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Archive for May, 2011

Pressures

May 10th, 2011

“Under pressure . . your faith . . shows.” James 1:3 The Message

“Pressure, rightly responded to with grace and faith, produces valuable, spiritual qualities.”

My thoughts today are about “pressures.”

Pressure of one sort or another seems an unavoidable part of everyday life – whether financial, relational, occupational, emotional, or spiritual pressure. It’s not all that pleasant when it’s happening, but all pressure is not bad. Some pressure is normal, and any pressure can turn out to be profitable. Without any pressure, you would under-achieve, never accomplishing your fullest potential. You get stronger by resisting what would weaken you; you become better through overcoming challenges requiring that you do so. Neither deadlines nor difficulties are unprofitable, except when self-imposed by your lack of planning or poor choices.

Though long ago, I still remember a high school science class when the teacher demonstrated the power of surrounding air pressure to crush a metal can when the air pressure inside was reduced significantly. The can collapsed! The object no longer had adequate pressure to withstand the forces against it. Don’t let that happen to you.

You may have heard the practical advice, “Don’t let the pressure get to you.” Is that possible, and if so, how? Pressure externally is not the problem you think it to be, as long as there is a sufficient force internally to resist and withstand it. Pressure exists; the answer is not found in life that is free from stress, strain, and anxiety.

Jesus both promised and warned, “These things have I spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NKJV. Listen to what God says to your heart. God’s Word inside your heart is the inner strength that withstands every outward force to the contrary. “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might . . that you may be able to withstand . . and having done all to stand, stand therefore . .” Read Ephesians 6:10-18 NKJV.

“You are of God . . and have overcome, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 NKJV. Safely in Christ Jesus and abiding in the truth and power of God’s Word, you are more than equal to any task or trouble you encounter. The Bible says that you need perseverance, character, and hope strongly within you. Do you know how those dynamic, spiritual qualities develop? Paul wrote, “knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance (produces) character, and character (produces) hope.” Romans 5:3-4 NKJV. Pressure, rightly responded to with grace and in faith, produces valuable, spiritual qualities. Tribulation, is a translation of a Greek word, “thilipsis,” describing “a pressing from all sides.” Paul describes an occasion of his being “pressed beyond measure, above strength . .” 2 Corinthians 1:2-10 KJV.

James, the brother of Jesus, confirms in his letter, “Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” James 1:2-4 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that in every pressure you will find His strength to withstand.

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Countenance

May 9th, 2011

“Joseph . . looked . . and saw that they were sad.” Genesis 40:6 NKJV

“A clear conscience makes a clear countenance, a troubled soul a clouded one.”

My thoughts today are about the “countenance.”

Your countenance is far more than just your physical appearance. Ever notice how something as small as a smile seems to improve a person’s physical appearance and that’s just surface; you can put it on and take it off anytime you choose. Putting on a happy face may fool people who don’t know you but not those who do. Consider the greater impact of a smile that radiates from a joyful spirit; that communicates even more about you to others more truthfully. Solomon wrote, “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance.” Proverbs 15:13 NKJV. Your countenance results from what is internal being expressed externally.

It has been said that the “eyes are the windows of the soul.” An incident in the life of Joseph is relevant to this. Two men each have dreams that trouble them. When Joseph sees them, their concern becomes obvious to him without a word being spoken. Their eyes told their story. “Joseph . . noticed the dejected look on their faces . .  ‘Why do you look so worried today?’ And they replied, ‘We both had dreams last night but there is no one to tell us what they mean.’ So Joseph replied, ‘Tell me what you saw (in your dreams).’” Genesis 40:6-8 NLT. Joseph took time to notice, and help.

I believe the soul is accurately and ultimately reflected in one’s countenance. A clear conscience makes a clear countenance; a troubled soul clouds one’s countenance. See Acts 24:16 NKJV. Yesterday as people were entering for the Mothers Day service, I was standing near the entrance when a friend entered, shook my hand and simply said, “Pastor, would you pray for me today?” Not an altogether unusual request normally. But as I held her hand and looked into her eyes, I knew this was much more than a simple request. Her eyes were very sad and her countenance distressed. When I asked, “What’s wrong?” her story tumbled out. “Last night my son was killed by a car while walking. I knew this is where I needed to be this morning.” On Mother’s Day, she heard the news her son had been killed by a reckless driver the night before. I am so thankful I was there to see the pain on her countenance and hear her broken heart.

Joseph, who had his own problems, took time to notice and care about someone else’s pain. Involvement costs you more than time; it costs you caring. How do you live your life? It is easy in a busy life to be self-absorbed, occupied with your own plans and problems, too busy to notice those around you. Bit if that is true, it may be that your superficial relationships will leave you with no one to notice your pain when life collapses in on you. David felt that kind of pain – pursued, isolated, distressed, uncertain, alone. “There is no one who acknowledges me; refuge has failed me; no one cares for my soul. I cried out to you, O Lord, I said ‘You are my refuge . .’” Psalm 142:1-7 NKJV. Some one, whose life will touch yours today, may need you to notice and care.

My prayer for you today is this timeless benediction, “The Lord bless and keep you . . the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” Numbers 6:22-26.

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Your Gifting

May 6th, 2011

“A man must be content to receive the gift . . given him from Heaven.” John 3:27 The Amplified

“The path to your greatest success is found in doing God’s will.”

My thoughts today are about “your gifting.”

A lot of people are less successful than they could have been because they are trying to do what they want instead of what they should. You are not equally gifted for every endeavor; you can be successful in any endeavor for which God has gifted you. Success and satisfaction in life is found when you discover and do what God has called you to do, and that’s when and where you will also find your giftedness. Too much of too many lives is wasted by persons determining they want to do what they see some talented individual do easily and well, while they lack the preparation, abilities, commitment, and experience the other enjoys. Find what you are to do and be.

The path to your greatest success is found in doing God’s will. When you trust and follow God’s plan for your best life, you will be: willing to sacrifice comfort and convenience, enthusiastic to work harder and longer, and dedicated to learning the skills necessary to be the best at what you do. You and I do not know what we are capable of doing; God does. He made each of us exactly for that specialized task.

The disciples of John were jealous for him when the crowds started following Jesus instead. John’s attitude was, “A man must be content to receive the gift . . given him from heaven. There is no other source . . He must increase; I must decrease.” John 3:27/30 Amplified Bible (See also 1 Corinthians 4:7 NLT). Are you content with what God has given you to do? John felt no aspiration for a place God had given someone else. His success was not diminished, nor his sense of achievement. In fact, upon John’s death, Jesus praised John, “Of all who have ever lived, none was greater than John.” Luke 7:28 NLT. John knew who he was and what He could do best for God’s purposes. He was happy to be himself, not vying for anyone else’s purpose, nor needing to compare or compete.

If you aren’t happy as yourself, you will be constantly competing with others, and/or comparing yourself with them. Paul is also a good example, “We dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12-18 NKJV. You were created as one of a kind; let your uniqueness serve God fully. Until you are content with God’s plan for your life, you will struggle to be something you aren’t and try things you are not best at doing, which can only lead to frustration and disappointment, not achievement.

I have observed that God’s assistance accompanies His assignment. I think we often misuse Paul’s words, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 NKJV. It seems like that wonderful promise is abused when the accent is more of your doing all things, rather than the reality of your complete dependence on His strength in all of things you do in His Name. It must be balanced with the truth of Jesus words, “Without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 NKJV. Christ does not “strengthen” you to do whatever you want; He strengthens you in what He directs.

My prayer for you today is: desire all God has for you, nothing more, nothing less.

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Favor with God and Man

May 5th, 2011

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Luke 2:52 NIV.

“Favor is an unexplained disposition and unexpected investment in your well-being by others.”

My thoughts today are about “favor with God and man.”

Everyday life is a lot easier when you live in such a way that you enjoy “favor with God and man.” Luke 2:32 NIV. Favor is an unexplained disposition and unexpected investment in your well-being by God or others. I have a friend, Kenny (more like family than friend to me), who is often described by others as having been “born under a lucky star.” He has been diligent, worked hard, and succeeded beyond his peers. Now, he and I both know that luck and stars have nothing to do with his success and reward. He serves God passionately and tirelessly and God blesses him, and he lives and treats others in such a way that people who hardly know him like him immediately and wish him every happiness and success. Kenny is a man that enjoys favor with God and man.

People would like to think that favor prevents and protects from things that are  challenging and difficult, but that would not be true. My friend has had plenty of such times, but they have never changed the faith and optimism with which he lives, and by which he cheers and encourages others. Favor is God’s unchanged disposition toward you that adds blessing to your life and turns every obstacle into a greater achievement.

God also can give you favor with people, both friends and even enemies. When Israel was in captivity in Egypt, God promised Israel two things: favor with their enemies (Proverbs 16:7), and ample provision for their journey and new life. (Philippians 4:19). “I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and it shall be when you go, you shall not go empty-handed.” Exodus 3:21 NKJV. God’s favor made the Egyptians give their “silver, gold, and clothing” extravagantly to the same Hebrews they had been impoverishing.

From Jesus’ earliest years, the Bible describes Him this way, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52 NIV. Before you discount the relevance of that because it was written about God’s Son, consider these words of Solomon: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:1-4 NIV. That is written for you! Favor is as much a part of your healthy, well-rounded development as it was of Jesus – mentally, physically, spiritually and socially.

Favor can do what your best skills and efforts may not – opening doors otherwise closed to you, removing obstacles impeding your progress, introducing unanticipated opportunities, and inviting you into select circles and relationships. Favor is networking in the best possible way! Pray for favor; walk before God in integrity and obedience; extend favor to others; anticipate favor from others. Here is God’s Word for you everyday, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation!” 2 Corinthians 6:2 NIV. Also read 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you enjoy the special grace and favor of Jesus Christ.

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Unfinished Business

May 4th, 2011

“If you are displeased, I will go back.” Numbers 22:34 NIV

“Unfinished business with others can become unfinished business with God.”

My thoughts today are about “unfinished business.”

Not many people, if any, get everything right on their first try. Life is about recognizing when you are free to move forward, and when you need to go back to do something right that was done wrong, or just left undone. “A wrongdoer is often one who has left something undone, not always someone who has done something.” (Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor). Is there something in your life, in your marriage and family, at your job, or in a friendship that is unfinished business?

I remember too many occasions that I could have encouraged someone so easily with a kind word I left unspoken, or taken more time to listen but didn’t when I could have. I cringe at my lack of responsiveness recently when someone very dear to me was sharing a matter of personal importance to their family; I later realized that I had not given them my full attention nor expressed my care, because I was distracted with something I was on my way to do. I allowed the urgent to crowd out the important. Too many things can remain unfinished business in life.

Today’s verse is from the story of Balaam, a prophet, who found himself on a task without God’s direction and contrary to God’s will. Have you ever found yourself on a course of your own choosing, intentionally or unintentionally without consideration or regard for God’s will? Finally, Balaam became aware of the error of his intended path and the displeasure of God, “I have sinned, for I did not know that You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if You are displeased, I will go back.” Numbers 23:34 NIV. When you realize what you are doing – or failing to do – is wrong, stop doing so! You do not want the end of your life to be filled with painful regrets of important things left undone with eternal consequence.

The moment you are aware of God’s displeasure, turn around. Your righteous relationship with God as well as your personal and spiritual well-being may depend upon your doing what you left undone, or correcting what you did wrong. You should do so not out of fear of what God may do to you if you don’t; you do so out of love for God, with concern for the disappointment you would bring to God’s heart by failing to do so. Leave no unfinished business between you and God – or you and anyone else! “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” Acts 24:16 NIV.

Here’s what the Bible says about unfinished business: “If you are standing before the altar, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember than someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. The come and offer your sacrifice to God.” Matthew 5:23-24 NLT. Unfinished business with others can become unfinished business with God. Unfinished business could be as simple as – appreciation unspoken, a need ignored, respect not given, an honor not shown, a kindness unreturned, a wrong not forgotten, forgiveness not offered, a sin unconfessed, or obedience delayed. I have to stop writing; I have some unfinished business.

My prayer for you today is: keep short accounts of things to be done, or made right.

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