Archive for January, 2014

Your Thought Life

January 20th, 2014

“If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 NIV.

Thoughts have a power to create and color the interpretation of your inner world.

My thoughts and comments today are about “your thought life.”

More than you imagine, thoughts influence how you feel, what you do, what you say, what you believe and, eventually, who you are. Thoughts are more powerful than you might at first realize. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right!”  Thoughts have a power to create and color the interpretation of your inner world as well as your assumptions about the world surrounding you. Albert Einstein said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

Jesus was asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” His response was simpler than expected; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and with all your mind.” Luke 10:25/27 NKJV. Jesus’ words are where any consideration or conversation about thoughts must begin. Thoughts are integral to a successful, spiritual life. Let me suggest a few practical ways to take charge of your inner thought life.

Fill your mind with the truth of God’s Word. “Oh, the joys of those who . . delight in doing everything the Lord wants; day and night they think about [meditate upon]His Law.” Psalm 1:1-2 NKJV. Think Biblically.The Psalm describes the process of God’s Word being perpetually in the forethought of all your deliberations, “day and night.” Our closest English word might be “ruminate – the continuing, deliberative process for fullest understanding.” Healthy, happy, and Godly thoughts begin with putting God’s Word in your heart intentionally and continually. “For the Word of God is . . able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 NASV.

Occupy your thoughts positively. Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 NIV. There are processes of thought you indulge to your own detriment. See 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV. Negative, hurtful thoughts of anger, jealousy, resentment, doubt, worry, fear, regret, or past hurts cloud your peace of mind. You determine what you will allow to linger in your mind. “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 NIV. Be vigilant and at peace.

Manage your thoughts productively. “Those who are controlled by the Spirit think about those things that please the Spirit . . if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace.” Romans 8:5-6 NLT. When you are without the Holy Spirit’s control, you forfeit the dimension of life and peace He intends. “You [Lord] will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3 NIV.

Discipline your thoughts prudently. “Casting down arguments and 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. Undisciplined thoughts can lead you places you never intended to go and to become a person you never intended to be. You do not have to indulge your random thoughts and negative emotions. Exercise Godly authority. “. . for we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:16 NLT.

Inadequate, inaccurate, or incorrect thinking is at the root of immaturity. When you think correctly you learn to respond correctly, which reflects spiritual maturity. My favored definition of spiritual maturity is: “Rightly responding to life’s situations according to Biblical patterns of behavior.” To me, that sounds like a proper description of Jesus, Who could say truly, “I always do those things that please the Father.” John 8:29 NKJV. Spiritual maturity is simply Christ-likeness. See Romans 8:28-29 NLT. The Word of God will progressively conform you to the Savior’s likeness as your mind is renewed in its truth. See Romans 12:2 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that your mind is renewed through His Word and wisdom.

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Truth and Trust

January 17th, 2014

“This word [from God] continues to work in you who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13 NLT.

Trust the truth God entrusted to you.

My thoughts and comments today are about “truth and trust.”

Unquestionably, you and I live in a generation of hyper-information. Satellites provide internet, television, radio, and phones that connect us with information that is immediate, in a quantity that is immeasurable, and on a scale that is global. Within that incalculable capacity, your challenge is the ability to distinguish truth from the unending opinions, misinformation, or speculation that abounds.

Every day, truth is assaulted by opinions drawn from little more than personal whim or prejudice, or partial truths mixed with so much error as to leave the truth unrecognizable, or deliberate misinformation that is scandalously untrue. What is true? Where is truth you can believe in? In the shadows and fog of all the noise, God’s Word is a beacon of truth.

At the end of his life, Moses said, “Ascribe greatness to our God . . A God of truth, righteous and upright is He.” Deuteronomy 32:3-4 NKJV. Moses knew the Lord to be, “A God of truth . . righteous and upright.” Truth is what we need. People complicate the matter of belief, but it is simple really. Either God is true, or what He says is not. But if God be true, His Word cannot be otherwise. See Romans 3:2-4 NIV.

I have observed: “You do not choose what you believe; you first choose who you believe and that choice determines what you believe.” Choose to believe God. ”Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and . . you have known the holy Scriptures.” See 2 Timothy 3:14-15 NIV/Hebrews 13:7 NKJV. Trust the truth God entrusted to you.

Who you know and trust ultimately forms your beliefs and shapes your opinions. From those come your convictions, felt and held deeply. Conviction of truth is not imposed upon you; truth resonates in your spirit and is recognized and embraced by you. I have chosen to believe God; therefore I believe the Word of God is divinely inspired, ultimately and eternally true, and both practical and powerful in its application. See 2 Peter 1:20-21 NLT/2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV.

Paul commended the Thessalonians, “When we preached His message to you, you didn’t think of the words we spoke as being just our own words. You accepted what we said as the very Word of God – which of course it was. And this Word continues to work in you who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13 NLT. This morning, Paul’s assuring words intrigued me: “. . this Word continues to work in you who believe.” Cherish it; read it; study it, meditate on it, obey it; and trust it. As you do, truth will continue to work deep within your spirit and mind, imparting God’s wisdom and understanding. When you don’t feel it, or see it, or understand it, or wonder if it is, His “Word continues to work in you who believe.”

God won’t quit; His Word won’t fail.“If indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard.” Colossians 1:21-23 NKJV. God’s Word continues to work in those who continue steadfast in His Word. See Isaiah 55:11 NIV. When you embrace God’s Word, you release God Word to work until completion. Philippians 1:6/2:13 NKJV.

The Bible is Truth, and in its pages are found the incomparable wisdom and knowledge of God. The Bible teaches principles of how truth is to be applied in practical ways and ordinary situations. Jesus taught that a life that endures remains unshaken by all that changes around you, established firmly upon the Word of God. Read Matthew 7:24-27 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that truth continues to work deep in your heart and life.

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Faults and Forgiveness

January 15th, 2014

“Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you.” Colossians 3:13 NLT.

The power to forgive comes from your being forgiven.

My thoughts and comments today are about “faults and forgiveness.”

Forgiveness is difficult. Let no one tell you otherwise. Forgiveness is difficult because it cuts across the pettiness and selfishness in your nature. Forgiveness is grace extended with the realization that, “Words or actions have hurt me, but that person is more important in my life than the hurt I feel right now. I forgive.” A relationship survives when the offended is merciful, not when the offender is punished.

You are neither at the mercy of the offender nor the offence. A wonderful truth about forgiveness is this: you can forgive unilaterally without any corresponding initiative or recognition by another, other than the extended supply of God’s grace and the satisfaction of His approval. Forgiveness is a gift to the offender without being earned; but more importantly, forgiveness is an act of worship to God and a healing gift to yourself. Years ago, I read a simple poem, “He drew a circle that left me out . .  But love and I had the wit to win, We drew a circle that took him in.” Edward Markham. That’s forgiveness.

The Bible teaches, “Since God chose you to be the holy people whom He loves, you must clothe yourself with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you so you must forgive the person who offends you” Colossians 3:12-13 NLT. The power to forgive comes from your being forgiven. “Be kind and loving to each other just as God forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32 NCV. Because Jesus has forgiven you, you can forgive others.

Forgiveness is difficult. But do you know what is even more difficult? Unforgiveness! And the longer unforgiveness lingers on your calendar, the harder for it to leave your heart. This is Godly advice, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no man will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV.Continuing to harbor your hurt and disappointment allows opportunity for greater harm than the original offence. Bitterness is better avoided than resisted.

Unforgiveness allows your remonstrative self-justification, “I was hurt by words or actions and I don’t have room in my heart to forgive that person right now.” Unforgiveness gradually develops a self-righteous judgment. Paul warned, ”Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God . .” Read Ephesians 4:30-32 NIV. Who initiates forgiveness and reconciliation? The offender or the offended?

Jesus advised the offender, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you . . first, go and be reconciled, then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 NIV. Your relationship with others impacts your relationship with God, and vice versa. Jesus also instructed the offended, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Matthew 18:15 NIV. The burden of bridge building falls on the strong rather than the weak; be strong. Read Romans 15:1-7 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you are willing to forgive and ready to restore.

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Common Courtesies

January 13th, 2014

“Be courteous . . that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:8-9 NKJV.

Common courtesy could be your entrance to very uncommon blessings.

My thoughts and comments today are about “common courtesies.”

We have a small plaque in our home, “Because Nice Matters!” See Colossians 3:16-17 MSG. I have observed those simple words become the everyday expression of my wife, Gayle, and her thoughtful, practical ministry to others. Her friends and family know those words guide what she does, what she says, how she regards others, and govern the time and effort she gives to anything she does in order for that to be the best she can offer for others’ pleasure and profit. “Nice matters,” because people matter to God, every one of them; that practical truth makes people matter to Gayle.

My parents and grandparents often spoke of something they called, “common courtesy,” which I came to understand referred to simple acts of consideration for others, such as being respectful and mannerly toward them. Courtesy is a social civility you should require of yourself,one that others should expect of you. Common courtesy no longer appears all that common.

I observe extremes with which people speak and relate to each other. Today’s culture permits a shallow familiarity of using first names and inappropriate conversation of personal and private information with mere acquaintances, or even total strangers sometimes. That appears to me more presumptuous and intrusive than friendly, as is probably intended.

Meanwhile, others find it acceptable to totally ignore people, passing them without as much as a nod or polite, “hello, or excuse me,” overlooking another person as though irrelevant, hardly needing their notice. Between those extremes are simple gestures of courtesy that honor the dignity and individuality of another person and treats them accordingly.

I think common courtesy is a proper and Godly response to recognizing the dignity due every individual in some measure.Your sense and practice of courtesy toward others can evidence your regard for yourself or lack of regard for others. “Be courteous . . knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:8-9 NKJV. Common courtesy could be your entrance to very uncommon blessings.

Other translations of this verse use the words, “humility or humble minded,” which is also translated as “courteous.” The Greek word is “philophrone,” a combination of two words, “brotherly/friendly” and “minded.” The application is this: “treating others with friendly thoughtfulness.” How you interact with others reflects how you value them, and people in general.

It is easy to be kind and considerate with those you correctly regard. Such behavior is characteristic of humility, regarding yourself properly not proudly. See Romans 12:1-3 NKJV. It is also possible to be inconsiderate of those you might consider, even unconsciously, as less expecting of the simplest acknowledgement or offer of helpful assistance. Failing those could demonstrate a lack of humility, living without the common courtesy of “friendly thoughtfulness.”

My prayer for you today is this: regard others highly as Jesus regards and relates to you.

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God, First and Foremost

January 10th, 2014

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:6 NKJV.

 In every aspect of your life, seek and submit to God’s will and wisdom first.

My thoughts and comments today are about “God, first and foremost.”

Everyday life is filled with decisions; those decisions often have unexpected consequences. And invariably, those consequences affect more than yourself. How can you know the decisions you make are wise? How can you minimize the impact of your decisions on others? You can purchase life, home, or auto insurance to offset a loss you experience. But what will protect you against costly errors or misjudgments?

Life can become confusing. There are so many variables, known and unknown. Life offers multiple options, not all of which are good. There are choices to be made, often without sufficient knowledge and experience, or even adequate time to understand and choose wisely. Sometimes the options are between better and best, at other times between right and wrong. There has to be a better way than guessing, and hoping you are right.

Upon his coronation, Solomon sought and received wisdom and knowledge from God. Read 2 Chronicles 1:7-12 NIV.  But if you know the history of Solomon, you know that he was wise, but not always. When He loved and followed God’s Word, he lived wisely; when he lived by his own wits, he was confused and misled. The book of Ecclesiastes chronicles Solomon’s quixotic journey from God’s truth to his futile attempts to understand life by natural intellect and observation, finally returning to God’s ways and wisdom. Solomon wrote, “Here is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey His commands, for this is the duty of every person.” Ecclesiastes 12:13 NLT.  

In the Book of Proverbs, his collection of Godly wisdom, Solomon wrote, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” See Proverbs 3:5-12 NKJV. So few words, uncomplicated and simple, explain how life works. Be advised; Jeremiah the prophet, wrote, “O Lord, I know the way of a man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” Jeremiah 10:23 NKJV

I have observed a direct correlation between God’s direction and protection. When God directs your life, God protects your life. There is protection from my errors and misjudgments – from both the frailty of my flesh and inadequate knowledge – when I purposely seek to be directed by God’s Word (John 17:17 NIV), and guided by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13 NIV). “I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk yours steps will not be hindered, and when you run you will not stumble.” Proverbs 4:11-12 NKJV.

According to Solomon, this process is not complicated. In every aspect of your life, seek and submit to God’s will and wisdom first. A good result is assured; God will not only guide you upon the right path, He will direct your steps wisely on those paths. “The steps (and stops, I might suggest) of the Godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” Psalm 37:23-24 NLT. See Psalm 91:11-12 NASB.

“Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5 NKJV. Here is my conclusion: “As for God, His way is perfect.” Psalm 18:30 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you follow faithfully the God who leads you righteously.

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