God Is Our Refuge

July 7th, 2019

Invisible and Invincible.

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of  trouble.” Psalm 46:1 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are that, “God Is Our Refuge.”

There are times when God’s presence is not as recognizable as is His absence. Nothing fills the vacuum where He is not. His voice is not as eloquent as His silence. Who of us has not sought for a word from God, searched for a glimpse of His power, or yearned for the assurance of His presence, only to feel that at times He seems absent and silent?

Only later, we realize He was there all the time. The Bible describes Him as the One who fills the Heavens, yet at times seems invisible to us. Even when is He silent and invisible, He remains caring and invincible forever. Have you ever felt that God was distant? But is He? Why would He be?

Paul was clear and certain as he penned these majestic words, ”For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NIV. In grace, God and you are inseparable.

However, unconfessed sin and unsurrendered guilt can confuse you to believe that you are unworthy, and God would neither desire nor permit your company. That is just not true. He loves you and desires fellowship with you. Let nothing cause or allow distance between you and God. Estrangement occurs when you allow separation to occur and continue.

Grace always provides a path of return and welcome. ”If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins.” Read 1 John 1:8-10 NIV. The Psalmist declared, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.2 So we will not fear.” Read Psalm 46:1-3 NLT.

When I was a younger man, a dear friend arranged a day of white water rafting in beautiful Colorado. With blue Colorado skies above us and unimagined scenery surrounding us, I remember that most of the hours were fun and refreshing – except for the hours they weren’t! As the day continued, we encountered dark skies, strong winds, a chilling rainstorm, rocky rapids, treacherous currents, struggling to stay upright and afloat, until avoiding the protruding rocks took priority over every other consideration.

Life can change suddenly and feel uncertain, like those rushing rapids. In life, you will face distressing moments and frightening situations and that leave you unsure of what the outcome might be. In such times, you will ask, “Where will I find God in all of this.”

Weary from a long day of ministering to people’s disparate needs, Jesus said to the disciples, “Let’s go to the other side of the lake.” At Jesus’ word, the disciples started across the lake. After awhile Jesus was weary from the ministry times earlier in the day and fell asleep in the boat. After awhile and fearing for their safety, Peter somewhat rudely awakened Jesus, “Master, do you not care that we perish?”

The growing threat of the storm around them made them forget Jesus’ words to them. Jesus will always bring you safely to the other side despite the storm’s ferocity and your fear. Read Luke 8:22-25. In those times, even more distressing than the trouble itself, your feelings may suggest in the moment that God may seem uncaring or absent. Would He be? Could He be? Don’t panic. Don’t lash out at God. Don’t abandon everything you know about God’s character, power, and love.

And don’t give up on yourself. When life’s moments are troubling and uncertain, hold fast to the One Who is unshakeable and unchanging. There will be times when God’s presence is less noticed than His apparent absence, and His voice seems less eloquent than His silence.

Who of us has not longed for a word from God, or strained for a glimpse of His power, or yearned for reassurance of His presence, only to feel at that moment that God was nowhere to be found? In those moments, God seems absent. Silent. Distant. Disengaged.

Fear will suggest that maybe He is unconcerned. It is only later that you will realize how the Almighty God and Everlasting Father was alongside you all along the way. Though God is invisible to you, He remains invincible as Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

My prayer for you today is to know that God is with you in every circumstance.

EDL Communications 2019
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Practice Makes Perfect

June 27th, 2019

See Choices Clearly. Make Choices Wisely.

 “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things.” Philippians 4:9 NAS.

My thoughts and comments today are that, “practice makes perfect.”

It is commonly said that, “practice makes perfect.” Of course, that requires that your practice is improving. Athletes have their drills and practices. Musicians have their rehearsals. Students have their studies and exams. Marathoners have their conditioning runs. But the point of them all is the same for you in your pursuit of an authentic and growing spiritual life. To succeed in your spiritual life and growth, you must embrace the necessary spiritual disciplines.

Prayer, Bible reading, meditation on Scripture, obedience to truth, the discipline of fasting, meaningful fellowship, and developing a servant’s heart are essential practices. Doing the right thing each time does not come naturally or easily; it comes from desire, determination, and discipline. Practice is a recurring theme in Scripture. “Let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” Revelation 22:11 NAS.

No one really enjoys practice. You learn by doing, not once but again and again and again, until your knowledge and skill is so well practiced that it is predictably the same, becoming instinctive more than requiring conscious thought. But enjoyment is not the source of worthwhile accomplishment, nor the goal of life. Practice provides no thrill of victory because practice lacks the invigorating challenge of competition and the satisfying reward of achievement.

Meaningful practice is hard work, consisting of numbing repetition and deferred reward. A good coach requires more hours of practice by their team than game times, because they know the needed physical and mental conditioning that will be essential. In the pressure of the game situation, the endless drills during practices result in quicker reflexes and a game-winning edge that can make the difference between winning or losing.

For meaningful development and maturity, your spiritual life requires priority and systematic effort. Athletic games are not commonly won by a dramatic big play. They are won by what preceded and followed the big play. Success in the game is possible because of the stamina and skills acquired by the discipline of preparation and practice. A winning athlete is prepared to excel and put themselves and their team in the place for victory.

The Apostle Paul used the example of a committed athlete, as he wrote, “Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control.” Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT. Whatever the endeavor, practice makes perfect.

The challenge that involves your life every day is much more consequential, both presently and eternally. The risk is great, the reward even greater. Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, “Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life both for the present and for the future.” 1 Timothy 4:8 TEV. It is unfortunate when we expend considerable time and effort to things which matter so briefly.

You are being trained to make wise life choices accordingly, reliably, and consistently. Your well-being depends upon your success in doing so. In this, practice does make perfect. “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9 NAS. Practice these things.

See the choices clearly and make your choices wisely according to God’s Word. “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” 2 Peter 1:10-11 NAS. Your spiritual development demands practice that requires priority, diligence and determination.
Today I pray for you to keep your goal in focus and your efforts consistent.
EDL Communications 2019
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Eternity

June 24th, 2019

Disconnection Creates Discomfort.

”God has planted eternity in the human heart.”

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “eternity.”

Clocks and calendars rule our daily lives. Can you envision eternity, a time with a beginning but without a known end? Everything about our lives here and now is measured with minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, and lifetimes.

We are such slaves of time that we cannot really envision the concept of forever. Forever seems an exaggeration, even an impossibility. Yet life as we know it will have an end. The Bible encourages awareness of the limits of time and the superseding importance and endless extent of eternity.

The Bible counsels you to pray, “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” Psalm 90:12 TLB. Everything has a life span. As we experience time now, it is not an endless commodity. That is the reality for now. Solomon wisely observed, “there is a time to be born and a time to die.” Ecclesiastes 3:2 NIV.

If you experience the first, you will inevitably experience the latter. We all live within those narrow boundaries. But that will not be your reality in eternity. God intends so much more for you.

Have you read about the American Monarch Butterfly, maybe one of the most beautiful of its kind? Because they cannot survive the cold, they migrate up to 2,500 miles each year for their warm, winter hibernation. From west of the Rockies, they migrate every year to Pacific Grove, CA. When they migrate, oddly enough they return to the same California Eucalyptus trees each and every year, even though they are the fourth generation of the Monarch butterflies since the previous year’s migration.

Just as geese migrate south each winter, or salmon swim upstream to spawn where they were hatched, or swallows return to San Juan Capistrano in California from Argentina each March and return home in October, God has also put a permanent and eternal return address inside your spirit to guide you home to Him as well.

Solomon understood this when he wrote, “God has planted eternity in the human heart.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT. You and I were born with a longing for eternity in our hearts. We are created for unending fellowship with God, not separation from Him.

When you try to live apart from God, you will feel the discomfort of disconnection. And the devil blinds you from seeing the spiritual origin of your discontent. You cannot even imagine what it would be like to be apart from the Source of life forever? None of the horrors of Hell are worse than the absence and endless separation from God’s presence.

The Bible contrasts two kinds of people. There are those who know, love, and serve the Lord and those who do not. Which of those do you want to describe you? The Bible explains, “All [some people] think about is this life here on earth. But we are citizens of Heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior.” Read Philippians 3:19-21 NLT.

I love this quote; “The greatest calamity is not to feel far from home when you are, but to feel right at home when you’re not.” In the human spirit, God-placed a spiritual knowledge that this world is not your final home. Stop living like it is, settling in and making plans as though it were. Your eternal home is where you will truly experience what forever is all about.

In the beloved shepherd’s Psalm, David wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd . . I will live in the house of the Lord forever!” David did not think of, “the house of the Lord,” as a place; but with longing, he spoke of that as a special presence. Jesus described Heaven as, “In My Father’s house . . I go to prepare a place for you . . and I will receive you unto myself, that where I am there you may be also.” John 14:1-3. See Psalm 27:3-4 NIV. You can forever be with God and others who look for His coming and long for His appearing. Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8 NIV.

My prayer for you is to value eternity more than today.

EDL Communications 2019
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Setbacks

June 7th, 2019

Comebacks are optional.

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for
which God has called me.” Philippians 3:14 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,
“setbacks.”

Setbacks are inevitable. Comebacks are optional. Anyone can have a setback. Anyone could make a comeback, but not everyone will. Life offers you three options – backward, status quo, or forward. None of those are meant to be permanent. Progress is available for anyone who moves forward with deliberate intent, obedience, and trust. Setbacks and comebacks are options in the ebb and flow of everyday life. Life does not accommodate status quo very well. You won’t flourish long in the same place, unless you challenge and change the status quo.

You should never be content to stay where you are, nor remain who you are. God’s Word promises, ”Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJ. You are either in a state of progress or regress. Strive to become what you could and should be in Christ. Recent history or present circumstances are not a reason for embracing inaction or determining future direction.

Paul encouraged, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:8-10 NIV. Comebacks are reserved for people that do not give up. Look to God and His Word with trust and optimism. If you think you can’t comeback from your mistake or failure, you won’t. If you believe you can in Christ, you will. “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 NKJ.

Your response to disappointment and your hope for possibilities ahead signify the direction you will choose. Choose to move forward deliberately, rather than fearfully staying put. Discouragement is more than a negative emotion. It is a paralysis of confidence and loss of conviction. Before David was King, there is a faith-building story of David and his soldiers returning from a victorious battle, only to find their city and homes decimated and their wives and children taken by an enemy. Imagine the setback. “Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” But David chose a different path. He chose a glorious comeback. Read 1 Samuel 30 NKJ.

Regrettably, setbacks are a component of life that everyone will experience at one season or another. Yet there is great news. Every setback is an opportunity for a comeback. About comebacks, a friend taught me that you can’t think the same way and do the same things in the same ways, and still expect a different outcome.

Change your expectations. Choose your emotions. Learn from your failure or from what has gone awry and do what is necessary to find your path forward. The Apostle Paul captured the language and determination of Comeback, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Read Philippians 3:12-14.

Only Paul would say, “one thing I do,” and then explain that in four essential actions – forgetting the past, straining for what’s ahead, pressing to the goal, and winning the prize. And Paul’s anticipated prize was glorious. ”To all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” Read John 1:11-13 NIV. Heaven, and an eternity with Christ Jesus, await those who choose to prevail. In Christ, your comeback is glorious and unlimited.

Commit to achieve a more desirable outcome. Be one who perseveres. By its nature, life has unexpected twists and turns, and ups and downs. Expecting life to be otherwise is improbable. Learn that strength and determination grow best in adversity met with spiritual determination. Paul was confident, “For God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJ. What a powerful promise!

Today, I pray for you to be steadfast in faith and not lose heart.

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Questions?

May 29th, 2019

Wrong Questions Produce Inadequate Answers.
“We know in part and we prophesy in part. “ 1 Corinthians 13:9
My thoughts and comments today are about, “questions.”

Questions? We all struggle with them. Why? What? Where? When? Do you ever feel bewildered about things you don’t understand? A past you can’t explain. A future you can’t predict. Problems you can’t resolve. Circumstances you don’t control. People you can’t change. No matter how much you want to know or how hard you try, there are daily matters beyond your ability to understand or resolve, apart from God and His Word. Maybe, you are asking the wrong questions to inadequate sources.

Here is the good news. There are no such limitations for our all-knowing, all loving God. There are no bounds to the expanse of God’s knowledge and wisdom. Jesus boldly declared, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:13 NIV. There will be times when you will just not be wise enough to have the answer yet. But your Heavenly Father always does.

My maternal grandmother was a saint of a woman in the truest sense of the word, none more gentle, loving, or Godly. I never heard her nor heard of her ever saying an unkind thing about anyone. If anything, she was more likely to give some explanation of why they may have felt as they did or said what they said. When asked about someone or something she could not explain, she would quietly say, “Only God knows,” and go back to whatever she was doing, usually cooking or cleaning her house while raising 13 kids, of which my Mom was the oldest.

The unexplainable or unknowable often frustrates me, but never seemed to bother her. She was content with what she apparently was not meant to know, but wonderfully at peace that God does know, and that’s all that really mattered to her. I think I prefer to become a bit more like Grandma.
Jesus identifies with every time you have asked, “why?” On the cross, as death neared and the heavens darkened as though God had withdrawn His presence, Jesus’ humanity echoed yours and my anguish at the unknowable and unanswerable, “My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Yet the heavens remained silent; no answer came – until Easter morning. Yet Jesus was content that some things, “only Father God knows!”

I recall an earnest university student in my office asking honest questions about human suffering, terrible tragedies, and unanswered prayers. She was wrestling with issues of faith people older than her and wiser than me have struggled to explain and failed in our attempts. I made a valiant effort, not to answer the questions exactly, but to point her to the character and nature of God and His wisdom and unfailing compassion for a world damaged and deranged by sin. In His presence, you find assurance and renewed confidence.

Godly people have asked God the hard questions before, such as why do people do bad things, why do bad things happen to good people, and why do the righteous suffer while the wicked seem to prosper. Read Jeremiah 12:1-2 NLT and Psalm 73:1-19 NIV. When will things be made right? Read Psalm 1. Psalm 2 NLT.

Thinking back on that, I should have remembered my kindly, trusting grandmother’s wisdom, “Only God knows.” That may not seem enough for intellectual arguments and relentless minds. But that really is enough for a heart that is settled in God’s care and believing His Word.

Abraham came to this conclusion, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25 NIV. In that truth, I rest all my questions. I guess that was my grandmother’s confidence as well. She knew God; what God knew was good enough for her. I am still learning that from her; I share it with you. ”For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. “ Read 1 Corinthians 13:9-13 NIV.
Today, I pray for you to rest in God’s wisdom when yours is incomplete.

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