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Posts Tagged ‘reactions’

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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Simple Instructions

June 22nd, 2012

“Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible.” Romans 12:18 NLT

The Bible gives simple instructions for living peaceably by resolving differences.

My thoughts and comments today are about “simple instructions.”

Hours ago, I was trying to fix a problem, unsuccessfully at first. My computer and the wireless printer had trouble “communicating.” They seemed perfectly happy working together until a month or so ago. With no explanation, the printer stopped cooperating. I read the instructions, but instructions make sense only to the people who already understand them. Life is a lot like that; it’s simple when life works as it should. The Bible gives fairly simple instructions for one of life’s more common but complex problems – living peaceably by resolving differences that strain relationships. Though such relational challenges are inevitable according to Scripture, most do not have to remain unsolvable. Unity is paramount with God. Read Psalm 133 NKJV.

Who enjoys the strain and stress of unresolved differences with others? Few people, if any, I would surmise. Jesus warned, “How terrible for the world that there are things that make people lose their faith! Such [offences] will always happen – but how terrible for the one who causes them.” Matthew 18:7 TEV. Marriages are strained; families suffer; friendships grow tense. Situations will occur that impose a breach of trust between people. That should not happen. In a perfect world that would not happen, but our fallen world is far from perfect and we are fallen, imperfect people with strong, independent wills that breed disagreements and conflict.

Paul seemed to grasp the bigger picture of disagreements when writing his letter to the Christians at Rome. Read Romans 12:16-21 NLT. Paul’s advice is simple: “Practice humility.” “Don’t think you know it all.” Isn’t that where most differences begin? Somebody assumes they know everything they need to know about the situation and its apparently single solution. When that happens, ears deafen; hearts harden. Listen to each other with a loving heart and open mind. They may still be wrong but you will better understand why they think they are right. And maybe, just maybe, you might see where you also are wrong and find common ground that honors God and saves a friendship.

Paul addresses the natural escalation of reaction; what begins small can quickly become a big deal that increasingly separates people, unless someone does something selfless to reverse the process. Paul shares a simple instruction, “Don’t get even.” “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone . . never avenge yourself. Leave that to God . . don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.” In fourth grade, my teacher taught us a valuable life-lesson, “When two dogs fight in a flower bed, the only things that get settled are the flowers.” As a nine year old, her word-picture of the futility of conflicts became indelible; as an adult, I have seen its simple truth where lives, not flower beds, suffered.

Rarely is a single individual the only one at fault. All likely share some fault, and each has a Biblical responsibility to initiate efforts at reconciliation. Paul instructs, “Do your part first.” Then God can do what you could not. “Live in harmony with each other . . do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible.” You won’t resolve every dispute but you can make every effort to “live in peace, as much as possible.” You do not control how others behave, but you can choose how you will. Read Matthew 6:23-24 /18:15-22 NKJV. Whether offender or offended, make a Godly initiative for reconciliation. See Matthew 5:9-16.

My prayer for you today is that you learn to accept God’s ways as always the best way.

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Kind Affection

September 8th, 2010

“Be kindly affectionate to one another.” Romans 12:10 NKJV

Kindness is always best, and holds the least cause for regret.”

My thoughts today are about “kind affection.”

There will always be situations and people that confront you with important choices. Choosing to be kind rather than unkind is always the right choice. You alone have the power to choose what is best, what is right to do. No matter what the situation may be, or how the other person has acted or what another has said, the real decision is yours alone.

Have you ever thrown a ball against a wall? The force with which the ball is thrown determines the force and speed with which it returns. Your natural reactions will always be like that, unless you choose Godly responses. Jesus changed the standard. “Whatever you want others to do for you, do the same for them.” Matthew 7:12. No wonder they call that “the Golden Rule.”

I have learned that my choice can either be a reaction or a response. By default, I can react to another in a like manner, or I can more wisely forego my right and justification of doing so and thoughtfully reserve my own responsibility to respond in better ways. Your reactions are not really your choice at all; they merely duplicate what someone else chose to do. A righteous response, however, is your choice alone.

That evidences a Godly maturity and reflects your devotion to Christ. I long ago formed a helpful definition: “Spiritual maturity is rightly responding to life’s situations according to Biblical patterns of behavior.” That sounds a lot like Jesus, doesn’t it? See Matthew 5:10-12/1 Peter 2:23-24 NIV.

The Bible says, “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath . . When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Proverbs 15:1/16:7. Reactions always escalate, exaggerating and worsening whatever the initial and subsequent words or actions are. Kindness is always best, and holds the least cause for regret. There is always and excuse for doing otherwise, but you will certainly regret doing so.

Our English word, “kind,” has its origin from a word not currently in use, “kinned,” meaning to be related as family. Over time the word evolved to its current spelling, and suggests acting in a manner as you should to members of your own family – “kindly affectionate.”

A family, by its very nature, requires kindness. When people live daily in close proximity for such a length of time, relationship with appropriate love and good will can only be sustained by extending kindness generously. Responding kindly, whatever the provocation or behavior, is your worthy and Godly objective.

In some ways are we not all “family,” or at least meant to treat one another as such? “Show family affection to one another with brotherly love.” Romans 12:10. The Bible reminds you, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32. Who sets the standard for what you will be and do?

My prayer for you today is that you will be known for your kindness.

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