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Profitable People

March 9th, 2017

Never overlook the treasure in an earthen vessel

“[Onesimus] once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.” Philemon 9

My thoughts and comments today are about “profitable People”

The bottom line for every business endeavor or financial investment is calculating the potential for profit and loss. If you only generate a loss, you are soon out of business. Without a profit, you have a hobby, not a business. Profit and loss is easy when adding or subtracting numbers in a spreadsheet or database. But life and relationships require more than data and numbers. Numbers are static; people are dynamic. In relationships, you are dealing with lives, not ledgers. Figuring profit and loss there is more complex, less plain and simple. Numbers are just what they are. People can become more than they were.  

In Paul’s New Testament letter to Philemon we are introduced to Onesimus, a runaway slave from Philemon’s home. To escape recapture and punishment, Onesimus fled to Rome where Paul was imprisoned. Whether by intention or divine appointment, he met the Apostle and through Paul’s witness was converted. In his letter to Philemon, Paul wrote of Onesimus who, “once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.” Read Philemon 1-25 NLT. Those words intrigue me. His past was past; his future was changed. It seems ironic that his name, Onesimus, means “useful,” yet he was once considered, “unprofitable.” Paul affirmed the sincere conversion of Onesimus in these words, “[Onesimus] now is useful to you and to me.”

Paul’s description of Onesimus piqued my thoughts with a practical question. How can you and I increase our worth in another’s life? Doing things worthwhile to another’s well-being increases your worth to them. As a beginning, the New Testament is filled with multiple, practical instructions of appropriate, unselfish, Godly behavior toward one another, such as, “Serve one another in love . . the entire Law is summed up in a single command: love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14 NIV.

Humility is a virtue in your dealings with others. “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” 1 Peter 5:5 NIV. You and I are profitable to others when we contribute more to them than we require of them. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV. Profitable people never overlook the treasure in an earthen vessel. As the Lord’s servants, we are called to encourage one another, recognizing the profit and potential in others and affirming that with our words to them and our actions toward them.

On another occasion, Paul also affirmed another young companion who had previously disappointed him. See Acts 15:37-40 NKJV. Older and wiser, Paul asked Timothy, “Take Mark and bring him with you, for he is profitable to me for the ministry. 2 Timothy 4:11 KJV. Ask yourself, have I lived in a practical, beneficial way toward others today? Every day, find practical ways to serve others. And begin at home.

Today, I pray for you to be found profitable in the purposes of God for your life and others.

Christian Communications

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Upward and Onward

December 16th, 2016

Your direction is governed by your spiritual passion

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Luke 12:34 NIV

My thoughts and comments today urge you upward and onward.”

In life, you will make numerous directional decisions. Those decisions touch your future in ways you will not foresee. In such moments, it is important that you consider your choices carefully. Seek counsel with others who know you, as well as have your confidence in their consistency of knowing God, His Word, and His ways. And of primary importance, always seek God’s wisdom for all that you and they cannot know. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should pray to God, who will give it to him; because God gives generously and graciously to all.” James 1:5 TEV. God and His Word have all the wisdom and knowledge life will require.

Some people come to such moments of decision and become stuck. Due to indecision about what to do or which way to go, some go nowhere. Indecision is always a wrong decision. In such a situation, and with an entire nation relying on his leadership, Joshua received God’s counsel and it remains good counsel for you. “Do not turn from [God’s Word] to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth . . so that you may be careful to do everything in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful . . for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7-9 NIV. 

Life is not ultimately determined by which path you follow, as much as it is that you are careful to know and do what God says along your journey. Then the Lord will be with you wherever you go. Better to be on any path with God than a right path without Him. More frequently, the challenge you will face is whether to go on or turn back – whether to move forward in faith or retreat to surroundings more safe and familiar.

Experiencing the disappointment of a companion who turned back, he wrote, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world more.” 2 Timothy 4:10 NKJV. Read John’s advice, 1 John 2:15-17 NKJV. Since your new life is in Christ, the world is behind you; keep it there. Keep moving upward and onward as God wills. Jesus was clear about following Him, “No one after putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62 NAS.

It’s simple logic. You won’t make much progress if you are always looking over your shoulder fondly for where you’ve been. The Bible praises those who left behind everything to follow God, “If their attention had been filled with thoughts of where they had been, they would have found a way to go back there. But they were looking for a better place . .” Hebrews 11:15-16 (my paraphrase). I love the effect and reward of such a person’s passion for God, “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a [heavenly place] for them.”

“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14 NIV. Your direction is governed by your spiritual passion. “My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You.” Psalm 63:8 AMP.

Today, I pray for you is to never settle for less than God’s highest and best.

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Disappointment

April 12th, 2016

“We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV.

Disappointment comes from varied sources in assorted sizes.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “disappointment.”

People will not always behave as you expect. Inevitably, you will need to deal with disappointment because that is one of the life’s common experiences. Disappointment comes from varied sources in assorted sizes. Sometimes it happens in a sequence of little things, and at other times occurs more painfully, sudden and unexpected. The word simply means, “not as appointed.”

There are a lot of things that could be described that way; they just don’t turn out according to your plans or preference. The small things produce momentary discomfort that may slow but not stop you. You adjust, recalculate, and resume your journey no worse for wear. Sometimes situations are disappointing; at other times people disappoint, just as you have and will disappoint others.

Usually, people don’t mean to disappoint others. Like the rest of us, people are often self-centered, not thinking of how a word or action will affect others. When a person disappoints you, it feels more personal and difficult than when things or plans don’t happen as you hoped. You cannot choose the actions or control what others do or say; you must choose and control what you do and say. Jesus words were wise and practical when you feel disappointed by others, “If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.” Read Matthew 10:12-14 NIV. Refuse to carry someone else’s relational baggage. Peace of heart and mind is invaluable.

The best way to deal with people who disappoint you is simple: forgive and forget. First, consider yourself and the grace shown to you by God and others. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NIV. Don’t harbor wrongs done to you; deal with your feelings promptly and thoroughly. Some wrongs were real; some were imagined; and few if any were as bad as they felt at the time.

Now, let’s talk about times when you disappoint others, and yourself. The worst disappointment you will feel is when you fail in a big way and know it – when you let your family down, are not the friend you meant to be, did not do what you knew was right, or do not live up to your own convictions and standards. The best way to deal with that is to “face up, ‘fess up, and forge ahead.” Remember your humanity.

Jesus’ words were plain, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 NIV. It is a dangerous illusion to assume you are perfect, “We have this spiritual treasure like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us. We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 TEV.  Yours or others’ failure is not final if you include God.

Today, I pray for you to bring every hurt to the One who cares, heals, and restores.

Disappointment

Christian Communications 2016

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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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Noble Sacrifice

May 28th, 2012

“If you give up your life for Me, you will save it.” Luke 9:24 CEV

Squandering life is a terrible waste, while the sacrifice of one’s life is the noblest gift.

My thoughts and comments today are about “noble sacrifice.”

When I see the faces of soldiers serving bravely in Afghanistan, most barely out of their teens, I am intrigued and humbled by the courage of these young men and women who have barely begun their life journey, but are willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their fellow soldiers or countrymen. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” For Jesus, that was His lifestyle and example, much more than mere words.

They do not regard life as expendable or to be cheaply given. In contrast, more than most they see the inestimable value of life and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of giving their life to save the lives of others. Only the person who would willingly give their own life has truly realized how precious life really is.

Squandering life is a terrible waste, while the sacrifice of one’s life is the noblest gift. Jesus crucial call of true discipleship is. “If any man would be My disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23. The people to whom He personally spoke those words had no confusion of their meaning. As a means of Roman judgment, a man bearing a cross was not an uncommon scene. In the historical era of the Roman Empire when Jesus lived, if a man were seen shouldering a cross there was no confusion about where he was heading and what he was doing. That cruel cross meant only one thing to any observer, his own death.

Jesus issued a monumental challenge that still resonates within hearts where He dwells, “If you give up your life for Me, you will save it.” Luke 9:24 CEV. But what does it mean to give up your life? It does not mean to depreciate your life as unimportant or of little value. I think it means living for something and Someone much greater than yourself.

Yes, that must be it, sacrificing something treasured for something eternal and more valuable by far. Jesus told a story about a merchant trading in pearls. They were admired by him, acquired by him, prized by him. Until the day he saw a pearl he had only dreamed of, more magnificent than any he ever hoped to own. Its price to some would have seemed outlandish – “who when he had found one pearl of great price went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46. Paying all he had still seemed a small price for what he could no longer consider living without.

That is what the Kingdom of Heaven is, something for which you joyfully surrender what previously was most precious to you to exchange for what otherwise could never be your own. Jesus Himself and His eternal Kingdom are that “pearl of great price.” But there is another side to the equation. Be aware of Jesus’ somber warning, “If you try to save your life for yourself, you will lose it.” Luke 9:24. Refusing the fitting sacrifice rightly given is squandering life, a tragic loss.

My prayer for you today is that you value your life as a gift to be given back to God.

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