No matter how hard I tried to do it for my mom, I always managed to get a “U.”
Back in those days, my elementary report card was filled with capital letters standing for either E (excellent), S (satisfactory) or U (unsatisfactory).
Generally, I received an “E” or an “S” in topics like reading, penmanship, math, spelling and vocabulary. I was not a targeted genius but, most of the time, I seemed to understand the gist of what was being taught.
However, in the behavioral categories, I remember very clearly getting an awful lot of “U” markings in the area of self-control. Needless to say, I had many intimate chats with mom (and dad) every quarter.
However, after college and lots of seminary, decades of marriage, ordination to the ministry, fatherhood, you name it, I am able to humbly announce . . . I am still working on it––still trying to erase the U’s from my report card!
I am still working on controlling the self.
For most, self-control is being in control––taking charge and bringing your behavior under a disciplined control. Being self-controlled is saying the right things––getting control of your speech. It is taking control of a situation––never letting the situation control you. It is channeling or controlling your emotions. It is walking into a room with confidence, completely on top of your every move.
Self-control is typically defined as knowing when to say “No.” It is scheduling your day and maximizing your time. It is the ability to deny yourself another chocolate truffle. It is focusing your mind on a long-term goal. It is being in control.
So, let me ask you, where does “being in control” get you?
I’ve tried it. I’ve denied myself excesses. I’ve said no. I’ve controlled my tongue for a time. I’ve controlled circumstances (or at least I thought I did). I’ve set out to be under control.
Yet, even after all of, I’ve still found myself in a weak, unguarded moment losing control of myself. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t command myself. I’d slip. I’d lose it. I would realize I didn’t have self-control.
Just like old times, I’d get a big, fat “U” stamped on my attempts.
Then, and only then, through lots of real-life experiences, I have found true self-control is not I-driven. It has got to be God-driven. It is not about me. It is about God.
As long as I am in control of myself, I will continue to receive unsatisfactory marks. I am selfish. I do things I hate. I can never seem to stop doing the very thing I despise most. No matter how hard I try, I return to the same foolish behavior. At times, my attempt at control seems even more out of control.
Submitting myself to God, however, has a way of working out the selfish tendencies tending to undo me. He has my best interests in mind. He helps me be the kind of person who acts level-headed, not speeding out of control.
It is a capacity issue. The more of self, the less of God. The more of God, the less of self. Lloyd Ogilvie once said, “The eight most dangerous words in the English language are ‘I’ve got to get control of my life.’” The more I am filled with God, the more controlled my self becomes. You gain control by relinquishing control. It really is that simple.
When I allow God to control my self, I begin to operate with great efficiency. He has a way of bringing out the best in me. It’s as if I was made to be used by Him, not the other way around.
So, who’s in charge in your life?
How you answer that question will indicate whether or not you truly have self-control. So you can now perform a self-evaluation, here are three litmus tests to determine who’s in control of your life:
1. How do you spend your time? Being self-driven, you will spend your time on your desires, habits and pleasures. Your calendar will always be about you. Your day off will always be consumed with your agenda. The way you use time will reveal how controlled your selfish behavior really is.
As a self-controlled person, you always give God the first portion of your time. Biblically, this is the concept of “the Sabbath”––because God gives you every day each day, you return one day a week to worship Him. From that footing, you have a distinct way of giving the next chunk of your time to others. You look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.
In return, you end up with more quality individual time than you could have ever had had you kept it all to yourself. Rather than being controlled by a clock, you treat your time as yet another opportunity to live out the day in which God has called you.
2. How do you spend your treasure? Being controlled by self, your fortune will be used to accumulate stuff that meets your desires, habits and pleasures. Very profoundly, Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” You can usually tell all you need to know about self-control by looking at your checkbook. It will speak about your priorities.
As a self-controlled person you invest your wealth in the eternal. In God’s hands, your stuff is protected from earthly evil and decay. Eternal investments are those involving God and people. Stuff (possessions, things, tangibles, etc.) stays––it stays behind for the moths, the rust and everyone else to pick over.
3. How do you use your abilities? Being controlled by self, your abilities will be used to promote the gifts given, not the Giver of the gifts. Athletes are tempted to misunderstand the source of their abilities. Musicians, intellectuals and leaders are tempted also. Any time you take sole credit for your contribution to society, you run the risk of being prey to the shackles of pride.
As a self-controlled individual, however, you understand all you are and all you have are on loan to you to use for God’s purposes. You greet each morning with a prayer asking God to guide your steps, use your gifts, and bless your opportunities.
You take every occasion to be filled with the Spirit of God. You spend time being influenced by Him. You make an effort to give yourself away. Daily. You give yourself to God. He controls you. He gives you self-control. You function at your topmost capacity.
Then it happens: I finally notice, with God in control, the U disappears from my report card, lovingly replaced by an E.
And my mother smiles at my adult report card, proud her little boy has finally settled down—has finally been settled––by a Savior who loves him, too.by Pastor Doug
Who’s on your list?
Most likely, without even realizing it, you have a list of people who bug you. These folks get under your skin, they make your life difficult. They probably even steal your happiness.
Although the list is not visible––not on paper anyway––it exists in your mind. You’ve gone to great lengths to keep careful records. You make daily tabulations. Perhaps, even today, another name has been added while another was forgotten.
Who makes it to such a special list?
• People who fail you. They are men and women who have blown it, dropped the ball––been known to keep you hanging. They do not keep their promises; they lie, deceiving you knowingly. These folks have failed morally, maritally, financially or spiritually. There’s a good chance they’ve disgraced the family name, brought shame upon the community, and in the process, have tarnished your reputation. They’ve screw up. They’ve messed up. They’ve blown it! Epic fails.
• People who disagree with you. These are people who cannot ever find harmony in the outside world. They will argue at anything, ready to contradict everything that comes out of your mouth. It seems, they are not happy unless they are stirring discord. Especially with you.
• People who correct you. Surely, you have been forced to share life with people who are always ready to say, “You know, you should have done it this way . . . The proper way to say that is . . . I don’t think you know anything about. . . Let me show you the right way to . . . “
• People who hurt you. There are human beings who seem to take joy in making life miserable for you. They enjoy demolishing your feelings. They destroy you with words, actions, and even, looks. They are mean. Mean people stink!
It is hard to have tolerance for people who fail you, disagree with you, correct you or hurt you. It’s especially hard to tolerate one who fits all four categories.
What are you to do with people like this? What are you to do with the people on the lists? How in the world are you to function normally with abnormal people like this in your life? How should you treat these people?
Now, that’s a good question for God. He created them. He, obviously, must love them. Surely, He has some instruction for people who make these infamous lists. What in the world does He think you should do with high maintenance folks like them?
The failures: those who disappoint. The world teaches us that when someone fails you, you judge ‘em, drop ‘em and move on. However, the Bible says to have gentleness––be gracious, not judgmental. We accept one another just as God accepts us.
You can have compassion on failures because you know (better than anybody) how many times you’ve blown it and been forgiven. The gentleness God showed you in times of failure is the same quality you should extend to others.
It is hard work. It is not easy to let somebody off the hook. It’s tough to open up the door for a repeat flop. Marriages that are met with moral failure are difficult bridges to mend. However, it sure beats the other options. It’s true with all relationships. Gentleness will gives you hope to live with those who fail.
The disagreers: those who like to stir the pot. Our Rambo culture models revenge as a noble characteristic. If someone is your antagonist, repay them with complete devastation––personal attacks, low blows, sarcasm and plenty of personal insults. When you are done “devastating” them, kick ‘em a couple of times in the ribs (for good measure) and leave them for the afternoon birds.
On the other hand, many people choose to retreat in fear. They are so committed to having peace at any cost, they allow the aggressive to have it their way. They refuse to confront, cowering rather in ambivalence.
However, the Bible says to be gentle––be tender without surrender. Responding in gentleness is the approach God wants you to take. It is also the approach that leads to health. It is a fine balance between maintaining your right to an opinion while respecting another’s right to his or her opinion.
The scripture promises “a gentle answer will turn away wrath while a harsh word only stirs up anger.” Arguments are generally motivated by envy and selfish ambition. Pure, peace-loving, consideration––motivated by mercy, impartiality and sincerity––is almost always the wise choice.
Gentleness is ability to disagree agreeably. A difference of opinion can be done in gentle grace. It is possible.
The correctors: those who inform you of the truth. Assertive technique classes will tell you how you can never let anybody tell you how to do things. You can never admit you are wrong. You can never show fear or weakness. Never, never, never relent!
However, the Bible teaches that when someone corrects you, be gentle––teachable, not unreachable––in return. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
Wise people never stop learning. They can learn from anybody, anywhere, anytime. Let’s face it: most of the best lessons come from kids. They, without ever knowing it, are constantly teaching us how to live. Think how much you can learn from your spouse? your parents? your neighbor?
The pain-inflicters: those who hurt you. The world teaches us that when someone hurts you, react. However, the Bible teaches us to be an initiator, not a reactor.
Retaliation and threats are reactions to pain. Real strength, however, is found in gentleness. Gentleness is the ability to handle hurt without retaliating. It is the ability to absorb the blow without striking back.
You can either allow retaliation to control you or you can allow God to give you the strength to defuse a situation with a gentle response. Believe me, it is a whole lot easier in the long run to rebuild immediately through gentle actions than to suffer indefinitely after a relational showdown.
Gentleness is strength under control. As God gently loves us, we learn to gently love others––even those who seem unlovable! Not only is it the right way to live, it quickly become apparent that it is the easiest way to live (especially in the long run).
So, go back and take a look at your list. Think about each name. Try to remember how their name was chosen.
Now, imagine your list with no names on it. Picture the freedom that would create. Make a decision to gently remove each name. Ask for God’s help. Ask for an extra dose of gentleness.
My prayer for you is that someday––hopefully sooner than later––you’ll have forgotten that the list even existed and you’ll be known as a person with a special measure of…
…gentleness.by Pastor Doug
Faithfulness is showing up.
However, it is more than just showing up; it is showing up and doing something. Yet, it is more than just showing up and doing something; it is showing up and doing something well.
Then again, it is more than just showing up and doing something well. Faithfulness is showing up and doing something well consistently.
Finally, it is even more: it is showing up and doing something well consistently by the power of the Holy Spirit!
It is one thing to clock in. It is another thing to clock in and bust your tail every day. It is one thing to run ten miles in one day. It is another thing to run one mile ten days in a row.
Anyone can romance their bride on their honeymoon. It is another thing to remain faithful to her for a lifetime. It is one thing to help the old lady across the street. It is quite another thing to pick her up every week and take her to church.
It is one thing to pray when you’re in a bind. But it is an entirely different thing to walk and talk with God all day, everyday.
Faithfulness is showing up . . . There is power in physical presence. You can say, “My thoughts and prayers are with you.” It is more powerful to show up and say, “I am with you (with my thoughts and prayers).” It is more than just quality time. It is quantity time as well.
Faithfulness is showing up and doing something . . . It’s action. The scriptures say, “Faith without works is dead.” Rather than sitting around, it is showing up and making things happen. It’s taking risks and trying to make the world a better place. It’s a verb.
Faithfulness is showing up and doing something well . . . The scripture says that “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.” You cannot do any better than your best. If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Gold medal. A+. Superior.
Faithfulness is showing up and doing something well consistently… God must have great disappointment in watching slothfulness. One of the greatest insults you can give to the Master is to return His gifts unused, unopened, wasted. You can either use what you’ve got consistently and faithfully or you can bury it in the hardened hole of your wasted life. The choice is always yours.
Faithfulness is showing up and doing something well consistently by the power of the Holy Spirit. In your own strength, you might get by here and there. However, in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit, you can do God-sized things—things that only happen when God shows up. In you! Paul said, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Yes, you can only because yes, He can.
Everybody likes to get their newspaper every morning. While traveling, everybody expects McDonald’s to have clean restrooms. When we send a package, we assume Federal Express will get it there on time. We like faithfulness!
The most famous geyser in America is Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. It is not the biggest geyser in the world. It is not the most powerful geyser in the world. What makes it famous is its faithfulness. It is like clockwork. It is dependable. People appreciate dependability, even in a geyser.
What has God given to you? Someday, when you face Him, what will you say to Him? What will you have to show for what you’ve been given? Here are some of the treasures with which you’ve been entrusted:
• The truth. God has been awfully kind to you. He has given you access to His thoughts, recorded in the Scriptures. How have you spent your life sharing that with others? Did you hog the information? Did you share it freely and faithfully?
• Your marriage. God graciously gave you a partner––a friend to share the best of life. Are you being faithful to the precious moments you have together? Will you be able to look him or her in the eyes on your death bed and say, “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health . . . I will be faithful to you as long as we both shall live.”?
• Your children. God’s grace extends to the blessing of children. You have been given some incredible moments that can slip away so easily and carelessly. Soon, your children will ride away into adulthood and you will be faced with the results of your priorities and choices. Are you being faithful to this noble calling?
• Your parents. God gave you a father and a mother. Although they probably aren’t perfect, you have an obligation to honor them. Honor directed at the previous generation is one of God’s ways of blessing the generations to come. Your family’s health begins with your decision to honor others as you would have them honor you.
• Your friendships. Given to enrich the quality of your life, the people who are dearest to you are on loan for an unspecified amount of time. Even though people are eternal, their stay on this planet is temporary. I have been to enough funerals to know that those who treasure “things” are missed, but those who treasure others are mourned.
• Your resources. All of your material blessings come with the expectation that you will use them wisely and faithfully. You can build and store a pile of stuff or you can use your stuff to bless the world around you. Either way, when you are gone, a bunch of people are going to sort through your things and find evidence of your values. What will they discover?
• Your integrity. You have a name. Your word has a quality. Your promises are either kept or broken. Have you been faithful to keep your promises? Is your word being used to bring honor to God? Are you in practice who you say you are in words? The bully can take all you own, but he can never take your integrity. Be faithful to yourself.
Someday, I hope to stand before God and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful . . . Come and share your Master’s happiness!”
Oswald Chambers, an influential voice in the sphere of church history, wrote, “God doesn’t call us to be successful; He calls us to be faithful.”
Success is faithfulness. Faithfulness is showing up and doing the job well consistently by the power of the Holy Spirit.by Pastor Doug
Kindness is what God does because it’s Who God is. When you are kind, you reflect the character of God. It’s simply amazing how profound this is. Kindness speaks in a way nothing else can; it’s an action reflecting God’s heart.
Thus, kindness is a choice. It is something that you choose to do. So, choose to be kind today:
• Pay the toll of the person behind you.
• Pay for someone’s parking meter about to expire.
• Leave a rose on someone’s windshield.
• Buy two of everything for Thanksgiving. Give one set away to a shelter.
• Close someone’s car door.
• Send a week’s worth of birthday cards
• Put your birthday/anniversary wishes inside a balloon (or balloons).
• Hire the entire high school marching band to march down your street and play “Happy Birthday” to your loved one.
• Send a piece of a puzzle each day to a friend.
• Write a note and cut it up into a puzzle.
• Take a sick friend a bowl of chicken soup.
• Honor mother on a non-”Mother’s Day” day (when she is least expecting it).
• Backrubs, scratches, foot massages (i.e., family shampoo night).
• Take a picnic lunch on a family bike ride.
• Leave notes to be opened every day of your absence.
• Camp in the backyard.
• Do something without being asked.
• Take the family to a library or museum.
• Put a note in your child’s lunch box: “You did a great job cleaning the kitchen last night. I appreciate you. Love, Daddy.”
• Learn people’s first names and use them in conversation.
• Send a personal fax or personal e-mail (can be as simple as “I appreciate you”).
• Smile, look directly into the customer’s eyes, listen to them.
• Keep a co-worker’s confidential personal issues confidential.
• Buy a couple dozen donuts (or bagels) for the office.
• Smile and shake a kid’s hand when you greet him. If he is tiny, get down to his eye level to do it.
• Talk directly to kids, not through the adult he is with.
• Be corny and playful with kids (i.e., knock-knock jokes, crazy handshakes).
• Be honest and transparent.
• Kids need to be touched in a nurturing way as often as possible.
• Enjoy the time you spend with a kid––your kindness will outlive you!
• Send love notes in the mail to your spouse.
• Walk instead of drive.
• Sit on the same side of the booth instead of across from your spouse.
• When you return home, enter the house through the back door instead of the front door.
• Write your love story of how you met. Get it printed and bound.
• List your spouse’s best qualities in alphabetical order.
• Remember to look into your spouse’s eyes when he or she tells you about their day.
• Hug your husband from behind and give him a kiss on the back of his neck.
• Send your wife a compliment through one of her friends or colleagues.
• Do something your spouse loves to do even though it doesn’t interest you personally.
• Sing a song to your spouse (personalize it).
• Write “I love you” in the dust around your house instead of complaining about it.
• Make heart-shaped pancakes and serve them in bed.
• Have a candlelight picnic in the backyard.
• Share a long piece of licorice without using your hands.
• Leave encouraging notes all over the house (to be found throughout the week).
• Tuck your wife in bed, read her a good-night story and kiss her on the forehead.
• Wink and smile at your spouse from across the room.
• Leave a photo of yourself on his dashboard.
• Go rock-skipping.
• Plant a tree together in honor of your marriage.
• Go fly a kite.
• Mail a love letter to your spouse’s place of work.
• Say “I love you” out of the blue!
Their are benefits to being kind. Someone will be grateful. People will be kind in return. People will like you more. What goes around, comes around. When you are kind, you like yourself. Kindness softens the world––people around you feel more relaxed, kinder, gentler. Kindness is the right thing to do.
Kindness reflects the heart of God. People see Him through you.
So, do it today!by Pastor Doug