Archive for July, 2009

Good Works

July 24th, 2009

“Good works, which God has already prepared for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 English Version

“A truly contented life is about doing the good things God prepared you to do.”

My thoughts today are about “good works.”

Too many people seem not to have a good idea of what their life is meant to be about. They are busy but not fulfilled, maybe even successful but not satisfied. Life is not just about doing good things or even things you are good at; a contented life is about doing the good things God prepared you to do. Have you given much thought for what that might be for you?

Just days ago, I spoke with a young man who had previously been very successful and financially prosperous in a job he did not enjoy doing. He was making a lot of money, but was not happy doing it. He is now preparing to go as a missionary – teaching in a Christian school in Europe at considerable financial sacrifice, and never more excited. I think the first part of his story is all too common; I wish the rest of his story were more typical.

Some years ago, Martha Stewart, apparently the culture’s final word on all things domestic, was known for her seal of approval on something by saying, “It’s a good thing!” Well, I have found good things are even better when you know “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. There is a divine assignment for your life. That’s where your greatest joy and satisfaction will be found.

That assignment for your life will be consistent with the spiritual gifts that God has placed within you. “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 often reveal what God has been preparing you for all along.

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, but as a Godly means of contributing to the welfare and well being of others God will bring into your life. Use them for yourself alone and you will find them never to be enough – never enough to bring you the measure of joy and contentment God intends.

Every day bless someone by doing something kind and helpful without being asked or expecting anything in return. Jesus said that “giving a cup of cold water in His Name” would not go without its reward. See Matthew 10:42 NIV. Good works are rarely large and impressive things as you might presume; more often God’s works are found in the ordinary, simple, everyday things – 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 thankfulness.

My prayer for you today is to use your giftedness to serve God and bless others.

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Remembering Thankfully

July 23rd, 2009

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.” Philippians 1:3 NLT

“Without others every life would somehow have been different, somehow less.”

My thoughts today are about remembering thankfully.”

Who is it in your life that brings warm thoughts to your heart when they come to mind? There probably should be a number of folk that fit that description for each one of us. People will touch you across a lifetime; many leave their fingerprints of kindness and helpfulness. At one point or another, in one way or another, those people shape what you are becoming.

My birthday was a few days ago, and my family and friends were most kind to me. Of all the generosity shown to me last weekend, the thing most satisfying was the words spoken and written that expressed I had somehow been allowed to touch their lives in some meaningful way.

As I read each of the cards our church families had given – the printed sentiments they had chosen and the personal notes they had penned – their faces came fondly to mind, as did memories of our times together, some joyous and some challenging but grateful for all. I found myself remembering thankfully how they had touched my life with their blessing. Without any one of them my life would somehow have been different – somehow less.

From prison the aged Apostle writes somewhat wistfully, “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to God.” Philippians 1:3 NLT. In all the powerful words that flowed from his pen, his introduction to the Christians at Philippi is different, sounding more personal and tender, and written to friends. They were in his heart, easily came to his mind, and readily spilled out in his praise. As names and faces came to mind, Paul found himself giving God thanks for them.

Who comes to mind that releases your thanksgiving to God? Such an inventory is a good and necessary thing. Whose generous investment of themselves is the reason for the dividends you daily enjoy? Your heart will be more full and your life richer when you thankfully remember the ones who have made you who you are. Parents? Family? Spouse? Pastors? Teachers? Mentors? Friends? Maybe today would be the best of times to tell them – in a letter or in person – while you can and while they are there to hear that.

I guess birthdays that note the journey of one’s life and mark the milestones along the way are a time for reflection. My reflection is of a path strewn with blessings I did not earn and grace I could not have demanded. I think I know a little more of what the Psalmist David was feeling when he wrote, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6 NKJV. I will remember thankfully the generosity of God and the graciousness of people who have touched and blessed my everyday life.

My thanks to God today is for those whose life contributed so much more than I could repay.

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Nothing But the Truth

July 22nd, 2009

“Contend earnestly for the faith.” Jude 3 NKJV

“Be true to the Truth!”

My thoughts today are about “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

The truth! That is the oath to which every person is asked to swear when a witness in court. Our entire judicial system operates on the basis of truth telling. So does life and faith. The whole truth! If it is not the whole truth it ceases to be true. Anything left out of truth allows there to be some measure of error – partial truth is not good enough. Nothing but the truth! Anything you add to truth diminishes its purity and distorts its accuracy. Truth cannot be finessed; it is either all true or not true at all.

Jesus said this of the god of this world; “There is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:45 NLT. The devil and enemy of your soul does not deal in truth at all. When he tried to distort a measure of truth when confronting Jesus in the wilderness temptations, Jesus answered with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. See Matthew 4:1-11 NIV.

God “who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2 NKJV) values truth very highly. Read the stern warning given in the Bible about anyone who would add to the Bible or take away from its words. See Revelation 22:18-19 NIV. The Apostle Paul plainly declares, “Let God be true and every man a liar.” Romans 3:4 NIV. It was unthinkable to Paul that it could ever be otherwise.

A dear friend of mine reminded me that in counsel years before, I said to him a few simple words that gave him clarity when so much seemed confused, “Be true to the truth!” Don’t mess with it; don’t rationalize it; don’t adjust it for your advantage; don’t compromise it; don’t be casual about it. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” John 8:32 NIV.

The Bible urges you as a Christ-follower, “Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Jude 3 NIV. What is the truth for which you and I are to contend and are called to defend? The truth of our common faith is: infallibility of Scripture, the virgin birth of the Savior, Jesus’ sinless life, the atoning death, the bodily resurrection of Christ, every man’s need to be saved, the only Name by which salvation comes, proclaiming the Gospel to all the earth, and the return of the Savior to rule and reign as Sovereign.

You will only steadfastly contend for what you believe with all of your heart and soul – your conviction of truth. Men do not die for what they know to be untrue. But there are warnings in Scripture. Listen to these words of warning: “We must pay more careful attention therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” Hebrews 2:1 NIV. Isn’t that so descriptive? Drifting away! That’s what happens if you are not fully committed to knowing the truth, living the truth, and holding fast to what’s true. It can happen almost without yours or others’ notice. Move always to the truth, never even a small step away from it. See Proverbs 23:23 NIV.

My prayer for you today is to love the truth and live in the truth always.

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Truth That Saves

July 21st, 2009

“The holy Scriptures . . have given you wisdom to receive salvation.” 2 Timothy 3:15 NLT

“This Book will keep you from sin, but sin will keep you from this Book.”

My thoughts today are about “truth that saves.”

One of the few things of my father’s that I have and cherish is the Bible from which he preached. It is well worn. The leather cover thinned and its edges frayed. The pages are discolored with the years and use, and frequently marked with notes. After his death, I read what he had written in the front of his Bible while still a student in Central Bible College many years earlier, “This Book will keep you from sin, but sin will keep you from this Book.” What a young man wrote, a man of years found still to be true – as have I, and so will you. “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against God.” Psalm 119:11 NIV. God’s Word is truth, like no other than claims to be.

Everyone has an opinion. It seems there is no scarcity of those. You may know something about a lot of things, but nobody knows everything about everything.¬†Everyone thinks their opinion is right and thinks they know the right way. The Bible warns, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 16:25 NKJV. That would be most tragic. You can be so very sincere, only to find later that you were sincerely wrong. You can be fully convinced, yet be without all of the facts.

You might have the facts, but miss the truth. Facts and truth are not always exactly the same. Facts change as circumstances do; truth does not. Life needs one inalterable, unfailing source of truth. The Bible – God’s Word – is that one accurate and trustworthy source of Truth. You disregard it to your own peril and loss.

God’s Word is wisdom that will become a “lamp to your feet and light for your path.” Psalm 119:105 NIV. The Bible shows you the way that is everlasting, empowers you to walk there, and promises the wisdom and blessing you will find when you do. The Bible is truth that cleanses the heart, schools the mind, directs the journey, gives light and life, and saves one’s soul.

God’s Word is both timely now and eternal forever, for the Bible says that though Heaven and earth were to pass away, God’s Word will forever remain. God’s Word must be central to your daily life, for as Job said, “I have treasured the words (of God) more than my daily bread.” Job 23:12 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you will keep God’s Word treasured in your heart.

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Having It Now

July 20th, 2009

“Don’t be greedy for the . . things of this life.” Colossians 3:5 NKJV

“You are not what you have; you are so much more than that.”

My thoughts today are about “having it now.”

My grandfather always and only drove Oldsmobiles, a General Motors product. A few years ago, in a marketing attempt to lure a new and younger buyer they advertised, “This is not your grandfather’s Oldsmobile!” And they were right; it was not – different, not better.

Well today, this is not “your grandfather’s culture.” The culture of my youth was taught things like: an honest wage for a day’s work, cash not credit, saving for the future, living modestly within your means, and being a good neighbor. Today’s culture and its mindset will entice you in the most subtle way to want more than you can afford, to have more than you need, and to want everything your neighbor has, but more. Those are dangerous in their subtlety, and in their application.

Things can become a little too important, and an inaccurate measure of one’s own importance. You are not what you have; you are so much more than that. How has this change come about? There is a false philosophy that started in the Garden of Eden that you can have it all, and you can have it now! Read Genesis 3. That was exactly what the devil used to tempt Eve. She had it all, except for one small thing. Somehow, she was lured to believe that without that God was withholding something from her that she could get on her own. Well, you know how the story goes from there.

Too many people have bankrupted themselves trying to have it all now, and at an even higher price have bankrupted their souls in the process. You were never intended to have it all, and it is not possible to have it all now. Listen to what Jesus advised, “Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much you own.” Luke 12:15 NLT. Following His counsel will spare you a lot of needless grief and worry. Meanwhile, be content and faithful with what you have. “Whoever can be trusted with very little things can also be trusted with much.” Luke 16:10-12 NIV.

The problem is not the things that you have or want. The problem is your wanting things before God provides them and acquiring them without regard to cost, now or later. Best to live with this conviction born of God’s Word, “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 an inordinate, and unholy, insistence of having more than God has yet provided, and attempting to gain those things however you can, as quickly as you can. That never works out the way you hoped. See Matthew 6:32-33 NLT/1 John 2:15-17 NIV.

My prayer for you today is: be grateful to God for what you have and trust Him for all you need.

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