Bad Behavior, Gauges, and Jesus

Wouldn’t it be great if we all walked around with little gauges over our heads. You know, like the lighbulb in comic strips?  It could be like the temperature gauge in a car only the C would be for calm and content and the H would be for hurting and life is HARD.

That way, when we had difficult encounters with people we could see that there are reasons behind their behavior.  If that guy who just cut you off in traffic had the needle on his gauge pointing clearly toward the H because he is on his way to the hospital hoping to get there in time to say goodbye to his father we might be more forgiving.

Or maybe the woman who was rude to the cashier, her gauge read H because she just lost her job.

And the young girl who rear-ended you at the traffic light because she was distracted. Not by her phone but because she’s pregnant and her father threw her out of the house this morning.

If we all had gauges we would be more patient with each other. When we saw that needle tipping toward the H we would offer hope instead of judgment. We would encourage instead of condemn.

But we don’t have gauges or any way to know what someone else is facing today. Perhaps if we could realize that we ALL are on H at times we could begin to offer understanding and patience. It’s what Jesus did.

It’s what He still does.

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:1-4 (NASB)

What Are You Afraid of?

Fear: “A painful emotion or passion excited by an expectation of evil, or the apprehension of impending danger.” – Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

So, what are you afraid of? If we asked people to list what they fear their lists might include, death, poverty, sickness…but perhaps things like public speaking, other’s opinions, failure, and rejection might also appear.

If we use Webster’s definition of fear, the expectation of evil or danger, we would have to revise our list.  What actual evil  threatens a person who fails, or who must speak in public? What danger presents itself in other’s opinions?

What if we revised our list to only include those things that truly brought the risk of danger? Let’s take a closer look.

Do you fear death? John 11:25: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

Do you fear poverty? Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Do you fear for your safety? Psalm27:1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” 

And just in case we forgot a few, God has already covered those too.

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4 (ESV)

There will be times when we are afraid but David tells us the simple remedy.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3 (ESV)

So again I ask, what are you afraid of?

 

 

 

Are Your Prayers Getting Through?

If you have a cell phone you are probably familiar with “dead spots.” Places in your house or in other buildings where you don’t get a good signal. Places where you might be talking and suddenly the call is dropped for no apparent reason.

We might experience the same sort of thing with prayer. You might have heard the expression “I feel like my prayers are bouncing off the ceiling.” Why do we get that feeling and how can we get rid of it?

Scripture tells us many reasons why it seems our prayers aren’t being heard.

We pray with wrong motives: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3)

We pray without faith:  “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:22)

We pray while we still have sin in our lives: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)

If we want the Lord to hear and answer our prayers we must pray the way He requires us to.  We may try to blame our unanswered prayers on God or even on the devil but the biggest hinderance to answered prayers is us. WE are the ones who have to examine our hearts and our lives to remove the things that are blocking our prayers. It’s God’s desire to answer us!

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” – John 15:7(ESV)

Do You Trust Someone You Don’t Know?

First impressions aren’t always positive. Sometimes you can meet a person and be uncomfortable without knowing why. You wouldn’t trust them to watch your children or to enter your house when you are away. But then you spend more time with them and realize they are trustworthy. You can now leave them with your child and your house key without a second thought. They are the ones you can call in an emergency and know they will be there for you. They’ve become friends.

When we moved from Ohio to Iowa many years ago, we had to start fresh in a new place. The friends we’d left behind were people we trusted completely because we knew them well. It took time to build new relationships. We spent time with acquaintances and eventually embraced them as lifelong friends. We did the same thing when we moved to Florida a few years ago. Now we are making new friends again. Learning to trust people to come into our lives.

How does that happen? How to you learn to trust someone? The key is spending time with them. Getting to know them. Watching the way they live their lives to see if their “walk” is consistent with their “talk.”

It’s the same with God. He wants you to trust Him completely. But how can you trust Him if you barely know Him? If you haven’t spent time with Him, how do you know that He will be faithful to His promises? If you haven’t spent time in His word, learning about His character, how can you expect to believe He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do?

The best way to learn to trust Him is to get to know Him. Then you will be able to trust Him with your child, your house key, and your very life.

Paul says it well in 2 Timothy 1:12:

“For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” (NASB)

 

Are You More Like Mary or Zachariah?

We often read the book of Luke at Christmas time. It tells the story of the birth of our Savior. But it also illustrates two different ways we respond to God when we don’t understand what He’s doing.

There are two accounts of a birth being foretold. The first is Zachariah being told by the angel Gabriel that Elizabeth is with child. Zechariah responds in astonishment but he makes a serious mistake as he speaks to the angel. He asks, “How will I know this?” He’s asking for more evidence, more proof.

The second account is of the angel telling Mary she will conceive and give birth to a son. Her response is not “prove it.” Instead, she says, “How will this be?” She’s asking in wonder for she knows she is a virgin. She wants to know HOW God will do it, not IF He will.

How do you respond when God gives you direction that seems impossible? Do you say, “yeah, right. How can THAT happen?” Or do you say, ” Yes Lord, show me how You want to do it. I’m ready to do it your way.”

Big difference.

Zachariah lost his ability to speak for months because of his slip of the tongue. But it was much more than that. It revealed what was in his heart. His doubt was made clear.

When we respond to God, we are to do so in faith and not doubt. What has God been saying to You? And how will you respond?

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” -Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)

 

 

God Wants Us to Pour Out His Love On Others

When God blesses our lives it’s for the purpose of equipping us to share His love with those around us. We aren’t supposed to keep it all to ourselves, we’re supposed to generously pour it into other’s lives. But how can we have enough to pour out if we are constantly allowing God’s blessings to leak out of us?

A while back I wrote a piece called Stopping the Leak where I talked about the remedy for the leaking. But perhaps it would also be helpful to consider the cause of the leaks so we can avoid them in the first place.

Some of the things we chose to do can create leaks. When we leak, the blessings God gives us drain away. When we complain or speak negatively about our circumstances we shoot a hole in our barrel and the blessings begin to leak. Also, being unkind, impatient or judgmental of others can shoot more holes than we can imagine.

If all the things God gives us are to equip us to bring His Kingdom to people, how will we be successful in doing that if we allow everything to leak out? We are to POUR out! When you find yourself exhausted and too weak to cheerfully share God’s love perhaps you should examine your barrel and see if there are too many holes.

“He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior  so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life. This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone.” – Titus 3:6-8 (CSB)

 

What Does it Mean to Live Life Loud?

If you do an internet search for the phrase “live out loud” you will  find a trendy definition along these lines:

“Being yourself , genuine, open, trustworthy, with sass , spice and flare . Living on purpose, loving others and yourself, living passionately for your values, no matter what.” – Urban Dictionary

But what does it mean for Christians to live their lives out loud?  What if you were to become mute today and couldn’t speak another word for the rest of your life? Would your life speak loudly enough that others could still see Jesus in you without words?

Perhaps it would be a good exercise to take some time, especially during the Christmas season, to practice showing Christ’s love without depending on your words to convince others of your relationship with Jesus.

Are you up for the challenge?

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16(ESV)

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. –  1 John 3:18 (ESV)

You Can’t Follow if You Don’t Move

Ever played follow the leader?  One person leads and all the others have to follow what they do. The kid’s game called Simon Says is the same principle.

If you’re playing either of those games you would get strange looks from the other players if you just stood there. In order for either game to work, you have to move. Either by actually following the leader’s actions or listening carefully to what Simon says and doing exactly what you have been told to do.

So it is with saying you are a follower of Christ.  If you are following… you have to move. You can’t just sit in your favorite seat at church every Sunday and then go home and sit on your couch the rest of the week. To be a follower you have to be DOING something. What is it that you should be doing? And this is not about works. This is about imitating Christ’s behavior while He walked on Earth.

Here is a sample list. There are certainly more things that you can add yourself after searching the scriptures.

Pray when He says to pray

Serve when He says to serve

Love when He says to love

Give when He says to give

Jesus set the example for everything He wants us to be doing. Paul also said, “follow me as I follow Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:11)  Paul made it clear that we are to become leaders to help others follow Jesus.

Are you following? And are you learning to lead so others will follow?

“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” – John 12:26 (ESV)

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12 (ESV)

Faith is Believing What You Cannot See

It’s a cloudy day. A man who has lived in a cave all of his life comes out of the cave. He’s been told there is a glowing orb in the sky called the sun that provides heat and light. He looks around, sees only clouds, and concludes, “there is no sun.”

No matter how you try to convince him that you have experienced the sun, he can’t believe because he thinks he must see it for himself. If he goes back into his cave and the clouds clear and the sun returns, he will never know.

He has no faith.

Perhaps he recognized the contrast between the darkness of his cave and the light outside but since he cannot see the sun, he isn’t willing to believe it exists. He doesn’t understand but he won’t trust the word of another.

So here’s the question. If you know there is a sun, and you tried to tell him about it, do you just walk away if he rejects your story? Does he only get one chance to believe?

How about returning another day and going into his cave? How about building a relationship with him so he trusts you? Then you can share your experiences and perhaps he will be more willing to listen.

God calls us to plant the seed. He asks us to testify about who the Son is and what we’ve experienced. We may see no evidence that the seed took root.

But don’t give up!

“So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.” – Romans 10:17 (CSB)

Keep sharing the message and God will use it to bring in the harvest.

Who can you talk to today?

 

For God to Get the Glory, You Have to Tell the Story

I came across a phrase a few weeks ago that has settled in my heart in a big way. Here it is. “Everything that God allows to transpire is for our good and God’s glory.”

Everything.

How can this be? I can think of a lot of situations I’ve experienced that don’t look like they are that great for me or God’s glory… at first. But then I discover something that happened along the way. I see how I have been changed. I see how God has shown His power or His mercy. Watching my husband grow in his faith after a staggering diagnosis or watching a son and his wife grow stronger after a miscarriage causes me to thank the Lord. While I am not saying we should be thankful for terrible events in life, we can always be thankful for how God uses them to change us.

A few months ago I wrote a post called, “Tell Your Story.” I talked about how people needed to hear firsthand the things God is doing in the world. How will they know unless we tell them?

But I’m seeing a trend that makes it much harder to tell your story. It’s the idea that we all deserve privacy. At this point in the history of our country, we have more ways to communicate than ever before but we’ve decided what goes on in our lives is nobody’s business. We’ve become good at saying, “yes, I’m fine,” when we really aren’t. Or perhaps we’ve even convinced ourselves that we are.

The thing is, if we stop sharing our lives with others, they will never see the victories. They will never know God has the answer to everything humanity will ever face.

The choice is ours. We can continue to hide in our self-made bubbles, thinking we need our privacy OR we can learn to be transparent and allow others to see us going through our stuff. If we remain silent, God never gets the glory. Others won’t believe they can ever be overcomers if they never watch anyone overcome anything. Sure, it involves risk. It involves stepping away from pride and self-sufficiency. But in the end, it is for your good and God’s glory so how can you lose?

I’m not saying this is an opportunity to air our dirty laundry in public places, but I AM saying when God is nudging us to share our story, no matter how hard it might be, He will bring good from our obedience. To be vulnerable isn’t a bad thing. It gives God a pliable platform to work in amazing ways. It requires trust and strength that you can’t get from inside yourself.

Tell your story. Tell others how God has been faithful to you. How He’s being faithful to you now. Share the hope that is in you. It might be the most important conversation you will have.

And God will get the glory.

“And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.” – Mark 5:20(NASB)