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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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Achieving Your Potential

November 4th, 2014

“Stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Colossians 4:12 NIV.

Spiritual disciplines determine spiritual potential.

My thoughts and comments today are about “achieving your potential.”

Your innate desire to be more than you have been is from God. You have a God-given potential to become more than you have imagined. Boundaries are limits imposed by yourself or others. You were created “in the image and likeness of God.” Imagine the potential, presently and eternally, that God has invested in you. The only uncertainty is whether you will recognize and realize the divine potential within you. When you think of “achieving your potential,” what do you envision? Your capabilities will likely be more than your accomplishments.

Recognition of potential is the prerequisite for achieving potential. Paul described Godly potential this way: “That you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Colossians 4:12 NIV. Do those words – “standing firm . . mature . . fully assured” – describe you? They can. Achieving your potential does not just happen; the process requires purpose and priority, as well as sacrifice. And add patience, perseverance, and obedience to that list. Your full potential, being “mature and fully assured,” rests upon your priority and practice of living fully within the will of God.

Spiritual maturity is the pathway to your potential. “. . that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12 NIV. Maturity is not measured by comparison with others. Paul warned of those who, “. . measure themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12. Jesus is the only adequate and accurate standard for comparison. Not only is Jesus the standard by which you will be measured, He is the willing accomplice for all of your spiritual accomplishment.

Spiritual maturity is the goal; becoming like Jesus is the process. Be patient; your spiritual potential is achieved progressively in a process that is lifelong. “As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory even more.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT. In the simplest of terms, spiritual maturity can be described as Christ-likeness. See Romans 8:28. There is very good news about this process. John wrote, “We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” Read 1 John 3:1-3 NIV. Usually, we seem unclear as to the practical implications of Christ-likeness. Here is a useful, practical definition that has helped me. “Spiritual maturity is rightly responding to life’s situations according to Biblical patterns of behavior.” In every circumstance, a good question to ask is, “What would Jesus do?”  Your natural tendencies do not lend themselves to spiritual achievement.

Spiritual disciplines govern spiritual potential. (1) God’s Word is essential to spiritual life. “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise . .” Colossians 3:16-17 NLT. Spiritual maturity is achieved through a growing knowledge of the Word of God and a deepening obedience to the ways of God. (2) Welcome the Holy Spirit to rule your heart. “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do . . let the Holy Spirit fill and control you . . making music to the Lord in your hearts. And you will always give thanks for everything to God.” Ephesians 5:17-20 NLT. See Galatians 5:8-10/22-23. (3) Make prayer a daily priority. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2 NIV. See Philippians 4:6-7 NIV. (4) Let love be your lifestyle. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John  13:34.

Today, my prayer for you is to refuse limits that prevent your being all that God intends.

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Limits and Liberties

July 25th, 2014

“Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us.”  2 Corinthians 10:13 NLT.

True success and happiness in life is to know and fulfill God’s boundaries.

Lauren, my thoughts and comments today are about “limits and liberties.”

“Fences make good neighbors.” (Mending Wall/ Robert Frost). Fences clarify both a person’s liberties as well as their limits, designating where you have free access and where others do not. In relationships, such fences are called boundaries. Some are determined by you; others are determined for you. People have boundaries that distinguish the public from the private, or should have.

Yours as well as others’ boundaries should be respected, but that doesn’t always happen. When someone pushes too closely into your personal space, or either shares or inquires about matters more personal than you prefer to discuss, their presumption of liberty intrudes beyond your limits. When that happens, you feel a measure of discomfort.

Almost twenty years ago, our family bought rural acreage where we would build our homes. Until then, I had been content to have my home nestled among others. But those acres soon gave me a sense of security and liberty I had not anticipated. The precisely measured survey and the visible fence line marked exactly where our boundaries were. This place was ours. Gayle named it “Heritage Place,” because we believe God provided it for our family.

God’s plan for your life is your “Heritage Place.” God said, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans to prosper and not harm you, to give you a future and a hope.’” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT. True happiness, contentment, and even success is to know and fulfill the boundaries of God’s plan for your life. Accept nothing less than the liberties God provides; require nothing more than the limits God sets. See Galatians 5:13 NKJV. Your appreciation of Godly boundaries has everything to do with your knowledge and trust of the One who sets them. Your joyful acceptance depends on understanding their purpose is for your good not harm.

Inside God’s limits and liberties, life is expansive; outside of those, the consequence can be expensive. From painful experience, David learned the limits within God’s plan were better than the ill-conceived liberties of his own plans. David learned God’s ways are always best, “The boundary lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalm 16:5-6 NIV. To that, I say a hearty, “Amen!”

Paul’s objective should be ours, Our goal is to stay within the boundaries [proper limits] of God’s plan for us.2 Corinthians 10:13 NLT/NIV. Paul was committed to fulfill all God intended, while content not to reach beyond. Paul discovered that within God’s “proper limits,” he found confidence instead of confusion, fruitfulness rather than frustration, and anointing beyond his abilities and efforts. And so will you.

Today, my prayer for you is to rejoice in liberties God affords and respect limits He requires.

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Exploring Margins

July 13th, 2012

“I must work . . while it is day.” John 9:4 NKJV

Success results from learning to allocate what you have, to accomplish what you must.

My thoughts and comments today are about “exploring margins.”

“Margin” is defined as “a limit in condition or capacity.” Life, as you know it now, has limits. In eternity that will not be true, but for now it is. The Bible refers to such limits as “boundaries” or “measure.” David, the Psalmist, rejoiced, “Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup; You have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalm 16:5-6 NIV. He found sufficiency and safety in God’s providence. You will as well. In the New Testament, Paul wrote similarly, “We will not boast beyond [our] measure, but within the sphere which God appointed us . .” 2 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV. Paul found confidence and certainty in God’s assignment. Conviction of truth breeds confidence.

You have a measure of years that only God knows, a measure of strength, resources, energy, endurance, and number of friendships, among other things – but unimagined possibilities within those. This reality we have in common, though there are differing measures unique to individuals. By effort and discipline, you might expand your boundaries to some extent, but you cannot remove limits altogether. But know this; life is not about what you don’t have or can’t do. Life is about what you learn to do within the margins you are given. How wisely you live and how hard you work determines your achievement.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Life requires a plan. Many people do not realize that simple reality until they have too little of life left. Some never do. Limits are somewhat fixed, but what you do within those is discretionary. Explore your margins to the full capacity; accept no artificial limits. Decide what you will do with your life and what has been given you. “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like ignorant people, but like wise people. Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days. Don’t be fools, then, but try to find out what the Lord wants you to do.” Ephesians 5:15-17 TEV.

Success results from learning to allocate what you have, to accomplish what you must. Jesus understood the primacy of doing the will of God and ordered His life within the boundaries of that. “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is yet day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” John 9:4-5 NKJV. Even Jesus recognized limits and used His time and opportunities to serve the Father’s eternal purposes. As long as you have life, you can be a light in the world. See Philippians 2:15-18 NKJV.

In God’s will, you find God’s plan for your life and the fullest experience of success and satisfaction. I particularly love the promise God spoke through Jeremiah, “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good . . to give you a future and a hope.’” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT. A future without hope is discouraging; hope without a future in which to achieve it would be disheartening. God offers you both “a future and a hope!” Your future rests in what you do within each day.

My prayer for you today is that you use wisely what you have been given generously.

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Beyond Measure

March 15th, 2012

“To Him who is able to do immeasurably more.” Ephesians 3:20 NIV

“If you are not doing much with what you have, you likely wouldn’t do much more with what you lack.”

My thoughts and comments today are about “beyond measure.”

We are accustomed to limitations, in ourselves and others. Those limits, real and perceived, are often allowed to govern your life, marginalizing expectations and attempts, and setting boundaries. People face limitations of resource, time, energy, opportunity, talent, experience, knowledge, understanding, and more, extending to “ad infinitumto infinity/continuing beyond limits.” The only thing unlimited may actually be the extent and number of limitations with which we all deal.

Almost everyone has at one time said only to themselves, “If only I had more ______.“ Fill in the blank. The story is the same; only what you lack at that moment changes – time, money, help, education, etc. Jesus captured a profound truth in His comparison of people’s similar responses to little or much; “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” Read Luke 16:10-12 NASV. Truthfully, if you aren’t doing much with what you have, you likely wouldn’t do much more with what you lack.

When you bring your life to God, the story changes for the better. “To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Ephesians 4:7 NKJV. Jesus takes your meager, insufficient “loaves and fish” and blesses, breaks, and distributes a sufficiency of surplus beyond any measure imaginable. Read Mark 6:31-44 NKJV. When you think your need is more than your means and feel you have barely enough for yourself and nothing with which to share, in Jesus’ hands miracles of multiplication occur and there is plenty for yourself and all others with whom you have opportunity to share.

Resources and money go further with God’s blessings than without it; that’s why it’s wise to tithe, and to give and live generously. Read Malachi 3:10-12/2 Corinthians 9:6-15 NKJV. Time is ample because of efficiencies God provides. Energy is extended when you are doing God’s work. “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NKJV. Wisdom and understanding rise from the truth in your heart when you hide God’s Word there. Read 1 Kings 3:5-14 NKJV.

What you trust into God’s hands is no longer restricted by your previous limitations. Paul marveled at a truth with so much power to exceed every limit ever known by you: “That Christ may dwell in your heart through faith . . (through) Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us. To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV. God whose providence and power are beyond every measure or limit is immeasurable! What could happen – in your life, your marriage and family, your career and relationships – if you gave yourself entirely to God’s will and service? Read Romans 12:1-2 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you experience the immeasurable goodness and mercy of God

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