Let It Go Today

Posted in Choice, Happiness, Offense, Relationships by PCraig on August 25, 2016

If we all got what we deserved, we would all be in trouble. Am I right? Surely you don’t think you’ve lived such perfect life that even God is impressed with you – really? I don’t think so. The Bible says that we’ve all missed the mark and come up short in breaking promises to ourselves, God and others.

The most miserable people you know are resentful. They refuse to give up a grudge, let go of a hurt, and withhold forgiveness as though it were a prize. What these poor folks aren’t fully realizing is that they are hurting themselves. Un-mercifulness makes you miserable.

Proverbs 11:17 (NLT) Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you.

We think it will destroy them, but often they are going on their merry way while we suffer for it. Holding a grudge is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

When I realize how much I’ve been forgiven, washed and cleansed of my past, then it makes it easier to forgive others. Maybe you don’t feel forgiven? Perhaps it’s your lack of being forgiven that is holding you back from issuing forgiveness?

Whether it’s your spouse, your neighbor, friend, boss, co-investor, parent or whomever, here’s what I know, it’s time to let it go. To let them go. And, I’ll even tell you when to do it – now! It’s already late as far as I’m concerned. But, the best time is to do it today. So, I don’t know what that means for you, what phone call or appointment you need to make (if you can), letter or email you need to write. I just know, after it’s released and you finally let go, you’ll be happier and glad you did. (Jesus said so, Matthew 5:7)

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Get A New Script

Posted in Change, Choice, Personal Growth, Perspective, Victorious Living, Words by PCraig on August 17, 2016

Whenever someone is trying out for a part in a play or movie, they are often handed a script to read. The goal is to see if the actors can read the part and put themselves into it in such a convincing way that it’s as though they become the character. A good actor is believable as they take on the attributes of the scripted person. We often get absorbed into the role, as the actor seems convinced also of their new identity.

In life, many of us feel as though we’ve been handed a script of a part we are forced to play. Some act out as a liar, cheat, adulterer, swindler, drug addict, stupid, weak, and loser (to name a few). God, in the meantime, is in the business of handing out new scripts and helping us obtain a new identity. His script reads, winner, warrior, truth-teller, loyal, faithful, free, healed, wise, mighty, and overcomer (to name a few).

When we invite Jesus into our lives, He switches our script. We are no longer a slave to fear, shame and remorse, but a liberated child of the King.

I’m so glad He switched my script and mercy rewrote my life!

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Stop Eating Junk Food

I’m not writing about the poor eating habits many practice (though that would be a great idea). My concern today is more about the people you and I can choose to hang around.

Just like any dieter knows, if you get around people with poor eating habits, chances are, you’ll eat more like them as well. I know when my wife Rachelle is dieting, I tend to lose some weight also. Why is that? Because when she is eating less, I do too!

Whoever you hang with can influence what you eat or take in, such as movies you watch, books you read, or music you listen to.

So, it just makes sense that if you want to increase your appetite for godly things then you need to get around godly people. Spiritual hunger is contagious. As you get around people who love God, love to worship God, love to read the Bible, love to attend church, and love to serve – your loves are going to change.

Whether it’s losing weight or getting closer to God, you need to watch who you hang around, they are probably affecting you more than you know or admit.

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A Perspective on Opposition

Posted in Attitude, Christian Lifestyle, Decisions, Perspective by PCraig on July 30, 2016

Ever feel like everything is against you when you are trying to do the right thing? Maybe you decide to lose weight and someone brings cupcakes to work? Or, you are trying to get out of debt and the car breaks down? It can get really discouraging and, if we’re not careful, fill us with the temptation to give up or quit.

It can be like this in regards to living a life of faith. We make a commitment to serve and live for God and then all hell breaks lose in our home, boss, career or girlfriend. What is up with that?

Jesus said that we should consider ourselves “blessed” when it happens, according to Matthew 5:10-12. I don’t know about you, but “blessed” is not the first word that pops into my mind. However, it is important to see it from a different perspective. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:12 that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

So, whatever your day looks like, understand that persecution, difficulties and challenges are going to come our way. It may not be a result that you are doing something wrong, but that you are doing what’s right. Spiritual opposition is going to happen.

You may not be quite ready to take it as a complement, but, it may just be that because you are trying to do what’s right, there’s an enemy trying to stop you. Let the friends make fun of you for praying before lunch. It’s okay if someone else wants to do a deal that’s unethical, you won’t. Others may dress their daughters like call girls, but you want to live holy.

When you make decisions such as these and desire to pursue godliness and heaven’s approval over man’s, something happens inside of you. A strength begins to build, a power is released an intimacy with God floods your soul, and you feel good about yourself. All this happens when you don’t allow yourself to quit in the midst of the battle. Be encouraged today that maybe the opposition you face is a better sign you’re going in the right direction.

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You Look Like Your Father

Posted in Character, Excuses, Humility, Love, Victorious Living by PCraig on July 21, 2016

It seems that there is so much tension, strife and conflict in our culture today.  Added to this is the everyday discord in many households with the people who live there.  Daily we can learn of families being torn apart, violence in our communities, and unrest in our society.  There is a better way – and we all wish for it.  But, it takes more than wishing upon a star for it to happen.  What are some steps to take that lead to peace?

We can learn to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).  It’s not working around the issues, but through them.  However, there is a right time, place and way to do it.  What we need to do is confront the issue, not the person.  When we do it in love, we become the peacemakers Jesus said we could be (Matt. 5:9)

Another step is to apologize when you are wrong.  Instead of making excuses and blaming other people, we need to accept responsibility.  There is a big difference between remorse and repentance.  You can be sorry that you got caught, sorry that you’re going through something, and sorry for the pain.  But, repentance is saying, “I sinned against you when I did that, will you please forgive me?”  That can go a whole lot further in bringing healing and reconciliation than a simple, “Sorry about that.”

Lastly, we must learn to let all hurt, pain and damage go.  I’m not saying that your hurt wasn’t awful, that the person didn’t do you wrong, or discounting the incredible pain and suffering you might have endured.  I’m also not going to tell you that it’s easy to forgive, but it is doable.  And, it is vitally important to moving forward in personal and spiritual health.  (See Col. 3:13)  Let me ask, “Has the Lord forgiven you of a lot of sins?  How many? Did He do it freely without you even deserving it? That is how we are to act.  To freely forgive as we have been forgiven.

This is how to bring peace to our marriages, communities and nation.  When we do this, Jesus says, “They will be called the children of God.”  Why?  Because we look so much like our Father.  I don’t know about you, but I want to grow up to look more like Him everyday.

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Follow Your Heart…Really?

Posted in Character, Culture, Decisions, Heart, Victorious Living by PCraig on July 14, 2016

Our biggest issue is a heart issue.  It doesn’t matter if you are talking about marriage, money or race.  If your heart is not in the right place, nothing else really matters.

The problem is that all of us have a heart problem.  The prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above al things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9-10). You know your heart has a problem when it keeps trying to get you to do the wrong thing. Like if you are in debt, but you go into H.H. Gregg and see a new TV and think, “I can’t keep watching that little 46” I have at home, when here’s a beautiful 60” on sale that I should have!”  What is that?  Friend, that’s a heart lying to you.

You can’t build a good life on a bad foundation, or raise a good harvest with bad seed.  Also, we really don’t have a race problem in America, we have a heart problem. If our heart is right, then we will act right.

How do we get our heart right?  “How can a young person stay on the path of purity?  By living according to your word.  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” (Psalm 119:9-10)

So, stop telling people to follow their heart or listening to people telling you to follow yours. Instead guard your heart and don’t allow anything that can pollute it to gain access. Americans are crazy about pure water, food sources, and air, but think nothing of other crud entering their minds and hearts.  Don’t allow yourself to be deceived (which your heart can easily do).  Address the root of the problem by guarding your heart with God’s Word. Only God can make a perfect heart that leads to peace, happiness and joy.

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Lord Have Mercy

Posted in Attitude, Character, Criticism, God's love, Relationships by PCraig on July 7, 2016

Have you ever mis-judged someone because you didn’t know his or her history?  This happens when the server at the restaurant doesn’t seem to be serving you well, but later you learn this is her second job, she’s a single mom and trying to keep it all going.  With this piece of information, suddenly you feel mercy rise up within you even though the service may not get any better.

John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.”  Imagine what a world would look like that operated on that principle.

This is way Jesus would have His followers to act.  Culture might say, “If they hurt you, then hurt them back.”  But, Jesus tells us to even love our enemies.  We’re never any more like God than when we’re merciful.

I think the biggest example of this in action is Jesus on the cross, and in His final moments cries out, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they do.”  Now, as the Son of God, He had many options, but He chose to show and pray for mercy.  So, when you get so ticked off at your ex that you can barely stand it, forgive.  When you are upset at your spouse for messing up again, forgive.  And, when your relative manipulates the people around you, forgive.  Got it?

Whatever the scenario, the response is the same – forgive.  Let it go.  Release it/them.

If God can be merciful to you, then surely you can be gracious to others.   Today’s a great day to get started.

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No Substitute For The Right Piece

Posted in Happiness, Pursuing Jesus, Weekend Reflections by PCraig on June 30, 2016

I loved sitting and putting puzzles together as a kid.  I started with the big wooden pieces and worked my way up to the small, intricate and difficult puzzles with hundreds of pieces.  The frustrating thing that came with the more challenging puzzles was the way it seemed there were similar shaped pieces that looked a lot alike.  Invariably there would be an empty spot that would form with a odd shape, then I would joyously find a piece that appeared to be an identical match, only to have it not quite fit.  It was at this point; I would push, remove and repeat for numerous times.  My hope was that somehow it would turn into the missing piece that would exactly fit the hole.  But, in the end, it was the wrong piece.

It was not until I gave up and looked for another piece that I was able to fill the spot.  Much the same, many of us are living this puzzle called life and all of us want to be happy.  Yet, we find ourselves pushing and pushing the wrong pieces into the holes of our lives.  We think, “If I can just get married, obtain a new job, move to a new city, or reach a new high, then I’ll be happy.”  The reality is that we are trying to force something into a hole that only God can fill.

Each of us are made by a Creator that loves us and wants good things for us, but He is the missing piece for many.  We try to cram relationships, careers, money, things money can buy, positions, and other things and it leads to frustration, hurt, anguish and pain.

Just like getting the right shape in the right place can only complete the puzzle on a card table, we cannot find happiness until we get Jesus in the God-shaped hole in our lives.  Once we do, then we begin to experience life to the full that Jesus came to bring.

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Disappointing People The Right Way

Posted in Choice, Commitments, Decisions, Family, Perspective by PCraig on June 23, 2016

There are times I have to disappoint people, and I don’t like it.  I can’t be in two places at once, so I have to make a choice.  There is a call to answer and so you can’t answer everyone else’s.  Opportunities present themselves, but you can’t have it all or possibly do it all, so what do you do?

I’ve failed in this area so many times that it isn’t even funny, but over time I have learned some principles that serve as a guide and help me sleep at night.  One thing I would suggest is you must prioritize your life and do so with the idea of living your life on purpose.  What are your priorities?

Here are mine:

  • What do I feel would please God most in this situation, choice or dilemma?
  • What does my family need me to be right now?  Present? Listening? Engaged? What does that look like?
  • What does my church family need right now? Is there an area I need to pay closer attention to at this season?

Now, this list is written in priority order for me.  God first, family second and occupation third.  I would like to tell you that this is the way it’s always been, but I’m afraid my wife might write a blog someday and embarrass me.  The truth is that it used to be church first, God second (because I thought He put me in charge of the church), then family a distant third (because God liked it when I let Him be in charge of my family.  The problem came when I saw in the Scriptures that He said HE was in charge of His church and I was in charge of my family.  That changed my life!

For many I’ve witnessed, the miss-alignment looks more like family first, career & personal ambitions second, then God (and things of God) a very distant third.

So, if you were to apply the priority list of God first, family second, and occupation/dreams/goals/job third, what does today look like for you?  How about this coming weekend?  How about the year so far?

We’re about halfway through this year, so the good news is you can still turn it around and finish strong.  Here’s what else I’ve found, when I put God first, not just in my words, but in my time, talent and treasure (the real measurements); then He has a way of blessing the other areas in ways only He can do — see Matthew 6:33.

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A Sadness That Leads To Gladness

Posted in Change, God's love, Happiness, Joy by PCraig on June 16, 2016

The thing I enjoy most about going to the dentist is leaving.  Sorry to all my dental professional friends.  My reason stems from not taking care of my teeth overly well as a kid and needing a lot of fillings done along the way.  I never enjoyed them coming toward me with that big, long needle to numb me up for the procedure to follow.  Nowadays, I don’t have to worry about fillings; it’s more just the picking at my teeth with a small stainless pickaxe.  Yet, I love how clean my teeth feel when I leave.  That crystal clean sensation of teeth that have been scrubbed as clean as can be is wonderful.

This is a similar feel to what Jesus described, when He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  It doesn’t sound like we will be happy if we’re mourning, but it depends on how you look at it.  We try to numb ourselves from our unhappiness by using alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, sexual adventure, entertainment, food and even work.  All of these things are an effort to escape or produce a fix.  But, not only are these temporary, they can lead us to addiction.

Rather than trying to escape or mask our sorrow, we would do better to address it.  Jesus promises comfort to those who do.  How do we do it?  Realize that a loving Heavenly Father waits for us to come to us with our brokenness.  Many have a warped image of God, but the Bible says (Ps.119:76) that His “unfailing love” will be “my comfort.”

Much like going to the dentist, if we will come to God in sorrow for our sins, He can help us bring about the change we need.  His cleansing power can do for us what we cannot do ourselves.  This is how mourners can be happy.  Or to put it another way, happy are the sad.  When we declare ourselves spiritually bankrupt, then God can step in and begin the process of recovery.  As we take the crud of our guilt, shame, bad choices and sin to God, He can scrub away the past and clean us up for a sparkling future.

When was your last appointment for soul cleansing?  Don’t let the plaque of sin build up on your heart any longer.  Enjoy the freedom, joy, relief, and relief that only an appointment with God can produce.  Do it today.

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