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Posts Tagged ‘peace’

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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A Peace that Surpasses Understanding

December 13th, 2017

Where Christ governs, peace is found.

“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “a peace that surpasses understanding.”

Peace is most precious to those who are without it. But true peace is elusive for many because, though they long for it, they do not know where such peace can be found. Our world is much like the world into which Jesus was born. Armies, hostilities, occupying forces, political and religious divisions were all the order of the day, then as now. Rulership was imposed by the strongest upon the weakest and the most brutal upon the most vulnerable, as today.

Yet Jesus came from the Father and was declared by angels as the Prince of Peace whose arrival was into exactly that kind of troubled world. “Suddenly a great company of the Heavenly Host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.’” Luke 2:13-14 NIV. Peace will never come by the force of men’s armies and political alliances. The Bible speaks of three expressions of God’s peace which Jesus gives that the world cannot.

Most importantly and foundational to all peace, there must be peace with God. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Read Romans 5:1-2 NIV. Such expressions of peace are only available to the one who has accepted Jesus’ invitation to live at, “peace with God,” surrendering to living life on God’s gracious terms, without hostility toward His Law and will.

There is peace from God. That comes only from Jesus, Who said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you, not as the world gives, neither can it take it away.” John 14:27 NLT. Peace from God is when a supernatural tranquility rests in your heart without regard to difficulty and distress.

Also, there is the peace of God. This peace is experienced as an unexplainable measure of well being and contentment that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Read Galatians 5:19-25 NIV. Those attributes are in stark contrast with those who live apart from the peace of God, as evidenced by, “discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions.” There is no earthly experience of peacefulness that compares with God’s peace, which is the very expression of His own character and conduct.

Imagine with me a time and place where it will truly be said, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” Isaiah 9:7 NIV. When will that time come, and where can that be found? Where Christ governs, peace reigns. Isaiah foresaw a day in which it would be true. “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV. The answer is simple and clear. Where Christ governs, only there will true peace be found. Until you are at peace with God, you will not be at peace within yourself, will not find peace of mind, nor can you live at peace with others.

Peace is not the absence of trouble. Peace is knowing the living presence of Jesus, whatever the doubts, distress, or dangers of the moment. Peace does not come from your surroundings. Peace does not come from all men being in agreement. Peace starts in your heart, when you make all things right with God. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “’Peace, peace, to those far and near,’ says the Lord. ‘And I will heal them.’ But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’” Isaiah 57:19-21 NIV.

This promise can be your confidence; “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You.” Isaiah 26.3 NKJV. My Christmas wish for you can be stated in the words of the Apostle Paul. “Now may the God of peace be with you all.” Romans 15:33 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to be enveloped with enduring peace that cannot be disturbed.

Christian Communications 2017

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Wait and See

October 4th, 2017

Patience Is the Posture of Waiting With Hope and Trust.

 “By your patience, possess your souls.” Luke 21:19 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “Wait and See.”

Waiting is not my favorite pastime. I guess I always wanted the benefit of knowing the outcome of things. Many times in my youth, my Mom wisely advised me to, “just wait and see.” With the value of history and hindsight, she understood a simple principle that I did not. There are times when you must just be patient enough to wait and see. Urgently, we think we need to see, but God knows we need to wait and see. Paul explained this interim time in these words, “Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT.

In life, you will experience unforeseen challenges at inconvenient times. Don’t project today’s crisis onto your future. Sometimes you must be willing to wait and see. Successfully navigating such moments requires Godly optimism, with large amounts of patience. Waiting is never our preferred option. None of us enjoy waiting. Without perspective, waiting is challenging and stressful. Impatience is a common emotion in such moments.

There are times when the past as well as the present are less than clearly understood. So why then are we surprised when the future seems a bit obscure? Our impatience produces anxiety about things unforeseen. Life is a tension between what is and what yet will be. As I see it, the problem is that our knowledge is incomplete and our impatience is unsettling. While describing this tension, Paul directed us to hope. “Now we see things imperfectly, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT.

With God’s Word in your thoughts and hope in your heart, you can wait with anticipation and patience. Without hope, dread and anxiety will color your concerns for the unknown future. The Bible offers this insight, “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:24-25 NIV. Patience is a virtue. Hope is the foundation upon which patience is developed. In an earlier chapter, Paul wrote of, “this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2 NKJV. Patience is the posture of waiting in hope and trust.

Waiting can and should be used profitably, not squandered in wasted worry. Waiting on God with expectation evidences a confidence so strong in God, and His nature, and Word, that your faith continues to grow even with every apparent delay. Forewarning His disciples of the mistreatment and opposition they would face, Jesus concluded with this encouraging instruction, “By your patience, possess your souls.” Luke 21:19 NKJV. Patience is evidenced by living today with optimism for tomorrow.

But sometimes, you may just feel too weak and weary to struggle on. The Bible has a faith-building word for you. “God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31 NIV. Meanwhile, I will stand alongside the Psalmist. “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word, I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord, more than those who watch for the morning.” Psalm 130:5 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to choose patience and embrace His peace.

 

Christian Communications 2017

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Worry Is A Waste

May 17th, 2017

Worry is a waste of time and energy

 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” Philippians 4:6 NLT

My thoughts and comments today are that, worry is a waste.”

Years earlier, I learned a helpful prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Accept, or change. Worry is the destroyer of serenity, and never a viable option.

Apprehension is the implied belief that God either doesn’t care or is unable. Worry adds nothing of value and depletes so much that is helpful and healthful. Admittedly, there are plenty of things that cause worry. Anxious thoughts are the product of majoring on matters you do not control and cannot change. God is in control and He can be trusted to care for the things that concern you. Until and unless you come to peace with that knowledge, you will remain vulnerable to worry and the anxiety that results. Let me suggest some practical things about worry.

Worry is unhelpful. Worry does not work. Here is the unpleasant reality, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.” Worry is wearying to body, soul, and spirit, producing feelings of mental, emotional, and spiritual futility. Worry never solves a problem nor changes a circumstance. It neither changes the past nor controls the future. Logically, if worry doesn’t work, why waste time and energy worrying?

Worry is unrealistic. Worry exaggerates any problem. Worry is never in proportion to reality. It takes a minor, but real, concern and makes it major. Worry magnifies a problem, distorts reality, exaggerates emotions, while achieving nothing productive. Worrying about something you cannot change is futile. Worrying about something you can change is stupid; just change it. Either way, don’t worry! Valuable, emotional energy is better expended elsewhere?

Worry is unhealthy. Worry distresses you physically. Worry causes ulcers, tension headaches, stomach distress, and insomnia while you continually worry without relief. It makes you both unhappy and unhealthy. The root of the word is, “to strangle, to choke.” That well describes what results. Life and its joy are seriously diminished by anxiety. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.” Philippians 4:6-9 NLT.

Worry is unnecessary. Your Heavenly Father cares for you. “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NKJV. God does more than care about you; He provides ample care for you. Consider Jesus’ words about His Father’s care for you. “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Read Matthew 6:25-34 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to choose for your days to be carefree, fruitful, and fulfilling.                    

Christian Communications 2017

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Bless This Mess

January 13th, 2017

Blessing is restored where grace is received

“The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” Proverbs 10:22 NKJV

My thoughts and comments today are about, “bless this mess.”

Life can be messy; it frequently is. Mrs. Cook, a fourth-grade teacher at Blair Elementary, North Venice, Illinois, taught me to love words and use them properly. Messy is not the classiest of words, but I find it descriptive. Messy is defined as: chaotic, disheveled, disorganized, littered. When you hear the word, you know what it describes. It defines some measure of disarray, a time and place when life is in disorder. Some people live in serial messes until they don’t even recognize the chaos in which they live. The abnormal becomes their normal. I saw a plaque, like one my wife may want to place in my garage or closet, that simply read, “Bless this mess!” I smiled because I could envision closets, kitchens, and houses – as well as some marriages, families, and lives – for which those wistful words could be appropriate.

The problem is this: God doesn’t make a mess, neither will He bless a mess. He will walk with you in your mess. He will love you despite your mess. And He will redeem your mess, if you bring it to Him in sincerity and humility. Blessing is restored where grace is received. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8 NKJV. Sometimes, you are forced to deal with messes you make. And sometimes, others’ messy drama encroaches on your life. You must deal with the first; you cannot always do much about the latter, except what little is in your control. Procrastination is never a good option.

A mess ignored worsens. When I lay one thing on my desk that belongs elsewhere, the mess soon multiplies. Usually, I was busy and intended to deal with it later. One thing, whose proper place is elsewhere, becomes the excuse for an accumulation of things temporarily left in the wrong place. Is there a mess you are allowing? Spiritual life? Personal habits? Broken relationships? Troubled marriage? Broken promises? Negligent spiritual practices? Procrastinated obedience? There are both sins of commission and omission that clutter lives.

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is the story of people whose lives were a mess and the grace of God they experienced when they called out to Him for mercy and forgiveness. I think of Adam, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samson, David, Simon Peter, Paul – as well as Allen, Bob, Bill, Steve, Joe, John, Mary, Betty, Anne, and (insert your name here). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Read 1 John 1:8-2:2 NIV. I love the words the aged and beloved John wrote to people just like you and me, “Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from Jesus Christ.” 2 John 3 NIV. Grace adorns our lives; mercy spares our lives; and peace abides with and within our lives.

Today, I pray for you to love righteousness and live uprightly before God and man.

Christian Communications 2016

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