Tough Minds For Tough Times

Tough Minds For Tough Times

 

Tough Times

 

 

 

 

Someone brought into focus the idea that a major flaw in our make-up is the tendency for us to seek the easy way out. When faced with tough decisions there is a strong temptation and tendency for us to choose less difficult options. We don’t look forward to struggle, pain and suffering with glee.

Yet James would have us turn our world upside down:

James 1: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

This issue took over my thoughts when I saw someone on TV going across a narrow bridge with no guard rails over a deep gorge. A fall would lead unquestionably to death. I found myself thinking that I could not do that. I could not walk across – I would be too scared.

That prompted a swift chastisement of my mind for that kind of negative thinking and inspired the view that we have grown lax in the use of our minds. We have become loose in our thinking and allowed our minds to run wild without firm control.

James 3 vs  3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. The bit there is what we call today a bridle.

I think we underestimate the power that we walk around with at the top of our bodies. We lose sight of how trainable our minds are. I actually did some research on breaking in a horse. A 5-step process is recommended.

  1. Gain the trust of your horse. Having a personal relationship with your horse is imperative in building trust with him, leading to training later on. Spend time with your horse everyday, starting with just being near him.

Our minds have been dominated by the impostor self that Christ has told us to deny. In same way that you can’t just throw a saddle on a wild stallion, we need to approach this mind taming process systematically.

The first stage then would be to spend time truly discovering on a daily basis what is going on in your mind. Get to really know who you are – mentally. What interests you, what inspires you, what scares you, what frustrates you, what tempts you, what angers you, what embarrasses you, what prompts you to hide your true feelings?

  1. Practice Safety. Horses are powerful and you need to be careful around them.

Well, you are about to change the behaviour of a mind that has been carefully groomed by forces that will not easily see their investment go to waste. If you get over-confident and careless during the exercise you could experience a backlash.

Eph 612 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

  1. Take it one step at a time.Breaking a horse is a slow process. You have to fully make each step a habit before moving on to the next step.

As we go about regaining control of our minds and bringing them under subjection we should start with micro-steps.

Your rational true self decides that you should get up and go and exercise.  Impostor self pulls the cover back over your head.

Those are the battles that we need to win before we can talk about not conforming to the world. We have to let our bodies know who is calling the shots now.

You know that you are falling behind in reading the Bible in a year but every part of said body suddenly starts hurting you and your eyes are now burning like fire. Clearly, there is no option but to go to bed and hope you feel better the next day.

Read what Paul says we need to do about bodies who think they have a mind of their own:

1Co 9:25 Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. 26 That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. 27 I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest.  (GNB)

We have allowed ourselves to grow soft and we need to toughen up in order to get ready for the challenges that life throws at us.

We have to track down every “can’t be bothered”; every “I don’t feel like it”; every “it is too much trouble”; all “it’s too hard”; and every “I can’t manage it”.

Turn bright searchlights on “I know this not so right but…”

Some of our minds are galloping downhill like a runaway stage coach.  We have to rein them in before it is eternally too late.

Take one bad habit at a time and work on it until the replacement becomes a habit. Like with the training of the horse you should not move on until the new habit is formed.

As you go through the process of looking into thoughts, words and deeds identify things that you would be better off without. Aspire to be a better person.

Did you catch yourself envying someone?

Is selfishness lurking within? What about jealousy? Maybe arrogance, unjustified levels of stubbornness. Are you guilty of being disrespectful when you are holding the handle?

This exercise in saddling, taming and reining in our minds is a great opportunity for spring cleaning.

But training is not only about bad habits.

We can also aspire to develop our minds in new, positive directions. We can expand our horizons.

What about working to develop a spirit of bravery… consider the early church

Or your capacity to deal with major challenges – Job

Or to offer wise counsel – Major prophets

Or to show compassion – Joseph

With God’s guidance we can bend our minds to be what we want them to be. Let us stop settling for less than we can be.

Let’s take this to another level. Show jumpers don’t just turn up at the show ground and expect to get through the course without penalty. Horse and rider spend hours in preparation.

We cannot expect to clear life’s obstacle course without adequate preparation. We have to get our minds ready for the challenges that we will face in life.

  • Failed relationships
  • Betrayal
  • Bereavement
  • Financial disaster
  • Major health challenges

James took care to show us what is possible for us.

James 5: 17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.  18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

It all comes down to the bridling of our minds to get them to do what they need to do. Rein in our minds and life can take on new meaning. Let us toughen our minds as we prepare for tough times.

Decide right here right now to work on one mind building project. Over the next 60 days you are going to have a new habit manifest itself in your life.

Transformation projects work more effectively when you declare them to at least one person who will hold you accountable.

Work on any area of your life. In fact, it might be best not to take on too challenging a task initially. Start out with something that you can ace and build on that success.

  1. Never get angry is the next step in breaking in the horse.

The suggestion is that yelling and beating the horse pushes back the trust and bonding that you have been working to develop.

One huge challenge in moving to behavioural transformation is negative self-talk. An emotional outburst of anger directed at ourselves resonates at the subconscious level and actually has the opposite effect of what we desire. What stands out is that we are clumsy or careless or stupid. Not that we could be a little more attentive, careful or thoughtful.

A calm yet firm and consistent prodding in the right direction will get best results.

Remember that you are the champion of taking special care on stairs.

Or the empowering question version: Why do I always take special care on stairs?

Getting angry sometimes also has the effect in causing us to abort the process. We give up frustration because we can’t deal with the constant annoyance. Taming the beast requires patience and long-suffering. Make progress slowly but steadily. Only never quit!

  1. Reward successes. Giving the horse positive reinforcement is very important in bringing about the desired change.

Catching people doing the right thing has proven to be more effective in achieving lasting behavioural transformation than looking out for faults and berating them about their shortcomings.

The same thing happens internally. Celebrate when you get it right. When you get it wrong, gently provide guidance to get back on track.

If the horse goes off track, using the rein and applying pressure with the knee can help them to correct course.

Similarly, if you missed out on completing a task you could reinforce the need for compliance by cutting out your favourite cable show and doing it then.

Tough times requires tough minds.

Let us stop the drift towards minds that are unbridled, lacking in discipline and without direction.

Let us work to develop one new habit within 60 days.

If you have not put on Christ in baptism that is an excellent project. Make that decision now and we will work to bring your project to completion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Fatal Dangers of Failing to Live in the Shoes of Others ….Christian Living from Inside The Shoes Of Others

The objective of this lesson is to share insights as to how we can make “love your neighbour as yourself” become a reality and a feature of how we relate to others.

I suggest that one essential and sufficient component of our quest to love our neighbour as ourselves is the need to consistently place ourselves in the shoes of others.

I invite you to reflect on whether someone who consistently appreciates the circumstances surrounding the actions and mindset of others is not ideally placed to be more considerate towards them.

On the other hand, is it not reasonable to conclude that someone who seldom sees things from the perspective of others is more prone to be engaged in conflicts and to be challenged by requests for empathy?

I want to highlight three sets of dangers that hang over our heads when we fail to “live” in the shoes of others.

 

Esteem issues 

One of the goals of our socialization is to get us to feel good about ourselves.

That process has the side effect of inviting comparisons with others.

That is the first danger we face when we are not able to put ourselves in the shoe of others.  We run the risk of getting caught in the trap of comparison.

Remember that our traditional socialization seeks to position us in a favourable light.

This often means that we are more likely to view others less favourably. We might be led to think that if we dim their light ours may appear brighter.

This, however, runs counter to the Scriptures which commands us to esteem others better than ourselves. (Ph 2:3)

Sometimes when we compare we fall short. We do not always come out feeling that we are better off than others.

When that happens too often we might be driven to question our own self worth.

The tendency towards comparison opens up risks to our Christian walk.

When we perceive that others are more favourably placed than we are, we open the door to the fatal sins of covetousness and envy.

Our socialization strongly encourages us to be ambitious. In satisfying our ambition we face the ever present danger of falling prey to envy and covetousness.

What about the other end of the spectrum?

What happens when we weigh ourselves in the balance and come  away with the sense that we have the advantage?

A sense of feeling better off than others has as a constant companion the risk of being proud. Pride has been identified as one of the deadly sins and the Bible is a strong advocate of humility.

What then of this living in the shoes of others concept?

The starting point is the recognition that as humans, we are not in total control over our circumstances. Our actions do impact how life unfolds for us but we are also subjected to influences outside of our control.

We appreciate and accept that the shoe that someone else is standing in is not entirely of their design and construction. We also note that but for the grace of God, those very shoes could be ours.

Do not imagine it to be unthinkable that you could find yourself in the situation in which some people find themselves. Life is a great leveller. The unthinkable can become our reality without notice and despite our protestations.

So we proceed from the foundation of the recognition that the shoe in which we stand is not necessarily of our design and creation.

From that foundation we can learn to see people where they are and to respect their position. We also arrive at a place where we recognize that there is no need for comparison.

If your shoes could be mine and mine yours of what value is to me to compare?

I learn to come to a perspective of life which understands that the shoes that I am in are not entirely of my own creation but these are the ones I am required to wear. They are mine. I had better learn to be comfortable in them.

Fixating on how much more or less attractive and comforting other shoes are is not particularly helpful. That thinking is not going to change mine.

Competitive Instinct

The second danger of failing to consistently live in the shoes of others is that comparison has a tendency to encourage competition.

The nature of competition is that it involves opposing sides. Further, the objective of a competition is that one side will defeat the other side. Victors emerge from competitions. There is the joy of victory and the agony of defeat.

Consider going through the socially required comparison with the neighbour next door. Once again, they come out ahead of you in your evaluation.

Your socialization coaching yells at you that you are betraying a lack of ambition and a defeatist attitude when you continue to let the balance be tipped in the favour of your neighbour.

Wake up and show some spunk!

Responding to the strident and persistent coaching you reflect on your neighbour. You blame yourself for helping to create the imbalance because you have always been so supportive and willing to help.

That has to stop!

No more offers of help. You are on your own neighbour. In fact, I now fully recognize you as my opponent.

That is the very real danger that comparison invites.

What about the neighbour on the other side?

Truth is I have been putting out a lot to help him through difficult times. But with my new understanding of the fact that we are in fact competitors and opponents, I fear that it is only a matter of time before he catches up with me and passes me…………. with my help!

Sorry neighbour — er opponent, I can no longer be as receptive to your call for help. I have challenges of my own. I am so far back in this competition that I have to start paying attention to catching up.

I just can’t afford to channel my time and my resources to address your needs.

You could see from this how variations of the Parable of the Good Samaritan could play out itself with this mindset.

The scary truth is that this mindset is prevalent and attends to our own personal doors more than we would like to admit.

It is cleverly disguised and is not manifested to us in this unvarnished state. But be not fooled, some element of fallout from comparison and competitiveness is at play in our lives.

The socialization is so deeply ingrained that it is difficult to totally root out the competitive instinct. Indeed, the NEED to be competitive is reinforced daily.

We can see then that a logical extension of comparison with others can quickly lead to feeling a need to be victorious over them. The world loves winners. We all crave being in the winners circle.

This mindset if left unchecked can produce serious challenges to Christian living. In our worldly thinking, those that we believe come out better than us in the comparison need to be brought down.

Those who are worse off need to be kept down.

With that mindset, the thought of providing assistance in a time of need is alien.

It is great that high riders are brought low. Let them look to their own kind to rescue them.

They do not need my help.

If they are lower down on the rung, then we really do not want to get caught up in their misery. We are past that and want to move on.

Either way, the misadventure of others gives us a competitive advantage. It gives us a higher place in the competition.

From this we can more readily understand some of the mindset that underpins the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

It builds on the philosophy of a Scarcity mentality. A belief that there is just not enough to go around and so the more I can prevent others from getting the more will be available to me.

The provision of manna and the exposure of those with a scarcity mentality reinforces the weakness of this philosophy.

Lack of Understanding

The third set of dangers arising from the failure to live in the shoes of others is the fact that it discourages longsuffering and forgiveness.

When we put ourselves in someone’s shoes, we come to a deeper understanding of what is going through their minds. We come to appreciate the factors that are influencing their thinking. We have a sense of how they may have been prompted to act.

From the perspective of their shoes, we have a better handle on how events unfolded and we are positioned to respond appropriately.

One immense advantage of ensuring that we are in the shoes of others before we respond is that it gives us cause to pause.

An emotional reaction is triggered when an incident takes place. This is a raw gut reaction to stimuli.

We sense that we have been insulted so we react be sending out an even more caustic insult.

The call of the renewed mind is to quickly step in the shoes of the insulting party. Come to appreciate the circumstances that led to the incident.

That process provides us with precious cooling off seconds. We are now no longer being driven by fickle and dangerous emotions but by rational thinking.

That simple pause that shifts the game from emotional gut reaction to thoughtful reasoned response makes a huge difference in being Christ-like as it relates to longsuffering and forgiveness.

One feature of the old man that must be mercilessly slain is the tendency to be led by our emotions. An indication of our level of maturity is the extent to which we are driven by our emotions instead of being guided by the Scriptures to respond appropriately.

Impatience aside, there is also the challenge of un-forgiveness.

If we can fathom why someone behaves as they did, we are better placed to be understanding and to forgive them.

This is especially true if we recall that shoes may move among people. Your shoes today might be mine tomorrow.

So, what is the conclusion of this matter?

Empathy or living in the shoes of others is the bedrock on which loving others as you love yourself is grounded.

We must bear each other’s burden and be united in a common cause (Gal 6:2). That is the very opposite of the spirit of competitiveness where each one seeks their own good – totally ignoring the needs of others.

We must be patient with others and forgive them they way that God forgives us. (Col.3:13)

Philippians 2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

The bottom line is that when we fail to live in the shoes of others we set off a C chain:

We Compare, We Compete and we are quick to Condemn.

From the shoes of others, we replace Comparison with Celebration or Commiseration.

We no longer Compete instead we Cooperate.

Instead of swift Condemnation we Comfort or Correct.

1 Corinthians 13: Love

Love

1 Corinthians 13

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

Love is patient

There is a tendency for us to more readily spot flaws in others than in ourselves.

Matt 7:3

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

One challenge is that having identified the flaws, we want them to be removed quickly. We get upset when the change that we require does not take place immediately. We are increasingly upset when the undesirable behaviour occurs.

There is an important fact that many do not recognize or accept.

In many instances, we are especially frustrated and annoyed at behaviours in others that we have struggled with in our own lives.

This is usually some event or action or behaviour that happened or continues to occur in our lives that we detest.  Our feelings about it are so strong that we want to hit out at it – wherever it appears with a passion.

We project the frustration that we have about ourselves (past or present) unto the offender with increased intensity.

Consequently, it is useful to review those things that bring out your wrath to see if at some stage they were or still are issues for you.

1 Corinthians 13 is reminding us that in the context of the overarching command to love our neighbours, patience is required.

Colossians 3:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each otherand forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

A charge to you today is the examine ways in which you are impatient. See if in those moments of frustration a feeling of deep and sincere love for the other person is your primary motive.

When love is at the heart of what we do, the level of impatience with others is not as great.

 

Love is kind

One key to letting kindness be an active part of our lives is to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.

If we were in their position, what would we want?

That mindset has a way of bringing out the best in us.

It is important to remember that being kind is not only about providing money and things.

At the same time, sometimes our kindness should extend to providing for physical needs.

I John 3:

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

 

Love does not envy

Aristotle (in Rhetoric) defined envy (φθόνος phthonos) “as the pain caused by the good fortune of others”, while Kant defined it as “a reluctance to see our own well-being overshadowed by another’s because the standard we use to see how well off we are is not the intrinsic worth of our own well-being but how it compares with that of others” (in Metaphysics of Morals). Source: Wikipedia

If we go back to wanting for others what we want for ourselves then we will be happy with whatever blessings they have received.

The command to “love your neighbour as yourself” directly opposes any thought of envy.

 

Love does not boast and is not proud

Boasting and pride are linked to our EGO or deceived SELF.

Recall the two main highways that lead to a corrupted way of thinking.

The first one leads us to getting attached to things, people and positions.

The more things we can claim as “mine” the fatter the EGO and the greater the level of deception.

The second highway takes us to a place where we focus on thinking how different we are from others.

The more different we are the bigger the EGO and the more deceived we become.

Christians are called to renew their minds (Romans 12). They are to reject the corrupt way of thinking that is wrapped up in “Mine” and “I am not like that”.

The key is to recognize that we are merely stewards of our material possessions and the positions that we hold. That situation can be dramatically changed without warning.

When we realize that things and positions are not an intrinsic part of who we are, then we deny self the right to boast or to be proud.

Only the insane will boast about a castle on a hill as if it belonged to them when they have no connection at all with it. Be careful how we use “my” and “mine” to impress others and to feel good about ourselves. We really do not own anything in a real sense.

The love of which 1 Corinthians 13 speaks comes from a renewed mind. This mind no longer conforms to the dictates of the EGO – the deceived Self. It does not hang on to things and positions.

 

Love does not dishonour others

Something that is unique – one of its kind – is highly treasured. A normal man who runs 100 meters in 11 seconds will not be widely celebrated. If you are the only one that runs it in 9:59 seconds then respect and adoration for you abounds.

The EGO feeds on adoration and on being celebrated.

If you put these two thoughts together you will recognize why it is important for the EGO to work hard at being different. The more we are just like everybody else the less respect and adoration we can claim.

A well fed EGO – our deceived SELF – actively puts down others in a drive to elevate itself.

Alternatively, it constantly reminds others of things that make them standout so others feel diminished and “less valued.”

Think about the “My father..” verbal contests among young boys or the “Your Momma” insult trade off of adolescents.

The love that comes from a renewed mind is humble. It seeks to relate to others where they are and to respect them.

 

Love is not self-seeking

The scriptures consistently prod us to become “equal opportunity thinkers”.

We should have a mindset that wants the best for not only self but for all others.

Php 2:3  Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. (Good News Bible)

2Ti 3:1  Remember that there will be difficult times in the last days. 2 People will be selfish, greedy, boastful, and conceited; they will be insulting, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, and irreligious; 3 they will be unkind, merciless, slanderers, violent, and fierce; they will hate the good; 4 they will be treacherous, reckless, and swollen with pride; they will love pleasure rather than God; 5 they will hold to the outward form of our religion, but reject its real power. Keep away from such people. (Good News Bible)

 

Love is not easily angered

Anger is a melting pot of many ingredients. These include:

An action/event … a stimulus

Personalities

Relationships

Historical events

State of mind

How the event is processed

Implications & Consequences

Circumstances under which event took place – private/public etc.

Mindset

Col 3:12

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 

The Mindset has the power to overwrite the impact of all the other elements. That is why with a renewed mind, we can turn the other cheek.

We cannot overemphasize the importance and value of working on the way we think and getting to the point where we are more Christ-like in our thinking, feelings and actions.

 

Love keeps no record of wrongs

Col 3: 13 Bear with each otherand forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.

The false sense of “ME” that we embrace and protect so vigorously is a major contributor to the difficulty we have in dealing with what we perceive to be the wrongs of others.

The more highly we think of ourselves the greater the chance that someone is going to do or say something that does not fit well with our self image.

That is why some people get the feeling of being disrespected so easily.

Amazingly, people who have low self esteem are also very easily hurt by the actions of others.

The arrogant and conceited personality as well as those that have doubts about their competence and self worth tend to hold on to hurts for a long time.

When you feel good about who you are, the darts that others throw at you tend to bounce off more easily.

Another mindset that promotes unforgiveness is the desire to take revenge and punish the offender.

This is the eye for eye mentality that Christ warns against.

Matt 5: 38

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.

Lev 19:18  Do not take revenge on others or continue to hate them, but love your neighbors as you love yourself. I am the LORD.

Rom 12:

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;     if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

The love of 1 Corinthians 13 is associated with a transformed and renewed mind.

It is tied to a mind that manifests the fruit of the Spirit:

Gal 5: 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like, I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

It is clear here that the flesh (our sinful nature) is the source of behaviour that wars against the Spirit.

Mat 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

 

Love always protects

Think about the love that a mother has for her newborn baby and you get the picture of what this means. Nothing more needs to be said here.

 

Love always trusts

Trust is the glue that holds healthy relationships together.

When we act in ways that betray that trust, we weaken the bond of love and place the relationship at risk.

At the same time, trust is a two-way street. The failure of one party to trust makes it difficult for true bonding to take place.

In the scriptural framework, it is far better to trust and be betrayed than to withhold trust and be constantly imputing dishonest actions or motives on the part of others.

 

Love always hopes

When we love someone we want the very best for them. We hold out great hope that their wishes and aspirations will be achieved.

No surprise then that a love that is anchored in loving God with all our heart, loving ourselves and loving others as we love ourselves is full of hope and positive expectations.

The mind that allows the fruit of the Spirit to ripen in it will demonstrate a pure love and will rejoice in hope.

 

Love always perseveres

True love is not fickle. It is not easily disappointed or discouraged.

There is a sense of looking beyond faults and focusing on the end goals.

 

2 Peter 3:9

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

 

Love never fails

The love of 1 Corinthians 13 overcomes all obstacles.

Its poster example is reflected in Romans 5:8:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The challenge to you today is to let love be central to your very existence.

Repent of the unloving ways in which you have acted and continue to act.

Develop a deeper relationship with Christ and His teaching. Obey His commands and follow His example.

Free Electricity!

Free Electricity!

There is an earnest complaint in some communities that in years gone by they did not have to pay for electricity. They are upset that they are now being pressured to pay for the electricity that they use.

Many of us wonder how those people could be so unreasonable. We have to pay for water, light, telephone, food, housing etc.

The amazing thing is that even as we look in wonderment at those who refuse to pay for electricity, we do not expect to pay for our sins. We commit sin after sin without any true penitence and there is no genuine repentance from those actions that displease God.

We raise placards in our minds that read: “We want FREE SIN!!!”

Why should the living complain when punished for their sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Lamentations 3:39-40

 God is a God of grace but also a just God. He hates sin and places a heavy price on it. Woe!

 

What happens when 2012 changes to 2013?

What happens when 2012 changes to 2013?

 

We are coming to the start of a New Year. The numbers on the calendar will be changed.

What else will be new in your life?

For some of us, the change of dates will be the most significant difference between this year and the next.

If we are brutally honest, aspects of our lives have become stuck in a rut. The time, place and faces may change but the events seem all too familiar. Deja vu is a constant companion.

For others, the New Year promises to bring developments that we dread. We will need to face realities that make us uncomfortable.

Still others are bursting with excitement as they look forward to new achievements in the New Year.

The underlying theme of most of my presentations this year has been the need for the renewing of our minds. (Rom 12).

Today, I want to share some thoughts related to the adjustment of our mindsets that you could consider taking on board in 2013.

 

Bucket list clarity

Spend significant quiet time going through a careful analysis of what is your purpose in this life and what are your core priorities.

What is it that you feel committed to becoming, doing, experiencing before your life on earth ends?

Compile a list and assign priorities to the each item. In the final analysis, you should be able to identify a bottom-line “must” that should give direction to all your thoughts, words and deeds.

We expect that at the top of the list will your preparation to spend eternity in heaven.

Ecc 12:13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

 Be mindful of where you anchor your goals and priorities. Gamaliel’s counsel is wise:

Acts 5:38 “….if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

In addition, I am urging you to go further and to earnestly commit to documenting your vision, mission and goals in clear terms.

Review from the Scriptures and adopt the philosophy of:

  • Moses’ plan with respect to the occupation of the Promised Land
  • Nehemiah’s plans for the rebuilding of the wall
  • David/Solomon’s plans for the building of the temple.

Let 2013 be different with respect to:

  • greater clarity of purpose
  • more detailed planning
  • increased commitment to documentation of goals, plans and progress.

 

Expanded horizons

 

One of the by-products of stress and a harried lifestyle is the tendency to become increasingly inward looking.

As we grapple with life’s challenges, they tend to consume more and more of our being and we risk losing sight of the bigger picture.

Matt 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 

Some of us are walking with our heads bowed and only have a view of the pavement.

Let 2013 be different as we look beyond our challenges.

2 Cor 4: 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewedday by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Let us dream big dreams in 2013. Let us set lofty goals individually and collectively.

1 John 5: 14       This is the confidencewe have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Our horizons tend to be influenced by age and by gender.

Some of us have given in to a philosophy that says “at my stage in life I will just watch the dates change until time is called on me.”

Gen 12: 4 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s householdto the landI will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.

At age 75 Warren Buffett set up a $30 billion contribution to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for use in various world-wide charitable causes.

Cancer survivor Barbara Hillary became one of the oldest people, and the first black woman, to reach the north pole.

At age 70 Benjamin Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence; Judy Brenner ran the Boston Marathon.

At age 60: Frieda Birnbaum became the oldest woman in the U.S. to give birth to twins.

At age 40: John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.

At age 30: Donald Trump persuaded bankers to lend him $80 million so he could buy the Commodore Hotel. Bill Gates was the first person ever to become a billionaire by age 30.

At age 20: Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and cofounded Microsoft. Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice, her second and most famous novel.

At age 19: Keshorn Walcott from the little island of Trinidad beat the entire world at the Olympics in a discipline (javelin throw) that is unusual for athletes outside of Europe and the USA.

At age 16: Tennis player Tracy Austin became the youngest person to win the U.S. Open.

You are not too young or too old to achieve more. Broaden your horizons!

Incredible does happen. It can happen at your location if you welcome it.

Dare to be the difference and break new ground in 2013.

 

Positive expectations

 

We serve a mighty God and we cannot go about with a defeatist’s mindset.

Numerous examples are provided to indicate that once we walk with God we need not rely on our strength but on His. And so, there is every reason to have positive expectations.

Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Let 2013 be different in the level of confidence that we display.
Can there be a greater sense of faith and assurance in our prayer life, in our decision-making and in how we present ourselves?

I love the frightfully stark manner in which James addresses the issue:

 “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” James 1: 6 – 8 (NIV)

We can take encouragement from Apostle Paul’s admonition that we should not be anxious for anything (Philippians 4:6). Think also on Christ’s challenge that if we ask, seek and knock we will receive, find and have doors opened to us. (Matthew 7)

Let us break down psychological, financial, health, relationship, career, self-esteem “walls of Jericho” in 2013.

 

Spring cleaning

 

The tendency to gather baggage appears to be common to most humans. Physical clutter attracts our attention perhaps because it is visible.

Our lives are also cluttered with things that do not add value. Let us welcome 2013 with a spring cleaning of our minds.

There are thoughts and habits that are weighing us down and limiting our effectiveness. We know clutter when we see it. Take time to clear out some of the negative things that have started to define you.

Phil 4: 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Bad habits and wayward thinking have a way of becoming addictive. Breaking loose from them might be challenging. Step up to the challenge and break free in 2013!

 


Shared vision

What is your favoured operating style when you encounter challenges?

Do you prefer to tough it out on your own or do you seek early support and assistance?

Independent thought and courage are important as we strive for success. At the same time, we are not intended to be islands unto ourselves.

Let 2013 be different because of our increased willingness to share our visions and our burdens. Let us set up support mechanisms and seek out the specific input of wise and like-minded individuals who are firmly grounded in the faith.

There is immense value in wise counsel. Hear Solomon on the issue of advice:

 Proverbs 12:15 The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.

Out in the wilderness animals move in closely-knit packs. This is designed to provide a solid front against the threat of predators. The strategy of the predator has consequently shifted to picking off the strays, the weak and the lame. They do not succeed in getting animals that are in the centre of the pack. There is safety in numbers.

As you strive to be the best you can be, take care to take up a secure position in the pack.  Never put yourself out of the reach of well-meaning, supportive and firmly grounded individuals.

No matter how shy or private you are, take care to identify at least one tower of strength to whom you can look for support and guidance.

The persons you choose must be able to command your respect and be able to put themselves in a position to understand your situation. You cannot rely on persons who will let you have your own way or who will provide the spiritual equivalent of ‘take 2 aspirins and go to bed’ for every situation.

If there is no one that fits the bill readily accessible to you, you should set about coaching someone to play that role for you. Work with them to bring them to the required level of maturity and sensitivity.

Just DO NOT try to go it alone!!!!!

The shared vision is also about being there for others and for letting them into your dreams.

Gal 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

 

Get to heaven

 

We end where we started – the imperative of getting to heaven. The scriptures outline a clear plan of salvation.

Christ tells us that the way to the Father goes through Him. (John 14:6).

The conversions reported in the New Testament reflect these steps:

1. Hear and believe:

Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

 2. Repent:

Act 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

3. Announce Jesus as Lord of your life

Rom 10:8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;   That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.   For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

4. Be immersed in watery baptism for the remission of sins (Act 2:38)

5. Live by the Spirit

 Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

God’s test?

God’s tests?

 

C002_Woman wCrumpled paper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear XY,

I think I understand how you feel about the tests – challenges – that life sets us. At times, most of us have felt that they are too difficult. That has prompted them to wonder why God sets such difficult tests.

I have not personally experienced some of the traumatic events that others have faced.  Yet through my experience as a Christian, I have come to the understanding that it is not God who is setting the tests. The tests came into being when man opted not to follow God’s plan. This created the environment in which all of us are caught up in the battle between good and evil and many “innocent” bystanders become casualties.

What I have found out through study, observation and personal experience is that while God does not set the tests, He provides the answers. Since the tests are not about avoiding crises, the answers do not tell us how to avoid them. Instead, the answers guide us as to how to deal with them.

Are believers sheltered from pain?

No, but they have access to a pain release valve that makes coping easier.

Are You Enduring or Enjoying Your Life?

Are you enduring or enjoying your life? That is question that I put before you.

Even as we reflect on our own lives and try to come to some conclusion, I am going to  assume that some of us have less JOY in the mix than is desirable.

I am guessing that in some of our lives ENDURE has got the upper hand on ENJOY.

Today, I present the first step in a formula for tipping the balance back in favour of ENJOY.

STEP 1: SELF

Re-visit how you see yourself.

Enjoy is incompatible with low self-esteem; self-hate or compounded frustration.

The greater the level of discomfort with yourself the lower the chances of experiencing JOY in your life.

If you listen to your “self talk” you can establish the level of JOY that you are experiencing and that you are likely to experience.

The less you love yourself and the worse you feel about life the lower will be the fount in JOY in your life.

Conversely, the more comfortable you are with who you are and the more fulfilled you feel about who you are the greater the prospects of experiencing unbridled JOY.

So, what am I saying? I am saying that whether you experience joy or not starts with you and how you think about yourself.

I am saying that JOY is not totally dependent on others and what happens outside of you.

Joy is yours to grasp. You too can ENJOY life…but it starts with coming to grips with yourself. It starts with understanding who you are and respecting yourself.

This does not mean that there are not things to be fixed and adjusted. But, you can only experience JOY when you learn to love yourself – blemishes, warts and all.

Tips for improving your self esteem include:

1. Watching your self talk

2. Not comparing self to others

3. Using valid and reliable yardsticks

4. Being realistic

Pause For Peace

If you are facing challenging times, pause for a brief moment (2:15 minutes) and experience this calming bit of wisdom.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ft2E4BO22pA&feature=related

Here is a bonus for you (Psalm 91)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvhWTWpNWL0&feature=endscreen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4uWhg9vRcE