The Fragrance of Joy

January 31st, 2018

Your life should express the fragrance of His presence.

 “Thanks be to God, Who through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” 2 Corinthians 2:14 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“The Fragrance of Joy.”

Life is not perfect for anyone, and every moment is not filled only with wonderful things. Life changes dramatically, and for the better, when you realize that your circumstances do not determine your experience of life; your attitude does.

I admire people who have faced more struggles and disappointments than most, but who have nevertheless found grace and grown an attitude that reflects who they are, instead of what happened to them. I have met others who have a fairly easy life with few challenges of any consequence, and yet they find little for which to be joyful or thankful. Occasionally, it is a good thing to ask yourself, “Does my life reflect to others what is going on around me, or what is really true inside me?” That significant and substantial difference is the product of the choices you make.

Since a child, I have loved the dramatic Bible stories in the Old Testament, like Samson finally triumphing over the Philistines and himself, or Daniel in the lions’ den whose quiet trust in God humbles an arrogant King, or the three Hebrews delivered from Babylon’s fiery furnace (modern day Iraq). I find a most intriguing comment, easily unnoticed, tucked into this story of the three believers tossed angrily into a furnace intended to destroy them. Read Daniel 3. When the fire could not destroy them nor even harm them, the amazed, befuddled king calls them out of the fire.

The Bible says, “They saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected – not even the smell of smoke was on them.” Daniel 3:27. There was no discernible residue of their frightening experience, no lingering emotional trauma, nor need for healing of memories. Only their new and stirring testimony of God’s greatness and faithfulness persevered.

If you are not careful, you will allow your past or present circumstances to determine your attitudes, dictate your feelings, and dominate your conversation. When your story could be a persuasive testimony that glorifies God, it will be only about you and your problems. Read Daniel 3:28-29. In Daniel’s story, a king’s heart is changed; God is glorified; a nation is impacted. The simple difference is that they were with Jesus, joyfully in His company and safely in His care. See Daniel 3:24-25. Attitude really is crucial, having the power to change everything and anyone, and that all begins with the choice you make.

Paul prayed for these Christians and for you, ”We pray that you will be strengthened with His glorious power so that you will have all the patience and endurance you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father, Who has enabled you to share the inheritance that belongs to God’s holy people, who live in the light.” Colossians 1:11-12 NLT. Whose joy is to fill you? “Always be full of the joy of the Lord!” Like a thermometer, happiness merely measures the surrounding climate and adjusts accordingly. The joy of the Lord resembles a thermostat, regulating and governing the surrounding temperature.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Thanks be to God, Who . . through us spreads everywhere the fragrance  of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved.” Read 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 NIV. Some years ago, I learned to pray, “Let my life express the fragrance of Your presence, not the smell of my problems.”

Today, I pray for your life to be a joyful testimony of God’s grace and sufficiency.

Christian Communications 2018-(807)

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Empty Hearts

December 10th, 2018

Empty Hearts Produce Empty Lives. 

 “That you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:19

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Empty Hearts.” 

 Life can and should be exhilarating. But too soon, life fills with routines and responsibilities. Remember when life was exciting, exhilarating, and filled with anticipation? Remember Christmas when you were a child, your first day of school, your driver’s license, your first date, or finally falling in love? But everyday life doesn’t always feel that way. Yet in Christ, life can be that way.

Little by little, each day the daily stuff of life wears away the mysteries and wonder. School introduces homework, and a job demands even harder work. Dating becomes complicated, even confusing. A driver’s license and car require gasoline, insurance, repairs, and responsibilities. Falling in love eventually requires rent or mortgage, and bills. 

 Too soon, spontaneity yields to a schedule that becomes repetitive, and you find yourself trudging through life feeling unsettling emptiness, with something deep inside telling you that life is meant to be more. That experience is not because of what you put into your life. That results from what you leave out of your life.

Life without Jesus as its center will never be all that you long for your life to be. Absolutely nothing can take God’s place or fill the void His absence leaves. You see, that void, that emptiness you feel in your soul, runs deep. You cannot mask the emptiness, nor fill it with enough stuff. You cannot ignore it with busyness nor, silence it with noise.  

Francis Schaeffer, noted theologian and Christian philosopher, wrote, “Man has a purpose. You and I were created to be in relationship with God. When a person forgets his purpose, he forgets who he is and what life means.” Life does not work well when you forget who you are and what life means.

Life cannot be what it is meant to be, when you leave God out at the fringes or out altogether. God alone can make sense of everything else about your life. Jesus said, I have come that you might have life – life in its fullness.” John 10:10 TEV.What you have, God will make it enough.God makes friendships and relationships enriching. God makes who you are,meaningful and satisfying. God makes what you have, fulfilling and rewarding.

God fills your future with hope, today with satisfaction, and every tomorrow with unlimited possibilities. “I know the plans I have for you, ‘says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT. Embrace your future. Hold fast to hope.

The Bible narrative begins with these words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void, and darkness covered. . and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Genesis 1:1-2 NKJV. Anyone’s life is unclear until Jesus is invited to come in and set it right, overflowing it with life and fullness,and bringing light and understanding. He is there, just waiting for your invitation to do so today, and affirming every day that follows.

 The Apostle Paul described filling the void of an empty heart and an empty life, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you may know the love of Christ that passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Read Ephesians 3:14-19 NLT. Don’t try to live your life, even a moment of it, without Jesus overflowing in your heart.

Today, I pray for you to make room for Jesus in everything you are, have, and do.

Christian Communications 2018   

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The Season of Joy

November 29th, 2018

Joy releases rejoicing. Rejoicing increases joy.

“I bring you good tidings of great joy.” Luke 2:10 NKJV.

My comments today are about, “The season of joy.”

For many years, our congregational welcome of the Christmas season has been with exuberant joy, expressed in the Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World; the Lord is come; let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room; and Heaven and nature sing . . He rules the earth with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove, the glories of his righteousness and wonders of His love.”

My conviction is this. Your entrance and access to all the other good things associated with Christmas, rests in your personal discovery and expression of abounding joy. The celebration of His birth brings new and exceeding joy into hearts and lives anew. You choose to respond by express His joy by rejoicing. In fact, any Godly observance of the season that does not begin with and continue in unrestrained rejoicing is inadequate and unworthy of the One we celebrate. Peter describes such joy as being, “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” See 1 Peter 1:3-9 NIV.

So many generations had yearned to hear Heaven’s pronouncement, Messiah had come! At the time the Father had chosen, an Angel of the Lord announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds, declaring, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The joy God brings is qualified as excelling. It is, “great joy!”

At such news, Heaven’s joy could no longer be restrained, “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.’” Read Luke 2:8-14 NKJV.

As a holiday, the Christmas season and celebration have become too commercial many things that it needs not be. But as the birth of the Savior, one thing Christmas absolutely must be, is celebrated with exuberant rejoicing, defined as, “joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic.” Joy is your choice; rejoicing is your expression. Joy abides within every redeemed person, sovereignly placed there by your Creator. The Bible is clear. Included among the many attributes of the Spirit of God is this, “The fruit of the Spirit is joy.” Galatians 5:22 NKJV.

Rejoicing is an outwardly visible expression of inner joy which may become wrongly influenced by momentary circumstances. But real joy, God given and resident in one’s heart and spirit, can rest untouched by circumstances of the moment. Paul describes such a moment, “The grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.” 2 Corinthians 8:2 NKJV. Abundant joy. Abounding liberality. Both await the one who fully embraces the grace of God.

Peter affirms the same truth, “Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice . . [that] you may be glad with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:12-13 NKJV. Don’t be deceived by the feelings of a current situation. The emotions of pain and disappointment may seem to dampen joy, but only momentarily. If God is in you, His joy is in you as well. “For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 NIV.

Here is the truth about joy and rejoicing. Joy is found in God. Rejoicing is expressed at your own initiative. Joy releases rejoicing. Rejoicing increases joy. Rejoicing, like faith or the giving of thanks, is an act of a sanctified will, independent of emotions or situation. This is the way that works. The greater your joy, the greater your rejoicing. Joy expresses rejoicing. Rejoicing expands joy. God gave you the power to renew and release joy.

Today I pray for you to choose joy!

Joy to the world, the Lord has come . . let Heaven and nature sing!

Christian Communications 2018

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Gratitude Is the Best Attitude

November 24th, 2018

Joy is absent where gratitude is lacking.

“My heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalm 28:7 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are that,

“gratitude is the best attitude.”

Gratitude is natural to the way God created you. There are ample reasons for your giving thanks to God and expressing appreciation to others, when you choose to do so. Look into your heart and you will find cause for gratitude and an abundance of reasons for expressing heartfelt thanks. Only a thankless and unappreciative grouch would lack gratitude.

The psalmist David wrote,“My heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalm 28:7 NLT. Such an outward expression is sourced in an inward disposition. Thankfulness is an attitude you choose. Thanksgiving is a re related, yet distinct, response you express outwardly.

Like the Psalmist, have you recently, “burst out in songs of thanksgiving,”? Joy and gratitude are emotions that honor God and bless others. If your heart is overflowing with joy, you cannot withhold its sincere expression. Everyone of us has so much for which to be grateful. Related, yet distinct, thankfulness and thanksgiving are similar. Gratitude is a beneficial inward attitude. Giving thanks is the outward, Godly response to the kindness and generosity of both God and others.

Thankfulness is a Christian virtue God placed in yours and my DNA. The Bible sis clear, Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV. I think God intended thankfulness to be more natural to all of us than it seems to have become. Both thankfulness and thanksgiving are foundation for, and evidence of, a Godly and healthy lifestyle that is pleasing to God.

The elements of gratitude and giving thanks are diverse. They include an emotion, a decision, and an action. All of those. Gratitude is an attitude which becomes a lifestyle, a natural and proper response for a redeemed heart. Giving thanks begins with your Godly decision to do so. Your decision is then expressed as a corresponding action. An edifying action is born from your decision. Then, your subsequent action becomes a gratifying emotion for yourself and others.

Gratitude is natural to a redeemed life and grateful heart. Peter was correct when he wrote, “You believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8 NIV. Joy is absent where gratitude is lacking.

Incorrectly, people assume they will give thanks when there are things for which to be thankful. In any and every situation, there are many things for which you can, and should, be thankful to God and others. “ “The Lord is the strength of my life. The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust Him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalm 28:7 NLT.

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation.” Psalm 100:4-5 NKJV.

The Bible warns of the inclination of the human heart and the unholy company of emotions and behavior that result where gratitude is lacking, described as, “ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control.” Read 2 Timothy 1-5 NIV. A lack of gratitude permits a breeding ground for attitudes far worse, and all of those ungodly.

Today I pray for you to see God’s providence in your daily life.

Christian Communications 2018

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Freed To Be Free

November 15th, 2018

Freedom is both gift and destiny.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Galatians 5:1

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Freed to Be Free.”

Freedom is precious. Across centuries, men have been willing to sacrifice their possessions, positions, and even risk their lives to secure and defend the love of freedom that the Creator placed in our eternal spirit.

America, my native country, was birthed by the courage and sacrifice of people willing to cross oceans for liberty and religious freedom. They released their history and risked their lives in a treacherous journey across oceans to the new world. Such freedom is beyond price. But true liberty always comes at a precious cost. They sought religious freedom. What I write about today is an even greater liberty, spiritual freedom in Christ.

The simplest and most beloved Bible verse is, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have ever lasting life.” John 3:16 NKJV. Familiarity with that verse must not diminish the revolutionary truth of why Jesus died for you and me, as well as all the world. For yours and my disobedience, a sinless sacrifice was required for God to forgive sin and provide lasting redemption.

Jesus alone is sinless; therefore, He alone could become the Father’s acceptable sacrifice. The Apostle Paul’s confident assertion to the Galatians Christians was “You were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13 NIV. Rejoice that, “Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1 NIV. No ifs, ands, or maybes. Spectacular Truth. But that is only the “what” of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. The more significant truth is “why” Jesus died on Golgotha’s hill. What Jesus did on the Cross is wonderful. Why Jesus chose to die is even more glorious!

The purpose of Calvary is clear – redemption from your past and the promise of a grand and eternal future. “For God made Jesus, Who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV. In the excitement of celebrating such a consequential truth, it is easy to overlook an even more glorious truth. In Christ, spiritual freedom is both gift and destiny.

One aspect of God’s gift redeems your past, and another assures your ongoing spiritual freedom. The liberating truth is this: “It is for freedomthat Christ has set us free.” Paul reminds and warns that freedom does not allow you to live as you please. “You were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13 NIV

In Christ, you were freed to be free. Jesus said, “So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.” John 8:36 MSG. The liberty Jesus purchased on the cross is all encompassing – yesterday, today, and in every tomorrow. But the Bible promises and warns, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be entangled again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 NIV. Selling your freedom and future for the pleasure of a moment is a fool’s deal.

Today I pray for you to be a proponent of Godliness, grace, and liberty.

Christian Communications 2018

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Experience Is a Great Teacher

November 9th, 2018

Experience is a great teacher.

“Buy the truth and do not sell it – wisdom, instruction and insight as well.” Proverbs 23:23 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are that,

“Life Provides Experience.”

You are not born with knowledge and understanding. You came into the world with a blank slate – a book of unwritten pages waiting to tell your story, as you learn and grow. That book of life lessons will become the story of your life, the sum of knowledge that you daily accumulate through your willingness and ability to listen and learn.

Truth is written on your heart by your Creator, but life, and the shared knowledge, and understanding from others will help you to discover and grow in wisdom. The Apostle Paul wrote of, “The law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness.” Romans 2:15 NKJV.

While listening for His voice, you must learn to look within to reveal truth which resides in the depth of your heart, pure and undeceived. Isaiah wrote, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21 NIV. Do not minimize the voice of the Holy Spirit.

God made this world, with wonders unexplainable apart from its Creator. David must have marveled as he wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” Read Psalm 19:1-6 NIV.

The problem is not a lack of knowledge and understanding being available; that is ample, even abundant. God has given the Bible, His record of truth and wisdom, to be food for your mind and soul, as well as direction for your life. David was confident, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path.” Read Psalm 119:97-106 NIV. God has also given you the promise of the Holy Spirit Who will reside within those who receive, welcome, and obey Him. Jesus promised His disciples – and you, “When He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.” John 16:13 NIV. All the above prepare you to live wisely.

Valuable truth abounds. That is found where you translate what you have seen and heard into what you will believe with conviction and certainty. Life dispenses knowledge to those who desire it, and to those who will hear and embrace it. The most valuable truth to learn is this: keep God front and center in all ways at all times. From life you gain experience, some pleasant and others not so much. There is a price for experience. There is a wealth that comes with experience.

And that price can be costly. “Buy the truth and do not sell it – wisdom, instruction and insight as well.” Proverbs 23:23 NIV. There often is a price to be paid, but one well worth paying. From every experience you can learn something useful, but that does not happen automatically. You cannot avoid every mistake, but you can reduce their frequency, grow from them, and avoid making the same ones again.

Experience is a great teacher, a path to understanding if you will choose to learn its lessons. “Tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Read Proverbs 5:3-5 NKJV. People have experiences everyday; not everyone considers and evaluates their lessons in order to learn from them. Be one person who learns, and lives more wisely. It is sad to see people who spend their lifetimes making the same mistakes, with ever greater costs to themselves and others. Don’t let that be said of you.

Today I pray for you to always view life through adherence to God’s truth.

Christian Communications 2018

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