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The Ultimate Ambition

January 22nd, 2010

“Enoch . . had this testimony that he pleased God.” Hebrews 11:5 NKJV

“The ultimate ambition is this: to live a life with which God and you are well pleased.”

My thoughts today are about “the ultimate ambition.”

Ambition – don’t leave home without it. Ambition is a good thing when wisely chosen and rightly directed. Ambition directs your efforts and energy in the more profitable ways. It energizes you to be better than you would otherwise be. It motivates you to do a little more than others are willing to do – to sacrifice more, to work longer, to try harder, to give and do whatever it takes. Ambition keeps you on task. Ambition paints the picture of what you most want to achieve, allowing you to see it before you reach it. Ambition is your picture of what the future could look like.

Every person is finally the product of some differing measure of ambitions. Can you see how important it is that your ambition is pure as well as clear? Since you are drawn to your ambition, you must give careful thought to what direction it will take you and where you will likely end up. Whether you realize it at the moment or not, you make decisions based on your internal objectives. Desire influences decisions; decisions determine direction; direction decides destiny. That’s how simple everyday life really is. See Galatians 1:10 NIV.

Tragically, some have little or no ambition, just wandering – stumbling really – through life with no understanding of purpose, therefore little sense of direction. As tragic, are those whose ambition is misplaced and whose lives become misdirected, finishing nothing as they imagined at the start. You can succeed greatly and still miserably fail to be satisfied with your life at its end. Success is no guarantee of satisfaction.

Ambition is not usually singular but encompasses a broad scope of your life, including visions of what you will do, what you will have, and who you will be. Who you want to be is the most important of those, or you will get lost in your work or your possessions – until those will shape and eventually define who you are. That will rarely be the same as who you meant to be.

You must have one all encompassing vision of your future to which every other ambition submits. Let me suggest to you that the ultimate ambition is this: to live a life with which God and you are well pleased. Jesus is your shining example of such an ambition that is pure and clear, “For I always do what pleases Him.” John 8:29 NIV. That makes everything about life uncomplicated. God Himself announced Jesus’ success at His life-goal: “Jesus received honor from God the Father . . a voice came . . this is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” 2 Peter 1:17 NIV.

I can almost hear you thinking, “How can I possibly do that? Yeah, but that was Jesus; I am far from divine.” But you can do that. God says you can, if you will. Listen to the Bible’s answer to yours and my dilemma. “And now, may God . . equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, all that is pleasing to Him.” Hebrews 13:20 NLT. See 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6 NIV. That’s how Enoch was able to have “this testimony that he pleased God,” and the only way that you will as well.

My prayer for you today is this: make Jesus the center of your every desire. 1 Thessalonians 4:1 NIV.

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When You Don’t Know When

January 21st, 2010

“No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11 NKJV

“However much God gives, He is no poorer for it.”

My thoughts today are about “when you don’t know when.”

I think anyone who knows God fully believes this truth: “No good thing will God withhold from them that walk uprightly.” I mean, why would a loving and giving God even want to withhold what is good? However much He gives, He is no poorer for it. You and I with our limited resource might desire to give what another needs, yet not have the ability to do so.

But that certainly is not true of God. God has desire, capacity, and ability. Jesus described a child asking his father for good things, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will he give him a stone? . . If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” Read Matthew 7:7-11 NIV.

There are times when life seems to trample on truth. Painful realities force their way into your day, and even worse they linger longer than you think you can bear. I have found that most people can manage slight pain for a lengthy time, or even severe pain briefly, but who can bear the greatest of pain the longest of time? Pain and delay challenges your belief until you cry out, “Where are the good gifts the father gives . . where is the good thing God will not withhold?”

The Apostle Paul wrestled with that kind of physical and emotional pain from an undescribed “thorn in the flesh,” and physically languished in a Roman prison, while what would appear to any of us as being a “good thing” seemed to be withheld. Still Paul wrote confidently to the Philippian Christians, My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NKJV. I want to live with that kind of unshakable faith.

But when the real need of your moment remains unmet too long, don’t you wonder or ask why? The unwanted and unanswered question presses into my mind asking, “What is the hold-up?” How about you? It seems I go from wondering how my need will be met, to asking why my need is not met yet, until finally wanting to demand of God, “When will my need be met?” Your heart knows God will provide; you struggle when you don’t know when. It does not help when God remains silent. But know this; God’s delays are not His denial.

There is only one answer for the times in life when all you know about God doesn’t match the  reality you are presently experiencing. That’s when you look up into the face of a loving and gracious God and say with all your heart, “My times are in your hands!” Psalm 31:15 NIV. Either God has something far better for you when you would gladly settle for less right now, or your need is not what you really need right now. When you don’t know when, God does. He is always on time, never late.

My prayer for you today is that your calendar and clock always agree with God’s.

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Unhindered Prayer

January 20th, 2010

“That nothing will hinder your prayers.” 1 Peter 3:7 NIV

“God is not ignoring you; He may be  just waiting for you to trust His will and want His way.”

My thoughts today are about “unhindered prayer.”

Can you imagine anything worse than seeming to be ignored, especially if you are talking to God? But I think that a lot of people needlessly feel that way about prayer; maybe you have at some time. For some, prayer just doesn’t seem to work. It is not a good thing when God doesn’t hear your prayers, but apparently it is a possibility.

Prayer was never meant to be a matter of talking to yourself. That may have the side benefit of being psychologically therapeutic, but is not what prayer is all about. If you alone are both speaker and hearer, you might as well just journal in a diary. Prayer is a holy discourse, not a monologue. Learn to listen as well. “In everything, by prayer with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:7 NKJV. Come before God with a humble, thankful heart.

What might hinder God from hearing your prayers? Consider this; prayer must have a higher and greater purpose than just informing God of your laundry list of wants and needs. That would just be wasting yours and God’s time? A God that can answer prayer certainly knows your needs better than you do. Jesus said, “Your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:8 NLT.

Perhaps you have been intent on only giving God specific instructions as to what you want Him to do for you, and how and when you expect that to happen. Might not that be a bit presumptuous? That could hinder your prayer. Prayer is not demanding that God meet your expectations in exactly that way that most suits you. When you don’t get the desired response, you might assume He has not heard you, though He has. He’s not ignoring you; He is just waiting for you to trust His will and way.

In such cases, I am not sure that God hasn’t heard your prayers as much as the possibility that you have not prayed a prayer that God can answer. The Bible says, “This is the confidence that we have in approaching God that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” 1 John 5:14 NIV. The clearer you are about His will and the more surrendered you are to that, the more confident you become in your praying. Wanting your way without submission to His will would hinder your prayers.

There are some other factors to answered prayer. Here’s some wise and clear counsel from the Bible, “Men (should) pray everywhere, without wrath and doubting.” 1 Timothy 2:8 NKJV. “The fervent prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective . . for the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to the  prayer (of the righteous), but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” James 5:16 /1 Peter 3:12 NIV. “Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Matthew 21:22 NKJV. See Hebrews 11:6 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that your communication with God be true and free, and your prayers unhindered.

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Things That Endure

January 19th, 2010

“These three will endure – faith, hope and love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 NILT

“Things of quality endure; they grow in value. Build your life on those.”

My thoughts today are about “things that endure.”

Too man things today are made to be disposable. That makes them convenient. When you are through with them, you simply throw them away. That is also reflected in lifestyles. Relationships are transient, easily replaced by others. Marriages are rarely life-long now, only as long as convenient and mutually satisfying. Jobs and paychecks replace careers. Houses are for trading up rather than a place to raise a family. Moving on is often chosen over staying put.

We seem not to expect things to be built to last, not even meant to do so; they serve their purpose and are then dispensable. Often it is just a matter of cost or time. Plastic costs less than metal, but wears out or breaks more easily. Furniture made of solid wood is more expensive than cheap veneer, yet looks just as good (at least for a while) but is cheaper to make and costs less to buy – and of course, will not last as long.

Most people today prefer new rather than old. Ever wonder why quality antiques cost so much? It’s simple. They were better built and endured the wear and tear of time. Our home is beautifully graced by a couple of lovely European buffets from the 1800’s. They show their age a little, but also show the art and skill of the craftsmen who made them. Things of quality endure; they grow in value.

I want my life and faith to be like that, enduring disappointments and difficulties and growing in eternal value. I want your life to be like that too. Here’s what I have learned about everyday life. Endurance and value have everything to do with how you choose to build your life. “Each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-16 NIV.

Jesus told the story of two homebuilders. They both began with a similar vision and expense. They seem to have invested similar time and effort. They both experienced common but unfortunate circumstances. Their results were tragically different. One house endured; the other collapsed. The difference? One was built to last on a foundation that would last; the other was built on things that shift and change. Read Matthew 7:24-27 NLT. What are you trusting to endure?

A lot of things you may feel important right now in the routines of everyday life might not seem so valuable in the perspective of eternity. Too many things are all about right now; eternity is forever. Why not build your life upon real things that are truly indispensable – things that endure and grow more valued?

The surrounding context of today’s verse is about good things which are replaced by better things – things which are temporary that will be replaced by things more permanent. Here is Paul’s conclusion: “There are three things that will endure – faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT. Now that is where you can build a life that lasts.

My prayer for you today is: cherish what is irreplaceable therefore indispensable.

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Cause and Effect

January 18th, 2010

“Honor God . . give Him the first and the best.” Proverbs 3:9 The Message

“He must be Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.”

My thoughts today are about “cause and effect.”

It really is this simple; life works best when you choose to always put God first. Now that sounds much easier than it seems to be for most of us. Maybe you try to put God first some times, maybe even most times. But at all times? What do you think?

I have heard it reasoned that “He must be Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.” Well, I think that same principle may apply here as well. He must be first all the time, or is He first any time, really? And if you would choose to put God first some time, why would you not do so all the time?

Solomon also wrote Ecclesiastes about a season in his life when he put himself first all the time – gained every desired possession, tried every pleasure, knew every luxury, satisfied every appetite – and found only emptiness. In this passage of Scripture (Proverbs 3:1-10), Solomon is now convinced that God’s ways are better than his own. You will be much better off when you are convinced of that also. Read Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV/ Psalm 18:30 NLT. What a contrast between reading Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

Proverbs is Solomon’s testimony that God offers many wonderful and practical blessings for those who honor God with their life: living long and well (vs 1-2), favor of God and man (vs 3-4), clear direction (vs 5-6), health and life (vs 7-8), and abundance and overflow (vs 9-10). Are those things that you would like to have in your everyday life? Do you think you can successfully provide those for yourself?

Today’s verse demonstrates the faithful principle of cause and effect. Paul expressed this same principle in these words: “The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others – ignoring God – harvests a crop of weeds. All he will have to show for his life is weeds. But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life!” Galatians 6:8-9 The Message. In the example of today’s verse, the cause is your putting God first and giving Him your best; the effect is to experience that which makes life truly rich and meaningful – God’s blessing. Read Isaiah 1:19 NIV.

Jesus validated this principle of cause and effect in His words, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 NKJV/NLT. You seek God; God provides your needs. You know where I think this really begins? Exactly where it makes the least sense to your natural mind – in the very practical, everyday arena of finances. The Bible calls that stewardship. God wants you to live with a practical generosity toward God and others. If you can’t trust God with the first and the best of what you have been given, how will you truly honor God with all that you are and have – your heart, your time, your abilities, your relationships? See 1 Corinthians 4:2 NKJV.

When you give your heart to Jesus and commit your life to Him, the very first place that you should make Him Lord of all is in your finances. Unfortunately, it is often the last. Three things are important to remember: God is your Source of all things good, God owns everything you have been given, and every spending decision is at its heart a spiritual decision. Read Malachi 3:10-12 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is: keep God first in all things and give God your best at all times.

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