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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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Think Outside the Box

January 30th, 2015

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV.

Judging others assumes you are correct in your assumptions.

My thoughts and comments today suggest that you “think outside the box.”

EDL Box glassMaybe you have heard the phrase, “Think outside the box.” The phrase comes from our common tendency to design “boxes” – intentionally or unintentionally – into which we assign ourselves or other people. Literally, a box imposes certain limits; it may feel a safe place temporarily but is always a confining space. A “box” contains a person to only what they have been or have been assumed to be. We sometimes even do that to ourselves. Once believed, even a mistaken opinion is difficult to change or ignore. Do not allow others’ opinions to confine you in any kind of “box,” accepting the irrational inevitability of the limits their opinions impose. You are a new creature in Christ.

Even Jesus was misjudged. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” Read Matthew 13:54-58 NIV. He was that, but so much more. The Apostle Paul was often misunderstood by those he sought to serve. “For some say, ‘[Paul’s] letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.’” 2 Corinthians 10:10 NIV. Paul would not be put into a “box” of others’ opinions. Does your initial opinion of people or situations too quickly become a judgment about them and expectation of them? Judging presumes you know what and why another has acted as they did, and that you are correct in your assumptions.

“Do you look at things according to the outward appearance?” 2 Corinthians 10:7. Appearances are more often misleading than accurate. People, as well as circumstances, are rarely as they first appear. An inaccurate impression possesses the power to either enhance or diminish your initial assumption. An assumption separated from reliable facts results in a faulty interpretation. By outward appearances alone, you will incorrectly evaluate circumstances as either beneficial or detrimental, and react accordingly. Reactions are the fruit of faulty estimations; responses are the product of thoughtful decisions. You cannot live wisely until you learn to distinguish between natural reactions and spiritual responses. Such an obstinate, natural tendency requires a redemptive, spiritual solution.

As always, you can find practical counsel and wisdom in God’s Word. “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 NIV. Avoid a worldly point of view – about yourself and about others. Paul is plainly saying, “Think outside the box.”

Rest your history in God’s redeeming love. Release others’ future into the caring, healing hands of a Savior. Outside the box of your habits, negative feelings, misconceptions, assumptions, labels by others, past hurts and failures, old mistakes, painful memories, bad choices, and sins forgiven but not forgotten, you can be “a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

Think of yourself as the new creation in Christ that you are. You are not what you were; you can be more than you are. Of this truth, I am grateful, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV. Therefore, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” Read Proverbs 4:20-23.

Today, my prayer for you is that you are free to become all that God believes you to be.

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Surviving Criticism

January 11th, 2013

You cannot control others’ opinions nor their expression of those.

“Judge nothing before the appointed time.” 1 Corinthians 4:5 NIV.

Criticism stings. It is not fatal, only superficial but painful. And there will always be people who are just critical by practice. But sometimes, those whose opinion you trust and value may share a point of criticism; it may feel the same. I think criticism stings because it reminds us of the unwelcome truth that we’re not perfect, not even as close to that as we wish we were. Be relieved of your expectation; no one is. You will not prevent all criticism, nor would you be better if you could.

Here are the facts. You cannot control others’ opinions nor their expression of those – though some are unwanted, some unwarranted, and a few useful. What you can control is your response to your critic. Like myself, I know what you would most feel like doing, avoiding critics altogether or ignoring criticism – neither of which is realistic. You can survive criticism and make it serve you, depending on your response to criticism or your reaction to critics.

Beyond your displeasure, listen with your heart not your hurt feelings. Look honestly for any small seed of truth that can be found in criticism. Ask yourself; can this be beneficial to me? Process it with prayer and honest consideration. God may be allowing a critic to say something about which the Lord was already speaking to you, maybe with little result. “If we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.” 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 NIV. God’s judgment is always just and beneficial. Respond to God; be gracious when criticized by another.

Let’s consider when the roles are reversed. Criticism is the outward expression of a subtle attitude of judgment. Judgment is a precarious attitude to permit yourself; it’s always better left to God. God has wise advice for you. “Stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you . . Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged.” Luke 6:37/ Matthew 7:1-5 NLT. None of us know enough about another to accurately judge their actions or know their reasons for those. At such times, a person can easily misjudge, even when thinking they are not.

The Bible gives a useful guideline. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into . . Christ. From him the whole body . .  grows and builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16NIV. I would suggest the words, “truth in love,” make two important distinctions. First, truth helps and heals, building people up in Christ. Secondly, criticism is best within a mutual relationship of love and esteem, and spoken privately.

Paul faced criticism that became unfair judgment. “I care very little if I am judged by you; indeed, I do not even judge myself . . It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 NIV. It is not my job or yours to do what only God will do righteously, in His way and at His time. See Revelation 2:23 NIV.

Years ago, I was taught a valuable principle, “God only allows you authority to judge where He has given you responsibility to rule.” Before you criticize, consider if this is a person for whom you are responsible, or a matter in which the person is accountable to you. “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” Romans 14:13 NIV. Jesus’ words still hold true, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:13 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you will forgive critics and avoid being critical.

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