Family

It Starts With Us

It seems like we live in a world where everyone is offended by something. They are offended by things you did in the past. Things you are doing now. And even who you innately are. They are offended by your words, by your actions, and by your choices.

And, just like a snowball that grows in force and speed as it rolls down a hill, so, too, this world where everyone is offended is growing quickly in epic proportions. (The snowball actually started a long time ago. We are simply watching it hurl towards the bottom of the hill now.)

But, as the church, are we really any different? It seems like we find the same dynamic there. People are offended because they weren’t asked to be on a committee or invited to a get-together. They are offended because the pastor doesn’t talk to them or didn’t say what they thought he should say. They are offended because something they donated years ago has been replaced. They are offended because the lady in the hat sings too loud.

It’s in families, where offended parties avoid each other. Where criticism reigns freely but grace is in short supply. Where differences of opinions about politics and religion and money cause chasms that can’t seem to be crossed.

It seems like anywhere we turn, people are just offended these days.

So how can we change this? Obviously there is little we can do. But there is a little we can do.

We can start with ourselves.

We can intentionally choose to not be offended. To let things roll. To give people grace. To stop being worried about ourselves and how we feel.

That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? Offended people are often consumed by themselves and how they feel.

Speaking from my own experience, when I feel offended, this is why. My pride or my feelings have been hurt and I am purely focused on myself.

But Christianity calls for the exact opposite of this.

God calls us to cast self aside and to esteem others better than ourselves.

Philippians 2:2-4 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

God asks us to treat others like we would want to be treated.

Luke 6:31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

God tells us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute and use us.

Matthew 5:44-47 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your[p]brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the[q]tax collectors do so?

God loved us so much that He sent His son to die for our sins. We are to respond to this gift with love–both for God and for others.

Mark 12:30-31 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ [l]This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

We get a good description of this love in I Corinthians 13, where we read that it is long-suffering, doesn’t seek its own, and is not provoked (ESV version uses the word “resentful”).

I Corinthians 13:4-7 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not [b]puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, [c]thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

In fact, loving our Christian brothers is so important that we are told that we are a liar if we say we love God but hate a brother. Think about the ramifications of that for a moment.

I John 14:20-21 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, [d]how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

We also find in Matthew that if we don’t forgive those who trespass against us, God won’t forgive us our sins. That is a very indicting statement! This is how critical it is that we forgive others instead of our natural “old man” tendency to hold a grudge. This is an extremely big deal.

Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

As we learn to respond to offenses in a manner worthy of being called a Christian, the wonderful effects of this will ripple out to our children and extended family. It will ripple out to our co-workers and church family. As we choose very intentionally not to be offended about every little thing or even about big things, we set an example that hopefully inspires others to do the same. As we choose to forgive instead of holding grudges, we help to create the warm and loving atmosphere that should be in every Christian home and biblical church.

We get to help instead of hinder.

We help to build our families and churches rather than tear them down.

This isn’t easy. And many are the times that I (personally) have to catch myself. I have to ask myself: Why am I so offended by this or that? When I take a moment to examine, it is always because of selfishness and pride. Oh, how ugly these things are. How much division and dissension they cause in Christian homes and churches.

As we face a world that is so offended all the time, may we true Christians stand out like beacons of light in the darkness as we choose to forgive and extend grace. And may this difference draw people to us and give us abundant opportunities to plant seeds for God’s Kingdom.

 

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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[i] 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.

Romans 12:17-21

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Moms and Dads, Please Protect Your Daughters

Once again, there it was on Instagram for the whole world to see. A scantily clad young lady in a provocative pose. I knew that girl once, back when she was a little girl. I see so many kind and loving Christian girls that have never been taught the harm they are doing to both themselves and to the young men around them. Not only through dressing so immodestly but also by broadcasting it to the whole world via social media.

You see, as a woman when you dress immodestly and then pose in a seductive way, you receive attention. Men look at you appreciatively and often give much desired attention. And women will comment about how beautiful you are. These things naturally make you feel good.

But is this how a Christian woman should dress?

Let’s think about what scripture teaches us about the Christian life, as a whole, for a moment. We know that we are to deny self (Luke 9:23). We know that our priority becomes glorifying God. He must increase and I must decrease (John 3:30).

If this is true (and we know that it is), then anything that draws attention to ourselves in an unhealthy, sexual way is a very bad idea. This would be the complete antithesis of godliness.

But let’s take it a step further. Men are designed in such a way that immodest dress excites them sexually. Most men are aroused by seeing a woman’s body. The more of that body they see, the more tempting it is for them to think thoughts that the Bible teaches them are wrong to think about any woman other than their wives.

As women, do we want to tempt men in such an unloving way? And yet, over and over, I see this happening by young women who call themselves “Christian” and come from “good Christian homes”.

I confess that I am completely and absolutely befuddled by this.

You may notice that the title of this post addresses parents. That is because I believe it is the parents who have dropped the ball in this area for our daughters.

They can’t know how men think unless you–dad– tell them.

They can’t understand that modest dress not only keeps them from becoming a sexual object to a world obsessed with sex, but also helps them to protect the men around them–particularly the godly ones who are trying so hard to do what is right–unless you tell them.

They can’t buy bikinis or revealing shirts or super tight pants that leave nothing to the imagination unless you buy these things for them (or allow them to buy it).

YOU are accountable to God for how your daughter dresses.

Why are we not, as parents, discussing these things with our daughters? Why are we letting them walk around and post photos that draw the wrong kind of attention? Why are we not teaching them to be modest?

Many of these girls are wonderful, thoughtful, kind girls. I can only surmise either one of two things–

They truly are naive because these things just aren’t talked about in the home

OR

Mom and Dad may have tried to set down some rules and have some hard conversations during the preteen years but then didn’t have the courage to keep at it. Worn down like a rock in the river, they caved to the constant begging of the daughter to dress like her friends. (And I get this. I truly do. It was a very real and regular battle in our home and it was exhausting.)

But whichever it is, it is a real tragedy. A hundred years ago you wouldn’t have even seen prostitutes dressed as scantily in public as many Christian girls these days.

This has been on my heart for a very long time. This seems to be one of those acceptable sins that no one wants to talk about. To even mention this is to be viewed as judgmental and harsh and ridiculous. I do realize this. In fact, most Christians don’t even want to call immodesty a sin.

But let’s remember: Anything that is done out of a desire to glorify self rather than God is a sin. Any action that causes a Christian brother to stumble is sin. It is time we call it what it is.

If you are a personal friend of mine and you have a daughter who dresses this way, please know that I am not judging you. I am only begging you– please, oh please–begin today to protect your daughters. Have the hard conversations with them. Point them to the Word and teach them what it says about how a godly woman should dress. And then set a good example yourself.

This is an extremely touchy and difficult subject. Modern fashions often are revealing. Sometimes this means not being as in style as we’d like to be. Wearing swim shorts and a modest swim top will make you feel odd among a beach full of bikini-clad young women. I get it.

But I can also tell you that it is possible. We had three daughters–each one very different in personality. And we had some real battles in this area of modesty. But they now range in age from 22 to 30 and each one of them is committed to modesty. Did we have some really difficult times? YES! Did we mess up sometimes in what we allowed? YES! Did we cave to peer pressure on occasion? We sure did!

But we never gave up in this quest to teach them to dress in a way that honored the Lord. And God was so faithful to us, through all of our flubs and mistakes and mess-ups. We kept at it, learning from our mistakes and continuing to make an effort to honor the Lord in this area of dress. And these three girls will tell you now that they are glad. Just as I would tell my parents the same thing. My husband and I have been blessed to have good examples in this area of parenting and we can take no credit for doing anything special. Many of you are breaking the chains of habits of many generations before you when it comes to these things. I so admire you for trying to make changes in your family that honor the Lord. This is not easy. But it is possible.

None of us are going to be perfect in this area of modesty, of course. (Won’t that be a wonderful day? When we are sinless and never have to worry about these things again?) The important thing is that we realize that modesty matters to the Lord.

I want to encourage you parents to be courageous and to lovingly talk about these things with your daughters. I want to encourage you moms to dress in such a way that doesn’t draw sexual attention to yourselves. It is so very important that we protect ourselves and our daughters from this sex-obsessed world instead of joining it.

For it is the Lord (and not our peer group or our friends or our children) whom we desire to please most of all. And this changes everything.

 

PLEASE NOTE: A reader of this post has accused me of laying the blame for sexual sin on the shoulders of the girls with this post by not addressing the boys, as well. To be honest, I am not sure how one could come away with that, as I certainly didn’t say it. But I wanted to take a moment to respond to this accusation.

I know of no Christian who would encourage their boys to sexually lust after girls. This is pretty universally viewed as a sin within the church and, therefore, Christians tend to teach their boys the importance of a pure mind. On the other hand, there are many Christians who disdain the idea of modesty and, in fact, think it is old-fashioned and unnecessary. And that is specifically why I chose to write about it.

 

How Do We Keep from Losing Our Kids?

I’ll never forget that moment I realized he was gone. Mom thought he was with Dad. Dad thought he was with Mom. And then there was that awful moment when we realized that no one knew where their two-year-old was.

In a panic, most of us started running towards the beach where we had last seen him. Our grandson isn’t a wanderer so we knew he hadn’t gone off on purpose and that definitely helped calm us a bit.

When we got to the edge of the beach, we looked all around and finally spotted him a ways down to the left, standing in a tidal pool. My youngest daughter took after him (I didn’t even know she could run that fast!) and heard him calling for his daddy as she approached. She picked him up, hugged him, and then brought him back to his worried parents. We all breathed big sighs of relief and thanked the Lord. I contemplated the rest of that evening and often over the next few days just how tragic that could have ended and thanked the Lord again and again.

We realized later that his mommy had told him to follow his daddy without his daddy realizing it. And, instead of following him, he had just continued on down the beach finally stopping when he reached the tide pool. I also found out later that there was a couple who was keeping an eye on him from a distance, just as many of us would have done in that situation. Somehow that was very comforting. There are still a lot of good and decent people around.

My dad mentioned to me the other day that there is a spiritual parallel to this story. As I thought about that, I realized that is definitely true. The only difference is that most spiritually lost kids are never searched for. They are left to struggle in the tide pool all alone or even drown in the ocean that is the world. Many times, no one even knows they are missing until it’s far too late.

One of my greatest sorrows in this life has been watching adorable little children grow up into worldly adults who have no care for God. I’ve seen them in the church nursery, in homeschool co-ops, and in Christian schools. I’ve watched them turn away from the beliefs of their parents completely or pretend to follow by going to church and putting on a show of godliness–all while living a worldly, ungodly life when they think no one is watching.

So what happens to these kids? Why do they choose to follow the world instead of God?

I’d like to suggest that it happens one step at a time. And that, as parents, we can never, ever stop looking out for their spiritual well-being. Unlike our grandson who was simply confused, our kids have a spiritual enemy that is actively seeking to lure them away from their Christian family–and from God.

As we reflect on this, there are some important considerations to think on as we raise our children (or support and encourage those who do)–

1. Set the spiritual health of your children as your ultimate priority. As I reflect on those who have lost their children to the world, I almost always see one thing in common–something took first place in their family that wasn’t God. Whether it was sports, academics, the arts, or a number of other things, it became the primary priority in the family. Sometimes it was just a passion for the child to be popular in school. As loving and serving God fell down on the list of priorities, so did the chances that the child would follow hard after God. After all, why would they believe it is important, if they were never taught or shown that it is important?

I am absolutely amazed at the grace of God on a family that makes this priority in the face of ridicule and unpopularity. God often will draw these kids to Himself in spite of their parents many sinful habits and abundant mistakes. He is so so faithful to those who desire nothing more than that their children walk with God.

I recognize this especially because we have been receivers of this abundant grace. With all four of our kids walking with the Lord, we fully recognize that we are utterly and completely undeserving of this. We were not awesome parents and there are a thousand (or more!) things we’d change if we could go back and parent all over again. And, yet, God has been so gracious and kind to us.

Keep the right priority and then watch God work in spite of your sin and mistakes. It’s a pretty amazing thing to watch!

2. Recognize that we, the parents, are responsible for our child’s spiritual well-being. If there is a second thing I’ve seen in families that lose their kids it is that there is little communication regarding the stuff of life that really matters. Instead of taking responsibility to teach children about God and discussing many of the hard things of life in light of the scriptures (which truly are a treasure that hold life’s answers), churches and Christians schools are often given that role.

But it’s not the church’s job nor the Christian school’s to guard our child’s spiritual health. This is our job, as parents.

If you’ve never had this modeled in the home where you grew up, then this may be a really hard switch to make. Most families aren’t comfortable when you get into the realm of “hard”. This is why boys find out about sex in the locker rooms and girls learn about it in trashy novels. It is why “Christian” kids fall away from their faith at a rate that is beyond alarming. It is why they have no answers for the Creation debate or any other hot topic that is taking the world by storm. They have no answers because they’ve been given no answers.

Instead they are being entertained and coddled.

Oh, this is such a tragedy. Our job as parents is not to entertain and coddle. Our job is NOT to make sure they never are troubled or ridiculed. We aren’t given the responsibility to make sure they never feel pain or frustration.

Our job is to teach them, from scripture, how to respond to these things. Our job is to nurture and train them in the things of the Lord. Our job is to talk about the hard stuff of life, always using the Bible as our guide. Using the Bible as our guide helps us parents, too, as we seek to understand what is and what is not important as we raise our children.

I like to tell the story of how I got into an argument with one of my girls over something that just really bothered me. I told her no and I was sticking to it. Finally, my husband looked at me and asked me if it really mattered? Was this something that was in scripture or was I standing firm on a preference? It hit me like a lightning bolt, for I surely was standing firm on something that I did not need to stand firm on. I relented and learned a hard lesson that day.

When we run everything through the grid of scripture, we can figure out what is and what is not important and it gives us the answers our kids need as they face the unfriendly, ridiculing world.  Of course, this can only be done by actually knowing and studying the Word first. And this takes work. But there is no more satisfying work in the world.

I might add here: Don’t be afraid of the hard questions. It’s okay to say you don’t know and then go hunt for the answer together!

3. Provide a secure, warm, loving home. As I have given some thought to this in my own life, I wondered why my brother and I were really never even tempted to stray? I remembered an incident in 7th grade during shop class. One of my friends had told me that she “guaranteed” that I would smoke a cigarette by the time I graduated high school. I laughed and firmly told her that would never happen, even more determined that it never would after our conversation. But, to be quite honest, it was never even a temptation. Why not? Why were drugs, drinking, and smoking never a temptation for me? Why was I willing to take the ridicule and derision of my classmates on many occasions? And even, often, of my public school teachers?

I think there is one reason– and it wasn’t that I was some spiritual paragon because I wasn’t! I believe it was because I felt so wonderfully safe and secure in the love of my parents at home. This gives a child strength to face hard things. No matter what happened at school, I knew my parents loved me (even if I messed up) and that they had my back (when I stood for the truth and ended up having consequences because of it).

When a child feels like they are on a family team that is seeking to do what’s right and will stick together no matter what, it takes much of the sting out of not being the most popular kid at school. I know this because I’ve lived this.

4. Stop worrying about popularity and if your child is going to hate you. How well I remember the time our daughter came downstairs in a short skirt. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. Her dad took one look at it and told her to go and change. Our daughter was FURIOUS. She stomped back up the stairs, shouting at her father. My husband went to the bottom of the stairs and shouted back: “You are not going to wear me out! I love you and you are not going to wear me out!”

I will forever be grateful for my husband’s commitment to raising godly children and for his response in that moment. We thought for sure we were going to lose that daughter to the world and he wanted her to know that he was never giving up on her. Oh, that more kids would have dads like this.

We have got to stop worrying about if our kids will like us. We have got to put popularity at the bottom of the list or even move it off the list altogether. These things don’t matter in the long run. Remember–we have one goal and one goal only. If we are believers, we want our children to grow up to love and serve God. We must make all of our decisions–what our daughter is allowed to wear, what our kids are allowed to watch, where they go, who they hang out with–in light of this goal.

We should–no, we must–help our kids shrink their love for the world. We must help them see the dangers of the world rather than feed the world to them.

Sure, your teens will feel hatred towards you sometimes but they will forget. And, actually, will most likely thank you someday for your courage and willingness to do the hard thing.

A few years ago, I went over a few journals I had written as a teenager. I was so surprised to read of extreme anger that I had felt towards my father. I didn’t remember this at all. What I did remember was my parents willingness to guide and mold me in spite of the pressure to give in to the world. I remembered their willingness to say NO, our many discussions about hard questions, and their commitment to God. And I feel nothing but immense gratitude.

We have got to stop thinking about now and start thinking about the future.

5. It’s never too late. What if your child is now the teenager or young adult struggling in that “tidal pool”. Is it too late?

It is never too late! I remember a friend who struggled so as she watched her twenty-something son make bad choice after bad choice. But she stood firm and kept praying and eventually God brought that son to Himself.

No matter how old they are, keep pointing your kids to God’s Word in every conversation where you are given an opportunity and then pray, pray, pray. Never give up! God loves your kids more than you do.

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There is much wrong in the parenting of today and I shudder when I think about the ramifications. Many children are never told the word “no”. Parents passionately want to make sure their kids never feel pain or experience frustration. Smartphones are used as babysitters and if they aren’t being used as babysitters, mom and dad sit there scrolling through apps, while their kids play alone. Discipline is avoided or never used at all. Oh, the outlook for the family is not good. The future is indeed grim when we consider the fruit of today’s parenting style: Self-centered, godless kids who care for nothing but their own gain.

But we have an opportunity to make a difference–even if it is in our own family. And this difference will ripple out through the span of time, as your children touch the lives of others and then their children and grandchildren do the same and on down through the generations.

We know that only God can draw a heart towards Him. We cannot control this through a list of do’s and don’ts. But there are things we can do to create a thirst for God that supersedes their thirst for this world. Losing our kids is not inevitable! God has give us instructions and encouragement in His Word, He provides so much grace, and He is incredibly faithful.  

So be strong and courageous. Raising kids is not easy! But there is no sweeter fruit than knowing that your kids are following the Lord. It is worth every hard moment and every bit of ridicule. God will walk with you each step of the way!

 

Special note to grandparents: As grandparents, we have a special role. We are no longer responsible for the spiritual health of our grandkids but we can be a blessing to our kids by embracing our support role. I cannot even begin to tell you the tremendous blessing that our children’s grandparents have been to my husband and myself. Both his parents and mine took their roles seriously and spent hours and hours playing and talking with our kids. They provided a safe place for our kids to have fun and just be kids. They are godly people and so we were assured they would be pointing them in the right direction as conversations took place. They continue to do this with their great-grandchildren, blessing their grandchildren who are now parents themselves. I hope to be just like them.

We grandparents have been given an opportunity to bless and to be blessed. This is much more important and way more satisfying than passionately doing our hobbies or fulfilling our own dreams. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with these things, may we not do them to the neglect of the most special opportunity we’ve been given.

 

Who Me? I’d Never Hold a Grudge…

Recently, I saw someone say something rather unkind to someone. The person being spoken to had every opportunity to get offended or defensive, but they just laughed and let it roll right off their back. The humility in that response was also played out in the next hours and days, never affecting the relationship.

Lord, I want to be like that.

How often do we allow harsh words, trivial disagreements, or gossip to destroy our relationships? How often do we let really big disagreements destroy them?

If we are a Christian, this just should not be.

We all know the scriptures, don’t we? We are to forgive others (Matthew 6:12-15; Luke 17:3; Colossians 3:13, etc) What we sometimes forget is that this isn’t just the big, ghastly things that are obvious.

This is about the sarcastic remark spoken to you by a family member.

This is about the harsh words lashed out after you made a mistake.

This is about the time that friend embarrassed you in front of everyone.

I believe grudge-holding is one of the worst and most accepted sins in the church today. For some reason, Christians seem to brush this sin aside.

Oh, many pretend they are okay but they start distancing themselves. Suddenly, they aren’t calling or texting that friend anymore. They are avoiding a family member. The relationship has changed, no matter what they say about forgiving that person with their mouth.

I think the current events have me thinking about this a bit more. There’s so much division. The opinions held by people are at extreme odds. Disagreements and ugly arguments are a regular part of social media these days. They may even be part of your own family or circle of friends.

And then there is the uncertainty. I mean we always knew way down deep inside that life can change in a second. If you’ve lost someone you love, you know this. But somehow, with everything up in the air and the future a deep, unsettled fog around us, it reminds us of what’s really important.

And our relationships rank pretty high up on the list of what’s important.

So what destroys them? Why do we let a thoughtless word or sarcastic comment get to us? Why do we struggle so to forgive?

I believe it can be summed up in one word: PRIDE.

Pride is deadly. The longer I live, the more deadly I realize it is. It makes us prickly and quick to defend ourselves. It is the root of all grudge-holding and of an unforgiving spirit.

The other evening, my family brought up something rather embarrassing about me in front of someone I didn’t know very well.

My normal reaction would be to defend myself and get a bit blustery about it. But at that moment, God gave me the strength to respond in the right way. I laughed with them and admitted my fault in what they were discussing.

A bit later, my husband commented on how well I had handled that moment.

You see, I don’t usually respond so well. It felt unnatural to do so. But, afterwards, I knew in my heart I had done the right thing.

Not only had I cast my pride aside, but I had set a good example for my family.

I don’t hold myself up as any icon of humility. This is abnormal for me. I am not saying “look at me”. I’m saying this is what happened one time and it was good. Why don’t I do it more often?? Why can’t I get over myself?

Look, we all have our good moments and bad moments, right? Our hope is that our good moments grow and our bad moments diminish. But sometimes we just need to examine our lives. Where are we at? How are we changing for the better? Are we looking more like Christ?

And one area that we often skip in our examinations is this area of relationships. Am I easily offended? Do I hold grudges? Do I get defensive? Can I laugh at myself?

So how do we build stronger relationships?

If being easily offended and pride and holding grudges and not forgiving destroys them then we can assume that the opposite builds them.

1. Let things roll. When someone says something hurtful, we must choose to just let it roll. Right off our backs and far away. We should ask the Lord to help us forget it and move on.

2. Be humble. A big part of humility is thinking of others. It is taking the focus off of ourselves (and our wounded pride) and thinking of others. We should offer lots of grace and cast that ugly pride aside. This is often much easier said than done!

3. Listen carefully to words spoken and then respond with love. Instead of letting ourselves get so defensive and offended, why not actually listen to see if there is a nugget of truth in the words being spoken? Perhaps God is using that person to show us an area in which we need to grow? We should listen instead of lash out. Listen and then respond with love.

4. Learn to laugh at ourselves. Life is just too short to get all uptight and offended about the small stuff. If someone tells an embarrassing story, we may as well just laugh along with them. After all, it was funny! I have so many of these. So does my mom. I’ve learned from her well. She just laughs along and sets the greatest example of not taking herself too seriously. I thank her for teaching me that.

5. Agree to disagree. We aren’t going to agree with everyone. We don’t have to prove we are right. Our job is to point people to the Word and let the Holy Spirit do the convicting and convincing. When we remember this, it makes it so much easier to step back after we’ve made our argument and just walk away.

6. Pray for a humble and forgiving spirit. Ask the Lord to fill you with humility. Ask Him to help you forgive not only big things but the little things, too, that may eat at you. He is so faithful and He will help you!

If you are like me, you are still working on these. And may we be very intentional in our efforts. May this be something at the forefront of our minds so that we don’t allow grudges or a defensive spirit to worm their way into our lives.

Because I think we can all agree: Life is just too short and relationships are far too precious for this.

 

The Domino Effect

Once upon a time there was a young man. He married his high school sweetheart and together they had a few kids. But one day, after several years of marriage, this man chose not to turn his eyes and his heart away when he looked at a woman who was not his wife. Eventually this choice led to a broken-hearted wife and devastated children who would struggle to heal from his rejection for years to come.

He made a choice for his “personal happiness” and, yet, his happiness wasn’t the only thing affected.

Stories like this have happened over and over again throughout history. Replace the pronouns. Sometimes it is wives who do this same thing. For personal happiness and gain, a choice is made that negatively affects the rest of someone’s life. Forever.

You may have been on the receiving end of something like this. And it’s not always an affair. But it is always sin.

Galatians 5:19-21 is a great list to reference for these “domino effect” sins–

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: [d]adultery, [e]fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, [f]murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Each one of these sins–when chosen–does not affect the sinner alone. It affects all those who surround the sinner.

As sin grows, it spills over on to those we love and on to all those that are in our circle.

We can change their day by an angry outburst or we can change their life by choosing adultery.

Thankfully we know through many examples (David, Peter, etc) in the Bible that we can choose repentance and we can be restored after we make sinful choices. But, after all is said and done, the consequences remain.

Better to not have made the sinful choice at all.

I don’t think we often give much thought to how our daily choices are affecting those around us.

The first example I gave was an extreme example, right? Kids from broken homes –especially homes with a parent who disappears or, maybe worse yet, uses them as a pawn in a battle–have some extra challenges to work through in life.

But let’s think further how our even our most mundane choices affect our kids, grandkids, and anyone who is watching us.

What are some of the things that have a domino effect on our families and circle of friends?

What about how we handle affliction and trials? Anger and discontentment often snake their way down family trees. Are we setting a godly example in how we respond when things don’t go our way?

What about choosing to live in an unhealthy way or being unwise in how we spend money? We set our kids up for failure because they are always watching. And, often, they will choose to live how we chose to live. Think about your life right at this moment. Would you want the children in your life to have your life? I am not talking about the things we can’t control–like diseases or unexpected financial setbacks. I am referring to being wise and godly in the choices we can control.

What about how we fill our minds (tv, movies, books, music)? Are these leading those who are watching us towards God and His Word or are they leading them away from Him?

What about choosing to extol a false teacher? Giving credence to a false or heretical teacher puts our friends and family in grave spiritual danger. Deception often starts by a casual comment, such as “have you read the book…?”

You see, these choices aren’t ever just about us. And these choices have the potential to lead someone toward the broad way or the narrow way. Very few things are neutral. By our example, we lead those who are watching us towards a godly life or towards a carnal life. We encourage them to walk in the Spirit or to walk in the flesh.

So you think no one is watching you at home when you privately watch that terrible tv show?

Well, that might be true. Maybe only God knows that.

BUT…

You think that show isn’t affecting you?

All that goes into our brains–whether we will admit it or not–affects us. And this, in turn, affects others.

Our philosophies; our sensitivity to worldliness; our choice to follow human wisdom or God’s wisdom; our love for God–these are all affected by what we fill our minds with. And this mind-filling will, quite naturally, spill out on to others in our conversations and our discussions.

No sin is private.

Unless you are living on an island far far away with no one else on it, there is a domino effect.

We may feel this more acutely as a parent. (Oh, the weight of being a godly example when you are a parent!) But this doesn’t disappear as we move into our grandparent years. And it still exists, even if we never have kids or are a single adult living alone.

People watch us.

Choices may be made to abandon Christianity or to embrace it by someone watching how we live.

 

Interestingly enough….

This domino effect also works the other way around.

When we live lives that please God and we obey His commands, we find that this also affect others. As they watch us, they are emboldened to live for Christ or they are drawn to His Word. We can encourage them to live for Him by our choice to live for Him! We can encourage them to be courageous and stand for Truth by our choice to live courageously and stand for Truth!

We can have a good influence on others or we can have a negative influence.

But we will have an influence.

What kind of influence will you have? When you have left this earth what will have been your domino effect?

May we give this serious consideration before it’s too late.

 

 

Thinking Beyond the Obvious (Part 4)

If you are a regular reader, then you will know that this is the fourth installment of a series I am currently writing on worldliness. You will find the rest of the series at this page.

Thinking through this subject of worldliness is not a very popular thing to do. Those who call themselves Christians, as a general rule, are very comfortable in looking exactly like their worldly counterparts. In so doing, they blend in instead of looking different, they aren’t mocked and persecuted, and they get to do all of the fun things the world gets to do and still have fire insurance against hell. Who wouldn’t want that kind of Christianity? Oh, these folks might give a little more money away and display a bit more kindness, but when it comes to how most who call themselves Christians dress, entertain themselves, where they go, how they spend their money, how they react and respond–well, most tend to be little clones of the rest of the world and nary give it a thought.

Even for Christians who do desire to keep worldliness on our “radar”, it so easily and subtly slips in that we can get caught up in a worldly attitude or action before we even realize it. It is for those who truly desire to decrease worldliness in their lives that I write this series. Most out there who take on the name of Christian would never bother to read a series like this and this is why this blog will never be on any “top ten” list. Which is totally fine with me because I don’t aim to please man with what I write, anyway. Fame is definitely not my end game and it is God who I want to please. The “Christian” culture of today (I use quotes because it is not Christianity but some false religion going by that name) requires no sacrifice, no self-denial, no persecution. Of course, no true Christian could write to please this current culture without serious compromise. This is probably worth a post of its own but I’d better move on to the topic at hand before I digress too far off-course! I do hope that this series is a blessing to those who truly desire to live for Christ, even in this area of worldliness. Today’s topic especially hit home for me. This is topic #7 in the series–

7. RESPONDING TO CRITICISM. Ooohhh, this is a convicting topic. The world has seeped into this area of Christians’ lives so easily and so thoroughly. Most of us are probably completely unaware. I know this because of my own struggle to respond like Christ and also because of the way I hear Christians talking about others who have had the audacity to criticize them.

The World: If someone dares criticize you, the world tells you to defend yourself. And to get angry and perhaps even hold a grudge. The world encourages antagonism, avoidance, hatred,  rejection, and scorn towards anyone who dares to speak any word that you might perceive as criticism against you. In fact, it doesn’t even matter if it’s not true criticism but are words born out of love and concern–if the person hearing the words even feels criticized, the world tells us that the person speaking those words is the enemy!

What the Bible Says: We are given a completely different response to criticism in the pages of scripture–

We are to forgive.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15

There is no exception clause to this and so we can assume that this also means we must forgive someone who speaks words we don’t want to hear. But it goes even a step further–

We are to examine and test ourselves.

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5

If we truly desire to grow in Christ, then we must be willing to hear what others have to say and give it some consideration. Does what the person say have merit? Is this an area in which I need to change? If it is then we should do something about it. And if we carefully evaluate it and we believe all is well, then we can–and must–let it roll out of our minds without a trace of bitterness.

I fear I must mention this here: Most of us have people in our lives who criticize us constantly. Nothing we do is right. A lot of times the criticism is about things that have no moral component or biblical issue. This can be very difficult. Many of you have critical parents or in-laws, adult kids, friends, co-workers, bosses. How do we deal with this as believers? I can tell you two things I have learned–First, consider their words and then let it roll. If it is something that won’t help your relationship or to do your job better, or it isn’t a biblical issue, then just let it roll. Second, remember how this continually critical person makes you feel and be sure you don’t do the same thing!

We are to be kind and long-suffering in all circumstances.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; I Corinthians 13:4

Even if we feel deeply hurt and offended by words spoken to us, it does not give us the right to lash out in anger. Again, there is no exception clause given in I Corinthians 13. As Christians, we are to be long-suffering and kind–no matter what the circumstances.

Pride is the reason we so easily fail in this area of responding to criticism. So few of us have the humility it takes to respond immediately to any kind of criticism in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. This week, my pastor said something that really brings this down to the nitty-gritty. When someone criticizes you, what is your immediate response?

Self-Defense or Self-Assessment?

Ouch.

I know how often I lash out in self-defense. How dare they think that about me? How could they make this assumption or that accusation? Pride rears its ugly head and off we go, almost before we realize what we are doing.

For most of us Christians, we do a turnabout face fairly quickly as we recognize the sinfulness of this response. But it is SO hard to get that first response right. Can I get an Amen?

This is especially true when the criticism or accusation is false. When someone outright lies about you or accuses you of something you did not do, our self-righteousness rears its ugly head and we feel quite justified in speaking our defense. Of course, there isn’t anything wrong with speaking the truth in response. I am referring here to the attitude with which we tend to do so. We may be angry at the person or allow it to determine our mood. We may have feelings of hatred or even revenge. We may struggle to forgive that person. We may hold a grudge or feel bitter towards them. What does the Bible say about this?

Well, pretty much the same thing we’ve already covered–

Forgive, examine yourself, and be kind and long-suffering.

And then there are three more things that would be particularly applicable in the case of unfounded criticism–

Turn the Other Cheek.

But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. Matthew 5:39

Let the Lord Deal With It.

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19

Love Your Enemies.

But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, Luke 6:27

We are to turn the other cheek, let the Lord take care of any repayment, and love our enemies. We are not to get into a shouting match or any type of battle with someone who treats us unfairly or unkindly. We are to turn the other cheek. We are to avoid fighting. We are to leave revenge with our King and never take it into our own hands. God knows every detail of what has transpired and we can trust Him to deal with it in His time and in His way. We are to love. Our duty is to forgive and to love. Can you imagine? Only a true believer can love their enemy for it is truly impossible to do this without Christ. In our obedient choice to love our enemies, we will set ourselves drastically apart from how the rest of the world responds.

So let’s go into the world today and respond to criticism–whether it’s constructive or unfounded– in a way that is befitting those who represent Christ!

 

This is Not the End

The past week and a half have passed by in a fog and much sorrow. My dear sister-in-law, Grace, succumbed to the cancer that had cast a shadow of death over her life for the past year and a half. She was the wife of my brother, who many of you know as Pastor Dean, and the mother of their daughter, Katherine.

Grace was a wonderful woman. She lived well and she died well. Our world will never be the same.

So many thoughts have been rolling around in my head throughout this entire time. I wanted to share here some of the important things I have learned through the death of someone I loved very much. Some of these will be things you have learned, too, as you have had to live through a similar situation. And other things will be unique to Grace. She was a very special person and I am so honored to have known her.

First, it is important to die well. We talk so much about living well, but Grace showed me how important it is to die well. The peace and contentment she had in life, she continued to experience as she faced death. Last weekend, we had the opportunity to visit her in the hospital to say our final good-bye on this earth. The peace she radiated as she faced her final days was supernatural. The peace Dean and Katherine exhibited was also supernatural. Grace’s body was failing and the hope for any kind of miracle was pretty much over. And, yet, they were still at peace. It was one of the most inspiring things I have ever witnessed. God, just has He promises, gave grace and peace in an unimaginable trial. They weren’t demanding that God give them their desires or their way through this whole process. They trusted that God knows best and they had yielded their lives to Him. How were they able to do this? Keep reading…

Second, tell people what you appreciate about them now. Don’t wait until they die. We stood beside my brother as hundreds of people came to offer their condolences. I was blessed as I listened to the many kind and encouraging words people had to say about Grace. And I wondered if Grace ever realized what a difference she had made in the lives of so many? For some reason, we have such a hard time saying the good things to people. Or even about people. But perhaps we should say them now to those we love and appreciate. A quick text, a phone call, an email, or a handwritten note are quick and painless ways to let someone know that we appreciate them now–while they are alive. I do wish I would have told Grace what I appreciated about her. What we appreciate about each other is so rarely the the topic of conversation. But it really should be so much more often.

Third, the world will continue on. As we walked out of the service celebrating her life, I saw groups of people chatting and even laughing. I didn’t fault them for I’ve done the same thing. Many of their lives will continue on as normal despite the passing of Grace. And I was so struck by the fact that life goes on. We tend to get a little wrapped up in ourselves and think that a family or a business or a sports team or a school (or whatever) can’t survive without us. And, yet, life continues on. After we die, life must go on. It was a humbling and thought-provoking realization. While we will miss Grace terribly and life will never, ever be the same again for those of us who knew her, life does–and has to–continue on. It feels so very wrong to go on without her and yet this is life.

Fourth, consider regret. In February, we realized that Grace would probably not live through the year. We made plans as a family to spend a weekend with them in June. But some of us weren’t sure we should wait that long. Cancer can go south very quickly. As we talked about taking a spontaneous trip the following weekend, I came to a realization: We would not regret going if she was still alive in June. We’d just have an extra weekend with her and that would be a good thing. But we might greatly regret not going. OH, how very thankful I am that we realized this and made that trip in February. It was a wonderful, wonderful weekend as a family. All of us were able to go except for a few. There is something about the shadow of death hanging over a Christian family that makes the fellowship so much richer and sweeter. That time spent together was incredibly precious.

Regret is a terrible thing. And, in some ways, perhaps we should try to live life in light of this. In both our words and our actions, may we leave little room for regret should death take someone. May we be gracious and unselfish with all people we come in contact with. May we make decisions based on eternity rather than on what is expedient. May we choose the right thing instead of the easy thing. May we do all of this so that we are able to live free of regret.

But, I don’t want to just end this section there. Sometimes we do or don’t do things we regret. We mourn deeply. And yet we must remember that the Lord forgives. May we learn from these things so that the experience is not without growth.  May good changes sprout out of the regret we have experienced so that it is not in vain.

Fifth, express love more often. So often–with family especially–we are a little lax on expressing our love for each other. We are fairly kind and courteous in public and to those that don’t know us that well, but when we get home we leave our shoes and our manners at the door. And yet there is no guarantee that any of us has another day. If you knew this was the last day you would have with your spouse or your child or your elderly parent or that family member that rubs you the wrong way, what would you change? Let’s change it now. Today.

Sixth, don’t get so worked up. Oh, how stressed we get over the littlest things. As Grace lay in the hospital dying it was hard to care about anything else. It was hard to think about anything else. And yet our business had to go on. I had to continue spending hours and hours at a computer learning a new software program. But it did change my perspective. The frustrations and irritations just didn’t seem as big of a deal. In fact, during this time, we also had a terrible stomach flu going through our family. Normally, this would upset me terribly, but in light of what was going on, it melted into unimportance. I wish I could keep this perspective always. I want to. I want to remember what is important and what isn’t. But, oh, how hard this is!

Seventh, fill yourself with God’s Word and eradicate worldliness if you want to experience God’s peace. This may be the most important thing I have learned. Dean, Grace, and Katherine experienced a peace I have never seen before when someone faces death. As I pondered this, I realized two things: First, I do not know of a family that loves the Word of God more than they do. They know it, they study it, and they live it. Second, they have eradicated most of the world from their lives. They do not watch tv. They do not listen to the world’s music. They hold onto the things of this world with an open hand and acknowledge that all they have and are is God’s. They are simply unconcerned with things of this world. Oh, that doesn’t mean they don’t know what’s going on. And that doesn’t mean they do this perfectly. But I recognize in them a real difference compared to myself and most anyone else I know. Worldliness has very little influence in their lives. And I could see that this made a huge difference in enabling Grace to die well. She wasn’t hanging on to the things of this world because she had Jesus and the real hope of a future with Him. The third verse of the hymn “Give Me Jesus” reminds me of what I saw as I watched them:

Take the world, but give me Jesus,
Let me view His constant smile;
Then throughout my pilgrim journey
Light will cheer me all the while.

Eighth, make a difference for the cause of Christ. As I heard hundreds of testimonies of people whose lives grew deeper roots of faith through the Word, who were drawn to Christ, and who were encouraged in Christ through Grace’s life, I couldn’t help but wonder: Will I have such an amazing legacy? Her legacy was incredible. She made a real difference for Jesus Christ. I believe she will continue to do so through her death. As believers, this should be our goal.

What are we doing to draw people to Christ? What are we doing to help people grow deeper roots of faith based on the Word of God? How are we encouraging people in a meaningful way based on the Word and not on some humanistic, psychological, self-help way? These are important questions to consider as we ponder our own legacies.

Ninth, memorize hymns. Last Sunday we spent a half hour or more singing hymns in Grace’s hospital room. Dean and Katherine, my parents, and two of her siblings were with us. It was a blessed, blessed time. Every now and again Grace’s voice, now so weak and faltering, would be heard strong and clear as she sang a phrase or two. And then she would sit and listen again.  It was during this time, that I recognized anew how precious the hymns of the faith are. Most of the modern day worship songs would have been useless and annoying at a time like that. Most of our churches feed on second-rate hamburger when they could be eating steak. I sorrow greatly over this change in modern-day churches and am so very thankful for our music pastor at our church who continues to lead our congregation in the hymns of the faith. This experience has led me to desire to listen to them at home much more often and to memorize them, as well. For some day I, too, may be in a hospital room unable to do anything but think.

Tenth, notice the little things. Grace was a tremendous encourager. She would notice if someone was struggling and would reach out. Even in February, she kept asking me about my knee (it’s been giving me a lot of problems). She had an unusual compassion for others. Pastor Dean told the story of the one day she came home from a chemo treatment and wanted to go shovel a neighbor lady’s driveway. This is who she was. I don’t really think I will ever be like that, but I do want to be someone who isn’t so wrapped up in myself that I am not seeing the needs around me. I want to be someone who doesn’t miss the opportunities God gives me to encourage and build up others.

Eleventh, check your priorities. Oh, how caught up we get in the temporal things of this life. They distract us. They keep us from spending time with the Lord in the Word and in prayer. They keep us from thinking about important things. They keep us from sharing the Gospel. And, maybe most sadly, they keep us from focusing on what is really important as we raise our own children or as we support those around us raising their children–the next generation. Oh, how tragic this is. How critical that we remember what is really important in light of the Bible and in light of eternity.

Twelfth, this is not the end! I was so struck by the difference in the tears of those who knew the Lord compared to the hopeless sobbing of those who didn’t. It was a striking difference. It brought I Thessalonians 4:13 to mind–

 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

I saw this so clearly.

As believers, we know we will see Grace again. God told us so in His Word and we know that it is true. We have a real hope that this world does not have. Oh, the lost may comfort themselves with meaningless phrases of a “better place” but they are basing it on nothing. They are empty words from which to derive worthless comfort. But we know–we know— that we will see our fellow believers again! What a blessed hope and promise! And so we sorrow but we do not sorrow without hope!

And so life will continue on without Grace. It still feels surreal and it is hard to imagine life without her. But may her life and her death encourage us to be more like Jesus. May it remind us to focus on what really matters. May her legacy drive us to scripture and away from the world. May it build us up in the faith and confirm all that we know to be true from the Word. And may it remind us of just how short time really is here on earth.

 

Because We Just Don’t Know

We had our company breakfast at a local restaurant the other day. We usually do a fun get-to-know-you game and this year was no exception. One of the questions asked in this game was: What is your favorite thing about Christmas? Everyone’s answer seemed to have the same theme–

FAMILY

Each one, without exception, loves getting together with family.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Life is so fragile. It hangs on a fine string that can break at any time. While life and death are never outside of God’s sovereignty, we all experience things that remind us that– at any time– someone can be taken from us.

Each Christmas spent with those we love is a tremendous blessing. Each springtime, each Fourth of July, each Thanksgiving, each ordinary day we spend with family and friends are true blessings.

So what’s my point?

First, I think we sometimes take these things for granted. Let us not neglect to thank the Lord for His grace and mercy in allowing us to be together as we celebrate His birth.

Second, if we remember how fragile life is it might give us more love and grace for one another. It’s easy to be easily irritated or annoyed by someone who isn’t like us or who grates on our nerves. But if we remember what life would be like if they weren’t there, it reminds us of how important it is to redeem each moment we have with them.

Third, let’s ask those we love about their lives, their interests, their histories, and how they came to know the Lord. There is so much I wish I would have asked my Grandma but she died before I was given the opportunity. We spend so much time talking about things that don’t matter. Perhaps we could think of a few questions to ask others this holiday season that dig a little deeper than “how’s the weather?” It is through conversations like these that we can grow to understand and appreciate one another.

And, fourth–and most importantly–we should share the Gospel and point people to the Lord and His Word as often as we are given opportunity. We don’t want to be the one who is eternally sorry because, too afraid or too worried about what other people thought, we chose not to speak up and share the Truth with someone who isn’t with us next year.

Life is constantly changing. Some changes are exciting and fun.

And some are not.

So let’s not take even a moment for granted this holiday season. Let’s love one another and encourage one another and have meaningful conversations about God, His Word, and the Gospel. Because we just don’t know know what next year–or even tomorrow–holds.

 

P.S. I will post the final installment of this year’s story (Mending Fences) tomorrow and then I will be taking off from writing for a few weeks because I will be hanging with my family during the holidays and I want to focus on them as much as possible! Happy Christmas to you!

 

Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Peace This Holiday Season

Good morning! It is the Monday before Thanksgiving. As I thought about this holiday, I wondered how I could encourage a thankful heart in a new and different way that improves upon all that is out there. I decided I can’t so I am going to go a little different direction. But first, I wanted to take a few moments today to let you know of a few upcoming things here at Growing4Life–

First, the Growing4Life 2018 Christmas story is coming! Starting this Friday, I will share one part for the next five Fridays. The final part and ending will be posted on Friday, December 21. This year’s story is called Mending Fences and is about two sisters and how forgiveness changes everything. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Second, I have decided on the Growing4Life 2019 Bible Reading Challenge. (Can you believe it’s going to be 2019?? Where does the time go?) For next year’s challenge, we will be doing a chronological Bible read through. I did this 4 years ago for my 2015 Challenge. I have decided to do it again, because I think it it vital for every Christian to read through the Bible at least once. Reading through the Bible gives fundamental understanding and insight into God’s plan and story that one just cannot get in any other way.

Providing the G4L Challenge and an accompanying Facebook group where we can share and discuss what we are reading is my way to help and support my readers in this endeavor for anyone who desires to do this. I hope to get the details out for the new challenge within the next week or two. I do hope that many of you will join me!

I honestly don’t really know how many of you out there actually even read my posts (especially you, my subscribers, as emails just land in boxes and probably mostly go unread) but it continues to be my hope to be an encouragement for believers to walk with God in submission and obedience and to be a light that points people to the Word of God as their authority and guide in a culture that’s growing increasingly darker. I hope that both this year’s Christmas story and the 2019 Bible Reading Challenge will do just this.

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Now, for a few thoughts that may be a little different this Thanksgiving. Holidays can be a bit rough on many of us. Unsaved or deceived family members and friends can challenge or discourage us at gatherings. They can keep us from enjoying ourselves and we let them mess with our peace.

I was struggling with something the other day. Someone had responded unkindly to me and my dad shared with me something my Grandpa used to say. It was something like this–

Don’t let someone else and their problems steal your peace.

Have you ever thought how often we have done this? At least, I have. Someone is mean or angry with me and that affects my mood. Next thing you know I am short with my husband or someone else close to me.

It reminds me of a time a lady called us on Christmas Day because we hadn’t plowed her driveway yet. She was a widow with nowhere to go and she was angry because we hadn’t been there yet. As my heart grew defensive within me and I wanted to start yelling at her, I remembered something: Her husband had just died. She was lonely and hurting and this was her response. So many people get angry in response to deep hurts.

We need to remember that–

People always do what they do for a reason.

As believers, let’s show extra grace. They may be hurting. Or they may be caught up and deceived by a wrong philosophy. Whatever it may be, our response, as believers, is to have lots of grace and mercy, just as God has for us. Let us love even the unlovable because God loves us. For remember, God loved us when we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8).

Another thing to consider is this: If you have your mind set in a certain direction, what will be most likely to change it? Harsh, angry, words of debate and argument or kind, thoughtful words that encourage respectful discussion?

We live in a world that is increasingly divided. Whether it’s politics, personal rights, or false teachers, there are a million opinions out there. But the only opinion that matters is God’s. What does the Bible say? But, even as we try to share what scripture says, may we be respectful, kind, and loving. As God gives us opportunities, let us not grow angry or insistent. Only God can change a heart. That is not our responsibility.

So as we meet together with friends and family that may have differing opinions, let’s love them. Let us have unending grace. And let’s point them to scripture if and when the “hot” topics come up. Let us not allow anyone to make us frustrated or angry. Or to steal our peace. Let’s not give them that power. I do know that this feels almost impossible but the truth is that it is our choice.

And then, at the end of the day, when we have made the right choice, we can walk away in peace, knowing we have done the right thing, no matter what their response.

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I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving! I am so thankful for all of you, but particularly those of you that have taken your precious time to share that you appreciate what I do here at Growing4Life. Blogging about discernment and living a holy life in these difficult days is a rather lonely and discouraging thing and those of you that have encouraged me have been used by God to keep me going. God’s timing on your notes, emails, and Facebook messages has been incredible and I always marvel at this. So thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for encouraging. And thank you for being part of the Growing4Life family of believers. Let us continue to stir one another up to love and good deeds as we march forth as soldiers of the Cross!

 

 

 

When It’s Time to Reap

She sat there in her hospital room, old, confused, and alone. A lifetime of bitterness and grudges and pride was being harvested. Her unforgiving heart and her need to be in control had pushed away most of her friends and family, leaving her to walk through this latest health crisis alone. When one of her children reached out to her, she clung to her pride and her bitterness and pushed them firmly away.

It is, by far, one of the saddest, most heart-breaking things I have ever witnessed. And I was reminded of Galatians 6:7–

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

We reap what we sow. It is a principle of life we cannot escape. If we sow seeds of bitterness and unforgiveness and grudges, those seeds will grow into plants and those plants will produce fruit. Deformed, loathsome fruit.

If we sow seeds of love and grace and mercy, those seeds will produce good and healthy fruit.

But there are other bad seeds to sow, other seeds that produce bad fruit. Galatians 6 goes on to say this in verse 8–

For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

Any sowing that is done to our flesh will reap corruption. Any sowing that is done to the Spirit yields everlasting life.

BUT, you may be thinking, that old woman is not me. I am sowing good seeds, I have a good relationship with my family and friends. Lest we get too confident in ourselves, I remind you of something that John Stott once said–

“Every time we allow our mind to harbor a grudge, nurse a grievance, entertain an impure fancy, or wallow in self-pity, we are sowing to the flesh. Every time we linger in bad company who’s insidious influence we know we cannot resist, every time we lie in bed when we ought to be up and praying, every time we read pornographic literature, every time we take a risk that strains our self-control, we are sowing, sowing, sowing to the flesh.”

Oh, we all do it. Every. Single. Day. Maybe not to the extent that will leave us old and alone. But we all sow to the flesh, reaping the consequences of our sinful choices.

God sent His son to forgive our sins and give us eternal life. But salvation does not erase the consequences of sinful choices. We continue to live with those until we die.

Thankfully, living a life that is pleasing to the Lord eliminates so many of those ugly consequences. And that is something we can start to do right now! Today! His commands are not burdensome. They protect us! And what a wonderful protection they are.

We cannot change the consequences that we are experiencing from sinful choices of our past. BUT we can change the future. Here are a few questions we should ask ourselves as we contemplate our future harvest:

What seeds am I sowing that will yield an abundance of good fruit?

What seeds am I sowing that are going to yield the fruit of corruption?

AND…

What can I change to make my harvest so much better?

 

As God has a way of doing so often, He brings just the right book or sermon along at just the right time. That very thing happened this week. If you’d like to think on this topic a bit more, I recommend this sermon by John MacArthur on the principle of sowing and reaping: The Inescapable Law of Sowing and Reaping.

 

 

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