Refreshed By Kindness

(Philemon 1 :4-7 NLT) I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

What a beautiful expression of confidence that Paul gives when speaking of his friend Philemon. The relationship must have been close as evidenced by the personal observations that are mentioned in his letter. He praised him for the consistency of his faith and his love for God’s people. He also anticipates that Philemon will share with great generosity as he continues to understand and experience the best blessings in Christ. He further speaks of the refreshing joy and comfort he had personally received from Philemon as he acted in kindness to those around him.

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Godly friendships are such a blessing. I’m sure you can think of someone whose friendship has refreshed you. I want to encourage you to acknowledge that person today. Write them a note, send them a text, give them a gift. Let them know how special they are.

Do not save your loving speeches for your friends till they are dead; Do not write them on their tombstones, Speak them rather now instead. – Anna Cummins

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the many loving friendships that have refreshed my soul. May Your best blessings be theirs today. Give me the words to adequately express how special they are to me. Amen.

Whoever Loves

(1 John 4:7-12 ESV) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

Valentine’s Day. Candy. Cards. Flowers. Kisses. Love. Who doesn’t like Valentine’s Day? Something captured my attention as I was reading this passage of Scripture. “Whoever loves has been born of God and knows God…” What?

There would be some vigorous disagreement from non-Christians (Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists, etc.) about whether or not the love they experience comes from God. Isn’t it true that they love their wives and kids? Don’t they experience compassion for the needy? Absolutely, yes. Everyone has been created in the image of God. EVERYONE? EVERYONE. Whoever loves has been born of God…”

John must have had something more in mind when he made this bold statement. I believe the deeper meaning refers to the depth and quality of love that can only be experienced through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Scripture identifies at least 3 different types of love. Eros (physical), phileo (brotherly), and agape (spiritual). Even non-Christian individuals experience and express eros and phileo love. However, agape love can only be experienced inside of a relationship with God through His son–Jesus Christ.

If God is the source of all love, then whatever love a man has in him comes from God; and this part of his moral nature is of Divine origin. Of ‘every one that loves’ is this true, whether he be heathen or Christian: there is no limitation. If a Socrates or a Marcus Aurelius loves his fellow-men, it is by the grace of God that he does so.
-Cambridge Commentary

God wants us to experience and express the spiritual love (agape) that comes from living through Him. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”

God loved us when we were undeserving of it. He loved us before we loved Him; when we were most unwilling to accept it. His love was in us even when we did not acknowledge it.

Keith Green spoke so eloquently through the lyrics of his song, Your Love Broke Through.

Like waking up from the longest dream, how real it seemed.
Until your love broke through.
I’ve been lost in a fantasy, that blinded me.
Until your love broke through.
-Keith Green

PRAYER: Father, thank you for allowing Your love to break through so that we can live life experiencing and expressing it to those around us. Amen.

Grace Has Appeared

(Titus 2:11-14 ESV) For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

As I read this passage of Scripture, I was overwhelmed at the wonder of grace. In writing to Titus, Paul’s message was three-fold.

First, Paul wanted Titus to recognize and rejoice in the reality of grace! Grace had appeared.

Grace is not on the wish list. It’s not on the bucket list of things hoped for. It is evident RIGHT NOW! It had been hand delivered by the Son of God Himself. What good news!

Secondly, Paul spoke of a process of training. But, what were they being trained for? “To renounce ungodliness and worldly passions.” One of the reasons so many people give up on their relationship with Christ is the perception that once saved, they must immediately be perfect in every way. Notice, “And to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. I’m an imperfect “renouncer” in training!

As the world turns and changes, we must learn to live godly lives in the face of our own generational challenges.

My parents faced temptations that I don’t face. I face challenges that they couldn’t image, and my children and grandchildren will face challenges unique to their own generation. The good news is that our trainer, Holy Spirit, is well qualified to provide the wisdom we need to live effectively while, “waiting for our blessed hope!”

Finally, we are being purified by the master purifier! “Jesus Christ, who gave Himself…to purify for Himself a people for His own possession…” When I was a child, my mother trained me to wash the parts of my body that I could reach. But, when I was finished, she would check me over to make sure that I was clean behind the ears! Listen, you’ll never be more pure than when you’ve been purified by God.

Grace has appeared! Rejoice!

PRAYER: Father, I’m so grateful for grace. It is not hidden from me, but is evident in the everyday moments of life. Continue training me to put away ungodliness and fleshly passions in my life, so that redemption will be visible to all who know me. Amen

Just Be Nice

(Proverbs 21:21 ESV) Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.

Life is not as hard as we make it sometimes. Like many people, I have a fairly active social media presence. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. It’s a way to stay connected with people around the world and across the street.

I sometimes grow weary with all of the self-help suggestions that fill my timeline. Some of the advice isn’t scriptural, and frankly, doesn’t even make common sense! We continue to scroll hoping to find that funny meme, gif, or quote that will usher in a successful new day. Another fitness fad, a new diet, or the latest pyramid scheme inspires hope that we will hit it big and find the elusive joy we’ve been seeking.

The writer of Proverbs suggests that finding life, righteousness, and honor is as simple as pursuing righteousness and kindness. Righteousness, in this application, means to do what is right. And, to pursue kindness means to BE NICE! Maybe I’m not as smart as I should be, but that seems fairly simple and straightforward.

We are capable of choosing to do what is right, and wrapping it in lovingkindness.

I don’t know about you, but, I sincerely want to be known as a man who lives life abundantly, and who does what is right when it is in my power to do so. If I do that, honor will be the natural result. That’s simple enough that even I can do that!

PRAYER: Father, help me to be a kind-hearted individual as I pursue Your righteousness today. May any honor that comes my way be returned to You and bring glory to Your name. Amen.

No Soup For You!

(Proverbs 20:4 ESV) The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek a harvest and have nothing.

The title is a reference to an episode of the Jerry Seinfeld show where the audience is introduced to a character named the Soup Nazi. Customers who wanted to eat his soup were required to speak, act, and approach in a pre-determined manner if they were to receive a cup of the much sought after soup. But, if they did not approach properly they were rebuffed with a matter-of-fact, “No soup for you!”

Having grown up in a farming community, I’m fully aware of the intentionality of producing a harvest. don’t just magically appear in the field. Much planning and physical labor is required.

We live in a society that is mostly blind to the production of our daily consumables. It is easy to go to the different big box stores and purchase whatever we need without a second thought about where it came from.

Scripture is clear about the growth process. Harvest is always associated with planting seed. No seed=No harvest.

When addressing the church at Galatia, Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8 ESV)

Farmers get to choose the seed they plant, which determines the harvest received. Likewise, we have the right and responsibility to plant the seed that produces a godly harvest in our lives.

It has been said, “There are no gaurantees.” But, the writer of Proverbs makes it very clear that those who do not sow in autumn will seek a harvest that does not exist in summer!

PRAYER: Father, I realize that what I do IS the seed that I sow. Help me to know what to sow, and when to sow it so that a plentiful harvest will be ready in the proper season. Amen.

Before The Blessing Comes

(Genesis 41:38-40 ESV) And Pharoah said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” Then Pharoah said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards to the throne will I be greater than you.”

I think it’s safe to say that we all want God’s best blessings in our lives. Right? The problem is that we often disqualify ourselves by not properly understanding how to position ourselves to receive.

If the Spirit of God dwells in us, we have the necessary elements to fulfill our purpose. But, we must learn to live in the reality of God’s promises whether they are visible or not.

Joseph lived daily with the knowledge of his purpose, but had yet to see it materialize. He was unjustly imprisoned, kept in a PITiful place, where he was denied the basics of proper hygiene. He spent everyday in the presence of others whose fate appeared as dreadful as his. It certainly did not seem like the kind of place where dreams could come true. So, how did Joseph respond?

Instead of being poisened by anger he became positioned by action!

Prior to Joseph’s promotion, he acted with kindness toward other prisoners. He lived in such a way that evidenced an indwelling Spirit of God. He shaved! Don’t let that slip by. He didn’t approach Pharoah with a rebellious attitude that could have kept him from the presence of the very man who could facilitate his dream. Instead, he went to great lengths to present himself in the most favorable light. And it paid off BIG!

(Genesis 41: 50-52 ESV) Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me FORGET ALL MY HARDSHIP and all my father’s house.” The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me FRUITFUL IN THE LAND of my affliction.”

If God made a promise to you, He will put everything in place to see that promise fulfilled. Your responsibility is to be positioned to receive it! So, get ready.

PRAYER: Father, I’m grateful for what you have planned for me. Help me to live in such a way that when I am called for, I will be positioned properly to release the anointing you have reserved for me. Amen!

Revive My Soul

(Psalm 19:7-11 ESV) The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God.” -Charles Finney

Life has a way of sapping (and sometimes slapping) the life right out us. We get busy, overwhelmed, frustrated, etc. and before you know it, we are gasping for air. Have you ever felt that way?

I often feel that way when I have disconnected from reading Scripture. A casual glance at the verses in Psalm 19 reminds us that interacting with God through Scripture provides many benefits. Rejoicing, enlightenment, righteousness, wisdom; all come from meditating on God’s precepts.

His word is more desirable than the purest form of gold; sweeter than the fresh honey still dripping from the honeycomb.

So, if you need to be brought back to life (revived), search out the great wisdom that is found in the Bible. Remember, faith comes from hearing (consuming) the Word of God.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for reminding me that weariness comes when I’m disconnected from your law. Help me consume, comprehend, and commit to a lifestyle of obedience to your precepts. For it is in the “doing” that my reward materializes. Amen.

Supernatural Speed

(2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 ESV) Finally, brothers, pray for us that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.

Paul asks the church at Thessalonica to pray that the word of the Lord may speed ahead!

Paul makes the case that since there are people who have not yet believed in Christ, (For not all have faith) we must pray that God will provide supernatural speed so that His word might be honored.

That prayer has been answered! With the advance of technology comes the ability to disseminate information quickly. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Skype, etc. have provided various platforms that move information rapidly. Text messages transmit information at unfathomable speed. It used to be that snail-mail could take days to deliver the most important information. No longer!

With this opportunity comes great responsibility. As His ambassador, I have the honor to choose words and attitudes that properly represent His wonderful grace in my life. Only eternity will tell the many testimonies of transformation that came through a “speedy word” that found its way to ready ears.

PRAYER: Thank you, Father, for trusting me to live in this information age. Help me to be faithful as I plant seeds of faith through the use of the technological tools that are available. May Your name be glorified SPEEDILY! Amen.

So Quit!

(Proverbs 17:14 ESV) The beginning of strife is like letting out water, SO QUIT before the quarrel breaks out.

“Sometimes being a quitter is a desirable trait!”

Have you ever been in a discussion that took a negative turn? You’re having a conversation when all of a sudden… out of the blue… an argument ensues. What was shaping up to be a great day takes a turn for the worse and emotions begin to erupt. It’s like “letting out water.” Everyone is about to get soaked!

The writer of Proverbs makes a suggestion for situations just like these. He says, “SO QUIT before the quarrel breaks out.” When you find yourself in an unsettled atmosphere, remember this.

Your relationships are ultimately more important than winning an argument, so take corrective action BEFORE things get out of hand. By identifying “the beginning of strife” the writer of Proverbs is suggesting that we should be able to discern when things are turning negative. So, when we recognize that… just stop. Each individual possesses the power to choose. SO QUIT.

PRAYER: Father, we often find ourselves debating issues that stir up negative emotions. Help us to discern those moments, take some deep breaths, and refocus our mind to think and speak those things that will edify everyone involved. Amen!

Praying With Confidence

(Psalm 17:1 ESV) Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry! Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!

I’m thankful for grace. I’m thankful that God hears and responds to our repentant heart. I’m glad that God will accept us back when we have fallen flat on our face. He will stand us up, brush us off, put our feet on solid ground, and give us another opportunity.

We sometimes forget that the best way to live is to stay positioned for divine blessings that are beyond forgiveness.

Forgiveness is wonderful. But, it is also one of the basics of Christianity. Why should we be satisfied with ground floor blessings when God clearly has invited us to explore and expand our faith?

David can pray with confidence because he knows that he has risen above the fray of life. He has stayed the course. He has remained free from fleshly desires. He has been tested by God and has passed with flying colors. He is properly positioned for blessing.

With that confidence, David ends this Psalm with these words, “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” (Verse 15)

PRAYER: Father, thank you for grace. We all need it. But, I also thank you for the invitation to abide with you. I am confident that no power shall be able to move me when I remain positioned next to you. Amen!

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