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Plans and Steps

May 8th, 2018

LIFE IS BEST WHEN GOD IS FIRST.

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NLT

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Plans and Steps.”

A life that is lived without a plan does not work very well, and a plan that is not clear, and manageable on some daily basis, will not lead to success. A plan is like GPS. You first choose your desired destination. Then a plan is formulated as the best way to get there. That could and should be applied to everyday life. A life that is lived without a plan does not work very well. And any plan that is not clear and manageable on some daily basis will not lead to success. Some years ago, a simple yet practical strategy became popular, “Plan the work; work the plan.” Solomon learned that, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5 NLT. That remains wise advice in any circumstance.

When you plan, you visualize the priority and time required for the various matters requiring your efforts. When you neglect those moments to think through a day’s responsibilities, you find yourself busy but less productive. Without a plan for the day, energy is misspent, and efforts are less effective. Attention is easily divvied and distracted. Time is poorly allocated. I have learned that important things are often replaced by alternatives that seem easier and more immediately enjoyable.

Direction is necessary for production. Now, let’s look at this on a larger scale with more eternal consequence. This principle especially applies to your spiritual life, as well as your daily life. Those two are inseparable, by the way. You will be more successful at the latter, when you succeed at the former. You cannot successfully compartmentalize your life into differing categories, seasons, or circumstances, in some of which you retain operational control while in others you are expecting God to direct and bless. Jesus is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all. Jesus made this clear, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33.

Often, my Dad reminded me, “Allen, first things first!” It’s very simple really. First, you work, then you play. First, you save, then you spend. First, you seek God’s plan, then you follow His plan. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Read Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT. You and your wellbeing have been in God’s plans from the beginning and continue to be.

Life is best when God is first. God has the definitive plan for your life. Scripture is consistent. “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for your good and not harm, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV. “As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.” Psalm 18:30 NIV. Through prayer and Scripture, let God plan your work. “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NLT.

That being true, then devote yourself to knowing and following His plan. That is called obedience, a priority to God and a necessity for your success. Obedience will supply you with the necessary focus and ability you do not otherwise possess. Obedience will produce opportunities you neither earned nor expected. And obedience will yield achievement you do not imagine. God’s direction is always accurate; His timing is always exact; His results are always abundant.

Today I pray for you to discover God’s purpose in all you do and with all you have.

Christian Communications 2018-1308

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Live Passionately

September 12th, 2016

Spiritual life weakens when passion lessens.

edl-love-god-bicycle-photo

 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” Mark 12:30 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today urge you, “live passionately.”

Life is best lived passionately. A marriage fails when priority is misdirected. Friendship suffers as time and activity together grows less important. Achievements decline where passion diminishes.

More importantly, spiritual life weakens when passion lessens. I don’t think anyone intentionally chooses that cooling of ardor, but without care, it just happens, in the smallest of ways without intent or notice. Actually, a person’s passion is often more misdirected than reduced, misplaced on other things rather that where it should have remained.

I have felt challenged by the conviction of the Holy Spirit to “keep it real” in my daily walk with God.  Such a holy passion is not normal to your nature or mine, nor easy to sustain in the surrounding culture. But that is the only way you will truly know God in a depth of experience that is releasing and transforming.  Choose to live passionately about Jesus.

Jesus cautioned the church of the ancient city of Laodicea that He would prefer they were “either hot or cold.” Luke warmness is never a viable, tolerable option. How could this have happened to these loving, Christ-followers in contrast to what had previously been true of them? Their passion waned because they envisioned themselves as, “rich and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” foolishly content and self-satisfied. Revelation 3:14-22 NKJV.

Writing to the church at Ephesus, Jesus praised their zeal for matters of righteousness, but judged their loss of passion in their love for God. “You have left your first love . . this is what I have against you: you do not love me as you did at first.” Revelation 2:4 NKJV/TEV. That happens more easily than you know and more quickly than you may realize, always with tragic result. Revelation 2:1-7 NKJV. Jesus’ words are clear.

Wholehearted love for God is non-negotiable. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30 NKJV. Notice the absolute inclusiveness of Jesus’ commandment to love God with everything you are and have in every area of your personal resources, priorities, and ability. Your love for God must be supreme and entire. Don’t dumb down your passion for God.

There were seasons in my life when I allowed lesser passions to compete for my focus and energies. As I have grown older and hopefully wiser, my passion for God, our marriage, family, ministry, and friendships are increasingly more important. But the great and holy passion of my life was, and still is this: “That I may know Jesus in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10 -11 NKJV. Let Your great and holy passion be to know Jesus intimately. Anything less is insufficient and unworthy.

Today, I pray for you to have a real passion for Jesus that inspires and excites others.

Christian Communications 2016

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The Holy Spirit

August 5th, 2016

The Holy Spirit is God’s answer for your powerlessness.

“Be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18 NIV.

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

Life can be challenging. And that just might be the understatement of the year. Daily life presents situations that confront your lack of knowledge, understanding, ability, and/or resources. That fact we all have in common. Just “toughing it out” doesn’t work so well in many situations. Physical, mental, and emotional fatigue result from those challenges. David, the courageous victor over Goliath, still experienced difficulties beyond his abilities, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:12-13 NKJV.  Don’t lose heart. You will see the goodness of the Lord in this lifetime.

Spiritual life is also challenging. Consequential decisions for yourself and family are a daily occurrence. Previous experience or the advice of friends does not always offer the depth of knowledge and wisdom that you need. Of ourselves, we are insufficient for all of the demands, necessities, and challenges life presents. God always provides the answer. The Holy Spirit is God’s answer for your powerlessness. “The Spirit of the Lord [is] the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” Isaiah 11:2 NKJV. Sufficiency is found in God because God alone is sufficient. Read 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 NKJV.

God’s desire and supply are simple, direct, practical, and achievable. “Be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18 NIV. The New Testament is translated from Greek, which is grammatically distinct and layered with meaning. In Paul’s instruction, “Be filled” is the Greek verb, Pleroo, which is “imperative, present tense, plural, and passive voice.” The command is imperative, a command to be obeyed; present tense, continuous in duration; plural, for all without exception; passive voice, a grace gift to the hungry. A literal translation is: “All of you, be continuously filled with the Spirit and continually controlled by the Spirit.” Our generous, gracious God fills the heart and life where He is invited.

Jesus promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6 NIV. “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being . . to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Read Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV.

Today, my prayer for you is as Paul’s prayer for the Corinthians, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV.

Christian Communications 2016

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Holy Spirit

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Biblical Faith

July 22nd, 2015

“Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV.

Biblical faith is central and requisite to the Christian life.

My thoughts and comments today are about “Biblical faith.”

Life is difficult without a healthy measure of faith. Faith is natural unless compromised by opinions and circumstances. Disappointing experiences, damaged trust, and resultant doubts are usually the product of insincere promises or insufficient abilities to fulfill promises made. Yet your Christian life is completely dependent on faith. Paul reminded the Corinthian believers, “We walk by faith not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7.

Your life in Christ begins with the gift of faith, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. Your spiritual life grows by faith’s increase, “. . if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the Gospel which you heard.” Colossians 1:22. Faith sustains you during and at the end of your journey, as faith did for “those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Hebrews 6:11-12.

And how is this journey of faith successfully accomplished? It’s simple really. “Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith . .” Hebrews 12:2. Faith is neither something you create of yourself nor can you sustain apart from Jesus, alive in your heart. “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12:3 NKJV. “Faith is not a mere sterile, intellectual belief, but it is that which confirms the heart, clarifies the mind, and controls the affections.” (Barnes’ Notes).

(1) Biblical faith is central and requisite to every aspect of the Christian life. Citing the example of Enoch, “as one who pleased God,” the Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:5-6 NIV. Faith is essential, not optional. Biblical faith is described best in Hebrews 11:1.

(2) Biblical faith is: “the substance of things hoped for.” English lacks the breadth and richness of the original Greek text, in which the New Testament was primarily written. As used in this verse, “Substance” is closest to our word, “foundation, that which stands underneath to provide support.” Biblical hope is not at all wishful thinking; it is a spiritual reality established upon the solid rock of God’s Word. Read Matthew 7:24-27. The “things hoped for” are as certain as the singular character, absolute authority, and unchanging reliability of God. If God said it, I believe it. And that settles it. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing [comes] by the Word of God.” Read Romans 10:17.

(3) Biblical faith is: “the evidence of things not seen.” As used in this verse, “Evidence” is “the irrefutable proof and unchangeable conviction.” The “things not [yet] seen” are envisioned in one’s heart and accompanied by unshakable conviction of their certainty. Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV. Abraham is a great example of this principle. Read Romans 4:19-21 NIV. You don’t choose what you believe; you choose who you believe and that determines what you believe. Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” See Matthew 11:22-24. I believe God.

Jesus used the example of a tiny mustard seed to encourage faith and demonstrate its power, “the smallest seed, when planted it grows and becomes the largest of plants . . if you have faith as small as a mustard seed . . nothing will be impossible for you.” Read Mark 4:31 and Matthew 17:20 NIV.

Today, I pray for you that your faith grows strong and rests fully upon God and His Word.

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Simple Choices

March 27th, 2015

“If anyone would come after Me, he must . . follow Me.” Mark 8:34 NIV.

Religion is complicated; spirituality is simple.

My thoughts and comments today are about “simple choices.”

A healthy, robust spiritual life is possible for you. Certainly, that requires intention, attention, and priority. Spiritual life is not for the casual soul; it is achieved purposefully. Spirituality is not as difficult as some people often make it out to be. Some assume, or have been wrongly taught, that spiritual life is about religious rules, regulations to learn, duties to perform, strict laws to obey, or religious protocols to be observed.

Religion is complicated; spirituality is simple. The prophet, Isaiah, described the simplicity of spirituality for the sincere seeker, “Whoever walks the road [called the Highway of Holiness], although a fool, shall not go astray.” Isaiah 35:8. It is not about your intelligence; it is about your obedience.

In the New Testament, people frequently asked to be Jesus’ disciple. On other occasions, Jesus invited people to be His disciples. Either way the choice remained theirs to make, just like your invitation to be His disciple is always yours to accept or decline. Following Jesus’ baptism by John, Jesus began calling for men to be His disciples. Some readily did so; others reluctantly declined.

Jesus’ invitation was simple; still is. “’Come, follow Me,’ Jesus said.” Read Mark 1:16-20 NIV. Their response to His invitation was immediate. “At once they left their nets and followed Him.” In Jesus’ company, less and less of your old life compares with the new life you receive. Read Psalm 16:11/2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV. Godly choices aren’t simple to make; they are simple when made.

Jesus wrapped profound and eternal truth in everyday stories, comparing one’s discovery of the Kingdom with a man finding buried treasure in a field and a merchant finding an incomparable pearl, and both selling all they had to possess what they once never imagined could be theirs. Read Matthew 13:44-46 NIV. When you follow Jesus, He gives you a life beyond all you could previously imagine or hope to obtain. See Romans 15:5-6 NIV. Jesus alone is the answer to every question and fulfillment of each desire.

If you are following Jesus, your life can be an example and encouragement to others who want to follow Him, as Paul encouraged the Christians at Corinth, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV. Seeing a practical model of someone who is faithfully following Jesus helps tremendously. I am thankful for every Godly friend and spiritual mentor – Kenny, Campbell, Des, Don, Andrew, Rick, too many more to name really – who provided me with living examples and personal encouragement of being a Christ-follower. I continue to learn how to follow Jesus by watching them follow Him.

Jesus wrapped profound and eternal truth in everyday stories, comparing one’s discovery of the Kingdom with a man finding buried treasure in a field and a merchant finding an incomparable pearl, and both selling all they had to possess what they once never imagined could be theirs. Read Matthew 13:44-46 NIV. When you follow Jesus, He gives you a life beyond all you could previously imagine or hope to obtain. Jesus alone is the answer to every question and the fulfillment of every desire.

Yes, there are sacrifices to make; there are things to abandon; there are new loyalties and a cross to embrace. “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the Gospel will save it.” Read Mark 8:34-38 NIV.

If you are following Jesus with a whole heart, He has much more ahead for you than what you ever leave behind. At the heart of spiritual life is your response to Jesus’ simple invitation to follow Him. “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Read Matthew 6:31-33 NIV.

Today, my prayer for you is, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6 NIV.

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