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Archive for January, 2017

A Fresh Start

January 27th, 2017

Today can be an exit from your history and entrance to your destiny

 “His compassions are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV

My thoughts and comments today are about, “a fresh start.”

Life can feel unmanageable, your past cluttered with unfinished business and the path ahead filled with responsibilities. But life is not lived in yesterday or tomorrow; life can only be lived today. Your life is more than the facts of your history or your unrealized destiny. Positively or negatively, both of those are greatly affected by anything, or maybe everything, you do today. You can reinforce your history or rewrite its predictions. You can sell your future cheaply or invest yourself in achieving its potential.

This day is a fresh opportunity to write a new chapter in the ongoing story of your life. Sure, you have made mistakes. There are things you would have done better if you had been wiser. The remedy for regrets is simple. Enjoy a fresh start. Do better; learn from your mistakes rather than repeating them.

King David’s story is a record of repentance and redemption. In repentance, he embraced a greater future. Learn from his example and rejoice with him: “The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:23-24 NIV.

Recognize God as Lord of this day and rejoicing becomes the appropriate response. In grace, your history becomes His story. Today can bring a fresh start. Stop rehearsing your mistakes, regretting your failures, or reliving your record. Your God has a record of redeeming tragic histories. And your God is equally adept at crafting unimagined destinies. Both of those the Holy Spirit accomplishes in the context of today.

The Apostle Paul had history that God covered in grace and mercy. “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy.” Read 1 Tim 1:12-17 NKJV. On that road to Damascus, Paul met God face to face and his history was redeemed and his destiny assured. Read Acts 9:1-6 NKJV. People do not turn their life around without divine intervention. Only ignorance or arrogance – or both – would make a person attempt such a life change without God.

Paul found there was only one answer for spiritual transformation and subsequent conformation to Christ-likeness. “I am still not all that I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to Heaven.” Philippians 3:13-14 NLT.

Notice that Paul mentioned, “one thing,” and then proceeded to talk about, “forgetting, looking forward, and straining to reach.” The one thing Paul believed crucial was expressed in three equally essential actions: laying aside everything inhibiting about yesterday, living with anticipation today, and giving Godly effort to fulfill God’s calling every day that follows. Today can be an exit from your history and entrance to your destiny.

Today, I pray for you to trust both your history and destiny into Jesus’ capable hands.

Christian Communications 2017

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Goals

January 25th, 2017

A worthy goal is beyond your present abilities and fears

My thoughts and comments today are about, “goals.”

“I press on toward the goal . . for which God has called me.” Philippians 3:14 NIV

What could your life be if you cast aside the self-imposed limits? Never settle for a life too small. Life is an adventure for those with God alive within. It is better to have tried and failed than to have failed to try. But be sure your goals are God’s goals for you. A God-sized goal will be further than your reach, greater than your abilities, and bigger than your fears. In those, your personal satisfaction and success will be found.

You will never achieve your best without noble goals. Don’t waste time or resource with things that give you no pride of achievement. You will always have more potential than you have yet achieved. Yet goals alone do not insure success. Extraordinary achievement requires enthusiasm, energy, and exertion.

Joseph embraced goals that preceded his life and would extend well beyond it. He understood his unique place in history as well as destiny. As he prepared to die, he avowed, “God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land He promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob . . then you must carry my bones up from this place.” See Genesis 50:24-26/Exodus13:18-19 NIV. Joseph’s heart held a goal surpassing his ability to achieve and extending beyond his lifetime. In comparison, some of our miniscule goals seem embarrassingly small for God.

Reaching all your goals is not the highest achievement of success. If and when you have done that, life is sad rather than satisfying. That dubious accomplishment indicates that your goal was too small, yet you neglected to replace it with challenges grand enough to reach beyond your earlier successes. A goal should be like the horizon, envisioned in the distance, urging you onward, yet never becoming a settled destination.

In my earlier years, Kenny, a dear friend and encourager in my life and ministry, often challenged me, “Allen, it is better to aim for the stars and hit the top of a mountain, than to aim for a telephone pole and hit the top of a fence post.” His life-long conviction of that truth empowered him to believe God for blessing according to his efforts and beyond his abilities. Goals should be worthy of your supreme commitment, diligent effort, singular focus, and beyond what you can achieve without God and others. Godly goals encourage and empower you to accomplish more than you otherwise could.

Paul was neither impressed by his successes nor intimidated by failures. He learned from his past, but refused to live there. His singular goal was always before him. All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of His resurrection, to share in His sufferings and become like Him in His death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life . . The one thing I do is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead. So, I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above.” Philippians 3:10-14 TEV. A God-sized goal is not achievable apart from God.

Today, I pray for you to dream big, plan well, and work hard to achieve your potential.

Christian Communications 2017

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Stand Fast

January 19th, 2017

Posture evidences inner attitude

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand.” Ephesians 6:11 NKJV

My thoughts and comments today urge that you, “stand fast.”

Posture reveals a lot about a person with or without their awareness: intimating comfort or discomfort, confidence or reluctance, humility or arrogance, benevolence or malice. Posture evidences inner attitude. But consider a different, more important facet of posture, more spiritual than physical. The Bible distinguishes between the outward man of the flesh and the inward man of the Spirit. “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 NKJV. Time spent on your knees empowers faith and obedience. Standing is a posture of faith, expressing preparedness and availability. God’s Word has much to say about the Christian’s spiritual posture.

Stand fast in faith. Circumstances will challenge your posture of faith. “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong . . And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 NKJV/Romans 14:4 NIV.

Stand strong in adversity. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil . . Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore . .” Read Ephesians 6:11-18 NKJV.

Stand strong in righteousness. The opposition and persecution of the religious leaders could not dissuade Paul, “Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand.” Acts 26:22 NKJV. Trust in God’s strength, not your own. “My help comes from the Lord.” Psalm 121:2 NKJV.

Stand steadfast in prayer. “Always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Colossians 4:12 NKJV.

Stand sure in grace. “We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1-2 NKJV. God’s grace is the singularly strong place to stand. Stand fast in Christ and His finished work on Calvary.

Stand fast in freedom. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1 NKJV.

Stand in awe of God. Your view of God determines and supports everything else about your personal faith. “Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.” Psalm 33:8 NKJV.

Stand still in God’s promise. Before an uncrossable sea and an invincible army behind, and with the promise of God in his heart, “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today.’” Exodus 14:13 NKJV. God has a great victory for you if you will reject your fear and stand fast in His promises. “That [God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man . . that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Read Ephesians 3:16-19 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to always stand in the strength of the God’s Word and Holy Spirit.

Christian Communications 2016

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Bless This Mess

January 13th, 2017

Blessing is restored where grace is received

“The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” Proverbs 10:22 NKJV

My thoughts and comments today are about, “bless this mess.”

Life can be messy; it frequently is. Mrs. Cook, a fourth-grade teacher at Blair Elementary, North Venice, Illinois, taught me to love words and use them properly. Messy is not the classiest of words, but I find it descriptive. Messy is defined as: chaotic, disheveled, disorganized, littered. When you hear the word, you know what it describes. It defines some measure of disarray, a time and place when life is in disorder. Some people live in serial messes until they don’t even recognize the chaos in which they live. The abnormal becomes their normal. I saw a plaque, like one my wife may want to place in my garage or closet, that simply read, “Bless this mess!” I smiled because I could envision closets, kitchens, and houses – as well as some marriages, families, and lives – for which those wistful words could be appropriate.

The problem is this: God doesn’t make a mess, neither will He bless a mess. He will walk with you in your mess. He will love you despite your mess. And He will redeem your mess, if you bring it to Him in sincerity and humility. Blessing is restored where grace is received. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8 NKJV. Sometimes, you are forced to deal with messes you make. And sometimes, others’ messy drama encroaches on your life. You must deal with the first; you cannot always do much about the latter, except what little is in your control. Procrastination is never a good option.

A mess ignored worsens. When I lay one thing on my desk that belongs elsewhere, the mess soon multiplies. Usually, I was busy and intended to deal with it later. One thing, whose proper place is elsewhere, becomes the excuse for an accumulation of things temporarily left in the wrong place. Is there a mess you are allowing? Spiritual life? Personal habits? Broken relationships? Troubled marriage? Broken promises? Negligent spiritual practices? Procrastinated obedience? There are both sins of commission and omission that clutter lives.

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is the story of people whose lives were a mess and the grace of God they experienced when they called out to Him for mercy and forgiveness. I think of Adam, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samson, David, Simon Peter, Paul – as well as Allen, Bob, Bill, Steve, Joe, John, Mary, Betty, Anne, and (insert your name here). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Read 1 John 1:8-2:2 NIV. I love the words the aged and beloved John wrote to people just like you and me, “Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from Jesus Christ.” 2 John 3 NIV. Grace adorns our lives; mercy spares our lives; and peace abides with and within our lives.

Today, I pray for you to love righteousness and live uprightly before God and man.

Christian Communications 2016

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Abounding Grace

January 11th, 2017

Where Christ abides God’s grace abounds

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18 NIV

My thoughts and comments today are about, “abounding grace.”

Life exposes your inadequacies. At times, those are common to all. No one is adequate in every circumstance; everyone experiences some measure of inability on occasion. Attempting to always be in control is exhausting. There are two possible responses when you feel unprepared or inadequate. You can fake it or you can face it. When you fake it, you aren’t fooling yourself. And a false bravado rarely fools others. The real issue is this. What do you do when you face not having enough, or not being enough?

Paul described his distress as being, “under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” 2 Corinthians 1:8 NIV. Yours or my challenges or complaints pale in comparison. If a Godly man of Paul’s exemplary devotion could face devastating emotions, you and I will not be exempt. For those struggling, Paul wrote strengthening   words, “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJV. There is no lack that cannot be found in the sufficiency of God. Read Paul’s words again. Consider the superlatives Paul chose to describe God’s provision, “all grace, all sufficiency, all things, an abundance for every good work.” God’s Grace abounds. Paul did not exaggerate.

Paul struggled with what he described as, “a thorn in the flesh,” three times asking God for release and relief. At the least, this was distracting and, at the worst, debilitating in some measure. In his distress, he found the abounding grace of God. “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Read 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NIV. Imagined strength limits God more than your confessed weakness.

When you evaluate yourself, include this factor, “Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” Colossians 1:27 NIV. Where Christ abides, God’s grace abounds. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, Who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant.” 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 NKJV. Abandon the futility of self-sufficiency; you will discover abounding grace. Rest your confidence in Christ, not in yourself. From God, abounding grace is an immeasurable constant, neither increasing nor diminishing. “For of His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” John 1:16 NASB. Peter encouraged Christ-followers in this way, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18 NIV. Experiencing a growing fullness of grace awaits your willing response.

Today, I pray for you to rest yourself in the sufficiency of Christ for needed strength.

Christian Communications 2016

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