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Clarity and Certainty

March 31st, 2018

The resurrection shouts truth with certainty.

 “That you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:4 NIV.       

My thoughts and comments today are about, clarity and certainty.”

You probably try not to think much about death, until something happens that does not allow that luxury. It seems more pleasant to ignore that undesired eventuality as much and as long as you can. But you are mortal; no matter how you suppress your feelings or disguise that fact. No one lives forever. And death is that unavoidable reality; you just don’t know how or when.

Until Jesus returns, the Psalmist’s words endure, “No one can live forever; all will die. No one can escape the power of the grave.” Psalm 89:48 NIV. Now that sounds grim, doesn’t it? Death is grim and unpleasant because it is unnatural to us. But there is good news. “That by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Hebrews 2:14-16 NIV. You were created to be eternal, in the image and likeness of your Creator. Sin introduced death, not God. Romans 5:12-19 NIV. The dread of death causes despair. That was true at man’s origin, and it is true now.

Days earlier, harsh realities replaced dreams and hopes the Christ-followers held, challenging everything they believed about faith and the future. Despair shoved hope aside. They stumbled, ”back home,” back to life as it had been; to pick up what little seemed left – broken, bewildered, and discouraged. Things they thought possible before, seemed impossible now. Things sure to them days before, now posed troubling questions. You will face times when life is hard and you feel like turning around. You might ask yourself, “What’s the use?” Something will seem to have erased your future, but your future is safe and secure in God’s hands.

Then came Easter morning! “All honor to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is by His boundless mercy that God has given us the privilege of being born again. Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3 NLT. Christ’s resurrection validates His power over death, proving that Jesus is the Lord of life, the conqueror of death. “God raised [Jesus] from the dead . . because it was not possible for death to keep its hold on Him.” Acts 2:24 NIV. Resurrection is the demonstration of God’s power, conquering your worst and last enemy; in comparison, everything else you will ever face is minor for God to do.

The amazing thing about Jesus is that His life began and ended with an impossibility. Earlier today, my friend, Amos, described the unique miracle of the Incarnation and Resurrection this way, “Jesus came into a world marked, ‘no entrance,’ through a virgin’s womb, and left our world through a door marked, ‘no exit,’ out from a borrowed tomb.”

How could we not celebrate such a supernatural and sacrificial life? Jesus said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Luke 18:27. Luke thought it important to establish for others what he knew to be true, “Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:3-4 NIV.

Easter is far more than a date on the Spring calendar, even more than a fact of history. Easter remains forever a current event, more relevant to your well-being than anything in today’s headlines. Easter makes sense of everything that has not made any sense at all. The empty Garden tomb made sense of the agony of Gethsemane and the cruelty of Calvary. The Resurrection introduced possibilities beyond anything His followers had previously imagined when standing in the darkening shadow of the cross. Jesus’ birth, death, burial, and resurrection made impossibilities become possible.

Jesus’ Resurrection shouts truth with clarity and certainty over every question, doubt, and fear. And Easter offers the same for you today. Jesus’ Resurrection guarantees yours. Death will not be the last word. Life is the final word spoken over you, life now and life everlasting. “Then the end will come, when He hands over the Kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all his enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” 1 Corinthians 15:24-27 NIV. Meanwhile, God gives you the opportunity to live with wonderful expectation.

Today I pray for you to live with certainty and expectancy that nothing is impossible with God.

Christian Communications 2018

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Spiritual Practices

October 9th, 2015

“The Father has blessed us . . with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 NIV.

Essential spiritual practices necessitate leisure and solitude.

My thoughts and comments today are about “spiritual practices.”

Days can be busy and noisy, leaving you over-stimulated and weary. Everything seems rushed and everyone hurried. All too often, the urgent displaces the important. The pace of our lives and the noise of our surroundings diminish things vital to our well-being. More tragically, you can lose something of yourself somewhere in the noise and busyness. Unrelenting activity produces a confused identity. A conviction of spiritual identity provides: certainty about purpose, clarity of direction, and sufficiency of your God-given gifts and abilities. So much depends upon a true sense of your God-given identity.

Essential spiritual practices necessitate leisure and solitude. We are so much like the disciples – often busy and tired. Jesus invited His disciples, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 NIV. Time alone with God is where you rediscover your identity in Christ. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 NIV. In his epistles, Paul wrote prolifically about your life, “in Christ.” Read Ephesians 2:6-7 NIV.

Let me suggest Biblical disciplines that strengthen your spiritual identity. Begin with this. Practice Sabbath rest. The Sabbath principle incorporates the whole of one’s life before the Lord. All other spiritual disciplines begin and extend from a heart that practices the principle of Sabbath. More than a day set aside from usual and necessary activity, Sabbath is a deliberate time – without worry or hurry – to reorient your body, soul, and spirit with the Biblical practices that encourage and celebrate your faith. In Jesus, true Sabbath is found. Matthew 11:28-30 NIV.

Prioritize quiet and solitude. Practice to be quiet and content in God’s presence. “I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child with his mother.” Psalm 131:1-2 NIV. Prioritize time in God’s Word. Psalm 1:1-3 NIV. Regular attention to the reading and meditation of Scripture is critically important. “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” Colossians 3:16-17 NKJV. Prioritize prayer with thanksgiving. Communicating your heart and gratitude to God results in communion with God. “In everything, by prayer and thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6-7 NIV.

Prioritize Praise and Worship. Grow comfortable expressing your heart in joyful adoration. Psalm 100 NIV. Prioritize edifying Fellowship. You were made for community. Acts 2:46-47 NKJV. That is where you grow and serve best. “Let us not neglect our meeting together . . but encourage and warn one another.” Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT. Spiritual practices develop a life that abides in Christ, trusts His finished work on the cross, and celebrates your identity in Christ.

Today, I pray for you that your identity is rooted and built up in Christ Jesus.

Christian Communications

Bible

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He Loves Me! He Loves Me Not?

October 2nd, 2009

“We know how much God loves us and have put our trust in Him.” 1 John 4:16 NLT

“Love gives you life without limits!”

My thoughts today both say and ask “He loves me! He loves me not?”

Life is a journey of learning. And learning is about asking the right questions and believing the right answers. Along the way, you will confront the “loves me, loves me not question.” When life makes you face that question as it relates to yourself and God, your answer is of eternal importance. Every person knows in their heart that they want God to love them, even that they need God to love them. But many never fully believe that He does. They are like children plucking petals from a flower always asking, “He loves me? He loves me not?” You must settle the question in your heart once and for all that He loves me!” – always has, always will.

You can be among those who know that God has always loved you, and always will, no matter what. See Ephesians 2:1-10 NIV. With all you learn, the certainty of God’s love is the single, most life-changing truth you ever learn. Whatever your life experience, and however much you wrestle with questions and doubts about other things, you must be persuaded and “know how much God loves (you) and have put (your) trust in Him!” Here is what I have learned about love.

(1) It is important what you think God thinks about you. Too many people are uncertain about what God thinks about them, in spite of all the Bible clearly says. That truth is plainly declared, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that none should perish . . He came not to condemn the world but that the world through Christ might be saved.” John 3:16-17. What more is there to say? What is critical, however, is what you think God thinks about you. Love cannot change you, however powerful it is, until you believe love can and will. It is true and correctly applicable to this matter of God’s love, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.” Love is powerful in your everyday life when you believe it to be, and allow it to be. Not so much when you don’t.

(2) The reality of spiritual life rests upon your certainty of God’s love. Your spiritual life cannot exceed the dimensions of your personal reception of God’s love for you. There is a dynamic of spiritual vitality that waits for the embrace of the human heart for its full release. Do you want more of Christ’s fullness? Go deeper in His love! God’s love for you is literally limitless – absolutely without bounds or restraints, except for the ones you impose upon it. Your victory over sin and habits is directly related to your conviction and certainty of God’s love, as expressed in His boundless grace and forgiveness to you. Love gives you life without limits!

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love may have power, together with all saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Read Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV.

And what results from such a conviction of love? God’s love brings you into abundance unavailable to you by any other means – “that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God!” Where do you get the idea that crumbs are all you deserve or could have? What would you dare to imagine such fullness of life might be? Love is what brings you there. He loves you!

My prayer for you today is: let God love you, as He wants to love you!

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Firmly Held Convictions

September 21st, 2009

“All these were still living by faith when they died.” Hebrews 11:13 NIV

“Everything God has appointed will be as He says – that can be a firmly held conviction.”

My thoughts today are about “firmly held convictions.”

Most of us do not live well with too much uncertainty. You know, something you hope will happen but prepare yourself in case it doesn’t. Things that you think you can count on but can’t be completely sure until they happen create a tension that complicates daily life. You probably will not balance that tension altogether well for very long. That tension causes a level of anxiety while you wait, and disappointment when your expectation is not fulfilled. Disappointment merely means, “Not as appointed.”

The answer to living in that tension without anxiety now or disappointment later is to have a genuinely held conviction that what you believe will come to pass, without imposing your own insistence of how and when. The Bible calls that faith. Faith is not imaginary. The Bible says that faith in God has substance and relies on evidence. See Hebrews 11:1/6 NLT.

Not everything that you have appointed to be a certain way will occur as you planned; but everything that God has appointed will be exactly as He says – that can be your firmly held conviction. See Acts 17:30-31/Hebrews 1:1-2, and read the sobering words of Hebrews 9:27.

It is important to know what things you can believe with certainty. You will believe a lot of things, but you cannot believe all things equally. To believe simply means, “to lean upon, to put your weight upon.” You soon learn that the experience of putting your weight upon an empty cardboard box is vastly different that sitting on the same box when filled completely with books! Some people’s promises will give way and disappoint you; you will learn the ones you can depend upon with firmly held conviction, and life will be simpler and less anxious.

Today’s verse describes people of faith who lived with firmly held convictions that God and His Word could be fully trusted – even if what they believed was not fully realized in their lifetime. Now that’s a lot of trust! “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only welcomed (were assured of) them from a distance. Hebrews 11:13 NIV.

Abraham believed so firmly and lived his convictions so faithfully that three generations later his great grandson, Joseph, gave these instructions as he anticipated his own death, “God will surely take you to the land He promised . . God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” Genesis 50:24-26 NIV. And still generations later, when God did as He had promised Abraham, Moses and Israel carried the bones of Joseph with them when they left Egypt and into Canaan when Joshua led Israel across the Jordan River. Read Exodus 13:19 NIV.

I love the conclusion of lives lived in faith. Here’s what the Bible says about such people of firmly held convictions, “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:16 NIV/John 14:1-4. It is better to live with firmly held convictions, when you rest those convictions securely on God and His Word. See 2 Timothy 1:12 NIV/Matthew 24:35.

My prayer for you today is to know what you believe and why, with conviction.

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