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Posts Tagged ‘fellowship’

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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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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Encouraged and Encouraging

August 25th, 2015

“That you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:12 NIV.

Encouragement is evidenced in conviction, confidence, and courage.

Never Give Up

My thoughts and comments today are about being “encouraged and encouraging.”

Someone rightly observed, “Misery loves company.” Misery tends to choose similar company. Trust me; they will not be profitable for you and you aren’t helpful to them. Their depleted emotions further diminish yours. Encouragement is less about emotions and more about positive actions. Encouragement is evidenced in your conviction, confidence, and courage. I suggest three practical sources of encouragement.

Learn to encourage yourself in God and His Word. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3:15-17 NKJV. Betrayed, deposed, and driven from Jerusalem by his rebellious son, Absalom, “David was greatly distressed . . but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” 1 Samuel 30:6 KJV. The Word of God has power to heal your emotions, calm your fears, and refresh your heart. Read Psalm 19:7-10 NLT.

The Word of God and the grace of God is sufficient whatever your season or circumstance. The Apostle Paul describes such moments, “May our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father, Who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV. The Scriptures refocus your attention on Jesus; Jesus is the great Encourager. See Romans 15:4-5 NIV.

Choose to be an encourager to others. “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:11-12 NIV. Is there anything you give others more valued and mutually rewarding than the gift of encouragement? You can’t encourage others when you are discouraged. Sow encouragement; reap encouragement. Encouragement returns from those you have encouraged. There is a familiar, but often misapplied, Biblical principle of generosity that is true in every application. “If you give, you will receive . . Whatever measure you use in giving – large or small – it will be used to measure what is given back to you.” Read Luke 6:37-38 NLT. Notice that the surrounding context is relational rather than monetary.

Seek the company of those whose lifestyle and fellowship encourage you. “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, Philemon, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” Philemon 1:7 NIV. Everyone needs fresh courage for the day and its demands. Life can be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually depleting, leaving you empty of energy and optimism. Days, even seasons, can feel disheartening. At such times, people who are emotionally and spiritually healthy refresh your courage. “And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 NIV. Also see Hebrews 10:25 NIV.

Today, I pray that you will aspire to be an encourager, and refreshed in doing so.

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Weariness

June 2nd, 2015

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened.” Matthew 11:28 NIV.

To be holy and healthy, you need safe places, still times, and special friends.

My thoughts and comments today are about “weariness.”

Too frequently our lives could be described in the terms of, “hurry, worry, and weariness.” Busyness and noisiness produce weariness of body, soul, and spirit. The relentless pace of daily lives and the incessant noise of crowded surroundings become exhausting – physically, emotionally, and spiritually, as well as relationally destructive. The result? Marriages struggle; families suffer; relationships are strained. Too often people are busy but ineffective. As efficiency and effectiveness diminish, multiplying your efforts is rarely the best solution.

Mark’s Gospel reports a productive, but equally draining time, for Jesus’ disciples. They preached; people repented; demons were cast out; sick people were healed. The disciples were busy about matters important to the Kingdom, doing exactly what Jesus commissioned them to do, and with remarkable success. The more the disciples accomplished, the more there was yet to do. Jesus wisely foresaw that they would experience the “law of diminishing returns,” growing efforts producing waning results.

“Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, Jesus said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” Mark 6:30-32 NIV. There have to be moments when you draw aside from the rush and routines. Read Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV.

The venerable King James translation reads, “And Jesus said to them, ‘Come apart . . and rest a while.” There are occasions when you need to be wise enough, “to come apart,” before you literally come apart – physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Whatever your activities, maybe today you feel life unraveling – weary of soul, depleted of energy, empty of resolve, dissatisfied with success, or a tiredness that is never rested.

If experiencing one of those times, Jesus’ invitation is the best advice I could give you, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV. Read Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV.

Gordon MacDonald, a favorite author of mine, wrote, “Restoring Your Spiritual Passion.” Thomas Nelson Publishers. He gave three essentials things for spiritual passion: (1) Safe Places. You need a map of your life marking where you find Sanctuary, free from disruptions and misdirection. (2) Still Times. You need a calendar showing when you will observe Sabbath, apart from the demands of depleting schedules. (3) Special Friends. You need a life-restoring Fellowship, people who inspire, encourage, correct, challenge, and affirm you.

Today, I pray for you that draw strength and hope from a source that never fails.

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Stress and Stillness

July 15th, 2014

“Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” Job 37:14 NKJV.

The pace of schedules and noise of surroundings generate stress.

My thoughts and comments today are about “stress and stillness.”

Stress is your body’s reaction to challenges, the impulse of “fight or flight.” Hurry, worry and weariness will leave you vulnerable to stress. Its negative and debilitating effects are cumulative, diminishing your joy and optimism and even damaging health. Stress can result from concerns about health, relationships, pressures, finances, past mistakes, or future fears.

In daily life, stress is heightened by the frantic pace of our schedules and the deafening noise of our surroundings. Prolonged, those are wearying to body, soul, and spirit. The effects manifest interpersonally in relationships, marriages, or families, as well as intrapersonally, affecting yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, and most importantly, spiritually. Your spiritual life and personal relationship with God is diminished and less satisfying.

Isaiah discovered, “Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength . . they will run and not get tired; they will walk and not became weary.” Read Isaiah 40:28-31 NAS. There is so much that you miss when you fail to take the necessary time to be quiet before God. Job, in the midst of the whirlwind of experiences and the confusion he felt, received wise counsel, “Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” Job 37:14 NKJV. Life makes better sense when you place God at the center of it all.

There are two concerns that I have. First, the pace of your schedule compromises the priority of God’s voice. See Exodus 3:1-10 NKJV. You will not hear the voice of God in your heart without quieting your spirit to wait and listen. Secondly, the noise of your surroundings competes with the clarity of God’s voice. See 1 Samuel 3:1-11 NKJV. Any time but especially when life is unclear and uncertain, spend time with God’s Word, quietly in His presence.

The Psalmist David was deliberate, I have stilled and quieted myself, just as a small child is quiet with its mother. Yes, like a small child is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:2 NLT. At all times, you need to learn this truth, “Be still and know that I am God.” Read Psalm 46. Be intentional; it is important.

Some years ago, a book, Restoring Your Spiritual Passion (Gordon MacDonald, author) influenced my spiritual disciplines. MacDonald named three things essential to recovering passion when experiencing lost purpose, clouded vision, or confused direction: an address book with the names of “special friends who encourage you to obey God,” a map indicating the location of “safe places where you rediscover who God is,” and a calendar marking “still times when you hear what God says.” Respectively, each corresponds to three vital, Biblical principles of Fellowship, Sanctuary, and Sabbath.

For your personal study, I suggest consideration of events in the lives of Elijah, Jehoshaphat, and Moses. (1) “Be still when you need to hear a word from God.” Read 1 Kings 19:7-16 KJV. (2) “Be still when you need to know the plans of God.” Read 2 Chronicles 20:10-22 NKJV. (3) “Be still when you need to see the power of God.” Exodus 14:10-16/30-31 NKJV.

Today, my prayer for you is to truly know God in a deep and personal way.

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