Archive for September, 2009

Solving Relational Problems

September 23rd, 2009

“Let there be no strife between you and me.” Genesis 13:8 NKJV

“In relationships, being righteous is more important than being right.”

My thoughts today are about “solving relational problems.”

We would all like to avoid disagreement, friction, tension and offence in personal, family, or work relationships, but unfortunately that is not very realistic. They happen in homes, and churches, and offices, and friendships all the time. Life isn’t better with such unpleasantries. Jesus Himself recognized the inevitable reality that, “offences will come.” Matthew 18:7 NKJV. It’s good to know what you will do when that occurs.

Today’s verse is drawn from a time of continuing friction between the herdsmen of Abraham and the herdsmen of his nephew, Lot. See Genesis 13:1-9 NIV. It was one of those classic old western movie clichés, “This town is not big enough for the two of us!” When something has to give for a relationship to be spared, it usually means that someone has to give and typically it’s the very person who should not have had to do so.

Such sacrifice rarely happens mutually, until someone is willing for it first to happen with them unilaterally. Abraham counted the relationship worth the sacrifice. Abraham chose generosity when he did not have to, offering his nephew first choice of the land and his willingness to accept what remained. Look like he got the short end of the stick? Read on. God gave Abraham more than he gave up. “All the land you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.” Read Genesis 13:14-18 NIV. It seems Abraham understood the spirit of the Bible’s counsel better than we often do, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Romans 12:18 NKJV.

Offences can quickly degenerate into a debate over who has rights and who has responsibility. Often there is no solution until the one who values the relationship more is willing to yield their rights in order to restore the peace and reclaim a relationship. Generally, we readily yield our responsibilities while tenaciously holding to our rights; it’s counterproductive and ineffective.

Recently, a man beloved to me, asked to see me. There was a season when he was one of the most important persons in my life. There had come an incident that left an undercurrent of polite tension for a while, of which we were both aware. There was no animosity, just an uncomfortable distance. With tears, he asked my forgiveness, explaining only that he had been unkind. History did not need to be revisited or explained, just forgiven.

Forgiveness was mutually asked and given, and an uncomfortable strain was readily resolved in a moment of tears and hugs. And I realized the largeness of his heart by the humility he showed. I wish earlier I had been as generous and sacrificial as the man sitting across from me. I think he looked a lot like Jesus right then. Here’s what Jesus taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9 NIV. You will always feel better when you take the initiative to solve relational problems, and not so good when you don’t.

My prayer for you today is: learn that being righteous is more important than being right.

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Happy to Help

September 22nd, 2009

“Do not withhold good . . when it is in your power to help.” Proverbs 3:27 NLT

“Helpfulness is less about ability and more about availability.”

My thoughts today are about being “happy to help.”

Everyday life is filled with fleeting chances to do something helpful for someone else. A lot of those opportunities go unnoticed because they are not about big or important things, just small kindnesses that could easily be expressed with a bit of thoughtfulness, but be a big help and great encouragement to someone. Often we are waiting to help someone with a big need, but miss several others with just plain, everyday needs.

I don’t think most people withhold good intentionally. I will admit there are occasional exceptions you may come across, but not many people that I have known are just unwilling to be helpful. Often a person merely fails to make a deliberate decision to help whenever they can.  It’s good when being helpful is a chosen lifestyle.

Busy lives easily preoccupy one’s time and often distract one’s notice, but that’s not a very good excuse. I can painfully recall some glaring occasions when I could have done more than I chose to do. Those times did not make me very proud. At the moment, I justified myself that someone else would be better help for them than I could, but in my heart I knew it was more about my availability than my ability. It usually is, really. I could have at least offered whatever help I was able to give, but I didn’t and the opportunity was missed.

The Bible says, “Your own soul is nourished when you are kind.” Proverbs 11:17 NLT. I fear it may shrivel a little when you’re not. I think I could use a little more nourishment; I think maybe we all could. The Bible makes it pretty simple, “Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good.” See Galatians 6:9-10 NLT.

Some names come to mind whose lifestyles display the disposition of being happy to help – they are certainly not the only ones I could name, but represent many others – John, whom I found one Saturday morning digging a hole in my front yard because he knew Gayle wanted a flowering bush planted there; or Ivy, who has never met a stranger nor found a need he did not want to meet; or Mike, one of the busiest people I know today and yet I met him when he called to volunteer his sizable help in a very large matter in which I was way over my head; or Kris, who is the most kind-hearted person I know and helps about anyone without a second thought. The Bible describes such people as “doing good, rich in good deeds, generous and willing to share.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19 NIV. Read 2 Corinthians 9:8-11 NIV.

Sure there are others; I hope they know who they are and how thankful that I, and others, are for them. They bear a family resemblance to their Heavenly Father of Whom it can be written, “No good thing will He withhold.” Psalm 84:11 NLT.

Do you know what I wonder right now, I wonder if my name comes to mind when others think of someone being happy to help? Does yours? There is a Scripture that gives me pause, “Anyone then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” James 4:17 NIV. Now that’s blunt and to the point, no wiggle room at all. See 1 John 3:17-18 NIV.

My prayer for you today is to be happy to help and very thankful to all others who do.

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Firmly Held Convictions

September 21st, 2009

“All these were still living by faith when they died.” Hebrews 11:13 NIV

“Everything God has appointed will be as He says – that can be a firmly held conviction.”

My thoughts today are about “firmly held convictions.”

Most of us do not live well with too much uncertainty. You know, something you hope will happen but prepare yourself in case it doesn’t. Things that you think you can count on but can’t be completely sure until they happen create a tension that complicates daily life. You probably will not balance that tension altogether well for very long. That tension causes a level of anxiety while you wait, and disappointment when your expectation is not fulfilled. Disappointment merely means, “Not as appointed.”

The answer to living in that tension without anxiety now or disappointment later is to have a genuinely held conviction that what you believe will come to pass, without imposing your own insistence of how and when. The Bible calls that faith. Faith is not imaginary. The Bible says that faith in God has substance and relies on evidence. See Hebrews 11:1/6 NLT.

Not everything that you have appointed to be a certain way will occur as you planned; but everything that God has appointed will be exactly as He says – that can be your firmly held conviction. See Acts 17:30-31/Hebrews 1:1-2, and read the sobering words of Hebrews 9:27.

It is important to know what things you can believe with certainty. You will believe a lot of things, but you cannot believe all things equally. To believe simply means, “to lean upon, to put your weight upon.” You soon learn that the experience of putting your weight upon an empty cardboard box is vastly different that sitting on the same box when filled completely with books! Some people’s promises will give way and disappoint you; you will learn the ones you can depend upon with firmly held conviction, and life will be simpler and less anxious.

Today’s verse describes people of faith who lived with firmly held convictions that God and His Word could be fully trusted – even if what they believed was not fully realized in their lifetime. Now that’s a lot of trust! “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only welcomed (were assured of) them from a distance. Hebrews 11:13 NIV.

Abraham believed so firmly and lived his convictions so faithfully that three generations later his great grandson, Joseph, gave these instructions as he anticipated his own death, “God will surely take you to the land He promised . . God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” Genesis 50:24-26 NIV. And still generations later, when God did as He had promised Abraham, Moses and Israel carried the bones of Joseph with them when they left Egypt and into Canaan when Joshua led Israel across the Jordan River. Read Exodus 13:19 NIV.

I love the conclusion of lives lived in faith. Here’s what the Bible says about such people of firmly held convictions, “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:16 NIV/John 14:1-4. It is better to live with firmly held convictions, when you rest those convictions securely on God and His Word. See 2 Timothy 1:12 NIV/Matthew 24:35.

My prayer for you today is to know what you believe and why, with conviction.

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September 18th, 2009

Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV

“Dependability is priceless!”

My thoughts today are about “dependability.”

Who comes to mind when you think of dependability? There is something about that quality that stands out as admirable and reliable. Do you think that you come to mind when your family or friends think of dependability? Today’s culture doesn’t seem to value that character trait very much it would appear to me, but God does and a lot of others as well. “Continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel” Colossians 1:23 NIV.

Have you heard the expression “fifteen minutes of fame”? The crowd’s favor and interest seems to have the shelf life of day old bread. Attention is limited to hot topics, latest trends, new faces, and rising stars, which elevates the temporary and depreciates values that are tested and enduring. What else explains the popularity of Twitter? How much of lasting importance can be contained in 140 letters, answering the question, “What are you doing?” That is not as relevant as what you want to do with your life!

You live in an age of information that is woefully lacking in real communication. Immediacy is not better than quality. We have been given wonderful tools, but are content to use them as toys. We have taken an amazing world of incredible technology and instantaneous information that makes your reach worldwide but often leaves relationships an inch deep. I am not so much impressed by how many “friends” you have on Facebook, as you should be interested in how many friends you have that you can depend on and how many know they can depend on you.

Did you notice the surrounding context of today’s verse? The entire 15th chapter establishes the reality and certainty of Jesus’ Resurrection. Because of the power of that reality, you can be “steadfast and immovable,” whatever the circumstance of the moment. Let the joyful affirmation of the preceding verse reverberate in your heart in every troubling time and situation, “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV.

It is not always easy to be dependable. Sometimes it is just hard work. Sometimes it involves doing what you are tired of doing, and at an inconvenient time. The Apostle Paul who wrote the instruction of today’s verse knew what he was talking about. When he was told that to continue his journey would mean sacrifice and suffering, Paul responded, “None of these things move me, nor do I count my life dear to myself.” Read Acts 20:18-24 NKJV.

And our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, “steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51 NKJV), knelt in a garden there when facing betrayal and death yet prayed, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done.” Luke 22:42 NIV. A world bound in its sins was depending on Him, just as you and I do today. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 NIV. Dependability is priceless!

And the result? The Bible promises that life will be abundant and most satisfying when you are, “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Abounding! That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

My prayer for you today is to be someone God and others can depend upon.

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Divine Interrruptions

September 17th, 2009

“I will now turn aside to see this.” Exodus 3:3 NKJV

“Welcome any interruption where God reveals Himself to you.”

My thoughts today are about “divine interruptions.”

Life can be a dizzying rush of routines and responsibilities too much of the time. I find myself in a hurry a lot more than could possibly be healthy. I am not a disorganized person. I like to do what I am expected to do; I like to be where I am supposed to be; and I like to be on time. If I were not careful, life could become a blur, and when that happens who knows what I might have missed along the way. And along the way is really where everyday life has to be lived.

Moses was working his day job, a shepherd in the middle of nowhere tending his father-in-law’s sheep. Now what could seem a more thankless or dead end job than that? Suddenly, unexpectedly, something a bit bizarre happened. Oh, it wasn’t just a bush burning. In that dry, hot, and arid land such a thing likely had happened before. But this was different, it burned without being consumed – and much more importantly, God’s presence was in this bush. “And the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses as a blazing fire in a bush.” Exodus 3:2 NLT.

God will take whatever form required to gain your attention and audience. I wonder how many times God was in the path of my busy, daily schedule, and I was too focused on the natural stuff to be aware of the “anything but natural” presence of God. I fear there may well have been too many times when I have been too busy to notice God’s interruptions. “When all kinds of trials crowd into your life, don’t resent them as interruptions, but welcome them as friends.” J.B. Phillips Paraphrase.

Now, isn’t that sad – if you reject and resent your burning bush moment? When the predictable obscures the unpredictable – when the natural crowds out the supernatural – you are in danger of missing God. When that happens you could miss the most important moment of a heavenly agenda that is meant to direct and impact the rest of your life.

How much trouble is God having to get you to stop, look, and listen to Him? When your life is allowed to become too busy and too noisy, you are likely missing God, and whatever He has for you. “And when God saw that Moses turned aside to see, God called to him . .” Exodus 3:4 KJV. I love this part of the story when Moses lets his life become God’s story. God interrupts your routine and then waits to see your response before He goes further. Moses turned aside to see. If not, he would have missed God.

Read this next progression of verses. God lets Moses know that God knew where he was and who he is, by calling him by name. God reminds Moses who He is, the God of Moses’ history and heritage. God tells Moses what is of concern to Him, the plight and cries of His people. God tells Moses what He has come to do, to deliver Israel (the very thing Moses attempted to do on his own and failed, before running for his life!). God informs Moses where he fits into God’s scheme of things. And finally, God assures Moses that he will not be alone; the Almighty God will be with Him. (Read Exodus 2-12).

Do you need direction for your life? Have you been looking for purpose and meaning? There’s only one way you will find that – only one place – only from one Source. Welcome any interruption where God reveals Himself to you, however inconvenient or uncomfortable for the moment.

My prayer for you is to never be too busy to watch for, and listen to, God.

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