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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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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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Words Matter

February 17th, 2017

Words contain life and carry the seeds of creation

 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight.” Psalm 19:14 NIV

My thoughts and comments today are that “words matter.”

My fourth-grade teacher taught me an appreciation and respect for words. My Dad taught me the responsibility of words. Words were important to my Dad. I recall his reminding me, “Allen, never speak words you don’t mean.That seems plain and simple enough. He practiced and believed that your words represent you and your good name, and insisted they be honest and honorable always and to all. If not already, you will learn that not all people mean what they say, say what they mean, or do what they say. That is unfortunate, but never let that be said of you.

Words are the essential currency of social interactions. Words are the necessary tool for ordinary communication, meaningful exchange of ideas, and the intended covenant of business and agreement. I have visited and ministered in countries where their native language is different from mine. Thankfully, I was accompanied by others who made me understood and helped me understand.

Words contain life and carry the seeds of creation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:1-3 NIV. The Creator spoke, and it was so. “We understand that the universe was created by God’s word.” Hebrews 11:3 TEV. Words have the power to heal or hurt, inspire or intimidate, inform or deceive, build or tear down. Solomon warned, “You must live with the consequences of everything you say. What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.” Proverbs 18:20-21 TEV.

 Your words are important to God. “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord.” Psalm 19:14 NIV. In unguarded moments and situations, your words will eventually reflect your true attitudes and thoughts. Know your heart. Guard your words. Paul urged that your words should not be, “foolish talk or coarse jokes.” Read Ephesians 5:3-4 NLT. Jesus’ words are sobering, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” Read Matthew 12:35-37 NIV.

Your words must be important to you. “Let your speech be always with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so you will know how you should respond to each person.” Colossians 4:6. In those words, I see the picture of a mom carefully preparing supper for her family, tasting and seasoning as she cooks. Taste your words before you lend them a voice. Just in case you must eat them later. “Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious . . A man of knowledge uses words with restraint.” Ecclesiastes 10:12/Proverbs 17:27 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to choose your words to be gentle and loving without need for regret.

Christian Communications 2017

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Truth Conquers Sin

February 2nd, 2017

The harder you run from your wrongs the faster truth pursues

My thoughts and comments today are that “truth conquers sin.”

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins.” 1 John 1:9 NIV.

As a young teen, more than once I was reminded by my Dad, “You may be sure your sins will find you out.” Numbers 32:23 NIV. I never felt his words threatening, nor did my Dad mean them to be. He wanted me to understand the folly of sin; he succeeded in doing that. I was sobered by his words and probably behaved better than I might have otherwise. When you live everyday life with a deep conviction of the holiness of God and the inherent sinfulness of your own flesh, you will subject your decisions and plans to a more careful scrutiny. Doing so is a healthy and spiritually beneficial exercise.

Sin will not stay a secret for long. The harder you run from facing your wrongs the faster truth pursues you. Covering what you have done never succeeds. Why even try? Denial doesn’t make your wrong disappear. Jesus warned, “Beware of hypocrisy.  The time is coming when everything will be revealed; all that is secret will be made public. Whatever you have . . whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear.” Luke 12:1-3 NLT. Eventually, wrong is exposed. Ever wondered why?

The enemy of your soul wants your transgression to become a permanent and fatal flaw, so he tempts you to deny and hide it. Doing so never works out well for anyone but your spiritual adversary. The devil wants to torture you with your wrong doing and allow him to eventually rule over you. If the accuser of your soul can succeed, he can keep you in the prison of your own guilt and shame. The Bible describes him as, “The accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night.” Read Revelation 12:10-11 NIV. His scheme is to control you by the threat of exposure. Never give him that leverage.

How much more plain could anything be? Adam and Eve tried blaming, denying, and hiding in the Garden of Eden. How did that work out for them? Read Genesis 3:6-13 NIV. God will not let that work for you any better than it did for Adam and Eve. God loves you too much to allow that to happen. Because of His love, God will not allow the strategy of denying and hiding sin to succeed. “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” Proverbs 28:13 NIV.

What then is the righteous response to sin? My dearest of friends, Campbell, often said, “There is only one way that sin leaves a life – through the mouth in confession.” “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Read 1 John 1:5-10 NIV. Honest and humble repentance before God and man is the only cure for sin. David wrote, “When I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ – and You forgave the guilt of my sin.” Read Psalm 32:1-5 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to know that honesty about sin is always the best policy.

Christian Communications 2017

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Treasures in Darkness

August 18th, 2016

Our apology for any inconvenience to some EDL readers this morning who did not receive “Treasures in Darkness.” A problem occurred with a Yahoo email server mistaking EDL for Spam and chose “returned to sender.” For those, we will resend before the end of the day, as this error is corrected. I was awakened before daybreak this morning and impressed to write more about the subject so everyone will (hopefully) receive the expanded, updated version – some of you for the first time today and some for the second time! So all are blessed! Thank you for you understanding . .

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Obedience welcomes light and banishes darkness.

We have the Word as a light shining in a dark place.” 2 Peter 1:19 NIV

My thoughts and comments today are about treasures in darkness.”

As a young teen, I worked the night shift in a truck stop one summer. At first, it was exciting staying up all night; though I probably played more pin ball than I pumped gas. After the first few hours, the night just seemed too long and too dark before the first daylight edged over the darkened, eastern horizon. And while in college, I had a summer job at a steel mill, usually on the night shift from 11 pm to 7 am. I never liked going to work when others were going to bed, or going to bed as others were just waking up. It seemed contrary to some natural order of things. In darkness, you do not see as well nor as far.

Dark nights of the soul are neither where you expect to find the best nor where or when you would prefer. But God has His own time and place for everything. God says there are treasures there in the dark that can be found no other place, at no other time, and in no other way. There is a spiritual darkening of the soul that is not literal or physical. At those times, God promised, “I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness.” Isaiah 45:3 NLT. There are many Biblical occurrences of God walking into the dark hours that people experience – physically, emotionally, or spiritually. God is present at distressing and difficult moments.

Gayle and I were newly married and I was just beginning my senior year in Bible college, when in a day’s time our future turned dark and uncertain. The darkest night of my soul may well have been that night after my father and sister died in a highway accident, and my mother was gravely injured and hospitalized in Sikeston, Missouri. After flying that same night from California, then driving several hours to her bedside, I fell wearily across the bed in a small motel across the highway from the hospital. Never a night felt darker. Treasure was the last thing I expected to find that dark night, but find it I did.

The last sermon I heard my Dad preach was about Solomon’s prayer that God would give him wisdom, “For I am as a child and do not know how to go out or come in.” Read 1 Kings 3:7-12 NKJV. As I prepared for ministry, feeling ill prepared, Solomon’s words became my confession and prayer. That night in a Sikeston motel room lit only by the motel sign outside my window, I opened my Bible and began to read. My eyes fell upon the words out of a dark night of the psalmist’s own soul, “From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made the heavens and the earth . . The Lord will preserve your going out and coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” Read Psalm 121:1-8 NKJV. I had found my treasure hidden in the dark night of my soul. “My God turns my darkness into light.” Psalm 18:28 NIV.

There in my most difficult of tragedies, God’s Word became the quiet, clear voice of a caring, compassionate God assuring my heart that my “comings and goings” would always be safe in His hands. “He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 121:3-4 NIV. God is not unaware nor uncaring before nor during your circumstance so troubling to you. When you feel God has withdrawn from you (though He has not and never will, even when you sometimes wish He would so you could blame Him or someone else for your pain and bewilderment), and your dark feelings of discouragement and doubt are troubling and confusing to you there is a path to peace.

The Biblical remedy is simple. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:7-8 NIV. God has not withdrawn from you; He never will. Your pain and confusion have gradually and unnoticeably created distance between you and your God, challenging your trust and convictions.

The next move is yours. Submit yourself, confessing your feelings (which means, “to say the same thing as God says”), doubts, fears, and all, then consciously draw near to God through your penitent decision to trust and obey His Word despite your emotions and fears. Rehearse a submissive posture daily, resume or begin spiritual practices such as: quiet times with God; childlike prayer; reading aloud and meditating on God’s Word, and quietly listening to the Holy Spirit in your heart and spirit. When hope is dim and help seems distant, you discover grace.

For some of you, this is a word of encouragement. For others, this is a word of instruction or correction while you are walking through puzzling, uncertain times, feeling alone and bewildered. There in the dark, when you have more questions than answers, you will find God near when you have a heart to trust Him and faith to believe Him. Peter wrote, “We have the Word . . you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:18 NIV.

God is your answer; God’s Word holds your answer. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of Life.” John 8:12 NIV. Light and darkness will not co-exist. Obedience welcomes light and banishes darkness with its doubt and disbelief.

Today, I pray for you to reach out to God; “He is not far from each one of us.” Acts 27:17 NIV.

I recommend to you a book I enjoyed by Ron Mehl, titled, “God Works the Night Shift.” The author examines the frequent, Bible references of God in the midst of people’s darkest hours, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The pastor and author knew of what he wrote for he had been dealing with cancer when writing the book.

EDL LIGHT John 8.12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Communications 2016

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