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Faults and Amazing Grace

August 23rd, 2017

Love sees what others do not care enough to look for.

 “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.”

Romans 5:20

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Faults and Amazing Grace.”

We all have faults aplenty, if anyone is looking for them. And it is not uncommon to recognize faults in others that we ignore in ourselves. The challenge of any relationship is choosing to keep in view the things that first caused love or friendship to be valued. As time passes, it is easy to notice more things that are other than were expected. Those are less numerous and probably smaller than what you might appreciate, but a wrong focus can soon cause another’s graces to seem overshadowed.That’s when you will be tempted to highlight another’s supposed shortcomings, much to their displeasure and the gradual diminishing of your relationship.

When a person seems oblivious to a beloved’s imperfections, it is explained that, “Love is blind.” I suggest that God’s love is not blind at all, but chooses to overlook what is contrary to love. How would you otherwise explain this verse? “Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8 NIV.

This is the real question. How could God see your sinfulness, and yet love you? Do you ever think that strange? Exceptional? Our humanity waits until love has cause and justification to be offered, but is easily revoked when disappointed. God’s only justification was your need for His love and ample forgiveness. Paul marveled at God grace. “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” . . “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” Romans 5:20/2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJV.

Many years ago, Dottie Rambo wrote a touching song of testimony that declared, “He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.” That kind of love, from God or man, has an relentless power to transform a human heart and rescue a ruined life. Mark reports Jesus’ encounter with a young man of wealth and authority, who sincerely asked how he might inherit eternal life. Painful moments after Jesus’ response, he would walk away sorrowfully. The price seemed too high for him to accept. “But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Read Mark 10:17-22 NKJV.

Though more than fifty years ago, I vividly remember my Dad’s sermon about “the rich, young ruler.” As a young teen, his words painted an unforgettable picture in my heart of a young man walking away, shoulders slumped with sorrow, and his back turned to Jesus. My Dad’s description has influenced my lifetime, lest anything cause me to turn my back on Jesus’ offer of eternal life. No sacrifice is too great as an exchange for eternal life.

While writing Peter’s memory of the encounter, Mark observed, “And Jesus looked at him, and loved him.” Mark 10:21 NIV. Make no mistake. Others saw his wealth and position and would have received or rejected him on that basis. Jesus saw more. He saw a heart searching for real life, and loved him, before he chose and even after he chose unwisely. Do not make the mistake than young man made.

After explaining his notable, religious pedigree and his brutal, relentless persecution of the young church, Paul wrote, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord,  for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.” See Philippians 3:4-14 NKJV/Galatians 1:1-16 NIV. No wonder they call grace amazing!

Today, I pray for you to love others, believe the best of them, and show them grace.

Christian Communications 2017

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Affirmation and Expectations

August 19th, 2017

Affirmation is more powerful than expectation. 

 “Look for the best in each other and do your best to bring it out.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15 MSG

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Affirmation and Expectations.”

In my observation, a person’s reasonable expectations of others are typically proven to be true, whether for the better or worse. Usually, a child or teen lives up to what is communicated as expected. Of course, there are times that generality may fail to apply, just as happens with adults. But people who look for good in others usually find good. Conversely, people who have lower expectations for others ordinarily find what they’re looking for, as well.

When people truly like people and themselves strive to be their best, they typically assume goodness in others also. This seems supported by the Apostle Paul’s description to Titus, “Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted.” Titus 1:15 NLT. If you expect people to disappoint, they probably will. Check your own heart first. Sometimes, what you readily see in others may merely be a reflection of your own heart.

Faults ignored in yourself can seem glaring in others. With deliberate exaggeration, Jesus highlighted the folly of ignoring your faults while judging another’s faults. “Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye . . when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? . . first, get rid of the log in your own eye, then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” Luke 6:41-42 NLT. Specks and logs. Take care of the worst first.

The Bible provides a clear objective. “Look for the best in each other and always do your best to bring it out . . this is the way that God wants you who live in Christ Jesus to live.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15/18 MSG. Do you consistently look for the best in others? Inclination, interest, attention, and a listening heart are essential relational skills to see the best when others are too preoccupied elsewhere to notice. God asks you to see the good in others that might otherwise be overlooked. You can reinforce that good with your benevolent expectation and sincere affirmation. In children and adults alike, what is affirmed is repeated. God’s grace in another’s life deserves to be affirmed. Affirmation is more powerful than expectation. You may not always get what you expect from others, but you will likely see what you affirm.

Along my spiritual journey, there have been many gracious people who saw things of God in me that I dared not assume for myself. They affirmed those qualities and abilities, and then tirelessly supported their further growth and development. My friend, Don, reminded me of once saying to him years earlier, “Thank you for not letting me be what I would have been without your friendship.” My words were accurate; his expectations and affirmation prompted my desire to be better and encouraged my efforts to do better. I really hope, in some measure, I have been that kind of friend for others.

To my parents, teachers, friends, and especially my remarkable wife and family whose affirmation and companionship make me better, thank you. Consider whose friendship makes you a better person than might have happened without them. Whatever credit accrues to you for character or accomplishments is rightly shared with them. Thank God for them, and be sure to thank them. And do better than tell them; write them so they can read it again and again and be continuously encouraged.

Today, I pray for you to recognize the many contributors to your achievements.

Christian Communications 2017

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The Nature of Love

June 5th, 2015

“Love always looks for the best.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 MSG.

Love has the power to rescue a ruined life and heal a broken heart.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the nature of love.”

People usually see what they expect to find. If you look for people’s faults you will find them plentiful and with that as your focus you will see little else but faults. We all have enough of those if anyone looks for them. But that’s not what real love does. Love chooses a benevolent focus.

The challenge of any friendship or marriage is how to keep in view what first prompted your friendship and love to be given. If not careful, over time you begin to notice small things that are other than you expected. A wrong focus can cause another’s graces to appear overshadowed by their flaws. That’s when you are tempted to “fix” what you see as the other’s faults, much to their displeasure and the detriment of your relationship. Our humanity seems to withdraw love until justification is undeniable.

When a person seems not to see another’s imperfections or faults, it is explained that, “Love is blind.” I would argue that real love is not blind at all, but chooses to overlook what is contrary to love. In the great passage about love, Paul wrote, “Love trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 MSG. You can only love others that way when you “always look for the best.” Love is not blind, but rather looks for what others do not care enough to see.

Otherwise, how would you explain God’s love? “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. God’s only justification was His own love and the depth of your need. Years earlier, Dottie Rambo wrote a touching song of testimony that declared, “He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.” Love has the power to rescue a ruined life and heal a broken heart. That is the nature of love. “Since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11 NLT.

You assume others will ignore your peccadilloes. If you want to be loved, remember, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (Luke 6:31 NAS), as well as an irrevocable principle, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will reap generously,” (2 Corinthians 9:6 NIV), and you determine the measure of love you will receive by choosing how you will give, “Whatever measure you use in giving will be used to measure what is given back to you.” Luke 6:38 NLT. Sow love extravagantly.

Today, I pray for you to love enough to look for the best in others as they will in you. EDL pix faith hope love

 

 

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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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Errors and Faults

October 11th, 2013

“Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults.” Psalm 19:12 NKJV.

Good friends can help you; God’s Word will guide you.

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

Mistakes are a part of life, made by imperfect people in an imperfect world. “No one can see his own errors; deliver me, Lord, from hidden faults! Keep me safe, also, from willful sins.” Psalm 19:12-13 TEV. Try to avoid mistakes when possible, manage them when they occur, and always learn from them because you will make others. May your mistakes be small, quickly remedied, and cause no loss to you or others.

Let me share a few practical things I have learned from mistakes, which I admit have not been infrequent. Serving in a conspicuous and public position, my errors of judgment have not gone unnoticed, but thankfully have usually been viewed with understanding – even grace and forgiveness from God and people. Mistakes are not permanent or final unless you allow them to be.

Don’t be afraid of making a mistake. Fearing mistakes is the surest way to make one. You will make mistakes, small and large. No one can prevent every mistake, but you should be clear about obvious choices of right and wrong. “Anyone then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” James 4:17 NIV. Better that your mistakes are errors of judgment, rather than failure of character. Character failures are far worse.

Admit your mistakes. Why try to hide them? That never works well. See Proverbs 28:13-14 NLT. Remove any pretension that you are incapable of making them. A mistake is rarely any surprise to those who know you well, and doesn’t typically matter to those who don’t. Failure to admit your mistake is a vain attempt to preserve an illusion that you are incapable of being wrong. Sadly, that is not true of any of us. Why waste valuable time acting as though it is? The quickest way to correct an error is to recognize it, learn, and move on.

Learn from your mistakes. It is said that mistakes are often the price of progress. “Learn from science. In science mistakes always precede the discovery of truth.” Author William Saroyan. It is not how few or many mistakes you make that matters; it is how few or many times you make the same mistakes again. Learn from your failures so as not to repeat them. Good friends will help you; God’s Word will guide you. Read Psalm 119:9-11 NKJV. Welcome honest input from others you trust, valuing their objectivity, experience, and advice. See Proverbs 19:20-21 NIV. No one can make decisions for you, but the best decisions will include wise counsel. See Proverbs 11:14 NKJV.

Mistakes always cost somebody something. Limit them when you can, and correct them quickly when they occur. Don’t be cavalier about your own mistakes as though they don’t matter; they matter to someone. If you depreciate their seriousness, you will not be as careful to avoid them. Be more generous with others’ mistakes than you allow for your own. Don’t be casual about them. Humility and honesty are the best way forward.

My prayer for you today is that you learn from your mistakes and rise above every failure.

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