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Giving Thanks Is God’s Will

November 29th, 2017

Giving thanks honors God and values others.

 “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are that,

“giving thanks is God’s will.” 

This year, our family decided to have our traditional Thanksgiving dinner outside, rather than in our dining room as has been customary. With four generations, along with friends, that is quite a full house. Our son and daughter along with their spouses, and our ever-growing family circle of grandkids with their spouses, and great grandkids from five years old and younger, gathered with friends from in town and out, as well as new friends from Romania. It was a beautiful, pleasant day with much conversation and lots of memories – some with tears – but most with joy and gratefulness.

Around large wooden cable spools for serving and dining, we visited and ate under the shade of Mesquite and Huisache trees – with curious visits from our dogs, miniature donkeys, and Hercules (our son’s horse). After a few moments of grateful Communion (a tradition begun by request of a grandson a few years earlier), plates were filled with turkey and ham, mashed and sweet potatoes, vegetables, salads followed by pumpkin pies, pumpkin crunch cake, banana pudding, and assorted Bundt cakes. Needless to say, no one went away hungry.

As the evening came, the great grandkids became the focus, enjoying rides across the pasture in the jeep with their dad, or down the road in a wagon pulled by a doting grandpa. As the sun faded and shadows lengthened, family and friends sat around a warming fire and laughed and remembered moments of life together, until farewells and bed time. We remain thankful to God for His faithfulness, and to one another for friendship.

My thought today is this. Thankfulness honors God and values others. Giving thanks is a lifestyle. Thanksgiving is just one special day on our American calendar. The apostle Paul encouraged true believers, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19-20 NIV. When do you give thanks? Always! For what do you give thanks? Everything! To Whom do you give thanks? To God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! The Apostle Paul seemed astonished when he described unthankful people. “They knew God, but they wouldn’t worship Him as God or even give Him thanks.” Read Romans 1:20-23 NLT. Giving thanks is the doorway to worship. Read Psalm 100 NIV.

Paul was consistent, even insistent, in his instructions to New Testament Christians, “Be Thankful . . Sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through [Christ Jesus].” Colossians 3:16-17 NIV. The seeds of gratitude in your heart are the source from which giving thanks flows in your words and through your life. The Apostle Paul was clear. Whatever your circumstances of the moment, you always have cause to give thanks. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NKJV.

That indescribable Gift is Jesus, God’s Son who died on the cross for your sins and mine, and rose again from the grave, ascending to Heaven so that you and I may have eternal life with Him. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 NIV.

The writer of Hebrews summarized my thoughts better than I could, “Therefore, by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to never remain silent when you have every reason to give thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Communications 2017

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Spiritual Practices

October 9th, 2015

“The Father has blessed us . . with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 NIV.

Essential spiritual practices necessitate leisure and solitude.

My thoughts and comments today are about “spiritual practices.”

Days can be busy and noisy, leaving you over-stimulated and weary. Everything seems rushed and everyone hurried. All too often, the urgent displaces the important. The pace of our lives and the noise of our surroundings diminish things vital to our well-being. More tragically, you can lose something of yourself somewhere in the noise and busyness. Unrelenting activity produces a confused identity. A conviction of spiritual identity provides: certainty about purpose, clarity of direction, and sufficiency of your God-given gifts and abilities. So much depends upon a true sense of your God-given identity.

Essential spiritual practices necessitate leisure and solitude. We are so much like the disciples – often busy and tired. Jesus invited His disciples, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 NIV. Time alone with God is where you rediscover your identity in Christ. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 NIV. In his epistles, Paul wrote prolifically about your life, “in Christ.” Read Ephesians 2:6-7 NIV.

Let me suggest Biblical disciplines that strengthen your spiritual identity. Begin with this. Practice Sabbath rest. The Sabbath principle incorporates the whole of one’s life before the Lord. All other spiritual disciplines begin and extend from a heart that practices the principle of Sabbath. More than a day set aside from usual and necessary activity, Sabbath is a deliberate time – without worry or hurry – to reorient your body, soul, and spirit with the Biblical practices that encourage and celebrate your faith. In Jesus, true Sabbath is found. Matthew 11:28-30 NIV.

Prioritize quiet and solitude. Practice to be quiet and content in God’s presence. “I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child with his mother.” Psalm 131:1-2 NIV. Prioritize time in God’s Word. Psalm 1:1-3 NIV. Regular attention to the reading and meditation of Scripture is critically important. “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” Colossians 3:16-17 NKJV. Prioritize prayer with thanksgiving. Communicating your heart and gratitude to God results in communion with God. “In everything, by prayer and thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6-7 NIV.

Prioritize Praise and Worship. Grow comfortable expressing your heart in joyful adoration. Psalm 100 NIV. Prioritize edifying Fellowship. You were made for community. Acts 2:46-47 NKJV. That is where you grow and serve best. “Let us not neglect our meeting together . . but encourage and warn one another.” Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT. Spiritual practices develop a life that abides in Christ, trusts His finished work on the cross, and celebrates your identity in Christ.

Today, I pray for you that your identity is rooted and built up in Christ Jesus.

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Fatigue

February 27th, 2015

“Come to Me . . and you will find rest for your soul.” Matthew 11:29 NIV.

Weariness worsens when you do not know when or where you will again find rest.

My thoughts and comments today are about “fatigue.”

Vince Lombardi, famed coach of the Green Bay Packers said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” No one can do their best or be their best when tired. Fatigue negatively impacts everything. Fatigue has been described as, “a shortness of breath in one’s soul.” That kind of describes it for me. When I grow tired, I am more negative, less prone to see solutions than problems. At such times, motivation is difficult to muster. I am less patient with myself and others. Fatigue adversely affects your emotions, attitudes, behavior, decisions, and relationships.

The busyness and unrelenting pace of daily life are exhausting. Everybody knows what it means to just feel tired of being tired. When fatigued, you are affected physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. There is that which exhausts the soul as well as wearies the body. Everything grows more difficult; even things you would otherwise find enjoyable or easy are more taxing when tired. Weariness worsens when you do not know when or where you will again find rest.

The worst fatigue is beyond physical; it is a deep weariness of soul that only God can heal. Daniel prophesied of a future time which would, “wear out the saints of the Most High.” Daniel 7:25 KJV. Does that sound a bit like this generation? Keep your objectives clear; remember that reward and satisfaction follows obedience. God’s Word gives clear direction. Isaiah discovered, “This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest. This is the refreshing . . Those who wait upon God get fresh strength; they run and don’t get tired; they walk and don’t lag behind.” Isaiah 28:12/40:28-31 MSG. Time in God’s presence rejuvenates the soul. The practical exercises of prayer, Bible meditation, worship, singing, thanksgiving, confession, and personal reflection elevate and refresh the spirit of man. Practice those frequently and faithfully.

You were created to be productive, but God wisely built into your emotional and spiritual DNA the requirement for seasons of rest. “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in the plowing season and in harvest you must rest.” Exodus 34:21 NIV. The busy, demanding times of planting, as well as harvest, would seem unlikely times for rest. Wouldn’t immediacy and importance of task dictate that you persevere? But God cautions that despite the urgency of preparing the soil for planting or when reaping the harvest, you need to follow the Sabbath principle of timely rest. The Sabbath principle is not a suggestion. God commanded, ”Remember the Sabbath, by keeping it holy.” Exodus 20:8 NIV. You ignore God’s instruction to your own harm.

Many things will deplete your inner resources, until you embrace God’s invitation, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest . . And you will find rest for your soul.” Read Matthew 11:28-30 NIV. Rest for your soul is the only cure for weariness of soul, and that rest is found through unhurried time with God. St. Augustine, Christian theologian (354-430 AD), is reported to have written, “My soul is not at peace until it finds its rest in Thee.” Maybe you have been looking in all the wrong places for what can only be found in God.

Today, my prayer for you is that you are confident where to find inner rest for your soul.

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A Practical Ethic

February 7th, 2015

“Nor will I offer . . to the Lord that which costs me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24 NKJV.

Taking spiritual life seriously will cost a personal price gladly paid.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a practical ethic.”  EDL pix ETHICS

I remember my Dad saying to me, “Allen, anything that costs you nothing is usually worth the price you paid for it.” From him, I learned to appreciate the worth of Godly counsel and the cost and value of achievement. My life is better and my spiritual life clearer because of his practical wisdom. If I were to summarize my Dad’s personal ethic, it would be his conviction and example that: “Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and anything worth having is worth whatever effort or sacrifice it cost to acquire.”

The prophet Isaiah pleaded with a generation who turned from spiritual allegiance to godless idolatry. Isaiah reasoned, “Who would form a god or mold an image that profits him nothing?” Isaiah 40:10. How foolish. As I read Isaiah’s words, I recalled my father’s warning, “Anything that costs you nothing is usually worth the price you paid for it.” As an example, Isaiah wrote of a man who with purpose and costly expenditure of time and effort cut down a tree, used some of the wood to build a fire to warm himself and to cook a meal to feed and satisfy himself, and only then after his desires were served and needs met, “with the residue thereof, he makes a god . . and worships it.” Isaiah 44:14-17.

Yet, in one way or another, has not every one of us done something similarly? Any god who is merely an afterthought is impotent to save. God isn’t properly valued when you prioritize your affections, interests, time, and resources before giving what’s left to God and others. What remains when your wants are satisfied, your needs are met, your bills are paid, and your future seems secure? Whatever is then given to God and others is unworthy.

How must God view such lack of reverence and recognition? Maybe the only thing worse than offering your scraps to the true God is to take those scraps and create a false god to worship. I don’t think that I have ever done the latter, but I fear that there were occasions and situations when I may have done the former – offering my residue without apology or embarrassment.

When King David desired to acknowledge the Lord’s great grace and mercy, he chose a threshing floor where he would offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord. Read 2 Samuel 24:18-26. When the land owner recognized the King and heard his desire, he generously offered the land without price, and even the oxen for sacrifice. David got it right. “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that which costs me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24.

Taking the spiritual life of yourself and others seriously will cost a personal price gladly paid. Let me be practical. What does it mean to “give God what costs you nothing?” When you devote hours to your own pursuits, but leave only brief moments for Him; or when you spend freely for your pleasure, but offer God a mere gratuity; or when you make time for your pleasure and recreation, but allow no provision for your soul – you are taking the residue of your life and creating a false god to worship and serve. Jesus was clear, “[God] will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” Matthew 6:33 NLT. Now that is a practical ethic.

Today, my prayer for you is that you put God first in everything, every day, in every way.

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Christmas Wonder

December 16th, 2014

“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 NIV.

Christmas holds both the mystery of the Child and the majesty of the Christ.

This Advent, my thoughts and comments are about “Christmas wonder.”

Life presents moments that pique your curiosity until you just must know more. Some of those are coincidental; a few, but more than you might realize, are providential. I regret any time I was too busy to notice moments of divine providence. I am grateful for every time I allowed God to interrupt my plans with His opportunities. Such instances can change your course and shape your life in unexpected ways.

Christmas should be one of those times. On the first Christmas, the eternal and almighty God personally came into our world at an unexpected time (after 400 years of Heaven’s silence), to an unlikely place (to a stable, not a palace), and in an unimaginable manner (in a natural process possible only by supernatural means). The Creator became as His creation; the Eternal became subject to mortality; the Omnipotent became conventional.

Christmas holds both the mystery of the Child and the majesty of the Christ, presenting questions only God and faith can adequately answer. The Apostle Paul described the Incarnation to Timothy, his young protégé, “Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ appeared in the flesh and was shown to be righteous.” 1 Timothy 3:16 NLT. Peter simply wrote, “[We] were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16 NIV.

I love the Christmas story as told by Luke. Read Luke 2:1-20. Angels fill the Judean night with praise and pronouncements to humble shepherds routinely busy about their drab and daily life. Leaving their flocks, the shepherds hurried to find this One of whom the Angels sang. Of course, the shepherds told Mary and Joseph their story, as they later, “spread the word that had been told them about this child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.” People’s “wonder” is variously translated as, “amazed, marveled, or astonished.” Christmas should arouse wonder and amazement.

Mary’s response provides my thoughts and comments today; “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 NIV. What a model of spiritual life for you and me. Mary “treasured and pondered in her heart” the words and workings of God. Spiritual discovery originates in the heart, then engages the mind for understanding and the will for appropriate action. Generations earlier, Solomon gave strong counsel, “Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.” Read Proverbs 4:21-27 NKJV.

Mary’s attitude was reverential; Mary “treasured” the Angel’s words that began her journey of obedience and trust, as she embraced the awe-filled story of the shepherds’ angelic visit and pronouncement, just as she would esteem the Wise Men’s journey from afar. She placed high value on all that God said and did and cherished it all in her heart.

Mary’s posture was wonder and worship. Mary “pondered” the Angel’s words. “Ponder” is the process of, “putting one thing with another in considering circumstances.” Mary was deliberate, reflective, and ultimately receptive. Mary’s reasoned response was, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior for He has regarded the lowly estate of His maidservant . . for He who is mighty has done great things and holy is His name.”  Read Mary’s joyous Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55.

This Advent, my prayer is that Christmas is released in your heart with fresh wonder and discovery.

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