The Danger of 9-Out-Of-10 Thinking
SYNOPSIS: When it comes to areas of personal growth in your life, perhaps you feel that you’re doing well in nine-out-of-ten areas. And that is pretty good. But that nine-out-of-ten mentality has been the undoing of so many. It’s what we might call, “selective sluggardliness”. To neglect even the little, hidden, seemingly inconsequential areas of undeveloped and unredeemed moral fiber is to commit malpractice in life’s most important work—the development of our character.
Moments With God // Proverbs 6:6
You lazy fool, look at an ant. Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two. Nobody has to tell it what to do.
“The first and best victory is to conquer self.” That’s according to the Greek philosopher Plato. He was right, of course! Unfortunately, however, far too many people are on a serious losing streak when it comes it comes to self-mastery.
But that’s not you, right? Since you are reading this, chances are you are doing it for personal improvement, self-discipline, and spiritual growth. You have taken the time and made the effort to read and reflect on how you might better align your character with God’s design for your life. That’s not to say you are perfect, but in nine out of ten areas, you’re doing pretty well, if you don’t say so yourself.
But hold on, my friend. It’s your inattention to that tenth area that very well may be the difference between God’s abundance or wasted potential in your life, between living a life of great faith and being an also-ran in the race of life, between hearing “well done, faithful one” and depart from me, I never knew you” on that day you stand before the Almighty.
It’s that nine-out-of-ten mentality that has been the undoing of so many. It is what we might call, “selective sluggardliness”. To neglect even the little, hidden, seemingly inconsequential areas of undeveloped and unredeemed moral fiber is to commit malpractice in life’s most important work—the development of our character.
That’s why Solomon says in Proverbs 6:6 (The Message), “You lazy fool, look at an ant. Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two. Nobody has to tell it what to do.” What does the ant teach us?
- The ant needs no outside motivation—it just follows its God-given, built-in, intrinsic motivation to do what needs to be done.
- The ant just instinctively knows what to do—and so do you.
- The ant, like Nike, just does it.
Okay, you’re doing great in nine out of ten areas. Pat yourself on the back and have a party. And once you’re done, tackle that tenth area. Don’t stop until you master it. Believe me, you won’t regret it.
Take A Moment:
Talk to a trusted friend about this nine-out-of-ten idea and ask him or her if they see an area of neglect in your life. Then allow them to hold you accountable for growth in that area.
What Jesus Really Said About It
SYNOPSIS: Many assume that Jesus commands his followers to blindly forgive, freely forget whatever offense might have occurred, and unconditionally reconcile even with those who show no signs of remorse for what they have done to hurt or offend us. That is not what Jesus said…
Moments With God // Luke 17:3
If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive.
There are two extremes when it comes to forgiveness: On the one hand, we fail to practice it far too often. We conveniently and creatively bypass Scripture’s teaching on this matter so easily that it must grieve the Father’s heart. And this unwillingness to extend forgiveness is such a huge problem in the family of God today, since Jesus tied our forgiveness of others to the Father’s forgiveness of us:
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 5:14-15, NLT)
An unfortunately large number of “believers” will be surprised when they stand before the Great Forgiver and he informs them that the pardon of transgressions they hoped for had been held up because of their own unwillingness to let go of anger, bitterness, resentment, and hurt long enough to extend the hand of reconciliation to someone who had offended them. Jesus is pretty clear about the matter: IF you don’t forgive others, THEN God can’t forgive you! Don’t miss the dependent relationship between being forgiven and offering forgiveness.
On the other hand, we fail to properly understand forgiveness far too often. That is an extreme as well. Many assume that Jesus is commanding his followers to blindly forgive, freely forget whatever offense might have occurred and unconditionally reconcile even with those who show no signs of remorse for what they have done to hurt or offend us. That is not what Jesus said.
Did you notice another very big condition that Jesus attached to this forgiveness directive? “If” a brother sins, “then” when there is repentance, forgive him. We need to be ready to forgive, willing to forgive, generous in forgiving—even if it is seven times for the same thing in the same day, we are called to forgive offenses (Luke 17:4, NLT)—but only if there is repentance.
God himself doesn’t dole out forgiveness unconditionally. He is willing to, but his hands are tied if the offender doesn’t acknowledge their sin, feel authentic contrition in their heart, and offer the fruit of repentance (a change of mind and a change of direction) in their behavior. (Matthew 3:8, NLT, Acts 2:38, NLT)
To forgive, forget and reconcile with an unrepentant person is to go beyond what God himself does. Now in that, there is yet another extreme into which Christians can fall: withholding forgiveness until proper repentance is expressed for every little thing that rubs them the wrong way. My advice to you, if you are guilty of that is to immediately stop being ridiculous. Not everything that gets under your skin falls into the category of a moral offense—so grow some thicker skin and exercise a lot of grace, my friend!
Jesus is calling his followers to a balanced understanding and a generous commitment to the practice of forgiveness. It is the lifeblood of his kingdom, and when it flows rightly and freely from your life, it is your calling card into the throne room of your gracious and forgiving Father.
Take A Moment:
I > Is there someone you need to forgive? I think you know what to do!
Find Your Satisfaction God’s Way
SYNOPSIS: When we ignore God’s promise to fully satisfy our sexual desires through a loving, life-long, and faithful relationship with the person to whom we are married, we will end up elevating the world’s false promise of sensual satisfaction to god-like status—at our own peril. Apart from God’s design for human sexuality, sexual gratification is what C.S. Lewis referred to as the “sweet poison of the false infinite.” It is nothing more than a “substitute sacred”—a surrogate we desperately use to fill the emptiness of our dissatisfied lives, but never can. In reality, only the one true Sacred can do that! St. Augustine said it well, “Sin comes when we take a perfectly natural desire, and try desperately to fulfill it without God…All these good things, and all our security, are rightly found only and completely in him.”
Moments With God // Proverbs 5:5
The seductive woman is dancing down the primrose path to Death; she’s headed straight for Hell and taking you with her. (The Message)
“Sex, sex, sex!” Have you noticed how our culture worships sexual gratification—sexual fulfillment achieved with anyone, any time and in any way you want? My guess is that any alien who landed on Planet Earth to research our species would have to conclude one thing just from the 250 million pornographic links from the 1.3 million porn sites that are available on the Internet.
No doubt about it: sex is god of the human race.
The book of Proverbs warns us repeatedly that when we ignore God’s promise to fully satisfy our sexual desires through a loving, life-long, and faithful relationship with the person to whom we are married, we will end up elevating the world’s promise of sensual satisfaction to god-like status—at our own peril. You see, money, power, fame, relationships, possessions, and sex—especially sex—are what C.S. Lewis referred to as the “sweet poison of the false infinite.”
We might call them “substitute sacreds”—the surrogates we desperately use to fill the emptiness of our dissatisfied lives. In reality, however, no substitute sacred ever fulfills what it so brazenly promises. Only the one true Sacred can do that! St. Augustine said,
“Sin comes when we take a perfectly natural desire or longing or ambition and try desperately to fulfill it without God…All these good things, and all our security, are rightly found only and completely in him.”
God longs for us to come to him with the needs of our soul so he can graciously and abundantly and unendingly satisfy our deepest longings and most powerful passions—in his way and in his time. As Augustine said, God has created us for himself, and we will only find satisfaction when we find our satisfaction in him. Again, that includes our sexual needs fulfilled according to God’s design.
Annie Dillard tells of an experiment in which entomologists enticed male butterflies with a painted cardboard replica larger and more enticing than the females of their species. These male butterflies would repeatedly and eagerly mount the colorful cardboard cutout to mate with it, while nearby, the real, living female butterfly enticingly opened and closed her wings in vain.
Friend, the real, living God is near, longing to cover you in the shadow of his wings, where he will provide for you soul-satisfaction in every dimension of your being—even the sexual. Why settle for a substitute sacred when the real Divine awaits!
Take A Moment:
Make a conscious effort today to identify all the substitute sacreds along your path. My guess is that you’ll probably lose count before the day is out since there will be so many. Each time you are enticed with money, sex, or power, stop and give thanks to God that he has instead given you eternal wealth, true satisfaction, and spiritual authority—far more gratifying than the sweet poison of these false infinites.
Let God Dislocate Your Heart With His Love For The Lost
SYNOPSIS: Every time you look into the eyes of another person, you’re seeing a soul God so loves that He sent his Son to die for them. So if lost people matter to a missionary God that much, then crossing borders—the street, the railroad tracks, the ocean—to reach them with his love must become our driving mission as well. Now that will require the realignment of our priorities, it will take our focus, and it will demand our sacrifice, but it will be worth it because it will put us squarely on mission with God.
“The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.”
So if getting more intensely missionary means getting closer to Jesus, and if getting closer to Jesus requires getting more intensely missionary, then sign me up!
How about you?
But that’s easier said than done. You see, if you’re like me, your fallen nature is self-centered. We focus on ourselves … we put our wants, our needs, our preferences ahead of everything else.
So being on mission with God requires the realignment of our priorities and sacrifice and focus. It requires fierce conviction that becomes our driving force for being fully on mission.
Bottom Line: Lost people matter to God, so they must matter to us, as well!
Click below to hear an inspiring story of a woman in East Africa who has given her live to take the Good News of Jesus to her own people.
If you can’t see this video in your RSS reader or email, then click here
I invite you to partner with me today to tell the whole world about Jesus, one unreached village at a time.
Did you know that when you partner with Petros Network it only costs $3600 to plant a thriving reproducing church in a difficult, hard-to-reach place through an indigenous missionary?
Check out the different ways you can give today and join me in being intensely missionary at petrosnetwork.org/donate.
Teach Us To Number Our Days Aright
SYNOPSIS: Are you as amazed as I am with the speed of time? What once seemed interminable when I was a kid—school, chores, the preacher’s sermon, winter—now seems to rush by like a speeding locomotive. I blinked and suddenly this sixteen-year-old kid panting to get his driver’s license is now older than dirt and panting just walking up the stairs. Watching my wife-to-be walk down the aisle has turned into the new adventure of grandparenting—overnight! Time flies, doesn’t it! I guess the best advice we will ever get as it relates to the speed of life comes in the form of this prayer Moses offered: “Lord, teach me to number my days soberly, so that I might live each of them wisely.” Great idea: soberly assess the number of days you’ll likely have—then live them well.
Moments With God // Psalm 90:10, 12
True story: Kermit the frog was once heard saying, “Time’s fun when you’re having flies.” Okay, not true, but you get the point. Kermit got his idiom a bit garbled, but that is quite understandable when Miss Piggy is stalking you!
Kermit was on to something! The truth is, time does fly—whether you are having fun or not. Moses, who didn’t have the full New Testament picture of life after death, was reflecting on how relatively brief life was when he said in Psalm 90:3-6, 10,
You turn people back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
but by evening it is dry and withered…
The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
How true that is! Are you as amazed as I am with the speed of time? What once seemed interminable when I was a kid—school, chores, the preacher’s sermon, winter, life—now seems to rush by like a speeding locomotive. I blinked and suddenly this sixteen-year-old kid panting to get his driver’s license is now older than dirt and panting just walking up the stairs. Watching my wife-to-be walk down the aisle has turned into the new adventure of grandparenting—overnight! Staring in amazement at the mystery of life as our daughters were born seems like only yesterday. Now they are successful in their own careers, making their way in the world—quite well, I might add, and having an impact in this world.
You could certainly add your own experience to the narrative. And those of you who are older can definitely add an urgent witness to the speed of life even more than I can at this stage of life: Suddenly, the grandkids are getting married; great-grandchildren are arriving; the body is not working quite like it used to even though the mind still thinks of yourself as a youngster, full of vim and vigor; you are facing life without your soul-mate—and something you never dreamed possible is now a gritty reality.
I guess the best advice we will ever get as it relates to the speed of life comes in the form of this prayer Moses offered: “Lord, teach me to number my days soberly, so that I might live each of them wisely.” Great idea: learn to number your days aright, and therein gain a heart of wisdom.
Take A Moment: Perhaps it would be a good idea to follow Moses’ lead and pray that prayer today—and every day: “Lord, teach me to number my days soberly, so that I might live each of them wisely.”