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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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High Standards

August 28th, 2015

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Colossians 3:17 NIV.

Passionately protest mediocrity.

My thoughts and comments today are about “high standards.”

Standards are important to a worthwhile life. Standards provide a benchmark – a standard of excellence against which similar things must be measured or judged – for what you deem acceptable or unacceptable. Using others as your standard is inadequate. If you don’t establish your standards, your friends or the surrounding culture will. “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV.

A person with low standards ultimately has no standards. The Father’s intention for us is clear: “Until we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a [mature] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13 NKJV. That is a high standard, fully achievable in Christ Jesus. Maturity is your destiny in Christ.

Some years ago, while teaching a Pastoral Counseling class to young Bible school students, I needed to define spiritual maturity in practical terms. This is my definition, “Spiritual maturity is rightly responding to life’s situations according to Biblical patterns of behavior.” That defines our Savior and should describe you and me. Christ-likeness should always be your choice. In any and every situation, you are presented with this choice, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 NKJV.

Spiritual conformation is the progression by which the Holy Spirit accomplishes that. “We know that when Jesus is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2 NKJV. Meanwhile, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV. Maturity is much more than increasing Biblical knowledge. Maturity is the embodiment of Biblical truth woven into the fabric of daily life – how you think, what you will sacrifice, what you believe, how you behave, what you value, how you live.

God’s Word and Christ’s example are high standards, not achievable apart from submission to the Lordship of Christ and dependence upon the indwelling power of the Spirit. Paul applied these high standards in simple, practical terms: bear with each other; forgive grievances; embrace love; let peace rule; be thankful; let the Word dwell in you; admonish with wisdom. Paul’s summary was, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Read Colossians 3:12-17 NIV. Passionately protest mediocrity; for me, that says it all.

Today, I pray for you that Jesus is the high standard to which you aspire.

Christian Communications

EDL PIX and quote standards

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Accomplishments

July 1st, 2013

“I have glorified You on the earth.” John 17:4 NKJV.

Accomplishments only matter when they have eternal importance and consequence.

My thoughts and comments today are about “accomplishments.”

In one degree or another, you will be measured by your accomplishments. The Sunday paper evidences who and what society considers important. On the front page are the news makers, notable for their public contributions, or notorious for their public failures. The Financial section acknowledges those of acquired wealth and business success. The Sports section boasts the prowess of athletes who excel beyond others. The Social pages portray the enviable lifestyles and social connections of the wealthy and well known. The Entertainment section showcases the fleeting fame of celebrities. Your accomplishments may seem less worthy of public acclaim.

People wrongly measure themselves and others by arbitrary and inaccurate standards. The important thing you must decide is the qualifying standard by which you and your accomplishments will be measured. Jesus held little concern for people’s evaluation of His ministry. His words reveal His accomplishments, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” John 17:4 NKJV. Simple standards, easily evaluated, eternally consequential.

Jesus glorified God on earth. Everything Jesus did was to glorify God – Jesus’ manner of life, “I always do what pleases [the Father].” (John 8:29 NIV) – His words, “I speak to the world those things which I heard from [the Father].” (John 8:26 NKJV) – His actions, “The Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing.” (John 5:19 NIV) – and His values and priorities, “I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” John 5:30 NKJV. Such accomplishments are exemplary.

Jesus accomplished His assignment. Jesus looked to Father God with perfect confidence, “I have finished the work which You gave me to do.” John 17:4 NKJV. May it never be said of you as has been said of some, “When all is said and done, more was said than ever had been done.” Live to have no regrets. Promises are made but fewer fulfilled; plans considered but not implemented; eager beginnings yet meager completions; unfinished tasks defining uncompleted lives.

Accomplishments only matter when they have eternal importance and consequence. Invest your time, effort, money, and influence in people, not things; people matter eternally. What are you doing that will make the world a better place when you are gone? When you stand before God, every other accomplishment will pale in comparison, except for what was done according to His will, in His name, and for His glory. Jesus’ advice? “Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven . .“ Read Matthew 6:19-21 NIV.

At the end of life, others’ opinions matter little; God’s true evaluation matters entirely. May you hear God’s benediction of your accomplishments and benevolent welcome into His eternal fellowship, “Well done, good and faithful servant . . enter into the joy of your Lord.” Matthew 25:23 NKJV. John glimpsed a bit of Heaven and described those there with these words, “Happy are those who die in the service of the Lord! Yes, indeed. They will enjoy rest from their hard work, because the results of their service go with them.” Revelation 14:13 TEV.

My prayer for you today is that your accomplishments please God more than people.

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High Standards

June 21st, 2011

“The Lord tested Joseph’s character.  Psalm 105:19 NLT

Some things in life remain non-negotiable, regardless of the moment’s circumstance.

My thoughts today are about “high standards.”

Some one has said, ”Character is what you are when no one else is looking.” When some people are in a situation where they feel they have been treated unfairly or when finding themselves far from home, their character can “go south” pretty easily. Having Godly character is far from automatic; it is a deliberate choice and firm conviction.

Character takes effort, discipline, and consistency. And sometimes it seems that maintaining Godly character is even more difficult when the culture doesn’t really value it and too many occasions arise to compromise it. Character often requires that you go against the current of the popular culture. Joseph, the son of Jacob and great-grandson of Abraham, is such a remarkable man with exemplary character. (Read his story in Genesis 37-50). Joseph faced almost every imaginable provocation, any of which could have been an excuse to justify sacrificing his character, but he kept his integrity before God and purity with others intact.

He kept his dream when everything and everybody seemed to oppose that. He rose above others’ misunderstanding and mistreatment. He handled both success and temptation with Godliness and good judgment. He was diligent in matters entrusted to him, when a slave, a prisoner, and ultimately as a ruler. He chose to forgive, when others would retaliate; that’s character. A frequently recurring phrase in the story of Joseph is, “And the Lord was with Joseph.” God identifies with people of character.

Character results from establishing standards that you will not compromise for your advantage or ease, nor for popularity with others. Character requires that some things in life remain non-negotiable, regardless of the moment’s circumstance. When enticed by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph responded righteously, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against my God?” He would not break faith with the man who trusted him, not violate his own high standards, nor would he sacrifice the purposes of God for his life. Character is the inner strength to remain steadfastly true to God, and yourself. In High School English Literature I learned this quote, ”This above all: To thine own self be true, and then it must follow, as night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Hamlet, William Shakespeare.

Don’t compromise who you are or what you are about. Choose your standards carefully, for they will ultimately determine how you live your life. You cannot know every eventuality, but you can prepare yourself by predetermining what you will or will not do in predictable circumstances, and who you will or will not be for approval. Low standards permit careless living. Popular standards allow you to accept less than the best that you can be. Even your family or friends’ standards may not be the best of which you are capable. Your standards for yourself should demand exemplary character and excellence from you – the highest and best you are capable of being and doing in God’s strength and power. Expect more of yourself than anyone else would.

My prayer for you today is that you allow God’s Word to be your only standard.

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Good enough Is Not Good Enough

August 14th, 2009

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God.” Philippians 3:14 KJV

“Average and adequate are not words that you should allow to describe you.”

My thoughts today are that “good enough is not good enough.”

The culture of today feels more comfortable with mediocrity, the acceptable norm is average – not much less than others and not much more than others. There seems to be an inclination to reward mediocrity and punish anyone who rises too far above it. The one who achieves less than others is looked upon with charity; those who achieve too much more are viewed with jealous suspicion.

The common expectation is too low for you to follow. The culture’s acceptable morality is more often immorality – its norm for modesty is immodest – its acceptable speech is proud and profane – its assumption of need is excess – its tolerance indulges wrong and mocks what is good – its pride is in its shame. See Philippians 3:18-19 NIV. “Be a living and holy sacrifice, the kind He will accept. When you think of what He has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world . .” See Romans 12:1-2 NLT.

Average and adequate are not words that you should allow to describe you. You can always do better than you think you could, if you’re willing to try. Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Henry Ward Beecher. If you never accept of yourself anything less than the best of which you are capable, you can ask of others nothing less than their best. You should not expect of others more than you require of yourself.

Good enough is not good enough, if you choose to live for the glory of God, Here’s the standard the Bible sets for you, “May the God of peace . . equip you with everything good for doing His will, and work in you what is pleasing to Him . . to Whom be glory for ever and ever.” Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV. That’s God’s standard. I think that God calls you to reach for a higher standard of excellence – “what is pleasing to Him!”

Be careful of whom you aspire to please. Yourself? You are too subjective. Your friends? They are not objective. Your critics? You will never please them. The crowd? You cannot please everyone. There is only One before whom you will ultimately stand to give an account for your life and how you have lived. Read 1 Corinthians 3:11-18/Revelation 20:11-12 NIV. Live only to please God.

Excellence is a value to prize and a goal to pursue. I think that describes the passion and singular pursuit of Paul as he wrote the words of today’s verse. A word of caution: do not confuse excellence with perfection. You are not capable of the latter in this lifetime; you are accountable for the former in the life to come. Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way. Booker T. Washington.

Excellence is not a competition to outdo others, nor is it measured in comparison to others. Success is being the best; excellence is doing your best! A good rule for life is simply this: always give your best, and what you do, do for the glory of God. Just enough is not enough, and good enough is not good enough. My Dad often said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” I believe him.

My prayer for you today is: give God your best, and do everything as unto the Lord.

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