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Faith, Family, and Friendships

August 30th, 2017

Faith, family, and friends are essential to Life

The Father is the One who invited you into this wonderful friendship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:9 NLT

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Faith, Family and Friendships.”

I recognize three Biblical and irreplaceable priorities in my life. In this order, those priorities are: my faith, my family, and my friends. All are significant, but their order is important. Priorities clarify and simplify daily life. When you are right with God, you have the guidance of His Word and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to get all other relationships right. If that personal, relationship is lacking, even the best of the other relationships is less than its potential. There is a temptation you must resist. God’s Word is clear. “Don’t you realize that friendship with this world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can’t be a friend of God.” James 4:4 NLT.

And prioritizing family is a Godly assignment with eternal accountability. Family can either be your fulfilling joy or will become one’s greatest sorrow and regret. The Bible has much wisdom and guidance for the relationships of husbands and wives, as well as parents and children. As your fellowship with God is resource for your family relationships, your Godly, family relationships have so much to do with the potential quality of your personal friendships.

Now, let’s talk about friends and friendships. God established the truth that, “two are better than one.” Solomon advised that righteous friendships make you are more successful, secure, satisfied, and stronger. See Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV. I have found friends and friendships to be foundationally vital to health and happiness. Friendships are not  optional; they are essential. Life is less, much less, without the company and fellowship of true friends. God’s Word provides a lot of wisdom about friends and friendships. The Bible presents many exemplary friendships – Moses and Joshua, David and Jonathan, Daniel and Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Paul and Barnabas, as well as Jesus and the Disciples.

Friendships are based on a simple principle. “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” Proverbs 18:24 NKJV. Be the friend you hope to have. The character of friendships entrusted to you reflect the friend you have chosen to be to others. I am very grateful for the many friends who have included me in their lives. I am better than I would have been without them. I hope my God, my family, and my friends would feel the same about our relationship.

I think the following verses provide the Biblical origin and foundation for all of this. “For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by His life. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God – all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God.” Romans 5:10-11 NLT. The spiritual health of your family and the authenticity of your Godly friendships rest upon and flow from the depth and steadfastness of your, “wonderful new relationship with God.”

Today, I pray for you to enjoy life-affirming friendships born of the friend you chose to be.

Christian Communications 2017

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Coming Home

March 7th, 2016

“In returning and rest you shall be saved.” Isaiah 30:15 NKJV.

Repentance is radically more than regret.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “coming home.”

We so misjudge the nature of God. You know God is the Father of our Lord Jesus, but Jesus definitively said that His father is your Father. When you believe and understand that, it is liberating truth. After Jesus’ resurrection, He said, “I am returning to My Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” John 20:17 NIV. In the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly described God as, “your Father.” Jesus did not say that His Father would be like a father to you; Jesus said that His Father would be your Father. Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name . .” Read Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV.

Jesus devised stories to make truth understandable and personally applicable. In the most beloved story Jesus told, He described a loving, gracious, and forgiving father to reveal the nature of your Heavenly Father. Read Luke 15:11-19 NIV. Jesus told of a wealthy father and his two sons, a story usually presumed to be about a younger, “prodigal son,” and his elder brother. In reality, the two sons are subordinate to Jesus’ focal point. Jesus’ accent is really on the father, extravagantly selfless and sacrificially gracious to a fault. Prodigal is a word that can positively describe lavish generosity that typifies the father in Jesus’ story, or negatively describe the wanton wastefulness of the younger son.

The younger misspent what his father had given to him, and was soon left penniless, desperate, and far from home. Inevitably, however much you have will be inadequate apart from your Father. The only questions are how and when, and what comes next. “After he had spent everything . . he began to be in [desperate] need . . when he came to his senses” Reality reoriented his thoughts to his father and home, and a simpler, better time in stark contrast to his present circumstances.

Returning home was his best and only alternative. His resolve was clear, his humility sincere, his repentance real. “I have sinned against heaven and against you. I will go back to my father and say to him, ‘I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your servants.’” His journey began with demanding, “Give me my share.” He returned with humble request, “Make me like one of your servants.” Repentance is radically more than regret; “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” Read 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 NIV. In love, your Father will allow past choices and present struggles to turn your heart homeward.

Picture the scene, “While he was still a long way off . . his father ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Read Luke 15:20-24 NIV. With urgency and abandon, the father ran to embrace his long absent son, smothering the prodigal with his forgiveness and rapturous joy. His reception exceeded even the remorse of his penitent son. Fear was banished, shame discarded, forgiveness spontaneously granted. Home is where you belong.

Wherever you’ve wandered, whatever you’ve done, however long you have lost your way, come home to your Father now. I remember words of an old hymn – “I’ve wandered far away from God, Now I’m coming home; The paths of sin too long I’ve trod, Lord, I’m coming home. Coming home. Coming home, Nevermore to roam, Open wide Your arms of love, Lord, I’m coming home.” William J. Kirkpatrick, 1838-1921.

Today, I pray for you to know there is a place for you in the bounteous grace of God.

Prodigal's Father

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Communications 2016
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Failures and Sorrows

September 4th, 2015

“Simon, when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32 NKJV.

Momentary failure need not produce consequences for a lifetime.

My thoughts and comments today are about “failures and sorrows.”

Failure comes in many forms and sizes, but inevitably comes to all. May yours be insignificant and easily redeemable. Learning from your own and others’ failures is essential. The prolific inventor, Thomas Edison, 1847-1931, held 1093 patents but failed hundreds of times before successfully inventing the electric light bulb because he didn’t stop trying until he succeeded. Edison is quoted as saying, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” Turning failure to success is possible.

Who does not identify with Simon Peter? His record was not flawless. When he failed, he failed publicly and on a grand scale. Despite Peter’s earlier protestations of allegiance and after Jesus’ arrest, Peter denied three times to even have known Jesus. As the day dawned, Peter heard the crow of the rooster, remembered Jesus’ words and, “went out and wept bitterly.” See Luke 22:60-62 NKJV. Failure is not final; mistakes are not fatal.

Earlier, Jesus had spoken words of warning to Peter, but also reassurance, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 NKJV. Momentary failure need not produce consequences for a lifetime. “My salvation will last forever; My righteousness will never fail.” Isaiah 51:6 NIV.

Regret is a natural reaction; repentance is a spiritual response. Though the emotions feel similar, the resultant remorse is not to be confused. Paul explains the difference in these terms, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this Godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 NIV. Regret is a natural, emotional sorrow that you are less holy than you thought you were. Repentance is a spiritual sorrow that you loved God less than you thought you did.

May your failures be from human judgement, not lack of spiritual character. You will not always get everything right the first time, but the first time should not become your last effort. And don’t give up on yourself; Jesus doesn’t. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.” Lamentations 3:22 NIV. Bring every failure to Jesus quickly, Who alone can give you a fresh start. “Jesus appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin.” 1 John 3:5-6 NIV. Jesus appraisal and commendation of your life can be, “Well done, good and faithful servant . . Enter into the joys of the Lord forever.” Matthew 25:21 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you that your failures will be few and your successes many.

Christian Communications 11216

EDL PIX remorse

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Restraint and Discretion

September 4th, 2013

A man of knowledge uses words with restraint.” Proverbs 17:27 NIV

Mental and emotional restraint is often the better part of discretion.

My thoughts and comments today are about “restraint and discretion.”

When I was a boy, I must have been too talkative. I remember an occasion when my Dad seemed a bit annoyed, “Allen, do you know why God gave you two ears and only one mouth?” With a hint of fatherly impatience, he continued, “So you would listen twice as much as you talk.” That probably was not the intent of God’s creational design, but I understand my Dad’s point clearly. You are not listening when you are talking; you are not learning when you are not listening. My Dad admired Abraham Lincoln and frequently quoted his homespun humor and good sense, such as, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln. Sadly, I have rarely mastered the lesson and observe a similar failing among peers.When someone has to say, “What were you thinking,” you usually weren’t.

Mental and emotional restraint is often the better part of Godly discretion. My Dad was stressing two important practices: listening skills and careful forethought. Both are of incalculable value. As to listening skills, the Bible says, “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.” Proverbs 18:13 NIV. And regarding careful forethought, The Bible gives this practical wisdom, “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint and a man of understanding is even tempered. Even a fool is thought to be wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” Proverbs 17:27-28 NIV.

Restraint and discretion preserve a favorable reputation and foster healthy relationships. Not every opinion you hold is right; not every thought you have is ready for public consumption. Forethought is an inestimable virtue, the ability to consider and process your thoughts before they are public. To my regret, I have spoken before listening sufficiently and allowed words to be public which should have remained thoughts held privately.

Luke wrote of an incident when Jesus took Peter, James, and John, His “inner circle” of disciples, to a mountain. Read Matthew 17:1-8 NKJV. As Jesus prayed, they were astonished by His transcendent glory, “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” They were eyewitnesses to a heavenly visitation of Moses and Elijah – representing the Law and the Prophets – with Jesus, the divine and living Word. In his euphoria, Peter blurted out a bright idea he would better have kept to himself. Luke notes this, “Peter . . not knowing what he said.” Luke 9:33 NKJV. How descriptive!

Peter was probably surprised to hear himself speaking before he even realized he was, interrupting when he should have been listening. Ever been there, done that? Kindly but clearly, God interrupted Peter, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him! . . and they fell on their faces greatly afraid.” Solomon had good advice for such moments, “When you go to the house of God. Go near to listen . . do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God . . let your words be few.” Read Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 NIV. A few times, I have regretted not speaking up when I could; many more times, I have regretted speaking when I did.

My prayer for you today is that you cultivate critical thinking above critical comments.

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Emotional Clutter

August 30th, 2013

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

Emotional clutter devastates a person’s spiritual life.

My thoughts and comments today are about “emotional clutter.”

Your past is filled with memories – some that edify, some distress. Ultimately, you choose which you allow to dominate your thoughts and emotions. Personal history is not neutral. Edifying memories brighten your day, as you recall good times and the goodness of yourself, others, and God. Those memories encourage you, affording strength and assurance today when you remember the pleasant history of people, provision, and places that brought you happiness then and gratefulness now. Your story contains much good from God and others that should be frequently and fondly remembered.

God always has been at the center of your history. A problem occurs when you allow events to obscure your awareness of His nearness. David found solace and strength when He reviewed the struggles of his past in a better, broader context that included God. “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all Your works and consider what Your hands have done.” Psalm 143:5 NIV. Your feelings about the past are directly related to the extent you recall God’s providence and presence alongside you.

Human nature is such that the past you will more easily remember is the one cluttered with regret – opportunities missed, mistreatment remembered, mistakes made, failures remembered, hurts collected, grief unhealed, promises broken, intentions never accomplished, friends and family disappointed, potential unrealized, habits accumulated – well, you get the picture. Mental and emotional clutter can devastate a person’s spiritual life. I have observed that people too often remember the things they should forget and forget the things they should remember. Excess baggage, whatever its nature or reason, is needless and unworthy of a Christ-follower when Jesus asks to be your burden-bearer.

There are three simple things that clear the clutter: repent of your failures; release people’s unfairness; remember God’s faithfulness. You cannot undo all the past; it is what it is. What you can do is stop the hurtful impact of what has happened. That requires determined action. See 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV. Deal with it by repentance for what you have done and release for what others do. Some events in your history need to be left as just that – history! Not doing so confines you to painfully and needlessly reliving your past again and again. Reliving your past prevents you from fully living in the present.

A member of my family struggled with a psychological compulsion called “hoarding.” Accumulating unnecessary things gradually became a compulsive hoarding that left them incapable of throwing anything away. Their surroundings became unlivable; their emotional health diminished; their quality of life suffered. There had to be a loving intervention to accomplish what they could not do on her own. Releasing the clutter brought a healthy freedom for her.

A similar thing happens spiritually in too many lives. Hoarding regret-filled memories of personal failures, or hurtful relationships, or unfixable situations immobilizes, ultimately imprisons, a person with emotional, psychological, and spiritual clutter. God has an answer for your painful past, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.” See 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NKJV. Read also Psalm 25:6-7 NKJV. Today can and should be a new day for you. Your story may be different, but emotional and spiritual freedom can be yours.

My prayer for you today is that you bring clutter to the cross for His forgiveness and healing.

 

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