Posts Tagged ‘Christ-likeness’

A Fresh Start

January 27th, 2017

Today can be an exit from your history and entrance to your destiny

 “His compassions are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV

My thoughts and comments today are about, “a fresh start.”

Life can feel unmanageable, your past cluttered with unfinished business and the path ahead filled with responsibilities. But life is not lived in yesterday or tomorrow; life can only be lived today. Your life is more than the facts of your history or your unrealized destiny. Positively or negatively, both of those are greatly affected by anything, or maybe everything, you do today. You can reinforce your history or rewrite its predictions. You can sell your future cheaply or invest yourself in achieving its potential.

This day is a fresh opportunity to write a new chapter in the ongoing story of your life. Sure, you have made mistakes. There are things you would have done better if you had been wiser. The remedy for regrets is simple. Enjoy a fresh start. Do better; learn from your mistakes rather than repeating them.

King David’s story is a record of repentance and redemption. In repentance, he embraced a greater future. Learn from his example and rejoice with him: “The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:23-24 NIV.

Recognize God as Lord of this day and rejoicing becomes the appropriate response. In grace, your history becomes His story. Today can bring a fresh start. Stop rehearsing your mistakes, regretting your failures, or reliving your record. Your God has a record of redeeming tragic histories. And your God is equally adept at crafting unimagined destinies. Both of those the Holy Spirit accomplishes in the context of today.

The Apostle Paul had history that God covered in grace and mercy. “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy.” Read 1 Tim 1:12-17 NKJV. On that road to Damascus, Paul met God face to face and his history was redeemed and his destiny assured. Read Acts 9:1-6 NKJV. People do not turn their life around without divine intervention. Only ignorance or arrogance – or both – would make a person attempt such a life change without God.

Paul found there was only one answer for spiritual transformation and subsequent conformation to Christ-likeness. “I am still not all that I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to Heaven.” Philippians 3:13-14 NLT.

Notice that Paul mentioned, “one thing,” and then proceeded to talk about, “forgetting, looking forward, and straining to reach.” The one thing Paul believed crucial was expressed in three equally essential actions: laying aside everything inhibiting about yesterday, living with anticipation today, and giving Godly effort to fulfill God’s calling every day that follows. Today can be an exit from your history and entrance to your destiny.

Today, I pray for you to trust both your history and destiny into Jesus’ capable hands.

Christian Communications 2017

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Achieving Your Potential

November 4th, 2014

“Stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Colossians 4:12 NIV.

Spiritual disciplines determine spiritual potential.

My thoughts and comments today are about “achieving your potential.”

Your innate desire to be more than you have been is from God. You have a God-given potential to become more than you have imagined. Boundaries are limits imposed by yourself or others. You were created “in the image and likeness of God.” Imagine the potential, presently and eternally, that God has invested in you. The only uncertainty is whether you will recognize and realize the divine potential within you. When you think of “achieving your potential,” what do you envision? Your capabilities will likely be more than your accomplishments.

Recognition of potential is the prerequisite for achieving potential. Paul described Godly potential this way: “That you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Colossians 4:12 NIV. Do those words – “standing firm . . mature . . fully assured” – describe you? They can. Achieving your potential does not just happen; the process requires purpose and priority, as well as sacrifice. And add patience, perseverance, and obedience to that list. Your full potential, being “mature and fully assured,” rests upon your priority and practice of living fully within the will of God.

Spiritual maturity is the pathway to your potential. “. . that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12 NIV. Maturity is not measured by comparison with others. Paul warned of those who, “. . measure themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12. Jesus is the only adequate and accurate standard for comparison. Not only is Jesus the standard by which you will be measured, He is the willing accomplice for all of your spiritual accomplishment.

Spiritual maturity is the goal; becoming like Jesus is the process. Be patient; your spiritual potential is achieved progressively in a process that is lifelong. “As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory even more.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT. In the simplest of terms, spiritual maturity can be described as Christ-likeness. See Romans 8:28. There is very good news about this process. John wrote, “We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” Read 1 John 3:1-3 NIV. Usually, we seem unclear as to the practical implications of Christ-likeness. Here is a useful, practical definition that has helped me. “Spiritual maturity is rightly responding to life’s situations according to Biblical patterns of behavior.” In every circumstance, a good question to ask is, “What would Jesus do?”  Your natural tendencies do not lend themselves to spiritual achievement.

Spiritual disciplines govern spiritual potential. (1) God’s Word is essential to spiritual life. “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise . .” Colossians 3:16-17 NLT. Spiritual maturity is achieved through a growing knowledge of the Word of God and a deepening obedience to the ways of God. (2) Welcome the Holy Spirit to rule your heart. “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do . . let the Holy Spirit fill and control you . . making music to the Lord in your hearts. And you will always give thanks for everything to God.” Ephesians 5:17-20 NLT. See Galatians 5:8-10/22-23. (3) Make prayer a daily priority. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2 NIV. See Philippians 4:6-7 NIV. (4) Let love be your lifestyle. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John  13:34.

Today, my prayer for you is to refuse limits that prevent your being all that God intends.

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God of All Comfort

May 24th, 2013

“God who comforts the downcast, comforted us.” 2 Corinthians 7:6 NIV.

Friends know you well enough to recognize your need for cheer and company.

My thoughts and comments today are about our “God of all comfort.”

A lot of things, and even some people, will make life less comfortable – the conversation you would rather not have, the difficulty you would rather not face, the change you would rather not make, the mistake you would rather not correct, the problem you would rather not solve. Those qualifying words, “rather not,” aptly describe things we prefer to avoid, if possible. A person’s natural instinct is to avoid discomfort, but that is not really possible. Learn to take life as it comes and make it better.

Your external comfort is God’s agenda,  but not His first agenda. His desire goes much deeper – your spiritual maturity by the continual development of Christ-likeness. See Ephesians 4:13 NKJV/1 John 3:2 NIV. One measure of spiritual maturity is learning to be at peace in disconcerting moments and growing by productive responses rather than destructive to yourself and others. Learn from uncomfortable situations, not just live through them; it is far more productive.

The Apostle Paul described a distressing time, “. . our bodies had no rest; we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. Nevertheless God who comforts the downcast, comforted us . .” 2 Corinthians 7:5-6 NKJV. God comforts the downcast; how very descriptive. You know the feeling. Never despair; God will be there.

You find comfort in God. “[God] comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NLT. God is the great recycler; don’t waste your sorrows. He redeems the worst that happens to you and transforms it into blessings for others. Ministry flows from your sincere empathy with another’s pain, then shares comfort from your experience of God’s grace. When you suffer troubling times or hurtful people – and experience God’s sufficiency, faithfulness, and comfort – you are better able to empathize with others. “I feel your pain,” becomes more than words.

You find comfort in the company of friends. “God comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him.” 2 Corinthians 7:6 NIV. Titus was comforted by his reception by the Corinthians; he brought their comfort, as well as his, to Paul. The arrival of Titus refreshed Paul’s spirit. That’s what friends can do; that’s what friends are for. A shared journey is a more comfortable journey. Friends should know you well enough to recognize when you need their cheer and company. Be the kind of friend you want to have. Solomon learned, “Two people accomplish twice as much as one . . if one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NLT.

You find comfort in good news. Paul wrote,“[Titus] told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.” 2 Corinthians 7:7 NIV. Stop reciting every disappointment; stop rehearsing every mistreatment. God’s Word is wise counsel: “Whatever is true . . noble . . right . . pure . . lovely . . admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things . . and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:6-9 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you know where to find true comfort when needed.

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March 27th, 2013

“I live in eager expectation . . that my life will honor Christ.” Philippians 1:20 NLT.

Good intentions alone do not rise to the level of intentionality.

My thoughts and comments today are about “intentionality.”

As a young teen, I “worked” a few summers in my grandfather’s Truck Stop in southern Illinois. Really, I just worked for a roll of nickels to play the pinball machine when not pumping gas. A pinball game is habit forming, a game of random occurrence with the whimsical fall of the metal ball, allowing minimal control by the player. For the small investment of coin and time, the game provides the amusement of flashing lights and blaring sounds as the ball progresses down the sloped surface, haphazardly hitting bumpers and accumulating points with the slim promise of a free replay. Life can be a lot of activity and commotion with no more than amusement in return for one’s expenditure of coin and time.

Some live accidentally, even randomly, ricocheting from one occurrence to another. A lifetime is too irreplaceable for that. Life should be lived deliberately, with careful thought, real convictions, and clear direction. Days without a plan become hours wasted; marriages or friendships without mutual definition and effort diminish; careers without goals are reduced to a succession of jobs without economic progress.

Recently, I have been captured by the Biblical concept of intentionality. Joshua was intentional; “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 NKJV. Daniel was intentional; “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” Daniel 1:8 NKJV. And Jesus was intentional; “I must be about My Father’s business . . I do always those things that please [the Father].” Luke 2:49/John 8:29 NKJV.To succeed, you must learn to live with Godly intentionality.

Paul was intentional, “I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame, but that I will always be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past, and that my life will always honor Christ . . for me . . that means fruitful service for Christ.” Philippians 1:20-22 NLT.Life responds to intentionality. A Law of Physics states that in a closed system “matter degrades from order to chaos.” That is evidenced in modern culture, broken marriages, poor habits, or careless spiritual disciplines. Without intentionality, the natural process is degeneration. With intentionality, the spiritual dynamic can be regeneration. You cannot risk casualness about matters with eternal consequence. See Hebrews 2:3/Mark 8:36 NLT. Spiritual life, like marriage, is one choice faithfully affirmed over a lifetime.

As I left our home to meet friends, I would hear my Dad’s frequent reminder, “Allen, be careful.” Under my breath, I usually protested, “Well, of course, I will be careful.” He knew what I have since learned: carelessness just happens while carefulness is the creation of intentionality.Good intentions alone do not rise to the level of intentionality; be intentional about things you intend.

Your spiritual journey without guide or goal can easily become only emotional and intellectual meanderings. The Bible and Holy Spirit are to be your guide; Christ-likeness must be your goal.“Till we all come to the . . knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of Christ.” See Ephesians 4:13-15 NKJV. The practical application of one’s Christ-likeness is best expressed by spiritual maturity. A definition that works for me is: “Spiritual maturity is rightly responding to life’s situations according to Biblical patterns of behavior.” About that, be intentional.

My prayer for you this day is: live a Godly life with clear and resolute convictions.

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June 4th, 2012

“Then we will see everything with perfect clarity.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT

The promise of good is incomplete without the process of being conformed.

My thoughts and comments today are about “clarity.”

What I have observed about myself and others is this: we cannot know everything we need to know, and often don’t understand everything we think we know. That is especially true when it comes to matters involving God’s will and His actions (or presumed inaction) in everyday life. Are you perplexed about something God has done, or more particularly a time when God hasn’t done what you wanted or believed He would? Sometimes in one’s life of faith, there seem to be more questions than answers.

Understanding can become a bit clouded, less clear than may feel comfortable to you. I have friends who live with serious health issues, and have for too long of a time. They are good people; they have served God faithfully, often carrying the burden of others’ needs. Maybe your present situation is like theirs in one way or another – a marriage that doesn’t heal, a prodigal who doesn’t return, financial crises that aren’t resolved. How does your heart and mind personally reconcile God’s righteous character and gracious care with the apparent absence of relief to dear people who trust God – loving and serving Him – even in the face of their own dire needs? My friend, Dennis, wisely observed that our present experience is safely” bound within God’s sovereignty, not our own choice or devil’s device.” Our time continuum is so small, eternity so vast.

Faith must occasionally wrestle with an apparent gap between God’s wisdom in a particular circumstance and His will and character as expressed in the Bible. In spite of what may first appear, there is no inconsistency. The Apostle Paul experienced such times and found satisfaction in God’s answer, “My grace is sufficient for you.” See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV. There is a day when God gives clarity, but that day is not necessarily this day. This verse describes both psychic pain and spiritual promise, “Now we see things imperfectly . .  but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT. Just as God knows! What a day that will be.

Here is the problem as I see it. The Bible says our knowledge and understanding are “imperfect, partial and incomplete.” There are times and situations when the miniscule portion of reality you see is not the full reality, until you are able to understand more clearly all that God is doing in this moment and how your small puzzle piece complements the over-arching purposes and providence of God. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God . . who are called  according to His purpose . . to become conformed to the image of His Son.Romans 8:28-29 NAS. The promise of good is incomplete without the process of being conformed. Romans 12:1-2 NIV.

The Bible’s good news is this. “Then you will see everything with perfect clarity . . then you will know everything completely, just as God knows you now.” Supposed ambiguity can yield to profound clarity about the will of God, when balanced with the eternal wisdom with which He lovingly and sovereignly directs the affairs of your life as well as His church and world. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge God and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV. Life requires trust; trust yields spiritual clarity.

My prayer for you today is that you will be clear about Who God is and what He does.

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