Archive for September, 2010

A Second Chance

September 30th, 2010

“When you have returned to Me, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32 NKJV

Failure doesn’t have to be final, unless you let it be.”

My thoughts today are about “a second chance.”

Thomas Edison failed five hundred times before inventing the light bulb, but he didn’t stop trying until he succeeded. Babe Ruth, legendary baseball hitter known for career home runs, had more strikeouts than home runs. Yet today he is remembered for the number of home runs, not strikeouts. A person who never makes a mistake is not trying very hard to accomplish anything very important.

You will have failures along the way. Your best intentions may not be realized; your best effort may fail; your best judgment may not be good enough; a decision may be ill-advised; your impulsiveness will leave you with regrets; your words or action will hurt someone you least want to hurt. Those are not the same as failures of character or integrity.

All failures are not alike – not the same size, not with the same consequences, not all from the same source.   Failure may be something you do or a mistake you make; don’t let it define who or what you become!

Failure doesn’t have to be final, unless you let it be. God specializes in the redemptive process. Many of the revered names int eh Bible’s “chapter of champions” would have been a mere footnote in history if their stories had ended with their failures – Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and others. Read Hebrews 11. Instead theirs are stories of God’s redemptive grace. They failed; they would not remain failures. Their faith in God gave them strength to become more than they had been.

Peter seemed to fail often and on a grand scale, never in a small way. In today’s Bible verse, Jesus warned Peter that he would, but also assured him that even his failure could be redeemable and become useful to help others. “When you have returned to Me, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32 NKJV. Peter learned from his failure, and there is much that failure can teach you.

Don’t give up on yourself; Jesus doesn’t. You can turn failure into something better. Turn away from failure; do not keep repeating it stubbornly. Bring your failures to Jesus, who alone can give you a fresh start. Seek and receive God’s wisdom, when yours has been inadequate. Offer your experiences to benefit and help others avoid the same mistakes. A failure is not the end of the world; in God, it’s just a new place to begin again.

You may be tempted to judge yourself by a failure of the moment, but Jesus looks upon you in grace and sees you in the fullness of your potential – what you are becoming, rather than what you have been. “To as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become the sons of God, even as many as believed on His name.” John 1:12.

“Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joys of the Lord forever.” Matthew 25:21. The last word over your life can be God’s commendation, not condemnation. “There is therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk no longer after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1.

My prayer for you each day is for failures few and small, and successes great and many.

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September 29th, 2010

“The leader should be like a servant.” Luke 22:26 NLT

This is Jesus’ model of leadership: lead by serving!”

My thoughts today are about “servant-leadership.”

My friend, Campbell, once said in his lyrical, Scottish brogue, “If you think you are a leader and you turn around only to find that no one is following, you are not leading; you are just taking a walk.” Whose name comes to mind when you think of a leader? What qualities meet the criteria for your trust and cooperation? Too much of what you may have seen has not always been very authentic examples of trustworthy leadership – in marriages, families, business, religion, and government.

But you have also seen real leaders – maybe a parent, teacher, friend, pastor, coach, business owner or supervisor, mentor, or a civic leader, often with or without titles or position. You will recognize a leader when you see them, even when they were not what you were expecting to see. There will be people wanting to follow them, not blindly but confidently and happily. I think the quality of people, not the quantity, following someone speaks profoundly of the character and value of that leader. Almost anyone can get some crowd to feed their ego and follow their foolishness.

A true leader does not gather a crowd of followers for his or her own advancement and profit; a real leader inspires followers to be what they ought to be, and do what they ought to do, for the others’ development and benefit.

There is a myriad of books written describing leadership, listing its best traits and responsibilities. You will find no book on leadership better than the Bible, because there is no clearer example of Godly, effective servant-leadership than Jesus. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 NIV. Jesus was clear that the primary quality of a leader is their personal desire and practice of serving – humbly, honestly, and sacrificially.

This is Jesus’ model of leadership: lead by serving! “And they began to argue among themselves as to who would be the greatest in the coming Kingdom. Jesus told them, ‘In this world the kings and great men order their people around . . but among you, those who are the greatest should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.’” Luke 22:24-26 NLT. God made you to desire greatness, but greatness in God’s eyes is not about impressive things you do; it is about who you are and a greatness of heart as evidenced in the influence of your life on the wellbeing of others’ lives.

Another thing my friend, Campbell, taught me about servant-leadership is this: “If you want to know how you are doing as a servant, notice how you react when someone treats you like one.” His words still shape my life even after his death, because his words were consistently true to his exemplary life. I hope that will be said of me. You will do better by faithfully serving others, than to waste your time trying to impress them.

My prayer for you today is to let Jesus be the standard of how you share your life.

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Land of Hope

September 28th, 2010

“I will pitch my tent in the land of hope.” Acts 2:26 The Message

Hope is to the soul what breath is to the body – restorative and life-giving.”

My thoughts today are about the “land of hope.”

People can learn to live without a lot of things, but not live well nor live long without hope. Hope is to the soul what breath is to the body – essential, restorative, and life-giving. You live better and more fully each day by finding a reason for hope. The Bible describes this hope we have as being “like a strong and trustworthy anchor for our soul.” Hebrews 6:19 NLT. Hope does not mean that all will be as you wish; hope rests in the truth that everything will be according to God’s wisdom and will, and with His sufficient grace.

In the Fall of 2000 my Mom suffered a massive, cerebral hemorrhage and was not expected to live through the day. The neurosurgeon could offer us no hope. That first dreadful day stretched to difficult weeks; we loved her and stayed by her side, not daring to believe for much more than each precious minute. And then, after weeks of being able to do absolutely nothing for herself, and contrary to every medical prognosis and beyond explanation, she regained consciousness, became conversant, and recovered her appetite and ability to swallow. Day by day, a little more of her strength returned.

I remember well that morning in November when our love for her was joined by hope. Being at her bedside was suddenly much different. Each day brighter. Each point of her recovery more encouraging. For her remaining weeks, days were filled with memories and laughter. God graciously had given our family renewed hope.

King David is quoted in the New Testament, “I will pitch my tent in the land of hope!” Acts 2:26 The Message. Everybody has to live somewhere. David chose to live “in the land of hope.” When God, or others, go looking for you, where will you be found – in the land of doubt, despair, fear, discouragement, self pity? Are you dreading the future, or making plans with hope?

You can let your circumstance determine where you dwell, or you can choose to pitch your tent in such a place and such a way that every morning the first reality you see is the face of God and a brighter future. David expressed his experience this way, “I saw God before me at all time. Nothing can shake me; He’s right by my side. I’m glad from the inside out, ecstatic; I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope.” Acts 2:25-26 The Message.

Pitch your tent where you want your future to be found – in the providence of God! “May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 NIV. The God of hope; what a wonderful description!

My prayer for you today is for your future to be filled with day-brightening hope.

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Final Exams

September 27th, 2010

“Examine yourself to see if your faith is really genuine.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 NLT

“A personal, spiritual exam reveals who you are authentically before God.”

My thoughts today are about “final exams.”

Who goes eagerly to the doctor for their annual medical check-up? What business eagerly awaits the company’s financial audit? You may recognize they are necessary, even important, but can seem inwardly afraid of what they might reveal. When shying away from facing truth, realize you cannot fix something that you do not know needs fixing. There is failure if you do not?

Though more than four decades ago, I still remember the instantaneous anxiety produced by my arrival at a college course after too many needless absences, only to find that minutes later the class would be taking a major mid-term exam. I was unprepared for the exam and what it would reveal. I never wanted to feel that way again.

It is wise and profitable to stop periodically and examine how things are going, to consider how you are doing. Is life working for you? Are you making progress, standing still, or losing ground? “The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Socrates, ancient Greek philosopher, 470-399 BC). Those words seem as true today!

Businesses need honest examination occasionally, regularly even, as do churches, friendships, marriages, families, and individuals. Any and all can fail if assumptions are not tested. Many people are more inclined to examine other people, not so excited about self-examination. Best to leave others to themselves and God! You will have your hands full with just yourself, most likely.

Whatever else requires examination, always begin with the Bible’s advice, “Examine yourself to see if your faith is really genuine.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 NLT. And where do you start? Start with an honest evaluation of your relationship with God. Is your faith really genuine? Your subjective bias requires help from the reliable objectivity of the Word of God as your standard, and the Holy Spirit for counsel and conviction. Read John 16:7-11 NLT.

Your goal is not justifying to God how good you are, nor groveling in any false guilt of how bad you are, and definitely not comparing yourself for better or worse with anyone else (2 Corinthians 10:12 NIV). A personal, spiritual exam is for you to know your heart – to know just who you are authentically before God. How can you know that without inviting God to show you? “Put me on trial, Lord, and cross examine me. Test my motives and affections. For I am constantly aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth.” Psalm 26:2-3 NLT. See Psalm 139:23-24 NLT.

Here is the only final grade that matters, from the One who always judges righteously. The Bible says this is how you prepare, “If we examine ourselves, we will not be examined by God and judged in this way. But when we are judged and disciplined by the Lord, we will not be condemned by the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 NLT. Read Romans 14:10-12 NIV/1 Corinthians 3:12-17 NIV. This is the final exam for which you must prepare every day! “Well done!” is what you want to hear from your Lord.

My prayer for you today is that your heart is ever open and true before the Lord.

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Outlive Your Life

September 24th, 2010

“I chose you . . to produce fruit that will last.” John 15:16 NKJV

“If your life is meaningless while you live, it will remain meaningless after you live.”

My thoughts today urge that you “outlive your life.”

Is death the end of everything, really? Some people believe that it is, but even they wish they didn’t believe that. Such a belief certainly offers no consolation when facing death. The Bible is clear that death is inevitable, and a very real appointment with God awaits afterward, “Everyone must die once, and after that be judged by God.” Hebrews 9:27 TEV. As a follower of Christ, I believe there is an afterlife, an eternal life after death. That is a power-filled hope for all who place faith in Christ as Savior, and is assured true by His own death, resurrection, and ascension to God.

I cannot imagine everyday life without that everyday faith, and I certainly would not want to try living without that very real and substantial hope. “We who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor of the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.” Hebrews 6:18-20 NIV.

Max Lucado, a local pastor in San Antonio and popular author, recently wrote a new book with the thought provoking, intriguing title, “Outlive your Life.” Many are happy just to live their life, with little thought or regard to outliving that. God meant for you to “outlive your life!” How? By your example, the influence of an enduring impact on other lives that will extend beyond yours. Everyone will have a history; for some unfortunately, that will be all they have. They will leave little or nothing that will last after they are gone; nothing they are or do will outlive them. If your life is meaningless while you live, it will remain meaningless after you live.

I love the beauty and history of our nation’s capital, Washington, DC, a city that is filled with monuments and memorials – the Washington Monument towering above all with the Latin words “Laus Deo – God be Praised” engraved on its very top, the majestic Lincoln Memorial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and so many others. Their exemplary and heroic lives continue to inspire generations who never knew them but still know of them, long after their lifetimes. They call us as a nation back to what we’ve been to empower us to be what we should be.

A personal goal is that my life leaves a spiritual legacy to family and friends that lingers after my history has been written“work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV. I want to leave more than fond memories; I live to leave a meaningful example. I think that should be your intent as well.

After life, what then? What will you leave that is lasting? Jesus said to His disciples, “I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit that will last.” John 15:16 NLT. Fruit that will last! That’s how you “outlive your life!”

My prayer for you today is that you live to leave a meaningful example!

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