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Archive for September, 2014

Obedience is Best

September 26th, 2014

“I take joy in doing Your will, my God.” Psalm 40:8 NLT.

Partial obedience is subtle disobedience in disguise.

My thoughts and comments today are that “obedience is best.”

Obedience does not come naturally; by fallen nature we are disobedient. Among a child’s first words is an adamant, “No!” When what you are asked to do agrees with what you want to do, that might appear as obedience but it’s not. I suggest that obedience is joyfully doing what you are asked, even when doing otherwise would be your preference.

David wrote, ”I take joy in doing Your will, my God, for Your Law is written on my heart.” Psalm 40:8 NLT. As you read those words, notice an obvious cause and effect. See Isaiah 1:19 NKJV. There is a direct relationship between the priority of the Word of God in your heart and your ease with obeying God promptly and fully. “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.” Psalm 143:10 NLT. Walking in obedience places you on solid ground.

I have discovered that the more you respect the person who asks you to do something and the more that you regard the wisdom of their words, the more readily you choose to obey. That should be your attitude about obeying God. God’s will and His Word will always be in perfect agreement. The more you know the Word of God the easier you will recognize the voice of God, and the better you will embrace the will of God. There are times obedience must begin simply as a matter of your will, not because you feel like it or understand it. Obedience seems to grow more natural the more you practice obeying. Heartfelt obedience can then become your joy.

Too late, King Saul learned a hard lesson. He was given specific instructions from God to, “completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation,” and even the herds and flocks that belonged to them. But Saul decided to spare their King, and kept the best of the sheep and cattle to “sacrifice to the Lord.” 1 Samuel 15:21. Saul mostly obeyed, having reasons he deemed acceptable for the exceptions he made. He almost obeyed, thinking that would equally please the Lord. The idea sounded good to Saul, not so good to God.

You obey or disobey; there is no third alternative. “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to His voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice . . stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols . .” 1 Samuel 15: 22-23. To God, stubbornness expresses resistance to God and insistence on a way of your choosing, but God equates that with idolatry, “putting someone or something in a place reserved for God alone.” In this example, you would be elevating your opinion above loyalty to God.

Partial obedience is subtle disobedience in disguise. “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is.” Romans 12:2 NLT.

Today, my prayer for you is that you know and savor the true delight of doing God’s will.

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Prudence

September 24th, 2014

“A prudent man gives thought to his steps.” Proverbs 14:15 NIV.

Never make a permanent decision about a temporary circumstance.

My thoughts and comments today are about “prudence.”

A satisfying life is about making good decisions, giving careful, deliberate thought to your next step before taking it. “The wise in heart will be called prudent.” Proverbs 16:21. The prophet Hosea added, “Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know [these things]. For the ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them.” Hosea 14:9.

Life flourishes through prudence, a word seldom heard and a lifestyle rarely practiced. Its origin is Latin and relates to our English word, “provident – to look and plan ahead.” Some years ago, IBM chose a single word to describe their company’s creed, “Think!” Apparently from some regretted past experiences, someone else observed, “Act in haste; repent at leisure.” Obviously this advice urges that you examine every choice, weighing both risk and reward. Before ever hearing those witticisms, my grandmother taught me about prudence with these words, “Look before you leap.” My Dad’s advice was even more succinct, “Allen, use your head.” That’s good, practical wisdom capsulized. Life lived in a hurry is not always as wise as it could or should be. I have found the following,  practical thoughts to be prudent.

Never make a permanent decision about a temporary circumstance. Circumstances change; your decisions might endure. “A prudent man gives thought to his steps.” Proverbs 14:15 NIV. The necessity of the moment, or the insistence of your emotions, or the pressure of a situation will coerce you to make choices imprudently. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NIV. When making significant decisions, don’t look around; look ahead. The foolish live in the moment; the wise consider their future.

Consider creative alternatives. There is always a creative option. “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways.” Proverbs 14:8 NIV. There is always another way to do what’s important, and there is enough time to consider what is best. Usually in the pressure and hurry to make a decision, you may choose the thing most obvious while failing to consider other, better options. Slow the process; pray about your decision; think Biblically; ask for Godly wisdom. Be assured, “The steps of the Godly are directed of the Lord, and He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:23 NLT.

Don’t guess; be knowledgeable. “The prudent are crowned with knowledge . . The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge; the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 14:18/18:15. Don’t assume you know everything. Gather the facts; welcome others’ counsel; reflect on past experiences.

Don’t let your expectations exceed your resources. Be realistic now, while you look and plan for a better future. Among much my Dad taught me, I have been most benefited by his principles of financial stewardship. If you don’t have what you need now, then wait and work until you have it. Everything cannot be the way you wish it were, nor happen as quickly as you would prefer. Be patient; allow God time and opportunity to provide what you lack. See Philippians 4:19.

Today, my prayer for you is that you live prudently and choose wisely.

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Pray for Peace

September 19th, 2014

“If My people pray . . I will hear from Heaven and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV.

The problem is obvious; the solution is spiritual; America needs a revival.

My thoughts and comments today encourage that you “pray for peace.”

Ours is a troubled world, merely reflecting men’s empty hearts. Discouragement comes easily; feelings of helplessness flourish. Jesus described the preceding signs of His return as, “wars and rumors of wars . . nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matthew 24:3-14 NIV. Luke describes that time as, “. . distress of nation with perplexity . . men’s hearts failing them from fear . . When you see these things coming to happen, look up and lift up your head for your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:25-28. Such distress anticipates divine intervention.

No one need convince you of either the lack of peace or the need for it. We live in a world with multiple international conflicts – splintered by social injustices, geopolitical tensions, international animosities, irreconcilable ideologies, and religious fanaticism – wanting peace but having little idea from where peace comes. See Isaiah 59:8 NIV. Simply stated, the original and only source of true peace is the “God of peace.” Read Hebrews 13:20-21. Peace is born in a right relationship with God.

A Biblical response to our troubled world is this: “If My people, who are called be My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV. What my heart hears and rejoices over is God’s gracious promise, “I will hear . . I will forgive . . I will heal their land.” There is much wrong in our nation, in every nation really, but nothing that our God cannot heal.

However sincerely, addressing the symptoms – social issues, inner city violence, redistribution of wealth, government entitlements – will not address the real problem. There is a sickness of soul and a spiritual malaise that only God can heal. The problem is obvious; the solution is spiritual; America needs a revival. You and I bear a Godly responsibility and are invested with a spiritual authority as intercessors for ourselves, homes, cities, states, nation and world. Read 1 Tim 2:1-5 NIV.

Why do we not pray confidently for God to “heal our land?” Our nation’s problems, as well as the world’s, appear so severe and a Biblical solution seems far too simple. Our failure to meet God’s clear requirements – humility, prayer, earnest seeking, and turning from wickedness – results in our benign neglect or simple disobedience preventing God from healing our nation as is needed. Our Father’s desire for our land is: “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” Isaiah 32:17-18 NIV.

Using the example of Elijah, James asserts, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” Read James 5:16-18 NIV. What God wants to do begins with what you have been called to do. Prayer is simple to do but powerful in its effect, in the one who prays as well as the concerns for which you pray. See 1 Thessalonians 5:16 /Luke 18:1/Colossians 4:2 NIV/Romans 12:12/ Matt 21:22.

Today, my prayer for you is: dare to pray with bold confidence in God’s power.

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Earlier this week, I was moved to write this devotional after watching a YouTube video by Reba McEntire of her song, “Pray for Peace.” Take a few minutes to watch this simple but moving prayer, set to music. Since my tech support was not available as I prepared this, you will have to do it the non-tech way – COPY and PASTE this YouTube web address into your browser . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A29S6cn0nig&app=desktop

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The Process of Progress

September 16th, 2014

“Old things have passed away; all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV.

Exchanging the expendable for the expedient is the process of progress.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the process of progress.”

Life is a process of perpetual change. It is a delusion that things can remain as they were or are. They never do, nor should they. Paul envisioned the boundless intention of God for your spiritual development while warning of the tragedy of stunted development, “Until we all come . . to a [maturing] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we be should no longer be children . . but may grow up in all things into Christ.” Ephesians 4:13-15. Anything less is inadequate and unworthy of the grace God has shown to your life. Progress is not at all sudden; it is deliberate and incremental.

SIGN 2 (3)

Growing is natural; remaining the same is not. Without necessary change there would be no process for progress. If your life remained static, you would be less than you could and should be. I often reflect on the unconstrained potential that redemption restores to any and everyone who comes to Christ in faith. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God.” John 1:12 KJV. What expansive potential is held in those words, “given the power to become.” What you become in Christ has so much to do with your choices and desire. “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

John later wrote, “We are already God’s children, and we can’t even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when Jesus comes, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is.” 1 John 3:2 NLT. Now the power of the Spirit is at work in you until the day the transformation into Christ-likeness is complete.

There are elements of your Christian life that are accomplished, finished works of grace. Yet there are also dimensions of Christian life that continue in the process of your becoming less of what you were and more than you had ever been. When you have done all that you are to do, God has not yet completed all that He will do. Read Philippians 3:12-14 NIV. You and I remain a glorious work in progress. “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV.

Paul wrote, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Wonderful, new things await you in Christ, being released as you willingly relinquish your old ways. Meditate on Ephesians 4:21-32.

Redemption occurs in a moment of transformation; Christ-likeness is a lifelong process of conformation. Read Romans 8:28-29 NIV. Writing about his Christian liberties, Paul said, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23 NIV. Exchanging the expendable for the expedient is the process of progress.

Today, my prayer for you is to never accept the good as a substitute for God’s best.

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Worry and Fear

September 11th, 2014

“Casting all your cares upon Him for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NKJV.

Unattended, worries and cares ultimately become anxieties and fears.

My thoughts and comments today are about “worry and fear.”

This date seems to have permanently marked our national consciousness. With the horrific and sobering terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the American assumption of safety and invincibility was sorely shaken. The national psyche was greatly changed and this date has become a metaphor for anxieties and fears. Daily life has been forever altered; borders are seen as vulnerabilities. We feel less safe in our cities or homes. Those insecurities added worries and cares where we previously gave little thought. Yet today, no one enters an airport without some measure of anxiety, if only from the added security procedures necessitated. Again, our world finds itself dealing with extreme religious and ideological differences that threaten our safety.

Whatever the calendar date or international tensions, everyday life holds uncertainties. Worries and cares are not reserved for major events. “Do not worry about your life . . who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Read Matthew 6:25-34 NIV. Worry is an exercise in futility.In the classic children’s book, Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne, there is a character, Eeyore, who is generally characterized as pessimistic, gloomy, and depressed. Eeyore always expected the worse, assuming to foresee anything that could go wrong. Learn from Eeyore; that is a sad and unhappy way to live, for you and others around you. Unattended, worries and cares ultimately become anxieties and fears.

I am not certain how much difference, if any, there is between worries and cares. Both obviously refer to concerns that are unsettling to one’s thoughts and emotions, and they could and would share a common origin. For my purposes, I differentiate this way. Cares are worries that refuse to be resolved or released.

Whether it is worry at the moment or cares that become more rooted with each day, both are disquieting to your spirit and destructive to peace of mind. No one is completely free from them, but there is something you can do about them, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NAS.

What will you do with your worries and cares? For either or both, God’s answer is simple, “Casting all your every care upon Him for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. It really is that easy. Give it away. Your heart doesn’t need it; your friends don’t want it. God will take it. In Paul’s classic discussion of God’s love, he wrote, “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love . . Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away.” Romans 8:38 NLT.

Today, my prayer for you is to know that God cares for you and everything you care about.

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