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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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Accomplishments

July 1st, 2013

“I have glorified You on the earth.” John 17:4 NKJV.

Accomplishments only matter when they have eternal importance and consequence.

My thoughts and comments today are about “accomplishments.”

In one degree or another, you will be measured by your accomplishments. The Sunday paper evidences who and what society considers important. On the front page are the news makers, notable for their public contributions, or notorious for their public failures. The Financial section acknowledges those of acquired wealth and business success. The Sports section boasts the prowess of athletes who excel beyond others. The Social pages portray the enviable lifestyles and social connections of the wealthy and well known. The Entertainment section showcases the fleeting fame of celebrities. Your accomplishments may seem less worthy of public acclaim.

People wrongly measure themselves and others by arbitrary and inaccurate standards. The important thing you must decide is the qualifying standard by which you and your accomplishments will be measured. Jesus held little concern for people’s evaluation of His ministry. His words reveal His accomplishments, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” John 17:4 NKJV. Simple standards, easily evaluated, eternally consequential.

Jesus glorified God on earth. Everything Jesus did was to glorify God – Jesus’ manner of life, “I always do what pleases [the Father].” (John 8:29 NIV) – His words, “I speak to the world those things which I heard from [the Father].” (John 8:26 NKJV) – His actions, “The Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing.” (John 5:19 NIV) – and His values and priorities, “I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” John 5:30 NKJV. Such accomplishments are exemplary.

Jesus accomplished His assignment. Jesus looked to Father God with perfect confidence, “I have finished the work which You gave me to do.” John 17:4 NKJV. May it never be said of you as has been said of some, “When all is said and done, more was said than ever had been done.” Live to have no regrets. Promises are made but fewer fulfilled; plans considered but not implemented; eager beginnings yet meager completions; unfinished tasks defining uncompleted lives.

Accomplishments only matter when they have eternal importance and consequence. Invest your time, effort, money, and influence in people, not things; people matter eternally. What are you doing that will make the world a better place when you are gone? When you stand before God, every other accomplishment will pale in comparison, except for what was done according to His will, in His name, and for His glory. Jesus’ advice? “Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven . .“ Read Matthew 6:19-21 NIV.

At the end of life, others’ opinions matter little; God’s true evaluation matters entirely. May you hear God’s benediction of your accomplishments and benevolent welcome into His eternal fellowship, “Well done, good and faithful servant . . enter into the joy of your Lord.” Matthew 25:23 NKJV. John glimpsed a bit of Heaven and described those there with these words, “Happy are those who die in the service of the Lord! Yes, indeed. They will enjoy rest from their hard work, because the results of their service go with them.” Revelation 14:13 TEV.

My prayer for you today is that your accomplishments please God more than people.

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Remarkably Original

September 21st, 2010

“Train up a child in keeping with his individual gift or bent.” Proverbs 22:6 Amplified Bible

My thoughts today are about being “remarkably original.”

Today the World Population Clock estimates the world’s population to be 6.87 billion people, and among all of that number, you are unique, a remarkable original. Now, that’s amazing! There are no two persons whose fingerprints are identical! During the worst of blizzards and in the deepest of snowdrifts, there are no two snowflakes alike. And children, even from the same family, though similar are never exactly the same. Each individual has a singular and identifiable DNA that differentiates and distinguishes him or her apart from all others.

You are definably unique – remarkably handmade and custom designed by God! Read Psalm 139:13-16 NIV. Temperaments vary. Abilities differ. Interests are unique. Personalities are distinctive. Aptitudes are individual. Assignments are diverse. God’s limitless creativity made you that way, altogether unique, remarkably original. Imagine a God who can do that!

By divine design, you are “one of a kind.” There is no one anywhere who is exactly what you are. God must have had a reason to do this way beyond “just because He could.” Here’s why all this matters. I think uniqueness means that God has something for you to be and do, which no one else can do as you will, for which you are especially purposed and divinely prepared; it is critical that you dedicate yourself to God’s calling and gifting because there is no one else who can fill your place in His world except you.

Parents, teachers, pastors, and friends – anyone in Godly authority – have a responsibility to study you carefully and handle you wisely, to help you discover how you are unique, and why God has made you so. Then you can learn to value and celebrate how God has made you, and use what God has given you for the good of others. You compliment your Creator by striving to become the best that you can be, for the glory of God. “You are not your own, therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:20.

As it relates to a work of art, every copy made is worth substantially less than the original from which it was copied. God made you an original; some people are willing to be copies. Don’t devalue yourself by trying to be exactly like anyone else, nor how anyone else wants you to be. You are already have a Creator; you don’t need an amateur wanna-be messing it up. Doesn’t it seem ironic that people either try to be poor copies of others, or attempt to be different from everyone else, often in the most bizarre of ways?

Be yourself! Be yourself in the wonderful way that God made you, in His image and likeness. A couple of years ago, the Army recruited young men and women by challenging them, Be all that you can be.” That’s a worthy goal that will serve you for a lifetime.

My prayer for you today is: that you find joy in what God is working to do with your life.

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