Archive for January, 2018

The Fragrance of Joy

January 31st, 2018

Your life should express the fragrance of His presence.

 “Thanks be to God, Who through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” 2 Corinthians 2:14 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“The Fragrance of Joy.”

Life is not perfect for anyone, and every moment is not filled only with wonderful things. Life changes dramatically, and for the better, when you realize that your circumstances do not determine your experience of life; your attitude does.

I admire people who have faced more struggles and disappointments than most, but who have nevertheless found grace and grown an attitude that reflects who they are, instead of what happened to them. I have met others who have a fairly easy life with few challenges of any consequence, and yet they find little for which to be joyful or thankful. Occasionally, it is a good thing to ask yourself, “Does my life reflect to others what is going on around me, or what is really true inside me?” That significant and substantial difference is the product of the choices you make.

Since a child, I have loved the dramatic Bible stories in the Old Testament, like Samson finally triumphing over the Philistines and himself, or Daniel in the lions’ den whose quiet trust in God humbles an arrogant King, or the three Hebrews delivered from Babylon’s fiery furnace (modern day Iraq). I find a most intriguing comment, easily unnoticed, tucked into this story of the three believers tossed angrily into a furnace intended to destroy them. Read Daniel 3. When the fire could not destroy them nor even harm them, the amazed, befuddled king calls them out of the fire.

The Bible says, “They saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected – not even the smell of smoke was on them.” Daniel 3:27. There was no discernible residue of their frightening experience, no lingering emotional trauma, nor need for healing of memories. Only their new and stirring testimony of God’s greatness and faithfulness persevered.

If you are not careful, you will allow your past or present circumstances to determine your attitudes, dictate your feelings, and dominate your conversation. When your story could be a persuasive testimony that glorifies God, it will be only about you and your problems. Read Daniel 3:28-29. In Daniel’s story, a king’s heart is changed; God is glorified; a nation is impacted. The simple difference is that they were with Jesus, joyfully in His company and safely in His care. See Daniel 3:24-25. Attitude really is crucial, having the power to change everything and anyone, and that all begins with the choice you make.

Paul prayed for these Christians and for you, ”We pray that you will be strengthened with His glorious power so that you will have all the patience and endurance you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father, Who has enabled you to share the inheritance that belongs to God’s holy people, who live in the light.” Colossians 1:11-12 NLT. Whose joy is to fill you? “Always be full of the joy of the Lord!” Like a thermometer, happiness merely measures the surrounding climate and adjusts accordingly. The joy of the Lord resembles a thermostat, regulating and governing the surrounding temperature.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Thanks be to God, Who . . through us spreads everywhere the fragrance  of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved.” Read 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 NIV. Some years ago, I learned to pray, “Let my life express the fragrance of Your presence, not the smell of my problems.”

Today, I pray for your life to be a joyful testimony of God’s grace and sufficiency.

Christian Communications 2018-(807)

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God Moments

January 25th, 2018

In God’s will, faith grows strong.

 “The steps of the Godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:23 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are about, God Moments.”


Many years ago, I almost missed what would later become a most important moment of my life. In retrospect, I am grateful that my choice did not negate everything that our ministry and family have enjoyed since. I have learned that choices that seem simple at the moment can have long term and life-long effects, for your life as well as impacting others.

More than forty years ago, I received a phone call on behalf of a church seeking a pastor. The caller said, “You have been recommended as a pastor for us. Would you be interested?” I listened politely, but without much hesitation or consideration responded, “Thank you, but I am not interested.” Unknown to me in that God moment, I was being offered a choice that had the power to shape the rest of our lives, our children’s lives, and now our grandchildren and great grandchildren’s lives. I was so occupied with my present and pleasant circumstances that I almost missed our future.

Mistakenly, I assumed that decision was mine to make. I did not realize that moment – as every moment of any of our lives – was in God’s hand and I was accountable to His sovereign and always benevolent will. No sooner were the words out of my mouth, than deep inside I knew they were wrong. My disinterest guided my choice, but God’s will must always be of first importance. God’s voice in my heart was saying something much different than what I had so quickly volunteered.

I quickly apologized, and even more quickly and silently repented to God, before I changed my answer to say, My wife and I would prayerfully consider your invitation if this were to be God’s will, and if your church leadership and congregation wish us to do so.” We came for a visit; God confirmed His will to the Church and to my wife and I, and we were invited to be their pastor. That was Trinity Church in San Antonio where we have lived and served for forty blessed and prosperous years.

We have seen our children grow up and marry here, welcomed grandchildren and spouses, and great-grandchildren to our family. We found a home, fruitful ministry, and wide circle of friends that I cannot imagine having lived without their partnership and company. Committing to God’s will and walking in obedience to His voice has resulted in a life rich with blessing and provision beyond what we could have foreseen – a divinely directed moment.

I am reminded of Jesus invitation, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in.” Revelation 3:20 NIV. Our life, marriage and family, and extent of ministry would have been profoundly different if we had not recognized that God moment.

As a priority, you much choose to hear His voice, and love and trust His will. Life is often shaped, and your success or failure determined by recognizing such life-defining moments – God moments – and having the discernment and courage to seize them when God has prepared you for that moment. Solomon was wise to advise, “Wisdom is supreme; therefore, get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Read Proverbs 4:5-9 NIV.

You will need wisdom and discernment. Not everything that comes your way is an opportunity you should embrace. Diversions and distractions may be attractive but may be inconsistent with your greater goals and commitments. They may be tempting, unless you listen for God’s whisper in your heart, “I have something better for you; be patient.”

Keep your heart in God’s hand and trust Him to guide and direct your steps. God’s promise is clear, “You will hear a word behind you saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it,’ . . the steps of the Godly are directed by the Lord; He delights in every detail of their lives.” Isaiah 30:21/ Psalm 37:23 NLT. Every detail; imagine that!

At all times, it is important to value and recognize God’s voice above your own thoughts and others’ opinions. See Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV. You will hear competing voices of fear, or prejudice, or temptation, or distraction, or just personal preference. When you believe it is God’s voice: consider Scripture (God never contradicts His Word), seek Godly counsel, pray honestly, and then walk obediently and circumspectly. “Be careful how you live . . as wise people . . find out what the Lord wants you to do.” See Ephesians 5:14-17 NIV.

When you know and obey God’s will, then your faith will be strong, and you will live more wisely. Solomon observed, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Proverbs 24:3-4 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to know God’s voice and follow God’s will.

Christian Communications 2018-908

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Wants and Needs

January 19th, 2018

Unprecedented affluence indulges an insistent immediacy.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NIV

My thoughts and comments today are about, “wants and needs.”

We often confuse what we want with what we need. You need a few things. You want a lot of things. Some things you want at the wrong time. Some times you just want the wrong thing. Life is complicated and disappointments are frequent, if you live as though you should have whatever you want and whenever you want it. Even if you had anything and everything that you want, you still would not be happy and content. You just wouldn’t; life doesn’t work like that.

What comes too quickly or easily isn’t as appreciated as things that require added patience  and greater effort. Unprecedented affluence indulges an insistent immediacy. Most of us have far more than our grandparents ever imagined possible, and even more than our parents ever possessed. And still we want more and want it sooner. Deferred gratification is missing in today’s culture. Today, we expect instant gratification that a former generation never knew. People desire to have the best and assume they need to have the latest as well, without regard to expense.

Right now is rarely wiser than soon or later. Our parents and grandparents saved for what they wanted rather than having the option to charge it. When did immediate purchases on credit cards replace layaway? Are we better for that? No one needs everything they think they have to have, and no one need to have everything they want. What kind of values and example are we providing the next generation?

There is a verse that seems chilling to our insistence that God provide everything and does so promptly. The “He gave them their request, but sent leanness to their souls.” Psalm 106:15 NKJV. Like ancient Israel, I fear there is a leanness of soul that has been the result of demanding to have what we would not first trust God to provide. Consider this. If you don’t have what you want and can’t afford its cost, maybe God knows better than you that your want is not your need at that time. The Bible offers a caution, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures.” James 4:3 NIV. Father always knows best.

In God’s view, this is no small matter. I was stunned as I read aloud the blunt words of the verses before and after this one. God described this needless consumption and spending as an adulterous relationship with the world – seduced by a false lover, rather than prizing a pure devotion to God. Read James 4:1-10 NIV. Where does such an unholy attitude start? James words were clear, “You want something but don’t get it!” See Hebrews 13:5 NIV.

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you felt you could not live without it? That is an open door to debt and financial bondage. Debt allows people to rely on an unpredictable provider. Sadly, parents who cannot say no to themselves certainly cannot say no to their children and teens. And one generation’s debt addiction passes to the next, who simply adds to their debt while not knowing any better than to do so.

If you insist on obtaining by your own means what God does not supply, there is a leanness of soul that signals the absence of His blessing. Read Psalm 106:6-15 NKJV. My Dad once warned me, “Be careful what you insist on having; you might succeed.” And older and wiser, I would add, “And be the poorer for for your misdirected success.”

I would rather have less with God’s provision than to have more without His blessing. Learn to trust this truth, “And with all His abundant wealth through Christ Jesus, my God will supply all your needs.” Philippians 4:19 TEV. His source and resources are abundantly beyond your ability to measure or comprehend.

Today, I pray for you to be content with what you have and trust God for what you need.

Christian Communications 2018-509

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The Power of Language

January 17th, 2018

Words mediate differences or exacerbate disagreements.

 “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Colossians 4:6 NIV

My thoughts and comments today are about,
“the power of language.”

Language is vital for communication and coordination of common efforts. Without communication, many efforts would be futile, achievements minimal, relationships challenging, and misunderstandings numerous. We don’t think much about words, but we certainly use a lot of them. According to Google, a 2013 University of California study concluded that women speak an average of 20,000 words daily, compared to 7,000 words for men. Wisely, I resist endorsing an opinion on that statistic. Imagine what a more current study might include that included texting, Facebook posts, and other social media.

I would note that it matters what you say, and how you say it, more than how much you say. Verbiage and volume are not as important as veracity. Imagine the difficulty of our daily interactions without them, or a conversation when you could not understand another’s words because of language differences. Communication is important. Communication that edifies is essential.

Since you were very small you have been learning and using words while expanding your vocabulary. It is important that you consider the awesome, and sometimes awful, power of the words you speak and the potential effect they have on yourself and others for help or harm. “Words kill; words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.” Proverbs 18:21 MSG.

With words, you can heal a heart, or wound one. Words mediate differences or exacerbate disagreementsWords speak truth, or spread lies. Words can build friendships, or destroy trust between friends. Words can encourage or dishearten. Words can applaud others or criticize. What you may not realize is that when your words wound someone, your misuse also hurts you in ways you will not at first recognize. Choose them wisely. Speak them kindly.

As a child, I learned a simple rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But that isn’t really true, is it? Many of us bear the lasting imprint of words spoken long ago, whether for good or harm. Some are spoken by us; some were spoken to us. Uncharitable words can leave a hurt far deeper and remaining longer in the heart, but also in the one who speaks them. Careless words cheapen communication and lessen the creative power of your words for good at other times.

God’s feelings about this are clear. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.This should not be!” Read James 3:1-11 NIV. God views your words very seriously because He knows their power and potential for good or evil, for benefit or harm. God warns, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. . . men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” Read Matthew 12:33-37 NIV.

Remember that with just a word God created all that we now see and know, and sustains all that He created in the same way. “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” Hebrews 11:3 NIV. You and I certainly do not possess God’s creative power, but as you are made in His image, your words are much more than mere sounds spoken and forgotten. Your words hold seeds of life and blessing, carrying a greater, spiritual dynamic well beyond mere language.

Paul warned that God weighs your words. The gravity of that will cause you to pray, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord.” Psalm 19:14 NKJV. Whatever your heart privately harbors will ultimately be exposed through your words. Here is practical, Godly advice. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to consider the power and potential of your words, for better or worse.

Christian Communications 2018-107
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Grace and Generosity

January 12th, 2018

Release Is the key to increase.

“You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.” 2 Corinthians 9:11 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Grace and Generosity.”

Inherently, people would like to be generous, but giving just does not come easily for us. The tiniest infant can grip something tightly in the smallest of hands. And that natural tendency never seems to be lost. It seems natural to hold tightly rather than to release. We spend our lifetimes gathering, hoarding, and storing. And the more a person has, the greater their reluctance to give anything away. Possessions encourage possessing.

In contrast, the Bible is clear that generosity is the path to abundance and blessing. Solomon observed, “One person gives freely, yet gains more; another withholds what is right, only to become poor. A generous person will be enriched and the one who gives water will receive water.” Proverbs 11.24-25.  Release is the key to increase. Growing up, I often heard my Dad say, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” I have found that to be true. 

The Apostle Paul was astounded at the grace and generosity from God, “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach the unfathomable riches of Christ.” Ephesians 3:8 NAS. From the grace given you, the even greater grace of giving flows from a heart already overflowing. Paul marveled at, “the unfathomable riches of Christ!” Jesus taught,“Give and it will be given to you; a good measure – pressed down, shaken together and running over – will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6.38 NIV. You have to firmly believe that when you give what you should give, it is loaned to the Lord Who will repay, not lost.

The first step in the grace of giving is to realize that everything belongs to God, and everything you have comes from Him. “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 NIV. Your God provides, multiplies, increases, and enriches when you choose to live generously.

God established a principle of sowing and reaping. The principle is really simple. First of all, you reap what you sow. Also, you reap more than you sow. And importantly, you reap nothing if you sow nothing. “Remember this: the person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should give as he has determined in his heart – not with regret or from necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NKJV. My grandfather, Charles McGinness, often said to his congregation, “Don’t give until it hurts. Give until it stops hurting.” Grandad was right. That’s when you experience the grace of giving.

Giving isn’t really about money. Giving is about heart, about love, and about God and others. Where giving is restricted, love is lacking. Who has not seen a young child bring a pretty (or sometimes not so pretty) wild flower to their Mom saying, “I love you Mommy?” Their love has to find some way of expression, just like God’s love.

When you give graciously and generously, you are most like your Heavenly Father. Jesus said, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” Luke 12:32 NKJV. Who could forget the most familiar verse of all, “For God so loved the world that He gave His own Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 NKJV. Giving is a family trait in our Father’s house. A New Year is a good time to practice the grace of living and giving generously.

My prayer for you today is to give with generosity according to the grace given you.

Christian Communications 2017-1149

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