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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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Complete and Equipped

April 22nd, 2016

“The Word of God . . is at work in you who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13 NIV.

In a world where few things work as promised, God’s Word works.

My thoughts and comments today are about being, “complete and equipped.”

It is sad when people have something irreplaceable yet regard it as less than its value. Often, things familiar and readily available are taken for granted. In light of those comments, consider the most precious, valuable gift God has entrusted to you – His holy, eternal Word. The Bible is God’s Word, inspired to the hearts of faithful men, and is eternal. It is a unique collection of wisdom and enduring prose, yet so much more.

Paul instructed young Timothy, “The Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:15-17 NKJV. When God’s Word fills your heart and thoughts each day you are described as, “complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Psalmist describes such Godly people, “In all they do, they prosper.” Read Psalm 1:1-3 NLT.

People discount and ignore God’s Word, while others have made great sacrifices to provide and preserve it. Some try to discredit and destroy regard for the Word of God, while others have sacrificed their lives to protect and defend it. Jesus was clear. The Word of God is essential not optional. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Luke 4:4 NKJV. God’s Word is uniquely essential to every area of your life and the quality with which you live it.

The Word speaks to the heart and spirit. Listen and obey. Prize its wisdom and truth. The Bible contains wisdom for all situations – health and hope for the struggling, Godly wisdom for your success and satisfaction, a path to life in its fullness, the truest revelation of God, and eternal salvation for the soul. “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God . . the Word of the Lord will live forever.” 1 Peter 1:23-25 NIV/NCV. See Luke 21:33 NIV.

I suggest a few questions you would be wise to ask and consider, “Do I love and follow God’s Word? Does God’s Word live in my heart? Does it direct my conduct and choices? Does it determine my values?” To live successfully, you must live according to truth. Love and prize your Bible; take time each day for its truth, and be always able to say, “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You, O God.” Psalm 119:11 NIV.

For their love and faithfulness to God’s Word, the Apostle Paul commended Christ-followers at Thessaloniki “When you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the Word of God, which is at work in you who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13 NIV.  In a world where few things work as promised, God’s Word works, and it will work in your life, now and forever.

Today, I pray for you to commit to trust and obey God’s Word, at all times in all things.

Antique Bibles

Christian Communications 2016

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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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Lives That Matter

March 26th, 2014

“What good is salt if it has lost its flavor?” Matthew 5:13 NIV.

Begin where you are; use what you’ve got; do what you can.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “lives that matter.”

Your contribution may not always be noticed until it is no longer being made. Without you, others’ lives would be less. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor?” Matthew 5:13 NIV. In isolation, salt makes no difference. But when interacting, salt provides what is lacking and enhances what is already there. Your life is meant to do the same. Salt is in almost every prepared food or snack that you eat. When it’s there you hardly notice; when it is not, you detect its absence immediately.

Often, you won’t know the benefits you bring into others’ lives until much later, maybe never specifically. And others may not recognize the difference you make until they are without your contribution. You are “the salt of the earth,” when you value living benevolently and beneficially, however small your effort seems to you or unnoticed it may be by others. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.” Read Colossians 3:23-24 NIV. Do so purposely, not for others’ recognition, appreciation, or applause. For a life that matters in your realm of daily influence, be deliberate, intentional, and purposeful.

Life is most self-fulfilling when what you do benefits others and glorifies Christ Jesus. Possibly, only eternity will fully reveal the extent of what you do. That’s what a successful, satisfying life is about. What you contribute in your community, on your job, in your school, in your home and family, and in your friendships has the power to make others’ lives better and your life matter, now and eternally.

Don’t worry about others noticing your contribution, and begin noticing and complimenting theirs. People take a lot of things for granted, therefore they may also take people for granted who improve their lives. While waiting around for your chance to make a big difference, you may be missing opportunities for making a difference now and being prepared for greater influence later. If you don’t start where you are with what you could do, you probably won’t start at all. “Anyone then, who knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” James 4:17 NIV. Begin where you are; use what you’ve got; do what you can. That’s how you prosper and others benefit.

You are created, called, and empowered to make a contribution unique to your abilities, experience, personality and opportunities. Jesus’ followers are supposed to be seed, salt, light, and leaven. Common to all of those are lives that matter – an immeasurable potential for making profitable changes in others and profound improvements around them. As such, your life matters most when you are willing to be where you are most needed, doing what you were best designed by God to do. You can’t do everything, but everyone can do something. Do what you can, “as working for the Lord.”

My prayer for you today is that you contribute what you have and who you are for others’ benefit.

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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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