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Inadequacy or Sufficiency?

July 21st, 2017

In your inadequacy, you discover God’s sufficiency.

 “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today ask that you consider, “Inadequacy or Sufficiency?

Problems are a part of life. In life and its myriad of circumstances, people are prone to measure problems and the probability of success according to their present resources and personal abilities. There will be times when you feel inadequate. However much experience and expertise you acquire, there will still be challenges for which you are inadequate. That is reality, but neither weakness nor prediction of failure. It is not failure when you face a problem you cannot solve, a need you cannot meet, or a habit you cannot conquer.

It is failure when you try to accomplish those things in your own strength and resources, without including the One who is greater than the challenge before you. “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.” Psalm 145:3 NIV. With boldness, Paul differentiated between his own inadequacy and the unfailing sufficiency of God, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5 NKJV. Sufficiency always and only comes form God.

History, as well as Scripture, is filled with examples of ordinary people who recognized their limitations and realized God’s extraordinary grace and power. Hudson Taylor, the great British missionary to India in the later 1800’s, wrote, “Many Christians estimate difficulty in the light of their own resources, thus they attempt very little and they always fail. The real giants have all been weak people who did great things for God because they reckoned on His power and His presence to be with them.” Hudson Taylor achieved remarkable things because he was confident that a great God was with and within him and offered himself for God’s use.

When God chose you and me, He knew what He was doing and what He was getting. The Bible speaks plainly,“Few of you were wise in the world’s eyes, or powerful, or wealthy when God called you. And He chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. So that no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NLT. And God was clear about His purpose, “That you may know what is . . the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.” Read Ephesians 1:18-21 NKJV. The power of His Resurrection confirms His sufficiency.

You discover God’s sufficiency when you accept your inadequacy. The process is this: “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.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV. God’s abundant grace empowers your effective ministry to others, but is not for your personal embellishment. Paul’s testimony was, “The Lord said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV. Because God knows our weakness, He releases His strength to accomplish through us what we could not achieve without His empowering, “. . according to His working which works in [us] mightily.” Colossians 1:29 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to trust and find that God is within you, and He is enough.

Christian Communications 2017

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Patience and Perseverance

July 14th, 2017

 Perseverance promises blessings but includes trials and trouble.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, Patience and Perseverance.”

Worthy goals and great dreams come true when you determine to do more than endure; choose to thrive! Good things come to those who continue steadfast and faithful. Success comes to those who prevail over obstacles and challenges. When things get tougher than planned and they will, or take longer than hoped and they do, or cost more effort and sacrifice than anticipated and it does, plenty of reasons to give up and quit will be found. Many people won’t persevere, and then they wonder why life doesn’t work as they hoped.

Though the words are used somewhat interchangeably, there is a practical distinction between patience and perseverance. Patience deals with delays. Perseverance deals with problems. Few enjoy waiting through unwanted delays and unexpected difficulties. I have heard it said, “Good comes to those who wait.” I would add this qualifier – if you stay busy, hopeful, and faithful meanwhile. Consider God’s testimony of faithful Job in his travail and triumph. “Even in all this suffering, Job said nothing against God.” Job 2:10 TEV. Patience has to be exercised in the middle of a mess. No whining. No blame. No regret.

It is always too soon to quit. Being patient is difficult enough, but perseverance introduces the added elements of trials and trouble. From experience, Paul wrote, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us. They help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.” Read Romans 5:3-5 NLT. Both patience and perseverance require the added discomfort of enduring some troubling circumstance during an inconvenient time. In such times, don’t lose sight of your goal, nor lose faith in your God.

The Bible tells inspiring stories of people who exemplify today’s verse. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12 NIV. Abraham persevered, waiting for God’s promise of a son. See Romans 4:18-25 NIV. Daniel persevered righteously while captive in Godless Babylon. See Daniel 6:25-28 NIV. Paul persevered for years while imprisoned for his faith. See 2 Timothy 4:6-8 NIV. Paul’s example underscored his counsel, “Keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:11-12 NIV. Perseverance promises blessings but includes trials and trouble. Read 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 NIV.

Jesus sacred life and ultimate sacrifice is our supreme example. “Never quit . . keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 MSG. Jesus said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15 NLT.

If Jesus could, and would, persevere for you, won’t you do that for Him? His promise is that you will be blessed, when you patiently persevere. “Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person receives the prize. You must also run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 NLT.

Today, I pray for you to value eternal blessings above earthly difficulties.

Christian Communications 2017-0937

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The Practice of Peace

July 29th, 2015

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” Philippians 4:6 NLT.

The practice of peace begins with prayer.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the practice of peace.”

Every day, disputes and differences polarize our lives and relationships. An unfriendly gap widens between religious and secular beliefs. Economic inequality divides communities, nations and our world. Political and international conflicts threaten our personal well-being and global safety on every continent. In today’s world, peace seems elusive. I observe that the less real peace we have in our hearts and homes, the more conflict we cause in every other realm. The God of Peace and the Prince of Peace are the only source of peace.

Incorrectly, people assume that peace is the absence of troubling circumstances. If that were true, there could be no peace at all, because problems are a fact of life. Jesus was clear, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV. Problems threaten your peace of heart and mind; perspective is at the heart of peace. Your evaluation influences your expectation.

Here is the Apostle Paul’s practical advice: “Don’t worry about anything – INSTEAD – pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all He has done.” Philippians 4:6 NLT. You can worry, but praying and giving thanks is healthier. Worry and prayer are mutually exclusive. Worry is natural. Prayer and thankfulness are optional, but wiser choices to make. Often, the last things a person tries are the only things that effectively work. The practice of peace begins with prayer. Prayer opens your heart, settles your fears, and provides solutions.

Paul promised that prayer with thanksgiving is the sure path to experience God’s peace – “Shalom” – the peace of God in every circumstance. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 NLT. The apprehension you feel when things are unsettled, or the mounting irritation from relational conflict, or the perplexity of spirit are dissipated in the simple, sincere practice of talking with God with thankfulness, reverence, and expectation. “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Romans 14:19 NIV.

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” Isaiah 32:17-18 NIV. You experience peace around you when you welcome the peace of God within you – peaceful dwellings, secure homes, undisturbed rest.

Today, I pray for you that the peace of God within you surrounds and keeps you.

Christian Communications

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Up to Nothing But Good

January 14th, 2015

“Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word.” Acts 8:4 NKJV.

God’s plans are bigger than where you’ve been and better than what you’ve done.

My thoughts and comments today are about being up to nothing but good.”

Sometimes God has to allow unfavorable circumstances that dislodge you from your comfort zone in order for you to accomplish more than you would have, had you remained where you were and as you were. You will be flooded with a myriad of questions. “Why this? Why me? Why now?” That is rarely a comfortable process. “Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word.” Acts 8:4 NKJV.

Scattered! That description tells you their relocation was involuntary, forced by circumstances beyond their control and contrary to their wishes. Persecution had come to the Christians in Jerusalem. They seem to have forgotten Jesus’ parting words to them. “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NKJV. God’s plans are bigger than where you’ve been and better than what you’ve done.

Maybe they had grown comfortable in doing what they were doing and being where they were. They failed to extend their boundaries, not fully accomplishing God’s intent for His Kingdom until God permitted situations that stretched them beyond their customary and convenient routines and in the direction of His purposes. God will have something higher and better in the uncomfortable things He allows into a person’s life. God is neither protective of your comfort nor worried about your discomfort. He is committed to your usefulness In His Kingdom and your personal fulfillment.

In this instance, the uncomfortable experience for those Christians was persecution. They fled Jerusalem for their own and their families’ safety, and in doing so they embraced God’s higher purposes – everywhere they went, they were preaching about Jesus. It is better to fully embrace what God wills than to need natural events to spur you to do so.

Until my discomfort at remaining as I am becomes greater than my discomfort at becoming what I could be, I will remain content to stay where I’ve been, doing what I’ve done. That provides neither growth nor progress. God has a privileged assignment for your life that only you can do for His glory. Your Father loves you too much to allow you to shortchange yourself by reluctance or resistance.

What do you do when things get uncomfortable? Whine and complain? Hold on to the status quo? Blame God for not removing your difficulties? Joseph saw God’s hands in things much more than uncomfortable. To his brothers, Joseph “What you intended for harm, God intended for good . . to accomplish what now is . . the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20 NIV. You can trust God’s loving hand upon your life, and believe that nothing God allows will ever be for your harm or loss. God is always up to nothing but good. Read Jeremiah 29:11 NLT.

Sometimes the closed door is the Lord’s protection, and sometimes the open door you avoid may be the Lord’s provision. The answer is to be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14 NLT), confident in His Word (Matthew 4:4 NIV), and familiar with His voice (John 10:2-5). I love that when the Jerusalem Christians were scattered, ”they went everywhere preaching the Word.” Every circumstance can become your opportunity to share the Good News.

Today, my prayer for you is to see the eternal purposes of God behind the momentary problems.

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Compassion

May 23rd, 2014

“When Jesus saw the people, He was moved with compassion for them.” Matthew 9:36 NAS.

Compassion provokes a personal identification with the plight of another.

My thoughts and comments today are about “compassion.”

Problems loom large; needs are expansive and solutions seem elusive. Marriages and families struggle; politics are divisive; global situations impose locally; poverty and hunger remain undiminished; government partisanship and ineptitude prevent solutions; unsustainable public and personal debt accumulates; clashes of ideologies and cultures increase; crime and violence intrudes our neighborhoods. Life can be a bit numbing. Understandably, a person could feel overwhelmed.

What is an ordinary person to do? It is easy to become so engulfed in one’s own struggles that you have little reserves for anything beyond your daily concerns. Such a life is too small and ultimately unsatisfying. As a young pastor, I learned these helpful words, “I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And what I can do, I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the grace of God I will do.” God expects nothing more of you than that, but He also expects nothing less. Compassion is evidenced by corresponding action. “Let us . . love with actions and in truth.” Read 1 John 3:16-18 NIV.

As always, Jesus is your example. “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching . .  preaching . .  and healing every sickness and disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” Matthew 9:35-37 NKJV. Notice what moved the heart of Jesus – “multitudes . . like sheep having no shepherd.”

They were a vast number of people, yet each feeling alone without a shepherd to care and provide their unmet needs. More people feel that way than you might realize. Jesus’ invitation remains, “Come unto Me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest . . and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV. Others saw a crowd; Jesus saw people.

Others may have seen an inconvenience to themselves or interruption to their plans; Jesus saw suffering individuals needing both Savior and Shepherd. When Jesus saw the multitudes, their separation and aloneness “moved” Him with compassion. Compassion is a deeply held emotion, yet so much more. Jesus felt what they felt. Their plight became His concern. Pity and sympathy are common; compassion is uncommon. I remember simple lyrics from years earlier, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”

Compassion provokes a personal identification with the plight of another, generating a Godly motivation to provide relief. When you are compassionate, you are most like God. “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” Psalm 145:8-9 NKJV. Authentic and Godly compassion is not optional; “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.” 1 Peter 3:8 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you are tender toward things that break God’s heart.

Below, I have added the link to a brief, musical video that references the song I mentioned in this devotional.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2KOluWrjU8

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