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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Love Is for Sharing

March 15th, 2019

Love Is a Choice You Make.

 “Love one another; as I have loved you.” John 13:34 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are that, “Love is for sharing.”

At times, love can be challenging for any of us. The Bible would not command us to love if love was not possible for us. Love is not a feeling you have; love is a choice you make. Can anyone learn to love? Most certainly, God’s answer is yes. God set the precedent when He loved you and me – and such love was extended to the whole world. “God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8 NIV. Real love is always sacrificial.

Jesus was clear about His mission. “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 NKJV. Abundant life now! Everlasting life forever! “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NKJV. How long has it been since you gratefully reflected on those glorious, foundational, and liberating truths?

About love, Jesus’ commandment was clear. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34 NKJV. Notice that those words are not a suggestion or a lofty goal beyond your ability to accomplish. How is such love possible? When you experience God’s love, you are changed from the inside out. The ongoing conformation to love others as Jesus loved you is the surest evidence of spiritual transformation. Obedience supplies ability.

Is that easy all the time? Definitely not! But would God ever ask you to do something you are incapable of doing without providing His example to guide you and His Holy Spirit to empower you to do so?

Love is meant to be shared, not stored until a special occasion. And love is not earned; love is best when freely given. I think the foundation for love is Jesus’ reasonable admonition: “Freely you have received; freely give.” Matthew 10:8 NIV. If ever you have experienced God’s love through Christ by the power of the Spirit, you are capable of profound love. The followers of Jesus marveled at the news of Saul’s conversion was described this way, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” Galatians 1:23 NKJV. Read Acts 27:1-37. The love of God changed a persecutor into a preacher of grace.

Love inspires and instills passion. Passionately, Paul prayed, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10 NKJV. Paul longed to know Christ, whatever the sacrifice and suffering required. Notice the multilayered component to an empowered life. (1) the power of His Resurrection, and (2) personal identification with Christ’s sufferings,and (3) embracing the life-changing conformation of Jesus’ selfless surrender. There are no shortcuts.

Today, I pray for you to know that God’s love is always transforming.

 

Christian Communications 2019

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Bread of Life

March 7th, 2019

External Things Never Satisfy Eternal Longings.

“I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry.” John 6:35 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about the, “Bread of Life.”

Hunger is a strong motivation, impossible to ignore and common to us all. I think that inner alert is God-given. God crafted your body to know when it needs replenishing, whether that be for nutrition, rest, or exercise. Your body responds to its lack by sending a signal and waiting for the expected response.

If the signal is ignored and no response comes, the body protects its vital organs by shutting down things less essential and redirecting the diminishing supply of the body’s stored resources where most needed. To protect and supply critical organs, the heart, lungs, and brain, the body gradually grows weaker from the lack of nourishment, and the process of starving begins.

Make no mistake; there is a hunger of the soul. Similar to your physical body, the human spirit is also created to need nourishment and replenishing in unique and internal ways. People fail to recognize their spiritual hunger or misinterpret those inner longings, trying to fill a growing emptiness with many things that will never satisfy, such as money, possessions, busyness, thrills, amusements, sex, drugs, alcohol, and the like. Such efforts go to excess, and yet remain never enough. Too many people fail to recognize the origin of the soul’s hunger.

David voiced the desire of every Godly heart. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Psalm 42:1-2 NIV. External things will never satisfy eternal longings. Listen to your heart; feed your soul.

Job was right, “I have esteemed the words of Your mouth more than my necessary food.” Job 23:12. Can you say that?Jesus, described Himself as the Bread of Life. He invites you to know that He alone will satisfy the deepest and greatest longings, and you will never be hungry again. Your ultimate desire will be wanting more of Jesus and His Word. Jesus must be first in your life. Jesus was clear, “But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” John 6:50-51 NIV.

Eternal life is reserved for those who value abundant life now and prize eternal life forever.His ample supply is always available and ever abundant. His provision is not automatic; you must come to Him. Here’s how Jesus taught you to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11. Jesus is that bread given to you everyday. Enjoy His ample provision to the fullness.

You receive this life-giving, daily bread through the regular practice of true worship (John 4:23-24), personal prayer (Ephesians 6:18/Romans 12:12), time with your Bible (Psalm 119:11), thoughtful reflection on truth (Psalm 1:1-3), and meaningful fellowship with others who are seeking the same Source and satisfaction, as are you (Hebrews 10:24-25). Those spiritual practices become your spiritual sustenance and strength.

These important, spiritual disciplines provide satisfaction that is much fuller and more lasting than any and everything else with which you might attempt to feed your soul. Jesus promised, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6.

Today, I pray for you to nurture a heart set on things above and not below.  

Christian Communications 2019

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A Contented Life

February 27th, 2019

Contentment Is Found Where God Directs.

 “We are created in Christ Jesus for good works.”
Ephesians 2:10 NAS. Ephesians 2:10 NAS.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “a contented life.”

Many people lack a clear and certain idea about what their life is meant to be. Some are busy but not fulfilled. Others are successful but not satisfied. Life is not just about doing good things, or even things at which you are good. A contented life is about doing the good things God prepared you to do. God’s intention for you is clear:“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 NAS. Did you take time to think about that verse as you read it? You are God’s work to do good works that He has already predetermined.

It would be wise to give careful thought for what those good works might be for you?I recall a talented young man who had previously been successful and financially prosperous in his career. But there was a problem. He did not enjoy what he was doing. He was prospering in the estimation of others but lacked satisfaction in his heart as well as a sense of purpose and fulfilment. He resigned from his promising career to go as a missionary, teaching young students in a Christian school in Europe at considerable monetary sacrifice, and was excited doing so.He rearranged his future to assist in the future of others.

I think the first part of my young friend’s story is all too common. I wish the rest of his story were more typical.Life is best when and where you are doing His will with a whole heart. Well, I have found good things are even better when your heart knows, “it’s a God thing!” You do not need to stumble around looking for what you should do, trying to find the things at which you are good. Your heavenly Father has a divine assignment for your life. That’s where you will find your greatest joy, success, and satisfaction, and contentment.There are a couple of things of which I am sure.

First, God’s assignment for your life will be consistent with the spiritual gifts God places within you. Peter was clear, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms . . do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV. Your talents, skills, giftedness, and interests will ultimately reveal what God has always been preparing for you.

Secondly, what God has prepared for you will involve serving others in some meaningful way. Sometimes you only discover where your gifts lie while in the process of serving the needs of others in Christ’s Name. Your God-given gifts and abilities are not for your personal benefit alone. “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.

Your personal abilities are reinforced by spiritual gifts, life experiences, and seized opportunities. God ordained you to contribute to the welfare and well-being of others, as He brings them into your life. Use what you have for yourself and you will find them never to be enough, inadequate and lacking the measure of joy and contentment God intends for you. Every day bless someone with kindness and helpfulness without being asked or expecting anything in return.

Jesus said that even, “giving a cup of cold water in His Name,” would not go without His reward. Read Matthew 10:42 NIV. Good works are rarely large, impressive things as you might presume. More often, God’s works are found in the ordinary, simple, everyday things: such as a helping hand, a kind word, an unnoticed benevolence, a bit of time shared, a note of encouragement, a prayer on behalf of a friend, or sincere gratitude to God and others. “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” 1 Timothy 6:6-7 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to use your spiritual and natural gifts to bless others.

Christian Communications 2019

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The Path Behind and Forward

February 20th, 2019

The path behind is not a path forward.

“Your road led through the Red Sea,
a pathway no one knew was there!” Psalm 77:19 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are about,
“the path behind and before.”

A dead end is not a comfortable place to be, especially if you don’t know how you got there. There are times when you can’t make sense of what is behind you, let alone the unforeseen that is ahead. In life, there will be uncertainty when you don’t know what comes next. Yet there will be decisions you need to make, with or without the information you need to make a wise and informed choice. God has a promise for such times, ”If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, Who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5 NIV.

From years earlier, I recall a simple worship chorus that often brought me peace and assurance, “God will make a way where there seems to be no way. He works in ways I cannot see, He will make a way for me. He will be my Guide, hold me closely to His side. With love and strength for each new day, He will make a way. God will make a way.” (Don Moen.) At one time or another, everyone will need the One who will make a way.

Moses and Israel experienced exactly that. Delivered from Egypt’s slavery, they soon faced an uncrossable, impossible obstacle, with the Red Sea ahead of them and the pursuing Egyptians behind them. Talk about being between, “a rock and a hard place.” That was exactly where they were, between a difficulty and an impossibility. The path behind and the path before provided no good option. Moses and Israel could not go back, nor could they move forward. Betwixt and between is never a comfortable place to be. Such moments test your trust. But God will be found in your quandary.

In those times and circumstances, you must rely on God alone. You can read their story in Exodus, the second book in the Old Testament. The story is not unique to the fledgling nation of Israel. It is yours and my story as well. When you find yourself in such places, remember God’s reassuring words, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts [higher] than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV.

God told Moses to stretch out his shepherd’s staff. Read Exodus 14:9-31 NIV. When Moses and Israel did as God said, an angel parted the water for Israel to cross safely, “on dry land,” while the pursuing Egyptian army was restrained by a wall of fire, until Israel was safely across the sea on dry land. Then the waters collapsed on Pharaoh and his army, destroying them in the deep and deadly waters. David later wrote of that day, “Your road led through the sea, Your pathway through the mighty waters – a pathway no one knew was there.” Psalm 77:19 NLT. God has a pathway for you that is unknown and unforeseen.

Possibly, the path ahead is obscured and retreating appears no option. The Apostle Paul discovered three elements that release you for meaningful, spiritual progress. Break free from the past. Embrace the future tenaciously. Anything worth having is worth the sacrifice. The path behind is not a path forward. “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV.

How do you do that? “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 NIV. It is simple but requires effort.

Today, I pray for you to see obstacles removed and the way forward.     

Christian Communications 2019
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Love Is a Debt You Owe

February 13th, 2019

Love is a responsibility. Debt is a liability.

“Love one another as I have loved you.”  John 13:34 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are that,
“Love Is a Debt You Owe.”

“Love Is a Debt You Owe.”

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a father gave his son this advice, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.” Debt has become a way of life for too many. National economies depend upon increasing consumption, continually pressuring and persuading people that debt is a small price for gratification.

Debt comes with a high price. You can resist becoming overly indebted, and you should. Solomon acknowledged a simple truth, “The borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7 NIV. The Bible is clear, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Read Romans 13:7-8 NKJV. Love is a debt you owe to God and others.

Clever marketing whets your appetite for more, and newer, and bigger, and better, and therefore more expensive. Your needs are rarely more, but your wants will always increase. The convenience of credit cards has made debt difficult to resist, generating the consumer economy while growing staggering indebtedness. Someone described debt as, “buying things you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people who don’t care.” Debt begets a growing weight of debt, adding worry and shifting one’s focus from the future to a worrisome past. 

I grew up in a modest but comfortable, mid-western home. We never had too much, and we never thought we had too little either. I was taught that what you earn and all you have comes from God through His blessing on your honest labor. ”Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:17 NLT.

Therefore, the first portion you give back to God as a Tithe, an act of worship in recognition of His benevolence and in obedience for His continued blessing. Read Malachi 3:10-12. After that, everything you have is a matter of stewardship, rather than ownership. The Bible is clear, “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2 NKJV.

From my Dad, I learned a practical, financial principle. “Never spend all that you earn, share some of what you have, and you will always have something extra when needed.” That became a rule of personal stewardship that I still follow today, and our family is better for that. Most importantly, God’s way is always best. Life is simpler; worries are fewer; freedom is greater. Debt results from trying to provide for yourself what God has not yet made available.

Now, the Bible speaks of a debt you cannot ignore and should not avoid. The Bible commands, “Give everyone what you owe him . . Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another . . Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm.” Read Romans 13:7-10 NIV. Those verses contrast financial debt with a loving lifestyle.

Love is a debt you owe. God’s way is always the right way.Jesus was clear, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you.”Read John 13:34-35 NKJV. Scripture teaches this. Financial debt is inadvisable. Relational debt is unavoidable.Here’s how I think they both relate and differ. Both are responsibilities to which you obligate yourself. Financial debt is about you and your wants. Relational debt is about others and their needs.

Financial debt preoccupies you more with yourself and with less thought and available means to serve others. Financial debt concerns you with satisfying your wants, paying your bills, while absorbing any leftovers. Relational debt redirects you toward others, giving instead of getting, meeting another need before your wants, and generously sharing the good you have received from God. Love promotes more love. Debt promises increasing debt.

Today, I pray for you to know that debt trades the ultimate for the immediate.

Christian Communications 2019

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