Fancy Talk or Powerful Living

6-25-13 Fancy talk “For the kingdom of God is not just fancy talk; it is living by God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 4:2)

Some days I feel like I’m really good at talking (or writing) about God and His Word but not very good at living it out. I know the right words to say (and write) and all the Christian lingo, but those do me – or anyone else – no good if my words fail to produce powerful action.  

I’m not even necessarily talking about actions that contradict my words, although those are certainly damaging. What I’m most troubled by in my own life is lack of action. In other words, I often feel like I have a lot of fancy talk but not much – if any – powerful living.

If I want to move from fancy talk to powerful living, it makes sense to increase my awareness of how God’s power comes into my life.

6-25-13 PowerWhat are the sources of God’s power?  

  1. The Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) Gives words & presents opportunity to preach the Gospel.
  2. The Bible (Hebrews 4:12) Reveals complete truth.
  3. Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-4) Our example for putting words into action.
  4. Prayer (James 5:16) Prayer plus righteousness gets results.
  5. Other Christians (1 John 5:4-5) Living victory through faith in Christ.

Knowing the sources of God’s power and even making sure they exist in my daily living still mean nothing should I fail to produce meaningful action. And to do that, I need to become strong in God’s power.

How can we become strong in God’s power?   Being strong in God’s power means standing firm, which involves our words being illustrated by our actions. The Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), a familiar passage of scripture, gives valuable insight into how we can turn our fancy talk into powerful living.

  1. Christian Armor Email SalutationUse all the tools available to you. Think of all the tools great warriors carried with them. To help you visualize, pick a movie with good battle scenes (like Lord of the Rings) and watch how the warriors not only had a variety of tools on them at all times, but they used all of those tools when the battle got especially tough and lengthy.
  2. Let righteousness (goodness, honesty, fairness, rightness) strengthen your core. Any exercise specialist knows that a strong core is essential for the whole body to be strong. No matter the activity, core strength will increase chances for success.
  3. Use peace as your firm foundation. Peace gives a firm foundation by guarding our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). Having a foundation of peace means emotions don’t control you.
  4. Hold up your faith to prevent injury. A strong faith, like a good shield, keeps evil from harming you.
  5. Protect your mind with your salvation. Salvation protects your mind because no one can take it from you. You can only lose it by choice.
  6. Know how to use your one offensive weapon. Watching good battle scenes helps understand the importance of a sword, which seems to be a natural extension of the user. A good swordsman puts in hours of practice and always has his sword with him, ready for use.
  7. Stay persistent in prayer. Constantly be praying, and let the Holy Spirit guide your prayers.

As I look at what the Armor of God does for a Christian’s ability to stand strong, to put words into action, I realize that it’s really a principle for successful living in any area of life. From relationships, education and career to running a marathon, writing a book and building a house, the above steps really provide a path for significance that comes only through being used by God.

DISCUSSION: What are some specific ways we can turn fancy talk into powerful living?

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How to Recieve & Respond to God’s Love

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How to Receive God’s Love

Throughout scripture, God’s love for His people comes through in many and varied ways. Through life experience, God’s love becomes apparent as His promises recorded throughout scripture show their truth for our individual lives and go beyond their application in the context of the day they took place.

In a culture where love lies distorted by a focus on self, emotional & physical feelings as well as material wealth, truly knowing how to receive authentic, real, passionate love has become increasingly clouded. Yet, receiving God’s love still remains simple. 

  1. Accept that you can’t fully understand God’s love. (Ephesians 3:18)
  2. Review His track record. (Romans 5:8)
  3. Understand the role of love in fear. (1 John 4:18)
  4. Spend time with Him. (John 15:10)
  5. Don’t let your love for Him grow cold. (Matthew 24:12)
  6. Seek a life of obedience. (2 John 1:6)

How to Respond to God’s Love

“Jesus replied, ‘The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Isreal! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all our soul, all you mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29, 30)

 Having truly received God’s love and being filled to overflowing, we can’t help but express that which we have received. When you receive a wonderful gift, don’t you look forward to telling others about it and showing it to them? This should hold especially true for the greatest gift of all, the love of Christ.

The Bible, God’s love letter to His people, contains endless instruction on how to live a life of love. Let’s focus on some of those ways with immediate and hopefully obvious application.

  1. Focus on God. (Mark 12:29-30)
  2. Be known for love. (2 John 1:5)
  3. Overlook offenses. (1 Peter 4:8)
  4. Never give up. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
  5. Be authentic. (Romans 12:9)
  6. Love other Christians. (John 13:34)
  7. Love your enemies. (Matthew 5:43-44)

The Bible gives us lots of ways to show love to others, but the specific details (who, what, when, where, why & how) come to life in the unique and individual lives we each live. There are endless ways to show love because we are all unique individuals, and we all show love as uniquely as we were created.

Showing love is only difficult or complicated because we make it so. Keep love simple. Be obedient to God. Follow the first part of the greatest command – love God – and you’ll find the second part – love others – comes increasingly naturally (Matthew 22:36-40)

DISCUSSION: Why do you think receiving God’s love is difficult at times?

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Struggling with Significance

Tea Word Art and LeavesMint Tea Memories

When I got the flu as a kid, my Amish neighbors brought me freshly-brewed mint tea. As I brewed my own tea from freshly-picked mint recently, I recalled this memory and realized that I actually enjoyed being sick as a child. Well, not the sick part but the attention. I felt special… important… significant.

Being sick as an adult does not produce the same results. Well, that’s not exactly true. When I got my tonsils out, my husband kept me steadily supplied with iced coffee. And recently when I had a fever off and on for a week, my youngest son made sure I always had tea and water to drink. During these times, I felt special and enjoyed someone taking care of me.

These memories surface as my struggle with significance especially pulls at me. We all like to feel special and like we matter to others, yet so often we fail to regularly feel that way. We seem to only truly feel special when someone goes out of their way to make that happen, which never seems to happen enough.

Defining Significance

To be significant means to be “important” or “of consequence.” When something is important, it “matters much” and “is entitled to more than ordinary consideration or notice.” When something is “of consequence,” it has “distinction” and deserves to be treated with special honor.

Think of the people you consider “significant” in your life. Do you treat them as important and deserving of special treatment? For me, I can honestly answer… “Sometimes, but not as often as I should.” And with that answer, I begin to wonder if the same struggle for significance lies within each of us.

Struggling for Significance

In my struggle for significance, I feel unimportant and often ask myself, “Does what I do and who I am really matter?” And the gauge I usually use to answer this question falls with my view of how others treat me. And really, that’s not fair to them or to me.

With busy lives and so much coming at us all the time, can we truly show significance to those who really are more than ordinary to us? Unfortunately, most people are spread too thin to adequately be able to do so.

Because of our human imperfection, we fail in truly expressing how important others are to us. As much as I struggle feeling significant, I equally struggle with letting others know they are significant to me.

A Proper View of Significance6-7-13 Psalm 139

My view of my own significance becomes skewed because I base it on imperfection. When I instead base it on a perfect, holy God, a completely different perspective emerges.

Matthew 18:12-14 tells the story of a shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep in front of him to find the one lost sheep to illustrate how important just one person is to our Heavenly Father who does not “will that even one of these ones should perish.”

Matthew 10: 29-31 talks about how if God knows when one sparrow falls to the ground and we are more valuable than they, and if He knows the number of the hairs on each of our heads, should we not feel significant to Him?

While we must keep a proper view of ourselves and not consider ourselves as more important than others (Philippians 2:3), we must also realize that WE ARE ALL IMPORTANT. God values each one of us enough to give us His very image (Genesis 1:27), so to think we don’t have significance means to reject the importance a perfect God places upon us.

DISCUSSION: Please share any thoughts, insights and perspectives you have regarding significance.

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A Look At Rest & Productivity

So far in this series we spent time Defining Laziness and Idleness and looking at their dangers, and we’ve tried to understand the process of Overcoming Laziness and Idleness and The Importance of Time & Purpose in Rooting Out Laziness & Idleness. To conclude, let’s look at the difference between rest and laziness as well as at how significance trumps productivity.

Ulazynderstanding Rest

Laziness is not rest, and rest is not laziness. The difference? Purpose. Rest involves a deliberate choice to recharge in order to make the most of one’s time, while laziness drains and feels wasteful. For purpose to exist in rest, it must be…

  1. Regular (Genesis 2:3)
  2. Restorative (Exodus 23:20)
  3. Required (Exodus 23:12)
  4. Refreshing (Exodus 23:20)
  5. Received (Matthew 11:28-30)
  6. Reached (Hebrews 4:1-13)
  7. Remarkable (Revelation 14:13)

Laziness and rest are really opposites. Rest rejuvenates for more productivity with purpose while laziness burns energy without any purposeful progress. One remembers the value of time. The other forgets. In fact, the more rejuvenating rest we deliberately seek, the more we’ll find ourselves operating from a place of rest rather than always having to constantly seeking it.

idleSignificance Over Productivity

Productivity’s value also lies with significance. Productivity for the sake of productivity means accomplishing tasks just to check items off a “to do” list. Yet, simply accomplishing tasks, hacking through a “to do” list, fails to bring purpose.

Significance must be a priority over productivity. This involves doing what matters in light of an eternal perspective, and doing so illustrates the value of time. That may mean working off a “to do” list at times, but we can too easily get wrapped up in the idleness of productivity. This happens in the absence of significance.

Our goal with our time involves making the most of every opportunity we’ve been given (Ephesians 5:16). Doing so merges significance with valuing time. In that, we find the purpose needed to ward off our culture’s and our flesh’s constant pull toward laziness and idleness.

Focus Determines RealityFamilyValuesScripture

As this series concludes, consider what constitutes the focus necessary for making sure our time and productivity center around significant purpose. Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” In other words, help us value our time and use it wisely. Our time gains value when we realize we can’t control tomorrow, we are vapors, and God’s will gives purpose to our time (James 4:13-15).

God desires that we control our focus. To do so, we can do as Joshua did, and choose where to cast our gaze and how to spend our time by making a deliberate and declarative focus on what God desires (Joshua 24:15). We an also realize the fleetingness of time.

As we focus on God and His will, we learn to value every moment as precious. We learn to obey His commands for regular rest and to heed His warnings against laziness and idleness. We begin to let Him direct our lives according to His purpose. As we progress in this way toward perfection, we find that each moment of our lives serve to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

DISCUSSION: What are you doing in your life to ensure you have proper rest and that your productivity & time have eternal significance?

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The Importance of Time & Purpose in Rooting Out Laziness & Idleness

The Value of Time & Purposelazy

One of the factors determining whether idleness and laziness define a person’s life involves having an awareness of the value of time. Zen Buddhist Yoshida Kenko said,

 “A man who fails even for a short time to keep in mind the preciousness of time is no different from a corpse.” (Essays in Idleness, 1330-32)

Idle times happen in everyone’s life. Some surprise us (waiting for the tow truck), and some make sense in the natural progression of the day (5 minutes between meetings). But an idle mindset infects all areas of life.

When idle times arise, valuing time moves a person toward opportunity for rest or for productivity in another area. True rest rejuvenates and restores and prepares for productive activity. Productive activity can be going back to school when you lose your job or incorporating more rest for recovery from illness. Both show the value of time even though one area of life remains idle.

Time becomes devalued when a person chooses lazy habits instead of productivity. Someone with a lazy and idle mindset generally operates without purpose except to satisfy the flesh and to avoid responsibility and growth. Ecclesiastes 4:5-6 sums this state of mind up well.

“Foolish people refuse to work and almost starve. They feel it is better to be lazy and barely survive than to work hard, especially when in the long run everything is so futile.”

 In other words, without a purpose that gives value to time, being idle and lazy makes perfect sense.

idleQuality Time and Purpose

Someone once said that laziness is not doing what you should be doing. No longer can we relegate laziness to the couch potato whose house is falling apart because of neglect. At the heart, a lazy and idle mindset fails to give time proper value. Let’s explore that idea further by looking at how devaluing time easily creeps into our thinking.

First, productivity isn’t the answer. Sometimes I pop from one activity to another without any real focus. I think the more tasks I accomplish, the more productive I am. And, of course, the more productive I am, the more significance I have. Right? Wrong!

Quality over quantity dominates with regard to productivity and creating significance. In fact, lack of significance in productivity is simply well-disguised idleness. I can accomplish tasks and cross items off my “to do” list and not actually be doing anything of significant purpose. When this happens, I am being idle because I fail to make meaningful progress.

Second, losing track of time can be productive. Think of taking a long walk or going for a family bike ride on a Sunday afternoon versus spending the day in the same room with each individual focused on a different electronic device. Quality connection creates significance that makes all the difference.

Finally, many activities can show the illusion of activity with no real purpose or progress. Meetings, planning, and organizing come immediately to mind. Much of these take place under the guise of organizing that only wastes time and energy. No significant progress go forth without a distinct awareness of time along with a driven focus on purpose.

What’s the key?

The key to being productive, whether in rest or activity, involves quality of time combined with significant purpose. Stay aware of time and in touch with purpose, and laziness and idleness cease to exist.

John Maxwell sums up this idea well in his book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. In the chapter on The Law of Design while talking about systems, Maxwell says this about time:

“Time has a way of getting away from most people, yet time is what life is made of. Everything we do requires time, yet many people take it for granted. How you spend your time is more important than how you spend your money. Money mistakes can be corrected. But once time has passed, it’s gone forever.”

So far in this series, we spent time Defining Laziness and Idleness and discussed The Dangers of Laziness and Idleness. We’ve also looked at what’s involved in Overcoming Laziness and Idleness. This series concludes Tuesday with A Look at Rest & Productivity.

 DISCUSSION: How can you give more value to time? How could you let purpose drive you?

The post How to Use Those Usually Wasted Minutes During your Day on Dan Black on Leadership provides some terrific suggestions for giving purpose and value to idle times.

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Overcoming Laziness & Idleness

idleBecause I have two boys involved in different sports plus school activities plus church activities along with a husband who travels frequently for work, our weeks are very full at times. After an especially busy week, my oldest son said, “I want to be lazy tomorrow and watch TV all day.” This began a conversation about the importance of rest and why a habit of laziness needs avoided.

We all need regular rest, even more so after particularly busy times, but we all also need to avoid establishing the habits that lead to a lazy mindset. In order to live productive and significant lives, understanding how to overcome and prevent laziness and idleness is important.

Habits Leading to Laziness and Idleness

Pockets of laziness and idleness exist in everyone’s life. Through our choices, they either become dangerous  with far-reaching impact or opportunities for growth.

The path to a lazy and idle lifestyle almost always includes the following bad habits:

  1. All talk with no action. (Acts 17:21)
  2. No progress. (Proverbs 26:14)
  3. Making excuses. (Proverbs 22:13)
  4. Failing to plan ahead. (Proverbs 6:6-9)
  5. Caving to culture. (Proverbs 26:15)
  6. Instant gratification. (Proverbs 26:15)
  7. Lack of purpose. (Ecclesiastes 4:5-6)
  8. Being enabled. (1 Timothy 5:13)

While we must first identify any pockets of these bad habits in our own lives, we are not exempt from identifying them in the lives of others. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 tells us to warn the lazy of the dangers of that lifestyle. Before we can do that, we must understand why rooting it out is essential as well as be actively  overcoming it in our own lives.

Why This Lifestyle Needs Overcomelazy

The most important reason to fight against a lazy and idle mindsets involves obedience. Consider the following:

  1. God expects fruitfulness. (Ephesians 2:10) Laziness and idleness mindsets oppose fruitfulness.
  2. Got gives us new natures. (2 Corinthians 5:17) We’re no longer bound by the desires of the flesh.

Knowing God expects fruitfulness and that He also equips us for it, we must step into obedience of His will and overcome any lazy and idle ways in our lives.

Overcoming Laziness & Idleness

Overcoming for some means a complete lifestyle and mindset change. Perhaps you have pockets of laziness and idleness in your thinking, and you want to grow out of them. Regardless of the status of laziness and idleness in your life, the approach to overcoming is the same

The following mindsets can renew your mind and create a lifestyle of productivity and purpose.

  1. Stay enthusiastic. (Romans 12:11) Fill time with enjoyable activities and encouraging people, and stay connected to your purpose. Enthusiasm will ebb and flow, and these things help prevent losing focus.
  2. Love others. (Hebrews 6:11-12) Truly loving others keeps life exciting and prevents dullness and indifference. Loving people gets focus off self and on love. Loving others amplifies purpose.
  3. Develop an awareness of time. (Proverbs 20:4) Those with lazy and idle mindsets lack awareness of time’s preciousness. Overcoming idleness and laziness requires valuing time.
  4. Enjoy sleep’s benefits instead of sleep itself. (Proverbs 20:13; 19:15) Enjoy sleep for it results – energy, alertness, restoration. Consider that a love of sleep is simply a way to avoid responsibility and awareness.
  5. Be productive. (Matthew 25:26-30) Just like laziness and idleness are learned habits, so too is productivity. And remember, productivity is really well-disguised idleness when it lacks purpose.

As my family discussed, everyone needs regular rest. At the same time, we must balance our thinking with an awareness of the habits that produce a lazy lifestyle and stay connected to our purpose for productive living.

In addition to today’s discussion on overcoming laziness and idleness, we’ve spent time Defining Laziness and Idleness as well as talked about The Dangers of an Idle & Lazy Mindset. Next, we’ll look at The Importance of Time & Purpose in Rooting Out Laziness & Idleness and then conclude our series with A Look at Rest & Productivity.

DISCUSSION: What other habits lead to a lazy and idle lifestyle? What other mindsets help reverse the process?

Check out my guest post GPS Leadership at Dan Black on Leadership. Dan’s blog is a great resource!

Another good blog to read, especially for some though-provoking conversation, is CycleGuy’s Spin.
Check out my guest post, Abundance, there too.

Thank you to Bill & Dan for inviting me to guest post… tremendous honor!

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The Dangers of Laziness & Idleness

The post Defining Idleness and Laziness provided in-depth definitions of idleness and laziness and notes their almost twin-like definitions. The graphics accompanying this series sum up those definitions.

Today’s post delves into what makes an idle and lazy mindset so dangerous. Be warned. This is not a feel-good message. Scripture clearly shows the danger of an idle and lazy mindset, an understanding essential to overcoming and preventing their grip.

A lazy and idle mindset…lazy

  1. Lacks purpose. (Proverbs 12:27) An idle person completes activity without purpose, kind of like a hunter shooting an animal and leaving the carcass to rot. Is this what happens to my brain when I watch television?
  2. Brings destruction. (Proverbs 18:9) An idle person pulls others down. In my more idle days, I wondered why people avoided me. Perhaps they wanted to avoid feeling destroyed by my negativity.
  3. Shows ignorance. (Proverbs 26:16) I’m ashamed to admit the times when I just knew my way was the right way only come to find out later that it was the lazy and foolish way. Yet in my ignorance, I just didn’t see that lazy habits controlled me.
  4. Results in poverty. (Proverbs 10:4) While this can apply to monetary wealth, it also applies to relational, emotional, spiritual and physical health too. Laziness in any area brings desperate hunger for real connection.
  5. Results in lack. (Proverbs 24:33-34) When I taught college classes years ago, several students every semester were surprised at their poor grades. Their laziness in studying and doing homework showed up in lack on the report card at the end of the semester.
  6. Makes one a slave. (Proverbs 12:24) Someone with a lazy and idle mindset has fewer options. Choices regarding work become limited when laziness exists, and opportunity for advancement sees significant limits within an idle mindset.
  7. Breeds dissatisfaction. (Proverbs 13:4) Junior high boys tend to have at least periods of idle and lazy mindsets. As a result, satisfying them at times becomes impossible. Most, thankfully, grow out of this; although, that seems to be the case less and less these days.
  8. Allows selfishness to determine actions. (Proverbs 21:25-26) During my lazy times (past and present), I am motivated by selfishness. I’m usually avoiding something when I’m lazy, and my selfish desires to satisfy my flesh chooses those actions.
  9. Leads to neglect. (Proverbs 24:30-31) Outward signs of laziness always show themselves, and they often do so through a lack of concern and an inattention to responsibilities.
  10. Breeds gossip and meddling. (1 Timothy 5:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:11) Gossips meddle and meddlers gossip, and they usually do so to avoid focusing on issues such as laziness and idleness present in their own lives.

I do not believe I have a lazy and idle lifestyle (not anymore anyway), but I do have pockets of idleness in my life that show themselves in one or more of the above ways. I believe that most people, if they are honest, find this to be true of themselves.

A Note About Laziness in Leadershipidle

One of the dangers of a lazy and idle mindset involves the impact on others. This holds especially true for anyone in a leadership position, from presidents to parents. Isaiah 56:9-12 provides tremendous insight on the negative influence of lazy and idle leaders. It says they…

  1. Fail to warn followers of coming danger.
  2. Give a false sense of security.
  3. Dream but fail to follow up with action.
  4. Are greedy and impossible to satisfy.
  5. Frustrate and discourage their followers.

Laziness and idleness produce nothing positive for anyone, but they are especially detrimental in the life of a leader. Even if you don’t consider yourself a leader, know that any laziness and idleness in your life does impact someone other than yourself. We can’t escape this ripple effect.

The next posts in this series Overcoming Laziness and Idleness gives direction for avoiding these dangers, something with which everyone struggles.

DISCUSSION: What other dangers do laziness and idleness pose?

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Defining Idleness & Laziness

lazyThe posts The Benefits of Time Travel and God’s Perspective on Time Travel talk about God’s view of time and how He wants us to view and value our time. Evaluating your stewardship of time is always valuable, and resources like Life of a Steward can help you do so consistently and effectively. Today’s post begins a series that addresses the value of time related to a struggle most people have occasionally and many have regularly.

Probably one of the most poignant and effective lenses for assessing time management involve idleness and laziness if for no other reason than because the Bible – especially Proverbs – addresses these topics frequently. (This repetition means they are important).  Idleness and laziness present serious mindsets that devalue time. Understanding the meanings behind laziness and idleness can help root out any areas in which we are poor stewards of our time through lazy and idle habits.

Laziness and idleness connect in many ways, and the Bible even uses idleness and laziness interchangeably at times. Take 1 Thessalonians 5:14, for example, where we are told to warn the lazy. The NLT uses lazy, the NIV idle, and the NASB unruly. Other words used include irresponsible (Holman), undisciplined (NET), wrongdoers (Aramaic), those not living right (God’s Word) and disorderly (ASV).

As our graphics for this series indicate, the dictionary provides similar definitions of both laziness and idleness.

idleThe Pulpit Commentary also explain laziness/idleness referring to them as “unruly” or “disorderly” in 1 Thessalonians 5:14. Pulpit explains that this scripture is a military reference expressing the character of soldiers refusing to keep rank. Instead, they neglected their common duties and basically abstained from working. These individuals broke ranks but still expected to be treated as if they were doing their duty.

Gill’s Exposition says these individuals busy themselves with other people’s matters and are contentious, quarrelsome, turbulent, headstrong and unruly. It goes on to say they also cause animosity and division. Think about the consequences that lazy and idleness have, especially in a military or war setting.

When considering the differences, idleness seems more deceptive because there can be the appearance of busyness with no real progress. Laziness, on the other hands, seems obvious and easier to identify because being slothful or a sluggard stands out.

Laziness also indicates a greater degree of idleness and is always held in contempt; no one ever thinks laziness is good. Even when I say “I’m just being lazy,” and it’s not a habit for me, I feel a sense of almost shame.

Laziness also seems worse because it happens by choice, while idleness can sometimes be due to circumstances. For example, a person can lose his job and be idle, and we can have an idle 5 minutes between one activity ending and another beginning with not enough time to start something new. Idle periods sometimes happen in our lives and not because of our own choices. Laziness always happens by choice.

The differences between idleness and laziness are subtle and perhaps unimportant. Once someone succumbs to either of them as a lifestyle, do the differences really matter? Yes, idle periods can happen apart from our efforts, but we ultimately choose an idle and lazy mindset.

Today’s post laid the groundwork by defining laziness and idleness, and the post, The Dangers of Idleness and Laziness, begins the journey of application by taking a deeper look at  the far-reaching impact of a lazy and idle lifestyle.

DISCUSSION: How does having a deeper meaning of laziness and idleness change how you think about them?

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