Archive for February, 2019

A Contented Life

February 27th, 2019

Contentment Is Found Where God Directs.

 “We are created in Christ Jesus for good works.”
Ephesians 2:10 NAS. Ephesians 2:10 NAS.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “a contented life.”

Many people lack a clear and certain idea about what their life is meant to be. Some are busy but not fulfilled. Others are successful but not satisfied. Life is not just about doing good things, or even things at which you are good. A contented life is about doing the good things God prepared you to do. God’s intention for you is clear:“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 NAS. Did you take time to think about that verse as you read it? You are God’s work to do good works that He has already predetermined.

It would be wise to give careful thought for what those good works might be for you?I recall a talented young man who had previously been successful and financially prosperous in his career. But there was a problem. He did not enjoy what he was doing. He was prospering in the estimation of others but lacked satisfaction in his heart as well as a sense of purpose and fulfilment. He resigned from his promising career to go as a missionary, teaching young students in a Christian school in Europe at considerable monetary sacrifice, and was excited doing so.He rearranged his future to assist in the future of others.

I think the first part of my young friend’s story is all too common. I wish the rest of his story were more typical.Life is best when and where you are doing His will with a whole heart. Well, I have found good things are even better when your heart knows, “it’s a God thing!” You do not need to stumble around looking for what you should do, trying to find the things at which you are good. Your heavenly Father has a divine assignment for your life. That’s where you will find your greatest joy, success, and satisfaction, and contentment.There are a couple of things of which I am sure.

First, God’s assignment for your life will be consistent with the spiritual gifts God places within you. Peter was clear, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms . . do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV. Your talents, skills, giftedness, and interests will ultimately reveal what God has always been preparing for you.

Secondly, what God has prepared for you will involve serving others in some meaningful way. Sometimes you only discover where your gifts lie while in the process of serving the needs of others in Christ’s Name. Your God-given gifts and abilities are not for your personal benefit alone. “You were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13 NIV.

Your personal abilities are reinforced by spiritual gifts, life experiences, and seized opportunities. God ordained you to contribute to the welfare and well-being of others, as He brings them into your life. Use what you have for yourself and you will find them never to be enough, inadequate and lacking the measure of joy and contentment God intends for you. Every day bless someone with kindness and helpfulness without being asked or expecting anything in return.

Jesus said that even, “giving a cup of cold water in His Name,” would not go without His reward. Read Matthew 10:42 NIV. Good works are rarely large, impressive things as you might presume. More often, God’s works are found in the ordinary, simple, everyday things: such as a helping hand, a kind word, an unnoticed benevolence, a bit of time shared, a note of encouragement, a prayer on behalf of a friend, or sincere gratitude to God and others. “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” 1 Timothy 6:6-7 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to use your spiritual and natural gifts to bless others.

Christian Communications 2019

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The Path Behind and Forward

February 20th, 2019

The path behind is not a path forward.

“Your road led through the Red Sea,
a pathway no one knew was there!” Psalm 77:19 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are about,
“the path behind and before.”

A dead end is not a comfortable place to be, especially if you don’t know how you got there. There are times when you can’t make sense of what is behind you, let alone the unforeseen that is ahead. In life, there will be uncertainty when you don’t know what comes next. Yet there will be decisions you need to make, with or without the information you need to make a wise and informed choice. God has a promise for such times, ”If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, Who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5 NIV.

From years earlier, I recall a simple worship chorus that often brought me peace and assurance, “God will make a way where there seems to be no way. He works in ways I cannot see, He will make a way for me. He will be my Guide, hold me closely to His side. With love and strength for each new day, He will make a way. God will make a way.” (Don Moen.) At one time or another, everyone will need the One who will make a way.

Moses and Israel experienced exactly that. Delivered from Egypt’s slavery, they soon faced an uncrossable, impossible obstacle, with the Red Sea ahead of them and the pursuing Egyptians behind them. Talk about being between, “a rock and a hard place.” That was exactly where they were, between a difficulty and an impossibility. The path behind and the path before provided no good option. Moses and Israel could not go back, nor could they move forward. Betwixt and between is never a comfortable place to be. Such moments test your trust. But God will be found in your quandary.

In those times and circumstances, you must rely on God alone. You can read their story in Exodus, the second book in the Old Testament. The story is not unique to the fledgling nation of Israel. It is yours and my story as well. When you find yourself in such places, remember God’s reassuring words, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts [higher] than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV.

God told Moses to stretch out his shepherd’s staff. Read Exodus 14:9-31 NIV. When Moses and Israel did as God said, an angel parted the water for Israel to cross safely, “on dry land,” while the pursuing Egyptian army was restrained by a wall of fire, until Israel was safely across the sea on dry land. Then the waters collapsed on Pharaoh and his army, destroying them in the deep and deadly waters. David later wrote of that day, “Your road led through the sea, Your pathway through the mighty waters – a pathway no one knew was there.” Psalm 77:19 NLT. God has a pathway for you that is unknown and unforeseen.

Possibly, the path ahead is obscured and retreating appears no option. The Apostle Paul discovered three elements that release you for meaningful, spiritual progress. Break free from the past. Embrace the future tenaciously. Anything worth having is worth the sacrifice. The path behind is not a path forward. “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV.

How do you do that? “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 NIV. It is simple but requires effort.

Today, I pray for you to see obstacles removed and the way forward.     

Christian Communications 2019
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Love Is a Debt You Owe

February 13th, 2019

Love is a responsibility. Debt is a liability.

“Love one another as I have loved you.”  John 13:34 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are that,
“Love Is a Debt You Owe.”

“Love Is a Debt You Owe.”

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a father gave his son this advice, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.” Debt has become a way of life for too many. National economies depend upon increasing consumption, continually pressuring and persuading people that debt is a small price for gratification.

Debt comes with a high price. You can resist becoming overly indebted, and you should. Solomon acknowledged a simple truth, “The borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7 NIV. The Bible is clear, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Read Romans 13:7-8 NKJV. Love is a debt you owe to God and others.

Clever marketing whets your appetite for more, and newer, and bigger, and better, and therefore more expensive. Your needs are rarely more, but your wants will always increase. The convenience of credit cards has made debt difficult to resist, generating the consumer economy while growing staggering indebtedness. Someone described debt as, “buying things you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people who don’t care.” Debt begets a growing weight of debt, adding worry and shifting one’s focus from the future to a worrisome past. 

I grew up in a modest but comfortable, mid-western home. We never had too much, and we never thought we had too little either. I was taught that what you earn and all you have comes from God through His blessing on your honest labor. ”Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:17 NLT.

Therefore, the first portion you give back to God as a Tithe, an act of worship in recognition of His benevolence and in obedience for His continued blessing. Read Malachi 3:10-12. After that, everything you have is a matter of stewardship, rather than ownership. The Bible is clear, “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2 NKJV.

From my Dad, I learned a practical, financial principle. “Never spend all that you earn, share some of what you have, and you will always have something extra when needed.” That became a rule of personal stewardship that I still follow today, and our family is better for that. Most importantly, God’s way is always best. Life is simpler; worries are fewer; freedom is greater. Debt results from trying to provide for yourself what God has not yet made available.

Now, the Bible speaks of a debt you cannot ignore and should not avoid. The Bible commands, “Give everyone what you owe him . . Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another . . Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm.” Read Romans 13:7-10 NIV. Those verses contrast financial debt with a loving lifestyle.

Love is a debt you owe. God’s way is always the right way.Jesus was clear, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you.”Read John 13:34-35 NKJV. Scripture teaches this. Financial debt is inadvisable. Relational debt is unavoidable.Here’s how I think they both relate and differ. Both are responsibilities to which you obligate yourself. Financial debt is about you and your wants. Relational debt is about others and their needs.

Financial debt preoccupies you more with yourself and with less thought and available means to serve others. Financial debt concerns you with satisfying your wants, paying your bills, while absorbing any leftovers. Relational debt redirects you toward others, giving instead of getting, meeting another need before your wants, and generously sharing the good you have received from God. Love promotes more love. Debt promises increasing debt.

Today, I pray for you to know that debt trades the ultimate for the immediate.

Christian Communications 2019

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Bitterness Poisons One’s Soul

February 8th, 2019

Hurts Are Healed In God’s Hands.

 “Get rid of all bitterness.” Ephesians 4:31 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are that,
“bitterness poisons one’s soul.”

Feelings and emotions are a beneficial experience of daily life, until they aren’t. But life without them would be bland. I differentiate between them in this way. To me, feelings seem more of a momentary mood than emotions are. Emotions linger longer. Emotions vary by their duration, either shortened or extended by your command or indulgence of those feelings.

Emotions can be positive or negative, either helpful or hurtful to yourself and others. Your projection of their meaning determines your expectation of their benefit or lack thereof. One of those unprofitable emotions is what the Bible describes as, “bitterness.” The Scriptures warn, 15See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Read Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV. Bitterness is a feeling that can become an intransigent, negative emotion. Don’t fertilize something you don’t want to grow.

Bitterness begins innocently enough. Some minor offense occurs that leaves you struggling with feeling slighted, overlooked, or mistreated. It’s natural to reason: what does it hurt to recount how that should not have happened to me? Or what’s the harm of seeking comfort from sharing my hurt feelings and emotions with an understanding friend? No big deal, you say? But indulging bitterness will harm yourself and hurt others.

Hurt feelings become seed for negative and even more serious emotions, which eventually take root and produce fruit you never intended. Bitterness is deceiving, seeming at first to taste sweet. The aftertaste, however, is everything the name implies. I observe that the more a person indulges and expresses a negative emotion, the stronger it develops, the more it grows, and the larger the circle of people it touches. Hurt feelings easily become settled attitudes.

Watch out when your wrong attitude sows the seeds of bitterness. Bitterness destroys happiness, poisons hearts, and separates friends. Bitterness taints relationships. Indulging a bitter attitude eventually imposes on others.

Bitterness can be evidenced in a clouded countenance, tense features, over reactions, or a sharpness of words without apparent cause. The Bible advises, “watch diligently.” You are responsible for your attitudes and reactions. Guard your heart diligently. Choose your responses wisely. Your own happiness and spiritual well-being are at stake.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Read Ephesians 4:30-32 NIV. Beware of any root of bitterness, however subtle or harmless it may at first seem. Bitterness poisons one’s soul.

Today, I pray for you to remember that hurts are healed in God’s hands.

Christian Communications 2019
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A Maximum Life

February 1st, 2019

A maximum life will not come from a minimum effort.

 “Many will give thanks for the gracious favor granted us.”

2 Corinthians 1:11 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “a life that pleases God.”

Live in a manner that God and man will show you favor. As in all things, Jesus is our example. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52 NIV. Favor occurs when you understand the value of living generously. If Jesus valued favor, you and I should value that as well. Favor can be defined by a big word, “approbation.” That simply describes, “a friendly regard shown toward another, especially by a superior.”

You are wise to want the favor of God upon your life, family, friendships, and finances. Appreciate people who assist and bless your life. Favor is not your right, nor something you barter for. Favor is a kind and gracious response from others’ regard and appreciation for your example and efforts, when they are in a position to observe and reward. Never take such kindness lightly. It is good to be likable and truly thankful, not for what you can get but because that’s true to who you are. Make it easy for people to show you kindness and be expressively and sincerely grateful when they do.

Favor is always a gift. Such regard and reward come more readily when you live in such a way that others see the wisdom and benefit of extending grace on your behalf. Hopefully, people will observe your lifestyle of generously extending favor to others and view your attitude and actions toward others kindly.

The words of Jesus come to mind: “Do for others as you would like them to do for you . . freely you have received, freely give.” Luke 6:31 NLT/Matthew 10:8 NIV. The most significant source of favor comes from God, the One Who is the Source of all grace and mercy. People can be fickle; God is ever faithful. David was confident in God that, “His favor lasts a lifetime.” Psalm 30:5 NLT.

I love the simplicity of the Old Testament description of Noah, “Noah found favor with the Lord.” Genesis 6:8 NLT. I enjoy the paraphrase of this same verse in The Message, “But Noah was different; God liked what He saw in Noah.” Favor is the natural response to what God and others see you to be. That’s why grace and favor are given.

This gracious act of God toward Noah is vividly drawn against the bleak backdrop of God’s description of the people and times in which Noah lived, “The Lord observed the extent of the people’s wickedness . . that all their thoughts were consistently and totally evil . . but Noah was different.” Read Genesis 6:5-8 NLT. God saw a different heart in Noah; God liked what He saw. In the worst of times and in the most demanding of circumstances, God saw something in Noah that was to be found nowhere else.

God asked Noah to do something. Noah was to build an ark for the saving of his family. Noah had a task he could not possibly understand, for conditions he had never seen, among people who would mock his words and efforts. Yet Noah chose to obey God without regard for other’s opinions or his own personal cost. The Bible records: “So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.” Genesis 6:22 NLT. Obedience brings God’s favor. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1 NIV/Hebrews 13:20-21 NKJV.

Don’t settle with being like others, satisfied with the norm and content with being average. Raise the bar; seek to excel; be your best, not because that may gain you something but just because you should, and you can. Favor comes to those who excel, exceeding expectations while setting a good and Godly example. A maximum life will not come from a minimum effort. Jesus taught that if you give little; you get little. Give much; much is received. “Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” 2 Corinthians 1:11 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to live a life that God will honor and prosper.

With regard and appreciation for you, Pastor Allen

Christian Communications 2019

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