Archive for May, 2013

No Turning Back

May 31st, 2013

“I press on to . . win the [supreme and heavenly] prize.” Philippians 3:14 AMP.

A sovereign grace is balanced with a severe discipleship.

My thoughts and comments today are about “no turning back.”

Onward and upward is a good plan for a Godly life. Life is not very well lived, always looking in a rear view mirror. For most of us our lives are a mixed bag of experiences. Whatever your history – good, bad, or irrelevant – any focus there is misplaced and restrictive. Be grateful for the good, repentant of the bad, and dismissive of the irrelevant. In God’s plan, there are always better things ahead for you than are already behind you. In God’s grace, you are somebody, going somewhere, doing something of eternal importance. In God’s purpose, you find true significance and security.

When Paul’s sight was restored after his radical encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road, he saw his life more clearly than ever he had. Read Acts 9:3-18/ Philippians 3:4-12 NIV. In such an encounter with God, your history is redeemed, your ministry determined, and your destiny clear. Those things do not “happen to you;” they happen with your cooperative obedience. Paul explained the process this way, “Work out [to its expected conclusion] your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13 NKJV.

You must be a willing participant and become an obedient partner with God in the process. Salvation is accomplished in a moment of belief; soul transformation is a process, progressively achieved across a lifetime of surrender and submission. Usefulness in the Kingdom of God requires purpose.

For Paul, the way forward was clear, “I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. I do not count myself to have apprehended, but one thing I do, forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the [Heavenly] call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind . .” Philippians 3:12-15 NKJV. Forgetting, reaching, pressing – the past is past; the present demands priority; the future requires effort and urgency; the reward is eternal and incomparable. Missing that, a life is wasted.

You lose your way forward when looking back. To one who said, “I will follow You,” Jesus was direct and clear, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God.” Read Luke 9:62 NIV. A sovereign grace is balanced with a severe discipleship. Such truthfulness clashes with short attention spans and lifestyles of keeping all options open.

You can feel Paul’s pain and imagine his tears while writing these words, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed . .” 2 Timothy 4:9 NKJV. For Paul, there were no regrets, no second thoughts, no other options, no turning back. You best understand Paul by knowing his singular, life-long passion, “That I may know Him in the power of His resurrection and in the fellowship of His sufferings . .” Philippians 3:10 NKJV. Jesus was clear, “If any man desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” See Luke 9:23-25 NKJV.

My prayer for you this day is that you press forward without doubt or distraction.

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Graduation Day

May 29th, 2013

“The crown . . which the Lord . . will award to me on that day.” 2 Timothy 4:8 NIV.

God rewards those who finish triumphantly, with undiminished faith.

My thoughts and comments today are about “Graduation Day.”

This is the season for graduations. Days ago, the Academy Principal and I presented diplomas to our 2013 graduates, among which was our younger granddaughter, Madelyn. As each name was called, a joyful graduate came forward to be recognized for their individual and academic achievements – a proud moment for students, and families as well. Part of their academic journey complete, another commenced.

In eternity, there is also a day of commensurate recognition that surpasses any comparison in this lifetime. God has appointed a time for honor and recognition. Ultimate recognition of a Godly life will come in Heaven’s surrounding company of family and friends. See Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV.

Surveying his ministry and life, the Apostle Paul wrote, “The time has come for my departure . . Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not to me only, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8 NIV. Paul had done all he could, obediently and faithfully; “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” Vs. 7.

It’s never as much about how you start as how you finish. Reward is for those who persevere cheerfully and finish triumphantly, with faith undiminished. Finish strong; finish well. Paul’s faith rested on the character of “. . the Lord, the Righteous Judge,” as yours must rest upon. Paul’s assurance was beyond what he had done, anchored in his certainty of who God is – just and righteous. Read Titus 3:3-8 NIV.

Down here, the best you do can sometimes seem to lack notice or appreciation. But all, great or small, that is done in His Name does not go unnoticed. See Mark 9:41 NKJV. Every edifying word is recorded; every act of obedience is noted; every noble exploit has its reward; every sacrifice in His Name is honored. But those deferred rewards are not always in the coin you assume nor when you might prefer. Be assured, “God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them . . Your Father, who sees in secret, will Himself reward you openly.” Hebrews 6:10 NIV/Matthew 6:4 NKJV.

Your race is not in competition with others nor by comparison with them. Our race is common; rewards are individual. “Holding fast the words of life, so [we] may rejoice in the day of Christ that [we] have not run in vain or labored in vain.” Philippians 2:16 NKJV. I awoke this morning with long-familiar words of a chorus in my spirit, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Him. One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase. So let us run this race, ‘til we see Christ.” Joyfully anticipating His words, “Well done,” I await that incomparable Graduation Day.

My prayer for you today is that you live for the day you stand before God.

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Betwixt and Between

May 27th, 2013

“The boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by waves.” Matthew 14:24 NKJV.

No storm, however long its duration or severity, can keep you from God’s reach.

My thoughts and comments today are about “betwixt and between.”

Every achievement requires three parts: the commencement, the challenges, and the celebration. Some people start celebrating long before they have actually done anything. The birthing of an idea is exciting and its eventual accomplishment is gratifying; the challenge is all that effort and expenditure necessitated in between. Real life is lived in the middle, mostly betwixt and between commencement and celebration. That’s why there are a disproportionate number of beginnings never fully implemented and never completely realized.

In its broader sense, prosperity is reserved for those who successfully navigate through and beyond the inevitable adversity. Matthew relates this incident; “Jesus made His disciples get into a boat and go before Him to the other side . . the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.” Matthew 14:22-25 NKJV.

In the middle is where a person often panics, forgetting their destination and failing to expect Jesus there. Answer a few simple questions from the Bible narrative. According to Jesus, what was the disciples’ destination – “the other side [of the lake.]” Where were the disciples right then – “in the boat in the middle of the lake” – not where they had been nor where they would be. What was the difficulty they experienced – “tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary” – not where they expected nor what they expected. What happened to change everything? “Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.”

No storm, however long its duration or severity, can keep you from Him. In the middle of your storm, you can lose sight of Jesus’ words about reaching the other side of the sea. Some years ago, my friend, Amos, challenged me with his description of people “in the middle of a miracle.” The disciples knew they were in a violent storm; they didn’t yet know they were also “in the middle of a miracle.” When you can only see the problem around you, God sees miraculous possibilities for you. Maybe you are in such a moment; be encouraged. In every difficulty, God will be with you. “In all these things we are more than conquerors though Him that loved us . .  [Nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 NIV.

In my journey of faith, I have learned this Biblical truth: as Savior and Deliverer, Jesus comes to you on the very element that frightens you. In the middle, you can easily be distracted from the truth that Jesus is Lord and Master over all, at all times, in all situations – “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 NIV. When Jesus is the commencement of your journey and the celebrant at journey’s end, He will be your companion all along the way. See 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV/Galatians 6:9 NKJV.

As a postlude to the heroes of faith in the preceding chapter, you are included, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the Throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV. Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith persevered “in the middle.” Jesus endured the cross, despised its shame, and now celebrates your daily victories and eternal salvation.

My prayer for you this day is that you do not lose your way along the journey.

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God of All Comfort

May 24th, 2013

“God who comforts the downcast, comforted us.” 2 Corinthians 7:6 NIV.

Friends know you well enough to recognize your need for cheer and company.

My thoughts and comments today are about our “God of all comfort.”

A lot of things, and even some people, will make life less comfortable – the conversation you would rather not have, the difficulty you would rather not face, the change you would rather not make, the mistake you would rather not correct, the problem you would rather not solve. Those qualifying words, “rather not,” aptly describe things we prefer to avoid, if possible. A person’s natural instinct is to avoid discomfort, but that is not really possible. Learn to take life as it comes and make it better.

Your external comfort is God’s agenda,  but not His first agenda. His desire goes much deeper – your spiritual maturity by the continual development of Christ-likeness. See Ephesians 4:13 NKJV/1 John 3:2 NIV. One measure of spiritual maturity is learning to be at peace in disconcerting moments and growing by productive responses rather than destructive to yourself and others. Learn from uncomfortable situations, not just live through them; it is far more productive.

The Apostle Paul described a distressing time, “. . our bodies had no rest; we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. Nevertheless God who comforts the downcast, comforted us . .” 2 Corinthians 7:5-6 NKJV. God comforts the downcast; how very descriptive. You know the feeling. Never despair; God will be there.

You find comfort in God. “[God] comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NLT. God is the great recycler; don’t waste your sorrows. He redeems the worst that happens to you and transforms it into blessings for others. Ministry flows from your sincere empathy with another’s pain, then shares comfort from your experience of God’s grace. When you suffer troubling times or hurtful people – and experience God’s sufficiency, faithfulness, and comfort – you are better able to empathize with others. “I feel your pain,” becomes more than words.

You find comfort in the company of friends. “God comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him.” 2 Corinthians 7:6 NIV. Titus was comforted by his reception by the Corinthians; he brought their comfort, as well as his, to Paul. The arrival of Titus refreshed Paul’s spirit. That’s what friends can do; that’s what friends are for. A shared journey is a more comfortable journey. Friends should know you well enough to recognize when you need their cheer and company. Be the kind of friend you want to have. Solomon learned, “Two people accomplish twice as much as one . . if one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NLT.

You find comfort in good news. Paul wrote,“[Titus] told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.” 2 Corinthians 7:7 NIV. Stop reciting every disappointment; stop rehearsing every mistreatment. God’s Word is wise counsel: “Whatever is true . . noble . . right . . pure . . lovely . . admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things . . and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:6-9 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you know where to find true comfort when needed.

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In God We Trust

May 22nd, 2013

“Take heart. I believe God will do exactly what He told me.” Acts 27:25 MSG.

God doesn’t always speak the word you want, but He will speak the word you need.

My thoughts and comments today are, “in God we trust.”

In uncertain times and events, you need people in your life whose words you can trust explicitly; if you do, you are fortunate. There are times you will need others with broader life-experience, with Godly wisdom, lovingly honest, and truly considerate. Everyone needs friends who will be honest with them, even when truth is uncomfortable. Value that kind of friendship; be that kind of friend. In life, I have found you usually get what you give.

God will always tell you the truth, even if you would rather not hear it. The Apostle Paul was prisoner on a ship bound for Rome, to be charged before Caesar. Read Acts 27:6-44 NIV. In a savage storm, the crew and their human cargo, “[after] many days . . finally gave up hope of being saved.” They did everything experienced sailors knew to do – strengthened the hull with ropes, dropped an anchor, lightened the ship’s cargo – but to no avail.

In a desperate situation, Paul did not lose hope. The weather was adverse; their ship and skills were overwhelmed; their future safety was doubtful. The demoralizing forecast from others was clear, but Paul waited for a clear word from God. God sent an angel to Paul with a promise, “Not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed . . God, whose I am and whom I serve, stood beside me . . Take heart. I believe God will do exactly what He told me. Vs. 22-26 NIV/MSG.

That is more than belief; that is strong and settled conviction. Paul reasoned with the Christ-followers in Rome, “Some . .  were unfaithful; but just because they broke their promises, does that mean that God will break His promises? Though everyone else in the world is a liar, let God be true.” Romans 3:3-4 NLT. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away but My Words will never pass away.” Luke 21:33 NIV. Paul knew his relationship with God was secure and God’s character was sure, so God could be trusted to be truthful. Read Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV.

While others’ forecast their fears, God foresees the conclusion accurately. When life gets stormy you need time to hear from God. God doesn’t always speak the word you want, but He will always speak the word you need. God may not promise to save your ship, but He will do what He says. Don’t try to put words in God’s mouth; listen to God, then believe what He tells you. “My Word . . will accomplish all I want and prosper where I send it.” Isaiah 55:11 NLT.

The Bible says, “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel . . in which it was impossible for God to lie . . which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast . . “ Read Hebrews 6:17-19 NKJV. You can trust God; He always tells the truth.

My prayer for you today is that you will trust God even when you don’t understand.

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