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Archive for March, 2014

Resilience

March 31st, 2014

“Paul got up and went back into the city.” Acts 14:20 NIV.

Resilient people are irresistibly joyful and ultimately successful.

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

In life, it is not what happens to you that’s so damaging; it’s what happens in you. There will be people who go out of their way to cause others needless pain. Hurting people hurt others. They wound with hurtful words and walk away – or punish others for their own unhappiness – or are unkind when they don’t have to be. They leave pain in their path. You can retreat; you can resist; you can resent. Or you can respond with faith and confidence in God. But you can’t change them.

What you decide and do after what happens to you is what’s most important. I love people who develop resilience as a character trait – “the ability to recover, bounce back, or to be flexible.” Resilient people are ultimately successful; they bend rather than break. There is an interesting account from the earliest years of Paul’s ministry. Read Acts 14:19-22 NIV. “Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.”

Paul was savagely stoned, dragged, cruelly dumped, and left for dead outside the city. Then an amazing thing happened. “He got up and went back into the city. The next day he left . .” That’s resilience only God can provide you. Paul met life on his own terms; he would leave in his own time. There are times that there is not much else you can do except get up, dust yourself off, treat your wounds, and walk away from the hurt and hurtful. You may have a limp but you still have your life. The bad thing that happened to you need not be the end of your story. See Romans 12:21 NLT.

The Apostle Paul was resilient, therefore his words ring true, “We have this treasure [the light of the knowledge of the glory of God] in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:6-9 NIV. Whenever you are having a pity party, read Paul’s personal diary. Read 2 Corinthians 6:3-10/11:23-28 NKJV.

Resilient people are irresistibly joyful. “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Romans 5:2-5 NIV. See James 1:2-4 NIV.

Responded to joyfully and expectantly, God will make suffering productive rather than destructive. Draw strength and inspiration from Jesus. “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Read Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you are not overcome with the evil others do.

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Disciplines of the Spirit

March 28th, 2014

“God’s discipline is always right and good for us.” Hebrews 12:11 NLT.

A lack of discipline results in a comparable lack of accomplishment.

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

I still have much to learn, but I am grateful for the discipline I received from my parents, teachers, life events, and the Word of God. See 2 Timothy 4:16-17 NKJV. There is no success without significant discipline. A lack of discipline results in a comparable lack of accomplishment. That is true in education, marriage, family, business, finances, or spiritual life.

Discipline is the lifestyle of a disciple. Jesus understood the rigorous requirements of discipline that being His disciple would involve. Jesus said, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27 NKJV. To be a follower of Christ, you must decide if you have both the desire and discipline to give the sustained effort necessary to succeed. If you want everything God has for you, you must learn to appreciate and welcome His loving discipline, which is conforming you into His likeness. See Romans 8:28-29 NIV.

Does the word, “discipline,” make you think of harshness or unfairness? Angry reprimands and harsh retribution are punishment, not discipline. Punishment is inflicted for past conduct; discipline is concerned with future behavior. Godly discipline is an act of loving correction. Discipline is not concerned with exacting a painful price for a past mistake. The application of discipline is for correction as prevention and preparation for the future. Discipline is administered within the context of relationship. See Romans 14:4 NIV. Biblically, discipline describes, “the whole realm of a father’s instruction and correction of a son.” Instruction apart from correction is inadequate. Only discipline frees one’s soul to soar.

The Bible teaches the proper, Godly response, “Don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when He corrects you.” Hebrews 12:5 NLT. The Bible teaches the true heart of Godly discipline, “The Lord disciplines those He loves . . endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons . . for [your] profit, that you might be partakers of His holiness.” Hebrews 12:6-7 NIV/10 NKJV.

The Bible predicts your first, natural response to discipline, promises the benefits of discipline, and promotes the continuing submission necessary for best results: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. But later, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 NIV. Embrace Godly discipline as His expression of love.

The long term goal of God’s discipline is to develop self-discipline within your character, and yet even your best efforts will miserably fail unless you always have God at its source. “When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control . . Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Galatians 5:22-25 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you welcome the disciplines of life and the Spirit.

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Lives That Matter

March 26th, 2014

“What good is salt if it has lost its flavor?” Matthew 5:13 NIV.

Begin where you are; use what you’ve got; do what you can.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “lives that matter.”

Your contribution may not always be noticed until it is no longer being made. Without you, others’ lives would be less. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor?” Matthew 5:13 NIV. In isolation, salt makes no difference. But when interacting, salt provides what is lacking and enhances what is already there. Your life is meant to do the same. Salt is in almost every prepared food or snack that you eat. When it’s there you hardly notice; when it is not, you detect its absence immediately.

Often, you won’t know the benefits you bring into others’ lives until much later, maybe never specifically. And others may not recognize the difference you make until they are without your contribution. You are “the salt of the earth,” when you value living benevolently and beneficially, however small your effort seems to you or unnoticed it may be by others. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.” Read Colossians 3:23-24 NIV. Do so purposely, not for others’ recognition, appreciation, or applause. For a life that matters in your realm of daily influence, be deliberate, intentional, and purposeful.

Life is most self-fulfilling when what you do benefits others and glorifies Christ Jesus. Possibly, only eternity will fully reveal the extent of what you do. That’s what a successful, satisfying life is about. What you contribute in your community, on your job, in your school, in your home and family, and in your friendships has the power to make others’ lives better and your life matter, now and eternally.

Don’t worry about others noticing your contribution, and begin noticing and complimenting theirs. People take a lot of things for granted, therefore they may also take people for granted who improve their lives. While waiting around for your chance to make a big difference, you may be missing opportunities for making a difference now and being prepared for greater influence later. If you don’t start where you are with what you could do, you probably won’t start at all. “Anyone then, who knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” James 4:17 NIV. Begin where you are; use what you’ve got; do what you can. That’s how you prosper and others benefit.

You are created, called, and empowered to make a contribution unique to your abilities, experience, personality and opportunities. Jesus’ followers are supposed to be seed, salt, light, and leaven. Common to all of those are lives that matter – an immeasurable potential for making profitable changes in others and profound improvements around them. As such, your life matters most when you are willing to be where you are most needed, doing what you were best designed by God to do. You can’t do everything, but everyone can do something. Do what you can, “as working for the Lord.”

My prayer for you today is that you contribute what you have and who you are for others’ benefit.

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The Love of the World

March 24th, 2014

Do not love the world or anything in the world.” 1 John 2:15 NIV.

A journey apart from Christ begins with a single step in a wrong direction.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “the love of the world.”

You have been given a mission. Your mission is to impact your world positively and profitably for the Kingdom of God. Your world can be defined as: “The reach within your sphere of influence.” Your world may or may not be expansive, but your role in it is of eternal importance. “You are the light of the world . . let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 5:13-15 NIV. See also Philippians 2:15-16 NKJV.

In the process, there are some reasons to be wary. Let me explain. In most references throughout the New Testament, “the world” describes a spiritual force adamantly and eternally opposed to God and His purposes, not a physical or geographical place. See 1 John 5:19 NKJV. The Bible warns, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Romans 12:2 NLT. You are in the world but you must guard against becoming like the world. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him . . The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever . . Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” 1 John 2:15-17/James 4:4 NIV.

There are tragic stories of people who lost their “true north” spiritually. The deceptive lure of worldliness became more attractive than they would resist. In sadness, Paul wrote of such a man. “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed . .” 2 Timothy 4:10 NKJV. Paul’s description of Demas, “having loved this present world,” could apply to many others. You do not want that as your epitaph. Attraction to the loves and ways of the world distracts from things that matter eternally. Read James 1:27 NIV/2 Peter 2:20-21 NKJV.

Many things right in themselves, but not in their results – history, habits, appetites, pleasures, popularity, friendships, success, possessions, temptations, and much more – conspire to draw your heart away from God and substitute for the priorities of His Kingdom. Read Mark 8:36 NKJV. A journey apart from Christ begins with a single step in a wrong direction. A fulfilling, spiritual journey begins with a simple step in the right direction.

Paul knew the danger, “I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3 NKJV. Guard your simplicity of love and loyalty to Jesus. As for His disciples, He prays for you, “[Father], I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. John 17:14-18 NKJV.

“Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if You will bow down and worship me.’” See Matt 4:8-10 NIV. See Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV. How can you be immune from the world’s appeal? The cross holds the victory, “. . the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14 NKJV. Redemption can destroy every allure the world held.

My prayer for you today is that the world will hold no attraction for you.

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The Minimum Is Never Enough

March 21st, 2014

“You should abound more and more . . to walk and to please God.” 1 Thessalonians 4:1 NKJV.

Minimum effort will never bring maximum benefit.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “the minimum is never enough.”

Aren’t we strange creatures? People want to receive the maximum benefit from a minimum effort. Life just doesn’t work that way. There is an equity to life. Extra effort is rewarded. Your dividend is directly proportional to your investment, whether made in the coin of time, energy, abilities, or finances. A marriage does not endure with minimum investment. Children do not thrive with minimum love and care. A family does not grow close with minimum time together. A friendship does not deepen with minimum communication. Your spiritual life will not mature with minimum time and attention. The minimum is never enough.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Luke 6:38 NIV. When you examine the context of this familiar verse, you discover Jesus’ instruction regards giving mercy and forgiveness, but provides a Godly principle that applies broadly to all areas of life. Give minimally and you will receive minimally; give your maximum to God and others and you will receive maximum blessings from God. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV.

A favorite verse of mine has been and remains, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us. To Him be glory . .” Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV. God lavishes the sufficiency of blessing and provision – “immeasurably more than all [you] ask or imagine.” God neither gives nor does the minimum. 2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV. You abound as a recipient of the blessings of God because God abounds in the grace of giving abundantly. John 10:10 NKJV.

There is a lovely story in the Old Testament. Nearing the end of his life, Abraham entrusted his oldest servant to bring a wife from Abraham’s homeland for his son, Isaac. (Read Genesis 24) He took ten camels and gifts of Abraham’s wealth for her and her family. Arriving at his destination and stopping at the well outside Nahor, he prayed that God’s choice for Isaac would be known to him by her generous response when he asked for her help, “. . And she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink.Let her be the one You have appointed for Isaac.” Genesis 24:10-15 NKJV.

Rebekah could have done nothing; she could have shown minimal courtesy to a weary traveler. But Rebekah quenched his thirst and then as only God could script, she volunteered the extra effort to water all of his camels, as well as offering feed for the camels and a place where the servant could rest. Minimum effort will never bring maximum benefit. Little did she know she would soon ride on those same camels to meet and marry Isaac. See Genesis 24:61-66. As with Rebekah, your extra effort may be the instrument God uses to bless you and exceed your expectations.

The Bible says it best, “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God . . Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:1 NKJV/1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that extra effort and doing your best is your lifestyle.

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