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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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Transcendent Peace

October 26th, 2012

“Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.” Colossians 3:15 NLT.

Hearts and minds rest in transcendent peace when trusting steadfastly in God.

My thoughts and comments today are about “transcendent peace.”

Ours is a troubled world in search of peace yet ignorant of the source of its trouble. “Wars and rumors of war” exist, as Jesus said there would be. See Matthew 24:6 NIV. But the most consequential lack of peace is not global strife among nations; rather, it is the turmoil and absence of peace in one’s heart. Peace is an illusive objective, whether of nations, men, or the human heart.

Peace in one’s heart is only possible when Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is welcome there. See Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV. Paul reinforced the same truth, “Through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1 NIV.

Many people mistake the absence of trouble for peace. Emotionally, those may feel the same at first. Spiritually, they are not alike at all. Peace is so much more than a lack of trouble. The Hebrew understanding of peace, “Shalom,” describes “the promise and possession of everything needed for well-being.” Peace is secure in the heart that is secure in the Savior.

When you permit any circumstance to trouble you, peace is disrupted but only seems gone. God’s peace will not leave you; His peace is within you, but someone or something was permitted to influence you to disbelieve in God’s abiding peace. At such moments, you may allow lesser things to disturb your peace and persuade you it has gone. Many things push peace aside – worry and anxiety, fear and dread, irritations and hurts, and questions and doubt grab your focus and misdirect your thoughts and emotions away from peace.

Or you can, “Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.” Colossians 3:15 NLT. The peace of God serves as an umpire who rules on the incorrectness of anything that disturbs your heart or mind. My friend, Campbell, taught me an old English word, “dispeace,” that describes times and places where God’s peace is lacking and will direct me where God’s peace abides. When Christ’s peace rules in your heart, His peace serves to overrule all that would disturb peace. Isaiah discovered, “You, [Lord], will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You . . And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Isaiah 26:3/ Philippians 4:7 NIV. The heart and mind rest in transcendent peace when steadfast in God.

Jesus taught that peace is not something the world can give; then neither can it take peace away. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give [peace] to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 NIV. I love Paul’s benediction to Thessalonian disciples was, “Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16 NIV. That is God’s intention for you as well – at all times, in every way. But you have a role in having a heart of peace. “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace . . Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall see God.” James 3:17/Matthew 5:9 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you would be an ambassador of God’s peace.

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Second Chances

July 11th, 2011

“How often should I forgive someone?” Matthew 18:21 NLT

“In the human heart there is an inherent need for rules to be fair.”

My thoughts today are about “second chances.”

Forgiveness can be challenging eventually, even if not initially. God seems to have put a sense of fairness and justice inside of every person. The youngest of children can be heard to respond with these words of complaint, “That’s not fair!” Ever been waiting in a line and someone cuts into the line, seeming to assume their time is more important or their need more urgent than others patiently waiting? And I’m sure you are cool with someone hurrying into that just vacated parking place for which you had been waiting.

We expect people to do what’s right, to wait their turn, and to play fair. And when that sense of fairness comes up against injustice, we want justice restored. In one’s heart there is an inherent need for rules to be fair, and for them to be followed equally. Granted, people are prone to permit themselves a more tolerant standard than they may allow others.

Most people will be understanding and forgiving a first time, even a few times. But how do you feel when the same person continues to assume that same grace, even seeming to take your understanding for granted multiple times? Peter faced that all too common question; “Lord, how often should I forgive some who sins against me? Seven times?” He must have felt very expansive in his answer, until he heard Jesus’ answer; “’No!’ Jesus replied, ‘seventy times seven!’” Matthew 18:21-22 NLT. Read Jesus’ explanation why. See Matthew 18:23-35 NIV. Any idea how many times you have needed forgiveness?

Was Jesus giving a number at which unforgiveness becomes acceptable? I think He gave a number that you would soon lose count until any limit would become irrelevant. The more sincerely forgiveness is practiced, the easier it becomes. But isn’t that the way of the Kingdom of God? God always stretches you beyond what you think you should or could do, so that you will rely on Him for all you need.

Here are three simple truths that can help you forgive when it’s otherwise difficult. (1) Remember how much and how often you have been forgiven. Read Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV. (2) Remember; forgiveness is not required of you, if and when you no longer expect or will need forgiveness. Read Mark 11:25-26 NKJV. (3) Remember; your unforgiveness wrongly suggests that God will do the same. Read 1 John 1:7-10 NIV.

There is a passage of Scripture that I do not presume to fully understand, but neither do I dare ignore. “Then Jesus . . said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you refuse to forgive them, they are unforgiven.’” Read John 20:21-23 NIV. What you and I do may have eternal consequence in another’s life. That is sobering to me. You and I are to be “ambassadors for Christ.” Represent Him well. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NKJV. He is the God of second chances, as many times as needed. See Jeremiah 18:1-4 NKJV. For that, I am very thankful.

My prayer for you today is that you rejoice in forgiveness and give it freely to others.

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Boundaries and Liberties

May 27th, 2009

“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.” 1 Corinthians 10:23 NAS

Choose wisely the bounds you have chosen and friends who respect them.”

My thoughts today are about “boundaries and liberties.”

Everybody needs rules. Almost nobody likes them. God gave the Ten Commandments, not the ten suggestions. He gave them out of love for you, not love for law. In athletics and academics, as in life itself, rules allow everyone to compete fairly, and provide a means for achievement to be measured and compared. That’s why there are rules and referees, grades and graduation requirements, right and wrong.

Rules establish boundaries. My Dad believed in rules, always clear but fair. They made me wiser and better than I would otherwise have been. Boundaries are for your benefit, not to limit or restrict you. They protect and keep you safe. Maybe it would help to think of boundaries rather than rules. I see three occasions for boundaries.

There are times you need people to set boundaries for you. That is the value of parents, teachers, friendships, and civil and governmental authorities. They set boundaries that are to benefit all. “For government is God’s servant to you for good.” Romans 13.4. Respect and appreciate them for doing so. Laws are to protect the lawful and restrain the lawless. “Obey your leaders, and submit to them for they watch for your souls as those who will give account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13:17.

Sometimes you will need to determine boundaries for others. True liberty is not without limits, never without restraint. 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!” Friends often set boundaries for one another. Often it is more kind to say no, not cruel. Choose wisely the bounds you have chosen, and friends who respect them.

At all times, you must set boundaries for yourself. The best decisions you make were made before the situation needing a boundary 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. God’s boundaries mark the places where you will find your greatest liberties, and others find safety.

When I was first preparing for ministry, my Dad taught me something very valuable about boundaries for pastoral ministry, “Those you lead will likely exceed your liberties, so be wise. And others who follow may stop short of your disciplines, so be careful, seeking to excel.”

Someone is always following you, even when you do not think so. 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 that 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. I want them to know where I am going, who I am following, and how to get where God is leading.

My prayer for you today is: know that boundaries are to protect you, not confine you.

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