Marriage to enjoy, or endure. The choice is yours.

I don’t drive with the radio on very often.  When I’m in the car I’m very often praying.  A few months ago while I was driving to work I was meditating of the mercy of God.  It was quiet in the car and I wasn’t making any noise, I was just thinking about how merciful the Lord is and how faithful He is to show mercy.  All of the sudden, the Lord began to deal with my heart about my marriage.  I have a good marriage and I pay attention to the kind of husband I am.  Sometimes though, we get lazy in our thinking and just assume that it’s ok.  Our marriage is the backdrop for our lives and always running in the background – sometimes being ignored.  A good marriage takes intentional thinking though, and I was not being intentional about it that often.  The Lord impressed upon me that my wife had not made a plan B.  Our marriage was it.  Her happiness and fulfillment were in my very hands.  I can not be 100% responsible for her being happy or fulfilled but I could be 100% responsible if she wasn’t.  I need to build & keep an environment of love and protection around her so that she can grow to find her own happiness & fulfillment.  I was being shown that I need to be watchful that I don’t make her suffer for choosing me.  If she was going to be truly happy & reach her full potential in this life, I was going to be a part of it.  I realized more clearly in that moment that if I wasn’t intentional with the way I treated her, I could give her a life that instead of loving and enjoying, she would have to just endure.  It woke me up.

linked fingers

I love my wife and want the very best for her always.  When the Lord deals with me like that, I really take it seriously.    God doesn’t just have a plan for my life.  He has a plan for her life too.  His plan for me and my wife will be intertwined and it will be much easier for both of us to make it to our full potential if we are both in our place and following the Lord’s plan for us.  God cares as much for her and my children as He does for me.  We are all on equal footing when we approach Him.  God has no grandchildren.

God’s instruction to us as husbands in Ephesians 5:25 is to love our wives as Christ loves the church.  How did Christ show his love to the church?  He gave himself for it.  We as husbands need to have this attitude in our marriage.  I like the words that Paul the Apostle used in 2 Corinthians 12:15 when he said “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you, though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved”.  Our love to our wife is a gift we must give.  She can’t take it, it must be given.  We need to have a “very gladly spend and be spent” attitude when it comes to her.  One last thing.  You need to consider yourself the bottom line in your relationship with your wife.  Don’t wait for her to satisfy all of your needs before you even try to make her happy.  You do your part now,  you do your part continually and you do your part no matter what!

The “Do What’s Right” 4 Step Action Plan.

Say this sentence out loud.  The bad behavior of others does not excuse me from doing what I know is right.  Consider writing that on a post it note and sticking it on your bathroom mirror so you can read it while you brush your teeth.  Better yet, print this out. pouting lipsThere have been many times in my life when I have used the behavior of others as an excuse to slip below my own standards and act out too.  Was I right?  Absolutely not.  I may have thought I was at the time though.  Surely anyone looking at my situation would agree, I had the right to act the way I did.  Poor me!

This thinking comes from a specific mind set. 

A victim mentality.  “I can’t help acting this way, look at how they treated me!” (Bottom lip sticking out).  That statement is not true though.  We can ALWAYS help it.  I like the illustration Rev. Keith Moore uses.  A man who habitually beats his wife says “I just can’t help it! I get so angry I just lose it”, but when you set him next to a 350 lb. line backer who can break him in half if he gets violent, some how the wife beater will find the strength to restrain himself.  This is true with all of us.  We don’t have to act from our feelings.

The bad behavior of others does not excuse me from doing what I know is right.

When people judge you unjustly, speak evil of you or are generally mean spirited, it never feels good! Ever! No one likes it when that happens.  But the true test of a person’s strength and character is found when they stand up and do what’s right even when every feeling in them is shouting for justice or revenge.

Supernatural forgiveness

Jesus when he was being crucified said “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  He was responding from mercy even when they were doing the absolute worst and most hurtful thing they could do to him.  You may say “Yeah, but that’s Jesus! He’s the son of God”.  There was another man in the bible named Stephen who in Acts 7 preached a message that when the Jews heard it, made them so mad that they screamed, stopped up their ears so that they couldn’t hear anymore, took him out of the city and stoned him.  Verse 60 says that even while he was being stoned, he kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” right before he died.  This was a regular Christian guy like you and me.  Even when his very life was being taken away, he responded from mercy. Hebrews 12:4 says that you and I have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.  Verses 1-3 (WEB) say this and I find this so encouraging – “Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, that you don’t grow weary, fainting in your souls”.

Consider what that is saying. 

Jesus was drawn through the very suffering of the cross and all of the things that followed it for the next three days in the heart of the earth.  Drawing the FULL STING of Death, Hell and the Grave.  Death, Hell and the Grave kept nothing back!  All that it had was fully spent on Him.  We get a little preview in Psalm 22:12-15. Why did He do it?  “Who for the joy that was set before Him…”  Us redeemed.  That’s what drew Him through the suffering.  It meant more to Him than the pain or the shame.  The word despising here is interpreted to think against or to think down.  Jesus was doing what Paul the Apostle admonishes us to do in 2 Corinthians 10:5. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”. Imagine though what would have happened if Jesus had responded badly based on how everyone was treating Him?  The earth would just be a black cinder floating in space.  Aren’t you glad He didn’t.

What’s the take-away here? 

  1. Make a decision that you will do what’s right.  Make this decision in advance.
  2. Build your life while you’re strong to carry you through when you’re weak.  Ask God for wisdom for this. It would be sheer foolishness to think that you will not be tested on this.  You need to look at situations and occasions when you behaved badly in response to someone else’s bad behavior.  Ask yourself what you could do that would give you a way out of that situation without losing control.  Now implement a strategy to carry you when you need it most.
  3. Find the Joy.  God knows what buttons to push in you to motivate and help you.  Ask Him for help.  He will put a joy in front of you that will draw you through the difficulty.  Philippians 2:13 says that God will work in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
  4. Maintain your thought life.  Thoughts will come.  They always do.  We need to cast them down.  You don’t fight thoughts with thoughts, you fight thoughts with words.  When the thoughts come and you are tempted to yield to self pity and begin feeling like a victim, open your mouth and begin to thank God for all the good things He has done for you.  You will not be able to think about the negative stuff while your brain & mouth are engaged speaking about the positive stuff. Philippians 4:6-9 (WEB) says “In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known go God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS.  The things which you learned, received, heard, and saw in me: do these things, and the God of peace will be with you”.

Plan of Action.

What steps can you take today to help you when you are getting to close to the your red line? One of the things you can do is to meditate on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 every day.  Here’s a link to a downloadable PDF of it from the amplified Bible that has be modified for first person confession. Print this out & carry a copy with you.  I have one next to my computer monitor in my office as well as on my mirror at home.

How have you been victorious in this area?  Join the conversation and leave a comment. Your comments could be the encouragement that someone else needs to hear.

Victors, Victims & Forgiveness

I wanted to write about forgiveness in the blog post this week.  My problem was that I had this big ugly area in my life where I was holding onto a little bit of a grudge. I had to get it resolved so that I wasn’t being a total hypocrite when I talked to you about forgiveness.  That’s right, I’m just like you.  I face it too.  I also get the wonderful opportunities to wallow in my own self pity.  The thing is though, when you know what to do, God expects you to do what you know.  Have you ever thought about it?  Not doing what you know to do is really just increasing your disobedience to God.  There’s a short word for that, it’s called sin.  This is the reason why I’m publishing late. For those who look for my posts and miss them when they don’t show, I’m sorry.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is releasing someone from debt.  It may be that you were hurt physically from an act of violence or you were hurt emotionally by mean or inconsiderate people. You may actually have a monetary debt that you owe.  Either way you look at it, forgiveness is always tied to debt.  There can be no forgiveness if nothing is owed.

Let’s look at the word “Owe” for a second.  Owe is something that is either earned or comes through entitlement. It’s owed to them, it’s a debt.  This is especially true in the area of respect.  There are some people that we should respect just purely based on their position.  If we can’t respect them, we need to at least respect the position.  This is owed.  It’s due and it should be paid.  If you consider what I wrote about last week about unfulfilled expectations, there are things that we think are owed us but are not.  We think we deserve them but we don’t.  It’s a slippery slope when you start thinking about what you deserve, or you have expectations that you have no right to have.  You need to have a close look at yourself & be honest.  Is it really owed to me?

Forgiveness happens when we release people from the obligation of paying the debt.  We let them off the hook.  Matt. 6:15 says “But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”.  Forgiveness for the Christian is not an option.  There is no condition found in the Bible where it’s okay to hang onto unforgiveness.  We see and interesting story in Matthew 18:23-35.  The bottom line of the story is that if the Heavenly Father can forgive what He has forgiven, He’s within His right to expect us to forgive also.

Forgiveness is all about you.  All of the control and responsibility of forgiveness totally rests in your hands.  No one else can do this for you.  If you won’t do it, it won’t get done.  Here are some things that helped me to do the right thing this week.

  1. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.  When I hold a grudge, it’s not hurting the person I’m upset with nearly as much as it’s hurting me.  When I forgive, I’m really allowing myself to move on and have some peace.
  2. It always involves making a choice.  Forgiveness always follows the choice to forgive.  I read somewhere this week that when a person says “I can forgive but I can’t forget”, what they are really saying is “I won’t forgive”.  Very often unforgiveness is the very thing that’s keeping you from being able to move forward.  In order to get better, you need to release the debt.
  3. Forgiveness takes away your victim status.  When you are hurt and have not forgiven, you get to be pitiful and feel sorry for yourself.  Don’t be deceived though, that’s weakness.  Strong people don’t feel sorry for themselves.  If you are tired of being a victim and want to take control of your own direction in your life, then you need to stop reacting to what others are doing to you and instead decide how your will respond.  Acting from an decision is way better than acting from an injury.  You are also saying that though this may hurt, it will not be the determining factor in what you do next.  That will come from you and you alone.  Forgiveness is really one of the first steps toward becoming strong.  By forgiving, you are breaking the yoke off of your own neck and taking away the problem or injury’s control over you.

It would be unjust for God to require something from you that you are unable to do.  Since He gives us no options when it comes to forgiveness, we know that:

  1. We can do it.  He would not ask if it were impossible.
  2. It’s important that we do it.  What many people don’t realize is the spiritual implications of not walking in forgiveness.  If you won’t forgive, God can’t forgive you.

“Accept important apologies you never received.  If you love someone and you want to forgive them, Relieve them of the need to apologize to you, for anything.”  www.marcandangel.com

So what now?  I issue this challenge.  In the next 30 days, take at least two practical steps toward resolving unforgiveness in your own life.  There are people who have hurt you or owe you somehow, find a way to let them off the hook.  In the long run you’ll be glad you did.  God’s way is always the best.  What are some practical ways to demonstrate forgiveness?  Let me hear your thoughts by leaving a comment.

When it comes to people, are you hindering your own progress?

I have had different people over the years that have had a profound affect on me. There have been times when people have spoken things either in a public forum or directly to me that have been just what I needed to hear at the time. When this sort of thing happens to you, you become grateful and when you get an opportunity, you want to shake their hand and thank them for the influence they have had on you.  I don’t know how many times though, I have approached some of these people and then walked away wishing I hadn’t even tried? They were cold and unengaged and sometimes they were outright rude. Have you ever experienced this?  Walking away wishing you hadn’t even made the effort?  I have gone to people with the good intention of being gracious and thankful and walked away thinking to myself “I’m going to have to pray for a long time to get past this”.

Dog feeding lamb

During my first term in bible school I had a class called Spiritual Growth Principles. Besides teaching classes in the school, my instructor for that class is also the National Director of ministerial association connected with the school and the director of the alumni association.  He’s a busy guy.  He goes by Brother Doug.  The first day of class Brother Doug was there early and began working his way around the room. He shook hands with, introduced himself to, and asked everyone in the room their name. There were over 200 students in that class. He then admonished all of us to introduce ourselves to the people around us. His comment was “You’re going to school to go into the ministry but don’t care enough about the people around you to introduce yourself?”. This marked me. If we really do care about people, we need to take this to heart.

The summer between my 1st & 2nd year of bible school, my hometown pastor became sick and died. Brother Doug called me on my cell phone during my lunch hour at work.  I’m not sure where he got my number. He called to let me know what had happened as he had been in contact with my hometown pastor & his family. Brother Doug gave me his cell phone number and invited me to call him if I needed anything. I never called but I was grateful for the invitation. Please understand, I’m not trying to glorify Doug Jones.  My point is that he REALLY cares about people. He has thousands of people contacting him but he took time to help one.  He’s not interested in building fame. He’s interested in what the Father is interested in. The sheep.

Jeff Goins is the author of the book Wrecked – When a broken world slams into your comfortable life as well as several e-books and articles. He’s also a blogger & entrepreneur that I follow and I have found him very insightful. According to Allwebsitestats.nl, Jeff’s website goinswriter.com has over 500,000 visitors per month with over 900,000 page views. I’m pointing all of this out because when I reached out to Jeff through Twitter with a question that had been bothering me for a while, Jeff not only answered my question, but started following me on Twitter and wrote a blog post about the subject I asked about. Apparently I wasn’t the only one struggling with that issue. Since I have been following Jeff, he has consistently demonstrated that he cares about people, wants to help them and works to add value in others.

On the other hand, I have reached out to people who I respected and told them how much they helped me only to get absolutely no response at all….just crickets.  I remember one time being really disappointed and thinking “Wow! I’m not important enough to even acknowledge”.  Now I understand that a public figure can have a large number of people trying to reach out to them and I think it could possibly feel over-whelming.  That day though, they hurt their ability to reach into my life by not responding.

That’s my point really.  People are important.  They are important to God.  They should be important to us.  People are the reason Jesus came, died, rose from the dead and is now seated at God’s right hand.  It was God’s love for people that brought about His entire plan.  How you and I treat others now has a direct effect on whether we can affectively help them in the future.  What we say and how we say it will either open them up to receive or close them down to reject our help and our message. Proverbs 16:21  says “The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increases learning”.  The way you speak to and treat people will determine how much or little you will be heard.  It all comes down to trust.  If I were to state on my social media profile “I love people” but then I ruin my ability to help or influence you because of my actions and bad behavior, I am sending two completely different messages.  The one you have to believe is the one that’s reflected by the fruit (Mat 7:16 & 20).  Many people hurt their own credibility by how they act toward others.

mother_teresa_photoWe all have a tendency to hear this stuff and immediately think of someone we know who could stand to hear it.  I really want you to have a look at yourself though.  You’re the only one you can control and change.  Are you valuing and helping others or are you hindering your own ability to reach into their lives and help them?  What can you change in your responses to others that would create a better outcome?

I really want to just encourage you to take a honest look at how you see others.  Are they “Those creepy people who wont leave me alone”? or do you see them as valuable and worthy of your time and attention?  Are there people you know you should be helping that you aren’t?  How can you step it up and be more effective?

Please join the conversation by leaving a comment.  I look forward to our discussions.  Also – If you think this can help someone, please share or forward it.

 

 

Isn’t Fitting In Really Hard Sometimes?

IMAG0468Here’s the truth about us.  We want to be liked.  We always want to be liked.  We always, at all times, in every situation, want everyone to think the absolute best of us, period. Most of us understand and have learned to live with the fact that we will not be liked by everyone though.  We know that we’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.  What really seems to motivate us then, is that we don’t want to be disliked by anyone – ever!  Why do we want this so badly?  Why do we expend so much effort to be so pleasing to everybody?

We seem to be engineering ourselves toward what we perceive as the “middle ground”.  The place where we draw neither derision or praise.  We call it fitting in.  I think it’s because when you really look at it, fitting in isn’t really as much for being liked as it is for not being disliked.  We don’t want to draw negative attention to ourselves or be on the receiving end of other people’s scorn or contempt.  While we deeply want to be loved and accepted, we will settle for being ignored and not persecuted.  This, however, is a big problem!

Here’s a little secret about most people.  Even when they have the time to think about you, they probably aren’t.  Dale Carnegie said it like this, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  People are almost always thinking about themselves and what’s important to them.  They spend their time working out personal problems or deciding the next move.  They are in all likelihood, not thinking of you or me at all.

Remember that a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.  – Dale Carnegie

Several years ago I went to lunch with a couple of friends. It was a buffet so we were all up filling our plates and I was the last person to come back to our table.  When I went to sit down, I nearly fell out of the other side of the chair.  I don’t know what happened, I mean, I sit down regularly.  I’m fairly practiced at it.  Don’t ask me how on this day, in front of all of these wonderful people out here eating lunch, I decide to forget how to sit down.  Anyway, my friends got a pretty good laugh out of it and when I finally looked up to view the crowd in the restaurant, no one was looking at me anymore.  They gave me about a second and a half of their busy time and then went on about their way.  Most of them were probably just glad it wasn’t them that goofed up that day.  I’m reasonably confident that everyone in the place could identify with how I felt.  This experience helped me. My comedy event was like a rubber ball that hit the attention of everyone in the place, and just like a rubber ball, it bounced right off again.

We all have a mask.  We call it our “normal”.  We put it on when we think the social situation requires it.  The truth is though that the “normal” is not normal.  It rarely represents who a person really is.  I tell my daughters that normal is what a person is until you get to know them.  I know that there are things about me that you may not think are normal.  Most of us are like that.  I say “most” because I have met the rare individual who really is genuine and what you see is what you get.  For the rest of us, we spend bucket loads of effort trying to get positive attention or at the very least, no negative attention in order to have some peace in our life.

The problem with our little personal conformity project is that by forming ourselves to be liked by everyone, we’re engineering out of ourselves the things that make us unique and awesome!  I was watching a documentary about Henry Ford a few days ago. He revolutionized manufacturing with the idea of forming the assembly line for making automobiles.  He got the idea from the meat processing industry.  He was able to increase production of the Model T by something like 1,200 %.  One of the things that stood out to me about Henry Ford’s thinking was that, in order to make the system successful, the parts had to be manufactured consistently and interchangeably, but so did the workers.  The system had to be engineered so that employee Bob could do employee Mike’s job if employee Mike called in sick.

The industrialization of the country created a system of thinking where it was important to fit in.  We’ve all been taught to conform very easily.  Seth Godin said it best when he said “The reason that they want you to fit in is that once you do, then they can ignore you”.  What do you think about that?  I think it’s true.  Mass marketing was created to appeal to a mass of people who all think the same way and like the same things.  Going back to Henry Ford as our example, we see that Henry Ford was not like all of the men he hired.  He was different.  He had vision and drive and a willingness to let the things that made him remarkable be the things that defined him.  Instead of trying to conform, he was using his unique gifts to stand out and be set apart.

The reason that they want you to fit in is that once you do, then they can ignore you.  – Seth Godin

You and I are remarkable and have unique things about us too.  The bible says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”.  Instead of working so hard to suppress the things about you that make you who you are, leverage those things to reach into lives and help others.  You have suffered. You have lost. You have been victorious.  You have experienced trials and hardships in your life that make you uniquely qualified to speak into the lives of certain people in this world and help them.  This means that a hug from you can do more to minister healing to certain people than a hug from me would.  You are a divine gift to the world.  There are people that you are meant to love, help and lives that you are meant to touch and change .  Don’t cheat those people and sell them short by hiding your gifts or failing to act.

I want to encourage you today to stand up and let your scars be seen.  In a court room a testimony is a first person account of what happened by someone who was there and witnessed something .  In our walk, our testimony is our first person account of what God has done in our lives.

These are important for others to see because –

  1. It’s encouraging to others. People need to see that God is actively working in the lives of people who trust Him.
  2. It shows what’s possible to those who don’t know.  Many people haven’t read the bible and don’t know what’s on the menu – what’s available to them.
  3. It’s really hard to argue with and disprove your first hand account.  Discouragers and hard hearted people may try to argue with you but they are too late…you were there!

Are you ready to step up?  Someone out there is emotionally bleeding out and they need you to step up.  It’s time to take your place and do what you were uniquely designed to do!  It doesn’t have to be some earth shaking thing, just do something.  Start your forward motion and see what God does with it.  Look what He did with a little boy’s lunch.

Refuse to wait for others to recognize your potential.  Slip your life out of neutral into drive, you will be surprised where it will take you.  –  Doug Jones.

I want to take a line and just express my appreciation for you all.  I love you guys.  Thank you for reading my blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Hurt & Getting Over it.

silhouette-female2-e1311003704858We all experience difficult times when dealing with people.  None of us are exempt from getting our feelings hurt.  In some cases the injury can be severe and we wonder how someone could be so inconsiderate.  There are those who it seems care little for the well being of others and knowingly and heartlessly hurt others without remorse.  Sometimes we have to deal with the light sting of getting the cold shoulder by acquaintances, while other times we suffer through deep treachery that comes from the terrible betrayal of loved ones that are close to us.  As I have been thinking about these things, I have come to understand that while none of us are exempt from this, most of us don’t really have an effective and consistent way of handling it when we’re hurt.

There are two questions we need to ask when we’ve been hurt.

  1. Is it my fault?  Was I acting stupidly?  Did I fire off my mouth when I should have been quiet?  Very often we know we shouldn’t say things but our pride gets us wound up and we “just gotta have our say”.  This has gotten more people in more trouble faster than probably any other thing.  I’ve done this more than once and I’m pretty sure you have too.  We knew we should have kept quiet but it started jumping around on the inside of us and rather than exercising self discipline, we yielded to our pride, had our say and ended up needing to be corrected or punished.  Maybe you didn’t control yourself with your spending and now you’re suffering having to cut back severely in order to pay your bills and get out of substantial debt.  These things are foolish and we should expect the suffering we face because of them. A really good example of suffering for your faults is found in King David.  Beginning in II Sam 11:1 we see that when David should have been with his army fighting the enemy, he instead stayed home.  One evening while relaxing on the roof of his house, he saw Bathsheba bathing on the roof of her house.  To shorten the story a little, David wanted her badly and ended up having her husband killed by having him put on the front line fighting and then ordering everyone else to withdraw and leave him standing alone.  The Lord told David through the prophet Nathan “YOU have killed him with the sword of the children of Ammon”.  We have record in the scripture that because of what happened that day, 4 people died and one suffered mentally and never recovered.  Uriah the Hittite died, 3 of David’s children died (the baby, Amnon, and Absalom) and David’s daughter Tamar was never the same.  All because of what started on the roof top.This makes me stop and think.  Sin always brings death.  It may not be instant and severe but our actions really do affect our future.  This is the reason God is against sin.
  2. Was it unjust?  What if you didn’t do anything wrong?  We all face situations where we have done our best, we have been kind, we have walked in love toward individuals and it just didn’t seem to go anywhere. In spite of all our efforts, we still got sideways with them. Joseph is one of the best examples of this.  He was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was then put into prison in Egypt.  Historians believe that Joseph was 17 when he was sold to the Midianites and scripture tells us that he was 30 when he stood before Pharaoh.  We understand then that Joseph suffered unjustly for approximately 13 years.  He never did anything wrong and he still suffered.  You can do all the right things and keep your heart right in every situation and still get your feelings hurt and suffer unjustly.  Don’t be surprised when this happens.

Each of these will need to be handled in its own way.  You can’t deal with one the same way that you would deal with the other.  If you are suffering because of your own faults but are trying to deal with it as if you haven’t done anything wrong, you are out of line.  I know people like this.  Nothing is their fault and they are perpetually victims.  This attitude is not going to help them.  It will keep them stuck and unable to move forward.  If you or I have been a fool and have gotten into trouble, the only real course to move forward is to humble ourselves and take responsibility for the suffering that we are experiencing.

I have never been hurt by what I have not said.
– Calvin Coolidge

If you are hurt because you acted foolishly, here is what you can do to move forward.

  1. Say I’m sorry.  Own the problem and ask forgiveness for acting like a fool.  This is humbling yourself.  People will be far more merciful to the humble than to the proud.  When you humble yourself, it brings out the mercy in others most of the time.
  2. Own the consequences.  Don’t try to deflect or blame others.  Own it.  Sometimes the quickest way to get a bad situation behind you is to go through it and not around it.  If you have honor and integrity, you will stand behind your actions and accept the consequences.
  3. Ask God for help.  I remember hearing a man tell of the time when he made a foolish purchase and went into severe debt. He prayed and asked the Lord to help him.  He repented for being foolish and asked the Lord to help him preserve his word and integrity by helping him fulfill his obligation, and to get out from under the debt in a honorable way.  God did just that.  It took him tightening up his financial belt – a lot. It also didn’t happen over night, but God did help him and today he’s no longer in debt.

If you are hurt but you didn’t do anything wrong, here is what you can do to move forward.

  1. Forgive.  If you are experiencing unjust suffering, you must forgive.  I remember a time when some dearly beloved elders that I have served with were mistreated for something that they were not doing wrong.  It was hard to see people as committed and sincere as they were being dishonored and mishandled the way they were.  One man stepped down from serving because of it.  When I asked one of them how they were doing concerning it, their response was simply amazing.  They said, “We forgive them.  We don’t really have a choice about it”.  This is a mature Christian.  The bible says forgive. End of story.
  2. Endure.  In II Tim 2:3, Paul is admonishing Timothy.  He says, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”.   Paul instructed Timothy to endure it because the temptation was going to be to collapse under it.  Paul was reminding Timothy to think like a soldier when it came to the hardship and hurt that he would face. Endure it, shake it off, keep moving forward.  Don’t let hurt stop you from pressing forward and completing the objective.
  3. Don’t be moved.  Don’t stop doing what’s right.  When you are on the right path, persecution will arise.  This is not an “If” but a “When” situation.  Persecutions will come.
    1Th 3:2 And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.There are a couple of things to point out here.
    First, the temptation is to deviate from the right path.  So Timothy was to ESTABLISH the Thessalonians.
    Second, Timothy was also sent to COMFORT them.  The word comfort here can be interchanged with the word strengthen.  It was often used in 1611 (when the King James Bible was translated) to mean adequate or “up to the task”.  Timothy was sent to establish them, strengthen them, and make them “up to the task”.

You see, we are here, as far as I can tell,
to help each other; our brothers, our sisters,
our friends, our enemies.
That is to help each other and not hurt each other.
– Stevie Ray Vaughan

I think the key to all of this is to walk with a humble heart.  Many times we get hurt because we think we deserve something that we’re not getting.  A good policy to adopt concerning dealing with people is to expect nothing and be grateful for everything.  I have had the Lord check my heart to hold off on responding for 1 week to someone who was being harsh & rude.  When I got to the end of the week, I didn’t even want to bother with responding.  It was just no longer worth it.  Many times when we respond immediately to mistreatment, we also respond wrong.  Stop, wait, cool down & choose your response wisely.

Jas 1:19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

Paul admonished Timothy to endure hardness as a good soldier  (II Tim 2:3).  This is there for us to follow too.  We should adopt this same soldier mentality as we walk out God’s plan for our life.  As for me…I’m in.  I will endure hardness, shake it off and keep moving forward.  What about you?

Join the conversation and leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

Want to Reach Your Full Potential? This is a Must.

A few years back, I saw a made for television movie about settlers moving west. I don’t remember what it was called but I remember one scene in particular when a family came to the Mississippi river. It was during winter and the river was frozen over. They were going to have to cross the river in their wagon. Though the river was frozen over, there was always the possibility that the wagon would break through the ice . They needed to make sure they were as light as possible. As they stopped on the bank of the river, all along the bank were fine pieces of furniture, cabinetry and even an organ. Treasures left behind by travelers who had passed before. Family heirlooms that were so precious that they couldn’t be left behind and it no doubt broke the hearts of the people who had to just leave them there sitting in the open air on the bank of the river. Why were they there? Because they suddenly became a direct threat to the success of the journey. Hanging on to them would have meant possibly breaking through the ice, losing the wagon, the rest of the belongings and maybe even the lives of the family. These things that were once considered so valuable were now considered heavy weight and were hindering the progress. Keeping these things would have caused the travelers to fall short of the goal. They would not have made it if they didn’t dump the unnecessary weight. 

IMAG0435I remember a time several years ago when I had an experience that I will never forget. It was early one morning and I was right at that point where my eyes were not open yet but I was sort of awake. You know, that point where you are sort of teetering on the edge of sleep, when all of the sudden this thought floated up into my mind like a voice from the inside of me. ”The time is coming when this will no longer be tolerated”. First, I knew immediately what it was pertaining to, and second, I was instantly fully awake. So many times this is how God leads his people. Not by an audible voice but by a “knowing” or a conviction.

I understood what it was about. There were some things in my life that the Lord had been dealing with me about and I was over-riding my conscience about them. I was ignoring His correction. He was warning me that if I wanted to reach my full potential, I was going to have to lay them down and not pick them up again.

I began to see that many of the ministers that I have heard of that have fallen, failed and brought reproach against themselves and the ministry were in this same situation but would not listen. They would not receive correction and wound up ship wrecked with damaged credibility and diminishing influence. In some cased dying sooner than they should have. Some fell over money. Some over sexual immorality. Some over mishandling the ministry that the Lord put them over and in each case they would not judge themselves, they would not submit to correction. In some cases we have record of other ministers going to them and warning them but they would not listen. I realized that if I continued to resist instruction and over-ride correction, I was very likely to stall. 

I began to understand the importance of correction. First we need to understand that God loves us, and who He loves He corrects. Heb 12:5 (God’s Word Translation) says “You have forgotten the encouraging words that God speaks to you as his children: “My child, pay attention when the Lord disciplines you. Don’t give up when he corrects you. 6 The Lord disciplines everyone he loves. He severely disciplines everyone he accepts as his child.” 7 Endure your discipline. God corrects you as a father corrects his children. All children are disciplined by their fathers. 8 If you aren’t disciplined like the other children, you aren’t part of the family.” 

How should we think about correction? Correction is not a bad thing. God corrects us because he loves us. Realize that when He begins to convict your heart about anything at all, it’s the creator of the Universe taking a specific interest in your life and giving you instruction to help you grow up to a greater level of maturity. Correction from God should not to be feared or despised. The tiny details of your life matter to Him.

  1. We should pay attention to it. The King James says it this way “Despise not the chastening of the Lord”. We find in the Bible that to despise means to value lightly, to lightly esteem (1 Sam 2:30). When we are corrected, we need to value it & take it seriously. This is honor. The reason we are warned to pay attention is because the temptation will arise to ignore it.
  2. Don’t give up. The whole purpose for the correction is to help you move forward. Consider what would have happened to the settlers moving west if they had gotten all the way to the Mississippi and then just refused to part with the heavy stuff. Imagine thirty years later, there they are, stuck. The dream of a new life in the west fading into distant memory. In some cases, not accomplishing the life that they were born to live, all because they wouldn’t let go of the things that were weighing them down and holding them back.
  3. Understand why you’re getting it. You’re getting it because God really does love you. He wants the best for you and wants you to stay on track and stay out of the ditch.
  4. Understand how God thinks of you. If you’ve received Jesus as your Lord, He thinks of you as His child. As His child, He has the right as your father to instruct, guide and correct you. There’s no one wiser that He is. When you look to His word and it hits you right where you live, don’t ignore it. It really is for your good.
  5. Correction may come to you through an elder. You must have the humility to receive it. They may not say it in soft tones but if you’re going to grow, you can’t let hurt feelings keep you from seeing the truth of it. When you can receive it and use it and not let your feelings or pride get in the way, that shows real maturity.

God is faithful. I trust Him to help me. I’ve prayed and asked the Lord to show me where I’m being held back. I want to know. I don’t want to be deceived into thinking I’m okay in an area where I’m not. I know that in my own past I have been entirely too light on myself when it comes to what I allow. The truth is, corrections are always necessary in order to get where you want to go. Life will try to blow you off course all the time. The only way to reach any goal is to correct. If you don’t correct, you will end up somewhere but it will not be anywhere you want to be.

You be faithful too. I remember a long time ago when I quit smoking. I blew it after several days of success and I was so disappointed in myself. I remember praying and saying “Lord, I’m sorry. I don’t want to do this anymore.” Just like the morning I woke up to that thought, He caused me to realize this “The quicker you become faithful, the quicker the fruit of faithfulness will show up in your life”. The faster you respond and the more serious you take the instruction, the faster the results show up.

Correction usually means course change and that sometimes involves repentance. Hebrews 12:1 says “Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up.”

fist-1What should we do? I’ve decided to get “Bare Knuckles” with myself concerning these things. I want to get brutally honest with myself. I don’t want anything to hold me back from hitting the mark and reaching my full potential. So here’s my challenge to you. Will you go with me? Will you take the Bare Knuckles challenge? Let’s take this walk of faith together.

What steps can you and I take this week? Let’s mix it up! I want to hear from you. Maybe we can give a few minutes each evening to reflect on the day and where we may have missed it, then make a plan for the next day so that we don’t.  Please leave your comments below and that way we can help each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get This Phrase Out of Your Mouth.

Waging War on One Little Phrase.

We need to wage war on one phrase. It’s a small phrase but it carries with it a profound capacity to increase sales. It can cause a proud heart to take comfort in its pride. It causes more people to feel dissatisfied with more things on planet earth than nearly any other phrase I can think of. It really is diabolical in its underhanded deceit. It is one of the things that we see in others that makes them difficult to tolerate and to be around. It has in recent years become a self help buzz-phrase and its popularity in advertising is obvious. What is this phrase? The phrase “YOU DESERVE IT”.

Salesman

…because YOU deserve it!

I don’t know how many times in the last few months that I’ve heard commercials say “Because you deserve it!” or “Get the [product name here] that you deserve!” I’m sure this is a very effective tactic in advertising because it stimulates dissatisfaction in a person’s current situation and implies that there is something better. You – you superior thing, you, YOU deserve it. You shouldn’t have to endure one more second with that piece of junk you have now! Leave that for the people who aren’t as high caliber as you. You move yourself up here where the DESERVING crowd hangs out.  I’ve also seen it often in “encouragement” graphics on social media.  This is a phrase I have noticed a lot “Sometimes you must forget what you feel and remember what you deserve”.

The problem is that the vast majority of people believe that it’s true. Deep down they think “you know, I DO deserve it”, but do you? Do I? What makes us think that we deserve better? Where is this notion coming from?

The beginning of the problem. We all have heard the story of when Satan entered the Garden of Eden as a serpent and deceived Eve with the fruit. If we glaze over this story though, we miss some very important things that we need to understand about who we are and where we are.

  • What Satan said: Gen 3:4 (GWT) “You certainly won’t die!” the snake told the woman. 5 “God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened. You’ll be like God, knowing good and evil.”
  • We see here that Satan was casting doubt on two things.
    1. God’s truthfulness, indicating that God had lied to them about what would happen.
    2. That God was holding out on them. Satan implied that there was some awesome (reserved for the special ones) thing that God had, that they didn’t have, and that God had forbid them from eating the fruit because He was selfishly holding onto that part just for Himself.
      What was Satan really pointing to? You Deserve It!
  • Have you ever stopped to consider what Adam and Eve really gained in that transaction? What they gained was the knowledge of evil. They already had everything else. All they gained was “Less”. They literally lost the ability to be all they were created to be.

What it really boils down to is Pride and Vanity!

PRIDE

  1. feeling of superiority: a haughty attitude shown by somebody who believes, often unjustifiably, that he or she is better than others. -Bing Dictionary.
  2. A feeling that you are more important or better than other people. -Merriam Webster Dictionary

VANITY

  1. the quality of people who have too much pride in their own appearance, abilities, achievements, etc. : the quality of being vain. -Bing Dictionary.
  2. something (such as a belief or a way of behaving) which shows that you have too much pride in yourself, your social status, etc. -Bing Dictionary.

When you think about it, it really comes down to thinking that we, by our awesomeness, good works, talent, handsomeness, beauty and brilliant personality, have earned the right to have something we don’t currently have. Pride comes from thinking that YOU are “All That” and the subtle deception is that YOU by your amazing ability caused yourself to be worthy. Let me help you with that…Not True!


The truth is that God, by His mercy and grace gives you your next heartbeat and breath. He has put gifts & grace into you, sometimes even before you were born, so that you can accomplish all that He has planned for you, and live the life you were born to live. Do not be deceived that any of your awesomeness (and you do have awesomeness) comes from you.  More truth is that we are fallen under sin.

Rom 6:23 (KJV) For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The word Wages in Romans 6:23 is the Greek word opsōnion (op-so’-nee-on) – which means rations for a soldier, that is, (by extension) his stipend or pay: – wages. This is what is earned, wages. This is actually what we have earned and deserve. The rest of the verse goes on to say that God’s eternal life through Christ Jesus is a gift. The word Gift is the Greek word charisma. char’-is-mah. which means a (divine) gratuity. It comes from the word charizomai. (khar-id’-zom-ahee) which means to grant as a favor, that is, gratuitously, in kindness, pardon or rescue: – deliver, (frankly) forgive, (freely) give, grant. (All Greek word definitions from Strong’s).

When we think about it, what we really deserve, what we have really earned, is to be set on fire for all eternity. You may think that’s a little harsh, but let me ask you a question? How many laws do you have to break to be a law breaker? How many lies do you have to tell to be a liar? We have all missed the mark. God’s word to Eve is still true today, disobedience brings death. You can not reach to where you need to be on your own. You do not have what it takes. But thank God that He sent Jesus to do what we could not do and through His sacrifice, you CAN get there. He has opened the way. That’s why we submit ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus. When we do that, God accounts Jesus’ righteousness to us. We can stand before God as if we had never done anything wrong, ever!


When we understand that we have what we have by the free gift of God, and that we have no place to brag on ourselves, we are humbled. This attitude is the opposite of pride. A person of humility understands that the good that they have received, they did not earn and they have no bragging rights about it.

Phil 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

Jesus is our example, He humbled himself.  We should do that too.

Jas_4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

When we stand in pride, it actually blocks & stops the flow of grace into our lives. God resists the proud. Who can afford to have God Himself resisting them? The rest of the promise is that the grace of God flows to the humble. Who can afford NOT to have that!  No one is self-made.  When we realize what we have and how it comes, we can walk in true humility.  Grace flows to those who do.

The earmark of humility is a grateful heart.  I encourage you to maintain the flow of grace in your own life.  Take a minute and just thank God for all the wonderful things He has done in you, your family & your life. He really does deserve it!

Have you found the “I deserve it” attitude showing up in your life? What steps did you take to deal with it?  Please join the conversation by leaving your comments.