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Archive for April, 2015

Courage and Confidence

April 29th, 2015

“Stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.“ 1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV.

Face your fear or your present fear will control your future.

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

Years earlier, there had been a difficult and disappointing church situation, and I was not sure what the outcome might be in many people’s lives, people that I pastored and for which I was responsible. Feeling embattled, I envisioned a favorite Bible story of personal courage, the battlefield scene between David and Goliath. See 1 Samuel 17:1-25.

As I read Samuel’s description of the occasion, “As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him.” (1 Sam 17:48 NLT), I could “see” David with only a simple, shepherd’s sling, yet running with abandon directly toward the towering, armor-clad warrior that all others feared. In my heart, I knew the Lord was speaking directly to me about courage and confidence. My situation seemed to require more courage and confidence than I was experiencing.

David story captures one’s imagination – young David against Goliath, a seasoned warrior. Because of its larger than life storybook ending, the phrase “David against Goliath” has even become a part of secular speech. Though an actual event, it also provides a powerful metaphor of times and situations that you will face, where the odds of success are clearly unfavorable and the ultimate outcome questionable to everyone, except you and God.

God seems to love those kinds of real life stories. Moses against powerful Pharaoh. Joseph betrayed by his brothers. Three Hebrew captives righteously defying a Persian King and his fiery furnace. Daniel facing ravenous lions. Elijah facing down the 450 prophets of Baal. Paul staring at a treacherous storm at sea and declaring, “Fear not, be of good cheer.” Read Hebrews 11.

In just such times, you must first face the fear to move forward with courage, to do what needs to be done without hesitation, to do what others will not do and doubt that you can. At such times, your faith has to overpower every fear and uncertainty. Read 1 Samuel 17:8-11. The natural inclination is to run the opposite direction, away from the confrontation and danger. But if you do, your fear will chase and haunt you forever. Face your fear or your present fear will control your future.

Without hesitation, “David quickly ran out to meet [Goliath].” The sight of this diminutive shepherd boy coming his way did not frighten Goliath, but he must have been momentarily startled to see the preposterous sight, startled just long enough for David to seal Goliath’s fate forever. As he was known to do on other occasions, “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” 1 Samuel 30:6 KJV. I suggest two practical things that strengthened David’s courage.

(1) David had experience with God. “The Lord who saved me from the claws of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine.” Read 1 Samuel 17:32-37. If God has not failed you before, your God will not fail you now. If God has always provided your needs before, He will still provide for you. His Word promises you, “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11. Look past the size of your fear; remember the size of your God.

(2) David had courage for God’s honor and others’ well-being. “Who is this pagan Philistine that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?. . the God of the armies of Israel that you have defied.” 1 Samuel 17:26 and 45 NLT. The situation I faced was not of a scale such as David’s, but I found courage for similar reasons. I had God’s honor to uphold, and people who depended on me to lead with courage and confidence. Courage is not about your safety. True courage is rallied for God’s honor and others’ well-being. “Stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.“ 1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV. Being encouraged is volitional more than emotional.

Today, my prayer for you is that you will show courage when time and circumstance require.

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Success and Satisfaction

April 24th, 2015

“God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.” Romans 12:6 NLT.

Nothing is more satisfying than a job well done
and for which you are well suited.

My thoughts and comments today are about “success and satisfaction.”EDL pix satisfaction

Imagine an orchestra with all the chairs empty, except for one lone instrumentalist. However skilled the musician, a single musician and musical instrument is not an orchestra. Their individual talent and best effort would be inadequate and the composer’s arrangement unrealized. Nor would any musician attempt to play all the instruments singlehandedly. Such an intent and effort may be commendable but their ambition and ability would be questionable.

My application is this: no one can do everything equally well; you’re neither equipped to do so nor expected. You will do some things better than other things and some things not well at all. Best that you learn the difference. But everyone can do something well; that you ought to do as your stewardship of God’s grace and contribution to others’ benefit. A few words have often guided and strengthened my resolve, “I can’t do everything, but I can do something. And what I can do, I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.”

The Apostle Paul reminded Christians in Rome, “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.” Romans 12:6 NLT. Scripture is best read in the context of what precedes and follows. Paul introduced this verse with a profound understanding, “We belong to one another, and each of us needs all the others. God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability . . do it!” Read Romans 12:5-8 NLT.

God’s intent is clear. The abilities, skills, and experience God has provided you are for His purposes – serving Him, and serving others in His Name. “We belong to each other and each of us needs all the others.” Romans 12:5 NLT. Neither you nor I are complete separately, but together we are completed and sufficient in Christ. Read 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 NLT. You are needed even as you need others. You need the practical blessing from the giftedness of others, and they need yours.

The opportunities, abilities, and interests you possess are from the Lord and for His purpose and glory – not your pleasure or profit alone, nor to use as you will or withhold as you choose. “So if God has given you the ability . . do it gladly.” Romans 12:6/8 NLT. Don’t tout what you can do or have done, nor apologize for what you can’t do or have not done. Serve others graciously, thereby glorifying God. “For God loves the person who gives cheerfully. God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 NLT.

Nothing is more satisfying than a job well done and one for which you are well suited. Your preeminent satisfaction and success are when you offer what you do well, knowing you are serving as God created and gifted you, seeing others strengthened, and knowing God receives the glory. The preeminent benediction of God will be these simple words, “Well done, good and faithful servant . . enter into the joy of your Lord.” Matthew 25:11. Miss that and you miss everything that matters.

Today, my prayer for you is to experience and express joy-filled contentment each day of your life.

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Conscience and Curiosity

April 22nd, 2015

“Be filled with love from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5 NLT.

Better to obey your conscience than explore your curiosity.

My thoughts and comments today are about “conscience and curiosity.”

When you quietly hear an inner voice of question and caution, that’s your conscience. God created your conscience to instinctively know right from wrong. There probably have been times when you wished your conscience would be silent. Instead, listen to your conscience; you will spare yourself many mistakes and resulting heartaches.

The Bible offers wise advice and dire warning when the voice of conscience is ignored. “Always keep your conscience clear. For some have deliberately violated their conscience; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.” 1 Timothy 1:19 NLT. Shipwrecked! Could Paul’s warning of needless tragedy and loss be any clearer? Usually, a shipwreck results when a ship is in waters not safe to sail, doing what it was not designed to do. In unmistakable description, a contemporary paraphrase reads, “Some . . have made a thorough mess of their faith.” 1 Timothy 1:19 MSG.

Ignoring the voice of God in your heart is always a mistake and results in hurt and loss for yourself and others. Adam and Eve lost so much for themselves, as well as all of us, just by listening to the wrong voice and ignoring the voice of God. “If many died by the trespass of one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of one Man, Jesus Christ, overflow to many.” See Romans 5:12-17 NIV.

(1) Better to obey your conscience than explore your curiosity. Incorrectly, the world reasons, “If it feels right, how can it be wrong?” What dangerously defective reasoning. Here’s the reality; most things that “feel right” to your natural inclinations and appetites are anything but right. One and all, we struggle with a sin nature. Don’t be lured and deceived by curiosity and desires. Eve was curious and unleashed a world of trouble for us all.

(2) Avoid unholy influences. Secular culture and wrong associations assault your spirit with impure signals that can and will confuse you. “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” Titus 1:15 NIV. Choose wisely and carefully to whom or what you listen. Conflicting voices attempt to stifle the voice of the Holy Spirit God has placed within you.

(3) Strengthen your conscience with the Word of God. “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Read Psalm 119:9-16 NIV. In your heart, you know before you do wrong, but still indulge your appetite and ignore your conscience, to your own harm. Allow God’s Word to guide and govern your conscience. “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand, whenever you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21. There is no substitute for filling your mind and thoughts with God’s Word. Read Psalm 1:1-3. Obey God’s Word however pressing the temptation to do otherwise.

”Our rejoicing is this: the testimony of our conscience that by the grace of God . . in simplicity and Godly sincerity . . that is how we have lived our lives toward everyone.” 2 Corinthians 1:12 KJV. Paul, a wise, life-seasoned saint, wrote to young Timothy, “The purpose of my instruction is that all Christians would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5 NLT. The love of God best flows into a pure heart, through a clear conscience, and from a sincere faith.

Today, my prayer for you is that your heart will be a home for God’s love at all times.

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Vital Signs

April 17th, 2015

“[Physical] exercise profits a little, but Godliness is profitable for all things.” 1 Timothy 4:8 NKJV.

Your eternal soul warrants more thought and care than your mortal body merits.

My thoughts and comments today are about “vital signs.”

EDL graphic vital signsHealthy habits are a wise investment in the quality and length of your life. There is no debate about the practical wisdom of being health conscious – practicing a healthy lifestyle, managing your weight, eating properly, exercising regularly, eliminating stress, reducing worry, getting enough rest, and having a medical check-up periodically. The same attention would be good for your soul, giving deliberate consideration of habits that contribute to your spiritual health and well-being, or lack thereof. “I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is.” 3 John 2 NLT.

There is an incongruity to being so careful about your physical health which affects only the limited years of your lifetime, while being careless even for a moment about your soul’s health that impacts eternity, years without end. “[Physical] exercise profits a little, but Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8. Your eternal soul warrants more thought and care than your mortal body merits. See Matthew 16:25-26 NIV. I have observed that some people follow their exercise regimen with more commitment, priority, frequency, regularity, and passion than they give to their spiritual disciplines. That could be expected of non-church attenders, but should that ever be true of a Christian?

Let me suggest some practical, spiritual vital signs. Evaluate your priorities. “Live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” Matthew 6:33 NLT.  Keep your mind clean and clear. “Those who live according to the Spirit, [set their minds] on the things of the Spirit . . to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Romans 8:5-6. Read Philippians 4:8. Nurture a healthy faith. “For it is impossible to please God without faith.” Hebrews 11:6 NLT.

Practice gratitude. “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Lose unhealthy weight. “Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.” Hebrews 12:1. Welcome healthy exercise. “Discipline yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto those who are exercised by it.” Hebrews 12:11.

Forgive easily and generously. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32. Give God your worries. “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.” Philippians 4:6 NLT. Cultivate trust. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not upon your own understanding. Commit your way to the Lord, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5.

Develop faithfulness. “It is required of a steward that he is found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2. Make prayer a priority. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” James 5:16 NLT. These are not meant to be an exhaustive list for spiritual health, but suggest spiritually significant “vital signs” the Holy Spirit will examine when you invite Him to do so.

Today, my prayer for you is a good report from the Great Physician that all is well.

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Coincidence and Providence

April 15th, 2015

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.” Ephesians 1:18 NIV.

There are supernatural moments woven into the fabric of daily life.

My thoughts and comments today are about “coincidence and providence.”

There are things that just seem to happen amid the routines of everyday life. Are those occurrences random coincidence or divine providence? Some things just happen as a part of life; you and I are not exempt from those but we are accompanied by God at all times in every circumstance. Read 2 Kings 6:13-17 NIV. There are also moments of divine purpose and appointment. I do not live in a world where anything and everything is merely random chance. I choose to believe such moments can be providential, evidence of a Father’s loving involvement and personal investment in my well-being, and yours. Job trusted God, “You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in Your providence watched over my spirit.” Job 10:12 NIV.

EDL pic heartA friend advised me, “When you only look for God in the sensational and spectacular, you will often miss the supernatural.” In the midst of the apparently ordinary, there should be moments when something occurs to open your eyes, allowing you to sense the discreet evidences of the surprising, extraordinary, and supernatural being purposefully woven into the daily fabric of your life. Expecting God to be present in ordinary events is the prerequisite for experiencing His loving company and care.

With assurance, David wrote of the faithfulness of God, “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm [He delights in every detail of their lives/NLT]; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-25 NIV. How confidently would you live if assured of the constancy of God’s favor and delight?

Elijah’s life seemed out of control, the victory over the 450 false prophets on Mt. Carmel now a fading memory. Read 1 Kings 19. Now Elijah felt the terror of fear. The wicked, powerful queen vowed to end the prophet’s meddling once and for all. The once courageous prophet was now fearful, fleeing from the queen until completely exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. His fear was real but exaggerated; his discouragement was overwhelming; his emotions were uncontrollable; his despair was unmanageable. Then God appeared to Elijah. God was not absent until that moment; He was there all the time. “And the Lord said, ‘Go and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’” 1 Kings 19:11 NIV.

There was a tornadic wind, “But the Lord was not in the wind.” Then a shattering earthquake, “But the Lord was not in the earthquake.” And then a raging fire, “But the Lord was not in the fire.” God is not always found in the sensational and spectacular. Elijah felt as emotional frayed and physically vulnerable as a man could be. “And then there came a still small voice.” 1 Kings 19:11-13. That “still, small voice” was the discreet evidence of God, present and gloriously at work in spite of everything Elijah was feeling and fearing. There are supernatural moments woven into the fabric of daily life. Look for God and listen for His voice.

Keep a quiet heart before God and eyes open for the discreetly supernatural; you will discover where God’s love, grace, and kindness will be found in the ordinary starts and stops of daily life. I repeat my friend’s observation and warning, “When you only look for God in the sensational and spectacular, you will often miss the supernatural.” Paul’s prayer is also mine, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you.” Read Ephesians 1:15-21 NIV.

Today, my prayer for you is that your heart is attracted to Him, not distracted by what surrounds.

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