The More You Know…

(Psalm 101:5)  Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret, I will put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate.

My Granny Frances always gave me really great advice, which always seemed to begin with, “Honey…”  Most of her advice I remember, verbatim, and it continues to be useful in every stage of my life.  I remember once she said to me, “Honey, if that gal will talk about someone to you, she’s done talked about you to someone else.  Drop her like a hot biscuit.”  That’s good wisdom.  Granny was right.  Sometimes you do have to let go of friendships that are shallow because they can damage your witness to others.  If someone is a known gossip and backbiter, is that something you want to be associated with in your circle of influence?

There comes a time when social graces have to be put aside and you have to put a muzzle on all of that ugly barking.  When someone begins badmouthing another in your presence, or filling your ear with their garbage talk, did you know you can nicely ask them to shut up?  Just tell them to quit it and explain yourself.  It’s not rude, it’s the right thing to do.  In 2 Timothy 3: 1-5, it is written, “Understand that the last days will be dangerous times. People will be selfish and love money. They will be the kind of people who brag and who are proud. They will slander others, and they will be disobedient to their parents. They will be ungrateful, unholy, unloving, contrary, and critical. They will be without self-control and brutal, and they won’t love what is good. They will be people who are disloyal, reckless, and conceited. They will love pleasure instead of loving God. They will look like they are religious but deny God’s power. Avoid people like this.”

So there it is.  My mother has always told me, “Some people…well, you just gotta love ‘em from a distance.”  This is something that I have learned is invaluable.  A social life is nice to have, but not at the expense of my reputation or integrity.  You can call it what you will, but I’m guarded and with good reason.  I just think it is important to be careful.  I have learned the hard way that not everyone is to be trusted with something so valuable as an intimate friendship.  Do know, this should never be a hindrance when it comes to loving others the way that Christ did.  Think about that for a minute though, wasn’t Jesus careful himself of who he trusted?  It all kind of goes back to the old adage, “Choose your friends wisely.”  You can love everyone, but not everyone has to be your best friend. 

On the other side of the coin, maybe you are the one who gets caught up in the gossip.  The tongue is a hard thing to control, and for whatever reason some people really struggle with this more than anything else.  Hey, I’m not here to write you off…we all have our own little marbles we slip on from time to time.  It could even be that you don’t truly realize what you’re doing.  Well here are some signs that maybe this is an area of growth for you.

  1. You’ve noticed that some friends may have stopped calling and/or texting as often.
  2. People make excuses to avoid spending time with you, or often cancel plans.
  3. You complain a LOT.
  4. You don’t really know what’s going on in the lives of your friends.
  5. You’re jealous and give back-handed compliments.  (“Your haircut makes you look slim.”)

Those are just a few signs that maybe you’re a little toxic and that you’re probably pushing others away with negativity and by stirring up discord amongst others.  You know what though?  That’s not in God’s plan for your life.  He wants us all to have good, lasting friendships that together are His light in the darkness.  We can’t do that when we are just little lights that flicker on and off sporadically.  We have to guard that flame and keep it burning high and bright! 

Finally, let me just say that we are all guilty of biting the occasional back, so to speak.  It happens.  That’s why Christians need one another though, to lovingly say to our brother or sister, “Hey, that’s not okay.”  When we can gently correct wrongdoing and continue on in love, that’s true, godly friendship. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, give me eyes to see clearly and ears to hear the truth.  Help me to lovingly avoid and silence gossip, and give me the boldness to take a stand for what is right.  And when I am wrong, when I use my tongue to hurt or to bring dissension, send godly friends my way to shut me up.  Help me to be better at loving others in all ways…the best way…Your way.  Amen.

Consistency is Key

(Galatians 2: 11-13, NLT) 11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12 When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. 13 As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

Inconsistency of character can be very damaging…not only to our personal reputations and growth levels, but also to the spiritual lives of those over whom we have influence.  Whether we believe it about ourselves or not, we absolutely have an impact on the people with whom we choose to spend our time, and we must be good stewards of this leverage that we hold in the lives of our friends and loved ones.  There comes a point in life when we have to step beyond just thinking inside and about ourselves.  We must evolve to a place where we recognize that there is a certain level of responsibility that comes with carrying the name of Christ…as His child, as His disciple, and as His ambassador to the world.  We are representatives, and we must take care to always present Him in the best possible light that we can…because He is worthy of that.  He is worthy of our best!

Consistency is no easy feat though.  We are so used to our many masks that we wear, sometimes switching between them numerous times in one day!  Those masks are our comfort zones, and we hide behind them because it is easy…and it feels good.  Some of us hide our true feelings for fear of ridicule or persecution from others, some of us are private and standoffish in a crowd or new setting, and some of us are simply unsure and indecisive…we don’t know who we are or what we want!  Whatever the reason may be, we all have the parts of our lives that we keep hidden…and we all pull out our different disguises to fit the various situations of our lives.  As we grow in Christ, however, we must learn to tear down those barriers and become more consistent and transparent with others.  You never know who is looking at you and watching what you are doing…especially when you live your life as a Christian!  There is a fine line between privacy and hypocrisy, and if we are not careful we can step over into the realm of deception and insincerity and subsequently crumble the foundation of any influence that we may have established.

It may seem hard at first.  The thought of being open to the judgement and criticism of others is often intimidating and somewhat scary, but as a Christian you have to bear it…because part of loving others is allowing them access to your heart and life.  When others can see who you are, when they feel as if you are the same person in every area of your life, they will trust and respect what you say and your circle of influence will grow.  And isn’t that the goal?  Loving, influencing, and winning souls for the cause of Christ…  He did His part…and is doing His part still.  So now, we must pick up our own crosses, crucify our own flesh, and experience our own resurrection in Him…becoming new creations…growing, changing, and magnifying Him with our lives.  It is no small thing.  So…be mindful of your influence, and take care to never cause someone else who may be weaker than you to stumble and fall.  Instead, make yourself available to others and work hard to get yourself on an even keel.  After all, if God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, shouldn’t we too strive to be just as peaceful and fluid in our own lives?  Let Him do the work in you, calming the storms and smoothing out the wrinkles, and He will be glorified and magnified by the words and deeds that are testified through your transparent and consistent life.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I recognize that my inclination is to hide from others and to keep parts of my life protected and safe behind my barriers.  I pray that You will do a work in me, and help me to cast those walls in my life down so that I am not hidden from view.  Help me to become, instead, a bright light that will draw people to You in me.  Thank You for Your grace as I grow.  Amen.

 

 

“Let it Go”

(Romans 12: 17-21) 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I am going to admit something very ugly about myself (my old self, rather) to you.  When I was a little girl, and on up into my teens and early twenties, I had a very vengeful spirit.  I grew up in a large family, the fourth out of five kids in all, and I was the middle of three girls.  As you can surmise, there was a lot of competition and bickering at times.  In a family that size, with kids so close together in age, you sort of had to learn to find yourself amongst the crowd.  This was difficult for me.  It was often hard to be heard, difficult to defend oneself against accusations (as kids naturally like to toss those around), and even tougher to understand when things just didn’t seem fair.  I don’t fault my parents at all…it was just organically that way. 

I remember learning early on that, instead of telling on my older siblings for something, it was much easier and more effective to get them back…and it all began with a yellow Lego. I was five years old.  My mother was getting ready to have our little sister, who would oust me from my reigning title of family baby.  I was internalizing it, but I had conflicting feelings of excitement and annoyance about this new and unfamiliar baby who would be dethroning me, so to speak.  In the midst of this whirling, internal storm, I had the day-to-day battle of being the youngest in the crowd.  My older sister would often play tricks on me and one day I decided I’d had enough!  So I took a yellow Lego from my brothers’ room, and used the corner of it to scratch the first few letters of my sister’s name into my mother’s cherry wood coffee table.  I can close my eyes and remember as if I did it yesterday…how it felt as I crawled into the living room so as not to be seen, and keeping an eye on the doorway for anyone that might catch me in the act.  I was just SO SURE that my sister would get into the biggest trouble of her life for this.  It was a devious plan indeed.  This was the start of a struggle within that took me years to overcome.  It fed something ugly inside of me to destroy or hide something that belonged to whomever had wronged me, and to then sit back and enjoy the satisfaction that came from watching the injustice I felt be rectified by my secret payback.  I didn’t have to worry about someone believing me or arguing with what I was saying; I found my gratification in making someone feel as bad as they’d made me feel.

As I got older, this need for revenge was my go-to defense mechanism.  When someone wounded me, I never let them see that they’d done so, but I would store the anger and think, “Go ahead, do and say what you will.  It might be years from now or it might be later today, but I will get you back.”  All of my hurts and anguishes of life were poured into revenge.  I know my parents struggled with many aspects of raising me, but I feel like this was one of the most difficult parts of parenting me.  I was chock full of anger, and I didn’t deal with it in healthy ways.  Sounds evil, doesn’t it?  That’s because revenge is evil.  Practicing vengeance is a form of rebellion!  God says to us that He’s got the area of vengeance and justice under control, so when we take matters into our own hands…we are defying His will and word.

How we treat others is probably the most significant voice that we have as Christians in this world.  More than ever, we are being watched.  We are human, faulty and sinful by nature, so we don’t always respond in love. We don’t always reflect Christ in the things that we say and do, but the Bible says (in 2 Corinthians 5:17), “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  As  new creations, yesterday has to be laid to rest for good.  We are the sons and daughters of God; joint heirs with Jesus!  As such, we have been made representatives of God on earth.  We are the flesh and bone, tangible, and relatable ambassadors of Christ.  It is our duty to respond in love.  In 2 Corinthians 5: 20-21, it is written, “So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”  For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”  How can we appeal to others to reconcile themselves with God, if we are spewing hatred, negativity, and acting out through the rebellion that is vengeance?  New creations have shed the skin of their sinful youths, have reconciled the sin that once kept them trapped in that skin, and are continually moving forward in daily repentance…away from the old…away from the sin…away from the anger and strife.

So when someone ticks you off, take a minute to think before you say or do anything.  Your response to that anger will be noted by all who witness it.   As an ambassador for Christ, there can be no more “tit for tat.”  Only love.  You might ask, “How do I respond to injustice and hatred with love?”  Well we know what God has to say about it:  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20-21)  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wouldn’t have accomplished what he did for the Civil Rights Movement if he hadn’t had the understanding that love wins.  Love is what allows us to face adversity with dignity and class.  We will encounter things in life that anger us, but our responses are what will govern what kind of influence we are able to have on the rest of the world.  Rise above the anger.  Respond in love.  Let it go.

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Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help me to do better.  Help me represent you well as I navigate life as Your ambassador.  WhenI am angry and hurt, let Your love be stronger in me.  Help me to stop and think, so that my responses are honorable and come from a place of grace.  I can do all things through Christ, who is my strength.  Amen.

Full of the Holy Spirit!

(Luke 4:1-14 ESV) 1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” 5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'” 9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” 12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. 14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.

This is a very familiar passage of Scripture. It usually evokes one of two different responses. First, there are those who read this and are inspired by the fact that Jesus overcame every temptation the devil threw His way. The sentiment is…”If Jesus could overcome then so can I.” The other response is one of frustration. Comparing themselves to the “perfect record” of Jesus, this group of people think that they can’t overcome anything. “Jesus batted 1000% and I can’t even keep my thoughts pure for 10 minutes!”

As I read this passage today, I kept noticing the references to the Holy Spirit. (1) Jesus, FULL of the Holy Spirit… (2) LED by the Holy Spirit… (3) Jesus returned in the POWER of the Holy Spirit. The simple reality is… Jesus lived, moved, breathed, walked, talked, made decisions, thought, according to an inner influence of the Holy Spirit. The nature of the Spirit indwelled every part of Jesus!

I’ve enjoyed a pretty exciting life. Military kids AND preachers kids have at least one thing in common… they’ve moved around a lot! Moving causes one to realize that there are many different ways of doing things. Speech is different. Traditions are different. Cooking is unique. Mindsets are different. Some parts of the country are more conservative, while others are predominately liberal. Some areas have higher concentrations of baptists and others have a higher population of catholics. But, with all the differences, there are also many similarities. Peel away the learned behaviors and we discover we are more alike than we realize.

When one does life in many locations, they must adjust to the nature of the current culture. I don’t mean you have to try to be someone other than yourself; you don’t have compromise your core belief system, but you do adjust your actions to respect your culture. As an example, when I visited Korea we removed our shoes before entering the sanctuary. For me, it was a temporary adjustment that helped me relate to the Koreans I was visiting. For those who have become life-long missionaries there, what was a temporary adjustment for me became a second nature to them.

When scripture records that Jesus was full of, led, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, it is saying that the totality of His life was influenced by an inner nature that infilled Him. His identity was consistent with the Father AND the Holy Spirit. Jesus often reminded His disciples, “When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. … 38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.” (John 8:28, 38 KJV) And likewise, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63 KJV)

It is true that Jesus was the only perfect man. He was sinless. But, it is evident that He relied upon the influence of the Holy Spirit. Shouldn’t we do the same? Before Jesus left earth He declared, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. … 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:16-17, 25-26 ESV)

Be FULL!

PRAYER: Father, I pray for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit today. May my every thought and action reflect His nature in me. Amen.

Outside In Or Inside Out?

(Matthew 15:10-20 ESV) And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”


In the church world, we often get very concerned about the “shalt nots” of religion. Having been raised in church, I’m very aware that most churches have their own opinions about what is, or is not, acceptable behavior. We’ve all heard the old saying, “I don’t smoke, and I don’t chew, and I don’t date the girls that do.”

While I agree there should be some thought given about what constitutes holy living, I would also suggest the need to investigate the inner attitudes of the heart that spill out and cause collateral damage.

Jesus was aware of individuals who were trying to catch him in a violation of Jewish law. In fact, he had just been asked about eating food without washing His hands. (Granted, my momma would have made me leave the dinner table if she found out I had not “warshed up.”)

Jesus made it clear that there were weightier matters than whether or not He had washed His hands.

For the most part, whatever I allow to enter my body by way of eating, drinking, inhaling, injecting, etc., only impacts me. (Obviously, this is not true of pregnant women, or those who are subject to second-hand smoke, or someone riding in a vehicle with an impaired driver, etc.) But, whatever proceeds from my heart has a much greater chance of negatively impacting me AND those within my circle of influence. So, the damage is greater.

In my experience as a pastor, I have witnessed individuals who were very legalistic in their interpretation of Scriptural commands to the point of being offensive to others. However, those same individuals were blind to the poisonous attitudes which infected their own spirit. They were more concerned with outside in, than inside out.

A spiritually mature person will have a balanced appreciation for both positions. By starting with the inner issues of the heart we stand a much greater chance of living a balanced life which produces good fruit.

Outside in? Or Inside out? With Jesus’ help, BOTH!


PRAYER: Father, I’m so thankful that you are patient with me as I attempt to work out my own salvation. Sometimes, I allow my point of view to get unbalanced and I prioritize the wrong things. Thank you for providing the necessary knowledge and wisdom that allows me to see life from Your perspective. Your insight helps me get my inside/outside right! Amen. (Right on!)

Mercy and Sacrifice

(Matthew 9:10-13 ESV) And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”


Have you ever been criticized for having non-Christian friends? Have you ever wondered whether or not you should “hang” with people that do not share your passion for Christianity? That is exactly the picture that is painted in this passage of Scripture. Jesus had gone to Matthew’s house and was reclining at the dinner table as was the custom of the day. It caused quite a stir among the religious elite who questioned whether or not He should be associating with tax-collectors and sinners. It should be noted that the tax-collectors and sinners were pursuing Jesus trying to discover the truth that He was declaring.

Jesus response was three-fold. First, He did not discount the condition of those with whom he was dining. He categorized them as being “sick” and in need of a physician. He was not putting them down. Rather, He was trying to raise them up.

Secondly, He realized that the religious zealots were lacking adequate knowledge of what Jesus was trying to accomplish. Jesus was not “hanging” with them in the sense that he wanted to be buddies with them. He was there so they could experience life-changing mercy.

Jesus wanted these religious legalists to understand that mercy was more valuable in this environment than outward sacrifices. “Sacrifices” were offerings made to God on account of sin, or as an expression of thanksgiving. In this instance, mercy means benevolence or kindness toward others. Jesus was saying, “I prefer mercy to sacrifice;” or, “I am more pleased with acts of benevolence and kindness than with a mere external compliance with the duties of religion.”

Finally, Jesus was not suggesting that He had no interest in the already righteous. He loved them very much and wanted them to obtain the spiritual revelation that would allow them to see this situation through His eyes. The message that He was trying to convey was that in this environment, when interacting with those outside of the faith, the priority was to help the sick people get well.

Listen, if we as Christians do not interact with unbelievers in a positive way, they may never be exposed to the victory that could be theirs. Just a word of caution. Be strong enough to maintain your integrity at all times. Jesus was never in danger of compromising His character. It was His faithfulness to a life of righteousness that attracted so many that He interacted with. You have that same power abiding in you!


PRAYER: Father, my purpose in life is to represent you to a dark world in a positive light. Fortunately, I have your spirit living in me, which enables me to be successful in this endeavor. Let my light shine so that others may see it and be attracted to You. Amen.

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