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Rules and Standards

April 12th, 2018

God’s wisdom is the path to His richest blessings.

 “[God’s] discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace

for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “rules and standards.”

Life is better with rules. Rules are essential, establishing boundaries and measuring achievement. Yet, very few of us appreciate rules in the way we should. People seem to bristle when too many rules seem restrictive and imposed. We all tend to resist when we feel less free to do as we want to do. Consider this. Without rules, athletic competition would be havoc. That’s why there are rules and referees, grades and graduation requirements, right and wrong, rewards and penalties.

I can’t imagine a world without rules. With no rules of the road, driving would be dangerous. In daily interactions, the bold would overpower the timid. The strong would take advantage of the weak. The wealthy would neglect the poor. For a clear reason, the Ten Commandments were not called the, “Ten Recommendations.” Nor were they meant to be. Out of His love for you, not His love for law, God commanded those rules to live by.

Marriages are best with mutually understood rules. Families need clearly stated rules. Friendships succeed with mutually accepted rules. Employers and employees require agreement on rules. Individuals need to establish standards by which they are willing to be evaluated. I am grateful that my Dad believed in rules. Admittedly, I didn’t appreciate those as much while a teen. But Dad’s rules were always clear and fair – and enforced or rewarded. They made me wiser and better than I would otherwise have been. Rules establish safe boundaries for your benefit, not to limit or restrict you, except for your guidance and protection. Rules can protect and keep you safe. Maybe it would help to think of standards rather than rules. I see three occasions for rules and standards.

You need people in your life who help you learn and establish Godly standards. That is the value of parents, teachers, friends, civil and governmental authorities, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit. They establish rules that benefit all. The Bible reminds us that, “The authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.” Read Romans 13.3-6 NIV. Respect rules, embrace appropriate boundaries, and appreciate their practical need for making your life better, measuring your achievements, rewarding your efforts, and keeping you safer.

The rule of law protects the lawful and restrains the lawless. “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17 NKJV. In your life, whose opinion and counsel offer you trusted guidance, Godly wisdom, and a spiritual haven in uncertain times?

True liberty is not without restraints, and never without limits. I had a fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Cook, who taught our class a simple principle about boundaries and liberties, “Your liberty to swing your fist without restraint ends at the tip of another’s nose.” What a great rule for fourth graders, as well as kids, teens, and adults of all ages. Friends and family help set standards of behavior for one another. Often it is more kind than cruel to say no. Choose wisely the bounds you will honor, and associate with friends who respect them, and thereby respect you.

At all times, you must require and embrace boundaries for yourself. The best decisions you make were made before any situation needing rules presented itself. The right decision is never too late, but it’s best when made early. Paul wrote, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. Everything is permissible, but not everything is edifying.” I Corinthians 10:23 NAS. Choose what is profitable, in order to edify others and glorify God. God’s Word marks the places where you will find your greatest liberties, and where you and others find safety.

When I was first preparing for ministry, my Dad taught me a very practical and valuable lesson about establishing non-negotiable, personal boundaries, for success in pastoral ministry. My Dad’s advice was invaluable, “Many who look to you for leadership will likely exceed the liberties you permit yourself; so be wise and measured in all you allow yourself to say and do. And others who follow you may stop short of your disciplines, so be careful, always seeking to excel.”

There will always be others observing and following you. Jesus was clear, “I have set before you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15 NIV. You are always safe when following Jesus’ example. Paul was clear as well with his instruction to young Timothy. ”Be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 NKJV. Be sure that the rules you expect others to observe are a priority in your own life and relational interactions.

Even when you do not think so, someone is always following you, Many years ago, a man made this observation of me, “Pastor, you are not hard to follow because you do not make sudden turns.” I am not sure whether he meant that as a compliment, but I accepted it as one. I want to be easy to follow for my family and for those who trust my leadership. My objective is simple. I want my family and friends to know what my values are, where I am going, Who I am following, and how to get where God is leading.

“God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later, however, [His] discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:10-11 NIV. I like that. In your life, His rules produce a, “harvest of righteousness and peace,” for those who accept and follow the Father’s instruction and disciplines. Anything that God requires of you is for your benefit, not His. Embracing God’s wisdom is the path to His richest blessings.

Today I pray for you to establish Godly standards. His rules are given to protect, not confine you.

Christian Communications 2018

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Joyful Praises

April 7th, 2014

“Shout joyful praises to God . . tell the world how glorious He is.” Psalm 66:2 NLT.

Life is best described in the vocabulary of praise.

My thoughts and comments today are about “joyful praises.”

In every life, there is more for which to be grateful and joyful than you might first realize. Yet, there are occasions when life is challenging, when things do not go as you wish. At such moments, your focus may shift to regrets, disappointments, and uncertain fears about what’s ahead. But there is an alternative. You neither choose not control what happens to you, but you can choose what happens in you. Guard and govern wisely the domain of your thoughts, emotions, and decisions. Nothing intrudes there without your permission to enter or remain.

The Psalms overflow with man’s honest struggles and victories, but always declare God’s praise. Reading Psalms, my impression is that the word, “praise,” occurs more frequently there than any other book of the Bible. Life is best described in the vocabulary of praise. There are many who will only know God as you describe Him to be.

Fittingly, this Psalm begins with effusive rejoicing and praise. “Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth! Sing about the glory of His name! Tell the world how glorious He is.” Psalm 66:1-2 NLT. Praise is more volitional than emotional, a lifestyle that recognizes the Person and power of God and is not subject to your mood of the moment.

Read all of this Psalm. Here are my observations of this Psalm. As well as what you say to others about God, praise is your personal conversation with God. ”Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your deeds! Your enemies cringe before Your mighty power. Everything on earth will worship You; they will sing Your praises, shouting Your name in glorious songs.’” Read Psalm 66:3-4 NLT.

The Psalms are for all seasons. The psalmist seems unable to contain his joy. He rehearses the record of God’s faithfulness in the national history of Israel and all nations. “Come see what our God has done, what awesome miracles He does for His people . . for by His great power He rules forever and ever.” Read Psalm 66:5-7. Praise shines brightest and rings truest in life’s difficult times.

Joyful praises can be the expression of heart with which you live on days both good and bad. “You have tested us, O God . . purified us . . captured us . . we went through fire and flood. But You brought us to a place of great abundance.” Read Psalm 66:8-15 NLT. Praise remembers the disciplines of God while rehearsing God’s faithful character. See Psalm 100:4-5 NIV. Prayer changes things but praise changes you. See Psalm 34:1 NKJV.

Praise gives voice to your personal story. “Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He did for me. For I cried out to Him for help, praising Him as I spoke . . He paid attention to my prayer.” Read Psalm 66:16-20 NLT. Praise is the natural companion for effective prayer.

My prayer for you today is that His praise flows naturally and gratefully from your heart.

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Being Submissive

February 7th, 2014

“God blesses those who are gentle and lowly.” Matthew 5:5 NLT.

Your natural desire is to be assertive; the spiritual choice is to be submissive.

My thoughts and comments today are about “being submissive.”

Recently, I heard a person described as “having lost their filter.” That could probably be true of any of us some of the time. Without deliberation, words can be inconsiderate. With some people it’s a matter of words not being monitored; for a few it may be strong opinions not being moderated; for others it could be emotions not being managed. A measure of disciplined self-restraint is wise.

From Jesus’ teaching in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), we have thus far considered the “poor in spirit – those who prize nothing of their own to boast, and to whom God gives all He has to offer,” and “those who mourn a pain they cannot bear, to whom God gives what He alone can provide.” Let’s now examine those Jesus described as, “meek.” They possess, “the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:4 NKJV.

(3) Being submissive. To those who embrace submission, an expansive circle welcomes them. “God blesses those who are gentle and lowly, for the whole earth will belong to them.” Matthew 5:5 NLT. In his letter to Titus, Paul wrote, “Remind the people to be . .  peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” Titus 3:1-2 NIV. That’s quite a challenge for all of us, but possible when you choose to walk in obedience. Submission brings you into the blessings of the disciplines of God. Your natural desire is to be assertive; your spiritual decision is to become submissive to God. Solomon discovered, ”It is better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.” Proverbs 16:32 NLT.

The character qualities of being “gentle and lowly” describe the attribute of meekness, not to be confused with weakness despite the phonetic similarity. The two are nothing alike. A meek person is mindful of others’ rights, but their own responsibility. Meekness requires moral and spiritual strength. The Greeks described meekness as a powerful horse who submitted to the bit and reins. See James 3:3 NIV. Biblically, meekness is defined as, “disciplined strength under control.” 1 Peter 2:19-23 NIV.

“The meek are those who quietly submit themselves to God . .  who follow His directions, and comply with His designs, and are gentle towards all men; who can bear provocation; either remain silent or return a soft answer; and who can be cool when others are hot; and in their patience keep possession of their own souls.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

Jesus is the prime example; “Learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29 NKJV. Self-control is not discovered within yourself; such ability comes from obeying the Word of God and submitting to the Holy Spirit. See Galatians 5:22-23 NIV. “Godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance . .” Read 1 Timothy 4:8-10 NIV.

God blesses those who are willing to live exemplary, Christ-like lives, “. . for the whole earth will belong to them.” I am not altogether sure of all that His promise involves, but it is true and will be grand.

My prayer for you today is that you discover the joy of a meek and gentle spirit.

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Boundaries and Liberties

May 27th, 2009

“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.” 1 Corinthians 10:23 NAS

Choose wisely the bounds you have chosen and friends who respect them.”

My thoughts today are about “boundaries and liberties.”

Everybody needs rules. Almost nobody likes them. God gave the Ten Commandments, not the ten suggestions. He gave them out of love for you, not love for law. In athletics and academics, as in life itself, rules allow everyone to compete fairly, and provide a means for achievement to be measured and compared. That’s why there are rules and referees, grades and graduation requirements, right and wrong.

Rules establish boundaries. My Dad believed in rules, always clear but fair. They made me wiser and better than I would otherwise have been. Boundaries are for your benefit, not to limit or restrict you. They protect and keep you safe. Maybe it would help to think of boundaries rather than rules. I see three occasions for boundaries.

There are times you need people to set boundaries for you. That is the value of parents, teachers, friendships, and civil and governmental authorities. They set boundaries that are to benefit all. “For government is God’s servant to you for good.” Romans 13.4. Respect and appreciate them for doing so. Laws are to protect the lawful and restrain the lawless. “Obey your leaders, and submit to them for they watch for your souls as those who will give account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13:17.

Sometimes you will need to determine boundaries for others. True liberty is not without limits, never without restraint. I had a fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Cook, who taught our class a simple principle about boundaries and liberties, “Your liberty to swing your fist without restraint ends at the tip of another’s nose!” Friends often set boundaries for one another. Often it is more kind to say no, not cruel. Choose wisely the bounds you have chosen, and friends who respect them.

At all times, you must set boundaries for yourself. The best decisions you make were made before the situation needing a boundary presented itself. The right decision is never too late, but it’s best when made early. Paul wrote, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. Everything is permissible, but not everything is edifying.” I Corinthians 10:23 NAS. God’s boundaries mark the places where you will find your greatest liberties, and others find safety.

When I was first preparing for ministry, my Dad taught me something very valuable about boundaries for pastoral ministry, “Those you lead will likely exceed your liberties, so be wise. And others who follow may stop short of your disciplines, so be careful, seeking to excel.”

Someone is always following you, even when you do not think so. Many years ago, a man made this observation of me, “Pastor, you are not hard to follow because you do not make sudden turns.” I am not sure that he meant that as a compliment, but I accepted it as one. I want to be easy to follow for my family and for those who trust my leadership. I want them to know where I am going, who I am following, and how to get where God is leading.

My prayer for you today is: know that boundaries are to protect you, not confine you.

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