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Archive for February, 2013

Underappreciated

February 18th, 2013

“God . . will not forget how hard you have worked for Him.” Hebrews 6:10 NLT.

Anything done for another’s good will be neither unnoticed nor unrewarded by God.

Ever felt underappreciated? Most of us have. Spouses and parents often do, but friendships and social relationships can also result in an unexpected lack of appreciation, mostly unintended I choose to believe. A good and Godly habit for you to nurture is a simple, sincere “Thank you,” appropriate to every occasion. There will be times when you are thoughtful and helpful, choosing to be benevolent but the beneficiary takes you and your kindness for granted with little or no expression of thanks. Those are times when you might feel underappreciated, or maybe unappreciated altogether.

Be sure of this; your kindness may go unnoticed by men, but anything done in the Lord’s name will be neither unnoticed nor unrewarded by God. “For God is not unfair. He will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how you have shown your love to Him by caring for other Christians, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep right on loving others as long as life lasts in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true.” Hebrews 6:10-11 NLT. People may fail to thank you but God observes and records what you have done sincerely and charitably. God does not forget the smallest good done in His name, even if offering just “a cup of cold water.” See Matthew 10:40-42 NLT.

Is the kindness you show others for your reputation and personal gratification, or for their appreciative response, or simply reflecting God’s goodness to you with only His “well done” expected for your satisfaction? When disappointed by someone’s lack of notice or gratitude, consider if you are preferring a person’s praise rather than God’s. Reflect on Paul’s practical guidance, “. . in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:22-24 NKJV) . .  with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord.” Ephesians 6:5-8 NKJV. Recognition of good may not come at the time, in the manner, or from the person you expected, but God’s reward is sure. I remember my grandfather saying, “God will be no man’s debtor.” In my life, I have found those words true.

Joseph is a good example of deferred but certain reward. In prison with Joseph for displeasing Pharaoh, the chief butler had a puzzling dream. Joseph discerned the dream was from God and said, “within three days Pharaoh . . will restore you to your place.” Read Genesis 40:1-23 NKJV. Joseph only asked, “Remember me when it is well with you . . mention me to Pharaoh . . Then Pharaoh restored the chief butler . . yet [he] did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” Ever feel that has happened to you? For two years, Joseph and his kindness were forgotten! Others might forget but God does not. Joseph’s kindness was not forgotten forever, and at precisely the right time God used Joseph’s underappreciated helpfulness to promote him from prison to prominence. See Genesis 41:9-41.

There are two lessons for consideration today: (1) Perfect genuine appreciation and practice sincere expression to God and others for every grace and generosity received. Read Proverbs 3:27 NKJV. (2) God remembers the good you’ve done for others even when they may themselves forget. “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of [patient endurance], so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” Hebrews 10:35-36 NKJV.

My prayer today is for you to prefer your praise and reward come from God before all others.

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Feelings

February 15th, 2013

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.” Proverbs 4:23 NLT.

Feelings are real but seldom reliable, neither to be ignored nor fully trusted.

Do you ever consider how much everyday life is governed by emotions? There is a close link between what you think and what you feel. Thoughts and emotions are usually the origin of what people believe, and therefore what they do. But should those be allowed such authority? Emotions are a gift from God to enhance and enrich the human experience, adding color and joy to life. Don’t be shy about them; enjoy feelings richly but don’t be ruled by them.

The Bible counsels, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.” Proverbs 4:23 NLT. Your emotions are sourced where the Bible calls, “the heart of man.” Proverbs 20:5 NKJV. That isn’t referring to a physical heart, pumping life-giving blood and oxygen through your body. See Psalm 28:7 NIV. When I read every reference to “heart” in a Bible concordance, I was surprised at the number. To God, the heart and emotions are important matters, even primary. The Bible says the first and great commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart . . soul . . mind, and . . strength.” Mark 12:30 NKJV.

Many times, you will be tempted to cater to your feelings, directed by whims and wants. Realize how unreliable, therefore misleading, feelings can be but also know the authority you can have over your emotions. You might wonder, “How can I ignore how I feel?” There are times when you must. After allowing myself to be ruled by feelings and permitting them to decide and direct my attitudes and actions for too long, I learned two things: feelings are real but seldom reliable, neither to be ignored nor fully trusted. When they are right, enjoy them; when they are wrong, rise above them.

Certainly, acknowledge your feelings. Ignoring does not remove them. Examine them honestly according to the truth of the God’s Word. Godly emotions align with reality; they are helpful and healthy; they agree with God’s truth; they direct you in a Godly path. As with thoughts, so with feelings, “We refute arguments and theories and reasonings, and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the true knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away, captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 AMP. When your thoughts and emotions are “captives” obedient to Christ, you walk with “love . . a pure heart . . a good conscience . . and a sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5 NIV.

Emotional maturity is choosing to trust truth above feelings, and following truth before feelings. Feelings are fickle, changing by the moment without cause or reason. You might feel badly with no idea of why, or feel wonderfully though all is not well. Unexplainable? Yes, but you choose how you will live; choose to trust truth. Obey God at all times. Trust Him in everything. Love Him completely. Life is about your heart being right with God.

A friend told me I once counseled him to, “Be true to the Truth,” in a situation where his emotions were all over the map. Those words are a “true north” when confused or uncertain. Though I do not recall doing so, I hope I did for that is what I deeply believe. Above all else, I want to be true to God’s Truth. That’s how you successfully “guard your heart,” and all else affected from there.

My prayer for you today is to value truth highly and to that be steadfastly true.

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Maximized Potential

February 13th, 2013

“The Lord said . . ‘What is that in your hand?’” Exodus 4:2 NIV.

Great achievement awaits your reliance on the power of God.

You have potential, God-given and unique to you. Few recognize their full potential; still fewer reach theirs. When you believe God crafted you in His image and likeness, you must accept that you are given a capacity beyond your present abilities. See Psalm 139:13-16 NLT. Your potential is your unique capacity. Inventory what God gives you, not what you lack. You do not develop potential by focusing on limitations. Everyone has limitations. Some adjust their lives to limitations; others rise above theirs. The choice is yours.

When God called a reluctant Moses as deliverer of Israel,“The Lord said . . ‘What is that in your hand?’” Exodus 4:2 NIV. In his hand, Moses held all that God needed, as do you. What God has put in “in your hand” He will use for His glory. The shepherd’s staff in Moses’ hand represented a potential he had not yet recognized God could use to display His power and roll back the waters of the Red Sea. Achievement awaited Moses’ willingness to surrender his staff and self for God’s empowering.

Whatever you think your limitations are – history, age, health, education, finances, native intelligence, talents – they need not dissuade you from greater accomplishments but can persuade you to trust God, without whom you cannot reach your potential however impressive your previous or present accomplishments. See John 15:5 NLT. Jesus said, “Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me, you can do nothing” – nothing of lasting value; nothing of eternal importance; nothing in comparison with what God can do through you.

When you truly believe God can when you can’t, you will worry less about inabilities and pray more for His enabling. Strength and abilities alone will not fully attain your potential; great achievement and effectiveness await your reliance on the power of God – the fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit maximizes your potential.

Paul wrestled with something he considered limiting, repeatedly asking God for its removal. Instead, God convinced Paul that His grace was sufficient, whatever limits time and circumstance may impose, for, “My grace is sufficient . . My power is made perfect in [your] weakness.” Paul’s response? “I [accept] all the more gladly my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me . . For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV. Like Paul, “[You] can do everything with the help of Christ who gives the strength [you] need.” Philippians 4:13.

Limitations must not determine possibilities; God can change those to opportunities. What you believe to be strengths limit you; at such times you do not depend upon God. Usually, when you think you can do it all by yourself you struggle, even fail. You most succeed when and where you trust God’s wisdom, direction, and power, as well as accept the generosity and assistance of others. True success rests upon the experience and achievement of others before you and with you. There you reach your potential. Read Colossians 1:27 NKJV.

My prayer for you this day is to discover all God has placed within you and before you.

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Up Close and Personal

February 11th, 2013

“That which . . we have heard . . seen . . touched.” 1 John 1:1 NIV.

The spiritual experience of others is no adequate substitute for your own.

There are two things I notice about people’s lives today; most lives are busy, therefore isolated to varying degrees. I think the former is likely to be the origin of the latter. People don’t have enough time for much other than their crowded schedules, therefore lacking energy for meaningful fellowship or spiritual community. Tiredness and loneliness of soul are the effects. God created you for spiritual and personal community, establishing the Sabbath principle for its accommodation. The principle of Sabbath sustains a rhythm of pace and peace that allow your soul to discover refreshing and rest in God’s presence and others’ company.

You can’t really know anyone from a distance. You may have much information about them from what others know or report of them, but a real relationship requires personal interaction and first hand knowledge. Do not be content with a second-hand acquaintance with God. Your everyday experience with God must always be “up close and personal.” Settle for less at your own loss. John, the once fiery and competitive disciple of Jesus – once willing to call fire down from Heaven on an occasion and on another pressing Jesus for His promise of prominence at His right hand – changed incrementally as he walked alongside Jesus and received His teaching.

When John’s experience with Jesus became “up close and personal,” his natural temperament altered as a result, as yours can be. John described this process for himself and others as: “That which . . we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” 1 John 1:1 NIV. Hearing, seeing, touching – no one does that for you; that’s personal, even individual. Peter was witness to the same, “We did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”  2 Peter 1:16-19 NKJV. Imagine; eyewitnesses of His majesty! Today, will you open your heart to be enraptured by His unrivaled majesty?

The spiritual experience of others can never be an adequate substitute for your own. You can learn from theirs, even be inspired by theirs, but your experience of God must be personal in order to be life-changing. “We all . . beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image [in ever increasing shades of splendor], by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV/JBPhillips. God has even more for you than salvation.

As glorious and transformative as forgiveness and redemption is, your primary encounter with the Savior is the bare minimum of spiritual experience, permitting your initial entrance into fellowship with God. Without that introduction, you remain outside the Kingdom of God, apart from relationship with Him or His Son. Only then can your new life develop to maturity. “Now we are the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:1-2 NIV. You will be like Him! Every day, you can experience more of God, a growing fullness, “new every morning!” The process may seem incremental to you, but the spiritual maturity that results is fundamental. See Ephesians 4:13-15 NKJV. Now, off together on the adventure of a lifetime!

My prayer for you today is that you will experience God for yourself and know Him more fully.

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Thankfulness

February 8th, 2013

“Oh, that men would give thanks to God for His goodness.” Psalm 107:8 NKJV.

Even the misfortune of circumstance or mistreatment of others is redeemed in God’s hands.

Much more good fills one’s life than bad, though it doesn’t always feel that way in a particular moment. Occasionally, the good can be overshadowed by the other, if not overlooked altogether. Much of life results from your focus and choice. You will see what you’re looking for, whether the best or worst. I suggest you should always look for what you hope to find. Choosing to look for the good, you will not focus on the other.

You may be surprised how often you will find good around you, as well as in yourself and others. Read Psalm 33:5 NKJV. You will be happier, while lesser things will seem increasingly extraneous or mere distractions. “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! . . He fills the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalm 107:8-9 NKJV. Goodness is both God’s character and His specialty. David’s admonition becomes a recurring refrain in this Psalm. (See Vs. 8/15/21/31). Such clear repetition is a spiritual emphasis not to overlook.

This Psalm is King David’s joyful rehearsal of God’s love, and David’s thankfulness for, “[God’s] goodness and wonderful works.” Read the Psalm deliberately; meditate on God’s faithfulness; rehearse your history in a better light; see and celebrate the goodness of God in every circumstance. David was also certain of this: “You crown the year with goodness; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.” Psalm 65:11 NKJV/NLT. It is still early enough in this New Year to choose faith for goodness to crown yourself, family, and finances.

Your pain, as well as your own plans, can blind you to the sovereign goodness of God over your life. You cannot give thanks for goodness you fail to recognize as such. Learn to see the benevolence of God in situations. Who could have struggled more with unfairness and subsequent suffering than Old Testament Joseph? Joseph suffered his brothers’ jealousy, imposed slavery, years of separation, false accusation, unjust imprisonment, then overlooked by those he helped – yet Joseph could still see the goodness of God upon his life.

In his later years, Joseph summed up his appraisal of life this way, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20 NIV. Man’s best or worst intentions neither pre-empt nor prevent the benevolent intentions of your God. Read Psalm 34:8 NLT/1 Peter 2:3 NIV.

Even the misfortune of circumstance and the mischief or mistreatment of others can be redeemed in God’s love and purpose. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them . . to become like his Son.” Romans 8:28-29 NLT. Love God with all your heart; trust Him in all times. You will experience difficult situations along the way; everyone does. Read Psalm 27:13-14 NKJV.

In such moments, God has not changed. His nature and character are steadfast. God is good all the time. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 RSV. Thankfulness is appreciation for goodness today and anticipation for tomorrow. Be thankful! Thankfulness is the appropriate response of one’s heart to the goodness of God.

My prayer for you today is that you will live assured that God is good, all the time.

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