Today, my prayer for you is that you trust completely and rest securely in God.

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Reflections on a Birthday

July 18th, 2014

“The Gospel . . is power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16 NIV.

You are not born into your family’s faith; you are born into the Kingdom of God.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “reflections on a birthday.”

Birthdays mark the journey of one’s life and are due cause for proper celebration. Today is my birthday. As many as I have had, I should be good at them by this time. I have much to celebrate in my journey – a strong beginning in a home and family that I would hope for every child, Godly parents and grandparents who loved and taught me good habits and God’s ways; a happy childhood, a healthy adolescence, a helpful education with life-long friends and wonderful memories, an incredible, creative, and loving wife and life-partner, better kids than my parenting skills ever warranted; grandkids and now great grandkids beyond anything I could have hoped. All this is wrapped in a lifetime of serving people who modeled the Gospel and lavishly opened their love and lives to us.

But let me tell you about another more important “birth-day” that really made the journey what it has been. The story originates where my new life truly began and from which it is still being written. When I was six years old, at a service with a children’s evangelist, Ray Ton, I responded to his invitation for salvation – to invite Jesus into my heart. As much as I could understand at the time, I sincerely committed my life to the Lord, and a new and eternal life began. In the simplicity and sincerity of a child’s heart, I experienced this truth, “The Gospel . . is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16 NIV.

When I was ten, on a Sunday night in my father’s church in North Venice, Illinois, a Sunday School teacher, Betty Rice, knelt at my side on the last row of that little church during an evangelist’s prayer, to invite me to the altar to pray. Imagine asking the pastor’s son! But boldly yet kindly she did, and at her invitation I knelt in the front left corner of that humble building to know Jesus in ways that I never had before. I learned that evening that you are not born into your family’s faith; you have to be individually and personally born into the Kingdom of God. “You must be born again.” See John 3:1-21 NIV. I cannot describe the inexpressible joy I experienced that night in the realization of one truth, “The Gospel . . is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”

As a teen, fifteen years old in Granite City, Illinois, when an evangelist invited the church to the altars in the former City Theater that my Dad had consecrated as a revival center, I knelt at an altar where I felt an overwhelming sense of God’s call upon my life for the vocation of ministry. I saw a world in desperate need of a Savior; I felt God’s broken heart for people lost and powerless to find their way. The call was to share one message, “The Gospel . . is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” 

When I was seventeen, newly graduated from High School and accepted for architectural studies at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, God again spoke to my heart about ministry. I had other plans for my life; so did God. I chose His plans over my own, and the rest is history – fifty-one years of the greatest privilege I could ever have dreamed, still telling a simple story, “The Gospel . . is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” And still the journey continues . .

Today, my prayer is for you to believe and know the power of His salvation.

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