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Matters Eternal and Essential

August 12th, 2016

Simplifying options simplifies life.

“Love your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” Matt 28:37 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are about “matters eternal and essential.”

Doing what you would rather do instead of doing what you should do is a waste of time. Distraction from truly important matters happens too frequently. We easily procrastinate while busily engaging our time, talents, and resources with too much that is temporal and optional. That behavior may be typical but it’s not particularly profitable. We need Godly wisdom to guide us.

Wisdom is not about having all the right answers, because sometimes you won’t. Wisdom is about asking the right questions to the One who holds all truth. Know where to turn when you need to know what to do. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 NIV. Life is simpler and success and satisfaction are possible when you seek answers from the right source. Jesus was asked, “Which is the most important commandment?” Matthew 22:36 NLT. In spite of the questioner’s deliberate attempt to embarrass Jesus, his question allowed Jesus to identify and clarify authentic love for God.

Jesus’ answer was clear. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. A second is equally important Love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commandments are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NLT. Love God with the entirety of all you are and possess; love others as you love yourself. Those are the foundation for all obedience.Jesus clarifies what is eternal and essential.

Commandments – truth you accept as essential and non-negotiable – determine the commitments that govern how you live every day. Your commitments should rest on the greatest commandments. Commitments reveal what you consider important. Your life is the sum total of your commitments. There is no higher nor more worthy commitment than to love and serve God with all you are, do, and have. Your values, priorities, and expenditure of time and money should be chosen accordingly.

Life becomes complex and choices get messy when you haven’t clarified what is eternal and essential. Simplifying options simplifies life. Ultimate commitments are things and matters that are not easily changed, nor should they be. I think those involve promises that you make to God and others, in your spiritual life and in your relationships. Pray diligently; think carefully; obey faithfully.

Today, I pray for you to know that the eternal is ultimately all that is important.

EDL Love Matt 36 8-12-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Communications 2016

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Milestones of Obedience

October 16th, 2014

By faith Abraham obeyed . . . [and] went without knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8 NLT.

Life is a sequence of events and a succession of experiences.

My thoughts and comments today are about “milestones of obedience.”

Life is a journey, comprising a sequence of years, a succession of events, and a collection of experiences. The last – a collection of experiences – may well be the more important of the three. Experiences create the moments where treasured memories are made. Time can be counted in minutes, but life is measured in moments. If you think about it, you will easily recognize the distinction between minutes and moments.

Minutes are too many to all be remembered. Moments are fewer yet forever mark the journey and progress of your life. I don’t remember the day of the week nor the exact time of day when Gayle said yes to my expression of love and proposal of marriage. But more than fifty years later, I fondly recall that moment and the joy I felt when she did.

Many years ago, my friend and spiritual father, Campbell, said a few words which remain of primary importance to me yet today. He said, “Abraham’s journey was marked by milestones of obedience and altars of consecration.” Campbell’s words were a life-shaping moment of spiritual understanding that continues to impact what I believe and how I choose to live my life – “milestones of obedience and altars of consecration.”

Obedience to God is essential and non-negotiable in your faith journey. There are no more consequential moments than when you walk in obedience. Like King Saul, you may try to offer God your preferred options rather than full obedience. Saul did not offer a lesser sacrifice; he tried to offer a different sacrifice from what God asked. “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice.” Read 1 Samuel 15:13-15/22 NIV. Any option other than what God requires is unacceptable.

Milestones indicate much more than the irreplaceable time that has passed; spiritual milestones mark the progress and success of your journey, or the lack thereof. They are enduring reminders of the grace of God in your past and the sovereign purpose of God over your future. Such moments are sacred and should be celebrated. Upon Israel’s victory over the Philistines, “Samuel took a stone . . and called it ‘Ebenezer’ saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’” 1 Samuel 7:12.

Abraham’s journey began with a divine encounter, as will yours, and his response of obedience. “The Lord had said to Abraham, ‘Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’” Genesis 12:1 NIV. Imagine the obedience and faith that was required in that. His journey would take him from his “country,” everything previously familiar to him – his “people,” everyone with whom he felt most comfortable – and “his father’s household,” the source of provision he had trusted.

“It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8 NLT. Obedience requires trust beyond explanation. Abraham did not know where he was going but he knew Who He was following. To follow God obediently, you have to leave where you are to go where God wants to take you. Your spiritual journey cannot take you further than your current obedience will allow.

Consecration to God is essential and non-negotiable in your faith journey. In the next edition of EveryDay Life, we will further examine the very important, second aspect, “Altars of Consecration.” Every moment of consecration at an altar is of eternal consequence in your journey. Every place Abraham pitched his tent, he built an altar and worshipped the Lord there. See Genesis 12:7/8/13:18/22:9. An altar is where you humbly bow and surrender yourself to the supremacy and sovereignty of God, a sacred place of worship expressed in costly sacrifice and sincere consecration. Altars are significant to God and crucial to your spiritual journey.

Today, my prayer for you is for you to grow in the grace of obedience and the practice of consecration.

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The Capacity to Regress

July 28th, 2014

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do.” Romans 7:15 NIV.

Your capacity to regress to unprofitable behaviors is a besetting temptation.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the capacity to regress.”

At times, I am bewildered by how little I really understand about myself. While feeling proud of my progress, I am puzzled by the ease with which I revert to ways and habits I previously found unworthy. As old as I am, that still perplexes me, as it did Paul, “I do not understand what I do.” Romans 7:15 NIV. I surrender progress achieved with much effort and diligence, and find myself closer to where I was than where I need to be. My capacity to regress to unprofitable behaviors is a besetting temptation.

When where you have been still holds attraction, the path of progress can be challenging. Read James 1:12-15. Temptation alone is not sin, but spiritual maturity and Godliness are measured by your recognition and rejection of any temptation to regress to familiar yet ineffective ways of coping with everyday life.

You will never find confidence or growth by returning to options once familiar and places formerly comfortable. As danger threatened or opposition arose, Israel looked over their collective shoulder with misplaced fondness for what they left behind in Egypt. “In their hearts they turned back to Egypt.” Acts 7:39. Read Nehemiah 9:9-17.

Before judging Israel harshly, consider your own temptation to return to negative emotions, old prejudices, wrong attitudes, unworthy appetites, unholy ambitions, or unhealthy habits. Paul encouraged and warned the Galatians, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1.

Let me suggest some Biblical examples of regression and suggest their causes, (1) Complicated discipleship, “From that time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” John 6:66-69. (2) Competitive affections,Demas has forsaken me having loved this present world.” 2 Timothy 4:10. (3) Confusing circumstances, After Jesus’ death and reports of His resurrection, Peter and other disciples returned to fishing. See John 21:1-5. A vulnerable time is when disappointment in people or situations and the resulting discouragement dissuade you.

Maybe today you identify with the Apostle Paul in his struggle with bewilderment. Paul wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I allow . . for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” Romans 7:15-21 NIV.

In the succeeding verses, Paul confessed his despair over his spiritual frailty.  “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:24-25 NLT. I suggest three spiritual practices that bring clarity during bewildering times: God’s Word, (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV), Jesus’ example, (Hebrews 4:14-16), and the Holy Spirit’s empowering, (Acts 1:8/Romans 15:13). In your panic, the answer may first appear to be running back to your weaknesses; God’s answer is fleeing to a safe refuge – into the arms of God. See Proverbs 18:10/Psalm 27:5/91:1-2.

Today, my prayer for you is to set progress as your highest, spiritual priority.

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Options and Expectations

May 12th, 2014

“Much more is required from the person to whom much more is given.” Luke 12:48 TEV.

Discipleship is the process of relinquishing more and more options.

My thoughts and comments today are about “options and expectations.”

I don’t really like that word, “required.” I would much prefer God used the word, “optional.” But He doesn’t. There is really not much about life that is optional. You will discover that things that require little and are left to your option do not promise much if any reward. Here is a principle of life: assuming an increased level of responsibility is the only path to truly growing. That’s true in matters spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

That means accepting less as being optional for you and embracing more than is expected of you, even when wanting to do otherwise. Discipleship is the continuing process of relinquishing more and more options. To some, Jesus said, “Follow Me.” To others, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23-24 NIV. You must learn to joyfully take responsibility for your decisions, mistakes, well being, success, and happiness, not from any insistence of independence but as just doing what is expected – simply being responsible.

The Bible speaks of many things that are required in your Christian faith, not optional. Faith in Jesus is non-negotiable, required not optional. See Hebrews 11:6 NLT. Responsible stewardship is required, not optional. Paul wrote, “It is required that those who have been given a trust prove faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV.

“And much more is required from the person to whom much more is given!” Luke 12:48 TEV. Jesus said that when accepting all that has been generously given to you by God and man, “much more will be required.” The more you are given, the more that is required of you, and that only increases as you grow and progress. That seems only fair. Refuse what’s required and you do not continue to experience generosity in the same measure. There is a proportion to daily life that should not be avoided.

Let’s be practical about this: doing what’s required means giving up your right to make excuses, or exempting yourself from your fair share, or expecting of others more than you require of yourself . When I was preparing for a life in ministry, my Dad taught me this practical wisdom and necessity for effective leadership: “Never expect someone to do what you are not willing to do, nor expect them to give what you are not willing to give, nor expect others to go where you have not first gone.”

My prayer for you today is that you will fulfill realistic expectations, and so much more than expected.

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God, First and Foremost

January 10th, 2014

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:6 NKJV.

 In every aspect of your life, seek and submit to God’s will and wisdom first.

My thoughts and comments today are about “God, first and foremost.”

Everyday life is filled with decisions; those decisions often have unexpected consequences. And invariably, those consequences affect more than yourself. How can you know the decisions you make are wise? How can you minimize the impact of your decisions on others? You can purchase life, home, or auto insurance to offset a loss you experience. But what will protect you against costly errors or misjudgments?

Life can become confusing. There are so many variables, known and unknown. Life offers multiple options, not all of which are good. There are choices to be made, often without sufficient knowledge and experience, or even adequate time to understand and choose wisely. Sometimes the options are between better and best, at other times between right and wrong. There has to be a better way than guessing, and hoping you are right.

Upon his coronation, Solomon sought and received wisdom and knowledge from God. Read 2 Chronicles 1:7-12 NIV.  But if you know the history of Solomon, you know that he was wise, but not always. When He loved and followed God’s Word, he lived wisely; when he lived by his own wits, he was confused and misled. The book of Ecclesiastes chronicles Solomon’s quixotic journey from God’s truth to his futile attempts to understand life by natural intellect and observation, finally returning to God’s ways and wisdom. Solomon wrote, “Here is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey His commands, for this is the duty of every person.” Ecclesiastes 12:13 NLT.  

In the Book of Proverbs, his collection of Godly wisdom, Solomon wrote, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” See Proverbs 3:5-12 NKJV. So few words, uncomplicated and simple, explain how life works. Be advised; Jeremiah the prophet, wrote, “O Lord, I know the way of a man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” Jeremiah 10:23 NKJV

I have observed a direct correlation between God’s direction and protection. When God directs your life, God protects your life. There is protection from my errors and misjudgments – from both the frailty of my flesh and inadequate knowledge – when I purposely seek to be directed by God’s Word (John 17:17 NIV), and guided by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13 NIV). “I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk yours steps will not be hindered, and when you run you will not stumble.” Proverbs 4:11-12 NKJV.

According to Solomon, this process is not complicated. In every aspect of your life, seek and submit to God’s will and wisdom first. A good result is assured; God will not only guide you upon the right path, He will direct your steps wisely on those paths. “The steps (and stops, I might suggest) of the Godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” Psalm 37:23-24 NLT. See Psalm 91:11-12 NASB.

“Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5 NKJV. Here is my conclusion: “As for God, His way is perfect.” Psalm 18:30 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you follow faithfully the God who leads you righteously.

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