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Giving Thanks Is God’s Will

November 29th, 2017

Giving thanks honors God and values others.

 “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are that,

“giving thanks is God’s will.” 

This year, our family decided to have our traditional Thanksgiving dinner outside, rather than in our dining room as has been customary. With four generations, along with friends, that is quite a full house. Our son and daughter along with their spouses, and our ever-growing family circle of grandkids with their spouses, and great grandkids from five years old and younger, gathered with friends from in town and out, as well as new friends from Romania. It was a beautiful, pleasant day with much conversation and lots of memories – some with tears – but most with joy and gratefulness.

Around large wooden cable spools for serving and dining, we visited and ate under the shade of Mesquite and Huisache trees – with curious visits from our dogs, miniature donkeys, and Hercules (our son’s horse). After a few moments of grateful Communion (a tradition begun by request of a grandson a few years earlier), plates were filled with turkey and ham, mashed and sweet potatoes, vegetables, salads followed by pumpkin pies, pumpkin crunch cake, banana pudding, and assorted Bundt cakes. Needless to say, no one went away hungry.

As the evening came, the great grandkids became the focus, enjoying rides across the pasture in the jeep with their dad, or down the road in a wagon pulled by a doting grandpa. As the sun faded and shadows lengthened, family and friends sat around a warming fire and laughed and remembered moments of life together, until farewells and bed time. We remain thankful to God for His faithfulness, and to one another for friendship.

My thought today is this. Thankfulness honors God and values others. Giving thanks is a lifestyle. Thanksgiving is just one special day on our American calendar. The apostle Paul encouraged true believers, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19-20 NIV. When do you give thanks? Always! For what do you give thanks? Everything! To Whom do you give thanks? To God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! The Apostle Paul seemed astonished when he described unthankful people. “They knew God, but they wouldn’t worship Him as God or even give Him thanks.” Read Romans 1:20-23 NLT. Giving thanks is the doorway to worship. Read Psalm 100 NIV.

Paul was consistent, even insistent, in his instructions to New Testament Christians, “Be Thankful . . Sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through [Christ Jesus].” Colossians 3:16-17 NIV. The seeds of gratitude in your heart are the source from which giving thanks flows in your words and through your life. The Apostle Paul was clear. Whatever your circumstances of the moment, you always have cause to give thanks. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NKJV.

That indescribable Gift is Jesus, God’s Son who died on the cross for your sins and mine, and rose again from the grave, ascending to Heaven so that you and I may have eternal life with Him. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 NIV.

The writer of Hebrews summarized my thoughts better than I could, “Therefore, by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to never remain silent when you have every reason to give thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Communications 2017

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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

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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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Being Exemplary

January 27th, 2014

“Christ . . is your example. Follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 NLT.

Personal example far outweighs impersonal instruction.

My thoughts and comments today are about “being exemplary.”

Maybe you have heard it said, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Such instruction doesn’t work so well in parenting, or relationships of any kind. The problem with such advice is this: personal example far outweighs impersonal instruction. Words take little time, minimal cost, and marginal effort to tell someone what to do. The most accurate instruction is not nearly as effective as modeling. The best teaching, and therefore most enduring learning, includes example and demonstration.

In previous comments last week, I wrote, “As God came into His world by the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, God works today in our world to bring lost people from unbelief to faith as His Word is incarnated in the very lives that have been forever changed.” But how does that work? Paul wrote to Christ-followers, “[You are] known and read by everybody, you show that you are a letter from Christ . . written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.” 2 Corinthians 3:3-4 NKJV. (See “Living Letters,” EDL, Friday, January 24, 2014). I want to further develop how God achieves that incarnation of truth through the lives of those who know and trust Him as Savior.

Jesus’ expectation and your assignment are clear, “Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” 1 Tim 4:12-13 NLT. Now, that’s a holy mission requiring devotion and sacrifice. How can you and I bring a living word to a world where the plethora of inauthentic words and paucity of worthy examples devalue efforts?

In humility, Jesus understood, “The Son can do nothing of Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son also does [in like manner]. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all He does . . I don’t speak on My own authority. The Father who sent Me gave Me His own instructions as to what I should say. And I know that His instructions lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.” John 5:19-20 NIV/12:49-50 NLT.

The Father modeled for Jesus what He should say and do and the Son wisely followed His Father’s example with His disciples, and with us. As Jesus learned from His Father, He taught by example and modeling all the Father taught Him. To His disciples, Jesus said, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done.” John 13:15 NLT. In your strength alone, success is impossible. You need the indwelling Word of God and anointing of the Spirit. See Colossians 3:16-17 NIV.

The calling is daunting but the solution is this simple. Christ . . is your example. Follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 NLT. If you will walk as He directs, speak what He says, and do the will of the Father as He did, you are following His example and your life will be extraordinary. “Live as children of God in a dark world . . Let your lives shine brightly before them.” Philippians 2:15-16 NLT. Being ordinary is nothing special; being exemplary is.

My prayer for you today is that you are a shining example of all that is good and holy.

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Common Courtesies

January 13th, 2014

“Be courteous . . that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:8-9 NKJV.

Common courtesy could be your entrance to very uncommon blessings.

My thoughts and comments today are about “common courtesies.”

We have a small plaque in our home, “Because Nice Matters!” See Colossians 3:16-17 MSG. I have observed those simple words become the everyday expression of my wife, Gayle, and her thoughtful, practical ministry to others. Her friends and family know those words guide what she does, what she says, how she regards others, and govern the time and effort she gives to anything she does in order for that to be the best she can offer for others’ pleasure and profit. “Nice matters,” because people matter to God, every one of them; that practical truth makes people matter to Gayle.

My parents and grandparents often spoke of something they called, “common courtesy,” which I came to understand referred to simple acts of consideration for others, such as being respectful and mannerly toward them. Courtesy is a social civility you should require of yourself,one that others should expect of you. Common courtesy no longer appears all that common.

I observe extremes with which people speak and relate to each other. Today’s culture permits a shallow familiarity of using first names and inappropriate conversation of personal and private information with mere acquaintances, or even total strangers sometimes. That appears to me more presumptuous and intrusive than friendly, as is probably intended.

Meanwhile, others find it acceptable to totally ignore people, passing them without as much as a nod or polite, “hello, or excuse me,” overlooking another person as though irrelevant, hardly needing their notice. Between those extremes are simple gestures of courtesy that honor the dignity and individuality of another person and treats them accordingly.

I think common courtesy is a proper and Godly response to recognizing the dignity due every individual in some measure.Your sense and practice of courtesy toward others can evidence your regard for yourself or lack of regard for others. “Be courteous . . knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:8-9 NKJV. Common courtesy could be your entrance to very uncommon blessings.

Other translations of this verse use the words, “humility or humble minded,” which is also translated as “courteous.” The Greek word is “philophrone,” a combination of two words, “brotherly/friendly” and “minded.” The application is this: “treating others with friendly thoughtfulness.” How you interact with others reflects how you value them, and people in general.

It is easy to be kind and considerate with those you correctly regard. Such behavior is characteristic of humility, regarding yourself properly not proudly. See Romans 12:1-3 NKJV. It is also possible to be inconsiderate of those you might consider, even unconsciously, as less expecting of the simplest acknowledgement or offer of helpful assistance. Failing those could demonstrate a lack of humility, living without the common courtesy of “friendly thoughtfulness.”

My prayer for you today is this: regard others highly as Jesus regards and relates to you.

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