Archive for March, 2009

Plan Ahead

March 31st, 2009

“Good planning and insight . . bring honor and respect.” Proverbs 3:21-22 NLT

Planning is the practical process of envisioning what you believe should happen.”

My thoughts today are, “plan ahead.”

Even the best of plans may not succeed, but if you fail to plan at all, you will certainly not succeed. Someone has correctly observed, “If you fail to plan, you have unknowingly planned to fail.”

Planning envisions what could happen. A practical and realistic plan expresses your faith in the possibilities for your future. But you and I cannot know the future; only God best knows that. What do you do? Ask Him! “If you need wisdom – if you want to know what God wants you to do – ask him, and He will gladly tell you.” James 1:5 NLT. Practical wisdom has been described as the God-given ability to see your situation from God’s point of view. What a difference that makes.

Planning begins with God. First, remember that your future is not yours alone to determine. “Submit yourselves, then, to God.” James 4:7 NIV. Know this at all times: the least of God’s plans will be better than the best of yours. “This ‘foolish’ plan of God is far wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is far stronger than the greatest of human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:25 NLT. Place your trust in God’s purpose for your life, and take time to know what God wants for you. “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NLT.

Planning clarifies direction and action. Such a process secures your focus and marshals your resources to best achieve that. Without a wise and practical plan time, effort, and resources will be wasted unnecessarily. “Why do the people waste their time with futile plans?” Psalm 2:1 NLT.

Planning directs your best efforts. Obedience and faithfulness help you realize God’s purpose; it is not a way to force your own desires to happen. “All your feverish plans are to no avail because you never ask God for help.” Isaiah 22:11 NLT.

Planning invites the help of others. There are very few things, if any, that are best accomplished on your own. “Plans succeed through good counsel; don’t go to war without the advice of others.” Proverbs 20:18 NLT.

Planning includes God’s plans. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for your good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT. Here is the thing of which you can be confident: “The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations . . the Lord will work out His plans for my life.” Psalm 33:11 NIV/138:8 NLT. 

My prayer for you is: “May He grant your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans.” Psalm 20:4.


Game Ready

March 30th, 2009

“Who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Hebrews 5:14 NAS

See the choices clearly, and make every choice wisely according to God’s Word.”

My thoughts today are about being “game-ready.”

Athletes have their practices. Musicians have their rehearsals. Students have their studies. Marathoners have their grueling, conditioning runs. But the point of them all is the same as spiritual life is for you everyday. And Christians have their necessary spiritual disciplines – prayer, Bible reading and meditation, fasting, Christian fellowship and service. “Let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” Revelation 22:11 NAS. Doing the right thing each time does not come naturally or easily; it comes from being game-ready.

You learn by doing, not once, but again and again and again, until the action is so well practiced that it is predictably the same, becoming instinctive more than requiring conscious thought. No one really enjoys practice, but enjoyment is not the ultimate goal of life and achievement.

Practice lacks the invigorating challenge of competition, no thrill of victory, just hard work and numbing repetition. Every coach requires more hours of practice than of playing, because they know the physical and mental conditioning that will be essential. In the pressure of the game situation, the endless drills in practice will result in quicker reflexes and a game winning edge that may make the difference between winning and losing.

Games are not really won by the dramatic big play. Each win is possible because of the many little moments of stamina and skills throughout the course of the game that made the athlete prepared to excel, and put the team in the place for victory. “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. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step . . I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT.

The “game” that you are involved in every day is much more consequential, presently and eternally. The risk is great; the reward even greater. “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. You are being “trained to recognize good and evil,” and make wise, life choices accordingly, reliably, and consistently. Your well-being depends upon your 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.

See the choices clearly, and make every choice 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. That takes training and demands practice.

My prayer for you today is to be spiritually prepared and game-ready.


Making a Difference

March 27th, 2009

“You are the salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13 NIV

“Start where you are; use what you’ve got; do what you can.”

My thoughts today are about “making a difference.”

It has been rightly said that a person’s contribution may not always get noticed until it is no longer being made. Salt is in almost every prepared food or snack that you eat. When it’s there you hardly notice; when it’s lacking you detect its absence.

Often you don’t know the difference you make until much later. Sometimes others won’t realize the difference that you are making until that is no longer happening. You are making a difference because you value contributing something beneficial, however small that may seem or unnoticed it may be, because you were doing so deliberately “as unto the Lord,” not for recognition or applause. If you are going to make a difference in this world, it won’t be by accident. Be purposeful, deliberate.

You will find that life is most meaningful and satisfying when you know that what you do somehow makes a difference. That’s what life is meant to be about – making a difference. What you contribute in your community, at your job, in your school, in your home and family, and in your friendships has the power to help others – make their lives better and more greatly fulfill yours.

Stop and think how that works everyday. Stop working so others will notice your contribution, and begin noticing and complimenting theirs. We take a lot of things for granted, therefore a lot of people for granted that improve our lives everyday. Someone picks up a piece of paper in a park or city street. What they did may seem hardly noteworthy; but what if nobody ever picked up trash? Imagine the mess!

While you wait around for your chance to make a big difference you might be missing the very opportunities that let you make any difference now, and greater differences later. If you don’t start where you are with what you could do, you probably won’t start at all. Start where you are; use what you’ve got; do what you can. That’s how you make a difference.

Jesus said that you and I are to be the salt of the earth. You are created, called, and gifted to make a contribution unique to your abilities, experience, personality and opportunities. Salt in isolation does not make a difference, but when allowed to interact with other things salt provides what is lacking and enhances what is already there.

Jesus taught that you and I as His followers are supposed to seed, salt, light and leaven. Common to all of those is the potential of making a profound improvement. As such, you can make the best contribution and the biggest difference when you are willing to be where you are most needed, doing what you were best designed by God to do.

My prayer for you today is: contribute what you are and what you have to others.


Your Necessary Food

March 25th, 2009

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

Things that are external can never satisfy the cravings that are eternal.”

My thoughts today are about “your necessary food.”

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

If the signal is ignored and no help comes, the body begins protecting its vital organs by shutting down things less essential and redirecting the diminishing supply of the body’s stored resources where most needed. To supply the heart, lungs, and brain, the body grows weaker and weaker waiting for nourishment, and the process of starving begins.

The human spirit is like the physical body, also made to need nourishment and replenishing. Make no mistake; there is a hunger of the soul. People often ignore that hunger, or misinterpret their inner longings, trying to fill their growing emptiness with many things that can never satisfy – money, possessions, busyness, thrills, amusements, sex, drugs, alcohol – always to excess and yet never enough. They don’t recognize the origin of the soul’s hunger. Things that are external can never satisfy the cravings that are eternal. Listen to your heart; feed your soul. “I have esteemed the words of Your mouth more than my necessary food.” Job 23:12.

Jesus, the Bread of Life, invites you to know that He alone will satisfy the deepest and greatest longings, and you will “never go hungry.” His ample supply is always available and ever abundant but not automatic; you have to 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 your fill. “I am the living bread which came down from Heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever.” John 6:50-51.

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 are your necessary food!

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

My prayer for you today is for an appetite only for the right things.


Profit and Loss

March 24th, 2009

“Bring Mark with you, for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11 KJV

“Don’t miss the treasure when you see the earthen vessel – in yourself or others!”

My thoughts today are about “profit and loss.”

The bottom line for every business, and most endeavors of effort and investment, is calculating the profit and loss. If you only generate a loss, you are not in business you are out. If there is no profit, what you are doing is a hobby not a business. If you only break even, neither making a profit nor sustaining a loss, it is at best a community service or philanthropic endeavor. There would not be any reason to keep doing the same thing, would there?

Determining profit and loss is pretty easy when you are adding or subtracting just numbers in a ledger sheet. But life is so much more than that. What about when you are dealing with people, rather than dollars and cents? How do you figure the profit and loss then? That can be a bit complicated, not so black and white, plain and simple. Numbers are static; people are dynamic.

Some years before, Paul had thought the young John Mark unprofitable. For reasons the Bible does not explain, Mark had decided to return home, leaving the company of Paul and Barnabas in the midst of a missionary journey. Later when Barnabas wanted to again include Mark, Paul took great exception, strong exception. Been there, done that, no need to do that again – seemed to be Paul’s firmly held opinion. Read Acts 15:36-40.

Paul had invested time and effort in the young man and thought it only wasted. When he added up the profit and loss, he could see no profit then, now, or tomorrow. Barnabas was determined, Paul insisted. Their differences over Mark were even described as “contentious . . a sharp disagreement,” enough for them to go their separate ways. When they added things up, they came up with a different total – one saw a profit, the other counted a loss.

Fast-forward some more years. Now Paul is in prison in Rome writing to Timothy, another young protégé, another of his sons in the Gospel. Maybe years and experience broadened the fiery apostle’s perspective. Or maybe those same years, along with Mark’s experiences meanwhile, evidenced changes and a conviction Mark had not previously achieved.

Here’s what Paul wrote to Timothy, “Demas has forsaken me . . only Luke is with me. Take Mark and bring him with you, for he is profitable to me for the ministry. See 2 Timothy 4:6-11 KJV. Paul’s evaluation and regard for John Mark had changed dramatically. He judged Mark to be profitable, a proven investment he had not expected.

Sometimes a person will allow God to change their life to be profitable, from what was a loss, or at least previously appeared to be. From this story you can observe three simple but important things. (1) Sometimes a second chance is all a person needs. I am certainly glad that there were people who offered that to me. See Jeremiah 18:1-4 NIV. (2) Judge others generously, as you wish to be judged. See Romans 14:12-13 NIV. (3) When you look for the best in others; you often find it. “This precious treasure is held in perishable containers . . “ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 NLT. Don’t forget the treasure even when you are seeing the earthen vessel – in yourself or others! 

My prayer for you today is to be profitable in the economy of the Kingdom of God.