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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A Holy Endeavor

August 16th, 2018

Your daily work can be a holy endeavor.

 “Work with enthusiasm, as working for the Lord rather than people.” Ephesians 6:7 NLT

My thoughts and comments are about, “A Holy Endeavor.”

People often describe their job as, “work.” Your job should be work, requiring your best efforts and the bulk of your time. For the better part of your lifetime and a substantial portion of each day, work will occupy your time, attention, energy, and effort. Your attitude can make that time pleasant as well as productive.

Work can be little more than a necessity, something you have to do so to provide for yourself and family. Or work can become a drudgery, something you have to do but really don’t want to do. Or you can make your work a fulfilling joy, an activity and place where you discover the privilege of meaningful service. On different days, your experience will likely be a variety in differing proportions of all of those.

The Bible is clear. “The Lord God took [Adam] and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’” Genesis 2:15-17 NIV. Work was the privilege of being stewards of God’s ample provision and care. But that privilege was accompanied by a responsibility. Adam was to work and take care of the garden, free to eat of any tree in the Garden, except one, described as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Contrary to what most people suppose, work was Adam’s assignment rather than God’s punishment for his disobedience. The punishment was the added labor that would be required. The difference was this. At the initiative and insistence of Eve, Adam chose to ignore God’s warning, eating of the fruit of the single tree that had been forbidden to them. Adam’s failure resulted in disobedience entering into God’s creation as they had been forewarned.  

“And to Adam He said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate the fruit I told you not to eat, I have placed a curse on the ground. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.  All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your dying day.” Genesis 3:17-19 NLT. The sweat and toil of work was the horrible price of man’s minimal regard for God’s provision being enough.

God appointed work itself to man earlier than his disobedience. Notice where man was to be employed? The Creator placed Adam and Eve in a garden, a picture of provision, plenty, and beauty – a fruitful place created by God, blessed by God, and frequented by Him.

It seems that the difference is whether you are in God’s employ or simply trying to put bread on the table. Since God first ordained His creation to know and enjoy meaningful employment in partnership with Him, would He not provide a way for you and me to redeem our daily work and discover it a holy endeavor, rather than a lifelong struggle? The proper answer is, “Of course.” Let me share a few simple, practical truths.

Choose a Godly attitude about work. Let your daily work be a holy service to God and man. “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do.” Ephesians 6:7-8 NLT.

Consider the purpose of work. “Begin using your hands for honest work, and then give generously to others in need” Ephesians 4:28 NLT. Honest work provides for your needs, and supplies a surplus for sharing generously with others. The goal is not merely to get more, but to have more to give.

Value those who employ you or work alongside you. You accomplish that by thankfulness for the opportunity you are given and by offering only and always the best of your effort and diligence to serve. “Obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ” Ephesians 6:5 NLT. In your work, you also serve Christ. Be realistic. The workplace is not a perfect place with perfect people. But you can be diligent in your work as a service to the Lord. Be the best boss or employee that you can be, and do so as, “unto the Lord.”

Consecrate your work to God. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24 NIV. Do not depreciate those for whom you work. They are God’s point of supply for meeting your daily needs. But look above and beyond them to the Lord, Who is your Source. To Him be glory.

Today I pray for you to dedicate your life in joyful service to God and others.

Christian Communications 2018-8319

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Identity and Possessions

August 7th, 2018

 

Who you are is not about what you have.

“Real life is not measured by how much you own.” Luke 12:15 NLT

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Identity and Possessions.”

Admittedly, the culture and values of my father and grandfathers’ generations were very different from ours. We were taught character building values such as: give a full day’s work for an honest wage, use cash not credit, save for the future, live modestly within your means, and always be a good neighbor.

In contrast, the current culture seems to entice you in subtle and not so subtle ways to want more than you can afford, to desire more than God provides, and to crave everything your neighbor has, and more. In their subtlety and practical application, those more recent values are inaccurate and deceiving, even seductive.

Material possessions can become a little too important, as well as becoming an inaccurate measure of success and significance. Who you are is not about what you have. God made you so much more. Your possessions, or lack thereof, should not determine your identity. Your true identity is found only in Christ.

How has this change come about? There is a false philosophy that began as early as man’s origin in the Garden of Eden, a false philosophy that proudly claims that you can have it all, and you can have it now. Read the history, Genesis 3. That was exactly how the devil seduced Eve and deceived Adam.

They had it all, except for one small thing. The fruit of every tree was theirs to enjoy, except one. “The Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’” Genesis 2:16-17 NIV. Somehow, Eve was deceived to believe that without that one added thing, God must be withholding something good from her that she could obtain apart from God. Well, you know how the story goes from there. It does not end well.

Too many people have spiritually and financially bankrupted themselves trying to have it all now, and at an even higher price have impoverished their souls in the process. In God alone, security and contentment are found. “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Colossians 2:9-10 NKJ. The Apostle Paul was certain, “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” Read 1 Timothy 6:6-10 NIV.

You were never intended to have it all. And it is not practical to have it all right now. Be patient and trusting for God to provide what you need. When Jesus said, “Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much you own.” Luke 12:15 NLT. It was not Jesus’ suggestion; it is His continuing command.

Following the wisdom and counsel of the Word of God will spare you a lot of needless grief and worry. Meanwhile, be content and faithful with what you have. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. “Read Philippians 4:11-13 NIV.

Our common problem is wanting things before God provides them and acquiring them without regard to their cost to our soul, now as well as later. Be grateful and content for the things you have while trusting God to provide things you want, if pleasing in His sight. You are best to live with this conviction born of God’s Word, “My God will supply all your needs from His own glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NLT.

Greed is the enemy of contentment and can be defined as, “an inordinate, unholy insistence of wanting more than God has yet provided and attempting to gain those things however you can and as quickly as you can.” That will never work out the way you hope. “Now, may the God of peace . .  make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ.” Hebrews 13:20-21 NKJ. Amen!

Today I pray for you to be content with what you have and trust for all you need.

Christian Communications 2018-7209

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Use What You Have

July 25th, 2018

Doing all you can requires using all you have.

“God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.” Romans 12:6 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are, “use what you have.”

It is easy to imagine all the wonderful things you could do, if only you had more to work with. Ever felt that way? More of what? More opportunities? More help? More resources? More education? More skills? More experience? More advantages? Fewer challenges? Less difficulties? The list is endless and excuses continuous, while successes remain unaccomplished.

You have more than you realize. You have more than you use. Use what you have. Doing all you can first requires using all you have. It’s simple really. Inventory what you have rather than what you lack. Then God will provide what you need. Paul was confident, “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NIV.

The Bible is a reliable history of God at work through His people. God’s Word is filled with people and instances when they used what they had and God did what they could not have done alone. Everyone loves the story of David and Goliath. David had only a shepherd’s sling and God beside him. That was enough. King Saul tried to equip him with his own armor, helmet, and sword. See 1 Samuel 17:36-49 NKJ. What you don’t have is not the issue. In God, what you do have is enough.

The Bible spotlights individuals that rose out of obscurity to achieve something others did not dare to try. Have you ever heard of Shamgar? Probably not. His name appears only twice in the Bible, and very little is known about him, except his name, his origin, and the very difficult national and personal times in which he lived. See Judges 5:6-8 NKJ.

Danger and desperation made daily life difficult. Israel’s men were disarmed and defenseless. Because of his fearless exploits, his fame was included in people’s songs and Israel’s oral history years later. What did he do? Well, first consider what he did not do. He did not dismiss the possibility of courage against unimaginable opposition by first calculating the odds and then doing nothing at all. But here’s what Shamgar did. Single-handedly, “Shamgar struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox goad. He too saved Israel.” Judges 3:31 NIV. One man, unarmed, against six hundred seasoned Philistine warriors.

He used what he had, a common ox goad, just a wooden stick tipped with bronze that a farmer used to prod his work animals. A simple ox goad was enough for God to provide a decisive victory. A common farm utensil was not much at all, except in the hands of a determined and courageous farmer, whose valor brought about a rousing victory that emboldened the heart of a nation to stand bravely and proudly against its enemy.

An unusual story? Yes, but not an uncommon one in the Bible. Has God changed from Shamgar’s time and yours. He is, “the same yesterday and forever.” Does His story sound familiar to you, like Moses and a shepherd’s staff, or Gideon and his trumpet, or Samson and a jawbone, or David and a slingshot, or a boy with a small lunch of bread and fish? God’s story is about using ordinary people in extraordinary ways, when they choose to use what they have for God’s purposes and glory.

You may not have what you need; you may not have everything you want; you may not have what others have. He does not promise all your wants, but He does promise all your needs. Trust Him to know the difference when you do not. You have something that God can use.

“God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability . . do it well.” Read Romans 12:6-8 NLT. Remember, the key to doing all you can is trusting all you have into God’s hands. The saddest thing at the close of a day, a year, or a lifetime, is to regret not doing all you could when you could.

My prayer for you is to see God supply all you need and multiply all you have.

Christian Communications 2018-73010

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Are You an Example or Exception?

July 11th, 2018

Example Provides the Power for Persuasion.

“Christ, Who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today ask a question,

“Are You An Example Or Exception?”

When I was a young man preparing for ministry, my Dad gave me invaluable advice for success. His wise counsel applies to all areas of life and leadership. Out of his own experience and personal example, my Dad taught me practical wisdom for every day life. It was simple enough that I have recalled his words for more than fifty years.

He said, “Never ask or expect others to go where you have not gone, nor expect someone to do what you have not been willing to do, nor expect anyone to give what you are not willing to give.” “Do as I say,” never works as well as, “Do as I do.” Think about this for a moment. Example provides the power for persuasion.

Jesus is the best example. He sacrificed much more than He requires of you and me. To those who wanted to know how to live well, He kept it basic. He simply said, “Follow Me.” Anyone can do that if they want to do so. To be an effective leader of people, you must first be an example of what you expect of others. To be influential, you must be an example.

As Jesus washed the feet of the disciples in the night before His sacrifice, He established a pattern for theirs and our service and sacrifice for others and toward one another, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done for you.” Read John 13:15-17 NKJ. For a moment, think about Jesus’ example and yours.

Whether talking about parenting, relationships, business dealings, or any arena that requires leadership, your involvement should be exemplary and inspiring to others, whether big or small. Many years later Peter wrote of Jesus’ example,“Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 NLT.

The Apostle Paul was direct, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10 NKJ. For the times when you grow weary and people seem to take your kindness for granted, remember the Bible’s counsel to keep your eyes on Jesus, “Consider Jesus who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3 NIV. Jesus’ example always inspires. Yours should do the same.

The Bible’s intention is about your living a holy consistency of life before God and others. Let’s be practical about this: doing the least you can neither produces the satisfaction you seek nor the expected result in others’ lives. God asks you to be an example while never allowing yourself to be an exception, giving up your right to make excuses and not expecting more of others than you require of yourself.

Your Biblical responsibility and God’s expectation of you is this: “Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 NLT. Being an example is good; excusing yourself to be an exception to that is not.

Today I pray for you to live a life that glorifies God and edifies others.

Christian Communications 2018

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Character, Reputation, and Esteem

July 6th, 2018

Reputation is easier to protect than repair

“Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Character, Reputation, and Esteem.”

Reputation is what people report to others about you. Your reputation is the history of who you have been, the story of where you have been, and the record of who you are becoming. Your reputation opens doors for you or closes doors to you. Reputation is what people believe to be true of you, whether their opinion is accurate or exaggerated. A good reputation is invaluable, when it reflects Godly character. Being reputable is a valued spiritual and social priority that requires time to achieve and careful attention to sustain.

A Godly reputation is only accomplished over a length of time with practiced and predictable consistency of character. But reputation can be quite fragile, easily damaged, or diminished by uncharacteristic behavior. Solomon elevated the value of reputation above riches. “Choose a good reputation over great riches, for being held in high esteem is better than having silver or gold.” Proverbs 22:1 NLT. Reputation should be highly valued and also guarded vigilantly.

However, a bad reputation can happen more easily and rapidly than you might imagine. Once assigned to you, a poor reputation can require a lengthy time and much difficulty to repair. Protecting a reputation is easier than repairing one. Remember, reputation can either open or close doors for your potential future. Reliability is important to people, therefore it must be important to you. The Bible is clear: “Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won’t be faithful in large ones . . if you are untrustworthy . . who will trust you?” Luke 16:10-12 NLT. Reliability is a vital factor of reputation. Opportunities are directly related to past faithfulness.

Exchanging even a moment of your future for a present season of your life is shortsighted. You want it to be true of you as was written of Demetrius, “Everyone speaks highly of Demetrius. We ourselves can say the same for him.” 3 John 12 NLT. My aspiration is as was written of those people of faith and faithfulness, “They were longing for a better country – a Heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God,  for He has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV. I want to live in such a manner that my God, family, and friends would have no reason to feel ashamed.

Today I pray for you to live in a manner that is with honor and without reproach.

Christian Communications 2018

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