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A Holy Endeavor

August 16th, 2018

Your daily work can be a holy endeavor.

 “Work with enthusiasm, as working for the Lord rather than people.” Ephesians 6:7 NLT

My thoughts and comments are about, “A Holy Endeavor.”

People often describe their job as, “work.” Your job should be work, requiring your best efforts and the bulk of your time. For the better part of your lifetime and a substantial portion of each day, work will occupy your time, attention, energy, and effort. Your attitude can make that time pleasant as well as productive.

Work can be little more than a necessity, something you have to do so to provide for yourself and family. Or work can become a drudgery, something you have to do but really don’t want to do. Or you can make your work a fulfilling joy, an activity and place where you discover the privilege of meaningful service. On different days, your experience will likely be a variety in differing proportions of all of those.

The Bible is clear. “The Lord God took [Adam] and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’” Genesis 2:15-17 NIV. Work was the privilege of being stewards of God’s ample provision and care. But that privilege was accompanied by a responsibility. Adam was to work and take care of the garden, free to eat of any tree in the Garden, except one, described as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Contrary to what most people suppose, work was Adam’s assignment rather than God’s punishment for his disobedience. The punishment was the added labor that would be required. The difference was this. At the initiative and insistence of Eve, Adam chose to ignore God’s warning, eating of the fruit of the single tree that had been forbidden to them. Adam’s failure resulted in disobedience entering into God’s creation as they had been forewarned.  

“And to Adam He said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate the fruit I told you not to eat, I have placed a curse on the ground. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.  All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your dying day.” Genesis 3:17-19 NLT. The sweat and toil of work was the horrible price of man’s minimal regard for God’s provision being enough.

God appointed work itself to man earlier than his disobedience. Notice where man was to be employed? The Creator placed Adam and Eve in a garden, a picture of provision, plenty, and beauty – a fruitful place created by God, blessed by God, and frequented by Him.

It seems that the difference is whether you are in God’s employ or simply trying to put bread on the table. Since God first ordained His creation to know and enjoy meaningful employment in partnership with Him, would He not provide a way for you and me to redeem our daily work and discover it a holy endeavor, rather than a lifelong struggle? The proper answer is, “Of course.” Let me share a few simple, practical truths.

Choose a Godly attitude about work. Let your daily work be a holy service to God and man. “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do.” Ephesians 6:7-8 NLT.

Consider the purpose of work. “Begin using your hands for honest work, and then give generously to others in need” Ephesians 4:28 NLT. Honest work provides for your needs, and supplies a surplus for sharing generously with others. The goal is not merely to get more, but to have more to give.

Value those who employ you or work alongside you. You accomplish that by thankfulness for the opportunity you are given and by offering only and always the best of your effort and diligence to serve. “Obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ” Ephesians 6:5 NLT. In your work, you also serve Christ. Be realistic. The workplace is not a perfect place with perfect people. But you can be diligent in your work as a service to the Lord. Be the best boss or employee that you can be, and do so as, “unto the Lord.”

Consecrate your work to God. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24 NIV. Do not depreciate those for whom you work. They are God’s point of supply for meeting your daily needs. But look above and beyond them to the Lord, Who is your Source. To Him be glory.

Today I pray for you to dedicate your life in joyful service to God and others.

Christian Communications 2018-8319

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Hiding

September 1st, 2017

Hiding is a game as old as humanity has existed.

“O God, you know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from you.” Psalm 69:5 NLT.

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

Hiding began in the Garden of Eden and continues today. “And Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam, ‘Where are you? we were afraid and hid ourselves.’” Genesis 3:8-9 NKJV. Realizing their nakedness, Adam and Eve first covered themselves from each other and then, recognizing their disobedience, they hid from God. Nothing much has changed. Clearly, they were avoiding God; yet all the while, God was seeking them. Hiding only delays the inevitable, and enhances the fear in the interim. “O God, you know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from you.” Psalm 69:5 NLT.

Hiding from God is as old as humanity has existed. Hiding from your better self begets hiding from others which results in hiding from God. Have you ever wondered why you are not more committed to seeking God? Could it be that you realize that if you succeed, God will also have found you? And maybe you are not fully ready for God to find you. Like Adam, you may have recognized some things about yourself that cause you to want to cover up, and covering up makes you afraid of being found out, and being found out makes you try to conceal yourself all the more. Hiding from God is futile and never succeeds. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:13 NIV. See also Mark 4:22 NLT.

Notice how and where Adam and Eve tried to hide from God. “[They] sowed leaves together and hid themselves among the trees of the Garden.” With and among the very things God had given them for shade, shelter, and sustenance, they chose to hide themselves from the Creator of all. Read Genesis 1:29 NIV. People do the same thing today, using the very things God has given us for blessing and provision – our family, friendships, jobs, money, possessions, pleasure, or recreation – to hide ourselves from God and each other. God was saddened with the obvious separation Adam and Eve imposed upon their relationship with God. And what you hide from God eventually diminishes or disallows authentic fellowship with others.

Be apprised, there is a day when, “God will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time, each will receive His praise from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5 NIV. I have learned that the Holy Spirit exposes sin for you to see sin as God sees it, harmful and destructive to you and others, a painful source of separation between God and His creation. Our Creator enjoys fellowship with His creation. God’s attitude toward you never changes, “I love those who love Me, and those who seek Me diligently will find Me.” Proverbs 8:17 NKJV. You seek God when you are most honest and open with yourself and Him. His response is always with grace.  Read Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV.

I remember my Godly grandmother’s advice, “Confession is good for the soul.” She was right, though it rarely felt good until later. Confession with repentance is simply your coming out of hiding, realizing that you need to be more afraid of sin than fearful of an altogether righteous God. The Psalmist was correct; “O Lord, You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways.” Read Psalm 139:1-6 NIV. Rather than discomfiting, our Father’s loving awareness of who you are and where you are should be comforting.  See 1 John 1:7-2:2 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to walk in Godly fear and reverence, but without being afraid.

Christian Communications 2017

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Grace in the Garden

May 4th, 2017

From an act of grace the drama of redemption began.

He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of His mercy. Titus 3:5 NLT

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Grace in the Garden.”

God made the world and He pronounced it good. Refer to Genesis 1:26-2:24 NKJV. The problem is that the world did not long remain good. Adam and Eve were put in a perfect environment, abounding provision for any and all of their needs. Yet, they could not resist doing the single thing that God instructed them not to do. The Tempter played them for fools. And sin was welcomed into Creation. And their world, and every generation’s world since, was changed forever. Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12 NIV.

Ultimately, Adam and Eve were evicted from Eden, God even barring the possibility of their re-entering, positioning angels, “with flaming sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life.” Was God angry? Punitive? Or was God grieved at their privilege squandered? Would Father God’s response have been more akin to the broken heart of His Son, Jesus, weeping over Jerusalem many generations later? “O Jerusalem, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” Luke 13:34 NIV.

Until today, I have always assumed their eviction from Paradise was a well-deserved penalty for their disregard of God’s clear instruction. Upon careful reading of the event, my assumption seems inaccurate. Instead, I offer consideration of a grace-filled distinction. To me, it appears to be protection of them, not punishment. With love, mercy, and grace a righteous and loving Creator safely escorted them from Eden. Why? God best explained Himself, “. . lest [Adam] eat of the tree of eternal life, therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden.” Read Genesis 3:22-24 NAS. The guardian angels could be God’s protection from the possibility of their making their failure final.

The extent of God’s grace is beyond our comprehension. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Read Romans 4:25-5:2 NIV. Tears fill my eyes with joy and gratitude as I write these words today. In love and grace, God prevented Adam and Eve’s access to the Tree of Life, preventing Adam’s failure and consequence from becoming their eternal fate.

Paul’s understanding of grace was very personal, “God, Who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:9-10 NIV.

From an act of grace the drama of redemption began. “He Who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32 NIV. “Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient . .  Our lives were full of evil and envy . . But then God our Savior showed us His kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of His mercy . . now we know that we will have eternal life.” Read Titus 3:3-7 NLT. God deals with yours and my sins with love not anger, with grace not blame, with mercy not judgement. Do you feel the need for grace today? His grace is available, abundant, and always sufficient.

“And now I entrust you to God and the word of His grace – His message that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those He has set apart for Himself.” Acts 20:31-32 NLT.

Christian Communications 2017

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Conscience and Curiosity

April 22nd, 2015

“Be filled with love from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5 NLT.

Better to obey your conscience than explore your curiosity.

My thoughts and comments today are about “conscience and curiosity.”

When you quietly hear an inner voice of question and caution, that’s your conscience. God created your conscience to instinctively know right from wrong. There probably have been times when you wished your conscience would be silent. Instead, listen to your conscience; you will spare yourself many mistakes and resulting heartaches.

The Bible offers wise advice and dire warning when the voice of conscience is ignored. “Always keep your conscience clear. For some have deliberately violated their conscience; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.” 1 Timothy 1:19 NLT. Shipwrecked! Could Paul’s warning of needless tragedy and loss be any clearer? Usually, a shipwreck results when a ship is in waters not safe to sail, doing what it was not designed to do. In unmistakable description, a contemporary paraphrase reads, “Some . . have made a thorough mess of their faith.” 1 Timothy 1:19 MSG.

Ignoring the voice of God in your heart is always a mistake and results in hurt and loss for yourself and others. Adam and Eve lost so much for themselves, as well as all of us, just by listening to the wrong voice and ignoring the voice of God. “If many died by the trespass of one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of one Man, Jesus Christ, overflow to many.” See Romans 5:12-17 NIV.

(1) Better to obey your conscience than explore your curiosity. Incorrectly, the world reasons, “If it feels right, how can it be wrong?” What dangerously defective reasoning. Here’s the reality; most things that “feel right” to your natural inclinations and appetites are anything but right. One and all, we struggle with a sin nature. Don’t be lured and deceived by curiosity and desires. Eve was curious and unleashed a world of trouble for us all.

(2) Avoid unholy influences. Secular culture and wrong associations assault your spirit with impure signals that can and will confuse you. “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” Titus 1:15 NIV. Choose wisely and carefully to whom or what you listen. Conflicting voices attempt to stifle the voice of the Holy Spirit God has placed within you.

(3) Strengthen your conscience with the Word of God. “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Read Psalm 119:9-16 NIV. In your heart, you know before you do wrong, but still indulge your appetite and ignore your conscience, to your own harm. Allow God’s Word to guide and govern your conscience. “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand, whenever you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21. There is no substitute for filling your mind and thoughts with God’s Word. Read Psalm 1:1-3. Obey God’s Word however pressing the temptation to do otherwise.

”Our rejoicing is this: the testimony of our conscience that by the grace of God . . in simplicity and Godly sincerity . . that is how we have lived our lives toward everyone.” 2 Corinthians 1:12 KJV. Paul, a wise, life-seasoned saint, wrote to young Timothy, “The purpose of my instruction is that all Christians would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5 NLT. The love of God best flows into a pure heart, through a clear conscience, and from a sincere faith.

Today, my prayer for you is that your heart will be a home for God’s love at all times.

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The Fear of the Lord

June 26th, 2013

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 9:10 NKJV

The fear of the Lord is the deeply sane recognition that we are not God; He is.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the fear of the Lord.”

A baby is born with only two fears: the fear of falling and loud noises. Others are learned along the way, unfortunately. There are times, things, situations, and people that warrant caution. Most fears are unhealthy for you. Neurotic fear can be debilitating. Unhealthy fears are neurotic, destroying peace and stifling every joy. Fear magnifies your imagination and distorts your perceived reality. Fear misdirects expectations to the worst possible projection. Healthy fears can be lifesaving. Addressing and overcoming fear in constructive ways is important for emotional and physical well-being. The Bible has much wisdom to offer about fears, which are both hurtful and helpful.

Solomon, whose greatest desire was for wisdom (2 Chronicles 1:7-11 NKJV), learned where all wisdom begins. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by [wisdom] your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you.” Proverbs 9:10-11 NKJV. The Bible has much to say about “the fear of the Lord.” People wrongly equate it with other fears, which at their base have an inner concern of danger or harm. See Proverbs 29:25 NIV. The fear of the Lord is nothing like natural fears, except when misunderstood.

Adam and Eve hid themselves from God then explained to Him, “We heard your voice and were afraid.” Genesis 3:10 NKJV. Their fear was not from a lack in God’s character, but a lack in their own. And God’s response? He provided covering for their shame and promised them a Savior. How do you not love a God like that? I think many have a distorted understanding of Godly fear. You need not fear a God who would give His Son for you.

Incorrectly, a person who is not persuaded of God’s holy nature and righteous character nor committed to the unvarying truth of Scripture’s revelation of God may live under a false fear of what God may do to them. What you are capable of doing to God should be your fear – ignoring Him, disobeying Him, disbelieving Him, disappointing Him, or misrepresenting Him to others. You are more likely to “hurt God” by how you treat Him than He would ever harm you.

I came upon a quote deserving of reflection, “The fear of the Lord is the deeply sane recognition that we are not God.” To that, I would add, “. . and a holy recognition that He is.” Unhealthy fears are often the product of one’s ignorance of God’s existence or stubborn disbelieve in His caring and character. It helps if you understand that what the Bible calls fear, as it relates to one’s relationship with God, is “the attitude of respect and reverential awe,” a sublimely positive affection rather than a negative emotion. The practical elements of the “fear of the Lord” are: a clear understanding of God’s nature, a pure obedience to God’s Word, and a clean heart in God’s presence. I love the Bible’s description of “the believers [who] were walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:31 NLT.

My prayer for you this day is that you cultivate a holy reverence for God and His wisdom.

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