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Posts Tagged ‘Spiritual disciplines’

Daily Bread

October 16th, 2015

“I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry.” John 6:35 NIV.

External things never satisfy eternal cravings.

My thoughts and comments today are about “daily bread.”

Hunger is a powerful motivation, impossible to ignore completely. God crafted your body to recognize its need for replenishing, whether for nutrition, exercise, or rest. The body responds to its lack by sending a signal and demanding a response. When the body’s need is not replenished, the body redirects the diminishing supply of nutritional resources to its vital organs. To adequately supply the heart, lungs, and brain, the body grows weaker waiting for nourishment, as the process of starving begins.

The human spirit is similar, requiring nourishment and replenishing. Make no mistake; there is a hunger of the soul. People ignore the hunger of the inner man or misinterpret their inner longings, trying in vain to fill a growing emptiness with things that never satisfy – money, possessions, busyness, thrills, amusements, sex, drugs, alcohol – always to excess yet never enough. External things never satisfy eternal cravings.

Too many fail to recognize the origin of the soul’s hunger. Jesus spoke plainly and confidently, “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 NIV. Listen to your heart; feed your soul; nourish your spirit; discover full satisfaction. Satisfaction is found only in Christ.

The Bread of Life desires that you know He alone will satisfy your supreme longings. His provision is abounding. Jesus is life exalting and eternal life assuring. It’s simple really; you have to come to Him. Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11 NIV. Jesus declared Himself to be that daily bread. “I am the living bread which came down from Heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever.” John 6:51 NIV.

Job got it right, “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” Job 23:12 KJV. Let’s be practical. You receive this life-giving, daily bread through the discipline of spiritual practices: worship (John 4:23-24), prayer and praise (Ephesians 6:18), personal Bible study (Psalm 119:11), meditation of Scripture (Psalm 1:1-3), and meaningful fellowship with others who seek the same Source and satisfaction. (Acts 2:42/46 NIV). Spiritual disciplines provide satisfaction that is much more full and lasting than any and everything else with which you might attempt to appease the spiritual hunger within. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness . . they shall be completely satisfied.” Matthew 5:6 NIV/AMP. In Jesus, your satisfaction is guaranteed.

Today, I pray for you to have an appetite for things that satisfy.

EDL pix basket of bread

 

 

 

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A Work in Progress

March 20th, 2015

“Like clay is in the hand of the potter, so are you in My hand.” Jeremiah 18:6 NIV.

Remain in God’s hands until His work is complete and His plan evident.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a work in progress.”

People are so impatient; we expect everything to be immediate. What we want, we want now. You must learn that whatever is worth having is worth waiting for. And whatever is worth waiting for is worth the time and effort that necessitates.

As it pertains to your spiritual life and development, your best efforts alone will not achieve all God intends for you. Try as diligently as you might, your efforts will fall short. What needs to happen in your spiritual life requires God for its accomplishment. Yes, there are spiritual disciplines to which you must steadfastly commit yourself and be diligent in doing so. “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness . . knowledge . . self-control . . perseverance . . Godliness . . brotherly kindness, and love.” 2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV. Ultimately, your spiritual growth requires the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling and working within you. Spiritual maturity occurs as you rest in God’s hands fully and continually, to work as He wills.

Jeremiah visited a potter’s shop and observed the potter at work when, “the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him . . like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in My hand.” Jeremiah 18:1-4/6 NIV. The work in His hands requires more than the quality of the clay; the ultimate outcome is due to the vision, diligence, and skill of the potter. Impurities or failure may temporarily mar God’s design and delay His intention, but all is not lost.

The God who by His mere words created a world out of nothing, whispers, “Trust Me.” Remain in God’s hands until His work is complete and His plan evident. The process may seem dizzying at times and the purpose unclear, but rest in your Creator. “What we will be has not yet been made known . . but we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” See 1 John 3:1-3 NIV. That’s God’s promise.

EDL pix work in progressGod knows exactly what He is doing. You are a work in progress, while He faithfully conforms you into the image of His Son, Jesus, as you have asked Him to do. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.” Romans 8:28-29 NIV. That seems well beyond your finite ability to comprehend, but true nevertheless. I am not yet what I will be nor am I what I once was. “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV.

When I was a young pastor with few skills and many uncertainties, God spoke His Word to my heart, “The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” Read 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NIV. Of that truth, I have never had reason to be uncertain. Across the years, I continue to be strengthened by the promise of His faithfulness. Read 2 Timothy 3:16/Hebrews 13:20-21. You are God’s unique design fashioned for His service and glory.

Participate and cooperate in the grand process that is called spiritual life. Really, this life is but prelude to life, eternal and incomparably glorious. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-10.

Today, my prayer for you is that the lasting impressions on your life are His alone.

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Achieving Your Potential

November 4th, 2014

“Stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Colossians 4:12 NIV.

Spiritual disciplines determine spiritual potential.

My thoughts and comments today are about “achieving your potential.”

Your innate desire to be more than you have been is from God. You have a God-given potential to become more than you have imagined. Boundaries are limits imposed by yourself or others. You were created “in the image and likeness of God.” Imagine the potential, presently and eternally, that God has invested in you. The only uncertainty is whether you will recognize and realize the divine potential within you. When you think of “achieving your potential,” what do you envision? Your capabilities will likely be more than your accomplishments.

Recognition of potential is the prerequisite for achieving potential. Paul described Godly potential this way: “That you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Colossians 4:12 NIV. Do those words – “standing firm . . mature . . fully assured” – describe you? They can. Achieving your potential does not just happen; the process requires purpose and priority, as well as sacrifice. And add patience, perseverance, and obedience to that list. Your full potential, being “mature and fully assured,” rests upon your priority and practice of living fully within the will of God.

Spiritual maturity is the pathway to your potential. “. . that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12 NIV. Maturity is not measured by comparison with others. Paul warned of those who, “. . measure themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12. Jesus is the only adequate and accurate standard for comparison. Not only is Jesus the standard by which you will be measured, He is the willing accomplice for all of your spiritual accomplishment.

Spiritual maturity is the goal; becoming like Jesus is the process. Be patient; your spiritual potential is achieved progressively in a process that is lifelong. “As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory even more.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT. In the simplest of terms, spiritual maturity can be described as Christ-likeness. See Romans 8:28. There is very good news about this process. John wrote, “We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” Read 1 John 3:1-3 NIV. Usually, we seem unclear as to the practical implications of Christ-likeness. Here is a useful, practical definition that has helped me. “Spiritual maturity is rightly responding to life’s situations according to Biblical patterns of behavior.” In every circumstance, a good question to ask is, “What would Jesus do?”  Your natural tendencies do not lend themselves to spiritual achievement.

Spiritual disciplines govern spiritual potential. (1) God’s Word is essential to spiritual life. “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise . .” Colossians 3:16-17 NLT. Spiritual maturity is achieved through a growing knowledge of the Word of God and a deepening obedience to the ways of God. (2) Welcome the Holy Spirit to rule your heart. “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do . . let the Holy Spirit fill and control you . . making music to the Lord in your hearts. And you will always give thanks for everything to God.” Ephesians 5:17-20 NLT. See Galatians 5:8-10/22-23. (3) Make prayer a daily priority. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2 NIV. See Philippians 4:6-7 NIV. (4) Let love be your lifestyle. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John  13:34.

Today, my prayer for you is to refuse limits that prevent your being all that God intends.

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Spiritual Discipline

November 5th, 2010

“Everyone who competes . . goes into strict training.” 1 Corinthians 9:25 NIV

“Self-discipline is absolutely essential for success, whatever your arena of endeavor.”

My thoughts today are about “spiritual discipline.”

In today’s verse, the Apostle Paul uses athletic competition as a metaphor for the Christian life, which he often did. I think Paul might have been a sports junkie of his day. His point seems to be this: to succeed you will have to pay a personal price beyond what is comfortable or convenient for you. To be what you have not been or achieve what you have not accomplished before, you will have to devote yourself to more than you have done before.

An author of best selling books about personal and financial success was asked the single most important principle of success he had found. Out of four books, 50 years of research, and identifying 1,000 principles for success, he said, “Do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.” How few or us are willing to do that consistently as a lifestyle?

Education, opportunities, and talent are necessary but can take you only so far; the simple but hard work of discipline, doing what’s right and best even when you don’t feel like doing so, is what separates those who excel from those settling for mediocrity. “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men.” Proverbs 22:29 NKJV.

You will need “coaches, trainers, and cheerleaders” – we all seem to need those along the way – but your own desire and discipline ultimately decide your success.  Self-discipline is absolutely essential for success, whatever your endeavor – in education, athletic competition, business, marriage, family, relationships, finances, and most importantly, your spiritual life and growth.

Be advised; you won’t always feel like doing “what you should do when you should do it,” but you must be diligent and unrelenting. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it is painful! But afterward, there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet.” Hebrews 12:11-13 NLT. Afterward’s “harvest of right living” is the celebration; meanwhile is the hard part! Your discipline in the interim determines the extent of your reward and satisfaction later.

What is true in family life, business, financial success, and physical fitness is even truer of spiritual fitness. The Christian life is not easy, nor for the lazy or uncommitted. Jesus said, “If any man will come after Me (be my disciple), he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” Luke 9:23 NIV.

The truly spiritual life is for disciples – the disciplined! Paul wrote, “Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must 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 to win an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step . . I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT. Historically, spiritual disciplines are the practice of such things as: Bible study, prayer, Biblical meditation, fasting, fellowship, tithing, and discipleship. How important are those in your daily and weekly practices?

My prayer for you today is that you practice spiritual discipline with clear purpose.

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Spiritual Disciplines

July 20th, 2010

“If the axe is dull . . more strength is needed.” Ecclesiastes 10:10 NIV

“Spiritual disciplines are not optional, nor can any worthy substitute replace them.”

My thoughts today are about “spiritual disciplines.”

Working hard is important, very important. Not much at all happens without that to begin with. Without a willingness to do what it takes – the time and effort required – you will not achieve your greatest success. But hard work alone does not produce success. Success is more than the result of mere effort or added exertion. Success is in knowing how to be effective as well as what to do. Without wisdom, as the work wears on you may wear out.

The Bible says, “That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.” Ecclesiastes 10:10 NIV. Success usually comes to those who value wisdom. Read James 1:5-6/3:13-18 NIV. Wisdom helps you keep a growing edge in your life, a real advantage over your assuming that effort alone will produce the desired results.

For the greatest success, you must stay sharp physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It is not extreme attention and effort in just one area that succeeds, but taking time to achieve balance and excellence in all of those. Without balance and excellence, ordinary, every day life can become difficult and dull and be harder and far less satisfying than it should be.

You sharpen your edge physically by paying attention to your health, getting rest, proper nutrition and regular exercise. You care for your mental health by seeking to learn and understand, enjoying the intellectual stimulation and challenge of doing so. See Philippians 4:4-9 NLT. You restore and increase emotional balance by successfully managing negative emotions such as doubt, worry and fear, and nurturing healthy emotions of gratitude, cheerfulness, optimism, and contentment – while maintaining healthy, edifying relationships.

Most important of all is guarding your spiritual well being and growth through the daily disciplines of God’s Word, sincere prayer, personal and corporate worship, Christian fellowship, and regular church attendance and active participation. Those are not optional nor can any worthy substitute replace them. They are spiritual disciplines essential for your spiritual health and vitality. Practice them well; your future well being in many ways depends upon them.

Into our vocabulary has come the mention of phrases like “growing edge, leading edge, and cutting edge.” It would seem this matter of edge is important in everyday life. People often refer to keeping their edge, or advantage, but not everyone talking about it actually does it. Be the one who does!

Solomon observed this practical truth, “If the axe is dull and the workman does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.” Ecclesiastes 10:10 NAS. You can sharpen your edge by highly prizing true wisdom that comes from above, and in that you will find the greatest of success, with ample satisfaction as well. Regular time to “sharpen the edge” is never wasted so that your effort is efficient and productive.

My prayer for you today is that your efforts are rewarded with fruitfulness and accomplishment.

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