Archive for January, 2009

A Legacy of Righteousness

January 23rd, 2009

“He did what was right.” 2 Kings 22:2 NIV

“The legacy you will leave should be more righteous, not less, than you were given.”

My thoughts today are about leaving “a legacy of righteousness.”

When my Dad died in a highway accident at a young age of 44, he did not leave many material things – a small house worth only what was owed on it, and an insurance policy for a few thousand dollars. But he left something invaluable to me that still shapes much of who I am and what I believe. “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” 2 Kings 22:2 NIV. I realize how often his words and example deposited practical – and Godly – wisdom that guide so many of my¬† choices and decisions, long after his life ended.

My Dad left a legacy of righteousness that still calls and challenges me to be better than I would have been without his words and example. I hope that I will have passed on, and built upon, that legacy for our children and grandchildren, and the generations to follow. My life has long been challenged by a Bible verse, “Therefore God was not ashamed to be called their God.” Hebrews 11:16. I trust that, as well as today’s verse, can be said of me, “He did what was right!” Not always an easy thing to do, but always the right thing to do. Everyone leaves something for those following – by their example, some leave others better, and some don’t.

In a few days I will attend the memorial service of my dearest of friends, 26 years my senior and 33 years my friend. These past days, he has been often in my thoughts – but it has been his life, not his death that occupy those. He too leaves a legacy of righteousness – by exemplary character and spiritual integrity – with little concern that you be like him, but with a holy passion that you be more like Jesus. “You are God’s children . .try to be like Him.” Ephesians 5:1 TEV. I am a better man, husband, father, and pastor through the influence of his friendship.

Today’s verse, “He did what was right,” was written about Josiah, King of Judah, who reigned for thirty-one years beginning at the age of eight. His father, Amon, and grandfather, Manasseh, were notorious. Their record was despicable not enviable, a legacy of idolatry and evil, committing wrongs against men and sins against God.

But Josiah chose a different path, a path in which he did what was right. “He walked in all the ways of David.” 2 Kings 22:2. Josiah chose King David as his example to follow instead of his parentage. You do not choose your history; however, you must choose the example you’ll follow for your destiny. Don’t follow anyone or anything one step that leads you even slightly or briefly away from God. Josiah found and followed God’s Word. Read 2 Kings 22:8-23:25. That’s the secret!

It’s always a choice, your choice – to do right, that pleases God and inspires others, or wrong that dishonors Him and misleads others. You choose the path you take; you have a voice in your life; you have a choice in your destiny. Right is not always the popular way, nor least costly, but doing what is right is always the best way. The legacy you will leave should be more righteous, not less, than you were given.

My prayer for you is: at every opportunity, choose what is right and pleasing to God.


Lost Your Filter?

January 22nd, 2009

“He who guards his lips guards his life.” Proverbs 13:3 NIV

“Sometimes it is not what you say, but when and how you say it.”

My thoughts today ask if you’ve, “lost your filter?”

Have you ever felt like giving someone “a piece of your mind”? I would advise you to be careful; do that too often and soon you might not have much left for yourself! Life presents you ample and tempting opportunities to let others know what you think, and usually for all the wrong reasons and at the worst times. My sweet and soft spoken grandmother would say, “Keep your words sweet, in case you have to eat them.”

A friend was expressing their unhappy opinion, and would not seem to conclude their critique of something that displeased them. Quietly, her son leaned over to me and said, “You have to forgive Mom; she has lost her filter.” I have recently thought about that unique observation and wondered if I had lost my filter more often than I realized. I guess we all have on occasion. For some it’s an unfortunate hobby; for others it seems a lifelong occupation – definitely not the God-given ministry many assume theirs to be. You may feel that you have a right to your opinion, and you do. It is not wise, however, to voice all your opinions to anyone and everyone within shouting distance.

You will usually be careful to do so only when you think it won’t cost you too much – like painful conflict, awkward rebuttal, public embarrassment, or outright rebuke. It’s easy to guard your lips when you know they will bring you unwanted discomfort, yet not worry enough about unguarded lips causing others unwarranted discomfort. Trust me, there is always some cost involved; you lose some measure of people’s regard or their desire to be around you. What you may gain is a poor reputation and the loneliness of people’s avoidance of your company.

Do you talk more than you should? It will cost you friendships. My Dad considered that maybe God gave you one mouth and two ears to remind you to listen more and talk less. I don’t know if I could support that Biblically, but it is good, practical advice. The Bible gives good counsel on this matter. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak . .” James 1:19 NIV.

Are you often negative or critical in what you say? There is plenty of that in the world, without you or I adding to it. A friend of mine wrote a book many years ago that he titled, “Living Positively in a Negative World.” That’s not always easy, is it? Choose that what you say is positive and lifts people’s spirit, rather than makes hearts heavier than needs to be.

Paul’s advice is, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen, and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” Ephesians 4:29-30 NIV. That’s practical advice. Wholesome – pure and healthy? Edifying – building others up? Serving – meeting needs? Bringing grief to another by your words could also be grieving to the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes it is not what you say, but when and how you say it. Recently, I lost my filter in some responses to my wife. It wasn’t my words exactly; it was the tone of impatience in my voice, my unspoken but clear insistence that I didn’t choose to be bothered. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit quietly and privately convicted me, before dear Gayle chose to do it for Him. “May my words and my thoughts be acceptable to You, O Lord.” Psalm 19:14 TEV. (See Psalm 141:3/Proverbs 13:2 NIV).

My prayer for you today is: don’t lose your filter. Guard your lips; you will guard your life.


When You Feel Like Quitting

January 21st, 2009

“Simon Peter said . . ‘I am going fishing.'” John 21:3 NKJV

“The times you feel the most like quitting are rarely, if ever, the right time to do so.”

My thoughts today are about times “when you feel like quitting.”

There are some mornings you just don’t feel like continuing the routine. Don’t be shocked when those mornings come. Your feelings are real, so you have to deal with them; they are rarely right, so you don’t have to believe them! You are neither the first nor the last to have such feelings. The rest of your story is all about how you deal with feelings. That’s the important part.

It had been a rough few days for the disciples. The tumultuous events of this Passover were well beyond anything they ever anticipated. Jesus had warned them, but they would not allow themselves to imagine what He was talking about. Not long before, Peter had even rebuked Jesus about speaking of His death. (See Matthew 16:21-23). Jesus was arrested, unjustly tried, and cruelly crucified and buried. It was over, or was it? Disturbing stories began to occur about an empty tomb, and seeing Jesus. The emotional roller coaster was just too much. Think he felt like quitting?

You and I are left to guess as to what Peter’s emotions were. Feelings may well have been bouncing all over the place like yours and mine are wont to do – when life is confusing, circumstances keep wildly changing, and you are not sure what is or is not happening. So Peter decided to leave where he had been and go back to where he used to be. When the present moment is painful, exhausting, overwhelming, or confusing – the former and familiar often seems a refuge. You know, the ‘good old days’ syndrome. Fishing worked for Peter before, maybe it would again.

That decision can work against you, or it can work for you. It probably depends on why you are “going fishing.” If you are fleeing to find some idyllic escape from current difficulties, it probably will not work. As someone said, “Wherever I go, there I am!” You will still have to deal with things and people¬† – and yourself! – that can make you feel like quitting. Life can be challenging wherever you are. In that sense it is true, that you can’t go back. You cannot successfully turn the clock back to a preferred time. That seldom works for anyone. If he was going back to what worked before he met Jesus, It didn’t work for him. He and the others “fished all night and caught nothing!” John 21:2-5.

On the other hand, if he were going back to where he first met Jesus, it was a wonderful success! Consider that maybe somewhere in the strange mix of emotions and thoughts all mingled together in his heart and mind, Peter was simply returning to the place where he first met Jesus – not trying to recapture a feeling or restore a mood – but to recover his orientation, to again find his Savior. (Matthew 4:18-20) Jesus was waiting for Him on the shore, instructing him where to cast his net for abundant success, and fish and bread for comfort, and renewal of calling and reassurance of purpose ahead. (See John 21:6-17).

Almost ten years ago I felt like quitting. Then, I was calling it “retiring,” but it was really quitting. Instead, a chance conversation brought me back to my sense of God’s call and assignment here. I went back to where I met Jesus afresh – His tender voice spoke of renewed call, clear vision, and restored passion. These last years became the best, with opportunities I thought no longer possible for me. When you feel like quitting is rarely, if ever, the time to do so. See Galatians 6:9 NLT.

My prayer for you is: go fishing; just go where you know you will meet Jesus again.


Be Open to New Ideas

January 20th, 2009

“Happy is the man who . . gains understanding.” Proverbs 3:13 NKJV

“You must not be open to ideas, new or old, without spiritual discernment and discrimination.”

My thoughts today encourage you to “be open to new ideas.”

However much you know, that is never as much as you might think. There is much that you do not yet know. Beware of the unattractive attitude that you know it all, and the folly of living as though you do. As days pass, and years and experiences are gained, you will certainly learn more and become confident in what you have known. Meanwhile, choose to be open to new ideas along the way. Simple openness is the key to new experiences and the increase of your knowledge.

Having said that, let me also add that openness to new ideas greatly requires spiritual discernment and careful discrimination. Not everyone who announces, “This is new,” has made a previously unknown discovery. Only time will tell if they have merely disguised the old in new packaging or would misdirect you from what is tried and true. This seems when the Bible’s counsel is applicable, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

You cannot afford to be open to every idea, new or old. No wise person would leave their door open to anyone who drops by for good or ill, neither should your heart or mind be. Every new idea is not a good idea, nor every previous one. For both, you must learn to have wise discernment and discrimination.

And know this as well; every new idea is not better that what has been tried and true. Be neither closed nor gullible. But stay open, not to everything or everyone, but to those people and ideas that align with God’s Truth and ring true in your heart.. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge . . for the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 1:7/2:6 NIV. (See also James 3:15-17 NIV) That’s how real progress and advances come. See Proverbs 2:1-11 NIV.

Change alone is not quite enough; you want real progress and measurable improvement. For that to happen, you will need your knowledge to mature into understanding and wisdom.

Avoid either extreme: discarding anything because it is old or embracing everything just because it’s new. It is equally foolish to be open to everything as to be closed to anything. Every idea from the past or previous way of doing things does not always remain the best that may be possible. “Every teacher . . who has become a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a person who brings out of the storehouse the new teachings as well as the old.” Matthew 13:52 NLT. Learn to value both old and new and how to best integrate them for your gain and growth.

Long ago, a friend recommended reading one of the 31 chapters of Proverbs each day, each month. The central purpose of Solomon’s writings is to gain Godly wisdom. From Solomon’s experiences and observations as well as the impartation of God’s wisdom, he shares practical counsel for everyday life. Some things he learned the hard way – his own way. (Read Ecclesiastes)

As Solomon learned, you do not acquire that by your own cleverness. You will gain it from your high regard and attention to God’s Word, observe and receive it from the wisdom of others, and learn it through understanding your own experiences. That’s when and where you should be open to new ideas. Value those who have lived longer, journeyed further, and are open to know God and His ways better. Then become that for someone else. See Isaiah 55:8-11 NIV.

My prayer for you is to listen well to the Lord in your heart, open always yet wisely so.


People Who Need People

January 19th, 2009

“They committed themselves to . . life together..” Acts 2:42 The Message

“The great effect of salvation is the restoring of the human heart for community – a sense of belonging and serving.”

My thoughts today are about “people who need people.”

In the Broadway play, Funny Girl, Barbara Streisand sang People Who Need People, (Jule Styne/Bob Merrill) which became her signature song. She touched a truth in the human heart deeper than she knew when she sang these words, “People, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world. We’re children, needing other children, and yet letting our grown-up pride hide all the need inside. Acting more like children than children.”

Those lyrics resonate within every human heart, because they echo a truth God established at the beginning when the Creator declared, “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make a companion who will help him.” Genesis 2:18 NLT. The great effect of salvation is the restoring of the human heart for community – a sense of belonging and serving.

You fail to thrive when apart from others. You were not made for isolation and independence; those are products of what theologians call fallenness, a spiritual separation from the Creator and others He created. You are then less than you could have been, because you are deprived of what others contribute to your sense of wholeness and well being, as you are absent from your contributing to them. Contributing to the common good is an essential part of your feeling worthwhile and that your life holds meaning.

Meaningful relationship is a continuing thread that runs throughout the Bible. The work of reconciliation is certainly relating your life back to God righteously, but also rightly relating your life to others. Sin is what separates – separates you from God, separates you from others, and leaves a brokenness within yourself.

The description of the New Testament believers can best be traced by the myriad of ways their life together requires the words, “one another,” such as “love one another . . forgive one another . . edify one another . . serve one another . . comfort one another . . preferring one another . . bear one another’s burdens,” etc. Those early believers understood that their lives were completed by right relationships with each other, as well as righteous relationship with God.

You may be tempted to go it alone sometimes, but it will never be best. See Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV. You may seek to protect yourself from inevitable hurts by keeping your emotional distance, but the pain of loneliness will be greater than the risk of closeness. Realistically, life together cannot practically encompass an unlimited number – it was never meant to – but the smaller the circle with which you are willing to truly share life, the less significant and diverse the benefits of enduring friendships.

And notice the context of this “life together” Christ-followers enjoyed, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42 NAS. They were learning together, eating together, praying together, and praying for one another. Meaningful life together starts, continues, and ends with Jesus. See Romans 11:36 NLT.

My prayer for you is this: remember you complete others, and are incomplete without them.