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Posts Tagged ‘habits’

Vital Signs

April 17th, 2015

“[Physical] exercise profits a little, but Godliness is profitable for all things.” 1 Timothy 4:8 NKJV.

Your eternal soul warrants more thought and care than your mortal body merits.

My thoughts and comments today are about “vital signs.”

EDL graphic vital signsHealthy habits are a wise investment in the quality and length of your life. There is no debate about the practical wisdom of being health conscious – practicing a healthy lifestyle, managing your weight, eating properly, exercising regularly, eliminating stress, reducing worry, getting enough rest, and having a medical check-up periodically. The same attention would be good for your soul, giving deliberate consideration of habits that contribute to your spiritual health and well-being, or lack thereof. “I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is.” 3 John 2 NLT.

There is an incongruity to being so careful about your physical health which affects only the limited years of your lifetime, while being careless even for a moment about your soul’s health that impacts eternity, years without end. “[Physical] exercise profits a little, but Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8. Your eternal soul warrants more thought and care than your mortal body merits. See Matthew 16:25-26 NIV. I have observed that some people follow their exercise regimen with more commitment, priority, frequency, regularity, and passion than they give to their spiritual disciplines. That could be expected of non-church attenders, but should that ever be true of a Christian?

Let me suggest some practical, spiritual vital signs. Evaluate your priorities. “Live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” Matthew 6:33 NLT.  Keep your mind clean and clear. “Those who live according to the Spirit, [set their minds] on the things of the Spirit . . to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Romans 8:5-6. Read Philippians 4:8. Nurture a healthy faith. “For it is impossible to please God without faith.” Hebrews 11:6 NLT.

Practice gratitude. “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Lose unhealthy weight. “Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.” Hebrews 12:1. Welcome healthy exercise. “Discipline yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto those who are exercised by it.” Hebrews 12:11.

Forgive easily and generously. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32. Give God your worries. “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.” Philippians 4:6 NLT. Cultivate trust. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not upon your own understanding. Commit your way to the Lord, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5.

Develop faithfulness. “It is required of a steward that he is found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2. Make prayer a priority. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” James 5:16 NLT. These are not meant to be an exhaustive list for spiritual health, but suggest spiritually significant “vital signs” the Holy Spirit will examine when you invite Him to do so.

Today, my prayer for you is a good report from the Great Physician that all is well.

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Irreplaceable Influence

October 30th, 2014

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”  Philippians 1:3 NIV.

Cultivate friends whose lives and faith encourage who you want to be.

My thoughts and comments today are about “irreplaceable influence.”

My friend, Don, told me of a conversation many years earlier when I had said to him, “Thank you for not letting me be what I would have been without you.” Though I do not remember saying those words, I trust that I did. I aspire for those words to accurately reflect my gratefulness to God and appreciation for my family and friends whose love and lives have made me want to be better than I would otherwise have been. Anything noteworthy is owed to others’ kindness and God’s mercy; my faults and foibles are mine alone.

There are no such “self-made men or women,” and if there were they would have little of which to boast. “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17 NLT. Along the path of my life, people made a difference in who I am still becoming. People invested in my life, as well as our marriage, family, and ministry. Often selflessly and sacrificially, friends shared irreplaceable time, priceless experience, practical counsel, needed correction, and patient forgiveness. Such friends are above price, God’s gifts, for whom I realize how important they have been, and continue to be. Some people are alongside for a season of life, others for a lifetime, but all are irreplaceable in the process of God’s work in your life. As is true of all of us, I remain a work in progress.

Families provide a legacy. From most of mine, I learned how to live; from a rare few, I learned how not to live. My grandparents had much to do with shaping my earliest years. Looking back, I learned the privilege and priority of family from them and the security of being loved and willed to succeed. My parents taught me about my Christian faith by their Godly example; the consistency of their lives confirmed their words. Still today, my convictions and choices are influenced by my Mom’s songs and my Dad’s sermons. My wife has modeled caring and selflessness that challenges my desire to be more than I have been. Our children and grandchildren enrich our home and family every day by sharing our values, passions, and service to God.

Teachers contributed to who I am becoming. A fourth grade teacher taught me a love for language and learning; a Sunday School teacher invited me to know and love Jesus; a college professor changed my life through his friendship and counsel; a minister’s diligence and loyalty to the Word of God created my passion to know and share truth faithfully; friends became mentors giving Godly counsel. The example and personal availability of so many spared me from the mistakes I would have made and unwise paths I might have taken. Others’ unshakable belief gave me the courage to venture further than I would have dared without their company.

In the three congregations we have served, Church families made ministry a lifelong joy. People have been as gracious as God has been generous. Our marriage and children are blessed with the kindness of those we served, as well as those who partnered in ministry alongside us. All have made our journey more safe and satisfying than would have been otherwise, and Gayle and I are grateful to God and you.

Life apart from good and Godly friends is unimaginable. Indelible impressions formed my habits and heart. Our years have been graced by a quality of valued friendships I could never have anticipated. Now, across a lifetime of years our friendships are counted as Gayle’s and my greatest treasure. Walking without such pleasant company and invaluable encouragement is unthinkable. God planned that from the beginning.

With intentionality, cultivate people whose lives and faith encourage who you want to be and to what you are called to do. Such friends bring to mind Paul’s words, “I thank my God every time I remember you . .  And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be . . filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:3-11 NIV. To a company of people, I gratefully say, “Thank you for not letting me be what I would have been without you.” By the grace of God, I hope to be that kind of person to others.

Today, my prayer for you is to develop friendships whose influence you find irreplaceable.

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Profit and Loss

February 20th, 2013

 “I consider everything a loss compared to . .  knowing Christ.” Philippians 3:8 NIV.

Don’t settle for what is merely acceptable; require of yourself what is admirable.

A business owner only knows how well or how poorly they are doing after considering both their profits and losses. It’s pretty simple really; everything is either a profit or a loss. It is very important to understand which is which. I think the same is true of life. Socrates, a Greek philosopher (469-399 BC), said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

The Apostle Paul examined his life, concluding, “everything [else is] a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ.” Philippians 3:8 NIV.  Spiritually, he understood profit and loss. Paul evaluated his best efforts and good works, “I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with Him.” Vs. 7-9 NLT.

You have to turn loose of the stuff you don’t need. Found written in a martyred missionary’s diary, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which cannot lose.” Paul understood this important principle, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial . . not everything is constructive.” 1 Corinthians 10:23 NIV. Don’t settle for what is merely acceptable; require of yourself what is admirable. Can you identify areas of your life that are either profitable or loss to you, or a mixture of both?

Life is about profit and loss; examination differentiates between those. Some losses are short term; others are long term. Long term losses are unaffordable. With profits, you should apply yourself where those continue to return welcome dividends for a lifetime. For me, habits and friendships come first to mind. Habits that add to your well-being are profitable; habits that don’t are neutral at best or harmful at worst. The earlier in your life that you choose and solidify beneficial habits, the better your life will be. Actually, you are the product of the habits you allow, some established in your youngest years. Some of those will serve you well; others could cost you dearly.

Whatever good habits may cost you in the short term – in the manner of commitment, discipline, time, effort, or sacrifice – is a small price to pay for what becomes an enduring investment. Personal and spiritual disciplines are not produced by whim. Deferred satisfaction is the product of hard choices requiring daily reinforcement. Critically essential habits are those that nurture spiritual growth and development such as: prayer, fasting, Bible Study, Scripture memorization, Bible meditation, Christian fellowship, giving, and serving. Read 2 Peter 2:2-9 NKJV. Those practices are profitable. “I want you to be able always to recognize the highest and the best, and to live sincere and blameless lives until the day of Jesus Christ. I want to see your lives full of true goodness, produced by the power that Jesus Christ gives you to the praise and glory of God.” Philippians 1:9-11 JBPhillips.

Friendships also have to be weighed as to their value. The more prayerfully and carefully you choose the friendships you cultivate, the richer your life can be. If you merely accumulate acquaintances as the years pass, you may find later in life that they can be an unexplainable mixture of both profit and loss. The Bible warns, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV.Conversely, good company encourages good character.

Some relationships can imperceptibly diminish the best in you, until your unnoticed loss is no longer ignorable. A person really is known by the company they keep. I was taught to choose friends whose example inspired me to be better. My dear friend, Don, reminded me that I once thanked him, “for not letting me be what I would have been without you.” That would be equally true because of my family, friends, and church we served. Nor can I imagine my life without Jesus. For Him, I want to be profitable in others’ lives as many have been in mine.

My prayer for you this day is: recognize what blesses your life; avoid what hinders.   

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Attachments

October 29th, 2012

“Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.” Acts 28:5 NIV.

Habits are attachments you held too long and a little too closely.

My thoughts and comments today are about “attachments.”

Along the journey, we all accumulate attachments, not all of which are beneficial. It seems that we hold too tightly to so much we ought to release, and hold too lightly to things irreplaceable. Habits are attachments you held too long and a little too closely. When you find yourself unwilling to relinquish something you know is bad for you, you have allowed an attachment that takes value from you and adds nothing useful to you.

The Apostle Paul was gathering wood for a fire when a snake “fastened itself on his hand.” Read Acts 28:1-6 NIV. Your harm is the stated intent of the enemy of your soul. See John 10:10 NIV. Something harmful attached itself to him, certainly without his intent. What did Paul do? He could have “thrown a pity party,” but he didn’t. He could have assumed there was “nothing he could do about it.” He could have even blamed God for “letting it happen to him.” If any of those were his reaction that snake would caused pain and harm.

Attachments occur that you may not anticipate, not always being things you can prevent or explain. In the process of life hurts happen, some self-inflicted, some imposed on you. An attachment can be an unchecked temptation, or a besetting sin, or unforgiven hurts, or unhealthy attitudes, or unforgotten grudges, or unholy thoughts, or unwholesome relationships – anything that draws you in a direction contrary to spiritual growth. The Bible gives strong, clear counsel, “Casting down 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. Memory can be a blessing or a source of needless pain, depending on what you hold there.

When the serpent fastened itself to Paul, he did the simplest, smartest thing, “Paul shook the snake off into the fire.” Acts 28:5 NIV. And the result? Paul “suffered no ill effects.” Imagine if Adam and Eve had done the same. No ill effects! Take deliberate and immediate action. Paul warns about such entanglements, “Stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1 NKJV. Detach yourself from any unholy, unhealthy attachment as soon as possible; that is the wisest thing to do. Read Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV.

Sometimes you can become attached to people or things that are unprofitable; at other times, they become wrongly attached to you. Read Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV. To their harm, people often seem determined to hold on to things that hurt them or others. Just let it go! Whatever it is, don’t excuse it; don’t assign blame for it; don’t give room or time for it to grow and strengthen. See 2 Peter 2:20 NLT.

Don’t indulge even the smallest attraction to wrong. Don’t excuse thoughts or feelings that harm you and hurt others. On a positive note, here’s something you can hold tightly and confidently, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful . . Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” Hebrews 10:23-24/1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you keep a tight grip on your faith and faithfulness.

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Patterns of Thought

April 12th, 2011

“Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Romans 12:2 NLT

“Fill your heart and mind with thoughts that are uplifting, edifying, and inspiring.”

My thoughts today are about “patterns of thought.”

Habits are hard to break, especially bad ones. Usually, if a person had the necessary discipline it takes to break an old habit, they probably would not have formed an unprofitable habit to begin with. Habits, both good and bad, can evidence themselves in various areas of a person’s life. Today, I am directing my comments to the problem of habitual thinking. Sometimes deeply rooted patterns of thinking can be most difficult to challenge and change.

If something is said, do you translate it negatively? If someone overlooks you, do you imagine it intentional? If someone does something, do you assume the worst motive? If others succeed, are you jealous? When others receive attention, do you wish it were you? Be wary of those patterns of thought. See 1 Corinthians 12:26 NKJV.

The Bible explains the problem, as well as offering the solution, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is.” Romans 12:2 NLT. It is interesting that your thought patterns form the path to your behavior. The way to a new life is to change the way you think.

Behavior that subtly conforms to the surrounding culture’s reckless, self-indulgent lifestyle results from accepting their underlying values and ways of thinking. Entertainment, advertising, and others’ example and influence first shape the way you think, then eventually change the way you live your life.

You can break your habits, if you will arrest your thoughts. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 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. Your thoughts form your beliefs; beliefs direct your choices; choices govern your actions; actions become your lifestyle. Thus habits are developed, whether to your benefit or harm. Take out the trash; bring in the truth!

God’s will for your life can be confusing if you allow your thoughts to be without clarity and conviction. Trying to empty your mind of wrong thoughts is a waste of time, neither productive nor effective; your best resource in order to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” is filling your heart and mind with thoughts that are uplifting, edifying, and inspiring.

Daily Bible reading, meditation on Scripture, and time spent devotionally in prayer are the practical ways you break old ways of thinking and establish new patterns of thought. God’s truth in your heart changes the way you think and will transform the person you are into the person you want to become. “Whatever things are true – noble – just – pure – lovely – of good report – virtuous – praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:7-8 NKJV. Choose what you dwell on mentally and emotionally. You hold the key. Paul’s premise was simple: “Let God transform you into a new person by (your) changing the way you think.”

My prayer for you today is that your pattern of thoughts is wholesome and holy.

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