Archive for February, 2010

Valuable Life-lessons

February 26th, 2010

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

“Experience is a great teacher, a path to understanding for those who learn its lessons.”

My thoughts today are about “valuable life-lessons.”

You are not born with knowledge and understanding. You came into the world with a blank slate – as a book of blank pages waiting to be written upon as you learn and grow. That book will become the story of your life, the sum of knowledge that you daily accumulate through your ability to listen and learn.

There is truth written on your heart by your Creator, but life and the shared knowledge and understanding from others will help you to discover and appreciate it. The Apostle Paul wrote of “the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness . .” Romans 2:15 NKJV. You must learn to look within and listen for His voice of truth residing in the depth of your heart, pure and undeceived. Isaiah wrote, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21 NIV.

There is a world that God made, with wonders unexplainable except for a Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Read Psalm 19:1-6 NIV.

The problem is not a lack of knowledge and understanding available; that is ample. God has given the Bible, His record of truth and wisdom to be food for your mind and soul and direction for life. “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path.” See Psalm 119:97-106 NIV. You have also been given the promise of the Holy Spirit who will reside within those who receive and welcome Him. “When He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.” John 16:13 NIV.

All of the above are to prepare you for gaining understanding and wisdom from valuable life-lessons. That’s where you translate what you have seen and heard into what you will believe with certainty and conviction. Life dispenses knowledge to those who desire it, to those who will hear and receive it. The most valuable life-lesson is to learn to keep God at the center.

From life you gain experience, some pleasant and others not so much. Experience can be costly. There often is a price to be paid, but one well worth paying. From every experience you can learn something useful, but that does not happen automatically. There is an oft-repeated quote, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates, Greek philosopher 469-399 BC. You cannot avoid mistakes, but you can reduce their frequency, grow from them, and avoid making the same ones again.

Experience is a great teacher, a path to understanding if you will choose to learn its lessons. People have experiences everyday; not everyone considers and evaluates their lessons to learn from them. Be one person who learns, and lives more wisely. It is sad to see people who spend their lifetimes making the same mistakes, with ever greater costs to themselves and others. Don’t let that be true of you.

My prayer for you today is that you always view life through the matrix of God’s truth.

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Where Life Works Best

February 25th, 2010

“Make sure you understand what the Master wants.” Ephesians 5:17 The Message

“Learn to live where life works best.”

My thoughts today are about “where life works best.”

Even sincere and well-intended advice can sometimes be wrong. Sometimes a person is told, “You can be anything that you want to be.” But can you be? There’s a better question. Should you be anything that you want to be, even if you can?

Have you ever tried to step into some one else’s job that “just wasn’t you?” Some years ago, I was ministering in England and was graciously invited to play golf at a beautiful, seaside Country Club. My host loaned a set of clubs and a pair of golf shoes to me. But the clubs were unfamiliar to me, and the shoes just a bit large. By the end of the round, which was mercifully cut short by a storm that quickly blew in from the sea, my feet were so sore from the ill fitted shoes, that I was relieved to be rained out. Life is just not much fun when it doesn’t fit you just right.

As I was growing up, my Dad often told me, “You can do anything anyone else can do, if you have the same opportunity and the training and experience they have had.” I know that he only wanted me to believe in myself. Meanwhile, I have learned that I do not need to be able to do what others can do, nor determine for my self what I want to be. God has long had all that worked out.

The wisest thing is to discover the spiritual DNA God placed within you. You are one of a kind, truly unique, and God has a plan for you that is especially created for only you. The One Who made you perfectly knows what you will do best, and what will bring you the greatest achievements with satisfaction. “All the days ordained for me were in Your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16. Secular thinking doesn’t buy this, seeing no author behind the book, and no purpose behind life. Why then, they would reason, not just be whatever you want to be? Except what do you do when you find that what you want to be is not what you are best suited for, nor where you are the happiest?

Often people choose a course for their life for wrong reasons, such as money, fame, power, celebrity, and career advancement. That doesn’t work out well. Many such reasons are not of themselves unworthy, just inadequate. What you do with your life should be consistent with your interests, abilities, and opportunities. Those will usually be aligned with how God made you and the motivational and spiritual gifts that God has given you. See Romans 12:4-8. How you invest your life should bring you a measure of joy, a sense of fulfillment, and a pride of accomplishment. Life works best with a clear understanding that you are serving God in your life’s work, while contributing to the well being of others.

The Bible’s wise advice is, “make sure you understand what the Master wants.” That’s where you find that life works best. “Prove for yourself what that perfect will of God is.” Romans 12:2.

My prayer for you today is that you know what God has created you to be and to do.

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Overcoming Temptation

February 24th, 2010

“Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee.” James 4:7 NKJV

“You govern the gate to your soul; govern it well.”

My thoughts today are about “overcoming temptation.”

Temptation seems to come with the territory. If you are human, you will be tempted. The question is not whether you will be tempted; that is certain. Rather, the matter is what you will do when you are. As long as you live, you will face temptations of various kinds. You will learn to successfully navigate your way through temptations or they will create havoc in your life and the lives of others around you. It is wise to recognize temptation’s early symptoms and to deal with it quickly and wisely.

Temptation’s warning sign is to badly want to have something or do something when at the same time your heart knows you shouldn’t. The Bible says, “Remember then, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” James 4:17 NLT. I think we all face that problem in some measure. You know better; you just do not always do better.

The source of this ambivalence – “a double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8) – has three points of origin, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Those are the three avowed enemies of everything holy and good. The devil pulls and pushes you from one side while the world draws you from the other, and caught in between is your sin-weakened flesh – the carnal nature which struggles to resist its sympathy with the world’s enticing allure, and its historical link with the very real power of an enemy who seeks to dominate you now and damn your soul forever.

On this the Bible is clear, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15 NIV). There is an undeniable progress to temptation and its inevitable result – from desire to enticed, from enticed to sin, from sin to death! – and it all begins with you and “your own evil desire.” It starts with you; it can stop with you. Read James 1:12-15 NIV.

My friend, Campbell, often reminded me “the heart cannot desire what the eye has not seen.” You govern the gate to your soul; govern it well. Job was a wise and Godly man. “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully . .” Job 31:1 NIV. Adam and Eve, as well as you and me, would have been a lot better off if they had not looked upon the forbidden fruit as “pleasing to the eyes.” Genesis 3:6 NIV. Avert your eyes; guard your heart; save your soul. Remember, every temptation is not a sin; yielding to it could be.

Understand that you must take the initiative to withstand the evil tendencies, yet realize that you are not able to succeed on your own. Temptation is a powerful thing that is stronger than you can defeat alone, but never stronger than God’s power within you. See 1 John 4:4 NIV. Be assured that you are an overcomer through Christ. See 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 NIV. Be diligent against your adversary. See 1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV. Stay submitted to God in obedience and trust. Stand in firm resistance for righteousness in all things. “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7. Watch the devil run the other way! You can overcome temptation.

My prayer for you today is to walk humbly before the Lord and wisely in the world.

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Without Excuse

February 23rd, 2010

“The woman You gave me gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Genesis 3:12-13 CEV

“The ability to accept responsibility is the measure of character and maturity.”

My thoughts today are about being “without excuse.”

Excuses. Everybody, young and old, has a heart full of them. The youngest child somehow concludes that any excuse is better than none. Every spouse, parent, schoolteacher, marriage counselor, cop, and judge has heard every kind of excuse imaginable. With every wrong, there comes a story written with the author as the “good guy.”

A person can waste a lifetime blaming someone or something else, all the while excusing themselves. Never growing up. Never becoming responsible. Never getting anywhere with their life. Never getting right with God. Every mistake made, any explanation of failure, is because of what someone else did, or failed to do. Have you ever fallen into that trap?

The first evidence of sin might well be an excuse. At the origin of everything, sin came into a perfect place and immediately excuses were made and blame was assigned. Read Genesis 3.  First, Adam and Eve covered and hid; then they pointed fingers and blamed.

Eve blamed the serpent for beguiling her. Adam blamed Eve for giving him the forbidden fruit  . . . then cautiously insinuated that God might also share the blame – for giving him the woman in the first place! And that same old, tired story is retold every day since; just the cast of characters is changed. After all, if not yourself then someone has to be guilty, don’t they?

Everyone in Eden offered an excuse attempting to exonerate themselves, except the devil. The devil knew what he had done, and why he had done so. Ever wonder why it seems that God ultimately gets blamed for so much that goes on? Excuses always carry a high price, for yourself and others. The sin of Eden could have been settled immediately with confession and repentance, releasing forgiveness and freedom.

Blame is a foolish and rarely successful way to turn the spotlight away from your failure by assigning the cause to someone or something else. An excuse is an inadequate attempt to avoid responsibility but impairs your ability to grow and learn.

Do you think that integrity can be developed when you excuse yourself and blame others, or does character and maturity grow by accepting personal responsibility? The answer is obvious, I hope. When God asks of you as He did of Adam, “What have you done?” It’s best to think carefully and answer honestly. The ability to accept responsibility is the measure of your character and maturity. It is so very true that “confession is good for the soul.”

Accepting personal responsibility for who you are and what you do is the first step to growing personally and spiritually. The Bible says plainly, before God, “man is without excuse.” Romans 1:20. Refusing to make excuse for yourself is the first step into wonderful freedom. Proverbs 28:13.

My prayer for you today is that you live so as to need neither excuse nor to offer blame.

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Poison of Bitterness

February 22nd, 2010

“Looking diligently . . lest any root of bitterness spring up.” Hebrews 12:15 NKJV

“Be quick to bring every hurt and disappointment to God’s healing hands.”

My thoughts today are about the “poison of bitterness.”

There are things that may not seem very big at the time, but later can have bigger and further reaching effects than you expected. Some emotions are like that, and bitterness is one of the worst of those that do. It begins innocently enough, with some minor offense that leaves you feeling slighted, overlooked or mistreated. What does it hurt to recount to yourself how that should not have happened, or to seek the comfort of sharing your feelings with an understanding friend? No big deal, you say? But it often is a big deal.

A hurt feeling can readily become the seed of far more serious emotions, which eventually take root and produce fruit you never intended. Contrary to it name, bitterness at first may taste sweet. There is an initial but short-lived satisfaction, but the aftertaste is everything the name implies. The fruit of a tree identifies the nature of that tree. The root of a tree determines the abundance of its fruit. Picking the fruit won’t change the expression of a tree’s nature; killing the root will!

I have observed that the more a person entertains or expresses a negative emotion the more that grows, the stronger it develops, and the larger the circle of people it touches. Hurt feelings easily become settled attitudes. Watch out when your wrong attitude sows the seeds of bitterness. Bitterness destroys happiness, poisons hearts, and separates friends.

It may begin as targeted at a particular person or situation, but will ultimately touch all of your relationships, coloring every interaction and subsequent action. The Bible advises, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many . . trouble you and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15 NIV/KJV. The insanity of a bitter attitude spreads its poison to any and all.

You can see that in a person’s clouded countenance and tense features, or uncharacteristic reactions and sharpness of words without apparent cause. The Bible says, “watching diligently,” which suggests you alone are finally responsible for your attitudes and reactions. You can’t control what others do or say, but you must guard your own heart and choose your own responses. Guard your heart diligently, choosing your responses wisely. Your own happiness and spiritual well-being is at stake. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23 NIV.

Beware of any root of bitterness, however subtle or harmless it may at first seem. Let me suggest a better way. “Give all your cares to God, for He cares about  you . . that Christ may be more and more at home in your heart as you trust in Him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love . . remain in Me, and I will remain in you; you cannot be fruitful apart from Me . . that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault . .” 1 Peter 5:7 NLT/Ephesians 3:17 NLT/John 15:4 NLT/Philippians 2:15 NKV. Be careful about your roots; the fruit will then care for itself.

My prayer for you today is: bring every hurt and trust it into God’s healing hands.

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