Faults and Amazing Grace

August 23rd, 2017

Love sees what others do not care enough to look for.

 “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.”

Romans 5:20

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Faults and Amazing Grace.”

We all have faults aplenty, if anyone is looking for them. And it is not uncommon to recognize faults in others that we ignore in ourselves. The challenge of any relationship is choosing to keep in view the things that first caused love or friendship to be valued. As time passes, it is easy to notice more things that are other than were expected. Those are less numerous and probably smaller than what you might appreciate, but a wrong focus can soon cause another’s graces to seem overshadowed.That’s when you will be tempted to highlight another’s supposed shortcomings, much to their displeasure and the gradual diminishing of your relationship.

When a person seems oblivious to a beloved’s imperfections, it is explained that, “Love is blind.” I suggest that God’s love is not blind at all, but chooses to overlook what is contrary to love. How would you otherwise explain this verse? “Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8 NIV.

This is the real question. How could God see your sinfulness, and yet love you? Do you ever think that strange? Exceptional? Our humanity waits until love has cause and justification to be offered, but is easily revoked when disappointed. God’s only justification was your need for His love and ample forgiveness. Paul marveled at God grace. “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” . . “And 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.” Romans 5:20/2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJV.

Many years ago, Dottie Rambo wrote a touching song of testimony that declared, “He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.” That kind of love, from God or man, has an relentless power to transform a human heart and rescue a ruined life. Mark reports Jesus’ encounter with a young man of wealth and authority, who sincerely asked how he might inherit eternal life. Painful moments after Jesus’ response, he would walk away sorrowfully. The price seemed too high for him to accept. “But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Read Mark 10:17-22 NKJV.

Though more than fifty years ago, I vividly remember my Dad’s sermon about “the rich, young ruler.” As a young teen, his words painted an unforgettable picture in my heart of a young man walking away, shoulders slumped with sorrow, and his back turned to Jesus. My Dad’s description has influenced my lifetime, lest anything cause me to turn my back on Jesus’ offer of eternal life. No sacrifice is too great as an exchange for eternal life.

While writing Peter’s memory of the encounter, Mark observed, “And Jesus looked at him, and loved him.” Mark 10:21 NIV. Make no mistake. Others saw his wealth and position and would have received or rejected him on that basis. Jesus saw more. He saw a heart searching for real life, and loved him, before he chose and even after he chose unwisely. Do not make the mistake than young man made.

After explaining his notable, religious pedigree and his brutal, relentless persecution of the young church, Paul wrote, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord,  for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.” See Philippians 3:4-14 NKJV/Galatians 1:1-16 NIV. No wonder they call grace amazing!

Today, I pray for you to love others, believe the best of them, and show them grace.

Christian Communications 2017

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Affirmation and Expectations

August 19th, 2017

Affirmation is more powerful than expectation. 

 “Look for the best in each other and do your best to bring it out.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15 MSG

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Affirmation and Expectations.”

In my observation, a person’s reasonable expectations of others are typically proven to be true, whether for the better or worse. Usually, a child or teen lives up to what is communicated as expected. Of course, there are times that generality may fail to apply, just as happens with adults. But people who look for good in others usually find good. Conversely, people who have lower expectations for others ordinarily find what they’re looking for, as well.

When people truly like people and themselves strive to be their best, they typically assume goodness in others also. This seems supported by the Apostle Paul’s description to Titus, “Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted.” Titus 1:15 NLT. If you expect people to disappoint, they probably will. Check your own heart first. Sometimes, what you readily see in others may merely be a reflection of your own heart.

Faults ignored in yourself can seem glaring in others. With deliberate exaggeration, Jesus highlighted the folly of ignoring your faults while judging another’s faults. “Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye . . when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? . . first, get rid of the log in your own eye, then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” Luke 6:41-42 NLT. Specks and logs. Take care of the worst first.

The Bible provides a clear objective. “Look for the best in each other and always do your best to bring it out . . this is the way that God wants you who live in Christ Jesus to live.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15/18 MSG. Do you consistently look for the best in others? Inclination, interest, attention, and a listening heart are essential relational skills to see the best when others are too preoccupied elsewhere to notice. God asks you to see the good in others that might otherwise be overlooked. You can reinforce that good with your benevolent expectation and sincere affirmation. In children and adults alike, what is affirmed is repeated. God’s grace in another’s life deserves to be affirmed. Affirmation is more powerful than expectation. You may not always get what you expect from others, but you will likely see what you affirm.

Along my spiritual journey, there have been many gracious people who saw things of God in me that I dared not assume for myself. They affirmed those qualities and abilities, and then tirelessly supported their further growth and development. My friend, Don, reminded me of once saying to him years earlier, “Thank you for not letting me be what I would have been without your friendship.” My words were accurate; his expectations and affirmation prompted my desire to be better and encouraged my efforts to do better. I really hope, in some measure, I have been that kind of friend for others.

To my parents, teachers, friends, and especially my remarkable wife and family whose affirmation and companionship make me better, thank you. Consider whose friendship makes you a better person than might have happened without them. Whatever credit accrues to you for character or accomplishments is rightly shared with them. Thank God for them, and be sure to thank them. And do better than tell them; write them so they can read it again and again and be continuously encouraged.

Today, I pray for you to recognize the many contributors to your achievements.

Christian Communications 2017

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Rest and Renewal

August 1st, 2017

Unrelenting activity and noise produce spiritual exhaustion.

 Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.Isaiah 40:31 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Rest and Renewal.”

Have you noticed that so much activity seems rushed, and everyone more impatient, with all too many fatigued? Too often, the urgent displaces the important. The pace of life and the noise of your surroundings diminish things vital to your well-being. Unrelenting noise is exhausting to the human spirit. Unrelenting activity produces a confused identity. More tragically, somewhere in the noise and busyness you can lose something of yourself. When possible, slow the pace of your life and regularly withdraw to a quiet place. Jesus often withdrew from the crowds, and even the disciples, to be alone with the Father.

Why are people tired so much of the time? Physical exertion should enhance strength and endurance. But instead, misdirected busyness depletes your strength and energy. More time-saving and labor-sparing devices are readily available than previous generations enjoyed. With power tools, sophisticated equipment, and increasing automation to assist with every task, we should feel less weary at the end of the day. But people aren’t less weary.

Physical tiredness appears to be a symptom, not the problem. Jesus diagnosed both the problem and its remedy with His invitation, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest . . learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus’ solution was simple: come to Me, and learn from Me. A great part of our physical, mental, and emotional tiredness is due to varying measures of diminished spiritual well-being. Daniel prophesied about a time when spiritual adversity would, “wear out the saints.” Daniel 7:25 KJV.

“The Lord gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary.” Read Isaiah 40:28-31.

I suggest some Biblical disciplines that will strengthen your spiritual identity.  Practice Sabbath rest. “In quietness and trust is your strength.” Isaiah 30:15 NIV. The Sabbath principle incorporates the whole of one’s life before the Lord. All other spiritual disciplines begin and extend from a heart that practices the principle of Sabbath. More than a day set aside from usual and necessary activity, Sabbath is a deliberate time – without worry or hurry – to re-orient your body, soul, and spirit with the Biblical practices that celebrate your faith. In Jesus, true Sabbath is found.

Prioritize quiet and solitude. Psalm 131:1-2. Practice to be quiet and content in God’s presence.

Prioritize meditating on God’s Word. Psalm 1:1-3. Daily study of Scripture is vital.

Prioritize prayer and thanksgiving. Philippians 4:6-7. Practice gratitude toward God and others.

Prioritize praise and worship. Psalm 100. Regularly express your heart in joyful adoration.

Prioritize edifying Fellowship. Hebrews 10:24-25. Christian community is where you grow.

Spiritual practices develop a life that abides in Christ, trusts His finished work on the cross, and celebrates your identity in Christ. “Put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him Who created him.” Colossians 3:10 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to seek and experience personal and spiritual renewal daily.

Christian Communications 2017

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Overwhelmed But Not Overcome

July 28th, 2017

Emotions provide color and beauty to life.

 “I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed.”  Psalm 61:2 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are about being, “Overwhelmed But Not Overcome.”

Feelings enrich your experience of life. But there are times when feelings are confusing, even overwhelming. In such times, you can find comfort and companionship from Jesus. “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV. Feelings are real but they are not always right. You have to deal with them but you do not have to believe them. There will be times when you may wish you didn’t have so many feelings to contend with. But I would not want to be without emotions, nor should you. Emotions also provide color and beauty to your life experience.

Jesus felt crushing emotions and dealt with them, as when He agonized over Jerusalem’s rejection. Luke 13:34-35 NIV. Or as He wept in Gethsemane’s garden when He foresaw the suffering of the cross. Luke 22:42 NIV. There is good news for such times. “[Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same temptations we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.” Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT.

At such times, easy answers won’t comfort you nor will empty platitudes that urge you to ignore or deny your feelings make feelings go away. I have learned that feelings are real, whether positive or negative, and you must reckon with them. Denying troubling feelings only amplifies their power. They won’t just go away because you wish they would. You should deal with them. You do not have to submit to them. Your feelings are real, but not always based in reality. Ofttimes, it is better to doubt them than believe them. Don’t become a slave to your emotions.

Embrace and enjoy healthy emotions; God gave them for your blessing. But what can you do with the unhealthy ones – like anger, fear, discouragement, worry, doubt, frustration, jealousy, or distress? God always has the answer. “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4 NIV. First, do not indulge feeling guilty for honest emotions, nor continue entertaining unhealthy emotions either. Bring them out in the open. Without shame, place them in God’s presence where the Holy Spirit can help you handle every emotion. That’s what Jesus did in His agony, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow . . Father, please take this suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will, not mine.” Mark 14:34 NIV/36 NLT. You can fully trust God in such moments, if you will.

To understand feelings, you must examine their origins. Sometimes, only God can expose the source of your feelings. When emotions overrule your will, bad feelings prompt bad choices. The Holy Spirit within you will always give you the power and wisdom to make right choices, if you ask. Remove the hurry and you reduce the worry.

More than circumstances, busy schedules are the root cause of feeling overwhelmed. You feel overwhelmed when stuff pushes God to the outer edges of your life. When you are overwhelmed: make time to recuperate physically, mentally, relationally, emotionally, and spiritually. Take time to rest. You must prioritize the necessary time. Take time to share your need for prayer with a friend. Take time to quiet your heart in God’s presence. “I am content and at peace, as a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me.” Psalm 131:2 TEV. Take time to pray, asking God for help and healing. Take time to listen, until you hear a fresh, invigorating word from God.

Feeling the emotions of circumstances beyond his strength, David determined, “I will cry to You for help, for my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering Rock of safety, for You are my safe refuge.” Psalm 61:2 NLT.

Today, I pray for you to choose daily to live by strong faith and not strong feelings.

Christian Communications 2017-0579

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Enthusiasm Is Contagious

July 26th, 2017

Work hard with appreciation and enthusiasm.

 “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working

 for the Lord.” Ephesians 6:7 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are, “Enthusiasm Is Contagious.”

A major proportion of your life will be spent in the marketplace. Approximately one-third of most days will be at work, and for the majority of us that will mean working for and with others. Practicing diligence and being enthusiastic, you will make that significant quantity of time a good experience for you, and make yourself a blessing to others.

A real issue today in business and relationships is the matter of loyalty. My Dad taught me to be loyal and to highly prize loyalty in personal and professional relationships. When I was a young minister, my Dad taught me to be loyal to those in authority and faithful to my work while there, and loyal to any and all who allowed me that opportunity. His advice was simple. If ever I could not be loyal, then I should thank them genuinely, go my way, and work where I could be loyal.

The Bible echoes my Dad’s advice, “Workers who protect their employer’s interests will be rewarded.” Proverbs 27:18 NLT. I have found that true. Besides being right and honorable, it is just practical wisdom to prioritize the interests and favor of those who directly contribute to your own best interests. And be enthusiastic while doing so. Show loyalty to others and loyalty will be reciprocated. It is true in life, whether good or bad, that you will reap what you sow, but in even greater measure. See Galatians 6:7-10 NIV. My father’s counsel was wise and it works, two very good things. I have never had to leave a relationship or responsibility in order to remain loyal, but I would before violating my integrity and God’s expectation of me. How you leave is as important as why you leave. Read Matthew 10:12-14 NKJV.

Paul’s words are clear, “Do the will of God with all your  heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord, rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do.” Ephesians 6:5-8 NLT. Work hard with appreciation for others and enthusiasm for your work. Enthusiasm is contagious. Enthusiasm brings dividends in your life and the lives of others. Share it generously!

The Bible said, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also look to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 2:4-5 NIV. Jesus modeled that perfectly and invites you and me to follow His lead. Consistently demonstrate qualities of character and humility in your attitude, speech, and conduct. I continue to practice the grace of putting others first.

Today, I pray for you to represent Jesus faithfully in your consideration of others.

Christian Communications 2017

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