How Do You Measure Life?

hwymyl_400x400Today is the day after Thanksgiving, and one of the discussions you will have today will be what you did yesterday—Thanksgiving as an event will be on your talk-turkey-agenda.

  • What did you do for Thanksgiving yesterday?
  • Where did you go for Thanksgiving?
  • How many people came to your house for Thanksgiving?
  • I ate way too much.
  • I had to sample a piece of every pie.

As you rehearse and digest the events of yesterday, notice the tenor of the discussion:  Is it geared more towards the quality of the day or the quantity of the food?  Was there any “thanks” in your Thanksgiving Day?

When he wrote to the church at Corinth, Paul made sure quality and quantity were center stage when he served his soliloquy on a life well-lived:

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master-builder I laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it. And each one must be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done.  If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward.  If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire. ~I Corinthians 3:9-10 (JB Phillips)

Corinth was a hedonistic city of commerce and many of the Christians were living the epicurean life.  Their lives were lived in the quest for fleshly quantity and not spiritual quality.

As Peter Marshal once said; “The measure of life is not its duration, but its donation.”  Do you focus more on the “who” you are living for or on the “what” you are pursuing?

Here’s a final thought for you to chew on:  “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor (Vince Lombardi).”

Take a Gratitude Break Before You Break

GratitudeSince today is Thanksgiving Day here in the USA, I’ll not be writing a typical post to this blog.  I do, however, want to encourage you to remember to express your gratitude to God, family, and friends, and to give thanks.

If you have time to read over this extended holiday weekend, I’m providing a couple of links that emphasize the benefits of gratitude:

Use the admonition of Paul to guide your thoughts today:  “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (I Thessalonians 5:18).”

The Four Virtues of Team Jesus

team-jesus-neon-limeTurn on your TV any Sunday afternoon during football season and you’ll see fervent and ardent fans who are afflicted with a severe case of monomania.  They have willingly abdicated their Monday through Friday reputation; morphed into Sunday fanatics; and clothed themselves in the colors of their favorite team.

Paul recognized the importance of team loyalty, and spoke of being identified with Christ.  Just as a loyal fan shows his allegiance by wearing the team colors, you can do the same when you, “Clothe yourself with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).”

To be fashionably attired, I suggest you clothe yourself in the virtues Paul mentioned:

  • Mercy is not giving the punishment or judgment that is deserved. Just as a heart is essential for life, mercy pumps the life blood into kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
  • A quote by Henry James emphasizes the importance of kindness: “Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer must have been thinking of kindness when he wrote:  “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”

  • In a time when people clothe themselves in rudeness and crudeness, humility is seen as a tattered rag that’s destined for the second-hand store. Humility is the idea of lowliness of mind in contrast to high-minded narcissism, and it’s seen in the life of the falsely accused who is more concerned with the truth than he is with his ego or reputation.

There seems to be a correlation between humility and civility–the more you see of one the more you see of the other.

  •  A good definition of gentleness is found in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians: “We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.  So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.”
  • Patience is the ability to endure hardships, discomfort, and persecution without complaint. In Romans 5, Paul said:  “We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces patient endurance, and this endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.  This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

You may want to check your closet to see if your clothes reflect your allegiance to Team Jesus.

The Raw Emotions of Ferguson, Missouri

8f8a6d31be9d696ed4260bd768b22ed5While watching the evening news last night, the main focus was Ferguson, Missouri and the impending news of the grand jury.  By now you know the panel declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson

When I think of the volatile and vehement expression of emotions that has become characteristic of this city, I’m distraught. My heart goes out to the Brown family in the loss of their son, but to the protesters, I say: A destructive mob mentality is not the answer, and perhaps you should ask: WWMLKD ?  –What Would Martin Luther King Do?

I think there were many times that Dr. King asked himself: WWJD? The answer to this problem isn’t more violence, it’s the application of biblical principles: “The kingdom of God is peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit . . . we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another (Romans 14:12).”

A spokesman for the Brown family has summarized their feelings for this situation in one word—Disgust!  The family is disgusted by the decision of the grand jury; the mob mentality of the protesters; and, the dehumanizing language of a “white” officer and a “black” victim.

One thing that does not promote peace and harmony is the mentality that is present in Ferguson—the rehearsing of resentment. The old cliché is that “hurting people hurt people,” and at the heart of resentment is the feeling: “You resent-me.”

Resentment is an emotion that is toxic, and it makes you the emotional slave of the person you resent. It will rob you of your sleep; occupy your dreams; ruin your digestion; and, it will steal your peace of mind.

It’s also intoxicating: The more you resent the greater your resentment becomes. There is a false sense of power that leads you to mistakenly believe you are hurting the person who has wronged you.

The book of Hebrews issues a warning: “Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many Hebrews 12:15).” Look at Ferguson, and you see the root of bitterness has given birth to the flower of resentment, and it’s in full blossom.

James said that, “if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast . . . for where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice (James 3:14-16).”  When you look at Ferguson you see the power of bitterness. It has extinguished the light of joy, and it has left the soul of the city in darkness.

If bitterness has a death grip on you, the words of William Arthur Ward may be helpful: “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”

Gratitude: Is It the Main Course or a Side Dish?

imagesOn Thursday of this week we will observe a day of Thanksgiving; however, the spiritual discipline of giving thanks was practiced long before the Pilgrims found their way into the pages of history.

As you mull the meaning of thankfulness,  give more than just a wink of contemplation to the contrast below:

  • Psalm 50:23: He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me.
  • Romans 1:21: Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
  • One focuses on solemn reflection leading to respect, while the other speaks of rejection and neglect

When you consider the knee-buckling-goodness of God, your response should be more than a blasé yawn—it should be shout-it-from-the-mountain-top-gratitude.

Henri Nouwen has said, “The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”

Gratitude and thanksgiving are like identical twins–they are so similar it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.  Gratitude is the manifestation of kindness perceived, and thanksgiving is the expression of kindness received.

Paul encourages us to abound in thanksgiving:  “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,  rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving (Colossians 2:6-7).”80506764d4f9bef09a9cd171e8a6bf24

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul expresses his gratitude and unabashed appreciation:  “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now (Philippians 1:3–5).”

What stirs a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving in your heart?  Have you called the person or written them a letter to express your appreciation?  Why not do it now?

How Do You Measure-Up?

Measuring-tape-010Success is determined through a process of standards and measurements.  In the world of sports, speed and strength are two important measurements.  At the NFL combine, athletes go through a rigorous examination of their physical skills and abilities based on the criteria below:

  • 40 SPEED: 40-yard dash time.
  • 3-CONE: 3-cone drill time.
  • SHUTTLE: 20-yard shuttle time.
  • VERTICAL: Vertical jump – measured by the differential between a player’s reach and the marked flag.
  • BROAD: Broad jump distance.
  • BENCH: Bench press – measured by the number of times a player bench presses 225pds.

A sports analogy was on Paul’s mind when he wrote of athletes who disciplined their bodies in preparation for the Isthmian Games.  Paul said, “Everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away (I Corinthians 9:25).”

Like the athletes of today, the aspiring athletes of Corinth lived a disciplined life in preparation for the sporting events.  They realized that the exemplary life of an athlete is the result of an examined life.

Standards and measurements should be as important to the Christian as they are to the athlete.  Paul said:

Examine yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it (2 Corinthians 13:35).”

The unexamined life is a nefarious life, and it can make for precarious habits.  Benjamin Franklin eschewed sloppy living, so he measured his life by asking himself two questions each day:

  • The Morning Question: What Good shall I do this Day?
  • The Evening Question: What Good have I done today?

Franklin believed these two questions are the key to an examined life that is as efficient as it is beneficent.  I encourage you to use these questions to measure your life through the remainder of this year.

More Music and Less Static

835917577_1387023807The popularity of AM radio took a serious hit with the advent of satellite radio. The clarity of the broadcast and the infrequent commercials on satellite radio has made the AM frequency less popular.

There are times that I still listen to AM radio, knowing all the while that the music will be accompanied with static. I’ve learned to tune out the noise of the static, so I can hear the beauty of the music.

Isn’t the same true with our conversation? Our words can either be the calming sound of music or just annoying static. While no one thing is the panacea for a cacophonic and static-filled life, a symphony of joy is heard in the euphonious notes of Paul (Romans 12):
• Let us have no imitation Christian love. Let us have a genuine break with evil and a real devotion to good.
• Let us have real warm affection for one another as between brothers, and a willingness to let the other man have the credit.
• Let us not allow slackness to spoil our work and let us keep the fires of the spirit burning, as we do our work for God.
• Let us share the happiness of those who are happy, and the sorrow of those who are sad.
• Let us live in harmony with each other.

To be in tune with the “let us” statements of Paul, your life needs to resonate with an AM—Jesus the great I AM: “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation is intimate and organic, and the harvest is sure to be abundant (John 15 ~The Message).”

“Intimate, organic, and abundant” is a “let us” life of music that is sure to sooth the soul.

Hold-up Time

lift-up-others-e1406121694759

 

When you hear someone speak of a “hold-up,” you probably think in terms of the chart below.

 

Wichita Annual Crimes

VIOLENT                  PROPERTY               TOTAL

2,871                               21,198                     24,069

Annual crimes per 1,000 residents

7.43                                 54.86                       62.29

From the statistics above, it’s obvious that some people will try to “hold-up” their way of life by beating you down.  There is, however, another meaning associated with the phrase:   “Hold-up” can also mean to support or to hold-up in prayer.

In Exodus 17, you can see the physical and spiritual aspects of this are revealed.   The Amalekites, a group of nomadic raiders, had attacked the people of Israel.  While Joshua engaged the enemy in a physical battle, Moses, along with Aaron and Hur, fought a spiritual war on a nearby hill:  “So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.”  Moses eventually became so weary that he couldn’thold-up his hands, so Aaron and Hur responded by holding up his arms until the Israelites were able to finally defeat the Amalekites.

When Paul described a well-armed Christian, he also asked the Ephesians to “hold-up” his needs in prayer:

Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you. Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray for all Christ’s men and women.  And pray for me, too, that I may be able to speak freely here to make known the secret of that Gospel for which I am, so to speak, an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may speak out about it as my plain and obvious duty (Ephesians 6; J.B. Phillips).”

To quote Paul, I would ask that you “pray for me too.”

 

 

Note:  The resource for the crime stats is:  http://www.neighborhoodscout.com/ks/wichita/crime/

Will You Comply?

Portable_radio_SCR536One of the underlying assumptions of communication is that the message that is sent is the same one that is received.  A state of incongruence exists when there is a discrepancy in the meaning of the sender’s message and the way it is interpreted by the receiver.

During World War II the military used abbreviated forms of communication such as Roger- Wilco.  To signal that a message had been received, a radio operator would say “Roger,” and to indicate that the appropriate action would be taken, he would say “Wilco”—the abbreviated form of “will comply.”

As of April 23, 2013, a total of 6,001,500,000 copies of the Bible have been printed in 451 different languages.  These statistics are evidence that God’s message has been received, so we can say “Roger.”

The question is:  Can you say “Wilco?”  Will you comply with God’s message?

Let me suggest 10 items to start you down the path of compliance:

  • Three Things to Continue in:

Love (John 15:9)

Prayer (Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2)

Truth (2 Timothy 3:14)

  • Three Ways to Live:

Live peacefully (Romans 12:18)

Live anxiety free (1 Corinthians 7:28-35)

Live lust free (1 Peter 4:2)

  • Three Things to Put off (Colossians 3:8):

Put off anger

Put off malice

Put off filthy conversation

The last one is the most important on this list, and it is from the lips of Jesus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).”  The only way a person gets to Heaven is by accepting Jesus as their Savior.

Roger-Wilco:  Will you comply?

Paul: Judaism to Jesus

church-of-christA person’s concept of Christ often undergoes a dramatic change from the first time he thinks about Him to the time he trusts Him as Savior.  This was the case with the Apostle Paul.  He started his life as Saul of Tarsus and sought out Christians with a raging hatred similar to that of mad dog infected with rabies. When Saul first heard of the “hope of the resurrection,” it sounded like empty rhetoric and a powerless promise.  After he encountered Jesus on the Damascus road, he experienced the transforming power of Christ’s salvation and his name was changed to Paul.

By developing a dynamic relationship with God, Paul came to know Him in several dimensions.  When he wrote to the Hebrews, Paul said God “is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”   Paul also spoke of this in 2 Timothy 4:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing.

To know God as a rewarder, you must first know Him as a redrawer.  Paul had been the rising star of Judaism, but he walked away from the Law to a life of grace:

As far as keeping the Law is concerned I was a Pharisee, and you can judge my enthusiasm for the Jewish faith by my active persecution of the Church. As far as the Law’s righteousness is concerned, I don’t think anyone could have found fault with me. Yet every advantage that I had gained I considered lost for Christ’s sake . . . I considered it useless rubbish compared with being able to win Christ. God has given me that genuine righteousness which comes from faith in Christ. How changed are my ambitions!

For whom have you livedDevil or Jesus?  You will be known for either the good way you live or evil will define you.

When you meet the Gateman will you be wearing his nametag?    If so, you just might hear Him say: “You have fought the good fight; you have finished the race; and you have kept the faith.”

 

Note:  I enjoy playing with the English language.  Go back and find the single words I have italicized in a couple of sentences.  Forwards and backwards, what do you see?