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Archive for March, 2017

Priority, Passion, and Purpose

March 29th, 2017

 

Desire determines your direction

You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 NIV.

My thoughts today are about, “priority, passion, and purpose.”

You will seek what is important to you. Time and priority evidence your values. I met my wife, Gayle, in the Spring of my second year of college. I sought every opportunity to be where she was. As she became increasingly important to me, I made time and sought occasion to enjoy her company. I sought to be with her as much as I could. I pursued her favor. Soon, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. And, as they say, the rest is history. Passion settles priority. God is not elusive, but seeking Him necessitates an undivided heart and singleness of mind.

Saul became Israel’s choice as their first King, but he was not God’s choice. Saul was impressive. The Bible described Him as, “head and shoulders over all the men of Israel.” 1 Samuel 10:23 NLT. But there was a problem the people could not see, but God did. Eventually, “God replaced [Saul as King of Israel] with David, a man about whom God said, ‘David, son of Jesse, is a man after My own heart, for he will do everything I want him to do.’” Acts 13:22 NLT. God’s explanation was simple and direct, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV.

In David, God found a God-seeking heart. David wrote, “One thing I have desired of the Lord; this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” Psalm 27:4 NIV. Do you want to have a heart like David’s? In this verse, David provided three practical keys.

[1] Recognize the power of priority. David determined, “One thing I ask of the Lord.” Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV. If you seek too many things you may miss the One that is most essential. Knowing the Lord is primary; all other things are secondary. Priority eliminates competition.

[2] Develop a purity of passion. David had a singular devotion, “I have desired of the Lord.” What do you really want your life to be about? What do you value above all else? Desire determines your direction. Jesus said, “the first and great commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart.” Matthew 22:37 NKJV. When you establish your passion, you will know where to invest your energies, and commit your abilities, and give your best effort. When seeking God is your great passion, your search governs your attention and direction. God promised, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 NIV.

[3] Preserve a singularity of purpose. David was clear, “This is what I seek.” Avoid distraction. “This one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” Philippians 3:13 NIV. Purpose decides what you should do and what you should not. When other things are alluring, remember your purpose. “Anyone who comes to God must believe that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV. God will be found of you.

Today I pray for you to be clear about the desire and direction of your life.

Christian Communications 2017

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Health and Holiness

March 23rd, 2017

Care about eternal matters more than temporal

“I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health.”

3 John 2 NAS

My thoughts and comments today are about, “health and holiness.”

Recently, I had my Annual Wellness Checkup, as it was called by the doctor. It was overdue but ultimately reassuring. The practical wisdom of being more health conscious is undeniable, especially as you add years and miles. Living a healthier lifestyle by eating properly, exercising regularly, managing your weight, reducing stress and worry, getting enough rest, and having a medical check-up periodically makes good sense. You are wise to take care of your body. Doing so is a personal investment in your continued well-being and length of life. And I recommend, you are wise to take care of your soul.

Spiritual health impacts physical wellbeing. Deliberately attending to matters that contribute to your spiritual health and well-being is wise. John wrote, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 2 NAS.  It is incongruous to prioritize your physical health which only benefits your lifetime, yet neglect your spiritual health which impacts eternity.  

Paul wrote to young Timothy, “Bodily 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 NKJV. Jesus’ question was direct, “How do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?” Mark 8:36-37 NLT. The question is clear; the answer is obvious.

Here are my practical suggestions for a Spiritual Wellness Checkup. What you need most is a good report from the Great Physician and Savior of man’s soul. Keep your mind clean and clear, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 NIV. Walk in faith, “For it is impossible to please God without faith.” Hebrews 11:6 NKJV.

Live gratefully, “In everything give thanks, this is the will of God concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV. Forgive generously; “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32 NKJV. Pray instead of worry; “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything.” Philippians 4:6 NLT.

Choose trust above understanding; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not upon your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 NKJV. Practice faithfulness for, “It is required of a steward that he is found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2 NKJV. Pray frequently and fervently. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” James 5:16 NLT. God’s Word is proven and productive for health and holiness. “Put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to value and hold fast that which is eternal.

Christian Communications 2017

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A Holy Passion

March 17th, 2017

May your supreme passion be to know Jesus intimately

 “That I may know Jesus in the power of His resurrection.” Philippians 3:10 NKJV

My thoughts and comments today are about, “a holy passion.”

Life is meant to be passionate. Life is less when passion is lacking or absent. As passion lessens, a marriage weakens. Where passion suffers, achievements diminish. When meaningful interaction is less important, friendships weaken. More importantly, spiritual life declines when priorities are misplaced. Most people do not intentionally choose that loss of enthusiasm. Without care and attention, it just happens in ways too small to notice. Passion is often more misdirected than reduced, displaced on things other than where it should have remained.

By the Holy Spirit, I feel challenged daily to pursue and preserve an authentic relationship with God and others. Here is the challenge. Apart from the Holy Spirit, a holy passion is not normal to our nature, nor easy to sustain in an oppositional, secular culture. Yet, spiritual passion is the only way you will truly know God in a depth of experience that is releasing and transforming. Do not indulge lesser passions to diminish a holy, empowering passion for Jesus.

The Church in the ancient city of Laodicea was described by Jesus as, “lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold.” Lukewarmness is not a tolerable option. See Revelation 3:14-22 NIV. How could this have happened to those loving, Christ-followers in contrast to what had previously been true of them? Their passion diminished because they described themselves as, “rich, and have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” They became wrongly content, foolishly self-satisfied, and seriously mistaken.

Writing to the church at Ephesus, Jesus praised their zeal for matters of righteousness, but judged their loss of passion in their love for God. “You have left your first love . . this is what I have against you: you do not love Me as you did at first.” Revelation 2:4 NKJV/TEV. Did you notice the description – left, not lost? That happens more easily than you recognize and more quickly than you notice, always with the same tragic result.

If you can remember a time when your passion and priority for Christ, the Word of God, and worship alongside others was more than today, you have lost your “love as at the first.” Repentance is in order immediately and sincerely. The remedy is simple enough, “Look how far you have fallen from your first love! Turn back to Me again and work as you did at first.”  Read Revelation 2:1-7 NLT.

By commandment, Jesus established this fact: wholehearted love for God is non-negotiable. Jesus required that your love for God must be comprehensive, “. . with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30 NKJV. Notice the absolute inclusiveness of Jesus’ words. Love God with everything you are and have, in every area of your abilities and personal resources.

There were seasons in my life when lesser passions competed for my focus and energies. Automobiles, tennis, golf, travel, business, and such trivial matters vied for attention at one time or another. In their proper place, such pursuits are fine. But if they at all supplant His place in your heart and life, they are too costly. As I grow older, my marriage and family, ministry, and friendships have owned more of my loyalties. Since college, my lifelong passion remains, “That I may know [Jesus] in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings being made conformable unto His death.” Philippians 3:10 NKJV. May your passion be to know Jesus intimately.

Today, I pray for your love to be fervent about Jesus and inspire others to do so.

Christian Communications 2017

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Profitable People

March 9th, 2017

Never overlook the treasure in an earthen vessel

“[Onesimus] once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.” Philemon 9

My thoughts and comments today are about “profitable People”

The bottom line for every business endeavor or financial investment is calculating the potential for profit and loss. If you only generate a loss, you are soon out of business. Without a profit, you have a hobby, not a business. Profit and loss is easy when adding or subtracting numbers in a spreadsheet or database. But life and relationships require more than data and numbers. Numbers are static; people are dynamic. In relationships, you are dealing with lives, not ledgers. Figuring profit and loss there is more complex, less plain and simple. Numbers are just what they are. People can become more than they were.  

In Paul’s New Testament letter to Philemon we are introduced to Onesimus, a runaway slave from Philemon’s home. To escape recapture and punishment, Onesimus fled to Rome where Paul was imprisoned. Whether by intention or divine appointment, he met the Apostle and through Paul’s witness was converted. In his letter to Philemon, Paul wrote of Onesimus who, “once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.” Read Philemon 1-25 NLT. Those words intrigue me. His past was past; his future was changed. It seems ironic that his name, Onesimus, means “useful,” yet he was once considered, “unprofitable.” Paul affirmed the sincere conversion of Onesimus in these words, “[Onesimus] now is useful to you and to me.”

Paul’s description of Onesimus piqued my thoughts with a practical question. How can you and I increase our worth in another’s life? Doing things worthwhile to another’s well-being increases your worth to them. As a beginning, the New Testament is filled with multiple, practical instructions of appropriate, unselfish, Godly behavior toward one another, such as, “Serve one another in love . . the entire Law is summed up in a single command: love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14 NIV.

Humility is a virtue in your dealings with others. “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” 1 Peter 5:5 NIV. You and I are profitable to others when we contribute more to them than we require of them. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV. Profitable people never overlook the treasure in an earthen vessel. As the Lord’s servants, we are called to encourage one another, recognizing the profit and potential in others and affirming that with our words to them and our actions toward them.

On another occasion, Paul also affirmed another young companion who had previously disappointed him. See Acts 15:37-40 NKJV. Older and wiser, Paul asked Timothy, “Take Mark and bring him with you, for he is profitable to me for the ministry. 2 Timothy 4:11 KJV. Ask yourself, have I lived in a practical, beneficial way toward others today? Every day, find practical ways to serve others. And begin at home.

Today, I pray for you to be found profitable in the purposes of God for your life and others.

Christian Communications

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Roots and Fruit

March 1st, 2017

Your influences determine your natural expressions

 May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.” Ephesians 3:17 NLT

My thoughts and comments today are about, “roots and fruit.”

You gradually become more like the persons you admire and choose as companions. You may not intend to do so; you may not even notice when that is happening, but your relationships shape the process of who you are becoming. Unnoticeably, you will begin to think like, talk like, and act like the people you are most frequently with and most comfortable being around. The strongest influence you allow will eventually determine your most honest and natural expressions. Those influences could be the friends you seek, as well as the music you prefer, the books you read, the movies you attend, the television programs you watch, or the people you envy or admire. Regarding those things, what do you presently see expressed from your life, through your opinions, attitudes, vocabulary, choices, values, priorities, or lifestyle?

Now, consider the vast difference when God and His Word are the strongest influences in your daily life. Spend time with God. You will notice the difference. What about you could be – should be – different and better than you are now? The Apostle Paul offers a description of the sordid expressions of your natural enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil. See Galatians 5:19-21 NLT. Paul contrasts that with the beauty the Holy Spirit brings into your life. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV.

Let those spiritual qualities describe what you really want your life to be. The Bible describes the process; “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your life will produce these evil results . . but when the Holy Spirit controls your life, He will produce this kind of (Christ-like) fruit in us.” Galatians 5:19/22 NLT. Your choice makes a difference, for better or worse. The worst expressions come from your carnal, unholy flesh. Christ-like expressions come from the Holy Spirit who dwells within you.

The problem is not as evident as it may at first seem. The root is the problem, not the fruit. For better or worse, fruit merely reflects the life that is at its source. Be clear about this. Symptoms are external and superficial; they only reflect the problem. The source is internal and always influential. You waste your time trying to control the fruit, when you should first choose the right Source. Jesus said, As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.” See John 15:1-8 NKJV. Time spent with God’s Word and Holy Spirit is valuable beyond price, transforming everything about you in the best possible way.

Today, I pray “. . that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:17-19 NLT.

Christian Communications 2017

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