Archive for August, 2013

Emotional Clutter

August 30th, 2013

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

Emotional clutter devastates a person’s spiritual life.

My thoughts and comments today are about “emotional clutter.”

Your past is filled with memories – some that edify, some distress. Ultimately, you choose which you allow to dominate your thoughts and emotions. Personal history is not neutral. Edifying memories brighten your day, as you recall good times and the goodness of yourself, others, and God. Those memories encourage you, affording strength and assurance today when you remember the pleasant history of people, provision, and places that brought you happiness then and gratefulness now. Your story contains much good from God and others that should be frequently and fondly remembered.

God always has been at the center of your history. A problem occurs when you allow events to obscure your awareness of His nearness. David found solace and strength when He reviewed the struggles of his past in a better, broader context that included God. “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all Your works and consider what Your hands have done.” Psalm 143:5 NIV. Your feelings about the past are directly related to the extent you recall God’s providence and presence alongside you.

Human nature is such that the past you will more easily remember is the one cluttered with regret – opportunities missed, mistreatment remembered, mistakes made, failures remembered, hurts collected, grief unhealed, promises broken, intentions never accomplished, friends and family disappointed, potential unrealized, habits accumulated – well, you get the picture. Mental and emotional clutter can devastate a person’s spiritual life. I have observed that people too often remember the things they should forget and forget the things they should remember. Excess baggage, whatever its nature or reason, is needless and unworthy of a Christ-follower when Jesus asks to be your burden-bearer.

There are three simple things that clear the clutter: repent of your failures; release people’s unfairness; remember God’s faithfulness. You cannot undo all the past; it is what it is. What you can do is stop the hurtful impact of what has happened. That requires determined action. See 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV. Deal with it by repentance for what you have done and release for what others do. Some events in your history need to be left as just that – history! Not doing so confines you to painfully and needlessly reliving your past again and again. Reliving your past prevents you from fully living in the present.

A member of my family struggled with a psychological compulsion called “hoarding.” Accumulating unnecessary things gradually became a compulsive hoarding that left them incapable of throwing anything away. Their surroundings became unlivable; their emotional health diminished; their quality of life suffered. There had to be a loving intervention to accomplish what they could not do on her own. Releasing the clutter brought a healthy freedom for her.

A similar thing happens spiritually in too many lives. Hoarding regret-filled memories of personal failures, or hurtful relationships, or unfixable situations immobilizes, ultimately imprisons, a person with emotional, psychological, and spiritual clutter. God has an answer for your painful past, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.” See 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NKJV. Read also Psalm 25:6-7 NKJV. Today can and should be a new day for you. Your story may be different, but emotional and spiritual freedom can be yours.

My prayer for you today is that you bring clutter to the cross for His forgiveness and healing.


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The Power of Example

August 28th, 2013

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.” Hebrews 12:2 NIV

Choose wisely, because your choice of examples influences your life.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the power of example.”

Anything you have to do but haven’t done before can be done better if you have an example to follow. The better and clearer the example, the faster you can learn and the better you will do. Much of what you learn, you will learn from watching others. Much of one’s marriage and family skills are learned from watching your own parents, without ever realizing you were doing so. Marriage can be interesting; two unique people who have had different examples, each assuming their way is the right way. Now that makes those first years interesting.

The example you choose to follow is very important because you will emulate both the good and the bad of what they demonstrate. Consciously or otherwise, your thoughts, attitudes, behavior, and beliefs are learned by example. Choose wisely, because your choice influences your life. Life is the product – for good or bad – of who and what you watch and admire. Be careful about the friends you choose, the music you listen to, the entertainment you enjoy, and the people you admire.

In your faith-life, teaching, worship, and fellowship are more important than you may realize.

Teaching that is true to God’s Word, with the consistent example of those who teach it, offers you truth that you can trust and is unchanging; its principles will guide and shape everything you are and do. “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7 NIV.

Worship is looking into the face of God with adoring wonder at His greatness and grace, caring and compassion, while your inner man is being shaped by that reality. That’s much more than singing a few songs on Sunday. Singing won’t change you, but worship will transform you from the inside out. “All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into His likeness in an ever greater degree of glory.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 TEV.

Fellowship sets priority for those who share your faith and model the life you choose to live. See 2 Peter 1:1 NLT.The faith-life is best lived in community. ”Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another . .” Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV. Church is so much more than a place where you go; a church is a company of people with whom you choose to share life together.

The most powerful and perfect example of all is Jesus. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith . . the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 12:2/13:8 NIV. Other examples will be flawed and incomplete. Jesus is the consummate example of who you can and should be. Choose as He chose. Think as Jesus thought. Believe as Jesus believed. Obey as Jesus obeyed. Serve as Jesus served. Live as Jesus lived. Love as Jesus loves. Jesus’ invitation is the same to you as to those first disciples, “Follow Me.”

My prayer for you today is that you are an Godly example to others as Jesus is to you.


Process and Progress

August 26th, 2013

“Be diligent . . so that everyone may see your progress.” 1 Timothy 4:15 NIV

All real progress results from a sound process.

My thoughts and comments today are about “process and progress.”

Sometimes, hurry results in some things – even important things – getting overlooked while other things do not get done at all, minimizing things that were done. Spiritual growth and character development are things that do not happen in a hurry. The same God who stood in the midst of chaos and nothingness and simply commanded, “Let there be . . and there was,” (See Genesis 1) has wisely chosen that His significant work in your heart and life results from a specific, individualized process – rarely immediate, seldom easy, but accomplishing visible progress.

The result is not questionable for God. “I am God . . declaring the end from the beginning.” Isaiah 46:10 NKJV. For your benefit, He is committed to your journey from where you are to where you are going, from what you were to what you are becoming. I admit I am a “point A to point B kind of guy.” I get fixed on a destination and am eager to get there. In a hurry, I have missed a lot of scenery and memories along the way; without my wife, I might have missed a lot more.

As a younger parent, I foolishly assumed that parenting was just doing whatever was necessary whenever it was necessary. Fortunately for our family, Gayle was wiser and more farsighted; she understood that parenting is a process requiring love, forgiveness, attention, effort, instruction, correction, and especially time. My understanding of parenting changed when she said, “I am not just raising children; I am training children to be responsible, Godly adults.” In noticeable and measurable ways, our children and grandchildren’s progress is the fruit of her wise and Godly process.

Nature teaches this principle of process and progress, “The Kingdom of God is like . . planted seeds in a field . . first a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens.” See Mark 4:26-29 NLT. That’s also how the Holy Spirit works in your life, however much you might wish it to be different. What’s your rush? Be patient. When you rush the process you diminish spiritual growth; others will see activity but it won’t be progress.

God invests Himself in your journey as well as your destination. Your destiny is firmly set in grace. His expectation of your cooperation is clear, “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them so that everyone may see your progress.” 1 Timothy 4:15 NIV. Some measure of your achievement of God’s intention for your spiritual growth rests with your cooperation, or lack thereof.

God’s objective is clear; “Until we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13 NKJV. Growth comes while God perfects your weaknesses, builds your character, develops your gifts, and prevents your mistakes from wrongly affecting others. God’s process may not be evident to others but your progress will be. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16 NKJV.

My prayer for you this day is: be persuaded of progress and patient with the process.

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August 23rd, 2013

“The clay doesn’t ask, ‘Why did you make me this way?’”  Isaiah 45:9 CEV

Uncertainty creates insecurity; God is the answer to both.

My thoughts and comments today are about “questions.”

Questions! You will have so many of them. Why so many? The answer is simple really; there is so much that you cannot know and do not yet understand. Your knowledge is incomplete; your understanding is imperfect; your experience is limited. Much of life is lived in the arena of “things not yet known,” not things unknowable, just unknown now but not unknown to God. You might as well get used to that. That can be bewildering, unsettling even. Uncertainty creates insecurity, and people wrongly assume that having answers makes one secure. Security is knowing the answers you lack will be provided when most needed.

In previous generations, every day vessels were formed of common clay in the hands of a potter. Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet, compares our insistent questions with the ludicrous example of a clay pot demanding explanation from its maker. Isaiah concluded, “You have no right to argue with your Creator. You are merely a clay pot shaped by a potter. The clay doesn’t ask, ‘Why did you make me this way? Where are the handles?’” Isaiah 45:9 CEV. “A clay pot shaped by a potter,” not a very flattering picture. Such a presumptuous exchange with one’s Creator is not as rare as may first appear.

Life is simpler when realizing you are His creation rather than creator. We are often bewildered by life and demand God account for His actions, or presumed inaction. When you have questions; God is your answer. “ We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that . . we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do. 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 MSG. God is neither insensitive to your pain nor takes pleasure in your suffering. Paul describes our human situation at times as, “. . hard pressed, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” The content within matters eternally, not your circumstance or confusion now. “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” Colossians 1:27 NKJV.

Certainty and security is restored when you rest your questions upon unhesitating trust in God’s wisdom, unrivaled power, and righteous character. There is much you do not yet know, but there is so much more you can and do know. “We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompleteness will be canceled . . 12 We don’t yet see things clearly . . We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 13 But for right now, until that completeness . . Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. 1 Corinthians 13:9-13 MSG. You may know only a “portion of the truth,” but that is enough truth to save and keep you now and forever.

My prayer for you today is that you release the unknown to God who is omniscient.

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Unmet Expectations

August 21st, 2013

“My soul, wait only on God, for my expectation is of Him.” Psalm 62:5 NKJV

Expectations are not debts you are owed or can collect.

My thoughts and comments today are about “unmet expectations.”

Unmet expectations happen all the time. When that occurs, do you feel disappointed? Your answer will likely be related to one question. Were those unmet expectations of yourself, or someone else? Reasonable expectations of yourself are a good thing, providing a target for personal improvement, a measurement for how you are doing, and a goal for further achievement. To a great extent you choose those expectations and you control their fulfillment most of the time.

When I fail to live up to my own expectations, I find reasons to understand. For my poor performance, I am willing to “grade on a curve.” But be careful; it is easy to excuse your failings yet be less understanding and accepting of others’ failure to meet your exacting expectations of them, whether stated or silently undeclared. What do you feel? Hurt? Frustrated? Angry? Or at least, disappointed?

Let me suggest a few practical strategies. As for yourself, set reasonable expectations that provide adequate motivation for you, yet will avoid a discouraging sense of failure if not reached fully. A good goal should not result in bad guilt.

As this regards others such as family and friends, limit your expectations to what can be commonly expected of anyone – courtesy, communication, respect – and what has been clearly communicated and mutually understood. Hold your expectations lightly; your expectations are not “legal requirements” that you should or can enforce, nor debts you are owed and can collect. Examine your expectations frequently and adjust accordingly, as befits the relationship as well as serves yours and another’s individual well-being.

Communicate expectations kindly but clearly; don’t expect others to read your mind. Offer understanding and forgiveness freely. “Freely you have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8 NIV. Be gracious to others, as you trust they will be understanding of you. We all have disappointed others, sometimes carelessly, sometimes ignorantly. Remember the Golden Rule: “Do for others as you would like them to do for you.” Luke 6:31 NLT. When disappointed, trust your unrealized expectations to God’s care and grace. Don’t pout or hold grudges.

The Psalmist, David, understood where one’s expectations will never be disappointed, “My soul, wait patiently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.” Psalm 62:5 NKJV. Let your ultimate expectation be this, “For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame . . that my life will always honor Christ, whether I live or die.” Philippians 1:20 NLT. I think that verse also voices God’s expectation and hope for you.

My prayer for you this day is that your expectations rest firmly upon God.

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