What do you say?

Lately, I have been teaching and writing about the idea of living life on purpose. Sadly, many of us never take time to choose who we will be and then live out those ideals, basic Christian discipleship, instead many of us simply live our lives reacting to the people and circumstances that we encounter. This leads to a lifestyle of inconsistency, emotional ups and downs, and a long trail of unwise decisions. In this pattern of life we are like a boat on the ocean being driven around at the will of the wind and currents. Jesus has called us to a life of purpose that has eternal significance.

            One of the most important challenges we face in this quest is the challenge to control our tongue… the words we speak to ourselves and others. In James 3, we are told that the tongue has enormous power and importance. It is like a rudder that controls the travel of a great ship on the ocean. The tongue is also compared to the bit in the mouth of a horse giving the rider control over the horse. Often, we tell ourselves that the words we speak to those around us are insignificant, but that is far from the truth. Our words can build up or tear down our marriages. Our words will become the tools that will shape and affect our children for all of their lives … either positively or negatively. Our words will affect our friendships. Our words will either validate or nullify our Christian testimony. Have you ever heard someone talking about their commitment to Christ one minute and then spewing out a stream of profanity, rage, and vulgarity the next? How did that impact your opinion of their testimony of Christ? Our words will have an impact on our ability to get and keep a job. Our words are truly like a rudder driving our lives from one destination to another.

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Be a Bright Spot

Anyone with slight observation powers can discern that there is a big shift taking place in our culture today. There is a breakdown of respect for the rule of law that has made our culture great. In our system of government, we have separate branches that provide checks and balances to minimize the opportunity for corruption. However, corruption has found its way in. Who could have imagined that a day would come when groups calling for the murder of police officers would not only go unstopped, but some political candidates for the highest office in our land would actually endorse these groups in hopes of gaining votes. Who would have imagined that a day would come when Louis Farakan would openly call for the murder of 10,000 Christians and the justice department would completely ignore it. Of course, the list of shocking events is much longer than this, but I hope these examples have you pausing to consider the direction things are going. The trickle down effect of all of this is a general deterioration of respect and kindness given between husbands and wives, parents and children, students and teachers, and person to person.

            This has become so widespread and pervasive that I don’t believe that there is any quick fix. However, I do believe there is a fix…and each one of us can be a part of the fix.

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Who will Influence your family?

 

            Influence is a powerful gift that God gave to humans. We can either be influenced up to great things or we can be influenced down to destructive things. Likewise, we can either influence those around us up or down. What a sobering thought. Since this is true, we are then accountable for how we allow ourselves to be influenced as well as how we influence others. If we spend our time with people who are doing wrong things, soon we will join in on their wrong actions. This also includes opening ourselves up to the ideas of others who communicate through books, speeches, movies, music, social media, and other methods. Adolph Hitler influenced Germany to believe that Jews should be exterminated and Germans should rule the Earth. What a mess that influence created! Ronald Raegan influenced the events that led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall. Dr. Martin Luther King influenced the thinking of the United States to end segregation and accept people of all races as equal human beings. These are examples of influence accomplishing great things! I remember back in the 1970’s, there was an evangelist, Bob Harrington, who gained national acclaim as the “chaplain of Bourbon Street”. He began to spend all his time on Bourbon Street in order to be available to those who were hurting and misguided. His choice seemed to be working out well for a while and there were reports of his positive influence making a real difference in the lives of some. However, being immersed in this environment eventually began to erode his values and character. He now says that his own character weakness coupled with being surrounded by the wrong people led to his fall. He was influenced to compromise his values little by little until his marriage was destroyed. This threw him into a whirlwind of trouble and decline for many years until he eventually made his way back to God. Finally, he is on the right track again, but his life is filled with pain, broken relationships, and regret.

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The Path to Value

 

 

In another article entitled, “Try not to be a man of success, but rather try to be a man of value”, I outlined the difference between success and value and highlighted some qualities that a person of value exhibits. I want to carry this thought further by exploring elements of the process of becoming a person of value. Proverbs 22:1 tells us that “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold”. The reality is that we all start from a natural state of self-centered tendencies. The question is how do we overcome our tendencies to serve self at the expense of others and become transformed into people of value?

Of course, the place to start is acknowledging our true state and asking God to forgive us of our sins. After that, it becomes a life long process of growth that resembles the refining process of gold. In simplified terms, gold is purified by being heated to the melting point. Once melted, the impurities separate becoming visible to the refiner who scoops them off. The heat is then increased and the process is repeated until all the impurities or non-gold parts are gone. God employs a similar process in purifying us. The main difference is that unlike gold, we are required to embrace and choose to cooperate in the process in order to become transformed. The problem is that many times we are oblivious to the reality of what is happening and therefore do not benefit from the process. In life, the heat is trials, stressors, challenges, disappointments, difficulties, obstacles, and even success. These do not come to us because God is angry at us nor because He is sleeping on the job, they are opportunities to reveal what is in our hearts so the impurities can be scooped off.
 

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“Try not to be a man of success, but rather be a man of value”

“Try not to be a man of success but rather, try to be a man of value.” Albert Einstein

 

            I saw this quote again this week and it really caused me to pause and take inventory of myself again. This quote is written about men, but it applies equally to women. So to all who read this I ask you, “What are you trying to do with your life?”

            I think the starting point involves considering the difference between success and value. In most of our minds, success is tied to accomplishment, achievement, and the accompanying rewards, which could be anything such as: financial wealth, big homes, expensive cars, exclusive memberships and privileges, and the applause and recognition of others, especially our peers. While there is nothing wrong with these pursuits, they do not give a person value. These pursuits are not satisfying. A quick read of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible will underscore the emptiness of these types of pursuits. Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon of Israel who was a man who had achieved more success than any other man. The gold he owned was measured in tons. The silver was too much to be measured. His wisdom was so great that kings and queens from around the world came to sit in the corner of his throne room just to be amazed by his conversations and decision – making. These are a few of his “success stories”. Yet, he eventually said that all of it was vanity and very unfulfilling and empty. One accomplishment simply calls for another slightly larger goal and suddenly one day you realize that you have pursued success for too many years and now your opportunity to pursue value is in jeopardy.

            So, what does it mean to pursue value?

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The danger of “I deserve it” thinking

 

 

            Lately, the news has been filled with heartbreaking stories of infidelity among those that we thought least likely to make such terrible mistakes. We were shocked to learn of the existence of a website like Ashley Madison and disappointed to learn the identity of some of the members. I suppose there are a lot of contributing factors about how a person slips to such a dangerously low place, but I want to address just one line of thinking that will lead any of us to a place of great pain to ourselves, our mate, and our children; I call it “I deserve it thinking”. In fact, I hear evidence of this kind of thinking nearly every day from the people I come into contact with. Do you have “I deserve it” thinking? If so, be careful, there is big trouble ahead.

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Is quarrelling tearing down your family?!

 

 

            All couples experience times of disagreement especially as they navigate through important decisions and stressful times in life. However, some couples, and by extension their families, become characterized by strife and quarrelling. This becomes a way of life that eventually seems normal to them. However, it is uncomfortable for all who surround them and it leads to a cold family filled with hurt. It instills qualities in the children that will inhibit their ability to love and build a loving family. Is your marriage on the way to becoming one of these? Most important of all… are you a quarrelsome person?

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The esteem that heals families

 

 

Much has been said in our culture over the past 40 years about self-esteem. This philosophy suggests that every bad thing that is done in the world is the result of a poor self-esteem. The natural end result of this thinking is that in order to be emotionally and mentally healthy one must become completely focused on doing what is perceived to be good and best for self and stop worrying about others. “I’ve got to look out for me” has become the salvation mantra of our culture. However, after 40 years of promoting this philosophy in every imaginable venue including daytime tv, magazines, books, school textbooks and classroom experiments, and prime time interviews with the rich and famous, we are in as big of a mess as ever…or worse. The pursuit of self- esteem has not produced the utopia it promised. Rather, the pursuit of self- serving has skyrocketed every bad thing. Healthy families are now rare. Long-lasting marriages are rare as marriage partners run from one partner to another to find the happiness they believe they deserve. There is a great decline in a solid work ethic as people believe that they deserve a break from work to enjoy life and “find themselves”. Fear of personal unhappiness has replaced faith and a willingness to be the answer to someone else’s need. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. The focus on “me” and “my right to happiness” has wrecked the lives of many and devastated too many families.

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Put the Spark back in your Marriage!

Is there something hindering your relationship with your mate? You want to be closer but it seems like you just can’t quite get there? The spark has been replaced with an arrangement that feels more like roommates than lovers. Something is missing, but you can’t quite identify the problem. You have meaningful discussions about things you could or should do to try to rekindle the spark, but all your good intentions just don’t work out. It is at this point that some couples settle in for the long haul convinced that this is just how marriage is supposed to be. Others become restless and begin to turn away from their mate to attempt to fill the void with hobbies and buddies. Others convince themselves that they have simply “fallen out of love” or “grown apart” and begin to look for someone new to “fall in love with”. They make it seem as if all of this simply happens with little or no participation on their part. If you listen to their rationale, you get the distinct impression that love is determined by some invisible cosmic force that comes and goes like the wind and no one can control it. Their thought is that you just have to go with the flow. Is this how it is? Is marriage a great experience of romantic excitement for a few years followed by decades of boredom and loneliness? Is love that delicate and hard to hold onto? What is the real solution?

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Education that really matters

 

            First of all, let me clarify that I am in favor of educating our children and I really appreciate the hard work that is done by our teachers. So, please don’t think that any of this article is an anti – education or anti – school rant. It certainly is not. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that school and formal education, while important, are simply not enough to prepare a child to be successful in life. Knowledge of information, historical facts, scientific laws, and mathematical formulas are great to have and will likely serve one well in life, however it is wisdom that will provide real success in life. Like knowledge, wisdom must and can be pursued with serious effort and obtained by any who seek it. Wisdom enables us to make wise or good choices as we move through life.

            Somehow, in our society we have chosen to believe that an abundance of information and theories about the mysteries of life is all we need to thrive and succeed. We have invested millions of dollars and billions of hours into this belief and yet we see the consequences of bad choices skyrocketing. Our prisons are filled with people who have high school diplomas and even college degrees. We have multitudes of broken families that are made up of educated folks that simply lack the wisdom needed to build a healthy family. We have political leaders and celebrities who are highly educated, but their lives are marked with the public embarrassment of scandals that create personal destruction and humiliation. I believe the solution is to include the pursuit of real wisdom in the education of our children.

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