Posts Tagged ‘Socrates’

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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The Examined Life

May 22nd, 2012

“Test me, O Lord . . examine my heart and my mind.” Psalm 26:2 NIV

Refuse the false refuge of an unexamined life.

My thoughts and comments today are about an “examined life.”

It is presently the time of year when students at all academic levels face final exams and passing or failing grades. The exams are to test acquired knowledge – intellectual understanding and practical application – of required subjects. Being adequately examined according to required standards and found academically qualified determines a student’s successful promotion or graduation. For some, more than others, examinations may be cheerfully anticipated. If a student has been diligent in their studies and done well through the school year there is little concern. For those who have been careless along the way or done little to prepare, it is a day of reckoning, first at school and probably then with parents at home.

Life has many such moments or reckoning, such as: an annual employee evaluation, yearly health screening, filing of income taxes, or just balancing your check book. Probably the more pressing issue that concerns my thoughts today are the smaller tests that occur along the way. King David learned the difficulty of knowing his own heart. “Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and my mind.” Psalm 26:2 NIV. David’s moral failure with Bathsheba must have been a sobering reality check. Before that fateful indiscretion, David must have felt twinges of conscience, God’s warnings of potential failure in smaller, gradual things that hold great importance. That’s the thing about disobedience; sin is sin whether small or large, private or public. Sin is missing the mark, failing the exam, falling short of the acceptable standard.

Jesus loved to tell stories that were true to life. He told the story of a fearful servant who took the investment entrusted to him and hid it secretly and safely in the ground. Read Matthew 25:13-29 NIV. When his master returned and asked to examine his stewardship, his failure was public. But he failed, not on the day of accountability; everyday he failed a little bit when he did not examine his motives and methods, ultimately doing nothing that he should have done. He didn’t bother to examine what he was doing in contrast with what he should have been doing.

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” There are dimensions of spiritual life that require self-examination. “If we examine ourselves, we will not be examined by God and judged in this way.” 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 NLT. Every day, humbly examine your heart before the Lord in the revealing light of His will and Word. See James 1:22-26 NIV. Failing to do so risks your remaining unchanged. “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.” Hebrews 2:1 NLT. Drift is a gradual occurrence, often unnoticeable to you.

Honestly examine your schedule, motives, and affections; examine your heart for God. And welcome the loving scrutiny of the Holy Spirit. But far more important is a day when every person, young or old, will stand before God. “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:12 NKJV. See 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 NLT/Revelation 20:11-12 NIV. That is  a day on which you will not be left unexamined, a day without excuse for being unprepared. See Romans 1:20-22 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you will refuse the false refuge of an unexamined life.

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Final Exams

September 27th, 2010

“Examine yourself to see if your faith is really genuine.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 NLT

“A personal, spiritual exam reveals who you are authentically before God.”

My thoughts today are about “final exams.”

Who goes eagerly to the doctor for their annual medical check-up? What business eagerly awaits the company’s financial audit? You may recognize they are necessary, even important, but can seem inwardly afraid of what they might reveal. When shying away from facing truth, realize you cannot fix something that you do not know needs fixing. There is failure if you do not?

Though more than four decades ago, I still remember the instantaneous anxiety produced by my arrival at a college course after too many needless absences, only to find that minutes later the class would be taking a major mid-term exam. I was unprepared for the exam and what it would reveal. I never wanted to feel that way again.

It is wise and profitable to stop periodically and examine how things are going, to consider how you are doing. Is life working for you? Are you making progress, standing still, or losing ground? “The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Socrates, ancient Greek philosopher, 470-399 BC). Those words seem as true today!

Businesses need honest examination occasionally, regularly even, as do churches, friendships, marriages, families, and individuals. Any and all can fail if assumptions are not tested. Many people are more inclined to examine other people, not so excited about self-examination. Best to leave others to themselves and God! You will have your hands full with just yourself, most likely.

Whatever else requires examination, always begin with the Bible’s advice, “Examine yourself to see if your faith is really genuine.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 NLT. And where do you start? Start with an honest evaluation of your relationship with God. Is your faith really genuine? Your subjective bias requires help from the reliable objectivity of the Word of God as your standard, and the Holy Spirit for counsel and conviction. Read John 16:7-11 NLT.

Your goal is not justifying to God how good you are, nor groveling in any false guilt of how bad you are, and definitely not comparing yourself for better or worse with anyone else (2 Corinthians 10:12 NIV). A personal, spiritual exam is for you to know your heart – to know just who you are authentically before God. How can you know that without inviting God to show you? “Put me on trial, Lord, and cross examine me. Test my motives and affections. For I am constantly aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth.” Psalm 26:2-3 NLT. See Psalm 139:23-24 NLT.

Here is the only final grade that matters, from the One who always judges righteously. The Bible says this is how you prepare, “If we examine ourselves, we will not be examined by God and judged in this way. But when we are judged and disciplined by the Lord, we will not be condemned by the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 NLT. Read Romans 14:10-12 NIV/1 Corinthians 3:12-17 NIV. This is the final exam for which you must prepare every day! “Well done!” is what you want to hear from your Lord.

My prayer for you today is that your heart is ever open and true before the Lord.

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Valuable Life-lessons

February 26th, 2010

“Happy is the man who gains understanding.” Proverbs 3:13 NKJV

“Experience is a great teacher, a path to understanding for those who learn its lessons.”

My thoughts today are about “valuable life-lessons.”

You are not born with knowledge and understanding. You came into the world with a blank slate – as a book of blank pages waiting to be written upon as you learn and grow. That book will become the story of your life, the sum of knowledge that you daily accumulate through your ability to listen and learn.

There is truth written on your heart by your Creator, but life and the shared knowledge and understanding from others will help you to discover and appreciate it. The Apostle Paul wrote of “the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness . .” Romans 2:15 NKJV. You must learn to look within and listen for His voice of truth residing in the depth of your heart, pure and undeceived. Isaiah wrote, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21 NIV.

There is a world that God made, with wonders unexplainable except for a Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Read Psalm 19:1-6 NIV.

The problem is not a lack of knowledge and understanding available; that is ample. God has given the Bible, His record of truth and wisdom to be food for your mind and soul and direction for life. “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path.” See Psalm 119:97-106 NIV. You have also been given the promise of the Holy Spirit who will reside within those who receive and welcome Him. “When He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.” John 16:13 NIV.

All of the above are to prepare you for gaining understanding and wisdom from valuable life-lessons. That’s where you translate what you have seen and heard into what you will believe with certainty and conviction. Life dispenses knowledge to those who desire it, to those who will hear and receive it. The most valuable life-lesson is to learn to keep God at the center.

From life you gain experience, some pleasant and others not so much. Experience can be costly. There often is a price to be paid, but one well worth paying. From every experience you can learn something useful, but that does not happen automatically. There is an oft-repeated quote, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates, Greek philosopher 469-399 BC. You cannot avoid mistakes, but you can reduce their frequency, grow from them, and avoid making the same ones again.

Experience is a great teacher, a path to understanding if you will choose to learn its lessons. People have experiences everyday; not everyone considers and evaluates their lessons to learn from them. Be one person who learns, and lives more wisely. It is sad to see people who spend their lifetimes making the same mistakes, with ever greater costs to themselves and others. Don’t let that be true of you.

My prayer for you today is that you always view life through the matrix of God’s truth.

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