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Success with Satisfaction

January 22nd, 2016

“Our only power and success come from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5 NLT.

Success without satisfaction is failure not success.

My thoughts and comments today are about “success with satisfaction.”

Success is a more complex subject than might first be assumed. Sir Winston Churchill captured the process as, “moving from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Ultimately, success requires an untiring enthusiasm and expectation. Let success be your goal, but make satisfaction your measurement of success.

Success is a common, even innate, desire of the human spirit. God wills your success. About that fact, the Bible is clear. “Beloved I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” 3 John 2 NASB. God wills you to enjoy financial sufficiency, ample health and strength, measured by a singular standard, “as your soul prospers.” “Our only power and success come from God.” Read 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 TLB. Apart from the spiritual dimension, whatever measure of success you achieve will be unsatisfactory. Success without satisfaction is failure not success.

Do not let the world around you dictate what success is for you. The apparent success of others may mislead you into assuming your success will look like theirs. The Bible warned, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12-13 NIV. The world measures success by tangible acquisitions, notable achievements, popular approval, others’ applause, or material gain. “Then I observed that most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless, like chasing the wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:4 NLT. The world’s standards are different from what God values.

You must decide to which you will give irreplaceable years of effort, energy, and expense. Establish your personal definition of success. Without Godly benchmarks for measuring, you may not know when you achieve it or recognize when you have not. Contentment and satisfaction with what you achieve is a more reliable measurement of success than the tangible rewards that result.

For me, where I find the greatest satisfaction and most prize any measure of “success” are family and ministry. I will count Gayle’s and my success by the fruit of our family’s lives, the faith and values we hold in common, enjoying and loving one another’s company, and our mutual love and service for the Lord and His Church. Our family is central to my definition of success with satisfaction.

As for ministry, I evaluate ministry on the twin bases of obedience and faithfulness to God’s call, having done what He asked and been faithful where He placed me. Honest appraisal reminds me that God’s grace and people’s graciousness have been the source of success.

Today, I pray for you to measure success by the satisfaction you find in doing God’s will.

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Celebrate Diversity

March 4th, 2015

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” Romans 12:6 NIV.

In  diversity, not conformity, is found unity.

My thoughts and comments today are that you “celebrate diversity.”

Your fingerprints are unique from every other person born before and after you. And science has discovered that every individual has a DNA, which is distinct from every other person before and after you. God loves diversity. When God created the universe, “He determined the number of the stars and called them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power.” Psalm 147:4-5 NIV. Read Isaiah 40:26 NIV. At creation, God’s love of diversity is displayed in the innumerable species of plants, animals, birds, and marine life. “Then God looked over all He had made and He saw that it was excellent in every way.” Genesis 1:31 NLT.

Could the disciples Jesus chose be any more diverse? They were fishermen, tax collectors, or political zealots. In the work of the Kingdom of God, “So in Christ . . we have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” Read Romans 12:3-8 NIV. “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. To John, the aging disciple imprisoned on Patmos, was shown the end of time, “Before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9 NIV.

In diversity, not conformity, is found true unity. Diversity is not to distinguish you from others and certainly not to separate you from them; God-given diversity is how you best complement others and contribute meaningfully to their well-being. You serve best out of the uniqueness God designed for you. “Accept one another then, for the glory of God, as Christ has accepted you.” Romans 15:6 TEV. Acceptance offers a powerful release for the full potential Christ has placed in each of us. The acceptance Jesus offers you, He intends for you to offer to others.

Why then are people inclined toward conformity and less accommodating of diversity? I think that tendency may be a vestige of our fallen natures. Something about our native insecurity makes us want to be like everyone else, or want others to conform to us. A copy of anything is never as good as the original from which it was copied. You are an original, uniquely planned and purposed by God. Don’t blend in with the surrounding culture. Don’t adapt to those around you.  Be yourself. Celebrate diversity; conformity is futile. “For we dare not compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12. Don’t compare yourself with others, which causes either pride or disappointment. Nor should you be different for the sake of being different.

The Apostle Paul described, “your spiritual act of worship,” with this Godly counsel, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2-3 NIV. The process of transformation into all that God designed you to be and gifted you to do removes the impulse to conform to the world’s patterns and ways. Be your best self to serve God and bless others.

Here’s the good news of a promised day to come, “Now are we the children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:2.

Today, my prayer for you is that you discover who God created you to be.

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Achieving Your Potential

November 4th, 2014

“Stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Colossians 4:12 NIV.

Spiritual disciplines determine spiritual potential.

My thoughts and comments today are about “achieving your potential.”

Your innate desire to be more than you have been is from God. You have a God-given potential to become more than you have imagined. Boundaries are limits imposed by yourself or others. You were created “in the image and likeness of God.” Imagine the potential, presently and eternally, that God has invested in you. The only uncertainty is whether you will recognize and realize the divine potential within you. When you think of “achieving your potential,” what do you envision? Your capabilities will likely be more than your accomplishments.

Recognition of potential is the prerequisite for achieving potential. Paul described Godly potential this way: “That you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Colossians 4:12 NIV. Do those words – “standing firm . . mature . . fully assured” – describe you? They can. Achieving your potential does not just happen; the process requires purpose and priority, as well as sacrifice. And add patience, perseverance, and obedience to that list. Your full potential, being “mature and fully assured,” rests upon your priority and practice of living fully within the will of God.

Spiritual maturity is the pathway to your potential. “. . that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12 NIV. Maturity is not measured by comparison with others. Paul warned of those who, “. . measure themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12. Jesus is the only adequate and accurate standard for comparison. Not only is Jesus the standard by which you will be measured, He is the willing accomplice for all of your spiritual accomplishment.

Spiritual maturity is the goal; becoming like Jesus is the process. Be patient; your spiritual potential is achieved progressively in a process that is lifelong. “As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory even more.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT. In the simplest of terms, spiritual maturity can be described as Christ-likeness. See Romans 8:28. There is very good news about this process. John wrote, “We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” Read 1 John 3:1-3 NIV. Usually, we seem unclear as to the practical implications of Christ-likeness. Here is a useful, practical definition that has helped me. “Spiritual maturity is rightly responding to life’s situations according to Biblical patterns of behavior.” In every circumstance, a good question to ask is, “What would Jesus do?”  Your natural tendencies do not lend themselves to spiritual achievement.

Spiritual disciplines govern spiritual potential. (1) God’s Word is essential to spiritual life. “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise . .” Colossians 3:16-17 NLT. Spiritual maturity is achieved through a growing knowledge of the Word of God and a deepening obedience to the ways of God. (2) Welcome the Holy Spirit to rule your heart. “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do . . let the Holy Spirit fill and control you . . making music to the Lord in your hearts. And you will always give thanks for everything to God.” Ephesians 5:17-20 NLT. See Galatians 5:8-10/22-23. (3) Make prayer a daily priority. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2 NIV. See Philippians 4:6-7 NIV. (4) Let love be your lifestyle. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John  13:34.

Today, my prayer for you is to refuse limits that prevent your being all that God intends.

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Creativity

March 20th, 2013

“God created man in His own image.” Genesis 1:27 NIV.

God is the Creator; you and I are to become His willing apprentices.

My thoughts and comments today are about “creativity.”

I admire people who understand and consecrate their creativity. Every person is gifted by God with creative abilities and potential, and that includes you. All persons are innately gifted in a diversity of ways and measures. On this, the Bible is clear.“God has given to each of you from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you.” Read 1 Peter 4:10-11 NLT.

I read an interesting quote about the creative process, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Safely in God’s hands, you do not fear your mistakes. Creativity is so much more than the expression of one’s native talent, brilliance, or artistry. Creativity is the profound submission of yourself as a simple vessel through which the genius and greatness of God can flow. God is the Creator; you and I are to become His willing apprentices. The more prepared and diligent you are as you offer yourself to Him, the more creative you become.

Giftedness may differ in its nature or expression, but God is the source and origin of all gifts, and their best and fullest expression is with His empowerment and direction. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father . .” James 1:17 NIV. Some use their giftedness constructively and profitably for the common good and well-being of themselves and others. “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.” Proverbs 18:16 NKJV. Others leave gifts undiscovered or dormant, or use them selfishly and destructively.

God is the Creator. The Bible begins with the establishment of that truth, and underscores it in the New Testament. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . God created man in His own image . . all things were created by Him and for Him.” Genesis 1:1/27/Colossians 1:16-17 NIV. How then could you have been “created in His image and in His likeness” without potential for creative expression? Creativity should be more natural to us than is often the case. Creativity has to be valued and nurtured. As children, teens, or adults, some are praised and encouraged to cultivate their giftedness, while others lack necessary reassurance or opportunity to discover and develop latent gifts.

Among family and friends, I marvel at the unique expressions of Godly creativity. Often I see something as ordinary while they see extraordinary possibilities awaiting their touch. My wife is creative in so many ways, but especially as a hostess who makes anyone feel special; our son is an artistic genius at design and construction of homes and churches; our daughter sees beauty in people and loves them until they see it in themselves. (And talking about the grandchildren’s variety of interests and abilities, well that might just sound like bragging.)

Our friend, Jill, is masterful at managing people and administrating projects with skill and efficiency. Devi is a gifted author, teacher, and interior decorator. Ken, a pastor and church builder, is a creative force of unlimited ideas to reach and serve people. Rick and Andrew express exceptional creativity in sharing Biblical insights and teaching clarity. Rod has more stories, ideas, and images in his heart to communicate with children than he has time to fully pursue. Michael is an unbridled reserve of energy with wide-ranging, artistic creativity. Paul’s decided, “We have different gifts according to the grace given us . . use [your] gift in proportion to [your] faith.” Romans 12:6-8 NIV.

Pray as did Jabez, “Bless me and enlarge my territory.” Read 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NIV. Creative potential is unlimited, unless you accept boundaries or allow others to impose them. Unwise comparisons with others will undermine your own God-given gifts and your confidence in using them. Read 2 Corinthians 10:12-13 NKJV. Be inspired by others’ gifts, not intimidated; share your gifts freely, not sparingly. He gave them; glorify Him with them.

My prayer for you today is this: serve God and others well with the giftedness He gives.

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Compete or Contribute?

September 3rd, 2010

“Regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 NAS

To appreciate others genuinely will never depreciate you.”

My thoughts today ask, “compete or contribute?”

Competition is healthy, until it is unhealthy. Healthy competition is when persons or teams are competing fairly and wholeheartedly on the field or floor, but unhealthy when their rivalry spills over after the game, gets vocal and involves name calling. That’s when it’s ugly. Now everyone should want to be their best, but that is not the same as always needing to be the best! Life allows you to choose whether you will compete or prefer to contribute. Long term, you will be more satisfied by contributing to others’ well-being, happiness, and achievements.

Jesus disciples seemed unduly competitive, often overly preoccupied with comparisons. They argued about, “Who is the greatest?” Luke 12:24 NIV. Even at the most inappropriate times and places, like in Jerusalem the night Jesus would later be betrayed. They seemed always to be jockeying for position, maneuvering to be first in line, seen as best in the Kingdom, worrying about their name at the top of any list. Sound like anyone you know? Still happens today.

In his speech upon being enshrined in the NBA Hall of Fame, Michael Jordan, recognized as the greatest in his sport, could not resist his need to again elevate himself above others, even reminding coaches and fellow competitors from whom he felt slighted years before. When unrivaled achievement called for him to be grateful and gracious, he would not lay aside his competitiveness. In depreciating others, some sports writers thought he diminished himself.

That will happen when your focus shifts to yourself and away from others. The Bible has a simple answer, humility. Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is simply thinking more of others. To appreciate others genuinely will never depreciate you. In God’s eyes, that attitude elevates you. See 1 Peter 5:5-6 NIV. Paul counsels, “Be devoted to one another . . honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:NIV. Another translation of that verse reads, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” Now that’s an arena for healthy competition, trying to outdo one another in giving first place to one another. Read 1 Corinthians 12:25-27 NAS. We are all on the same team!

Does it surprise you that Jesus never corrected his disciples for seeking greatness? Jesus simply redirected their path for getting there. Jesus taught, “True greatness is not shown by how many serve you, but measured by how many you choose to serve.” See Luke 22:24-27 NIV. Serving Christ is best evidenced when you switch from competing with others to finding delight in complementing others’ efforts by contributing your interest, time, and assistance generously. Compete or contribute? Your choice!

My prayer for you today is that you have a servant’s heart, happy to see another be first.

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