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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Addidng Value to Others

July 11th, 2019

God values others. So should you.

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
John 13:34 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,
“adding value to others.”

Everyone longs to be valued and loved. That desire is innate, original to how God created you and me, as well as all others. We long to be loved for who we are, rather than what we do. The Bible is clear, ”God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 NIV. While we were yet sinners! Loving others is your primary response to God, which you then extend to others. To the extent that you understand how beloved you are, you are enabled, even empowered, to love others more freely.

Love is mandatory, not optional. Jesus was very direct and clear. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 NIV. I read that phrase, “as I have loved you,” to describe both the measure and manner of the love we are commissioned to share with others. You are to give what you have been given.

Loving others as much as you love yourself would be far easier to obey if everyone were as easy to love as some others are. I think that is why Jesus did not make the command about the other person’s worthiness; He made it all about you. God knows that you were created with a healthy self-esteem, and though that is a bit complicated because of everyone’s natural condition, which theologians call, “fallenness.” Everyone has a good dose of appreciating and preserving themselves, some a little too much.

This is the practical aspect of loving others. “You truly love others when you add value to their lives.” Isn’t that what you are trying to do for yourself, adding value? In your better, nobler moments you want to be better and do better. I have been blessed to have so many others who loved me and cared enough to add value to my life. They continually invested something of themselves to assist me to realize more of what God intended for my life.

They spent time with me. They offered their wisdom, gathered from experiences of both successes and failures. They shared what they had learned. They related their lessons from life that they had learned the hard way. They expected better of me and held me to a higher standard than would have been natural to me.

You invest in a good education for yourself so that you will have more options and fulfillment in what you do, with a greater chance for success and financial security. You choose a spouse that will enrich and enhance your life and theirs. You select a neighborhood and schools for your children that will better ensure their safety and academic achievement. You try to eat wisely and exercise to insure better health and longevity. Isn’t all of that about adding value to your life?

How then can you love others and add value to their lives? Simply stated, you can do so by placing a higher value on them, the way you value yourself – thinking of them as highly as you think of yourself – treating them as well as you treat yourself – speaking of them as kindly as you speak of yourself – wanting the best for them as you desire the best for yourself – and rejoicing with and for them when they rejoice.

The Bible is clear, “That the members may have the same care for one another. And if one suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with them.” 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 NAS. When you rejoice for others success as you would for your own and when you empathize with their sufferings as you struggle with your own, then you will, “love others as much as yourself.” You add value to others when you recognize how highly God values them. When you are persuaded of that you will treat all others accordingly.

Jesus stated this principle practically and plainly, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, as I have loved you. so, you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples.” John 13:34-35 NKJV. Love is God’s command, not suggestion. Loving others is an obligation, not an option. Jesus said, “Give as freely as you have received!” Matthew 10:8 NLT.

You are asked to give others what God has given you, to regard others as God regards you, and to behave toward others as is God’s manner toward you. Early in ministry, God put an understanding in my heart, “Love to be authentic must be practical and observable.” Is the result of your regard and relationship with others practical and observable?

Today, I pray for you to invest yourself in others in beneficial ways.

EDL Communications 2019
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God Is Our Refuge

July 7th, 2019

Invisible and Invincible.

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of  trouble.” Psalm 46:1 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are that, “God Is Our Refuge.”

There are times when God’s presence is not as recognizable as is His absence. Nothing fills the vacuum where He is not. His voice is not as eloquent as His silence. Who of us has not sought for a word from God, searched for a glimpse of His power, or yearned for the assurance of His presence, only to feel that at times He seems absent and silent?

Only later, we realize He was there all the time. The Bible describes Him as the One who fills the Heavens, yet at times seems invisible to us. Even when is He silent and invisible, He remains caring and invincible forever. Have you ever felt that God was distant? But is He? Why would He be?

Paul was clear and certain as he penned these majestic words, ”For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NIV. In grace, God and you are inseparable.

However, unconfessed sin and unsurrendered guilt can confuse you to believe that you are unworthy, and God would neither desire nor permit your company. That is just not true. He loves you and desires fellowship with you. Let nothing cause or allow distance between you and God. Estrangement occurs when you allow separation to occur and continue.

Grace always provides a path of return and welcome. ”If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins.” Read 1 John 1:8-10 NIV. The Psalmist declared, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.2 So we will not fear.” Read Psalm 46:1-3 NLT.

When I was a younger man, a dear friend arranged a day of white water rafting in beautiful Colorado. With blue Colorado skies above us and unimagined scenery surrounding us, I remember that most of the hours were fun and refreshing – except for the hours they weren’t! As the day continued, we encountered dark skies, strong winds, a chilling rainstorm, rocky rapids, treacherous currents, struggling to stay upright and afloat, until avoiding the protruding rocks took priority over every other consideration.

Life can change suddenly and feel uncertain, like those rushing rapids. In life, you will face distressing moments and frightening situations and that leave you unsure of what the outcome might be. In such times, you will ask, “Where will I find God in all of this.”

Weary from a long day of ministering to people’s disparate needs, Jesus said to the disciples, “Let’s go to the other side of the lake.” At Jesus’ word, the disciples started across the lake. After awhile Jesus was weary from the ministry times earlier in the day and fell asleep in the boat. After awhile and fearing for their safety, Peter somewhat rudely awakened Jesus, “Master, do you not care that we perish?”

The growing threat of the storm around them made them forget Jesus’ words to them. Jesus will always bring you safely to the other side despite the storm’s ferocity and your fear. Read Luke 8:22-25. In those times, even more distressing than the trouble itself, your feelings may suggest in the moment that God may seem uncaring or absent. Would He be? Could He be? Don’t panic. Don’t lash out at God. Don’t abandon everything you know about God’s character, power, and love.

And don’t give up on yourself. When life’s moments are troubling and uncertain, hold fast to the One Who is unshakeable and unchanging. There will be times when God’s presence is less noticed than His apparent absence, and His voice seems less eloquent than His silence.

Who of us has not longed for a word from God, or strained for a glimpse of His power, or yearned for reassurance of His presence, only to feel at that moment that God was nowhere to be found? In those moments, God seems absent. Silent. Distant. Disengaged.

Fear will suggest that maybe He is unconcerned. It is only later that you will realize how the Almighty God and Everlasting Father was alongside you all along the way. Though God is invisible to you, He remains invincible as Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

My prayer for you today is to know that God is with you in every circumstance.

EDL Communications 2019
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Practice Makes Perfect

June 27th, 2019

See Choices Clearly. Make Choices Wisely.

 “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things.” Philippians 4:9 NAS.

My thoughts and comments today are that, “practice makes perfect.”

It is commonly said that, “practice makes perfect.” Of course, that requires that your practice is improving. Athletes have their drills and practices. Musicians have their rehearsals. Students have their studies and exams. Marathoners have their conditioning runs. But the point of them all is the same for you in your pursuit of an authentic and growing spiritual life. To succeed in your spiritual life and growth, you must embrace the necessary spiritual disciplines.

Prayer, Bible reading, meditation on Scripture, obedience to truth, the discipline of fasting, meaningful fellowship, and developing a servant’s heart are essential practices. Doing the right thing each time does not come naturally or easily; it comes from desire, determination, and discipline. Practice is a recurring theme in Scripture. “Let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” Revelation 22:11 NAS.

No one really enjoys practice. You learn by doing, not once but again and again and again, until your knowledge and skill is so well practiced that it is predictably the same, becoming instinctive more than requiring conscious thought. But enjoyment is not the source of worthwhile accomplishment, nor the goal of life. Practice provides no thrill of victory because practice lacks the invigorating challenge of competition and the satisfying reward of achievement.

Meaningful practice is hard work, consisting of numbing repetition and deferred reward. A good coach requires more hours of practice by their team than game times, because they know the needed physical and mental conditioning that will be essential. In the pressure of the game situation, the endless drills during practices result in quicker reflexes and a game-winning edge that can make the difference between winning or losing.

For meaningful development and maturity, your spiritual life requires priority and systematic effort. Athletic games are not commonly won by a dramatic big play. They are won by what preceded and followed the big play. Success in the game is possible because of the stamina and skills acquired by the discipline of preparation and practice. A winning athlete is prepared to excel and put themselves and their team in the place for victory.

The Apostle Paul used the example of a committed athlete, as he wrote, “Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control.” Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT. Whatever the endeavor, practice makes perfect.

The challenge that involves your life every day is much more consequential, both presently and eternally. The risk is great, the reward even greater. Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, “Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life both for the present and for the future.” 1 Timothy 4:8 TEV. It is unfortunate when we expend considerable time and effort to things which matter so briefly.

You are being trained to make wise life choices accordingly, reliably, and consistently. Your well-being depends upon your success in doing so. In this, practice does make perfect. “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9 NAS. Practice these things.

See the choices clearly and make your choices wisely according to God’s Word. “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” 2 Peter 1:10-11 NAS. Your spiritual development demands practice that requires priority, diligence and determination.
Today I pray for you to keep your goal in focus and your efforts consistent.
EDL Communications 2019
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Eternity

June 24th, 2019

Disconnection Creates Discomfort.

”God has planted eternity in the human heart.”

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT.

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

Clocks and calendars rule our daily lives. Can you envision eternity, a time with a beginning but without a known end? Everything about our lives here and now is measured with minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, and lifetimes.

We are such slaves of time that we cannot really envision the concept of forever. Forever seems an exaggeration, even an impossibility. Yet life as we know it will have an end. The Bible encourages awareness of the limits of time and the superseding importance and endless extent of eternity.

The Bible counsels you to pray, “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” Psalm 90:12 TLB. Everything has a life span. As we experience time now, it is not an endless commodity. That is the reality for now. Solomon wisely observed, “there is a time to be born and a time to die.” Ecclesiastes 3:2 NIV.

If you experience the first, you will inevitably experience the latter. We all live within those narrow boundaries. But that will not be your reality in eternity. God intends so much more for you.

Have you read about the American Monarch Butterfly, maybe one of the most beautiful of its kind? Because they cannot survive the cold, they migrate up to 2,500 miles each year for their warm, winter hibernation. From west of the Rockies, they migrate every year to Pacific Grove, CA. When they migrate, oddly enough they return to the same California Eucalyptus trees each and every year, even though they are the fourth generation of the Monarch butterflies since the previous year’s migration.

Just as geese migrate south each winter, or salmon swim upstream to spawn where they were hatched, or swallows return to San Juan Capistrano in California from Argentina each March and return home in October, God has also put a permanent and eternal return address inside your spirit to guide you home to Him as well.

Solomon understood this when he wrote, “God has planted eternity in the human heart.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT. You and I were born with a longing for eternity in our hearts. We are created for unending fellowship with God, not separation from Him.

When you try to live apart from God, you will feel the discomfort of disconnection. And the devil blinds you from seeing the spiritual origin of your discontent. You cannot even imagine what it would be like to be apart from the Source of life forever? None of the horrors of Hell are worse than the absence and endless separation from God’s presence.

The Bible contrasts two kinds of people. There are those who know, love, and serve the Lord and those who do not. Which of those do you want to describe you? The Bible explains, “All [some people] think about is this life here on earth. But we are citizens of Heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior.” Read Philippians 3:19-21 NLT.

I love this quote; “The greatest calamity is not to feel far from home when you are, but to feel right at home when you’re not.” In the human spirit, God-placed a spiritual knowledge that this world is not your final home. Stop living like it is, settling in and making plans as though it were. Your eternal home is where you will truly experience what forever is all about.

In the beloved shepherd’s Psalm, David wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd . . I will live in the house of the Lord forever!” David did not think of, “the house of the Lord,” as a place; but with longing, he spoke of that as a special presence. Jesus described Heaven as, “In My Father’s house . . I go to prepare a place for you . . and I will receive you unto myself, that where I am there you may be also.” John 14:1-3. See Psalm 27:3-4 NIV. You can forever be with God and others who look for His coming and long for His appearing. Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8 NIV.

My prayer for you is to value eternity more than today.

EDL Communications 2019
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Setbacks

June 7th, 2019

Comebacks are optional.

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for
which God has called me.” Philippians 3:14 NKJV.

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

Setbacks are inevitable. Comebacks are optional. Anyone can have a setback. Anyone could make a comeback, but not everyone will. Life offers you three options – backward, status quo, or forward. None of those are meant to be permanent. Progress is available for anyone who moves forward with deliberate intent, obedience, and trust. Setbacks and comebacks are options in the ebb and flow of everyday life. Life does not accommodate status quo very well. You won’t flourish long in the same place, unless you challenge and change the status quo.

You should never be content to stay where you are, nor remain who you are. God’s Word promises, ”Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJ. You are either in a state of progress or regress. Strive to become what you could and should be in Christ. Recent history or present circumstances are not a reason for embracing inaction or determining future direction.

Paul encouraged, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:8-10 NIV. Comebacks are reserved for people that do not give up. Look to God and His Word with trust and optimism. If you think you can’t comeback from your mistake or failure, you won’t. If you believe you can in Christ, you will. “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 NKJ.

Your response to disappointment and your hope for possibilities ahead signify the direction you will choose. Choose to move forward deliberately, rather than fearfully staying put. Discouragement is more than a negative emotion. It is a paralysis of confidence and loss of conviction. Before David was King, there is a faith-building story of David and his soldiers returning from a victorious battle, only to find their city and homes decimated and their wives and children taken by an enemy. Imagine the setback. “Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” But David chose a different path. He chose a glorious comeback. Read 1 Samuel 30 NKJ.

Regrettably, setbacks are a component of life that everyone will experience at one season or another. Yet there is great news. Every setback is an opportunity for a comeback. About comebacks, a friend taught me that you can’t think the same way and do the same things in the same ways, and still expect a different outcome.

Change your expectations. Choose your emotions. Learn from your failure or from what has gone awry and do what is necessary to find your path forward. The Apostle Paul captured the language and determination of Comeback, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Read Philippians 3:12-14.

Only Paul would say, “one thing I do,” and then explain that in four essential actions – forgetting the past, straining for what’s ahead, pressing to the goal, and winning the prize. And Paul’s anticipated prize was glorious. ”To all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” Read John 1:11-13 NIV. Heaven, and an eternity with Christ Jesus, await those who choose to prevail. In Christ, your comeback is glorious and unlimited.

Commit to achieve a more desirable outcome. Be one who perseveres. By its nature, life has unexpected twists and turns, and ups and downs. Expecting life to be otherwise is improbable. Learn that strength and determination grow best in adversity met with spiritual determination. Paul was confident, “For 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 NKJ. What a powerful promise!

Today, I pray for you to be steadfast in faith and not lose heart.

EDL Communications 2019
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