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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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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Listening Is More Than Hearing

November 7th, 2018

Attentive listening prompts obedience  

“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourself.” James 1:22 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are that,

“Listening is more than hearing.”

My Dad expected obedience. With him, obedience was the norm. If I did not respond accordingly, he would kindly ask if I heard him. He rightly assumed that if I heard him, obedience would be my response. My Dad never threatened me with, “Obey me or else.” My success was his highest hopes for my life. His love was generous and steadfast. His expectations were reasonable and clear.

I regret the times my dad needed to ask, “Allen, did you hear me?” Sometimes, it seems I can still hear his voice when I need reminding that obedience is the best way forward. When there was an issue, the problem was never about my ability to hear; it was always about my willingness to obey. My Dad’s expectation was that if I were truly listening to him, I would hear him clearly and correctly, and I would respond obediently. And I would obey him promptly and completely. He was right to expect that, as is God.

Attentive listening and prompt obedience are two things essential and invaluable for your success in life. Here are two practical realities. You must do more than just listen. You have to obey. If you do not do more than listen, you will not understand what God is saying? And if you don’t understand, how can you obey completely? The Bible says, “These blessings shall come on you . . if you will hearken to the voice of the Lord.” Read Deuteronomy 28:1-14 NKJ. Obedience releases unexpected blessings. The New Testament seems to echo, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourself.” James 1:22 NKJ.

Why do we entertain so many voices, as well as our own inner voice of ideas and opinions? Why would you and I allow meaningless noise to drown out the gentle and essential voice of the Holy Spirit? Why would we listen to voices which deceive, mislead, or distract?

When God spoke to the young Samuel, his response was simple and honest, “Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10. Samuel placed himself in the posture of a servant prepared to obey whatever God said. Should we do anything other than that? Samuel’s attention and recognition of God’s voice implies that he was listening in order to obey whatever God said. And God had a lot to tell him because the young Samuel was willing to listen when others did not.

You would like to know your future, but you cannot apart from God. Life is lived one day at a time. Ever wonder what God is longing to tell you about what lies ahead? Would you breathe easier today, and worry less about tomorrow, if you knew that God has everything under His control?

When you listen with a predisposition to obey, you will hear the truth-telling whisper of the Spirit in your heart assuring you that, “The Lord goes before you and will be with you . . do not be afraid.” Read Joshua 1:7-9 NIV. Live with a heart to know and obey God; doing so allows you to live with blessed assurance and complete confidence.

My prayer for you today is that you will live confidently and obediently.

Christian Communications 2018

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Life is messy. Clean it up.

October 27th, 2018

God responds to man’s initiative.

“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper; whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

Proverbs 28:13 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Life is messy. Clean it up.”

Life is messy. What do you do when you mess up? And you will. Everyone does. What then? After you mess up, what you do is more important than what you did to mess up. Some cover up, like Adam. Some blame others, like Eve. Some deny their wrong, like Cain. Some are destroyed by their failure, like Judas. Some weep and repent from their sin, like Peter. Know this. Sin can never be ignored. Sin is not ignored by God and must not be treated casually by you. Ignoring sin is devastating to you: body, soul, and spirit.

The Bible is clear about what God requires and the grace you will receive when you separate yourself from your sins. God responds to sincere confession. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23 NIV. God’s Law and righteousness demand that a wrong be made right, that restitution be given, and that relationship be restored.

When you have done the wrong thing, what does God say is the right thing to do?  God’s Word is really the only opinion that truly matters. “Whoever conceals their sins  does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.14 Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.” Proverbs 28:13-14 NIV. I want to be that one who confesses and renounces sins. Repent and receive forgiveness, as David did. Read Psalm 32:3-5 NIV.

When I was younger, I wrongly assumed that spirituality was best evidenced by how long I could go without sinning. The greater the time that I walked without need of forgiveness, the better Christian I thought I would be. That was, and remains a subtle arrogance of self-will, and a faulty understanding of grace. None of  us are innocent of sin. ”For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans  3:23-24 NIV.

One’s Godliness may best be seen by how quickly you recognize your spiritual mess up, and how soon you confess your sin to God, and how fully you receive His forgiveness in Christ because you value your relationship with God more than you enjoy your sin. Sin is easy to enjoy at first, but its pleasures soon sour. The Bible describes, “the fleeting pleasures of sin.” Hebrews 11:25 NLT. Sin destroys anyone and anything it touches. I remember my maternal grandfather reminding me, “Allen, keep short accounts with God.” I have observed across a lifetime the wisdom of his words.

Trying to never do wrong by your own strength of will is a quick and sure path to failure. Trusting Jesus to live His life in you and obeying the Holy Spirit is the road to the forgiveness and healing Jesus wants you to receive. Paul said, “Christ lives in me, and the life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 NKJV. Hallelujah!

The path to God’s fullness and blessing is the same for you as for our nation, “If they humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their evil ways . . then will I hear . . then will I forgive . . then will I heal.” 2 Chronicles 7:14. The first move must be yours, humbly and earnestly asking for God’s grace and mercy; the final move will be God’s and will always be gracious and merciful.

Today I pray for you to live in His loving forgiveness and sufficient grace.

Christian Communications 2018-11289

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Contentment and Confidence

October 18th, 2018

The important things in life are not things.  

“My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NKJV

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Contentment and  Confidence.”

Contentment is not found in how much you have, nor in how much of a surplus you enjoy. However much you have will never be enough, apart from God’s generous provision. Contentment is found in your full confidence that God is your ample provider, Jehovah Jireh. The Apostle Paul was assuring, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 NKJV.

Years ago, I was challenged by a quote attributed to Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher. Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” How much must a person have to be content? That is a sufficiently important question that every person needs to answer honestly and accurately. When is enough enough? Usually, the answer is,  just a little more. Answered correctly, your answer can counteract a latent insecurity and subtle greed that conflicts with your desire for contentment. Insecurity whispers to all of us that we need enough, and then defines enough as more than what is truly adequate.

And even when you acquire what you think are necessary resources and gather more than enough stuff, greed still suggests that you require a little more while falsely reassuring that you deserve the extra you desire. So, a never-ending cycle is created, wanting more while trying to have enough. You work to feel secure, then reward yourself with more than you need. And, the result is a futile search, a never-ending quest for more.

Otherwise, your quest reduces your joy and pleasure for what you have and dampens your gratitude for what you have already received. Striving to accumulate and store more, becomes an insufficient goal for life, ultimately exhausting to the human spirit. Such a limited, material goal misdirects your heart from seeking true wealth which is always spiritual not material. Jesus said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also..” Matthew 6:20-21 NKJV.

It is better to have the best of what lasts, than simply more of what is only good for the moment.  More is never enough! My wise and dear friend, Campbell, advised me years ago, The heart cannot desire what the eye has not seen.” Be selective about what holds your gaze too long, lest it fills your vision and captures your desires.

God’s Word is clear, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5-6 NIV. What God provides will always be enough. And what is the personal reward of having enough? Gratitude. Contentment. Sufficiency. Satisfaction. Freedom from the tyranny for more. Appreciating things that money cannot buy.

“Godliness with contentment is a great gain.” Read 1 Timothy 6: 6-11.  I read a sign today that said, “The most important things in life are not things.” That is good to remember. God offers you a greater return, and much more enduring, than the biggest bull market on Wall Street.

“For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – through Him Who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13. It is never your wealth or possessions that provide true security and contentment. Those are found only in God.

Today I pray for you to trust God, reassured that He is your source of sufficiency.

Christian Communications 2018

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New Faith and a New Nature

October 11th, 2018

Your new faith did not erase your old nature.

“Given to us are exceedingly great and precious promises, that you may be partakers of the divine nature.” 2 Peter 1:4 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “new faith and a new nature.”

Salvation resolves the problem of your eternal destiny. Salvation does not solve all your problems in this life immediately. That is a process of grace. So, you are a Christ-follower now. Shouldn’t everyday life become easier? Do you ever wonder if you should be further along in your spiritual growth than you are? Should you be winning new battles instead of still fighting so many of the old ones?

Salvation reconciles your history and begins a wonderful new journey, but there is much more that God wants and needs to accomplish in you. God cares about your destiny. Remember when you finally realized that you could not save yourself by your good works? Paul wrote,  He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5 NIV.

Yet it is alarmingly easy to still assume that now you can take it from here. The Bible calls those, dead works. You can no more live your Christian life on your best behavior now, than you could save yourself by your good behavior previously. You know what the problem is? Your new faith did not erase your old nature.

I envision Paul rejoicing as he wrote the words, Because of His great love for us, God, Who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. Read Ephesians 2:1-5 NIV. You remain vulnerable to the relentless pull of desires incompatible with your confession and spiritual convictions.

And when that happens, feelings of guilt return and doubts cloud your confidence about salvation. You thought that battle was in the past, didn’t you? The Apostle Paul asked and answered the question our hearts ask, Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:23-24 NIV.  Here’s the good news! “Walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 NAS. I suggest that you cannot consistently and successfully walk in the power of the Holy Spirit until you request, receive, and realize that you have been filled with the Spirit.

By His Spirit, God Himself dwells within you to deliver you from your old nature, much the same as He redeemed you from your sins by Jesus Christ. See Galatians 2:20 NIV. You will be better, do better, and live better when you rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit. I have heard this wonderful progression of spiritual life and growth explained this way.

At salvation, you were saved from the penalty of sin. In the ongoing process of sanctification, you are being saved from the power of sin. And in eternity you will be saved from the presence of sin. The old nature will then be eradicated forever; never again will you contend with its inclination toward sin.

To accomplish this, there is both an indwelling and an infilling of the Spirit. The indwelling is constant and occurs when the Spirit baptizes you into the Body of Christ. Read 1 Corinthians 12:13 NKJV. The infilling occurs at your invitation – anywhere, anytime, every time – as Jesus baptizes you with His Spirit. The Bible says, 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is,18 be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:17-18 NKJV. The Greek word in that verse that is translated, “filled,” describes the influence of something rather than the quantity of something.

Consider this. A sail boat moves under the influence and direction of the wind when its sails become filled with the wind. Similarly, “When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us . .“ Galatians 5:22 NLT. Live full of the Spirit; the Spirit then gives you the power you lack to forgive, be patient in trials, be loving when mistreated, trust and obey when you don’t understand, break habits, and live as your heart for God desires.

As a child of God, the infilling of the Spirit does not give you more of the Spirit than already abides in you. Yielding more of yourself to live within His authority releases the Holy Spirit’s fullness and influence. See Galatians 5:24-25 NIV. Live every day, in and by the power and influence of the Spirit of God.

Today I pray for you to rely every moment on the power of God’s Spirit.

Christian Communications 2018

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