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Plans and Steps

May 8th, 2018

LIFE IS BEST WHEN GOD IS FIRST.

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NLT

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Plans and Steps.”

A life that is lived without a plan does not work very well, and a plan that is not clear, and manageable on some daily basis, will not lead to success. A plan is like GPS. You first choose your desired destination. Then a plan is formulated as the best way to get there. That could and should be applied to everyday life. A life that is lived without a plan does not work very well. And any plan that is not clear and manageable on some daily basis will not lead to success. Some years ago, a simple yet practical strategy became popular, “Plan the work; work the plan.” Solomon learned that, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5 NLT. That remains wise advice in any circumstance.

When you plan, you visualize the priority and time required for the various matters requiring your efforts. When you neglect those moments to think through a day’s responsibilities, you find yourself busy but less productive. Without a plan for the day, energy is misspent, and efforts are less effective. Attention is easily divvied and distracted. Time is poorly allocated. I have learned that important things are often replaced by alternatives that seem easier and more immediately enjoyable.

Direction is necessary for production. Now, let’s look at this on a larger scale with more eternal consequence. This principle especially applies to your spiritual life, as well as your daily life. Those two are inseparable, by the way. You will be more successful at the latter, when you succeed at the former. You cannot successfully compartmentalize your life into differing categories, seasons, or circumstances, in some of which you retain operational control while in others you are expecting God to direct and bless. Jesus is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all. Jesus made this clear, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33.

Often, my Dad reminded me, “Allen, first things first!” It’s very simple really. First, you work, then you play. First, you save, then you spend. First, you seek God’s plan, then you follow His plan. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Read Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT. You and your wellbeing have been in God’s plans from the beginning and continue to be.

Life is best when God is first. God has the definitive plan for your life. Scripture is consistent. “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for your good and not harm, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV. “As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.” Psalm 18:30 NIV. Through prayer and Scripture, let God plan your work. “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NLT.

That being true, then devote yourself to knowing and following His plan. That is called obedience, a priority to God and a necessity for your success. Obedience will supply you with the necessary focus and ability you do not otherwise possess. Obedience will produce opportunities you neither earned nor expected. And obedience will yield achievement you do not imagine. God’s direction is always accurate; His timing is always exact; His results are always abundant.

Today I pray for you to discover God’s purpose in all you do and with all you have.

Christian Communications 2018-1308

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Priority, Passion, and Purpose

March 29th, 2017

 

Desire determines your direction

You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 NIV.

My thoughts today are about, “priority, passion, and purpose.”

You will seek what is important to you. Time and priority evidence your values. I met my wife, Gayle, in the Spring of my second year of college. I sought every opportunity to be where she was. As she became increasingly important to me, I made time and sought occasion to enjoy her company. I sought to be with her as much as I could. I pursued her favor. Soon, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. And, as they say, the rest is history. Passion settles priority. God is not elusive, but seeking Him necessitates an undivided heart and singleness of mind.

Saul became Israel’s choice as their first King, but he was not God’s choice. Saul was impressive. The Bible described Him as, “head and shoulders over all the men of Israel.” 1 Samuel 10:23 NLT. But there was a problem the people could not see, but God did. Eventually, “God replaced [Saul as King of Israel] with David, a man about whom God said, ‘David, son of Jesse, is a man after My own heart, for he will do everything I want him to do.’” Acts 13:22 NLT. God’s explanation was simple and direct, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV.

In David, God found a God-seeking heart. David wrote, “One thing I have desired of the Lord; this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” Psalm 27:4 NIV. Do you want to have a heart like David’s? In this verse, David provided three practical keys.

[1] Recognize the power of priority. David determined, “One thing I ask of the Lord.” Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV. If you seek too many things you may miss the One that is most essential. Knowing the Lord is primary; all other things are secondary. Priority eliminates competition.

[2] Develop a purity of passion. David had a singular devotion, “I have desired of the Lord.” What do you really want your life to be about? What do you value above all else? Desire determines your direction. Jesus said, “the first and great commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart.” Matthew 22:37 NKJV. When you establish your passion, you will know where to invest your energies, and commit your abilities, and give your best effort. When seeking God is your great passion, your search governs your attention and direction. God promised, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 NIV.

[3] Preserve a singularity of purpose. David was clear, “This is what I seek.” Avoid distraction. “This one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” Philippians 3:13 NIV. Purpose decides what you should do and what you should not. When other things are alluring, remember your purpose. “Anyone who comes to God must believe that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV. God will be found of you.

Today I pray for you to be clear about the desire and direction of your life.

Christian Communications 2017

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A Practical Ethic

February 7th, 2015

“Nor will I offer . . to the Lord that which costs me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24 NKJV.

Taking spiritual life seriously will cost a personal price gladly paid.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a practical ethic.”  EDL pix ETHICS

I remember my Dad saying to me, “Allen, anything that costs you nothing is usually worth the price you paid for it.” From him, I learned to appreciate the worth of Godly counsel and the cost and value of achievement. My life is better and my spiritual life clearer because of his practical wisdom. If I were to summarize my Dad’s personal ethic, it would be his conviction and example that: “Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and anything worth having is worth whatever effort or sacrifice it cost to acquire.”

The prophet Isaiah pleaded with a generation who turned from spiritual allegiance to godless idolatry. Isaiah reasoned, “Who would form a god or mold an image that profits him nothing?” Isaiah 40:10. How foolish. As I read Isaiah’s words, I recalled my father’s warning, “Anything that costs you nothing is usually worth the price you paid for it.” As an example, Isaiah wrote of a man who with purpose and costly expenditure of time and effort cut down a tree, used some of the wood to build a fire to warm himself and to cook a meal to feed and satisfy himself, and only then after his desires were served and needs met, “with the residue thereof, he makes a god . . and worships it.” Isaiah 44:14-17.

Yet, in one way or another, has not every one of us done something similarly? Any god who is merely an afterthought is impotent to save. God isn’t properly valued when you prioritize your affections, interests, time, and resources before giving what’s left to God and others. What remains when your wants are satisfied, your needs are met, your bills are paid, and your future seems secure? Whatever is then given to God and others is unworthy.

How must God view such lack of reverence and recognition? Maybe the only thing worse than offering your scraps to the true God is to take those scraps and create a false god to worship. I don’t think that I have ever done the latter, but I fear that there were occasions and situations when I may have done the former – offering my residue without apology or embarrassment.

When King David desired to acknowledge the Lord’s great grace and mercy, he chose a threshing floor where he would offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord. Read 2 Samuel 24:18-26. When the land owner recognized the King and heard his desire, he generously offered the land without price, and even the oxen for sacrifice. David got it right. “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that which costs me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24.

Taking the spiritual life of yourself and others seriously will cost a personal price gladly paid. Let me be practical. What does it mean to “give God what costs you nothing?” When you devote hours to your own pursuits, but leave only brief moments for Him; or when you spend freely for your pleasure, but offer God a mere gratuity; or when you make time for your pleasure and recreation, but allow no provision for your soul – you are taking the residue of your life and creating a false god to worship and serve. Jesus was clear, “[God] will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” Matthew 6:33 NLT. Now that is a practical ethic.

Today, my prayer for you is that you put God first in everything, every day, in every way.

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Character and Reputation

December 13th, 2014

“Joseph, [Mary’s] husband, was a righteous man.” Matthew 1:19 NIV.

Character and obedience always matter first to God.

My thoughts and comments today are about “character and reputation.”

Joseph is little noticed and under-appreciated in the Christmas drama. Yet God chose Joseph just as carefully as was Mary chosen. Joseph had history and reputation with God. The Bible says that God saw, “Joseph, [Mary’s] husband, was a righteous man.” Matthew 1:19 NIV. A righteous man; what a description of Godly character. God chose a just and righteous man who would model spiritual devotion and shape the humanity of Jesus. Joseph modeled Godly care and character. His example and personal faith would be extremely influential in the young child’s earliest years.

Mary would need a good hearted man, just and righteous, to accept and protect her. And a kind and caring man to firmly stand between her and the predictable whispers of disapproval, or maybe even the rejection of family. A righteous man would reflect God’s love and protection for Mary. God knew the difficult choices Joseph would face, and God knew that Joseph would make a just and righteous decision. Read Matthew 1:18-25 NKJV. He could protect his good name or provide a home for Mary and this child. He could not do both. In life, hard choices have to be made; not all options are equal.

Jesus would need a Godly father to teach Him the ways of God. Joseph would model the justice and righteousness of God in his home. Character and obedience always matter first to God. When there is something to be done of eternal import, God chooses people who consistently put God first. God’s plans for your life always require a priority of His purpose. Joseph had history with God; God could trust his choices. Do God’s will first and foremost; then all else finds its proper order.

My Dad, a pastor, often “preached” this principle to me, “First things first!” When asked to do something, I usually had a different option I preferred. I always intended to do as he asked, eventually, as convenience and circumstance allowed. My Dad never found that acceptable. As a child, I learned that my convenience was not a substitute for my Dad’s expectations; as an adult, I learned why that is not a strategy that works in life.

Priority evidences importance. You put first who or what you consider to be of first importance. Jesus put the Father first because the Father was His priority. Jesus modeled His priority; “I always do those things that please [the Father].” John 8:29 NKJV. Advent should involve re-structuring the way things have become; “Your Heavenly Father knows all your needs, and He will give you all your need from day to day, if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” Matthew 6:33 NLT. Reflect on what your primary concerns and the obedience required to fulfill those should be.

This Christmas seems an opportunity for an honest inventory of how you and your family reflect this practical issue of keeping, “first things first.” Christmas is a good time to be reminded of the Old Testament prophet’s words, “[God] has shown you what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8. Life is to be lived justly and more sacrificially every day, in every way.

This Advent, my prayer for you is that your history with God releases your destiny in God.

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Being Satisfied

February 10th, 2014

“[God blesses] those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires.” Matthew 5:6 TEV.

God can satisfy what would otherwise be insatiable.

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

What is better than satisfaction? Contentment and satisfaction is God’s intention for you. “For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness . . You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” Psalm 107:9 NKJV/145:16 NIV. Everyone looks for satisfaction, but fulfillment can seem elusive. That occurs because people look for the wrong things, or for the right things in the wrong places. Your spirit is eternal and not satisfied with what is only temporal.

In our study of the Beatitudes, you have found God has gracious promises for an exemplary life that is “real, compassionate, and submissive.” Let’s go a bit further. (4) “Being satisfied.” To those who desire only what pleases God, satisfaction is assured and ample. “[God blesses] those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully.” Matthew 5:6 TEV. What God requires is no mere suggestion. Satisfaction is certain when your greatest pleasure and passion is to please God first and fully. Dissatisfaction warns you of trusting the wrong things for fulfillment; when dissatisfied, examine the origin and nature of your strongest desires.

Satisfaction is not found in what you have or how much; it is found when your search leads you to the best of things at the right Source. Isaiah asks a piercing question, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” Read Isaiah 55:1-3 NIV. Why indeed? To perpetually waste effort, energy, and expense on what is ultimately disappointing is foolish, not wise. Be sure of this, more of what doesn’t satisfy is never going to satisfy. Habits, and even addictions, occur from one’s futile attempts to gratify desires or ambitions that are insatiable apart from God. Whatever you think you lack, life is full when you discover that God Himself is enough.

My Dad gave me good advice, “First things first, every time.” Success, as well as satisfaction, begin with Godly desires and those result in Godly priorities. “Be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what He requires of you, and He will provide you with all these other things.” Matthew 6:33 TEV.

Jesus’ promise is true; for those who hunger and thirst passionately for what is righteous, God will satisfy them fully.” No disclaimers needed nor exceptions. God can satisfy what would otherwise be insatiable. Passionately desire what God desires and absolute fulfillment results, whatever your circumstance. “The Lord . . will satisfy your needs . . You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:11 NIV.

Satisfaction is never found in the quantity of what you have but in its quality and durability. Stuff provides an illusion temporarily; God alone satisfies enduringly. ”In righteousness, I will see your face . . I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.” Psalm 17:15 NIV. The ultimate satisfaction will be when face to face forever, you will be satisfied in His abiding presence and eternal provision.

My prayer for you today is that you will know a heavenly contentment of heart.

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