What Are You Pursuing?

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My Musings – We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – Preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

God gave us life and liberty (freedom to make our own choices).  The pursuit of happiness is a bit more problematic.  Man has a tendency to find (or think he can find) happiness in all the wrong places and with all the wrong things.  More often than not, these rob us of the very thing we are pursuing.  We would be better off pursuing joy (which is not dependent upon things or circumstances) rather than happiness (which usually is dependent upon things or circumstances).

Better yet, as the above verse states, we should pursue righteousness and love, which results in life, prosperity and honor.  We need to remember, however, that an abundant life is more about quality than quantity, lasting prosperity has little to do with an abundance of “things” (which moths and rust can destroy) and honor has more to do with our character than it does with how much fame an adulation we can achieve.  And how ironic it is, that when we get it backwards (we pursue long life, prosperity in things and honor absent humility), righteousness and love (and happiness) often eludes us.

My Advice – Let’s make sure what we pursue is not only worth the chase, but is also worth catching.

Not So With You

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My Musings – No one wakes up in the morning with the hope that someone will manage us.  We wake up in the morning with the hope that someone will lead us.  The problem is, for us to be led, there must be leaders we want to follow.  (From Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek).

There is no shortage of people who wish to exercise authority.  Just look at the number of candidates in recent (and upcoming) elections who want to be President.  As you listen to many of them, you get the idea that as much as they would like to lead, there are not many that we would like to follow.  This concept is not restricted to politics.  It is rampant in many businesses and organizations, and yes, even in some churches.  To make matters worse, many who wish to lead, find little fault in their leadership skills, preferring to blame those they wish to lead with the inability or unwillingness to follow.

Perhaps that is one reason why Christ turned the leadership model on its head.  Do you want to a leader?  Then learn how to follow.  You want to be seen as great? Then learn to be humble.  You want to be first? Then be willing to wait in line.  You want to be master?  Then be willing to become a servant. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10:45, NIV 1984).

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.‘” (John 13:12–17, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Go and do likewise.  Has a familiar ring to it.

Despicable Me?

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My Musings – We usually think that a broken spirit is a negative thing.  But how could God possibly forgive a proud and rebellious spirit? The text implies that God actually despises such a spirit.  Genuine contrition (feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming) is not possible absent a humble and penitent heart.

My Advice – Do not allow a proud or rebellious spirit get in the way of a humble and penitent heart.

Choose Wisely

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Romans 12:2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (NIV 1984)

My Musings –  Attitude is a choice. Too often we choose “the pattern of this world,” which is a bad attitude.  This can cloud our judgment, making it difficult “to test and approve what God’s will is.”  We need to renew our minds (attitude) and be transformed.

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace that day. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.” (Chuck Swindoll)

My Advice – Keep renewing your mind and be more consistent in maintaining a positive attitude, despite obstacles, adversities and disappointments. It very well could make the difference between success and failure.  How?  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8, NIV 1984).  You’ll be surprised about what this can do for one’s attitude.

 

Success Born Out of Defeat

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1 Corinthians 15:58Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (NIV 1984)

My Musings – Thomas Edison had a lot more failures than he had successes. But we remember him for his successes. We would not remember him at all if he had allowed his failures to stop him from trying again.

“I am not judged by the number of times I fail, but by the number of times I succeed. And the number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I can fail and keep on trying.” (Tom Hopkins, Author, motivational speaker and sales coach)

My AdviceStand firm.  Failure will only be defeated if you learn from it and try again. And again, if necessary.

Trustworthy Wounds

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Proverbs 26:20-28, 27:6Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.  As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.  The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; They go down to a man’s inmost parts.  Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart.  A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.  If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.  A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.  Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.  (NIV 1984)

Proverbs 12:15-19The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.  (NIV 1984)

Learn to Argue – People generally quarrel because they cannot argue. (G.K. Chesterson)

The Art of “Arguing” – People who are skilled at dialogue have the confidence to say what needs to be said to the person who needs to hear it [not behind their back – “words of a gossip are like choice morsels“], without brutalizing them or causing undue offense [“wounds from a friend can be trusted“]. But this confidence does not equate to arrogance, pigheadedness, threats, accusations or disrespect. They are humble enough to realize that they do not have a monopoly on the truth.

There are five distinct skills that can help us talk [argue] about even the most sensitive topics:

Share your facts – Facts are the least controversial way to begin a crucial conversation, because facts by their very nature are uncontroversial. Be careful to not “spin” the facts, embellish the facts or omit facts (“the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”). This will derail a crucial conversation before it even gets started. “speak the truth (facts) in love.” Do not rub their nose in it. Facts are the most persuasive and the least insulting.  They form a foundation believability, that lays the groundwork for all delicate conversations. But make sure they are facts and not conclusions. That comes next.
Tell your side of the story – With the facts properly laid out, you can tell your side of the story. The conclusions you have drawn. If you have thought through the facts, your conclusions (story) should be viewed as reasonable, rational, decent and deserving of being considered.
Ask for others’ views – If done sincerely, this demonstrates humility. Be open to having your mind changed. If your aim is to be “right” and win the “fight” you are not being sincere.  If your aim is to determine what is right and walk in the light, you just might find that you were wrong and fighting the wrong battle.
Talk tentatively – Do not share the facts or tell your story in a dogmatic fashion. One of the ironies of dialogue is that, when talking to those holding opposing positions, the more convinced and forceful you act, the more resistant others become. The more tentatively you speak, the more open people are to your story and conclusions. But you don’t need to be wimpy either. Strike a just right “Goldilocks” balance. Just because you back off on how you state your beliefs, does not mean you have to back off on your beliefs.
Encourage testing – At this point, you can argue as vigorously as you want for your point of view, provided you are just as vigorous at encouraging others to challenge or even disprove it. Remember, the truth is never afraid of open and honest dialogue. It is okay to have strong opinions and vigorously defend them. Just remember that the other person is entitled to the same. (Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012)

If we S-T-A-T-E things this way, we improve the odds of having a favorable outcome.  Even if we do not win or change your mind, we can still agree to disagree and preserve the relationship.

My Musings – If the beliefs we hold are the truth, we want others to believe them too.  How we present our case can go a long ways toward convincing the other.  Done thoughtfully and caringly, even if we lose the “argument,” we are more likely to at least win respect and preserve the relationship.  And that respect, might eventually carry the day.  On the other hand, if done thoughtlessly and uncaringly, even if we win the “argument” respect and the relationship may be permanently damaged.

My Advice – Do not merely argue the truth, argue it in a thoughtful and caring way

Submissive Humility

1 Peter 5:5Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. Clothe yourself in humility toward one another, because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We should never be too proud to learn from the age and experience of others. This includes those who may be younger than we are chronologically, but more mature than we are in the faith.

My Advice – You’ve learned much in school, but there is much also to be learned from those who are older and have more experience. Continue to learn now that you have graduated, and even later in life when you are the elder one with more experience.