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Gratitude and Thankfulness

November 22nd, 2017

Thanksgiving is the language of gratitude.

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving.” Psalm 95:2 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Gratitude and Thankfulness”

Thanksgiving is the language of gratitude. God loves a grateful, thankful heart. I think those two words of similar meaning can be distinguished in this way. Gratitude is a noble attitude just as thankfulness is a worthy practice. Gratitude is the emotion experienced. Thankfulness is that emotion expressed. The covert emotion of gratitude is tangibly expressed in the simplicity of overt thankfulness. Stated more simply, gratitude displays its joyful heart with a thankful lifestyle. Gratitude is so much more than an emotion of a moment. Thanksgiving is the lifestyle of expressing sincere and heartfelt gratitude to God and others.

Why would we not be thankful? Paul’s question to the Christians at Corinth is relevant, “Who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” 1 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV. Boasting in what you have denies the charity of the gift from God and your responsibility to reflect the same to others. Humility, thankfulness, and generosity are always very much in order.

As each new day dawns, your God offers the abounding blessings of a new beginning, an amazing grace, a true forgiveness, an uplifting encouragement, a fresh hope, a strong faith, a real joy, and more than adequate strength to successfully meet whatever challenge the day requires. “As your day, so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25 NKJV. I have long found strength and encouragement by the promise within that remarkable verse. His strength to you is in proportion to what the day requires of you.

This week in our nation, we celebrate a day of Thanksgiving. For many that day will be little more than a festive holiday, a day for family and friends to gather for a holiday meal, with side dishes and desserts of every description. But such a day should also be a thankful remembrance of the faithfulness of God, the fellowship of family and friends, and your gratitude for God’s providence throughout the year behind and ahead. We have so much for which to be thankful and His invitation to experience more. Read Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV.

Solomon wisely observed, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 NKJV. There is no end to God’s mercies, no limit to His grace, and no measure of His goodness. Therefore, “Continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7 NIV. Overflowing with thankfulness!

This season of Thanksgiving, look past your present struggles or previous challenges, whatever they have been or may be at the moment. Decide with the Psalmist David, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1 NKJV. Praise always wins. In praise and blessing, you see the full brilliance of His grace, the abounding nature of His love, the generous supply of His daily provision, and your privilege to respond with thanksgiving to God. Read Psalm 95:2-3 NKJV. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:4-5 NIV.

You will discover that you have more for which to be thankful than things about which to complain or regret. And life is best when you look past things distressing to all that is blessing. There is ample evidence of blessings that abound. Read 2 Corinthians 9:8-11 NKJV. The sincere giving of thanks is your fitting benediction for God’s goodness to you. “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to make your life a resounding Amen to what God has spoken.

On a personal note:

Gayle and I wish you a Blessed Thanksgiving as you gather with family and friends to give thanks to God for His goodness and provision. We are thankful for you  and for the months or years that you ave been a part of the circle of readers of EveryDay Life. Your recommendation of EDL to your friends has helped us to reach a broadening circle of readers. And your kind emails of how God has used a specific devotional to brighten your day remains encouraging. This has been our 10th year of writing and publishing EDL. We are grateful to God for your partnership and encouragement . . . Blessings!  

Christian Communications 2017

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Abiding and Abounding Love

August 25th, 2017

Nothing lasts without God as its source and center.

“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love.” 1 Thess 3:12 NKJV

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Abiding and Abounding Love.”

Loving and being loved is essential to a healthy, happy life. After listing multiple, essential Christian graces – compassion, kindness, humility, patience, gentleness, and forgiveness – Paul added, And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Read Colossians 3:12-14 NIV. All else is incomplete without sincere love at its heart. Love contains and completes all other Godly virtues. Love for God and one another is the crowning grace of all else. But love is never easy all the time.

Conditions complicate love. Sometimes without realizing your having done so, you may have thought to yourself, “I will love you, as long as you ( fill in your conditions ).” Love with limitations will always be taking inventory, making sure your conditions are being met. Provisional love will neither produce nor protect strong marriages, nor safe homes, nor solid friendships. Conditional love cannot hold people together when misunderstandings inevitably arise or when the blush of love’s emotion wanes.

In contrast, Jesus’ love for you is unconditional, just as He commands you to love others. “Now I am giving you a new commandment: love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” John 13:34 NLT. That is a high standard, but a lesser goal will not sustain your faith in all times, nor friendships for a long time, nor love for a lifetime.

Do you want to know God’s practical benchmarks of love in daily life? God’s Word says what love is and love is not. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NLT. Did you notice the last characteristic? “Love endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever!” Even when you feel like it won’t; it will. Forever does not begin in eternity. Forever begins now and reaches across and throughout eternity.

“I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NKJV. Such persevering love rests on the firm foundation of His own love for you. “The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, and so in Him I put my hope.” Lamentations 3:22-24 TEV.

Nothing lasts without God as its Source and Center. This is my prayer and hope for you today. “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 NKJV. Love will not endure unless God originates and sustains it. God is the only source of abiding and abounding love. “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.” John 15:9-10 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you that out of God’s wondrous love, you will love always.

Christian Communications 2017

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Faults and Amazing Grace

August 23rd, 2017

Love sees what others do not care enough to look for.

 “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.”

Romans 5:20

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Faults and Amazing Grace.”

We all have faults aplenty, if anyone is looking for them. And it is not uncommon to recognize faults in others that we ignore in ourselves. The challenge of any relationship is choosing to keep in view the things that first caused love or friendship to be valued. As time passes, it is easy to notice more things that are other than were expected. Those are less numerous and probably smaller than what you might appreciate, but a wrong focus can soon cause another’s graces to seem overshadowed.That’s when you will be tempted to highlight another’s supposed shortcomings, much to their displeasure and the gradual diminishing of your relationship.

When a person seems oblivious to a beloved’s imperfections, it is explained that, “Love is blind.” I suggest that God’s love is not blind at all, but chooses to overlook what is contrary to love. How would you otherwise explain this verse? “Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8 NIV.

This is the real question. How could God see your sinfulness, and yet love you? Do you ever think that strange? Exceptional? Our humanity waits until love has cause and justification to be offered, but is easily revoked when disappointed. God’s only justification was your need for His love and ample forgiveness. Paul marveled at God grace. “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” . . “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” Romans 5:20/2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJV.

Many years ago, Dottie Rambo wrote a touching song of testimony that declared, “He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.” That kind of love, from God or man, has an relentless power to transform a human heart and rescue a ruined life. Mark reports Jesus’ encounter with a young man of wealth and authority, who sincerely asked how he might inherit eternal life. Painful moments after Jesus’ response, he would walk away sorrowfully. The price seemed too high for him to accept. “But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Read Mark 10:17-22 NKJV.

Though more than fifty years ago, I vividly remember my Dad’s sermon about “the rich, young ruler.” As a young teen, his words painted an unforgettable picture in my heart of a young man walking away, shoulders slumped with sorrow, and his back turned to Jesus. My Dad’s description has influenced my lifetime, lest anything cause me to turn my back on Jesus’ offer of eternal life. No sacrifice is too great as an exchange for eternal life.

While writing Peter’s memory of the encounter, Mark observed, “And Jesus looked at him, and loved him.” Mark 10:21 NIV. Make no mistake. Others saw his wealth and position and would have received or rejected him on that basis. Jesus saw more. He saw a heart searching for real life, and loved him, before he chose and even after he chose unwisely. Do not make the mistake than young man made.

After explaining his notable, religious pedigree and his brutal, relentless persecution of the young church, Paul wrote, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord,  for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.” See Philippians 3:4-14 NKJV/Galatians 1:1-16 NIV. No wonder they call grace amazing!

Today, I pray for you to love others, believe the best of them, and show them grace.

Christian Communications 2017

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Pursue Peace

September 28th, 2016

P

Peace is well worth pursuing.

Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:18 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today urge you to “pursue peace.”

The value of peace is inestimable. “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:16 NIV. Tranquility is too valuable to live without. Those who lack peace most know its irreplaceable value best. There is peace of mind. There can be peace with your past and about the future. There should be peace in your marriage, home, and relationships. There is peace with others. But peace with God is the most essential and most cherished. ”Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16 NIV. When peace with God is lacking, peace within yourself and with others is absent altogether, or at least diminished.

Let’s look at peace with others. What you cannot do is guarantee that every difference with others can be resolved mutually. Jesus understood that people, far from perfect and living in a fallen world, will give and take offence. In a strained and problematic situation, you must accept that sometimes the best thing you can do is just to not add to the situation further. However, your part of the problem, whether small or large, must be settled righteously. First, resolve in your heart that you have done everything you know to do, and commit that you will do anything God asks you to do.

The Bible’s wise counsel is: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 NIV. The steps for, “as far as it depends on you,” are fairly straight forward, but rarely pain free. Recognize how you have contributed to an offense. Ask God and the other party to forgive you. Make amends as they are needed. Forgive without waiting to be asked. Allow God time to work in hearts – yours and theirs – for restoration of the relationship as time and grace will allow.

Regrettably, we all contribute to a few of such circumstances. At times, you may have little inclination to either give or seek forgiveness. Unforgiveness and resentment will only bear bitter fruit in your heart and painful relationships in your life. When you feel hurt, accepting God’s terms for healing might take time and prayer, but will certainly require humility. Sometimes you will want to, “fix it,” but often cannot. As God works grace and forgiveness within you, allow God to work in other hearts as well, in His time and theirs.

Be wary of storing hurtful memories when feeling wronged or misunderstood. “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy.” Hebrews 12:14 NIV. I think the simplest understanding of Jesus’ teaching is this: whenever and wherever your desire for peace is refused, don’t leave with less than the peace and blessing with which you came nor carry their spiritual and emotional baggage as you leave. Read Matthew 10:12-14 NKJV. Peaceably, go your way with only good will. “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.” 1 Peter 3:10-11 NIV. Peace is well worth pursuing. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:18 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to value God’s sufficiency of grace when received or extended.

Christian Communications 2016

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Get Over It

July 29th, 2016

Love and forgiveness is always the right response.

“Shake off the dust from your feet.” Matthew 10:14 NKJV

My thoughts and comments today urge, “get over it.”

In our daily lives, all of us gather mental, emotional, and spiritual clutter. Others, as well as yourself, are capable of saying, doing, or behaving in ways that are less than helpful. Our words, actions, and attitudes in daily discourse impact one another more than you may at first realize. To our harm, we collect and hold in our memories and emotions disappointments or hurts that occur.

With a little time, much of those common slights are soon disregarded. Those apparent slights we don’t dismiss easily, we gradually process and ultimately discard. At other times, feelings of misunderstanding or misjudgment may lodge in your psyche a longer than is profitable to your healthy well-being. Jesus’ advice is simple. Get over it. Here is the reality. You can neither control nor change what another person chooses to say or do. You, however, can choose what you say or do in return. For your own sake and the sake of the other, you must.

Forgive and forget, in that order, is good counsel. One of two things happen when affronted; you will either react or respond. Those are similar but not near the same. Either can occur when you feel hurt. Reacting exacerbates a problem; responding offers reconciliation. When explaining this principle in counseling, I describe a person throwing a rubber ball against a wall. The ball reacts against the wall according to two relevant conditions – the force the ball is thrown and the hardness or softness of the wall.

The initial force is at another’s initiative; you can neither control nor change that. The resulting absorption of that force is your decision alone. A natural reaction usually occurs in a force equal to or stronger than the initial action. A person angrily shouts at you; you naturally react by shouting back angrily, and thus it escalates. That’s how and when feelings get hurt and relationships are harmed, usually temporarily but sometimes permanently. A spiritual response absorbs another’s words or actions, giving back kindness for unkindness.

As a boy, as I entered the house my Mom would remind me, “Allen, wipe your feet outside. I don’t want dirt on my clean floor.” She knew that I would otherwise be bringing into our home the dust, dirt, and little debris from where I had walked. Jesus’ counsel to His disciples was similar except he was talking about the stuff that gathers in our thoughts and feelings from our daily journey, “Shake the dust off of your feet when you leave that home or town . . let your peace return to you.” Read Matthew 10:11-14 NIV. Don’t journey on without God’s peace, with which you came; don’t leave with hurts you did not bring.

A Godly response is always better than a natural reaction. Love, understanding, and forgiveness is always the right response. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was clear; “Pray for those who mistreat you . . Do to others as you would have them do to you . . Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” Read Luke 6:27-38 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to rest your cause in His capable hands.

Christian Communications 2016

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