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Posts Tagged ‘relationship’

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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The Practice of Prayer

December 1st, 2016

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has wonderful results.” James 5:16 NLT.

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

Prayer is asking God for only what is His will to provide.

Friendships do not grow without some sincere measure of communication. Why would that be any different between you and God? In the exchange of thought and heart you know God and become known by Him. Think about this: if God does not speak to you any more than you speak with Him, will you ever know Him as well as you could? And if that be true of you, for all intents and purposes you will be living your life without Heaven’s help. That seems to me a needless risk and a frightening possibility.

Prayer is neither mystery nor magic, though it is sometimes treated as both. The Bible clearly teaches the importance of prayer and assures the power of prayer, yet prayer seems not to be the most consistent practice for many. Some are content to keep prayer as a practice to be used only in case of an emergency. If you neglect the practice of prayer at regular times I am not sure how confident or convincingly you will pray in an emergency.

Prayer is a divine conversation, the most important conversation of your day, the communication of your own heart to God and the corresponding knowledge of God’s heart to you. Prayer involves making time for both speaking and listening. And listening may be the more useful and beneficent part of true prayer. When I was a young boy, my father suggested that I consider the fact that God may have given me one mouth but two ears so that I would listen twice as much as I speak, and learn much more in the process. I think that is good advice in life, and especially in the matter of prayer.

Let’s be practical about this incomparable spiritual discipline. Prayer is not primarily for getting your needs met; prayer is not an occasional list of things you need from God. Prayer is about your needs, but that is not its first or more important value. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NIV. Prayer is your opportunity for personal discourse with your Heavenly Father that enhances your communication and relationship with Him.

Prayer is asking God for only what is His will to provide. “This is the confidence that we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him.” 1 John 5:14-15 NIV. Effective prayer is neither mystery nor magic. Your prayers are answered when you pray as Jesus taught us to pray, “Not my will but Yours be done.” Such prayer discovers and releases God’s will. The single thing that makes your prayer most effective is your asking God in alignment with His will.

You can know what the will of God is in any situation. But how? On your own, you cannot fully comprehend the scope and magnitude of God’s will, but you can develop a better understanding of His will by a growing knowledge of God’s Word, the regular exercise of knowing God’s heart through prayer, and by inviting the Holy Spirit to guide your prayer. “And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” See Romans 8:26-28 NLT.

A confident relationship clarifies your requests and emboldens your assurance. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” James 5:16 NLT. Intimidated by the requirement of righteousness? Only Jesus can deem you righteous. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5 NKJV. What a wondrous God we serve.

Today, I pray for you to make prayer your joyful practice in all things large or small.

Christian Communications 2016

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Disciplines of the Spirit

March 28th, 2014

“God’s discipline is always right and good for us.” Hebrews 12:11 NLT.

A lack of discipline results in a comparable lack of accomplishment.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “disciplines of the Spirit.”

I still have much to learn, but I am grateful for the discipline I received from my parents, teachers, life events, and the Word of God. See 2 Timothy 4:16-17 NKJV. There is no success without significant discipline. A lack of discipline results in a comparable lack of accomplishment. That is true in education, marriage, family, business, finances, or spiritual life.

Discipline is the lifestyle of a disciple. Jesus understood the rigorous requirements of discipline that being His disciple would involve. Jesus said, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27 NKJV. To be a follower of Christ, you must decide if you have both the desire and discipline to give the sustained effort necessary to succeed. If you want everything God has for you, you must learn to appreciate and welcome His loving discipline, which is conforming you into His likeness. See Romans 8:28-29 NIV.

Does the word, “discipline,” make you think of harshness or unfairness? Angry reprimands and harsh retribution are punishment, not discipline. Punishment is inflicted for past conduct; discipline is concerned with future behavior. Godly discipline is an act of loving correction. Discipline is not concerned with exacting a painful price for a past mistake. The application of discipline is for correction as prevention and preparation for the future. Discipline is administered within the context of relationship. See Romans 14:4 NIV. Biblically, discipline describes, “the whole realm of a father’s instruction and correction of a son.” Instruction apart from correction is inadequate. Only discipline frees one’s soul to soar.

The Bible teaches the proper, Godly response, “Don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when He corrects you.” Hebrews 12:5 NLT. The Bible teaches the true heart of Godly discipline, “The Lord disciplines those He loves . . endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons . . for [your] profit, that you might be partakers of His holiness.” Hebrews 12:6-7 NIV/10 NKJV.

The Bible predicts your first, natural response to discipline, promises the benefits of discipline, and promotes the continuing submission necessary for best results: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. But later, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 NIV. Embrace Godly discipline as His expression of love.

The long term goal of God’s discipline is to develop self-discipline within your character, and yet even your best efforts will miserably fail unless you always have God at its source. “When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control . . Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Galatians 5:22-25 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you welcome the disciplines of life and the Spirit.

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Prayer and God’s Providence

March 5th, 2014

“Our Father . . give us our food for today.” Matthew 6:11 NLT.

With providence, God provides sufficiently for daily needs.

My thoughts and comments today are about “prayer and God’s providence.”

We are such worriers; having enough for today, we still prefer a little extra to be more sure we will have enough tomorrow. So how much is enough? Since you cannot know what tomorrow will bring, you really cannot know what tomorrow will require. There is wisdom in balancing spending with a little savings. My Dad’s advice to me about finances was both practical and to the point, “Trust God’s provision; give generously; spend sensibly; save wisely; never spend all that you earn.” I do not recall my Dad spending foolishly nor worrying needlessly. Our family never had much, but God provided all we needed and my Dad set aside a little extra as he could.

Jesus addressed needless worry about material things. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or . . what you will wear . . your Heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Read Matthew 6:25-33 NIV. Providence is a great word describing, “the foresight of the care and provision of God.” You cannot foresee tomorrow, but God does. With providence, God provides sufficiently for each day’s needs – spiritually, physically, emotionally, and financially. The way your God does so is by prayer, not presumption. Prayer is trusting each concern to God’s providence, without worry or doubt. Jesus said, “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father . . give us our food for today.’” Matthew 6:11 NLT. Jesus’ words may seem so simple but are profoundly significant. 

There is a spiritual progression in Jesus’ model prayer. First, prayer acknowledges God, elevates His Name, and submits to His authority and will. Only then does your prayer rightly turn to your needs, all well-known in God’s providence. Prayer celebrates the appropriate trust of an intimate relationship. Here are some observations about prayer. Prayer invites God’s provision, not informs Him of your need (Matthew 6:8 NKJV). Prayer asks, not assumes (1 John 5:14-15 NKJV). Prayer acknowledges God as source, not yourself (Philippians 4:19 NIV). Prayer asks for what sustains, not what is frivolous. (James 4:3 NKJV). Prayer asks for enough, not excess – “our food for today.”

The Psalmist remembered when God, “rained down manna for [Israel] to eat; He gave them the grain of Heaven . . He sent them all the food they could eat.” Psalm 78:23-25 NIV. According to Moses’ instruction, each family was to gather only enough for each day, “some gathered much, some little . . he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.” See Exodus 16:14-26 NIV. Whatever they gathered was enough; nothing extra they gathered lasted beyond that day. On the sixth day, their trust was further tested and proven. Only then were they to gather enough for that day and the Sabbath as well.

Maybe there is a lesson here for those who want to have more than enough for the day, needing no further faith. Your needs are new each day, as must your faith and prayer be. Here is why you pray, “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed . .  Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask . .” 2 Corinthians 9:10/Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV.

My prayer for you is that you come confidently to your Father with your needs today.

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Wholehearted

October 30th, 2013

“Enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well.”  Galatians 6:4 NLT.

Wholehearted is the one acceptable standard for your relationship with God.

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

Casual is not an attitude that breeds success. Like every father trying to motivate a teenager, my Dad would often say, “Allen, anything worth doing is worth doing well.”Recognizing that my temperament was not Type A, Dad taught me the importance of being serious and focused on the things that truly matter. Casual is an attitude only for things of lesser importance.

Here is how I see this working out. Our culture seems to have made casual and leisure into a religion of sorts. Dress has gone from casual to careless. Social communication has embraced casual until grammar and spelling, and complete words and sentences, are deemed non-essential. Street slang and accepted levels of profanity have gravely discounted language. Marriage and relationships are treated casually, as though dispensable and replaceable by something or someone newer and more presently exciting and less exacting. Casual has become a way of life, and other things have suffered or been lost along the way. Casual is the adversary of commitment; good is the enemy of best.

This is not a tirade to preserve the past, but a caution that the spirit of such a lifestyle does not impose itself on your spiritual life. Wholehearted is the one acceptable standard for your relationship with God. Actually, your faith and the wholeheartedness with which you live it should be the influence that makes you desire every area of your life to be more diligent and effective. Paul advises, “Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” Galatians 6:4 NLT. You cannot afford to be casual about spiritual matters; they have life and death, even eternal consequence, for you.

You need to know who God says you are, and not mindlessly accept what the culture suggests that you can or should be. You need to know what God’s work is for you to do, and not merely accept the world’s current of career choices and images of success. And when you know who you are and what you are to do, give yourself wholeheartedly to success there.

That was the deciding difference between young David and his brothers, and because of that Goliath was defeated. Again, let me say,wholehearted is the one acceptable standard for your relationship with God. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.” Proverbs 4:23 NLT.

“Whatever you do, do it heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve . . as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men.” Colossians 3:23-24NAS/Ephesians 6:6-7. Life is simpler when you always give God your best.

My prayer for you today is that God will hold your heart, all of it at all times!

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