Archive for October, 2012

Nobody Is Perfect

October 31st, 2012

“Bear with each another . . forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 NIV.

Acceptance and affirmation are powerfully enabling and ennobling.

My thoughts and comments today are that “nobody is perfect.”

I am sure that it was not original with my Dad but he told me, “You can always find what you’re looking for in people – whether looking for good or bad.” Usually you will only see what you were expecting to find. My expectations of relationships were the context for Dad’s comment. Every person is a diverse mixture of things commendable as well as less noble, of strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices. You should be prepared for such a common reality, not surprised by it. I long ago learned that I am not perfect; striving to be better, but not perfect. With that realization, how could I expect more of others than I demand of myself? Nobody is perfect; quit expecting them to be.

Paul’s instruction seems to offer a positive response to the relational reality I have stated above. “As God’s chosen people, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:12-14 NIV. The qualities Paul says you must choose for your own life – compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience – divinely empower you to extend gracious allowance for instances of imperfection exhibited in others.

Often discount stores offer lower prices by selling merchandise that is “irregular.” In the manufacturing process, something was not accomplished to the standard intended. You make a decision that the article is worth its cost to you, whether you know its flaw or not. Wouldn’t relationships be simpler if we allowed one another a bit more grace and a lot more help? People in your community, your neighborhood, at work, at school, in your circle of friends, and even in your family are “irregular” in one way or another or at one time or another, as are you.

When you forget that, you are tempted to try to fix what you see as wrong with others and exasperated at your lack of success or their lack of appreciation for your attempt. The Bible proposes a better way. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:5-8 NIV. Acceptance and affirmation are powerfully enabling to the person who receives them and ennobling to the one who gives them. I have learned that God loves every person just the way they are, but also loves people too much to leave anyone in the same condition as when He found them. Everyone of us is a work in process.

My Dad was right; “You usually find what you’re looking for in people.” Why look for the worst? Look for the best in others and affirm and applaud what you find? You will be happier and they might just surprise you with their improvement. I remember my friend, Campbell, often saying, “The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.” Every person has ample room for improvement. That happens best in the company of friends. I think people, like children, respond positively when accepted as they are and affirmed and assisted to become what they can be. Nobody is perfect, but everyone can and should strive everyday to be a bit more than you were.

My prayer for you today is that you applaud the good you find in others.

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October 29th, 2012

“Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.” Acts 28:5 NIV.

Habits are attachments you held too long and a little too closely.

My thoughts and comments today are about “attachments.”

Along the journey, we all accumulate attachments, not all of which are beneficial. It seems that we hold too tightly to so much we ought to release, and hold too lightly to things irreplaceable. Habits are attachments you held too long and a little too closely. When you find yourself unwilling to relinquish something you know is bad for you, you have allowed an attachment that takes value from you and adds nothing useful to you.

The Apostle Paul was gathering wood for a fire when a snake “fastened itself on his hand.” Read Acts 28:1-6 NIV. Your harm is the stated intent of the enemy of your soul. See John 10:10 NIV. Something harmful attached itself to him, certainly without his intent. What did Paul do? He could have “thrown a pity party,” but he didn’t. He could have assumed there was “nothing he could do about it.” He could have even blamed God for “letting it happen to him.” If any of those were his reaction that snake would caused pain and harm.

Attachments occur that you may not anticipate, not always being things you can prevent or explain. In the process of life hurts happen, some self-inflicted, some imposed on you. An attachment can be an unchecked temptation, or a besetting sin, or unforgiven hurts, or unhealthy attitudes, or unforgotten grudges, or unholy thoughts, or unwholesome relationships – anything that draws you in a direction contrary to spiritual growth. The Bible gives strong, clear counsel, “Casting down every . . high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV. Memory can be a blessing or a source of needless pain, depending on what you hold there.

When the serpent fastened itself to Paul, he did the simplest, smartest thing, “Paul shook the snake off into the fire.” Acts 28:5 NIV. And the result? Paul “suffered no ill effects.” Imagine if Adam and Eve had done the same. No ill effects! Take deliberate and immediate action. Paul warns about such entanglements, “Stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1 NKJV. Detach yourself from any unholy, unhealthy attachment as soon as possible; that is the wisest thing to do. Read Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV.

Sometimes you can become attached to people or things that are unprofitable; at other times, they become wrongly attached to you. Read Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV. To their harm, people often seem determined to hold on to things that hurt them or others. Just let it go! Whatever it is, don’t excuse it; don’t assign blame for it; don’t give room or time for it to grow and strengthen. See 2 Peter 2:20 NLT.

Don’t indulge even the smallest attraction to wrong. Don’t excuse thoughts or feelings that harm you and hurt others. On a positive note, here’s something you can hold tightly and confidently, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful . . Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” Hebrews 10:23-24/1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you keep a tight grip on your faith and faithfulness.

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Transcendent Peace

October 26th, 2012

“Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.” Colossians 3:15 NLT.

Hearts and minds rest in transcendent peace when trusting steadfastly in God.

My thoughts and comments today are about “transcendent peace.”

Ours is a troubled world in search of peace yet ignorant of the source of its trouble. “Wars and rumors of war” exist, as Jesus said there would be. See Matthew 24:6 NIV. But the most consequential lack of peace is not global strife among nations; rather, it is the turmoil and absence of peace in one’s heart. Peace is an illusive objective, whether of nations, men, or the human heart.

Peace in one’s heart is only possible when Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is welcome there. See Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV. Paul reinforced the same truth, “Through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1 NIV.

Many people mistake the absence of trouble for peace. Emotionally, those may feel the same at first. Spiritually, they are not alike at all. Peace is so much more than a lack of trouble. The Hebrew understanding of peace, “Shalom,” describes “the promise and possession of everything needed for well-being.” Peace is secure in the heart that is secure in the Savior.

When you permit any circumstance to trouble you, peace is disrupted but only seems gone. God’s peace will not leave you; His peace is within you, but someone or something was permitted to influence you to disbelieve in God’s abiding peace. At such moments, you may allow lesser things to disturb your peace and persuade you it has gone. Many things push peace aside – worry and anxiety, fear and dread, irritations and hurts, and questions and doubt grab your focus and misdirect your thoughts and emotions away from peace.

Or you can, “Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.” Colossians 3:15 NLT. The peace of God serves as an umpire who rules on the incorrectness of anything that disturbs your heart or mind. My friend, Campbell, taught me an old English word, “dispeace,” that describes times and places where God’s peace is lacking and will direct me where God’s peace abides. When Christ’s peace rules in your heart, His peace serves to overrule all that would disturb peace. Isaiah discovered, “You, [Lord], will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You . . And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Isaiah 26:3/ Philippians 4:7 NIV. The heart and mind rest in transcendent peace when steadfast in God.

Jesus taught that peace is not something the world can give; then neither can it take peace away. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give [peace] to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 NIV. I love Paul’s benediction to Thessalonian disciples was, “Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16 NIV. That is God’s intention for you as well – at all times, in every way. But you have a role in having a heart of peace. “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace . . Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall see God.” James 3:17/Matthew 5:9 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you would be an ambassador of God’s peace.

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Just Say No!

October 24th, 2012

“Do not let sin control the way you live.” Romans 6:12 NLT.

The Holy Spirit indwells you and empowers with Godly qualities not naturally possessed.

My thoughts and comments today are, “just say no!”

Living with restraint can be challenging in today’s culture. It seems as though self-restraint is thought more vice than virtue. The culture glorifies unrepressed self-indulgence and unlimited self-expression more than Godly self-restraint. Such lack of self-control may seem more heightened with this generation, but it is by no means exclusive to our moment in history. Solomon described a time when, “I never said no to myself. I gave in to every impulse, held back nothing.” Ecclesiastes 2:10 The Message. That is a most miserable way to live. How did that work out? Read Ecclesiastes 2.

In the first century, ancient Rome may have exceeded the worst of our twenty-first century in not valuing self-control. Yet to the very Christians whose lives had to be lived out in the epicenter of such flagrant lifestyles, Paul wrote, “You must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t run little errands that are connected with that old way of life.” Romans 6:12-13 The Message. Don’t run errands connected with your old way of life; that is strong counsel.

In Paul’s letter to Christ-followers at Philippi, he brings greetings to them from, “the saints who are of Caesar’s household.” Philippians 4:22. What a testimony! Christ-followers were serving as slaves or servants in the very household of Nero, one of the more degenerate and profligate of Caesars. Imagine those Christians’ self-control. If they could live for God in such a place and time, you can live for Jesus whatever your location or circumstance today. They could easily have found an excuse to indulge themselves as those around them did; they had every reason to try to fit in to their surrounding, immoral environment. Instead, they chose to just say “No!”

What choice are you making today? Self-control is an incorrect term for what I am talking about. How successful have you ever been at controlling yourself when you wanted to do something that you knew was not right to do? When your body craves something your heart will not allow, what do you do? Is will power enough in such situations? Paul described self-control as a fruit of the Spirit. “When the Holy Spirit controls your life, He will produce this kind of fruit in you . .  self-control.” Galatians 5:22 NLT. The Holy Spirit who indwells the believer empowers your spirit with Godly qualities not naturally possessed. When the Spirit of God is allowed control of your heart – your passions, desires, and actions – you will find true self-control possible.

One person’s testimony was firm, “I do not want my testimony for Jesus Christ to be shattered by a single moment of indulging my flesh. I don’t want one moment of rage or pride or lust to cast a shadow over a lifetime of walking with the Lord.” To that, I say a hearty, “Amen!” The fear of the Lord is birthed in the heart of any person who knows what they are capable of doing, and what their sin would do to God’s heart and His righteous Name; Godly fear is not one’s fear of what God might do if you sin. “Fear the Lord and turn your back on evil. Then you will gain renewed health and vitality.” Proverbs 3:7-8 NLT. Turn your back on evil; put the old ways forever behind you. My friend, Campbell, often said, “The heart cannot desire what the eye has not seen.” Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, “the Author and Finisher of your faith;” then you will not fixate on what destroys your soul. See Hebrews 12:1-4 NLT.

My prayer for you today is: live under the Spirit’s control of your mind, heart, and conduct.

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October 22nd, 2012

“Catch . . the little foxes that spoil the vines.” Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV.

Small things appear insignificant except to those who see potential others do not.

My thoughts and comments today are about “spoilers.”

God places high value on small things. Every enterprise begins small, appearing insignificant at its early stage except to those who see potential others do not. The Bible advises, “Do not despise these small beginnings for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10 NLT. And Jesus noted that, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” Luke 16:10 NIV. Faithfulness is learned little by little and responsibilities are proportional to reliability.

Not all little things are little. By that I mean, some little things can have big results – a small idea can produce a profitable business, a small seed holds disproportionate potential, a small kindness can begin a long friendship, a wise word can change a life’s direction. The Bible says, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” Proverbs 3:27 NKJV. Nothing good that is said or done is inconsequential. Small things should not be disparaged; they may hold vast potential.

But I must also warn that little things can have big, unintended and unwanted repercussions as well. James, while describing the effect of a small bit in a powerful horse’s mouth and a small rudder to turn a large ship, adds that “Even so the tongue is a little member that boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles . . and the tongue . . defiles the whole body.” Read James 3:2-12 NKJV. Words mean something, for good or harm for the person who speaks them as well as those who hear them. An ill-advised word can disparage ideas, destroy incentive, or dash hopes.

Solomon addressed this negative potential with the image of a vineyard, “Catch the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes.” Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV. The vine is where growth and fruit are to be found; those represent your future productivity. Spoilers, like small foxes, are often unnoticed until after damage has been done. Most of us are not undone by big things. Those are more easily recognized and readily avoided. Small things are often your undoing – the road not taken, the overlooked opportunity, the unnoticeable omission, the little temptation, or the lesser failure.

There are many tender moments that are spoiled by intention or lack of attention – an achievement not celebrated, an anniversary forgotten, a thank you unspoken, a kindness unappreciated, a person not valued, and many similar opportunities for good that are overlooked. Such things happen everyday in businesses, families, marriages, and personal relationships when the smallest things – someone’s countenance, tone of voice, body language, attitude, words, or even their silence – can assist or resist progress, build or dampen enthusiasm, and develop or disparage an idea. Protect the vines; secure the fruit of blessing; defeat the spoilers; refuse to become a spoiler for others.

My prayer for you today is that you will protect the potential in your life and others.

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